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Rabid Bitch of the North





Before Rabid Bitch of the North tore Voodoo Belfast a new one last weekend, we sat down with the trio to talk about their recent flurry of activity, signing to a record label and death-defying gigs!

MR: Welcome guys! So are you excited about tonight’s gig?

Joe McDonnell (vocals/bass): Yeah, totally! This is night three for us (of the Irish/UK tour with Portrait) and tonight will be before a home crowd. Last night in Dublin was really packed, in fact we’re getting really good numbers – I think it was about 120 people in Limerick and nearly 200 in Dublin. We don’t know what to expect tonight, with it being a Sunday, but it should be exciting. We felt we did really well last night despite certain…mess ups onstage, but the audience really liked it –

Gerry Mulholland (guitar) (interrupting): what he means is the part where somebody spilt water on our gear!

J: yeah, the crowd in front of the stage were going nuts so I got water spilt on my gear, he (Gerry) had water spilt on his pedals…it could have gone completely the opposite but we just battled through.

G: We could’ve died but we didn’t, so…(laughter). Nothing broke and no-one died so it was a pretty successful gig! (laughs).

Skid Row - Ugly Kid Joe - Dead City Ruins at the Limelight Belfast

MR: Excellent! So, you recently signed to Alone Records. How did that come about?

G: They contacted us through Facebook, and we passed it on to James (Loveday, their manager), and he negotiated a contract with them. And it went very well!

J: It’s a good deal we have with them, for the next two releases, the first of which we are literally sending tomorrow so it’s good timing you asking about it now! It’s for a 7” single – new, unreleased songs – and an anthology of our EP’s and demos, and CD’s we’ve released before. We’ve got the artwork already done by Jason Hendry, the former vocalist of Honey for Christ. He’s a friend of the band and we’re more than happy with his work. So it’s going to be a full package this time.

MR: Excellent, looking forward to hearing it! So it seems to be really taking off for you now, from the Seige of Limerick, to the UK tour with Portrait and even a gig in the Netherlands.

J: Yep! There are other things – we literally have so many ideas and things that are being talked about in the background – but we’re only announcing things that are confirmed. We don’t want to being saying “ok here’s the whole year!”

G: There is more traveling involved throughout the year, it’s just a case of whenever it gets cemented, really.

MR: Is that down to the label, or yourselves, or a bit of both?

Chris Condie (drums): I would say ourselves. (all agree).

G: But there is the possibility of the label bringing us over to Greece (where Alone is based); again, it’s in the pipeline. But it does seem quite likely that it will happen.

J: We need to get our passports sorted! (laughs).

Skid Row - Ugly Kid Joe - Dead City Ruins at the Limelight Belfast

MR: So 2015 is shaping up to be a big year for you. What are you most excited about?

C: For me personally, it’s the 7” vinyl release.

J: Yeah, same. Last year we released the cassette (Defending Two Castles), and this year it’s vinyl.

Rabid Bitch of the North

MR: Very retro!

G: And maybe an eight-track in 2017! (laughs).

C: The vinyl is a landmark in Gerry’s production, because it’s a complete step up from everything we’ve done before. So I’m excited about that, personally.

J: Everything we do is self-released, produced by ~Gerry. And this time we feel like we’ve really stepped it up and it’s really impressive.

C: I mean, everything previously that we’ve done on CD…we love those songs, but they’ve been recorded over the last seven years and you can actually hear the progress we’ve made over those years and even in our shows. You’ll hear that on the CD because it’s recorded in chronological order.

J: And it will be a nice package, because when you get the 7” you’ll think, “alright, so THAT’S who Rabid Bitch are. You can hear the difference (now) in our playing, the songwriting, the vocals…it’s always growing. And now with the production as well, we’re just…we’re there.

G: Totally self-sufficient. And I’m sure it will get hammered by someone in terms of its production (laughs), but that’s partly because in regards to the production, I haven’t decided to follow any trends so it’s typical Rabid Bitch really! But I wanted that to be how the band’s records sound. And luckily we’re all on the same wavelength there because that’s how they want it to sound too.

J: This sounds like a band I would listen to. Like, “Oh that’s class, have you heard these guys?” (laughs).

G: Even though that’s kind of hard to say about yourself!

J: It sounds really egotistical! But that’s what you want – if you’re that happy to listen to your own stuff –

MR: That would definitely be a goal for any band I would think.

C: I had a copy of one of the tracks that Gerry had mastered on CD, and I had it on repeat for the entire journey to and from work (laughs) and I’ve never done that with any of our stuff before. I just did it solely to hear how good it sounded.

G: It’s almost like you can’t believe, like “Jeez I’m a part of that!”

J: It’s surreal. And it’s all self-recorded too.

MR: Your influences read like a ‘who’s who’ of metal, particularly NWOBHM. Who else are you influenced by, outside of metal?

J: Funny we were just talking to Portrait last night about something similar. It’s, well, all sorts, really. If it sounds good to your ear then you’ll listen to it.

G: I would say certain sportspeople, who are inspirational when you look at their careers. Paths they may have taken…I would reflect on that and admire certain things; if they’ve come through hardship .

J: I’ve always admired the underdogs of the world, be it sport or whatever. Like, if you watch the World Cup you always tend to support the underdog.

G: Movies can be inspirational in that way too, like Rocky: underdog.

J: That idea comes across in some of our lyrics, I think.

C: I personally have always looked to George Harrison, even in my own personal life – how I react to people. I would think “What would George Harrison do?”. He would always try and handle things as democratically and peacefully as possible, without annoying anyone. Drums-wise, that’s a tough one…

J: When you first joined the band you would practice to anything…Britney Spears…

C: Yeah, I played a lot of pop tracks. Things that were almost robotic!

MR: I remember a few years back someone at a drum show announcing that he was going to play the hardest thing on a drumkit – and then played a simple 4/4 beat.

C: I remember that! (laughs). I laughed when I read that. It was someone that said he didn’t like a lot of blastbeating, then said “Here’s something for you all to try” and I thought that was really impressive; I liked that.

G: He couldn’t be more right though. To repeat the same thing over and over…

J: You think you’re good until you start recording (laughter). I recorded bass for the first time for the band. The cassette we released last year, Defending Two Castles, was recorded live in the studio. Whereas this time it was like…Terminator…all machines. And I was like, “oh right!” (laughs). So, we got it done. But like, with Chris and his drumming…

C: This was the first time we had recorded with a metronome in my headphones. And I remember saying, “this click track is speeding up!” (laughter). So that was a landmark moment! (laughs). Like, “this metronome is fucking with me! It’s varying its speed, I don’t like it!” So that was an evolution moment, I’m not as good as I thought I was. And I guess I’ll always remember that, we’re always able to go a wee bit better, get better, and we always do. We’re constantly getting better, almost every day.

J: You can always improve, you can always practice more.

MR: On a related note then, who would your absolute musical hero be?

C: That’s a tough one. For me I would say, again George Harrison. He was in The Beatles, wrote so much of their music, was behind John and Paul and didn’t stand in front of them. And when it was time, he essentially just left The Beatles and they all had to follow suit and go their own separate ways. He then continued doing all sorts of great work, doing his own music, producing everything on his own – he was a self-contained guy who lived his life in happiness and I like that. And his songs were great, everything he did was great. So he’s maybe not someone who’s metal, but he’s a good person to be influenced by and just a good man.

G: You can take their work ethic, though, how they approached their musical career and use it yourself.

C: Exactly, and if you watch interviews with John, Paul and Ringo they always say George was so important in The Beatles’ music. Paul would have written the lyrics, but when you play a song Paul would always say ‘George came up with that hook, and that catchy bit, he suggested that, he helped with that’. He was completely taken for granted but he was always there in the background.

J: Well, from day one the world of Black Sabbath was for me. They were one of the first for me, them and death metal were the first things I got from my brother’s record collection. Gerry had an obsession with heavy metal in school, and I would hear things from him and say, “oh yeah, my brother’s into this shit”. For me, it’s always been there. That’s the proper heavy shit. And obviously, getting to see them in Belfast recently was amazing. So I think I’ll stick with Ozzy and Sabbath.

G: I’m not one for having favourites, because there’s so many that have inspired me, but two guys that I really look up to, just off the top of my head are KK Downing and Glen Tipton from Judas Priest . For me, some of the things I’ve seen Judas Priest do live and on record is a benchmark for me, and what I always want our band to be like. There’s numerous benchmarks that I want to obtain with the band, but whenever I think of complete proficiency and how they were willing to experiment but still sounded like Judas Priest…they were this progressive band and that is taken for granted by people who maybe don’t like the Turbo album, for example. But those two guys and their guitar playing is a big inspiration to me.

MR: You’ve alluded to a 10” vinyl EP release with some previously unrecorded material on it (such as ‘Help!I’m Trapped In 199!’). Is this still on the cards?

G: What happened was, before we got signed the next thing we were going to do was the 10”. Then we we did get signed, the idea got shelved.

J: We chose 2 tracks to be released on the 7” instead.

G: So there was going to be a 5 track 10” vinyl…but there’s nothing to say that it won’t happen eventually in the future.

C: It’s on the shelf, and the shelf has a big bend in it (laughs).

G: It just so happened that Alone came along so that changed things. We weren’t going to not snap up a record deal! We had had other offers: a Brazilian label and a Canadian label. But Alone were the most proficient and seemed to be the ‘real deal’.

C: And when we looked at who else they were looking after…like Metal Church, Warlord…we’re fans of theirs so it seemed the most natural choice.

G: And it’s a great country to anchor in, somewhere like Greece. What more could you want than a label based there? So don’t rule out a 10”, is the short answer! (laughs).

C: Another thing on our mysterious ‘shelf’, shrouded in mystery…(laughter).

MR: What’s your highest ambition for the band?

J: To be able to do this full time (all agree). To be able to live off it.

G: If I’m being honest – and I don’t know if I’m necessarily speaking for these guys – you’re standing in your garage ten years ago and you dream of A tour, you dream of making A record. And you believe in it, but you’re not fooling yourself with delusions. You think “that will never happen”. And then these things start to happen, and suddenly you’re playing Seige of Limerick, you’re playing Bloodstock, suddenly you’ve got a record deal! Personally, I’m taking everything as it comes but there’s definitely an upward trajectory at the minute. We’ve said numerous times that if we finished now and didn’t do anything more, we would be really satisfied. I mean, we played the Ulster Hall!

J: That was the biggest thing, the biggest buzz.

C: It all seems a little hard to believe. We’re moving at a faster pace now with James helping us now – it’s great to have someone helping us like that. The fact that someone has said, “I have an interest in you, I want to look after you”…that was when I started to realise that –

G: (interrupts): We can say, “our manager is dealing with that!” (laughter). But it’s the very nature of the band that we are just…scum (laughs).

J: We are people of the street.

G: We’re realists. In fact, I had a bit of trouble making this 7” where I’ve thought, “I wish I didn’t have a job so I could work on this”. Because it’s very stressful trying to juggle all of it. When you come home from work you don’t want to jump back on a computer and start doing stuff, you want to sit down and watch Eastenders (laughs). That’s – whether you’re aware of it at the time or not – that’s the dedication. It’s tough.

J: And Gerry busted his balls trying to get it ready.

G: Cos we’re working to deadlines now – well, we were, it’s finished now.

J: Apparently it will be released around April, that’s what the label have said. But there will be a release date announced online.

MR: And finally: if Rabid Bitch of the North came with a warning label, what would it say?

G: ‘Beware: quirky, you may not always get it’!

J: ‘Does not sound like what we look like’ (laughs).

C: ‘May contain words which some people may find offensive’.

G: What about ‘This won’t sound like the album you bought yesterday’. Just because there’s certain sounds…I think production in modern metal is too good. That’s not to say that older records sounded more shit! Just that it’s sonic perfection now. But where is the soul? There’s millions of these European power bands now – as good as they are, it’s just like another slab of stuff you’ve heard before. Whereas in the Eighties you have a whole decade of varying production and varying sounds. It’s just so much more of a colourful sonic palette.

MR: And mistakes were left in.

J: There’s going to be mistakes on our record, too! (laughs). Some of my favourite stuff to listen to recently is the earlier Motorhead releases. What’s Words Worth?, Motorhead, On Parole…these are raw concerts and I’ve been hooked on them for weeks and weeks. And although they are immense musicians, there are fuck ups here and there. But it makes it more real, like you’re in the room. We aspire to have that – that’s what we love.

G: There’s an air to them. And don’t get me wrong, there are some modern albums that I like. But there’s a lot of stuff out there that’s just, “God this is just…pristine”. It’s very, very shiny. And that’s not to say that stuff in the Eighties was badly produced, either – the records were all very well done. There was just something about the techniques used, whereas now it just too good. It’s just too good. I think there’s a bit of soul creeping back into the way things are done – people aren’t using samples for drums now, and vinyl is making a huge comeback now. I’ll give you a good example: the Satan record from last year, Life Sentence. That sounds brilliant, but it sounds just like them – only a wee bit more modern in terms of production. And there’s mistakes in it – I’ve heard them – and that’s cool! But it’s still great, y’know?

C: It’s important that our stuff has our own feel and is hand done. And that’s even reflected in the artwork; we got Jason Hendry to do the artwork for our CD and for the 7”. He does everything in pencil and it’s beautiful, and there’s a lot of texture and atmosphere in it. A lot of that is lost on modern releases – you look at the artwork and everything’s slick and heartless looking and just…cheap. A cover artwork speaks to me, personally, as a designer so I think it’s important in everything we do, that it is done by hand. Jason did the CD cover, Gerry did the EP cover and Joe did the cassette and it was all done in pencil, then it’s scanned in and the colours are added. It’s all done by us.

J: We’re at that level so it’s important to do these things. Even when we are able to pass it on to someone else we’re like, “nope, that’s our job!”. Even giving Jason the artwork was weird, because we normally do it, but we’re getting more and more used to that.

G: But he was good, he tapped into what we wanted.

C: He listens to the music over and over and just draws what he sees. And it’s always amazing. And we will continue to work with him. He’s almost like another member of the band who paints our pictures. It’s great to have somebody like that on hand who’s so enthusiastic, and helps out and gives us a lot more confidence. I like that.


Catch our review of the gig here:

Rabid BitchRabid Bitch of the North: (l to r) Joe McDonnell, Chris Condie and Gerry Mulholland