In a time where the majority of new heavy metal-acts seem to rehash NWOBHM or mid eighties European metal, it’s refreshing to hear a band like Stereo Nasty. They might not be bringing anything new to the table either, but the mix of heavy metal with and powerful hard rock, is so seldomly done these days that the promo the band sent me really stood out. I caught up guitarist Adrian Foley to get the full story on this promising Irish newcomer.
As far as I know, Stereo Nasty started out as a two piece with yourself and Mick Mahon on vocals, but if I am correct, the idea the concept that is Stereo Nasty was that developed by yourself?
– I had a very clear idea of what I wanted the band to be before I contacted Mick. I knew the vibe I wanted to create and I knew how I wanted it to sound and look. I’ve known Mick for years and I knew his voice would be perfect. It’s true that I created the concept for Stereo Nasty but Mick has played a vital role in bringing it to life. Without him it wouldn’t be the same band. The same can be said for Fran (Moran, drums) and Rud (Holohan, bass).
Let’s talk about the band name. I like it because it’s has that little bit of creativity about it. I guess the name was born out of “Video Nasty”, but how did the idea arise? Are you out to provoke or shock with your music, like the video nasties did?
– I wanted a name that felt like it was lifted straight from the eighties but at the same time was unique and different from the usual stock heavy metal band names but I don’t think we can shock people with our music or image. It’s more about channeling the themes and aesthetics of the era. The 80’s were a more innocent time. People are too desensitized to be shocked now. Nowadays you’d have to kill someone on stage and eat them now for people to be shocked. Like the line “Were the eighties just a time of spoiled innocence?” from Sanctuary’s “Future Tense”. You look at stuff like the PMRC and all the hysteria that went with it and it looks utterly farcical these days.
The demo you did last year was only available digitally. Was this because it felt like the easiest way to distribute it, fast, cheap and effective, or because you didn’t expect any big interest or demand for it?
– The demo was only supposed to be bait for other band members. I wanted people to know exactly what they were getting themselves in for before joining the band. It kind of grew legs though and with very little promotional work on our part people began to react to it so I decided to make it available for download. We did get offers to have it physically released but I didn’t want our first physical release to include a session drummer and versions of the songs that I felt weren’t dynamically strong enough. For me the album versions of those songs are far superior to the demo versions.
Do you think physical product has a higher status than music only released digitally, and thus more work should be invested once you want to put something out on physical format?
– I do. I think if you expect someone to pay for a physical product then you better be bringing your A game. It’s great watching old low quality concerts on YouTube but that’s not the level of quality I want when I buy a DVD or Bluray. In the same way it’s great to be able to listen to demos and pre production tracks from established bands but that is not the level of quality I want to hear when I buy their album.
So the basic idea behind the demo mainly to recruit the other members to form a full lineup?
– Yeah like I said it was to let people know exactly what they were getting into. I didn’t want to be arguing about riffs and arrangements with someone six months down the road because they were going through a death metal binge or whatever. I won’t compromise Stereo Nasty for anyone.
The demo contained three tracks, that all feature on the album, but in re-recorded versions. Why have you decided to put the songs at the end of the album? Because they fit there, or because you feel they’re a bit different/not up to the standard of the newer stuff?
– They just felt right there. They fit well together. When it came time to sequence the album a few of the earlier drafts had “Under Her Spell” and “The Warriors” closer to the front. I wanted “Demon Halo” to close the album because it fades out at the end but dynamically it just felt right to put those three songs together.
My guess is that it’s easy to group songs together that have once before featured on a release together, but Adrian thinks he would have done it even if they hadn’t.
– It’s a tempo thing. I am a metronome freak and I obsess over the tempos of the songs. On the final three songs on the album, “The Warriors” is slightly slower than “Under Her Spell” and “Demon Halo” is slightly slower than “The Warriors”. Sequencing them like that creates a sense of groove.
To create something this as authentic and eighties sounding as “Nasty By Nature”, one must have more than a decent knowledge of eighties metal. What is your relationship to this scene, are you old enough to have “experienced” it by buying the classic albums when they were released, watching Headbangers Ball on MTV and stuff like that?
– I grew up in the eighties but I didn’t really start getting into metal until 91 when I was eleven. During the eighties though I was always fascinated by the “scary” vibe of heavy metal. I used to stare at the album covers and t shirts of bands like Skid Row, Metallica, Iron Maiden and W.A.S.P. I was enthralled by their power and I used to fantasize about the music they made. I heard very little of the music as I had no real access point to it. No money and no older friends that had an interest in heavy metal. Ireland was an extremely conservative place to grow up and I was fascinated at the power these bands had and how they could get all the grown ups so worked up. When I got a little older I was able to stay up to watch metal shows like Raw Power and I used to hound anyone who had MTV into taping Headbanger’s ball for me. I was finally able to get some cassettes too. I just absorbed everything I could get my hands on. Every waking moment was either spent listening to metal or thinking about. Everything else just felt like a waste of time. Over the years I’ve went through stages of listening to all kinds of metal sub genres and lots of other stuff too but 80s heavy metal has been the constant that I keep coming back to. It gives you goose bumps and makes you feel three feet taller in a way that no other form of music can.
Originality when it comes to music and lyrics isn’t traditionally something that is strived for or easy to assemble when performing this kind of metal. For Stereo Nasty it’s most about finding their own Identity.
– And also giving yourself enough room to maneuver. I cherry pick my favorite parts from the decade and find ways to make work for us. I also avoid really obvious chord progressions and rhythms. I don’t see the “eighties metal rule book” as a restriction. It’s inspiring to me and we can tap into a very broad spectrum of music. Ultimately though it’s about playing what you feel. If your hearts in what your doing and you’re sincere about it you’ll naturally find your own voice and that’s what people will respond to.
I believe the guy from Slaney Records was one of the first I saw mentioning Stereo Nasty and your demo, and for a while it looked like your debut album was going to be put out by them as well. What happened there?
– Slaney records offered us a CD deal and we went for it. But then we had the idea of not releasing the album on CD because it’s obsolete technology at this stage. Obsolete technology without the novelty factor. We decided we were just going to do vinyl, cassettes and download so we pulled out of the deal. Of course as soon as we had done that people started asking about getting the album on CD and then we decided to reconsider and found another label to release it on CD.
So how did you end up on Stormspell then? Did you send the album to the bigger metal labels, like Nuclear Blast, Napalm and Metal Blade, or did you concentrate on a few of the more underground minded ones?
– I sent it to every relevant label I could find. The response was very positive but with the way music sales are now the smaller labels are very reluctant to take a financial risk on releasing an album from an unknown band and the bigger labels seem to want to work with bands who have already had success on smaller labels. I discovered Stormspell in Iron Fist magazine and I liked their vibe straight off. I sent one song, “Black Widow”, to Stormspell through their Facebook page and asked if they’d like to hear the album and they did. Within a few days we had a deal worked out. Stormspell are releasing the CD and Sarlacc productions from Ireland are releasing the cassette.
“Nasty By Nature” has a very strong visual presentation. I am talking about everything from the cover art to the choice of colors, the logo and more. It seems like this is important for you to. Why is that?
– I wanted the cover art to capture the vibe and atmosphere of the music. That’s what a good album cover should do. I love old eighties/ retro horror/ sci fi/ action art and I discovered Sadist Art Designs who specialize in recreating the style of that era. Marc, the guy behind Sadist Art does amazing work and I would often go to his page just to look at his stuff. I contacted him and we spoke for a few few months and after a lot of discussing colors, layout and visuals etc. the artwork came to be.
It sounds like it’s important for you to have a bit of control of every aspect of the release? In the future will you accept a label coming in to suggest cover art and other “visual” elements?
– Not unless they have a good ideas that are relevant to us. If a label was to suggest some generic Conan with a sword style artwork then I would have to say no fucking way!
Are the rest of the songs, those that weren’t on the demo, written with the full band, or are you still behind the songwriting, even with a lineup in place? If, will you look for more input from the others in the future?
– What normally happens for a song is I write the riffs and come up with the arrangement, when I’m happy with what I have I record it with a metronome on my shity old Boss 8 track and send it to the other guys and then they come up with their own parts. We hammer it out in rehearsal and suggest whatever changes we think need to be made and after a few weeks it takes shape. Fran and Rud haven’t contributed any riffs or lyrics yet and I don’t know if they will in the future but they play a big part in bringing out the song’s dynamics and energy.
“Interstellar” was presented to the public as the first taster from the album, and it’s no surprise that Adrian feels it’s representative for the album.
– Yes, but I could have picked other songs too. I wanted something that people who liked the demo could relate to and also something that had a strong hook. Maybe songs like “Death Machine” and “Holy Terror” might be a little bit of a shock to people who were expecting another “Warriors” or another “Under Her Spell”.
For the kind of music you perform, the voice of the singer has a lot to say. With a less ballsy singer, Stereo Nasty would have sounded quite different. In which ways do you feel Mick’s voice is shaping your sound?
– I think Mick’s voice a vital part of our sound. At this stage I know what keys work best for him and I can work those keys into my writing to optimize his vocals. I feel very lucky to have a singer of his standard to collaborate with.
The melodic, late eighties heavy metal/hard rock has not been yet been a big part of this metal revival of the last decade compared to, let’s say the NWOBHM or early eighties metal. Why is that, you think?
– I think the music became more melodic and accessible towards the end of the eightiess because the big labels realized that they needed to have a power ballad on MTV to lure teenage girls into buying their albums. That’s a very different demographic to the one that exists today. In the modern context, the revival of eighties heavy metal and hard rock is enjoyed by people who are into metal because they embrace its culture and the heavy aspects of its sound. Maybe that era might might have a resurgence too in the future but for now I think people want the pure sound of eighties heavy metal and hard rock not the diluted one that rose to prominence just before grunge and the Black Album changed everything.
There were always some bands that kind of walked the thin line between hard rock and metal, and some of these were great. A band like Leatherwolf springs to mind, which had brilliant melodies, but enough power and drive in their music to appeal to the metal minded listener as well. Is this what you are trying to achieve as well, to break down borders between metal and hard rock?
– I like to think of us a “what if” band. “What if the lines between early eighties hard rock from LA and early eighties thrash from San Francisco weren’t drawn in the sand? What if the hard rock bands of the time didn’t water down their sound to be more commercially successful? How would things have worked out? I like a lot of different stuff from that era and I want to have the freedom to use all the parts that I love and reinvent them in our own way. I don’t want to write myself into a cul de sac of join-the-dots song writing. I couldn’t be a clone band with a very narrow spectrum to work in. That would get very boring very quickly.
This doesn’t mean that absolutely everything is allowed though.
– No I wouldn’t say so, but I try to give myself as much room to manoeuvre as possible. If we decided to just be a Ratt clone it would get old very fast but the way we work I can take the pieces of Ratt that I like and mix them with something that has a Judas Priest vibe and then maybe the drums will have a little bit of a Dave Lombardo influence and the bass might have a couple of nods to Steve Harris. It’s about having a broad pallet to paint with and being creative with how you use it. Broad but not limitless. If something doesn’t sound like it could have come from the eighties then it doesn’t get used. It’s very rare that that happens though. Pretty much everything I’ve wrote in the last three years or more sounds like it could have come from the eighties. If the time ever does come where I feel the need to play something radically different and modern sounding I’ll release it under a different name.
One thing that sets you apart from the eighties scene, is that you simply don’t look like your average hard rock/melodic metal act, but a lot more masculine. Is this just the way you “are” or an attempt at an image? Are there bands from the golden era that you feel manage to create a cool image?
-I wanted our image to be unique to us while also capturing the vibe of the eighties. I didn’t want to break out the eye liner and glam it up and I also didn’t want us to be just four regular guys on stage in jeans and Iron Maiden t-shirts. Our image is more inspired by eighties WWF than it is by the Sunset Strip. It’s a work in progress though and one that we’re constantly tweaking. I think W.A.S.P. had a great image as did Armored Saint and Omen.
What was it about the image of those particular bands that you enjoyed?
– The sense of power that they evoked. They looked larger than life. Looking at the pictures of those bands was like looking into a window into another dimension. They all toned down their image relatively early into their careers but they looked like metal warriors from another planet while it lasted.
Things have gone really fast for Stereo Nasty since they formed, but Adrian is not concerned about things evolving too rapidly.
– No, things have felt very natural and we determine our own pace. For me it’s a jump in and sink or swim or attitude. Do or die.
You will be performing at this year’s edition of No Sleep Till Dublin along with an whole host of newcomer acts, but I guess you have ambitions that goes beyond Ireland and Irish festivals?
– Definitely. We’re making plans to tour Europe next year and to play some festivals. That’s where I want to be and where I think we will get the best reaction. Ireland is very small and the gigging circuit becomes very repetitive very quickly. We get messages from people all over the world and I just want to get out there and bring our music to as many places as we can.
I recently read an interview with your singer Mike where he said you want to make a living out of travelling the world and performing metal. Refreshing to hear, but how realistic do you think that is?
– I think we have more chance of winning the lottery but it never hurts to aim high and give it your best shot.