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The Black Flag Meets Electric River’s Sponge

Posted by on Jul 3, 2014 in Featured, Interviews, Pinned | 0 comments

Regular visitor to the Black Flag will no doubt recognise the name Electric River, the four piece from Ashford Kent have been featured on TBF about a million times now and for good reason, Electric River are an extremely hard working band who have put the work in and broken through into London and beyond, playing a string of shows across the country as well as recently releasing their album ‘Faith & Patience’. I jumped at the chance to interview the band and sat down with vocalist and bass player Sponge to discuss their upcoming gig at the Boston Arms, Faith & Patience’ and Van Diesel….

The Black Flag – You guys have had quite a year so far from touring with Lit and being chosen to open for New Model Army amongst other things. How did all this come about? And what’s been the highlight?

Sponge: It’s been through persistence. We’re basically a DIY band. We don’t have a booking agent or any help on that sort of level. So we’ve had to go out and book our own shows and do our own tours and what not. And it’s just really come from persistence of playing live shows and honing our craft so to speak, playing as many gigs as we can and trying to improve our show every time. And eventually we picked up a manager, who we’ve been with for a few years now and he opened a few doors for us and introduced us to a few other bands and whatnot.

Obviously opening for Lit and New Model Army was fantastic. Especially with New Model Army gigs. I’ll be totally honest and say that I didn’t know much about them. When we were introduced to the band and their music and obviously I really liked it. And then when we ended up playing a few shows with them, I just couldn’t believe how nice and welcoming they made us feel.

We’ve played with quite a few bands over the years obviously and they’re definitely regarded really highly. Those guys are a really good band and really good people to be around. And the Lit thing as well, it’s all come from similar persistence. Just playing gigs and getting a manager on board that can open a few doors and he introduced us to other people and you know now we’ve actually got a new record out and people have been watching us progress over the last few years. People have started to take note and that’s how we got on the Lit tour.

The guys from Live Nation, you know the big booking agents. We’d been sending stuff to them for years, showing them how we’re doing and how we’re progressing and they finally offered us the opportunity to open for an established band, which was obviously Lit. We went out on the road with them for a week and it was absolutely fantastic. I couldn’t say what the highlight was because it was all so good. When you’ve been working towards something for so long like that, it’s all a bit of a thrill.

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TBF: It must feel like it’s all coming together

Sponge: Yeah it definitely feelsthat way, I mean don’t get me wrong, we’re never going to be top of the charts but it feels like the band is progressing, we’re starting to play to more people and get a larger fan base. We just put a post-up on Facebook today saying ‘if there’s any towns or places that you want us to play, name them in the comment box’ and there’s something like ninety odd comments up there already and that posts only been up a few hours, so it’s really nice that it’s not just localised now.

We’ve broken out of Kent and London and explored other places in the country and had a really warm reception from all over the place so yeah things are definitely moving forward…..

TBF: Your getting ready to do an album launch at the Boston Arms on July 3rd. How are things looking for that?

Sponge: Yeah we only announced that a few days ago.The album we recorded last April and we had material for a good six to eight months before that, in order to get the album ready for the studio.

It’s taken all this time since last April to get together a proper release campaign and get the album out to the public and to our followers. And the Boston Arms things is the first chance we’ve had to let our hair down to a certain degree and celebrate the fact that we’ve done this.

Even though we have the label on board, it’s still very much an independent label on a small scale, but we seem to have generated a real buzz for ourselves, through again hard work. So it’s going to be a real big celebration of that hard work and hopefully people who are digging the album at the moment, will come down and help us have a great evening.

TBF: You’re a Kent (Ashford) based band. Is it very different playing London than back home in Ashford?

Sponge: It’s really hard for any up and coming band to build a substantial following in London because there’s a million bands…. You could walk into most popular places in London any night of the week and there’s a band and they’re from god knows where around the country, and then you also have tourists coming to London.

In all the years we’ve been doing it I can’t think of a venue that has a predominantly London based following, that goes there because it’s the club to go to. It’s not like that, it’s like you rent the venue and then you have to promote the gig yourself and even if you do get on a show with a promoter, it’s the same sort of deal, your dragging your fans up from Kent or from different areas of the country to make sure the venues are buzzing when you play that gig.

It’s sort of a bit of a love hate relationship with London as you’ve got to do those shows there, as obviously anyone that’s involved in the music industry is generally based in London, so if you want to get people down to a few shows, even A&R people, you’ve got to play shows in London.

It’s just that much harder to actually generate your own thing down in London but it can be done. Finally slowly for us we’re slowly beginning to get a London following but its taken years, it’s taken absolute years and obviously getting these shows with New Model Army and Lit and various other bands we’ve played with all helps towards getting that fan base. But it’s definitely different playing in London. Some of the venues are fantastic.

On the Lit Tour we played the Electric Ballroom which has got so much history for all styles of music and whatnot. And there’s so many venues like that in London, where there’s history of bands playing and various things that have happened.

On one end of the spectrum, the shows are really hard for up and coming bands but on the plus side you get to play some really great venues and when it does work and you do get a few people to come up from London, you feel like you’ve really achieved something. So yeah we’re kind of split on opinions of London but we’ll play anywhere. It’s just part and parcel of being in the band.

TBF: Yeah I’ve noticed that not only do you guys seem to be playing a hell of a lot of gigs over the next few months but you’ve also got a UK tour lined up. Tell us a bit about that.

Sponge: Yeah well we’re in the process of booking a tour for the end of August. We’ve got a few dates. We’ve been really busy throughout May, what with the Lit tour and going up to Manchester for Strummer Camp which was awesome, we went to Cheltenham and Southampton.

We just play as much as we can. This isn’t our profession, it’s all still just a serious hobby. We’d love to make it our career but at the moment we’re just not in that position. We’re all still working day jobs and trying to squeeze in as much band stuff as we can.

Every weekend that we have free we’ve just been booking gigs and driving around the country and playing as many shows as possible really.  Like I say we’re organising another tour for August. Hopefully we’re gonna go out on the road with some good friends of ours called Colt 45, who are another really good up and coming band who are in a similar position to ourselves, they have a record coming out in July. So we’re in the process of doing that and we’re hoping to go over to Europe for the first time at the end of September, but it’s all very early days at the moment. But any time we get off we just jump in the van and go and do it…

TBF: Is it true that you guys have blown up your van twice? And how, not once but twice?

Sponge: Yeah and we’ve actually broken down 3 times, but for some reason it just keeps going….

TBF: Is it the same van?

Sponge: Yeah it’s the same van. Luckily enough, we have a few mechanics in the family who keep it going and the people who we got the van off have been really good, they just helping with little bits and pieces as well. We call it Van Diesel, a bit of a word play on Vin Diesel (laughs).

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TBF: Your track ‘Hold Your Nerve’ has received a hell of a lot of airplay on Kerrang. That must be a great feeling…

Sponge: Oh yeah. It’s really cool actually because we haven’t actually approached many radio stations up until recently.

When we put out the first taster EP, which was at the end of 2012, which was the original recording we did of it, again we managed to get a little bit of a buzz going about the EP and quite a few of the internet radio stations picked up on it and then all of a sudden we started to get plays on Kerrang Radio and on P Rock and other stations.  That’s been really cool.

It’s actually weird because we’re not really a scene band either. You know there’s a lot of music at the moment that people like to put in boxes or label, or put it against a scene. We’ve never been like that, we’ve just sort of done what we wanted to do and do it with as much passion and energy as we can. And just try and do what’s right for us so to speak and the fact that peoples starting to pick up on it is obviously really brilliant and now with the new album finally being out and having fantastic reviews and comments on our social media and stuff. People are really digging the album and the material. It’s really quite humbling when we’ve been through so much as a band and still managed to keep it together. It’s fantastic!

The Faith & Patience album cover

TBF: You’ve been described as “The Gaslight Anthem/ Green Day style punk but with added grit”. Is that an accurate description?

Sponge: I’d say that’s fairly accurate, though I’d say we’re a lot more predominantly English sounding than those bands vocally and lyrically. But the actual essence and the drive behind the music were influenced by those bands and a lot of old punk music. We’ve never hidden the fact that we’re Clash fans but we also like a lot of American stuff as well.

I also don’t think a lot of people like admitting that they like commercial bands but we’re a fan of song writing, good songs, good melodies, good lyrics and it’s always been an idea in our minds to bring that to our music but then again we like a lot of underground music, stuff that’s a bit rawer and would never get played on the radio, so yeah those influences are spot on and the fact that people picked up on a few of them is great.

TBF: So as well as the release of your album  Faith & Patience, a string of gigs and a uk tour, what else is on the cards for 2014, a little rest maybe?

Sponge: No (laughs), no. There’s never a rest when you’re in a band that is trying to create a buzz….

We’re not trying to say that we’re the best band in the world or anything but like I said, we want to make a career out of playing music. We want to go to as many places and play to as many people as we possibly can and if that does generate a living for us that would be like a dream come true. Like I mentioned we’re hoping to get out on tour at the end of August, tour Europe for the first time at the end of September/October, we’re playing at Guildfest, which we’re really excited about and we’ve got a couple of local festivals like Dover Music Festival and Ashford Beer Festival, which we’ve played every year for seven years on the trot or something ridiculous like that. It’s always a really good one and because that’s at the end of the summer it’s I guess, a bit of a celebration of what we’ve worked on over the rest of summer.

There’s no plans on having a break at the moment. It’s just full speed ahead and try and play as many shows as possible and try and get the album into as many people’s hands as possible as well.

TBF: Any major Festival appearances coming up?

Sponge: No, no cause we still haven’t got a booking agent at the moment. We’re all working towards that which is why we continue to go out there and do our own stuff to show people in the music industry that we’re not afraid of hard work.

To be honest even if we did never get an agent it wouldn’t really stop us because we’re so motivated as a band, it’s what we love doing, it’s our absolute passion, it’s what we get out of bed for in the morning, so it’s always look forward, look forward, look forward. We have been lucky enough to play some of the bigger ones, we played Rebellion festival up in Blackpool, Beautiful Day Festival down in South West, and we actually went over to the Czech Republic and played a big festival which was phenomenal.

But again a band like us that hasn’t got a booking agent, those opportunities do not come around on a regular basis. At the time when the festivals were getting booked, obviously we didn’t have the album out or anything in the pipeline. To the general public it probably looked like we were quite Quiet but behind the scenes we were planning obviously the album launch and touring, so now with the album being out and a few tours under our belt, hopefully that’s something that we get to do next year.

TBF: Our famous last question. Where do you see Electric River in five years’ time?

Sponge: Like I said, our outlook on the whole situation is if we can make a living from playing music, I don’t mean we want to be famous or rich beyond our wildest dreams. I just mean if I can make the same amount of money that I make from my day job through playing music, which is what makes us happy as a band, then that’s what we want to achieve. That is the goal for any long period of time.

Obviously we know that now that the album is out, eventually the buzz that that’s created will die down but we’ve already started writing music for the next album, so like I say we’re always looking forward and just looking at becoming a better band, better performers, better musicians and better songwriters, it’s just a continual process….

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INTERVIEW: Below The Radar’s Andrew Kesby

Posted by on Jun 26, 2014 in Featured, Interviews | 0 comments

Since relocating to Kent, we here at the Black Flag have been meeting lots and lots of really cool new bands and people involved in the local music scene, such as Andrew Kesby, one half of Below The Radar Promotions. Andrew and his partner in crime Steve Saunders have been putting on some spectacular gigs in Canterbury and Folkestone and have gained a great reputation in the local music scene. Andrew took some time out of his busy schedule to talk about Promotion, great local bands and the future of Below The Radar…..

The Black Flag: Tell us a bit about yourself. Have you always had a love of music and what led to you becoming a promoter?

Andrew Kesby: Yes loved music as long as I can remember. I helped out on some outside events about 5 years ago and there was a lack of shows going on in the Folkestone area. My 1st event was an all-day music festival featuring 12 acts called live and loud at the Beercart Arms in 2011.

TBF: Your promotions company is called Below the Radar. Who’s involved and how long has it been running?

Andrew:  Below The Radar is myself (solo) at one of the venues we promote at the Lady Luck and myself and Steve Saunders (Self-titled / Alt fest) at the Penny Theatre. Below The Radar started later 2011 running events in Folkestone.

TBF: You recently promoted an Electric River gig, a band that has been featured on the Black Flag a few times, and charged just £1 to get in, which is an absolute bargain. How did the night turn out?

Andrew: The night was amazing we had over 170 people in the gig and the pit area was packed. A fabulous night from start to finish, with 2 top support acts.

TBF:  You’re based in Kent. What do you think the Kent music scene has to offer?

Andrew: We have some cracking bands in Kent and I think after a year of downs the scene is on the up.

TBF: What Venues do you promote gigs at and what’s coming up?

Andrew: I promote shows at 2 Canterbury venues, the Lady Luck and Penny Theatre

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TBF: Is promoting a full time job or is it a side-line. If so what else do you do?

Andrew: Promoting is a hobby/passion that takes up a lot of time. I am self-employed I own my own sales agency and have an eBay shop.

TBF: Any plans for Below the Radar to expand and maybe go the festival route?

Andrew:  We have chatted about this as both I and Steve are very busy with other projects so it could mean less shows and putting a bigger event in the summer of 2015.

TBF: What’s coming up the rest of the year?

Andrew: We have some cool shows at both venues planned with great up and coming bands doing well across the country.

TBF:  Any bands you think TBF readers should check out?

Andrew: So many bands, where to start, All The Above/ Stone Kings/ Collisions / Maven /Land of Giants / Riskee and the Ridicule to name just a handful.

I manage a solo indie/acoustic act called Thomas Ashby who is doing very well in south east Kent, confirmed on lots of festivals and high profile shows.

TBF:   Any other projects on the horizon?

Andrew: Steve is in charge of the Sophie stage at Alt Fest and also working on Rock Circus and just taken on managing a very exciting band The Black Waterside.

TBF: Our famous last question. Where do you see yourself and Below the Radar in the next five year?

Andrew: Hope that BTR will be seen as one of the best promoters of music in the south east of England, bringing bigger bands down and supporting local music scene.

You can catch Below The Radars next event at the Penny Theatre in Canterbury tomorrow (June 27th) which is an Alt-Fest warm up show https://www.facebook.com/events/784565964887664/ . Get yer asses down there as there will be 2 tickets to Alt-Fest getting raffled, with all proceeds going to the NSPCC

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The Black Flag Meets Conan

Posted by on Apr 3, 2014 in Featured, Interviews | 0 comments

No guys not the mythical warrior portrayed by Arnie, the far better and infinitely more powerful band. We were lucky enough to have an early listen to their album, and we just had to catch up with the UK’s up and coming behemoths of metal. This is what happened when we did.

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We Chat To Eleanore of ‘Eleanore and the Lost’

Posted by on Mar 10, 2014 in Featured, Interviews, Pinned | 0 comments

For those of you who haven’t heard of Eleanore and the Lost you are in for a real treat, this very talented and down to Earth young lady is producing some of the finest music to come out of the UK in a while, so chill out, grab a cold one and meet Eleanore.

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EXCLUSIVE: The Black Flag Meets Gary Numan

Posted by on Mar 7, 2014 in Featured, Interviews, Pinned, Tours | 5 comments

The legendary Gary Numan is currently touring his highly acclaimed album ‘SPLINTER: SONGS FROM A BROKEN MIND’. The UK tour of which was so greatly anticipated that it was a sell-out show at every venue he performed at. He has also completed sell-out tours of Israel and Europe and is currently back in the US preparing to take the album on tour in the states before heading to Australia and New Zealand. A very busy and no doubt worn out Gary was kind enough to spend some time with us answering a few question about his 35+ year career in the music industry, his relocation to the US and of course ‘Splinter: Songs from a Broken Mind’….

 The Black Flag: How do you manage to keep your music so fresh considering you’ve been in the Music Business since 1977?

Gary Numan: I have a real desire to try to move forward with each album. To try to find new sounds, and new ways of manipulating those sounds. I retire old equipment constantly, I’m always bringing new things in so that really helps obviously with avoiding a stale predictable sound or style. I have no interest in nostalgia or what I’ve done before. I am excited about what tomorrow may bring and I couldn’t really care less about what happened yesterday. What’s done is done. I am excited about what new music I might create, not what successes I may or may not have had before.

TBF: Everything I’ve read about the making of Splinter indicates much of the album came from a very private place, which of the songs would you say is the most personal to you?

Gary: Lost is, by far, the most personal in that it was written at a time when my wife and I were going through a difficult time. I was on medication for depression, Gemma had Pst natal Depression so we were both far from being our normal selves. I wanted to leave, she wanted to leave, and so I wrote about how that might feel if it happened. It made me look at her the way I used to. When you start to argue a lot I think you focus on the latest argument and you lose sight of the person that you fell in love with. You need to come back from that, to see the bigger picture again. Writing Lost did that for me.

Gary-Numan-2014-Splinter-Tour

TBF: Splinter entered the UK Top 20. Your first Top 20 album for 30 years. That must give you a sense of satisfaction?

Gary: It was a great moment yes. But it also made me realise that I hadn’t had a Top 20 album for 30 years so a double edged sword in a way 🙂 It was very satisfying though to see an album that heavy do so well. It is a hugely personal album for me, it had no commercial ambitions whatsoever, I really wasn’t expecting that, and so to see it actually get into the chart was a fantastic surprise and a real confidence booster.

TBF: The Uk Tour that you did for the album in November was, from what we could see here at Black Flag, a huge success. We went along to the sold out show at the Roundhouse in London and we were stunned at the size of the stage show! Is it a struggle to be able to do a lightshow that big in terms of the cost of it and getting it from venue to venue?

Gary: You can only do something like that on a tour that’s playing reasonable size venues and bringing in a decent amount of money. I wanted to do something special for the Splinter UK tour to say thanks to the fans there for putting the album in the chart. It is very expensive and it does create extra problems with travelling and set up but I thought it looked amazing and so it was all well worth it.

TBF: Was it filmed for a possible future release?

Gary: The November tour wasn’t filmed but we are playing the Hammersmith Apollo in November, which will be the final stage of the Splinter touring, and that will be the biggest light show of them all. Much like the show we toured in November but with some major new bits added. It will be wider, much higher and the set we play will be even longer. We will definitely film that one as it will be the high point of the entire Splinter campaign. I was born in Hammersmith so, for me, it will be the perfect place to finish Splinter, before we start it all again with another new album in 2015.

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TBF: Which of the new songs did you enjoy performing live the most?

Gary: ‘Here In The Black’ is my favourite. It’s so dynamic when it all kicks in, so sinister in the quiet parts. It’s a massively exciting song to play live. In truth though, all the Splinter songs work well live. It was written from the outset with live work in mind so it’s particularly well suited for taking on stage.

TBF: The Splinter album art sees you in a new look once again, what inspired the artwork, and where does it fit into the album concept?

Gary: If I’m honest it doesn’t fit into the concept of the album at all. I just thought it was a cool look. I’ve been trying to think up a believable lie that would work but I just can’t. The truth is, one day I saw some photos of Victorian styled men and I thought it looked great and wanted it for the album cover. I was going for a more steam punk variation, which may have worked better, but I didn’t get the right things in time for the photo shoot so it was more Victoriana than steam punk on the day. I do think it works really well as a cover but the best I can do for how it fits into the album concept is to say it’s ‘abstract’. Which is a neat way of saying it doesn’t fit but looks good.

TBF: Where did the inspiration for the title of Splinter (Songs from a broken mind) come from?

Gary: The working title was Splinter from day one, which was several years ago. I never intended to use that as the final title but the album took so long to make, about 7 years, that by the time it was finished I couldn’t really call it anything else. But, it didn’t fully explain the content so that’s why I came up with the Songs From A Broken Mind sub-title. The album looks at the years I was diagnosed with depression and the fight to not just beat that but to beat the ‘cure’ that was prescribed for it. The cure can be as dangerous as the illness. I did feel broken, I certainly wasn’t the person I was before, and am again now, so I think the title is perfect.

TBF: Has living in the States helped you focus more on the music? Or can it be a distraction?

Gary: Americans seem to have a very strong work ethic. They want a lot from life but they are prepared to put the work in to get it. That desire to work is very infectious. Everyone there, in Los Angeles anyway where I live, is going somewhere or trying to. It’s a fantastically vibrant and energetic environment and you can’t help but feed from it. I’ve never worked harder than I do now. I’m extremely focused on the music, and I’m very determined to make things better for me and my family.

TBF: In making Splinter, how did your approach to making music differ as opposed to your previous albums?

Gary: It didn’t really. I’ve been computer and plug-in based for many years so that was all familiar. New software of course but the basic process was much the same. The thing that was different was my attitude. For a long time I have found it a long, upward struggle to make albums. They really can seem like huge mountains to climb. The more I worked on Splinter, the less stressful it became. Ade Fenton, who produced it, was also doing some incredible work on it which was very exciting. It developed an atmosphere and energy that made it fun to work on rather than a high pressure, stressful thing. It’s never easy to make a really good album but making Splinter was one of the better studio experiences.

TBF: Splinter includes songs with an Arabian style/ influence like a number of your older songs i.e. Cold Warning, My Breathing and The Sleep Room. Where does this influence come from and what is it about that musical style that interests you?

Gary: I just love it. The most played music in our house is Azam Ali. I just spent a little time in Jerusalem and I recorded as many of the prayer chants as possible. It’s beautiful and haunting, eery almost. But the melodic style works really well with western grooves in my opinion. It’s a great mix of musical styles and cultures. I have long wanted to make an album that didn’t just have a sprinkling of that Eastern flavour but was more committed to it. I may still do that in the future.

TBF: How did you find working on Splinter, with you in the US and Ade in the U.K?

Gary: Well the first half was done while I was still living in the UK. I found though that it didn’t really make much difference where I was. If you are not in the same room you might as well be on Mars or just down the street, you still have to communicate the best way you can. With a good internet connection you can trade files wherever you are in the world, FaceTime to talk about things, it’s really not that big a problem anymore. Being in different places didn’t seem to hurt at all.
TBF: Do you feel that the new album has a much more electronic sound than your more recent ones?

Gary: I definitely pulled back on the guitars with Splinter, not to remove them, but to change the emphasis. I think that makes Splinter feel more electronic although it isn’t that different overall in terms of the instrumentation on it. It’s where you put those parts in the mix, and the importance of what they carry in the song, that makes it feel different to previous album I think.

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TBF: You’re about to tour Splinter touring across Europe in February and there looks like there’s some countries you’ve not played in before, Israel springs to mind. Is that an exciting prospect or a daunting one? The Beatles were banned from playing there in the 1960’s, citing concerns that the tousled-haired British band and its strident, amplified music could corrupt the morals of Israeli youth. Hopefully things have moved on a tad?

Gary: The Euro tour went very well I’m relieved to say. I wasn’t really sure what to expect in places like Israel and Poland but it couldn’t have gone much better. Those countries are definitely open to me now and that helps build the career. I’m really glad we went and I’m grateful to everyone that came out to support us. Going to play anywhere for the first time will always be a mix of exciting and nerve wracking I think.

TBF:  Are you able to do such a big lightshow on the European tour?

Gary: Unfortunately not. In Europe the audience varies considerably from country to country so we have a very stripped down rig. It’s something we’re working to change but without big chart singles you can only play live, do as many festivals as you can, and build things that way. It’s a slow process unless you’re very lucky.

TBF: Your tours seem to be quite full on schedule wise. How do you relax between gigs and then when the tour is finally over?

Gary: I have three young children so, for me, the hard work starts when I get home. I honestly see touring as something of a relaxing escape from being a Dad. My tours are very full on. We have few days off, play long sets and the music is powerful and aggressive so it takes it out of you. But, it still feels an easier life than being at home. We don’t really have much time off between gigs and, when we do, we all complain that it makes you feel worse. When you are in that gig, gig, gig cycle you just knuckle down and get on with it. As soon as you stop, even for one night, your body starts to complain and you feel like shit.

TBF: After Europe, you then do an extensive tour of the US starting in March. It must be easier to tour over there now that you’re based in America?

Gary: It feels more comfortable that’s for sure. The US tour will be the longest run I’ve done for many years though and starts just a few days after the Euro tour finishes so we are still tired and aching from that one. I don’t think it’s going to feel that easy while we’re doing it. I’m really looking forward to it though. This is touring the way we used to do it. It’s an adventure.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/wLfCM770ai8[/youtube]

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The Black Flag Meets Alison From ‘Maid of Ace’

Posted by on Feb 13, 2014 in Featured, Interviews | 0 comments

Sometimes luck can happen. There I was minding my own business in a dark and gruesome bar surrounded by leather and beards when in the distance I spied a familiar face licking Tequila off the bar. I thought to myself, that’s Alison from the super-talented UK Punk Band Maid of Ace, so I ventured cautiously over and asked for a chat about the band. This is the madness that ensued…

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