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RAVEN Interview with John Gallagher & Mark Gallagher

RAVEN

Interview with John Gallagher & Mark Gallagher

By:  Nina McCarthy, Senior Music Journalist

Boston Rock Radio

 

 

 

BRR:  Raven formed in 1974?

 

John:  Yes, we were in High School.

 

Mark:  We were little kids.

 

BRR:  I  won't tell you how old I was then, but I was alive.  For those not familiar with you, can you just give a brief history of how it all started?

 

John:  A few years earlier, we went to Spain on holiday and there was a band playing in the hotel and the guy used an old acoustic and we were transfixed.  We bought an acoustic guitar in Spain and we brought it back and we favored playing it.  A year or so later, we said we wanted electric guitars and begged our parents.  They bought us a couple cheap electrics and we learned to play a bit and then we decided we wanted to form a band. Mark said, “You can play the bass.” and I said,  “Great,” and that's how that came about.  The first ever show was in December, 1975, which was half originals and half covers.  The other guy we started the band with, Paul Bowden walked off stage, nearly killed himself and I fell down the stairs at the back of the hall, like 2 flights of stairs.  We threw all our equipment around which started something we've been doing forever.  We've been breaking stuff for a long time.

 

Mark:  We were always good at breaking stuff!

 

John:  That was in the North East of England.  We did a lot of little shows and then we ended up with a small deal on an independent label called Neat Records.  The first single really took off and then we did the first record, Rock Until You Drop, and that was at the time that this new wave British heavy metal came out and somebody put the moniker on it and it took off... bands like Iron Maiden and Saxon, and these bands to the North East of us.  It's awesome to look back and see some of these bands still doing it and kicking ass.  We went to Australia since then, of course with different labels and people.  Here we are all these years later still killing it, so it's awesome.

 

BRR:  What happened to the hockey masks you were originally known for?

 

John:  That was Rob “Wacko” Hunter and he quit the band in 1987, so that was 30 years ago.  He told the roadie to tell the manager to tell us that he was quitting.  We didn't talk for five years, but I've talked to him quite a bit since and it's water under the bridge.  He's a very talented guy and he does sound for Branford Marsalis, the sax player in the jazz world.  Now we have Joe Hasselvander who has played in Pentagram.  He was a friend of ours and has been with us for 30 years, and he just had a heart attack in May and unfortunately, on doctor's orders, he cannot play drums.  We had a full dance card, 4 dates set up 2 days after he had the heart attack, a European tour, European Festival, and a United States tour, which is this one here.  It turns out, that it's going to be a long European tour in the Fall.

 

Mark:  We're recording a new record too.

 

BRR:  You guys are answering all my questions before I get to them!

 

John:  We had a couple of guys fill in for us, one was Mike Heller and we hit it off with Mike (Fear Factory drummer.)

 

BRR:  I saw you had Jimmy Mess fill in too. I know him.

 

John:  He did, last minute and he really did a great job.

 

Mark:  We've also had Fabio (Alessandrini) from Annihilator play with us in Sweden and the drummer from Kill Ritual also filled in and did an awesome job.

 

BRR:  The original drummer, Paul, left to start a family, but since then, it's been the same line-up for about 3 decades. What do you think contributes to your longevity as a group?

 

John:  Bloody madness, stubbornness.

 

Mark:  It's really the love of music.  We're fans just like everybody else.  Being fans of music and we're getting to meet some of our childhood heroes now, which is awesome.  We love the music and that sustains us to do all this stuff, because it's definitely difficult to travel and everything with long hours.  Plus, being a fan, what else would you do if you're involved in it?

 

BRR:  I heard you say in another interview that it doesn't matter how much money you make, it's for the fans.

 

John:  We don't make any money, so we're not even worried about that.  We spend more than we make sometimes.  We just try to look at it on the positive side.  We go all over the world and people want to hear our next album just like we do with Judas Priest, Saxon and whoever else.  If we enjoy it like that, then we can put ourselves in their mindset.  We just want to kick some ass.  We didn't realize “Rock Until You Drop” would be our life plan.

 

BRR:  You're on tour now with Dead By Wednesday, although this is only your second show with them, how's it been going?

 

Mark:  Good.

 

John:  We just had dinner with the guys before this and they are a lot of fun and a good band.  We're looking forward to this, but as you said, it's the beginning.  It's going to be good.

 

BRR:  I've known them for a long time, especially Opus.  Do you think you guys will still get along by the end of the tour?

 

Mark:  Most of the times we become fast friends.  It's an experience traveling, almost like when you go to camp, a group all going to see or do something together, or going to war, it's that camaraderie.   It's a common experience we're all having together.

 

BRR:  Are there any places you are particularly looking forward to playing on this tour?

 

John:  We're playing in Nashville, Tennessee.  We've never played there.  We will get to see Michael Wagener who lives there.  We have a long history with him.  We play Austin and we'll get to see our current engineer.  There's so many places we like to play.  It's always fun playing Brooklyn.

 

Mark:  We're happy to be here in Manchester because we've never actually played New Hampshire.

 

John:  We only played a festival years ago with Ozzy and Queensryche.  We remember the lovely sight of the police taking kids out the back and beating the crap out of them.  That was a weird thing at that festival.

 

Mark:  Sometimes it's nice to play a place we know, but I like to play places we've never been.

 

John:  We just played a festival last week and it was near a town called Albacete and that's where we first bought the acoustic guitar, so it was like full circle in some ways.  It's great to meet people and they love your music and they're singing your lyrics.  You can't replace that feeling.

 

BRR:  This Fall you'll be working on your new album.  You've already written like 25 songs?  What can you tell me about it?

 

John:  Mark had a bad accident in 2001 and it took him a number of years to recover from that.  A wall collapsed and ruined his legs and he had to learn how to walk again.  The Walk Through Fire album was titled because of incidences like that and  was kind of a big come back for us.  Again, we did the ExtermiNation album, which was better in every department, better songs, better sound.  So, we're just following up on that.  We know what was good and if we felt anything was weak at all on the record, we figured out what we could do to make it better.  I think when we wrote the new ones we had a better vision of where to go.  As you go through your career writing, there's always bits of music here and there that sometimes you'll never do anything with them and sometimes you do.  A lot of stuff that was kind of hanging out just came together.  We're still toying around with two or three other songs that we've come up with.  They're very strong. Its varied in one sense and in another sense it's unified and all in the same direction where it's heavy.

 

Mark:  I think with Mike Heller being on the record, it gives us a little different feel.  It's more like the crazy part of Raven.  It's not so controlled, so this is going to be a pretty wild and kick ass record, I think even more than the last one and we got great reviews for the last one.

 

John:. That's one thing we thought with the this next one was to let loose and let a little of the unpredictability come out…..WILD AND UNTAMED!  

 

BRR:  So, Mike is going to be on the new album then?

 

John:  Yes.  We’re done a few songs and it sounds incredible.

 

BRR:  I read he had to learn the material very quickly, like in 2 days in May?

 

John:  Yes.  At the first gig he did with us, there was no rehearsal.  We talked for half an hour and then we played.  It was scary.  Now he's a lot more comfortable and he's a pro, so it's not like a big problem.  But always with a band, you want to find out that chemistry and find something that's real and it's very hard to come by to be honest with you.  It was a gift to us because when he came to us and started playing, we were like, “Oh yeah, this is fine!”

 

 

Mark:  And a Raven fan is going to come and say, “What's this going to be like?” and looking with a critical eye and we've had nothing but great praise of what we've done with Mike so far.  That's from people in the business and just die hard Raven fans.  They pretty much opened their arms to him, which I feel really good about because he's a great guy but he's a force of nature when it comes to playing the drums.  He's quite a virtuoso and it pushes us, which is awesome.

 

BRR:  Oh yeah, he's amazing. What is one thing you'd want from your “lunatics” if they brought you a gift on tour?

 

John:  That sounds like a loaded question right there.  Socks and violins. (Laughing). I want what they kind of do bring and that's their love of the music.

 

Mark: If I said said something like Kit Kats, I'm afraid I'd end up with a lifetime supply.

 

John:   We think this is the best album we've done and we want people to come and recognize that and see that we're not a nostalgic act.  We're still viable.  We still do the old songs, there's nothing wrong with that.   My point being, this guy came up to me and said “We had All For One and stole a Camaro and me and my friend drove to California and we blasted it the whole way there, until the cops surrounded us and we had to go to jail.”  I was like, “How can we compete with new music against that record?”  It's kind of tough because it was part of their history.  So, it's pretty cool.

 

Mark:  Now we have three generations of fans at least, so some young kids will hear the new album and say, “Aha!” and it will create something for them.

 

BRR:  Exactly.  We're running out of time, so I just have one last question.  Things have changed a lot since you first started out….so what advice would you give to aspiring musicians today?

 

John:  Definitely try to be true to yourself and try to be original.  There are so many bands that are carbon copies of other bands.

 

Mark:  We've always tried to be, even though it's a really tall order to be completely original, we try to do something that no one has done before.  It gets harder as we go along.  But now there are so many things to help you be a musician, like these online things.  When we started we only had a book on how to learn to play.  There's all kinds of tutorials online and the equipment is so much more accessible and not as expensive.  So many things could be good but most kids sound like everybody else.  That's the trap.

 

John:  We did it the hard way. We had to learn everything ourselves.  We had to go watch bands and see how they played and look at the equipment and try to figure it all out.  You'd do things the wrong way but it would be original. There tends to be a tendency to get more and more extreme, now it seems bands are looking back into the 70's.  Just try to be original.  It's hard, but if you try and pull from different influences and put it in a box and hopefully you'll come up with something of your own.  That's certainly what we do.

 

Mark:  It sounds like a cooking show now. Let's grab some ingredients.

 

BRR:  Thanks so much for your time guys.  You definitely have great sense of humors.  Dead By Wednesday is just hitting the stage and I don't want to miss them...and I'm definitely looking forward to your set after theirs.

 

https://www.facebook.com/ravenbandofficial/

 

http://www.ravenlunatics.com/

 

 

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