The morning after interviewing Black Country heroes God Damn, my phone rumbled a few times with Tweets of apology. “Sorry we had gin and your ear for supper” read one, likely written on the road with sore heads for company. The apologies were understandable in hindsight, with drummer Ash Weaver and guitarist/vocalist Thom Edward drunkenly playing a game of tug of war with the ears of yours truly the night before. But it wouldn’t be the same if this wasn’t the case, as I’ve come to know over the years, having enjoyed many a rambling interview with the pair.
“Describe your sound? You fucking describe our sound! Jesus.” Laughs Thom, the pair backstage at Manchester Academy, recalling gruelling interviews they’ve previously experienced. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that their interview schedule has increased, given two album releases in the past two years, as well as the small matter of supporting the Foo Fighters in Manchester.
“It’s nice to know that Saint Dave Grohl likes our band. That’s kinda cool. Obviously he was in a few bands – more than a few bands – that our lives have been eternally changed by. To have the tip of the cap from that dude means you never have to do anything again.” Says Thom with a smile. ”It means everybody else can go fuck ‘emselves if they don’t like it.”
A tasty follow up to the release of their debut album ‘Vultures’ earlier in the month, their arrival at Emirates Old Trafford on May 27 2015 was all thanks to one man (as well as all their hard effort, of course).
“He personally picked us. There’s no bullshitting that fucking shit. He’s a fan of the band, his band are a fan of the band and they picked us.” Says Thom of the Foo’s front man. “He’s a punk-rock, rock and roll, everything to boot fucking hero. We’ve met our idols, sometimes, and they’ve turned out to be a little bit of a bum’ole. He’s not.”
“If he’d have been an idiot, I’d have just accepted he’s an idiot – ‘cus he’s Dave Grohl.” Adds Ash. “The fact that he’s one of the nicest blokes you can ever meet makes it even better.”
“My mum came into the dressing room and he was the nicest guy ever.” Continues Thom. “He was excited that I’d bought my mum to the gig, you know. He was interested in everybody in the room. No ego.”
The last time either of them were at the cricket ground was for – funnily enough – a cricket match. One can only imagine the emotional jump between watching England lose one minute to playing with one of America’s biggest bands in front of 20,000+ punters the next (brilliantly, on the night you could actually hear feedback ringing through the Manchester air!)
They were also joined by cult Scottish alt-rock band Teenage Fanclub, which made for quite the afternoon for Ash and Thom.
“I’d have ripped my dick off just to even play with Teenage Fanclub.” Announces Thom. “It’s mine and my brother’s and my mother’s listening music – what we can agree on. Great, great band to play with. I said that to Dave…”
Back to the present day and God Damn were five days into a UK-wide tour, playing with American hard-rock/metal pioneers Red Fang and Torche. The huge tour came a week on from the release of their latest album ‘Everything Ever’. It was clear as anything within the room that the release of the new record has the pair buzzing with excitement, though it’s something they’ve had to sit on for a while.
“We’ve been waiting ages for it to come out…” Says Ash with a chuckle.
“Best shit we’ve ever done, right?” Thom questions Ash, who enthusiastically agrees. “Every song we’ve written before is fucking bullshit…” Continues Thom, though Ash is quick to disagree with this as Thom Laughs.
“No, it’s the culmination of everything myself and young Ashley Weaver have ever done collectively.” He continues. “Next year or the year afterwards, we’ll have been playing together for about ten years. We have just – imagine a relationship where you’ve just accepted who each other are and you love all the bits that you love about each other…“
“…You’re just fuckin’ trapped in a relationship” Laughs Ash. “I ‘ate him, but I love ‘im.”
“We did Vultures and it was like – this deep, brooding kind of thing, where we made a big record and it was our first record. Not many people liked it and we didn’t do it so that everybody would like it.” Admits Thom. “It’s quite dark, not easy listening. You wouldn’t think – oh, I’m just gonna put Vultures on now.” He says with a laugh.
“We got to do something dark and deep and eternally meaningful. Whether people like it or not – Fuck you, it’s fine.” Continues Thom. “Everything Ever, we just decided to bring a bit of the party back, didn’t we? We just wrote it really, really quick. We recorded it fairly quick, on and off. It was kind of like three weeks in total it took to write it and then over three weeks to record it. We finished it early, went back and had Christmas and did a few extra days.”
“I think, pretty much all in all, we just cut the bullshit.” Concludes Ash. “That’s what we learnt with being with Ross Orton.”
Thom takes umbrage at this, in quite the hilarious fashion, given the closeness of the pair. Keen to give the real story behind their debut full length, Thom sets the record straight.
“Vultures – the bullshit was there for a reason. I like to think – *spiritually* – the bullshit was there for a reason. However, you’re right. You know when somebody goes into a fight and they’ve got both their fists out? We literally took two fingers and like boggled somebody. That’s what we did. Not the idea, but it just happened that way.”
“Obviously, yeah.” Says Ash, cracking up.
Demoed in Wolverhampton at Crown Works Studios (which the pair speak highly of), the production duties for the new record were handled by Sheffield based producer to the stars Ross Orton, known for his work with the likes of Arctic Monkeys, The Fall and Roots Manuva. Having done ‘Dead To Me’ and ‘Fake Prisons’ with Ross, God Damn found it an obvious choice to go with him for the full album. Ross in kind attended a few of their shows and got to know Ash and Thom well during the process.
“It’s the first time we’ve gone in and done a record – the first time I’ve ever gone in and done a record – and we’ve gone ‘Here are the keys, dude. You go and drive the car – just don’t crash it.’ He didn’t.” Says Thom, describing Ross as ‘a bad ass fucker’. “We had massive loggerheads in the studio while making this record, but that’s because we’re very, very similar guys and he knows my band almost better than I know my band. So we’d have vocal takes and he’d be like – nah mate, that was shit, what the fuck you doing? I’d be like – I think I might go and get this guy killed. Then you finish a song, he’s like – that were reyt good mate – and it’s like – yes, I’ve impressed daddy…” He laughs. “We’ve got massive respect for that guy. It’s a very volatile but powerful relationship that I enjoyed.”
The new record is, unsurprisingly, a screamer. Still dealing in heavy and hosting riffs for days, it packs in a bunch of incredible earworms. Lead single ‘Sing This’, a regular feature on the Radio 1 Rock Show around its release, might be the catchiest thing they’ve done this side of ‘Shoeprints’, with an unbelievably good chorus. Influence wise, alongside staples such as Tom Waits, Thom looked to contemporary American artists like Ty Segall, WAND and Pile for inspiration, as well as rekindling a love of garage-rock.
“There was a few things that were lurking around. I just wanted to bring a bit of the fun back to the band.” He says. “You go away and you play festivals, you play and you’re having an upbeat time and you come off. If it’s good, you’re buzzing. If it’s not, you’re just like – deal with it. But I just wanted to make more of those manic times. I’m massively proud of Vultures and all the stuff that we’ve done previously. Vultures was a deep, dark, brooding, horrible time for the band and we turned it into a record. It was a very confusing time for the band. Now we kind of know where we are. I don’t think it’s a bad thing not to know where you are spiritually and musically as a band, because for me – historically –that’s made for very interesting records from bands that I love. But now, we’ve got a bit more of a foundation that nobody can take away from us.”
As well as firmer footing and a host of new inspirations to work from, the small matter of becoming a Father was something else for Thom. A huge life-changer no doubt, one could imagine the arrival of a bambino could put a spanner in the works when putting an album together. As Thom explains though, with the arrival of baby Rupert, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
“The things that you gain completely outweigh the things that you lose.” He says. “The thing that you lose is spare time, which means you have to prioritise the time that you have. Knowing that I was going to become a father – and becoming a father – has made me realise that if I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do, I’ve gotta do it really fucking well. More than I thought before. It kind of streamlined everything, it made me realise what I wanted.”
“There was a little bit of – this album’s turning out poppier than I thought it would, it would be nice to pay the bills – but also knowing very fucking well that this album, chances are it won’t be the one that makes the bills.” Says Thom. “Becoming a Dad has made me very tired and fulfilled. We wrote a song after I’d become a Dad and I was kind of thinking – I’m gonna write about flowers and fairies and shit. It didn’t. It was fine. It hasn’t changed my song writing.”
Reviews for the record have been really favourable, with the likes of Clash and DIY having nothing but kind words to say – the latter streaming the record in full ahead of release.
“Everyone’s liked it so far.” Beams Ash, though Thom – whilst appreciative for all the good that’s been said – still takes aim at the unbelievers.
“I think there’s been a couple of people who’ve kicked off about it, and it’s like – you know what, you’re a fucking arsehole.” He says with a laugh. “If people don’t get it, then I think they’ve almost got a narrower mind. Within this record we’re still doing even more left of centre awkward shit than we’ve ever done. The poppier stuff is poppier. The heavier stuff is heavier. The awkward shit is more awkward. If they don’t understand that, then you just don’t want an arsehole to like you sometimes. People have got different tastes in music and that’s fine. If you don’t get this record, job done. But the people who like it really like it. I think it’s a step up, if you don’t then that’s fair enough.”
The question of Everything Ever being a step up for God Damn is mutually agreed between all parties in the room, Ash putting it down to “Better songs”.
“I think we’ve paid more attention to song writing.” Agrees Thom. “There’s more attention to melody and Ross came in and shook up our melody a little bit. We’re massive Beatles fan, we’re massive indie-pop fans, were massive Red Fang fans, we’re massive Electric Wizard fans. It benefits the band but it’s also a hindrance, so I can fully understand if people don’t like this mish-mash of shit.” He laughs and the pair exchange a glance. “That got deep and dark and meaningful…”
Whilst at the time of interview God Damn weren’t even a month past the release of the new record, let alone a full week, the idea of a follow up – a further step up, perhaps – isn’t out of the question.
“There’s been some stuff that we were writing for this recent album that might make its way onto the next album.” Says Thom.
“It’s always something you think about.” Agrees Ash. “I think, if you switch off from that, you become uncreative.“
The pair recall a notable rehearsal following the release of the album in which Ash smashed out a number of incredible beats which had them both fired up with creativity.
“Recently we’ve been thinking about the album – this latest album coming out – and touring.” Says Ash. “I suppose you’re probably thinking about current songs, but at the end of the day we never really stop thinking about being creative. That’s something that’s always kept us together as a band.”
With album number two in the bag, a European tour with Frank Carter & The Rattlensnakes in the pipeline (at the time of interview) and a revitalised line-up, with touring guitarist James added to the mix, God Damn are thoroughly kicking more arse than they’ve ever kicked these days.
“Would you say it’s the best it’s ever been?” Asks Ash of Thom, discussing their past year and a half. “I would.”
“I would.” Agrees Thom. “We’ve got this team behind us that seems to be working it. They know that we’re not this hyper fucking buzz band that’s gonna break it NOW because we’ve put the record out. That’s bullshit. It might take a bit of time and we’re gonna put the effort in. We’re gonna put the time in and we’re gonna play shows with our heroes Red Fang and Torche and whatever comes our way is gonna happen. We’re going out with Frank Carter – He’s a punk-rock hero of ours – in Europe. You make things work.”
“It’s like a great opportunity for us to start cutting our own groove.” Comments Ash.
“I think we’ve done that for years without realising it. Shit might not work out how you thought it was when you were a teenager. But playing with Red Fang – some of them are in their mid-40s – that’s a cool thing to watch.” Adds Thom. “We’re not spring chickens anymore, but we’ve still got this cool opportunity, we’ve got a record deal. We’re gonna make the most of that, really. That’s shit that bands don’t talk about.”
To hear the interview in full, listen to DUGA 3 Episode Three!