THE RAVEN AGE
We spoke with incredibly chatty guys from British rising star – THE RAVEN AGE during their gig in Austria. We learned how it look like when you „tour with adults“, what you should not do if you wouldn´t like your stomach to hurt really bad. Who they like to get on their songs as „featured guest“ or who the´d like to tour with after big stars like Iron Maiden or Anthrax? Learn more in this long interview featuring singer Matt James and guitar player Tony Maue.
Hey Guys! Right now you are touring with Alter Bridge and Shinedown. How´s it going?
Matt: It is going amazing. I mean these kind of bands are the bands I personally grew up listen to so to tour with them for me it´s really a dream come true. I think the music works pretty well together – like three of the bands together – fans have been loving it so it´s fantastic.
Tony: Definitely. We are fitting with these kind of audiences. Since we´ve started this tour the reception is really good. We love doing what we are doing and we are happy to play anywhere we can. It´s pleasure to tour with the bands like Shinedown and Alter Bridge. We are all friends and it´s great!
Great! Do you have any interesting stories so far?
Matt: Nothing crazy really. Everyone is being quite polite and friendly ... It´s quite the older demographic so ... There are so many kinds of energy going on stage and it is really how it should be. It´s the way that shows are being crazy and the rest is being calm and polite.
So you can cal lit „touring with grown-ups“?
Matt: Yes. That´s probably how you can call it. Old fashion is probably better way to call it.
Tony: Yes! It´s all about the show. All the other crap just doesn´t matter. And we are trying to do the same. To impress and to give the best performance possible.
So yesterday was day off – I think for all of you. So how have you spend it?
Matt: Well, the American guys from Shinedown and Alter Bridge celebrated Thanksgiving. So they had some nice dinner together. We´ve went out for curry, which we haven´t done in a while. So it was pretty chill day off. It´s been quite intense so the day off comes really welcomed. You have a little time for yourself and that kind of things.
So no Christmas markets?
Tony: Oh, no! I did that! I explored a little. I found Ice skating ring, did a little ice skating. That is one really unique ice skating ring because it has those little avenues and stuff. And I´ve got some ... how you call that? Glühwein? Yes, Glühwein ... I´ve got quite a lot of that! Christmas markets were great. There was a lot of handcrafted things and that´s cool because back there in England, it´s all like imitations out there. But here ... you get lost in there. It just really looks incredible. One of my favourite scenes!
Your latest album called Conspiracy came out early this year. What´s feedback so far?
Matt: It´s quite a good so far, I think. We´ve released few singles in advance and we get pretty positive reaction early on but the reaction over all have been better than we can ever hope to. When you go to release of the album you know it´s the good album but we´ve never thought it would get such a reaction. It´s taking the band to completely new level. It´s good. Being surprised in a good way is always a good thing. It´s been amazing year for us and it´s been amazing album cycle. It help us get great stand before the next album ...
Tony: It´s also showing different side of the band – I joined back in 2017 and Matt joined back in 2018 so having two new members in the band it changed the sound a bit. We are glad to know what fans think because going from the first album to the second is kind of big change. Now knowing the reaction says that what we are doing is obviously good and that´s amazing. So it´s really exciting for the future and it puts us in really good position.
As I mention, some time already passed from release. What would you change if you´d do it today?
Matt: I wouldn´t change anything. I mean, at the end of the day, it´s a creative process and that is what it is at the time. And I don´t think you could ever wish to change because it came out exactly as it was suppose to come out. We are proud of it. We obviously didn´t realize we would get reaction as we get but I wouldn´t change anything. It´s normal for us as a group of musicians that we evolve as a creative beings – it´s natural evolution from the first album to the second album ... and then hopefully from second album to the third. So, yeah, I wouldn´t change anything.
Tony: As it was said – it´s a journey and it´s something we are proud of and what we can do right now is just try to raise that bar again – to write better songs, bigger music and keep doing that in a cycles. Do what we already done, so I wouldn´t change anything either. I am proud of what we´ve done.
You released new video – Face That Launched a Thousand Ships – who came with the idea for the video?
Matt: Well, I suggested it because we knew we want to make a video for that song. And it was kind of hard because it is very obvious what the song is about – it´s about lover relationship between Helen of Troy and Troyan prince and it was kind of like fancy and cool piece and I thought it would be – given the budget – too tough to do a literal video to that song. Because, you know, we don´t have milions of pounds to throw at it. We thought we are gonna have to do at least something so I said we should shoot it at the desert. I thought it would be really cool thing to do and we were very lucky that we were in Vegas couple days early when we were on tour in America. We thought we come to Vegas couple days before the show and let´s spend those couple of days shooting in the desert and we´ll do it there. Basically we had a great young director Gordy and our record label and we kind of got this kind of metaphorical theme together which is skind of cool. It is kind of cryptic and it kind of focuses more on the dramatic imagery of the landscape which is what we wanted because it is such a beautiful area where we shot and it was such a cool transition for us as it transit from sunny day to night. We are really proud of it and for being such a commercial song it´s not overly short which was (again) challenge when you are doing music video because you need to keep music video interesting and I think we managed to do that and I think the way the video flows from the beginning to end is really nice. It gets a really good response and great feedback and it´s probably the best looking video that we´ve ever done.
Tony: It was really cool to get all the make-up and get looking like we are beaten up it was quite a fun to do this music video. All the fires and tribal stuff – it was great fun.
Matt: It was better way to spend a couple of days off – instead of sitting on your ass somewhere in hotel or in the bus.
I´ve read the comments section under the music video and get two questions that might be interesting from there. Number one: Why you wanted to shoot video about thousands of ships in the desert?!
Matt: It´s in the story. The whole war started because of the relationship between two people and the face that launched a thousand ships – she was known as the most beautiful woman in Greece and the war basically started because of her and her relationship with Troyan Prince. And if you look at where Troy was based geographically, it´s kind of like ... Middle East. Sandy kind of area – whole desert like of area we were trying to go for. I was also taking some snapshots from the film and given that we can´t do a literally taken music video of the story, we wanted to do it this way. And I get that – there was no war in desert in that case but it´s just a metaphor for what happened – she started a war so it could also be „Face that launched a thousand armies“ or „Face that launched a thousand men“. It´s just in that spin of words – a thousand ships – it´s just another way of saying it was the face that started a war. So it doesn´t have anything to do with ships taken literally. She was known as „Face that Launched a Thousand Ships“ and that´s pretty much it. There is nothing literal supposed to be taken from that. So there is nothing literally taken in that video either because we, sadly, cannot do a literal adaptation of what happened.
Number two: There was another guy asking, or more like wishing – „You guys have to invite Adam Gountier (Saint Asonia, ex-Three Days Grace), I wanna hear you together.“ What do you think about that?
Matt: I think that he is one great singer who have done a lot of great stuff. We´ve actually never done collaboration and we have talked about it. I always wanted to do a collaboration with a female singer. But we are actually opened to any ideas. I get that there was such a comment.. Everyone has a style of singer that he enjoy and if they can see that kind of thing working then yeah! We are always up for anything and a collaboration is definitely on the card at some point because I´d love to do that personally.
Tony: There is a lot to explore out there and with someone like him – if there would be a possibility, I am sure we would really explore the possibilities.
Matt: I am positive to do that, definitely, because I wanna do that personally. As I said, I always thought it would be cool to do it with female rock singer.
Any ideas who you´d like to collaborate with?
Matt: Sure. If we are talking dreamland, it would be someone like Lzzy Hale. She is amazing singer. We get to meet her – she came to one of our shows – it was in Nashville. She was absolutely lovely. I could also probably see someone like Amy Lee ...
Tony: But we are still obviously talking about dreamland.
Matt: Well, yes. But there is a lot of amazing female rock singers out there.
Tony: It would make great contrast for us. You´d do some sections and harmonies for female vocals in softer song.
Right now, you are touring as support act, are there any plans for headline tour?
Matt: Yes. We did headline tour at the beginning of the year which was really successful, we had great time and it´s definitely one of my highlights in terms of tours. We naturally want to go to every place and to satisfy everybody so somewhere we (in terms of getting success) have to go with someone stronger. For example, we didn´t have the chance to do Poland last time and we didn´t make it to Scandinavia. Because of that, we are thinking about doing another European tour in 2020. And England again. And when we come back to England, we are doing one more „end of the year“ show in London – just some kind of celebration of Conspiracy album as it has kind of very great year. So we thought it would be great way to end the year.
Tony: We have some surprises for our fans and I mean mainly hardcore fans.
Where do you get inspiration for composing the music?
Matt: Inspiration for writing can come from anywhere. I mean everybody has his own way of composing and writing songs. With us it´s a lot of time about expanding some riffs that come to our mind. We do a lot of jamming together and stuff like that where we can feel ideas of each other. Inspiration for lyrics obviously come from books and there is a lot of stuff based on history, fantasy stuff as well, folklore – as in case of „Face That Launched a Thousand Ships“ and „Fleur de Lys“ that is history piece. Same with the song called „Scimitar“ which is based on Holy Crusades – so things like that. I think that heavy metal and hard rock gives you chance to do that type of storytelling. There is very few other genres where you can do that. We go down with some history, something fantasy based and it´s great! It´s like never ending list of things you can try. We also touch some real life things as well, like „Trail of Minds“ which talks about mental health and I think it´s good to touch all the subjects and in this mindset, inspiration can come literally from anywhere.
Tony: Everybody is a different songwriter in the band and everyone has his own ideas of what song can be about. There is just so much to talk about – history, personal ideas, it can be from anywhere and for example most of stuff I write about present and Matt especially about history. And I think that all the ideas coming together – it makes awesome mixture and it makes The Raven Age sounds like it does. Nothing sounds similar, every story is completely different and it makes it quite refreshing for the listener so I think I can say that we find the formula to make the best out of it!
Do you have something like inspiring environment?
Tony: Don´t get me wrong, but it can be anywhere. It could be Christmas markets in Vienna where you hear some inspiring melodies, it could be some image you see from the bus in the middle of nowhere.
Matt: I do have a little kind of studio back in my home back in England. I am firm believer in kind of working to come up with idea. Yes, sometimes, ideas came to you and hit you out of nowhere but sometimes I need to sit down with guitar and really work it through. Like to sculpt something. I am big believer that this is how it works for me so it looks like you can say that my enviromoent for creating music needs to be calm and quiet, it needs to be neutral (if you know what I mean), without outside kind of influences – just me, by myself in a quiet room. That way I can open myself to do stuff. That´s the way I like to write – sitting down in a calm. It´s nearly like state of meditating to get to the point where the creative juices starts to flow.
Tony: I would only add one thing – most of the times the most creative time of the day is in the middle of the night. When you have the idea you got to sit there till the 4 in the morning figuring it out. Sometimes that´s exactly the time you get the inspiration and it´s quite common.
So you are already after releasing new album, already after doing few tours with it. What are your plans for next year?
Matt: We haven´t done festival circuit in a while and we want to do that next year. We are talking about going to the States again to do some shows there. Then there is another headline tour I was talking about. We are kind of busy band all the time – we had some mental years – to do 3 major tours in a year is just quite crazy.
Tony: Yeah, I think that our friends and families might already forgot what we look like. But to be honest, this is the level we need to be doing it. We need to push it – keep touring relentlessly. I think that next year would be pretty much the same thing. We are talking about going to the studio again in the beginning of the year – kind of January/February to start throwing some ideas around for the next album but there is no definitive date in place for that.
You already toured with Maiden, with Anthrax before ...
Tony: Yep! That was my first tour with these guys!
... now you are touring with bands you are listening to – Alter Bridge and Shinedown. So it somehow already looks like dream come true for you in case of support band. Where you want to push yourself as a band? What are your dreams in terms of music?
Matt: In terms of support bands we´ve been very fortunate to play with amazing acts. As you said – Anthrax, Maiden, Killswitch, ... – it was truly amazing. It also shows versatility of our music – as it works or at least seems to work with all these different kinds of bands. We are circling around all kinds of genres of hard rock and heavy metal. But I think that there is one band that we collectively would love to tour with – even with imagery we talk about and everything – would be Avenged Sevenfold. That´s the one of the pinnacles for us – to do a tour with those guys. I am also a big Five Finger (Death Punch) fan – they give that big stadium kind of show – that´s the thing we are always trying to do. In our terms – anytime we go to a headline tour, we´d like to make it bigger, better – we´re always trying to up our production game giving our fans the best possible show we can do and I think that´s what heavy metal or hard rock show should be all about. It´s kind of piece of theater – you try to give the best visual performance as well as musical performance. That´s something we aim to – to do the best as we physically can. All our efforts and energy goes to doing the best possible show and that´s what we wanna do for the future.
Tony: For me personally it´s to write the best music as we possibly can and to be the kind of musician whos music will interest people for the rest of his life. Hopefully people will enjoy it because that´s when you live your dream – people are respecting what you do and loving it.
As we spoke before, right now it´s more like „grown up tour“ – no weird shit and stuff ...
Matt: We are only halfay through. From my experience, weird stuff happens after the half of the tour. When people are getting closer to home, you know.
... okaaaay. So what was the weirdest publishable tour memory you can tell us?
Matt: Yes! A lot of thing that we couldn´t tell you happened. That stuff is „to the grave“ kind of stuff.
Tony: You can think of anything publishable? (Laugh)
(Long thinking with „ehms“ and starting sentence that they realize they could not finish, some laughs)
Matt: We have our lovely young champ – our merchman Aiden – he´s been with us quite a long time and he is great guy. And we do piss each other a lot, you know. We make fun of each other a lot in a band – that´s what we do. And Aiden – he was with us for a short time and it was on our way to Lisbon and he was so drunk that he couldn´t really even talk properly and we got him back in a bus. And as we drove he didn´t even know where he was and he kept trying to walk around the bus and he couldn´t ... he was trying to take a piss and he couldn´t even open the door while we were driving. And we´ve been telling him „No, don´t do that“ – because that was the door out of the bus, you know. He tried to go through the bus, go to the corner of the bus to take a piss and he always heard „No, don´t“ so it didn´t work. And then, he just stopped and didn´t move at all so I asked him „Aiden, are you allright? You OK?“ and he told me „I am just waiting to be told if it´s all right to take a piss. (Laugh) He nearly pissed in the corner, you know. Then we put him to the toilet. Our manager managed him to the toilet.
Tony: And he stayed in there for like half an hour. We opened the doors after that and asked him if he´s allright. And he was like „I am just waiting to be told that I can come out“ (Both laughing)
Matt: Because you know, he was always told „No, Aiden, not there!“ and the next morning he was like „Do you remember what happened last night?“. Luckily, we had it all on video. And we also had the picture of him in the freezer as we told him to get in the freezer on some gas station. Owner of the place obviously got mental and scream at us „Get out of there!!“ I never forget what he told us the next morning when I asked him if he remembers anything and he told me „I remember the things I do or do not remember.“ And that will stuck with me forever.
Tony: We also do that one thing when new crew memeber or band member. We do that initiation like everytime we get for meal we get hottest thing – something like chilli challenge – so the hottest thing we can physically find (Matt laughing) and for my own personal one – which was the worst – our tour manager get some chilli paste which was hot chillies and it looked like death on a plate and he said „Look, I´ll try“ and he tried and told me it´s not that bad. And as I ate really big part of it he started saying that he hate himself for that. Oh-My-God! That was the hottest thing I ever tasted. (Matt laughing loudly) And I have never to this date experienced heat like that. I mean I don´t really eat spicy anyway and we´ve all done it. You´ve (Matt) done it.
Matt: Yes and I also had to do Meet and Greet right after it. I could not stop myself from drinking milk and going to toilet because my stomach was hurting so bad.
Tony: It´s the worst thing!
Matt: I am sorry for the people who came to Meet and Greet that time. It was like „Nice to meet you“ and running back to the toilet because my stomach hurt so bad. (Tony laughing really hard)
Tony: Never do the chilli challenge because it will screw you up big time.
OK! That wasn´t something I was expecting but that´s definitely the best way to end the interview (Laugh) That was it from my side. If there is anything you want to add, here is your time.
Matt: Well, for everybody who is noticing the band and supporting us, I want to say big „Thank you“. We would try to come again as soon as possible and make the show as big as possible.
Tony: Yeah! We are working hard and solid so we hope you enjoy what we are bringing to you.