From Northern Ireland, The Answer present their new album Raise a Little Hell.
Its sound is distinctly rock 'n' roll and can bring back to mind a kind of music that has made school.
Les Fleurs du Mal had the pleasure of interviewing their guitarist Paul Mahon and to find out more not only about the album, but also about their way of making music.
HERE our review about the album!
LFdM: From Rise to Everyday Demons passing through Revival and New Horizon until to get to Raise a Little Hell: your music has evolved a lot, improved album after album without losing its rock soul that is the figure of your band. What can you tell about this process?
Paul Mahon: For the first 3 albums its not something we thought about consciously, things just developed naturally, rise was the result of 4 yrs of being a band, playing live and writing together, it perfectly summed up who we were at that stage, especially if you listen to the double bonus version of the album which could have been our use your illusions 1 and 2 but we kept it more succinct for the official release.
With Everyday Demons we just wanted to capture a very live sound in the studio, we had been touring rise for 2 yrs so our live chops were in a great state,we also found around this time our songwriting was becoming catchier and more direct. With Revival we took more time to write after being on tour with acdc for a yr and a half. We ended up with a lot of material, we experimented down a few different paths and used the studio as an instrument in some cases. We set out to make a very big Fm/stadium rock album which i think we achieved and at the time it was without a doubt our strongest set of songs and performances we had captured. With New Horizon we took a step back and considered our approach a bit more for the first time. In some ways it worked and in some ways it didn’t. We found a very live and edgy production for the record and embraced the heaviness that had existed from the first album more than ever. On Raise a Little Hell we combined all these approaches,its very heavy in places,it still has blues roots, the performances are intense and on the edge and the songs all stand up on their own played by a 4 piece band in a room though in some cases we accentuate this with a little production and in some cases we keep it raw.
LFdM: Every band starts to gain experience touring with other bands, sometimes opening concerts that have a considerable impact on the public. You had the chance to follow the AC / DC during the Black Ice Tour. What about this experience? Do you have "stolen" some secret from the backstage that even today you consider useful for your band?
Paul: It was a great experience in a myriad of ways. Number one it was a dream come true, to see AC/DC every night and what better rock show to get you’re band on! It opened up a lot of opportunities for the band to gain exposure in the media and to fans we wouldn’t have reached otherwise. It was also great to be involved and become part of the AC/DC touring party fro over a year,it was our life for that time. I don’t think theres any secret,its just a lot of hard work and talent and AC/DC are the perfect example of the 2 working in perfect synergy.
LFdM: Staying on the subject: did you face any difficulty in interacting with an audience that, at least in the first time, was there to witness the performance of a legendary band? Or did you find a way to interact and to talk with fans, maybe even letting them to forget that after your performance AC/DC would took the stage? Was it hard to face?
Paul: They are a very hard band to open for, the fans are there to see them and they are obsessive and passionate fans that just want AC/DC. We had opened up for the stones and Aerosmith a few times and found their fans to be more open to another band, they maybe weren’t as obsessive as AC/DC fans.So we found out very soon we had to bring our A-game every night and not let up.
As the tour went on we certainly got more comfortable on stage and learned how to work it,what songs would work best, what to play or do if the audience was a bit cool on a particular night, what to do if we had them in the palm of our hands. Afterwards we found the fans to be very receptive and cool to us and i think we won a lot of them over.
LFdM: Has anything changed in your approach to music after this experience, or you would have been the The Answer that we know today without this great opportunity to tread the stage with a band like AC/DC?
Paul: It certainly changed our band DNA a little,it would be impossible for it not to.
We learnt how rock’n’roll is a simple art but devilishly hard to perfect to the levels AC/DC have. They understand how to make something universal to everyone but also have its own unique stamp.I think our live performance was already very good but we managed to take it up a few levels from watching the masters every night and then implementing these lessons in our own shows each night and finding what worked best for us.The best rock school 101 ever!
LFdM: Nowadays the music scene offers a wide range of different and innovative genres. Where your desire to make music comes from?
Paul: We are still striving to be better and improve upon what we have just done. We are trying to be perfect and then life gets in the way and we do our best and it becomes art. When you have been in this game for a while you have to draw upon your life experiences and show a little of yourself in the music, it keeps it real,vital and connects with people.
LFdM: Being Irish, to come from a country rich in history from every point of view, even in music, has somehow influenced the way you make music?
Paul: Yes the rich Irish music history has been an influence up close and from afar. We have had some dalliances with a celtic influence in our music, on tracks such as comfort zone and strange kind of nothing. And from the more obvious influences of thin Lizzy and Rory Gallagher. If we get into more specific cultural identity i would say we are Northern Irish first and then Irish. The Northern Irish culture and identity has its own character and grit influenced by the troubles,it was initially characterised by religious identity but that has now started to take a back seat and a new distinct and united cultural identity is emerging. The Northern Irish values of hard work, flair and keeping you’re feet on the ground at all times are certainly evident in all our creative output.
LFdM: In listening to your albums is possible to notice a classical influence, if I may say, that immediately refer to a certain type of music making. Is it just an impression or there’s something true? What are your major sources of inspiration when creating you tracks?
Paul: When you say classical do you mean it as in the genre of classical music? Or do you mean it is music that is classic? Timeless? I think it has a classic and timeless quality. Where does this come from? Well I think partly we were very influenced by the british blues boom and the bands that grew out of it into something else entirely, I’m thinking of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Cream, Deep Purple, AC/DC, Thin Lizzy and their american counterparts. I think this music is timeless.
WHile I don’t think we sound exactly like these bands,there are other bands around now that border on the pastiche,but their influence on us is undeniable. We aim to take a blues foundation and push it way beyond its boundaries and see what musical landscape we end up in. We also have a knack for a good tune and know how to play, this makes it classic and timeless.
LFdM: The peculiarity of your music is also a certain immediacy of the melodies which makes the songs always very pleasant, catchy, singable. Can we consider this one of your strengths, a kind of trademark by The Answer?
Paul: Yes i think so. Its something we worked on and something i think in part distinguishes us from a lot of the bands we were influenced by. I think bands in the 70’s could get away with having a great riff and thats the song. You can still do that if the riff is unique and good enough but listeners have grown a little tired of that so you must offer more. So as a starting point we wanted to make riff based songs with a bit more songcraft, mix lennon and mc cartney with Page and Plant and see what happens.
LFdM: Now let's talk about Rise in a Little Hell, your latest creation. What can you tell us about this new album?
Paul: Its our 5th record and we have managed to bring together all the elements that are good about the answer and everything we learned from the previous 4 albums. There is devil may care attitude of rise,the urgency of everyday demons,the song craft,sonic tapestries and exciting arrangements of revival, the heaviness and directness of new horizon. On this record we can go from a track like last days of summer into Strange kind of nothing. Long live the renegades combines all the best bit s of the band in one track. I think we have explored more space and groove than ever in I am what I am and we can close the album with a heavy statement like Raise a little hell. We have made sense of and distilled all our influences into this album to make our own sonic brew.
We recorded the album in spain with Will Maya,he has worked with us in various guises since our first ep keep believein. Will is a good friend but also a harsh critic but someone we respect. We were able to get to work straight away as a result as we didn’t have to get to know one another. There was a trust from the beginning which is very important when making an album as you have to be able to be creatively open and vulnerable to get into a place where you’re best work can happen.
LFdM: There are deep differences compared to previous albums or have you maintained a certain continuity? Personally I noticed a stronger rock vein, but it could be just me…
Paul: I think there is a continuity certainly in our first 3 records,you can hear the progression in songwriting, style and performance. Maybe New Horizon took a left turn but i there are still elements of it in this album. I think we found a way this time to combine the heavy side of the band with the classic rock side and the melodic side. It covers all the ground we like to creatively but in a tight and direct manner.
LFdM: Is there anything in particular that inspired the lyrics of RaLH?
Paul: Tracks such as Long live the renegades, I am what I am and raise a little hell are 2finger salutes to the state of the music industry today.
To those that don’t believe in the power of rock’n’roll, that don’t believe in themselves. We are saying rock n roll is alive and well and we are going to show you!
LFdM: The release of a new album will get you started then a promotional tour in which you can involve old fans and also look for new ones: what are your plans for the RaLH tour?
Paul: We are looking forward to getting back on the road and playing the new songs for a start. We look to play to more people and we are heading to America for a full tour,our first there since the AC/DC Black Ice tour, so we are looking forward to getting back there,armed with 5 albums worth of great rock n roll songs to spread the answer gospel a bit further.
LFdM: Well, we'll see next month in Italy!
Interview by Dora
Editing by Alessandra