As the Metal 2 The Masses (M2TM) kicks into full swing with heats across the breadth of the UK and abroad taking place, bands progressing whilst some fall by the wayside, it's once again time for GMA to probe the bands who have entered this prestigious competition that allows the eventual region winners to earn a slot at playing the New Blood Stage at Bloodstock Open Air Festival near Burton-Upon-Trent.
Second up is Black Atlas from Luton; questions answered by guitarist Peter Hunt.
How did Black Atlas form and what is the meaning behind the band name?
"Black Atlas formed through a want to get back out on the local scene and play music we enjoyed. We had all been in previous bands at one point with one member or another. We gelled together pretty quickly, working on a few song ideas which have stuck with us since the beginning.
The name came through the normal pain of us passing ideas around. Black Atlas was an idea Peter had knocked about for a while. As a few of our favourite bands are Black Sabbath and Black Label Society we went with it. The idea behind it is a simple combination of Black signifying the music as it simply defines Heavy Music. Atlas is to show we pull influences from a range of bands, and that we don't want our music to be defined by borders."
What range of influences do you take? Band-wise and sound-wise?
"This question would have a massive list of bands, but I guess our main core influences fall as;
Kyuss; Corrosion of Conformity; Fu Manchu; Black Sabbath; Black Label Society; Alice in Chains. Those bands show what we are about and capture the sound we want to put across."
Is this your first time participating in M2TM? (If yes are you / were you nervous? If no what emotions were / are you feeling?)
"We actually took part last year as well. It was great fun. Even though we were did not progress we really enjoyed it. The mix of bands was great, showcasing all varieties of heavy music.
We are also fortunate to know previous winners in bands such as Scar City and Countless Skies. That makes it a lot more real, seeing local bands we've played with or know from the scene. We've all seen BOTB competitions, and with rubbish on TV like X Factor and the Voice manufacturing bands and artists, M2TM is something which is a lot more relatable and to us will have a greater longevity and meaning than the others. It's just what real music needs."
What is the Luton / Bedfordshire Metal scene like?
"We've been knocking around the scene for a few years now. We once got refereed to as the 'old guards' even though we consider ourselves still young. Overall the scene is healthy, there is always young blood coming in so there is never a shortage of bands. I think the main struggle we've seen is the willingness for venues to support heavy music. Getting a crowd down and making nights successful for a venue has been what has hit the scene the hardest. We've seen a few venues close, and some fortunately open up again.
Too many people would prefer to pay money to see someone play a cover of a song someone else sings, and was most likely written by another person. The best thing about metal though is it doesn't die. With ongoing support from promoters like Luton Lives and Bedford Alternative Music it has all lived and will always live."
What hobbies does the band have outside of music?
"We've all got a collective mix really. Peter is into his cars, running a Japanese car club and probably spending too much money on them. He also enjoys his photography and is a keen cinema goer. Wilson also has a passion for cars, and usually if you don't find us playing music we will be tinkering on our cars. He also has his own business. SWFX (swfxpedals.co.uk) He designs and builds custom stomp boxes/pedals. We actually use a lot of them in our sound. From fuzz pedals, to custom wahs and delays.
Mikey recently became a father for the second time. So he has his hands full looking after a the little one currently. Aside from that he enjoys his 5 a side football. He used to also scout bands back in a previous life, working with Basick Records finding some great new artists. Jimi is a big horror fan and a prominent gig goer. He used to support the local scene by putting on gigs around Luton and support Luton Lives in its early days. We all like to keep fit as well, through either the gym or running.
What plans do you have for the rest of the year?
"Our main goal for this year is to be gigging more, building up a solid fan base and then spreading too some wider locations. We're working on some new material as well, writing new songs and developing our overall sound.
We are also looking to do some more recording to follow up our debut EP, and then hopefully tie that in with a video. And while all that's going on we will have a right old laugh as well. As you've got to enjoy what you do."
So whilst Hard Rock / Post-Grunge / Metal outfit Red Sun Rising are in the midst of their US / Canada tour, GMA decided to catch them off guard on route 66 and interrogate them by the wayside.
Not only are they touring, but there latest single 'Emotionless' is now out for your listening pleasures.
So here is how the interrogation went, suffice to say it was less horrific than interrogations undertaken at Guantánamo Bay.
"I do think that everything is cyclical and the time may be now for a revolution for these types of (metal & rock) music"
Guys you have a huge US tour ahead of you, how will you prepare for this? Can you give us a background report on how bands in the USA deal with touring?
"Well at this stage of the game touring changes from day to day and week to week. Budgets are up and down because we are a new band. So on some runs we can afford to be a little more comfortable and some we have to penny pinch. This could mean the difference between a bus, RV or a van. That sort of inconsistency can be really tough when it comes to being organized which becomes frustrating. It's one thing to live out of a suitcase but when it's 24 degrees and snowing and your suitcase lives in the trailer it just makes a simple task a lot of work. Thankfully we are coming up on the warmer months."
How long can UK / EU fans wait before you reach our side of the Atlantic?
"It is getting to be about that time isn't it? We are definitely actively pursuing opportunities to get there and we cannot wait to play there. So my answer would be as soon as possible."
Please give us the low down behind your phrase 'we are thread'?
"Thread was sort of an 'anti-genre' genre that we created. And in many interviews because we are a new band we are asked what our influences are and how we would describe our sound. We realize that our influences were a wide variety of genres, styles and from different eras. Anywhere from The Beatles to Soundgarden. So we like to take a little bit from all of these influences and thread them together to create our sound which focuses heavily on the melodies, structures and thought provoking lyrics of the songs. The core of the song we call it. We feel these ingredients have been missing in modern rock. So we didn't want to just be a rock band or a metal band we wanted to be our own thing which is Thread. Thread it represents the fact that we do not put a label or a limit on our songwriting we just write songs that we love the sound of no matter what genre it may fall in."
What challenges do US rock / metal bands tend to face these days? Have you had any yourselves?
"I think the challenge right now for a rock or metal band is that rock and metal music have both been kind of suppressed for the past 15 to 20 years. There hasn't been a big movement for rock or metal since really the grunge era in my opinion. However we see in other countries that are music is sometimes appreciate it more and we don't know why that is yet because we have not played in those countries. But I do think that everything is cyclical and the time may be now for a revolution for these types of music. Can only hope that we are on the forefront of that. But I think us not writing for the genre but rather just writing good songs will help break the stale rock airwaves of the US."
On your forthcoming tour, will there be any cities you will be playing at for the first time? Do you suffer from jet-lag touring the country?
"Yes actually we have never played Orlando and we get to play Earth Day birthday which is a festival that we are looking forward to playing. Of course when you think of Florida you always think of vacations and tropical weather but being able to play outdoors at a festival in these types of environments is much better than any vacation you could ever take. We have been pouring pretty extensively in the US so there are a lot of cities that we have already played that we are repeating but that doesn't make it any less exciting. There'll always be new faces."
How has the American media reacted to your new single and debut album? Have you had any international reception?
"It's really cool to watch the growth of the band because we had our first single go to number one. So basically many people were kind of blind-sided by that because they had never heard of us. So of course that put more pressure on the second single because people wanted to see what we could follow that up with. Thankfully in our case we believe that the second single was the right choice and has been received very well, even better than the first one. Yes we have seen definite growth internationally via social media and we think the second single which is Emotionless is even gaining more traction internationally, making it even more and exciting to get overseas."
What plans have you got for the rest of the year? Do you have any hello's or thank you's to send out?
"Nothing like to thank all the fans and keep supporting us and spreading the word about us because we are seeing the shows grow and we are seeing more people sing the songs back to us and that is such a surreal feeling that could never get old. And for the rest of the year we plan to continue to tour on our record however we are continuously writing new music so I am sure we will be back in the studio no later than early 2017."
Finally, how heated do the American elections get out there?
"They can usually get pretty heated especially with social media. I used to be a little more active in speaking my voice but now I just voted and exercise my rights as an American citizen and keep my opinions to myself because I realize that it's really not worth arguing with someone about it because you are very unlikely going to change their mind. But let's just say this election has been sort of a joke here."