The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
THE-ANSWER-CORMAC-NEESON-INTERVIEW-2015

HARD ROCK INTERVIEWS 2015 - THE ANSWER's LEAD VOCALIST - CORMAC NEESON

The last time we spoke to Cormac was on the eve of the release of The Answer's last album 'New Horizons' and while that release placed highly in our 'Albums of the Year' poll, this year's 'Raise a Little Hell' is even better. The Answer has been one of our favourite bands of the last ten years and certainly one of the most consistent, but 'Raise a Little Hell' could well take them to another level entirely...


Mark: Hi Cormac, how are you?

 

Cormac: Hi Mark I’m good, how are you doing?

 

Mark: Many thanks for talking to The Rockpit today before the release of your fantastic new album ‘Raise a Little Hell’ which hits here on 6th March. We’ve just been listening to it non-stop this week, you must all be very pleased with the way it came out?

 

Cormac: We are pleased yes, it was the kind of record we didn’t know what would come out once we started on it, we kind of kept things free and easy and let the music take us where ever it was going to take us. So to sit here now with an album mastered and ready to go, and having listened to it on a number of occasions, we are very, very proud of what we’ve created, yes.

 

Mark: ‘New Horizons’ (the Answer’s previous album) was high up in the list of our favourite albums of 2013, but we think you’ve topped it with ‘Raise a Little Hell’. Last time we spoke was just before the release of ‘New Horizons’, and you summed up the sound and ethos of that album as ‘raw’: how would you sum up this new release?

 

Cormac: With ‘New Horizons’ it was born out of a very intense and complicated situation behind the scenes like changes of label, management and everything else… I think this time we’ve benefitted from a sense of stability behind the scenes. This is our second record with Napalm records and we’ve just signed a deal for another two, so we don’t have to worry about stuff that musicians don’t really know how to deal with when it comes down to it. You know we just concentrate now on doing what we do best – which is making music. It’s still pretty raw sounding, but I think it’s more diverse than ‘New Horizons’,  there’s a bit more light and shade on there: I think it’s essentially a good-time Rock and Roll album, with a few surprises thrown in there along the way. Our only remit this time round was to all get together in a room, make an awful lot of noise and have a good time doing it, and I think you can hear it – we’re having fun on this record.

Mark: Is it easy to sit on a new album for so long? Recording it in Madrid last Summer, you must be itching to get it out there for everyone to hear?

 

Cormac: You do of course want it released but with records it’s the same each time, when you finish the album you know there is going to be a wait for about three or four months. As the label needs time to set it all up and get it ready for release. At times in a band you need the patience of a Saint! There is a lot of waiting around, but you kinda learn that everything takes a little time in this business. I mean now that we’ve reached the stage where we’re working in our rehearsal space, getting ready for the tour that starts in three or four weeks’ time. It’s pretty exciting, you have all this excitement when you’re making the record then when that’s done you sit on your hands for a couple of months; and then all of a sudden there’s talk of the tour and the album release and that (excitement) all comes right back up again. And once you’re on the road you don’t really have time to come up for air, all of a sudden six months later you are half way around the world and you’re licking your wounds you know!

 

Mark: You’ve got a pretty intense tour already booked - a number of dates in the UK in March and Europe booked already in April and May, with festivals like Wakken and Hellfest in June, and presumably more to come? That’s a pretty long time on the road does it ever get boring out there?

 

Cormac: I don’t think boring is the right word. I mean for me being on a long tour every night you’re getting up there and throwing out everything you’ve got, and there’s a lot of adrenalin flowing through you, and from time to time especially if you have a day off I’ll suddenly feel like I have nothing left in the tank, you know, all my adrenalin stocks have been used up and you feel a little depressed and a bit down, but then all it takes is another show to get it all back on track. But I find over the years that it all has to do with how much we put into our live shows, and the more you put in you feel the consequences from time to time, but for the most part that’s exactly why we do this – to get out on the road and to play our songs for people who really want to come and see The Answer.  We’re very lucky.

Mark: You played four songs from the new album at the Winter Rocks Festival in Sheffield late last year – ‘Long Live the Renegades’; ‘The Other Side’; ‘Last Days of Summer’ and ‘I Am What I am’ – I had a friend in the audience who said he was blown away. What was the initial reaction like to the new songs?

 

Cormac: I remember that gig well; it was quite nerve-wracking you know! I’m still the guy who gets nervous before a big show like he did ten years ago, it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve done it I still get those butterflies in the stomach. So getting up and previewing those for new tracks in front of an audience at a Festival, where there were a lot of people to see us but also a lot to see other bands, you really have to have a lot of confidence in those songs. But the reaction was great, we went straight onto Facebook the next day to see how people had reacted to them and our fans were already taking about the song titles, the riffs, the solos, all the aspects of the songs. And once you’ve played those songs once it’s a watershed, the next time you play them it’s not as tough and you’re more relaxed (laughs) and you can probably do the songs more justice once you’ve played them a couple of times on stage, that’s really how you get to know a song properly, when you’re in front of an audience and they’re reacting to you and you’re reacting to them. So it’s an important moment in a wee band’s life whenever you play a new song in front of other people.

 

Mark: And the big buzz down under is that you may finally be coming to see us in Australia this year?

 

Cormac: Yeah man, let me tell you we are working on that on an almost daily basis so that we can get to see you, because it’s been almost a couple of years now since we were there last. We don’t want you folks down there forgetting about us so the sooner we get down there the better. You’ve mentioned the touring schedule so far and by the end of the summer we have a bit of time freed up so I’d like to think that by October we’d be making our way down there.  

Mark: It will be great to have you back for sure. You’ve played with a lot of great bands over the years: The Stones, The Who and AC/DC some of the biggest names in rock on the planet – what do you learn from shows like that and what do you take away? What’s the most inspiring thing about playing with those bigger names?

 

Cormac: It’s very inspiring for young musicians to be out there with bands like AC/DC who have been doing it for so long and who have as much passion for what they do still. You realise that in order to survive in this business you need that genuine love of what you do, that genuine passion, you also need to be very, very talented and I think sometimes AC/DC get undervalued because they make it look so easy. It’s definitely an art form to do what they do, to put all that power and passion and lyrics into three and a half minutes, while Angus stamps his authority over proceedings. Watching it you realise just how much work goes into that and then we get back and try to put just as much work into our material. But you know when we play with bands like The Rolling Stones or Deep Purple you pick up things around stagecraft that you’ve not seen on the club circuit. It’s how performers like that connect with their audience, and you take that knowledge and hold it dear and try and use it to your own advantage when it’s your turn out there.  

 

Mark: And getting back to your music, there’s not a bad track on the album – there are some huge riffs and great sounds, and as I said we can’t stop playing it over here. ‘I Am What I Am’ I think is one of my favourites – I just can’t stop moving when I hear that one; and tracks like ‘Strange Kind of Nothing’ where I think the vocals come through beautifully, even though you are quite restrained on that track. What was your favourite vocal performance on there?

 

Cormac: ‘Strange Kind of Nothing’ was one of those three or four tracks we used to choose to re-record acoustically to use as bonus material for special releases of albums later in the year so we’ve always been good at that sort of acoustic, almost ballad-like material. But this time with that track we decided to incorporate that into the main body of the record, and it’s great for a singer as you don’t have to compete with the rest of the band turned up to ten, so I get a chance to really ease into the song. Purely as a singer I have a little more space to work in.  But songs like ‘Last Days of Summer’ and ‘Aristocrat’ were a lot of fun: they were both songs that we had left intentionally unfinished going into the studio, leaving that bit of space where the magic can happen. Especially with Aristocrat, I remember being stuck with the chorus for that one, the guys had finished the music and I was stuck on my chorus: it’s a good challenge to leave that kind of space for interpretation whenever the red light is on. And that’s where some of the very special moments of the record happened, just there in the moment. You don’t really have time to think much about it you just go on instinct.

Mark: It keeps it nice and fresh and I think that comes out on the record. You really seem to have the knack of capturing the essence of what we think of as Classic Rock but you never sound derivative, there are so many twists and turns, and you never over-elaborate.  For me you are one of those rare modern bands that have so many echoes of all we love about Rock music but always remain so fresh.  

 

Cormac: I think that’s the challenge doing what we do, exactly like you said. We don’t want to pay too much tribute to the bands that have gone before; you have to keep looking ahead.

 

Mark: That’s where we are now, but taking it all the way back to your early memories of music, what was it that first made you decide you needed to be in a Rock and Roll band? That this music thing had to be your life?

 

Cormac:  I joined my first band when I was fifteen and I started singing in that band because they already had three guitar players and they didn’t need another one! And it all really evolved from there really. Those were really important days, playing whenever we could get gigs at that age and getting up and playing in front of people to show you that you could do it, you could pull it off, that you had the presence on stage to front a band. And then I hooked up with these guys when I was eighteen and it was great to meet a bunch of musicians that were like-minded; we listened to a lot of the same bands and we had a shared vision about what we wanted to do. There was focus there from the really early days to work hard, really focus and try to get out of Belfast and get to London, get a record deal and see where it takes us. I have the other guys to thank for I suppose just being good at what they do! (laughs).

 

Mark:  I know you are someone who loves playing live and can’t wait to get out on the road and I’ve seen mentioned elsewhere that you love playing in the States. As we have a rather large US readership I have to ask is a US Tour likely later in the year maybe?

 

Cormac: Yeah, I think we are in the final stages of looking at some dates in May/June time with the possibility of going back there in August so it’s looking like the gaps in-between European dates and Festivals will allow us to do that, which is great because our only real experience of the States is when we toured with AC/DC for a year and a half around the country. We had an awful lot of fun with those guys so we can’t wait to get back over there that’s for sure.

 

Mark: That should be great, and I hope we can catch you over there. Is it harder and harder to pick a set list especially as the new material is so damn good?

 

Cormac: It is and it gets harder and we’ve been trying to work that out in the rehearsal space. Especially this time around where we are making a conscious decision to play a lot of new material. Normally on a new album we’ll split the set-list 50:50 new material with a compilation of the best of the first three albums. But this time around we really want to, maybe not every night, but over the course of two or three shows we really want to air out every song on there. That only leaves a handful of songs to pick from, from the other four records. And then we recently put up a Facebook post compiling a poll of the fans favourite six songs from the last few records, and whatever song wins we were going to play on the tour, and some of the suggestions that were coming through, I’d forgotten about a few of them. And that really hit home that our fans really do listen to the B-Sides and the bonus material and the EP’s that we put out before our first record. It’s great to know that, that music is still there and so appreciated. It’s such a tough call to try to put together an hour and a half’s worth of music with 5 records, umpteen different EP’s and all those bonus tracks to pick from.       

 

Mark: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us, good luck with the new album launch and we can’t wait to see you when you get Down-Under!

 

Cormac: OK man, thanks for talking to us.

 

 

Cormac spoke to Mark Rockpit, February 2015

 

 

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