Monster Truck Interview
with Brandon Bliss – Keys and Vocals
2nd November 2013
@ The Roundhouse, London
Interview by Anna Dumpe
Interview Photos by Corinne Cumming
When it comes to band names, this one speaks for itself, as Monster Truck are four beer drinking Canadian dudes playing straight forward rock’n’roll that’s loud and extremely fun.
After releasing their critically acclaimed album Furiosity (2013) and making an appearance at this year’s Download Festival, Monster Truck lads return to UK as the main support act on Vista Chino (ex-Kyuss) tour.
We caught up with Brandon Bliss, the keyboardist of Monster Truck, just few moments before tonight’s show kicks off at The Roundhouse and talked about the band and their musical adventure so far.
It all started out from us knowing each other through our local music scene, playing in different bands and occasionally touring together. However, never had all off us played in a band together apart from Steve (drums) and Jeremy (guitar). Some of us have been members of emo and punk bands, but Jon (vocals) has always been a true metal guy.
Four and a half years ago we all had a summer off when we decided to finally put together our rock and roll band, because we all share love for the genre. We started it out just for fun and treated it as our beer drinking and weed smoking rock’n’roll band.
One year and a half later our manager came along and tried to encourage us that it’s finally time to try and take the band somewhere. At first we didn’t pay too much attention to him, as Monster Truck was always just our fun band that was not supposed to be taken too seriously. However, we sat down and talked about where it was all going and if we actually wanted to try getting into this mess.
So when you first started out Monster Truck you never really saw where it might take you in few years time?
Never. For us it was all about getting together to drink beer and have fun. We just wanted to play rock’n’roll without any rules and strings attached. …And maybe that’s why we got here in the end, because we always based the band upon having fun and not taking ourselves too seriously.
You recently released your new album Furiosity. How long did it take you guys to come up with the material for it and what is the main inspiration behind the record?
We wanted the record to sound classic and resemble the tone of some of our favorite bands, like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. We used to talk about how Led Zeppelin albums always had such a great flow and dynamics to them, but we also know that the marketplace nowadays expect the guitars to sound big and the production to be done in a certain way. We wanted to try and marry these two things and it took us about a year and a half…
At first we tried to be cool, so we went to Los Angeles and recorded the album in this really big and famous studio. However, we ended up trashing the whole record, because it just didn’t sound right. It was our attempt to try and marry the old and the new and it just didn’t work.
We went back to Canada and tried again and finally after a year and a half to two years in the making, Furisoity was out on May the 28th.
How do you guys write music? Do you just get together and jam or does each of you come up with something separately?
Mostly Jeremy (guitars) and Jon (vocals) are the ones who have the riffs, so they just work around them together and see what sticks. Later on they’d present the material to me and Steve (drums) so we can assemble the tune from there. But mostly it’s them two who come up with the riffs and then we all kind of ‘put the icing on the top’.
How would you describe Monster Truck music in 3 simple words to those who’ve never heard it before?
Loud, fun and rocking!
You’re getting noticed by loads of people around the UK and Europe and are doing pretty well for yourselves over here. How’s the situation in Canada and the US? Are people as keen for new rock’n’roll bands as we are here?
We’re definitely doing pretty well in Canada. America’s a tougher one.
Because we’re from Canada and we’ve been around the music scene there for a lot longer, it wasn’t as hard for us to get noticed. It’s a bit crazy for us over there sometimes as we get to do big headline shows for thousands of people. It feels good to be able to do it. We worked hard and eventually got there.
America’s a lot harder, because rock’n’roll is kind of dead there. They don’t have rock radio and all their ‘rock bands’ are not even rock. They’re some sort of weird thing as if nu-metal had changed into something… Something… I don’t even know what that is! (Laughs)
So we’ve been touring with some weird bands in America and making a little impact, as we’re so different from all of them. But we’re going back there in January with Alter Bridge. The shows are looking to be good as we’ll be doing medium to large size clubs.
We’ve toured with Slash and Myles Kennedy before, so by knowing him already I can tell that Myles is the nicest guy in the world and we’re super excited to tour with him again.
What would you say has been the greatest achievement for Monster Truck so far?
Well, we played four shows with Deep Purple almost one year and a half ago. That was quite weird, because it was the beginning of when we actually started touring.
They’re a huge influence on us and I still remember listening to Deep Purple for the first time when I was 17 and thinking “What The hell is this!? This is amazing!” So those Deep Purple shows were a pretty big deal for us, but we were just so green and didn’t really get it back then.
Soon after that we got to tour with Slash, which was pretty crazy and this past summer we toured with Alice In Chains.
We also played two shows with Guns n Roses. …I mean Axl.
How did that go down?
It was insane. His band and crew are so cool, but he’s obviously super reserved, so you never even get a chance to see him or get anywhere near him.
The second time we played with them was at this huge stadium in Quebec City and it was the biggest crowd we’ve ever played in front of, as there were about 25’000 watching us. By the time Axl played, there were about 60’000 people, so it was almost as big as Download Festival in the UK, which, by the way, is another great accomplishment of ours.
That’s correct! You guys played at Download 2013 and your set was pretty early on a Friday afternoon. How was that for you?
Yeah, we played the earliest set on the Second (Zippo Encore) stage on Friday and it was amazing. There were like 5000 people watching us and we’ve never even played in the UK before! So we were like: “Ahh, so is this how it is here in England!? This is amazing!” (Laughs)
You guys have been nominated for 3 Hamilton Music Awards this year and actually won the 2012 Breakthrough group of the year at Juno Awards.
What all these nominations and awards mean to you and how important do you think they are for your future career?
Yeah, Juno Awards is a big deal for us, because they’re like a Canadian version of Brit Awards and Grammy’s in America. Of course, Canada’s a lot smaller, so no one else gives a shit except Canada itself! (Laughs)
But as it means a lot to the Canadian industry, we were blown away and totally didn’t expect it.
Canadian industry does have branches around the world, so they’re great help. We’ve already felt the impact of it, so it’s a pretty big deal.
You’ve been on tour with Vista Chino for 2 weeks now. What’s been the highlight of it so far and are you having a good time being on the road with Vista Chino guys?
Yeah, they’re all super nice guys and very much down to earth. The shows have been going on at really cool venues, so we’ve been getting to see some awesome places.
We loved it in St. Pauli in Hamburg and the show was right on the Reeperbahn. We went there few months ago and stayed for the whole Reeperbahn festival and just fell in love with that part of the town, so it was good to be back there for few days.
Also, we actually got to play in Christiania in Denmark, which is this autonomous Freetown.
That’s the place where you can go and still find real hippies, right?
Yeah, that’s true! It’s crazy, because you can just buy weed on the streets and stuff like that. (Laughs)
But in general, Vista Chino guys just play the coolest venues. Tonight we’re here at The Roundhouse, which is definitely the most beautiful venue we’ve played so far.
What would you say is the difference between playing a headline show and being the opening band for someone like Alice In Chains or Vista Chino? Do you approach such performances differently?
Not as far as from how we play and how we sound. I guess we always play our hit songs that the crowd wants to hear and sing along.
It’s probably different for us in a sense that we have to work a lot harder if we’re the opening band. We have to load out and set up our own gear and stuff like that… We always call it “eating shit” when you have to do all the work yourself. (Laughs)
We’re just in the trenches working our way up to become a headliner. We’ve been the opening band more often, but when we get to headline, we just get spoiled with it. So I guess we’ll just keep working hard and hoping that one day we’ll get to headline as much as possible.
I spotted a comment on Monster Truck official Facebook page that it’s run 100% by the band members, so people can engage with you directly.
How important fans and their opinion are for you as an up and coming band?
Our fans are the most important thing to us and we know that they sustain us. If we have fans who love our music, then that’s how we get to keep on doing things. Without that we’re nothing.
A lot bands tend to forget that by letting their egos get in the way and fight among themselves about what they want to do, which means that they’re not thinking about what their fans want to hear.
We have to keep reminding ourselves that the most important thing is to always try and please our fans. And by being able to interact with them on Facebook is the best way to do it. It is also the easiest way to remind yourself that they’re always there for you.
What bands are you fans of yourselves and are there any other cool Canadian bands that we should be checking out?
We’re good friends with this band called The Sheepdogs. They’re the band that won a contest to be on the cover The Rolling Stone Magazine, which really skyrocketed their career in North America.
There are a lot of other Canadian bands that we consider friends, but there aren’t too many new bands that we actually listen to. The Canadian music scene is all over the board, as there are just so many bands playing different kinds of music. It’s just really hard to find new bands that are as good as the old stuff.
After Vista Chino tour is over, what’s the next thing for Monster Truck and what can we expect form you guys in the near future?
We’re going to headline Canada for a little over two weeks in December and then we’re taking a little break for Christmas into January. I’m going to try and go to the Caribbean, as I just love it there so much. But don’t worry… I go to the real cheap places. (Laughs) I’d also like to find the cheapest beach town there, so I can just move there when it’s all over.
After our break we go on tour with Alter Bridge and give America another go. But once that’s over, we’re coming back to Europe in March and April.
I think it’s going to be this co-headline tour with a band called Scorpion Child. I also believe that there might be a couple of other bands joining us as well for two weeks in the UK and some more shows around Europe.
After that? Who knows!? I’m hoping the festival offers will start popping up.
And just to wrap it up… What’s the coolest thing about being in Monster Truck?
The coolest thing is getting to play all the fun rock’n’roll tunes every day and travelling the world to meet all our fans in different places.
There were some guys last night in Bristol who were waiting by the venue for about three hours before the doors opened, just because they wanted to see us. I mean, that’s crazy! How the hell did all that happen without us even playing there before!? As crazy as it may seem, it also means a lot to all of us. We’re grateful to be here, across the world, and being able to play our songs that we once played just for fun.
Thanks so much for your time, Brandon! Enjoy tonight’s show!
Thank you and I hope you enjoy it as well, guys!