Interview: Bullet For My Valentine

Published in Drum Media (WA) | 07.02.13 | Issue # 324


Believe it or not, Bullet For My Valentine drummer Michael ‘Moose’ Thomas has never lost his temper. Daniel Cribb digs a little deeper and discovers, after years of relentless touring, he has been close to losing his mind.

When vocalist Matthew Tuck, guitarist Michael Paget, and drummer Michael Thomas formed Jeff Killed John in 1998 while attending Bridgend College in Wales, they had no idea their combined musical talents would transform them into a worldwide phenomenon. After a short run of success and an EP, they changed their name to Bullet For My Valentine in 2005, and after reassessing their style and approach to music they released 2005’s The Poison, which sold more than 1,000,000 copies worldwide.

They struck gold with their debut and were thrown into what seems to be an endless tour. Since 2007, the Welsh metallers had visited Australia every year – that is, until, last year. 2010 saw the release of the band’s third album,Fever, an album that presented a band in their prime. But five years of endless touring was starting to take its toll. In 2011 the band made their Soundwave debut, but drummer Michael Thomas admits at that point they were physically and emotionally exhausted – what was once fun had begun to feel like work.

“It was time for a break then, really, but bands kept wanting to put us on tours. It was still fun, but not as fun as it used to be,” Thomas explains. “We don’t see home much, so it’s nice when we do come home for the odd few days on tour. That’s why we had to take a year off – we’ve never really taken time off, so I think that year off did help, and now we’re more focused for this tour…all we’ve done since 2005 is tour – we never took time off, took time to realise how lucky we are and how gifted we are to enjoy such a job.”

Although they’re surfacing from a year off with the release of their fourth album, Temper Temper, they didn’t spend a lot of their down time in writing mode. Very little of that year was spent together penning tunes, and while it may seem like the more preparation and writing a band does before entering the studio the better, Bullet For My Valentine have discovered it can be the other way around. Usually months of writing, pre-production and demoing allows bands to refine songs into the best they can be. The problem is, it can sometimes ruin the natural energy created by musicians in a live setting, feeding off one another’s creativity. Writing in the studio allowed Bullet For My Valentine to capture an energy they’ve had all along but haven’t been able to access. “Because we grew up with each other through school, we just know what each other is thinking. It just works. I wouldn’t want to be in a band with anyone else really.

“We didn’t have any songs, or demos, or anything. It was kind of cool, it was kind of scary in a way, but it worked… we were on fire, actually. There was nothing to say how it should be done, everything was spontaneous, and so it was pretty cool.”

Producer Don Gilmore (Pearl Jam, Linkin Park, Good Charlotte) had a big influence on the writing style of the album, and while his input on Temper Temper was drastically less than on Fever, he kept them grounded, and was persistent on the ‘more is less’ mentality. It’s easy for bands to get carried away when they’re writing in the studio. One guitar track might turn into a medley of five, the drums become too busy, and the vocals too overwhelming – everyone begins to lose [focus] of the bigger picture.

“Don had a huge influence on me, especially as a drummer, and the band, because we’re metal fans, we grew up listening to heavy metal. Don kind of said, ‘You know, what you’re doing is cool, but if you want to branch out to people, you have to calm it down’. He just makes you calm down, and if you think of using double kicks the whole way through a song, he says, ‘Some kids might not understand it’’”

The first single released off album number four is the title track, Temper Temper. It’s taken a heavier direction than previous works from the band, but Thomas ensures longtime fans that the rest of the album is more in the same vein as previous albums. “The first single is pretty different from the whole album. The record company chose Temper Temper to be the first single. We wanted something else,” he explains. While sonically the single doesn’t represent the full album too accurately, it does a good job of capturing the overarching theme of the album. “The whole album basically, like 80 per cent, is all about controlling tempers, or losing tempers…I’m the least angry guy ever – I’ve never lost my temper in my life, really,” he explains.

Already booked out for all of 2013, and beginning plans on 2014, Bullet For My Valentine kick back into touring life with their appearance at Soundwave. “The vibe down there is just really good. A lot of people will say, you know, ‘Forget that tour, forget that tour’, and just concentrate on their own territory, but we want to be a worldwide band… and you’ve got nice beer as well, “ he laughs. “I love that Pure Blonde beer.”

Another big influence on the band, as mentioned earlier in the Jeff Killed John-era, was Metallica. Both bands appear on the Soundwave line-up, but the festival will be a reunion rather than a chance to cross paths with their childhood heroes. “We’d like to see the Metallica lot again, because we haven’t seen them since about 2010, and it’ll be nice to hang out with the Slayer guys as well. That’s gonna be awesome,” Thomas says. “We had a show the same day in London [as Metallica] in 2010, and then we got a phone call after, we were just at our hotel, it was the Metallica guys and they asked if they could come to our after party, because theirs was boring,” he laughs.

Bullet For My Valentine will be playing the following dates:

Friday 22 February – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane QLD
Saturday 23 February – Soundwave, RNA Showgrounds, Fortitude Valley QLD
Sunday 24 February – Soundwave, Olympic Park, Sydney NSW
Wednesday 27 February – The Hi-Fi, Sydney NSW
Friday 1 March – Soundwave, Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne VIC
Saturday 2 March – Soundwave, Bonython Park, Adelaide SA
Monday 4 March – Soundwave, Claremont Showgrounds, Claremont WA

Daniel Cribb


Show Review: Colin Hay 02.02.13

Published in Drum Media (WA) | 07.02.13 | Issue # 324



2 February, 2013

With no opening act, it was a primary school orchestra’s rendition of Down Under that welcomed Men At Work frontman Colin Hay onto the Regal Theatre stage on Saturday night. He casually plucked one of three guitars that sat in a neat semi-circle towards the back of the stage, and proceeded to faintly pick away and begin his set with a humble tale of his beginnings. The Scottish-born eclectic songwriter grew up in Melbourne and ran away to California in ’89, so he had plenty of wisdom, humor and stories to impart.

After a few minutes of talking, he flicked a switch that transformed him from storyteller to musician, and his distinctive vocals filled out the heritage-listed venue as he dived into 1990’s Wayfaring Sons. It wasn’t long before a Men At Work classic, 1982’s Who Can It Be Now, surfaced, and while he jokingly admitted he hasn’t been interested in playing those songs since 1984, he also pointed out that he’s “not fucking stupid” and knew that a large portion of the audience purchased tickets for a trip down memory lane.

Even the uninitiated would have found themselves deeply intrigued with each song, as the stories leading into them provided such detail insight into his mindset at the time of writing them. Thirty minutes into his set and he had only played three songs, the other 20 minutes was filled with engaging stories that were three parts humor, one part philosophical wisdom. He could probably do away with the guitar and tour a stand-up routine with success.

Younger audience members cheered when I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You, a tune featuring on the platinum-selling Garden State soundtrack, made an appearance. Undoubtedly, the first track that comes to mind when a Hay single is mentioned is Down Under – a song that has been in litigation for the past three years after a judge ruled the flute solo contained enough of the Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree melody that it breached copyright. While the court took away some royalties from the band, Hay pointed out that they could never touch euphorically moments between himself and the audience when he played it live.

In the blink of an eye, he had taken the audience on a two-hour journey. There are musicians, and then there are performers – Colin Hay is inarguably the latter, and is no doubt becoming more refined with age.

Written by Daniel Cribb