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the AU interview: Gareth Lawrence of The Blackout (Wales)


The new record from Welsh rockers The Blackout is fun. Really fun. The band are planning to slip album number four out into the world a month before they arrive here from the chilly British Isles for our annual Soundwave Festival, which boasts the likes of Linkin Park, Blink-182, Paramore and most importantly for drummer Gareth “Snoz” Lawrence, Metallica.

Though The Blackout may have last graced our shores in 2011, they've been itching to get back here ever since, and they're bringing one heck of a party with them. If you happen to hear a large bang in February, don’t be alarmed; it’ll just be Lawrence exploding after having met metal heavyweights 'tallica in the flesh.

Hey Gareth, what have you been up to today?

I'm actually sitting in the car park of a supermarket in the new car me and my girlfriend just purchased, so I’m happy. It’s a big family car because we just found out that we’re expecting our first child. We can’t wait! It’s going to be amazing. We’ve been shopping for the last three months for this car and now we’ve finally got it, so a lot of weight has been taken off our shoulders so I’m happy.

That's excellent news! Congratulations. Speaking of your other creations, how are you feeling now that Start The Party is done and dusted?

We’ve been sitting on the album since May I guess, and it’s good to finally get it out ‘cos we’ve had it mixed since August. I can’t wait for people to hear it because it’s a bit of a different thing for us at the moment. The last album was, I don’t want to say a bit dreary, but it was all about how things can get you down and how hope can obviously bring you back up and stuff, but this one is just all about partying and having a laugh. We were actually going to call the album, 'Let's have a laugh'.

With the songs on Hope being a bit darker than your previous records, what was it that made you want to make this record an all-out party?

I think it’s to do with, when we were writing, it was really, really cold and we were all sitting in Gavin’s [Butler, vocals] garage and the only thing we could do was make happy songs because otherwise, we would… well, at one point, we were practising in his garage and it was minus four degrees, so if we didn’t try and make happy music, we probably would have all been jumping off the nearest bridge.

You said you’ve been sitting on it since May… How do you handle that waiting period between finishing a record and having it out in the world? Are you almost hoping it'll leak?

We've had the problem for years. When you give out a promo CD a couple of weeks beforehand, it just ends up leaking, there’s nothing you can do. We kind of combatted it this time. We uploaded some of the songs from our album, we've taken a stand for the music and we’ve put some very interesting lyrics over the top to say the least to try and combat people downloading it illegally this time.

With the recording process, was Start The Party as fun to make as it is to listen to?

Yeah, for sure. When we record with Jason Perry, it’s always fun. He’s such a big child, no matter what happens, we just have a laugh. We were recording in the middle of nowhere and the weather was quite nice and it was just really relaxed. We had our own chef as well, which was excellent. On the last album, for Hope, it was a little bit dodgy because I’d just broken my shoulder so I wasn’t actually playing on the album. I had to sit and watch two other drummers play the songs for me, so that was a little bit hard. We had limited time in the studios we were at. But this time, it was more relaxed as we had a lot of time to do it. Compared to last time, it was brilliant.

Was there ever the concern that the other drummers weren't "doing it right"?

Nah, they were definitely doing it right. The two drummers we got on the album were much, much better than me. In a way, I was kind of happy they got the other drummers in because it made us sound so much better [laughs]. I couldn’t complain at all.

Since you’d worked with him on your previous two records, what was it like working with Jason this time around? Does it make you more comfortable to try new things?

Yes, well, that’s the thing. He’s honed our skills for us as songwriters 100% since the first time we worked with him. So now, when we write songs we write them in the way that he would want to do them I guess, so when the songs get to him, we’ll be like, “We’ve done this, we’ve done this, we’ve done this” and he’ll say, “Ah cool. All right. Wicked,” so we'll play them back and he’ll want to change bits and bobs, but all in all, I think his influence on us has been amazing. Like I said, the fact that he’s like a 40-year-old child, the songs can’t be anything but fun. I’d work with him every day if I could. Just being around him is all right for me. He brings the best out in us. You can’t help but want to constantly work with him at all times. He’s worked with some amazing artists and there’s a reason why everyone keeps going back to him, it’s because of the person he is.

He sounds like he’s the pseudo seventh member of the band.

Yes, yes he is. Like we need any more members though. We’d turn into Slipknot.

Is Start The Party a bit of a gibe at other bands in the scene who tend to take themselves a little too seriously?

No, not at all. We’d never take a gibe at other bands, unless it’s Mumford & Sons… [laughs] But it’s just our way. We know everything’s a bit shit at the moment, life can get everyone down, so this is our way of saying, you know, don’t worry about that, let’s have a laugh. When I was a kid growing up and listening to music, everyone got a bit depressed, but music’s an escapism. You read about it every day in the news that the world is fucked and no one’s got any money, but when you listen to music, you want to try and escape from that. The last thing you want to hear is your favourite band telling you what you’ve been hearing all day on the news, so we wanted to make something that just made people feel a bit happier I guess.

In the clip for the “Start The Party” single, you’re there rocking out with Pritchard from Dirty Sanchez. I’m sure that would have ensured a wild time. How did you come to get him on board?

Well Sean [Smith, vocals] knew him, they’ve partied together in the past, and Sean just sent him a text and was like, ‘We’re thinking about having you on the album on the cover art if you're up for it' and we told him the idea and he came back to us with all these other ideas about where we could shoot the video and he was like, 'It's going to be amazing! It's going to be amazing!' and we were like, 'Well, we can't say no to him now' [laughs] but we wanted him on it because he's larger than life, he's unreal. He’s like a Duracell battery; he’s constantly on it all the time. He just brought the feel he has for life and it’s what we wanted the feel for this album to be.

It’s certainly way too early to be thinking about it, but how are you looking at tackling the next album? Is it still going to be a party?

Yeah, I would say so. I think we feel really comfortable with our songs at the moment and we're still writing now. Some of the riffs have been easier to trump and it sounds in the same vein, so I think the next album will probably be going in the same way, for sure.

You’re coming back here for Soundwave in February and I was going to ask you who you’re most excited to see, but I’ve heard you’re a mad Metallica fan! What sort of dream scenario are you envisioning with having them on the line-up?

When we did Soundwave a couple of years ago, we were constantly hanging out with all the bands. I saw we were on the same line-up as Zack de la Rocha, I'm a massive Rage Against The Machine fan, and One Day As a Lion were playing, but I couldn’t bring myself to go over and say hi. Even though I should have, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’m open to it though. AJ [Maddah, Soundwave promoter] tweeted me a couple of weeks ago saying he would definitely try and sort out me meeting Metallica and I think I would explode. If at any point there’s a nuclear blast in Australia in February, that’s probably me exploding from meeting them.

And since you’re a fan, what did you make of the Metallica and Lou Reed collaboration Lulu?

Interesting. I think that’s all I can really say. It was interesting. Metallica have never shied away from playing something different, but I’m thinking this was too different. It was a little bit too far out to be honest. If I were a teacher, I would say, ‘Must do better. See me’.

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Catch The Blackout at Soundwave 2013 alongside The Offspring, Slayer, Blink-182, Sum 41, Garbage, Metallica and loads more.

For the full-lineup and any extra details, head to soundwavefestival.com.

Saturday 23rd February – RNA Showgrounds – Brisbane – SOLD OUT
Sunday 24th February – Olympic Park – Sydney – SOLD OUT
Friday 1st March – Flemington Racecourse – Melbourne – SOLD OUT
Saturday 2nd March – Bonython Park – Adelaide – SOLD OUT
Monday 4th March – Claremont Showgrounds – Perth – SOLD OUT