Interview with Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
PD: How would you describe yourself or your band as an artist?
IATW: We’re I Am The Wreckage – Azz Miller, Aaron Keller, Brad Hickling and Ian Kenworthy – Saying we’re a metalcore band isn’t as clear-cut a description as you’d hope. The name gets misconstrued, people turn their noses up but – hey – that’s what we do. We’ve been compared to Every Time I Die, Comeback Kid, Cancer Bats and Knocked Loose so that’s the space we’re operating in. It’s hardcore, there’s some metal in there and we like that raw edge. And you can’t beat a really big riff. It’s also amusing to use the word ‘artist’. We’re kind-of hardwired to think of art as something beautiful, when really, it’s something that provokes a visceral reaction – that’s us.
PD: Can you tell us briefly about your background – i.e. where you’re from, how you came to make music, etc.
IATW: We’re from Manchester. Originally, we were based in Oldham, but times have changed. We’ve outgrown a small town – and before you take that the wrong way, it’s been a long journey and we’ve learned a lot along the way. Things really changed for us when we were welcomed into the 0161 Underground Metal community – they really help bands like ours, fostering a sense of belonging, putting us – and so many other great bands – on and ensuring there’s someone to watch the mayhem; our shows can get pretty wild.
PD: Who and what inspires you to make music, both in terms of musical and other influences? What do you like to write about in your songs?
IATW: We like a big, dirty riff.
While we’ve mentioned the bands we admire, we don’t usually go to them for inspiration. An Every Time I Die style riff inspired by Every Time I Die is a cover version, right? – we’re trying to carve our own sound. That said we like digging around in some unusual places. Aaron, our guitarist, has a master’s degree in music performance and there’s nothing like watching him stumble onto a really sick riff while improvising something entirely different.
When we’re not riffing there’s a concerted effort to make what we write into ‘songs’ – maybe from idea or a ‘melody line’ say. The trick is to keep it focused; you’d be surprised how much harder a song hits when it’s focused like that.
Lyrically, we’ve been trying to create something meaningful – which sounds a bit glib, especially when some of our songs are directly about having a good time, but even then we like to deconstruct that idea – pretentious maybe – but even ‘Friday Night Redneck’ is more about comradeship and the effect that has on the people around you than just getting wasted.
PD: What are your aspirations as an artist?
IATW: We have a new EP on the horizon; we’ve been working on it for a while now; We swear it’s cursed. The intention was to record it last year, but Ian broke his thumb during our set at Vilefest – and then there’s the production work. We’re a DIY band – Azz and Brad are both qualified in sound production so they’ve been making sure it sounds great, but obviously that’s quite time consuming. It’s almost done though. We’re really excited for everyone to hear it, but it’s been a long journey. Once we get the damned thing released, we’ve got a stack of new demos and we’re really excited about those too. We’ve got quite a few shows on the horizon too. We’re really proud of our live shows, I guess what we’re aspiring to is to be the band no one wants to play after.
PD: What is the proudest moment in your music career so far?
IATW: You know what, it’s always felt like we were onto something special, but the reaction to us over the last six months has been fantastic. Last year we played Metal 2 The Masses competition at Rebellion in Manchester and we reached the finals. It was packed, everyone was really into it and it felt like a massive achievement. And when we decided to play again this year the response has been even better. Having 200+ people really into what you’re doing is incredible. Having most of them singing along is unreal.
PD: Promoting one’s music is such a challenge these days, especially with so many new artists emerging from bedrooms in the day of the home studio. How is that going?
IATW: Promoting music is actually pretty difficult. I said before, we’re a DIY band and we play a lot of live shows so we’ve built a fanbase that way. We’ve been experimenting with Spotify playlists too but it’s pretty difficult to gauge how meaningful any of it is. When you’re playing a packed venue full of people wearing your shirts you know it’s going well. 2,000 streams on Spotify is less tangible.
One of the hardest things is trying to work out the cost/benefits of doing something, and trying to figure out who’s scamming you. And that’s a lot of people.
The other day we saw some PRs complaining that being a PR wasn’t a viable career anymore, but that’s not surprising when bands can’t afford to support themselves, never mind people further down the line. As a band it feels like you’re the prey and a whole ecosystem is trying to feed off you.
PD: And how do you book and promote your live shows and tours? Any performances coming up?
IATW: Currently we’re approached by promoters. We have enough reputation that there’s a constant flow of requests in the Manchester area but getting further afield is a little more difficult. That said we’re playing in Leicester next month with our friends Cast In Tephra and we played some fantastic shows in Wales last year, so we’re aiming to head back.
PD: What do you think about downloading music online? What about streaming sites like Spotify?
IATW: This is a really interesting question. If you’re a consumer, it’s ideal. Unlimited access to whatever music you want. For the artist it’s a disaster. I mean, it’s not replacing an ideal system in any way, but as a small band you can’t actually make money from it. As I was saying before you need to be on playlists to get noticed, but then you need to pay to be on those lists. On Spotify large amounts of money is slurped out of the top through some really corrupt practices – there’s a few really interesting charities fighting for artist equality, it’s unlikely that they’ll win. Bands like ‘While She Sleeps’ have been trying to raise awareness of this – they made a line of t-shirts literally spelling out the costs of being in a band. It’s frightening, as they have the same problems even at their levels. I’ve always found it interesting that bands are referring to themselves as ‘T-shirt salespersons’ but when you think about it, you’re paying to write, practice and upload a song, then to have t-shirts printed, and to get to a gig and then pay someone else to get on a playlist – it’s amazing people make any music at all.
Did you see the other day that Gojira were forced to sell t-shirts for £40 to try and break even? I mean, charge what you want but they’re not going to sell many at that price – selling more t-shirts cheaper seems like a better option, but who says they can even do that? If a band their size is having to sell their merch so expensively something is really wrong.
It’s not a new thing either, Reuben’s second record was all about how impossible to survive making music and that came out in 2005. And bands like Bad Sign split because they just couldn’t make it work. It’s a real shame because there is some really great music that’s just not getting made.
As a consumer there’s a good argument to pay for downloads, you want something, you pay for it, but the actual system sees music as disposable, or perhaps even its property. If you buy a physical thing or a download (assuming you have the technology to play it) you can always listen to it, but with streaming you own nothing, and that’s quite often taken for granted, and having it at your fingertips only reemphasises that. Like, you probably didn’t notice but when Cave In’s discography was bought by Relapse Records they disappeared from the streaming services during the changeover – something you love can disappear and you have no control over it. That’s actually quite worrying. Another thing you might not have noticed recently the price of downloaded albums has been increasing – to a point that it’s more than when you used to pay for physical releases, that’s quite alienating. And probably to phase people out of downloading. Something else that happens a lot is that if you pre-order a download it’ll cost you a tenner and then a week later it drops to a fiver. Fans are likely to pre-order, it’s like they’re punishing you for being loyal, but perhaps they don’t see it like that.
It’s also interesting that playlists mean you’re constantly releasing things to chase that audience. But only certain songs and certain types of music fit on playlists. So, it encourages you (but probably not us to be fair) to write a certain type of song – no one’s going to put your weird interlude on a playlist, but it would work perfectly in the context of an album. That being said, our intro song seems to be popular on TikTok, which is odd. I suppose it also tends to scatter your output over lots of small releases, which is fine while you’re a band but if you split up or whatever, your body of work is just spread across the void.
PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?
IATW: This is another good question. Because we’re proud of what we do we wouldn’t want to have written someone else’s song. And even if we did there’s only a certain thing we could write, I mean, we’re never going to write ‘Fear Inoculum’ or ‘Cicatriz ESP’ but we might stumble into something like ‘Whole Lotta Love’ – that’d be cool. A riff for the ages. Or like Refused’s ‘New Noise’. A song that’s written as a banger, and then goes on to define an entire genre. Did we mention our new single ‘Violence’ is going to drop soon?
PD: Is there anything you don’t like about the music industry, which you would change if you could?
IATW: The whole thing is absolutely terrible.
Honestly, it feels like you’re under attack the whole time and it’s difficult to tell who is on your side. But there are some great people out there doing good things. People trying to help each other. Communities that live and breathe music. People who give you a helping hand, support your work and put on your shows. That’s the bit we need to preserve. Rage against everything else.
PD: So, what are you working on at the moment?
IATW: We just released our single ‘Veneer of Vanity’ and we’re putting the finishing touches to a new EP. We have a second single from that set, ‘Violence’, which we’re hoping to put out shortly. We’re really proud of it so keep your ears open.
PD: Where can we learn more about you and buy your music/merch online?
IATW: The best place to check us out is on Facebook and you can buy our stuff on Bandcamp – you can find our socials here;
Thanks very much.
I Am The Wreckage links:
Band/Artist location – Manchester, UK
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