Last month UK band Fighting Wolves released their debut album through a very successful Pledgemusic campaign. We recently caught up with singer and guitarist Paul Blue to ask him about the band and their experience using Pledgemusic.
Let’s start of with the basics, who are Fighting Wolves and where do you come from?
We are a hard rock band from all over the UK. I play guitar and sing lead vocals. Danny Martin is the drummer with backing vocals. Andy Duke is our fine bass player and backing vocalist and Pierre Baudasse or ‘Mr Badass’ as we know him is guitars and backing vocals!
I am originally from Northern Ireland, Danny is from Scotland, Andy is from London and Pierre is from France! We are all based around London now.
How long have you been together and where did you meet?
It has taken a while for this line up to come together. Me and Andy have known each other for ever first meeting in Camden whilst playing with my last band. Just over a year ago Danny auditioned and within 10 minutes joined the band. Pierre joined a few months ago after we found him on a Gumtree advert and met him in a seedy pub in Edgware Road!
The first time I heard you was a demo of the song Long Time on Planet Rock at 4am in the morning last December. I was taking my in-laws to the airport and went home and looked you up immediately. How influential do you think the radio station was to your success?
Planet Rock helped us a lot. They were the first radio station to really get on board and promote our music and even now you can see at gigs the wave that created. We have a large mix of fans from young to old and Planet Rock was a pivotal part in creating that.
You turned to Pledgemusic to make your debut album. Why?
After recording our first EP and all the money we invested into the band we were flat broke. Being in a band and especially having so much pride in your music always means putting everything in to it. We turned to pledge music and of course our amazing fans because we literally couldn’t have recorded the album without them. We had enough to record 4 songs (‘Scared Of Flying’, ‘Long Time,’ ‘The End’ and ‘Apology’) and we used these to judge if there was interest enough to create a full album and there was!
You passed your Pledgemusic deadline which committed to releasing the album March without anything being released. Rather than put something out on time you moved that date not once but twice. What happened and how important for you was it that you got this right?
The way we recorded the album created a lot of teething problems (explained in another question). One of the biggest obstacles was that we had to re-record the guitars for the entire album. This was just before Pierre joined the band and I recorded them all myself. People had pledged to not only this album but to their belief in us as well. If it wasn’t going to be the best it could be, why do it in the first place? The decision to let people down and make them wait wasn’t an easy one but spurred us on to create an album that we were proud of and the best of what we can achieve.. for now…
Were all the songs on the album written before starting the Pledgemusic campaign?
All the bones of the songs were there. Some things that don’t gel, guitars or vocals are always changed within the recording process as you hear a song in a different light when it starts to take shape.
Talk us through the music-making process in a bit of detail.
OK.. This is a big one! Usually most bands simply book into a studio, lay down drums, then bass, guitars, then vocals. We had a different plan.
To realistically accomplish what we wanted the album to sound like we had to put in much more work ourselves. We wanted… or should I say NEEDED to use Matt Hyde as our producer. We worked with him before and for us, he was not only the best at what we needed and understood us but he was part of our sound. Having such a well-respected and top producer to mix and master our album was never going to be cheap however and we had no money.
To ask thousands upon thousands of pounds from our small fan base wasn’t an option but we had to give them what they expected and give them the best we could. So we laid down the drums in a studio in Bromley with the very talented Joseph Smyth and I recorded the vocals and guitars. Then Andy recorded all the bass parts. I then worked with Matt on producing the final mixes and mastering.
Recording everything yourself is not only a lot of pressure but there can’t be mistakes, there is no one looking over your shoulder or using their ears to weigh in what is right and wrong so it has to be very precise and as luck would have it, a faulty pick up on my guitar meant all the first guitar tracks were not good enough and had to be re recorded. After that Matt was booked up with other label mixes and we just about got a time slot in and he finished the album the week of his own wedding!
So I’ve never recorded an album, but I have made many a mix tape or playlist on iTunes. I realise that’s not quite the same but often find it very difficult choosing which tracks. As these songs were all your own “babies” how easy was it easy to put a final track listing and order together for the album?
It was almost impossible! Everyone in their band had their own opinions and if I’m completely honest there is not a song I wanted to ‘leave until the end’ or take off. When it was all completed it probably took 4 days to decide on that track listing!
How do you go about writing your songs, and how long do you spend writing? At what stage do you think “Yeah, that’s it now”
I usually start writing myself from riffs and put melodies over it. It’s then usually bounced to Danny whilst we figure out drums and then the rest of the band get involved. That could change but it’s how I’ve always been used to working. Then the songs stick in my head for weeks whilst I work out lyrics and how the vocals flow. To be honest, there is never a stage when I think ‘yeah, that’s it now’. That time is usually when the CD is printed up! I am always searching for ways to make things better but if the song wasn’t good enough in the first place it wouldn’t make it past the drums..
A lot of bands record some demos on GarageBand and put them on somewhere like Soundcloud before hitting the studio, what’s your recording process?
We usually demo them up with an electronic drum kit and vocals/guitars live, recorded through some software. I don’t like showing people demos and our work because it’s not complete and opinions you may receive are based on that. So I like just going full throttle into recording it. If the rest of the band like it, that’s all that matters to me. Real music is an extension of expressing yourself. To me its an in-depth conversation and I think you need to be true to yourself with music.
Did having autonomy through Pledgemusic make things easier when recording the album?
It made it a lot better. Creatively, it was amazing to have so much control. However it did feel like a lot of pressure when we missed deadlines etc, self-inflicted of course!
How would you describe your sound to our readers who have not yet heard you?
I think it’s the much less discovered ground between how rock used to be and a modern twist. It’s all about the songs, the hooks, the sound. You won’t find much overplaying on our albums!
How much has the sound evolved since your early days?
It has definitely got a bit lighter and more dynamics have entered. There are many complexities very subtly slipped beneath the songs which I love and it’s became a bit more adventurous!
What is the one stand out track everyone should hear from the album?
I personally love ‘Give Me A Sign’ but everyone has their own opinion in the band.
To these ears ‘Give Me A Sign’ and ‘Breathe In:Breathe Out’ sound a little Foo Fighters and Biffy Clyro influenced. Who are the biggest influences on the sound of the band?
Ironically I have never been a Biffy fan and only started listening to Foo Fighters after so many comparisons have risen! I find sounds I like from all over the place. Tom Petty was a huge influence on me growing up and 80’s movie soundtracks such as Top Gun. But really, if I listed them all here we would be here all day.
What is it about Fighting Wolves which will make them people stand up and take notice?
I think it’s the familiarity of our music mixed with something so fresh and new, people don’t expect to find that anymore. We aren’t concerned about image, we just want to make our music and rock out. I think that’s refreshing to people.
What is the best gig you’ve played so far?
Its a close call between The Joiners in Southampton and The Slade Rooms in Wolverhampton. I love intimate venues with great sound and a friendly crowd! The Steelhouse club nights and festivals are always awesome as well.
What can fans expect from the live show?
Good heavy rock and no egos. A good time and a bit of banter!
Are you heading out on your own headline tour later this year?
Yes, we are hoping October/November. As always it will be plastered on our Facebook page!
Do you have a favourite venue (and why)?
We have a few favourites. Anyone that treats us right and is friendly is OK with us! The Slade Rooms had a piano in our back stage area. I liked that. We wrote some new songs in there about unicorns and french breadsticks..
We’d love to see you live are there any plans for a Glasgow show?
Glasgow is one show we missed out on before so we are dying to get back!
If you could land a dream support slot, who would it be with, and why?
Obviously Tom Petty but I think we would have to go acoustic for that! Foo Fighters would be great as I think their fans would appreciate our music and they seem like great guys.
If there was one band from any era you could play with who would it be?
Creedance Clearwater Revival. No need to explain that I think!
Do you do any cover versions live? If not and you were to, what sort of tracks would be given the Fighting Wolves treatment?
We never have and probably never will though at a recent Pledge house party gig we did a mean Johnny Cash cover of ‘Folsom Prison Blues’…
What are the biggest challenges of being in the band and how do you overcome them?
There are so many challenges of being in a band. Especially when your truly independent. I firmly believe if you find the right members for the job and people who live and bleed for the music you can overcome anything.
What advice would you give to a new band just starting out?
Take any advice you are given and never think anything is below you. Then play until your fingers bleed, go out there and show the world what your made of!
How important do you think an online presence is?
I think it’s quite important now but I also hate things being shoved in my face. I love music blogs/websites and online radio but this Facebook/Twitter era seems to be detracting from music. It’s very handy to stay in touch personally with fans though and I like that. There’s nothing like seeing someone in the crowd and knowing they had Weetabix that morning!
Where can people keep in touch and follow your movements?
Thanks a lot for your time Paul. We will be reviewing the album soon, but in the meantime head over to the band’s Pledgemusic page and grab a copy for yourself!