With their debut album now out to rule the roost and a short tour about to commence, Birmingham-based Baron Greenback are well and truly firing on all cylinders. So what better time for Pete Green to sit down with guitarist Mike Waring and quiz him on such essential topics as adding funk to stoner rock, Spinal Tap moments, famous toads and that notorious ailment, Greenbackache…
Hi there Mike! It’s a pleasure to have you with us today over at The Sleeping Shaman! How are things in the Baron Greenback camp?
Things are great, thanks mate. We have recorded and mixed our first album and we continue to share the stage with some outstanding bands. This month is going to be busy with further gigs, an album launch party and a short tour supporting the mighty Swedes who are Mother Of God. Happy days!
For those who are currently uneducated as to the awesomeness of the G’back, could you please give us a brief insight into the band’s history? Who plays what and when and how?
The Greenback machine has been in existence for quite a while now. The current line-up has been playing together for about ten years. The band as we know it, playing tunes with more of an appreciation for classic/stoner rock, has been around and gigging for the last five years. Time does fly!
Max is our vocalist. He has an amazing voice, with the ability to switch between heavy and melodic styles at the drop of a hat. Max covers lyrical duties. Si’s drumming skills are second to none – he brings a technical approach to the music and can play anything from doom to blast with ease. Rooster brings the low end bass and currently uses not one, not two, but three fuzz pedals to melt your face! Rooster and I go way back and have been writing music since we were kids.
I play guitar in Greenback and write most of the riffs that you hear live and on record.
Your self-titled debut record (review) has recently been unleashed upon Planet Earth and it’s a ruddy corker! How have reactions to the release been?
Ha ha – we’ve uncorked a corker! The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Advance copies have already been sent overseas to music-hungry individuals throughout Europe and the US. All reviews have been extremely complimentary indeed, for which we are always grateful.
‘Baron Greenback’ could be easily summed up as a stoner-metal album, but I think we’ll both agree that there’s a good deal of added funky blues in there too. Where does this funk influence come from? Is it something you’ve consciously tried to blend in alongside the heavy rock elements of the album?
It is something that occurs very naturally in our music. We are all very influenced by music which has blues elements thrown in. Led Zep, Deep Purple and Sabbath always had a significant groove to their music, which I guess we have absorbed subconsciously.
Are there any current plans to record any new material?
Oh yes! We have so much new music in the pipeline. At least a second album’s worth. Once we have refined the tunes, I am guessing that we will record sometime next year.
You’ve played some pretty big shows so far, including gigs with EyeHateGod, Orange Goblin and Graveyard as well as jamming at DesertFest 2014. What have been the true highlights of your live career?
Wow – so many to mention. All of the above mentioned gigs were memorable for the fact that we got the chance to share the stage with bands that we respect so much. DesertFest was the real highlight so far – it was the most awesome experience. Every time we play The Fleece in Bristol we have a good gig. A recent highlight at that venue was playing second on the bill to Church Of Misery. Those kinds of nights you will never forget.
Have you had any hilarious Spinal Tap-esque moments on tour?
Oh man, we must have experienced it all! I’ve tripped over stage props, pulled out leads and fallen off monitors in moments of over-exuberance. We’ve had the odd exploding bass and guitar rig, as well as exploding drummers. Well maybe not that last one.
As well as Spinal Tap, Bad News and More Bad News are also firm favourites of ours. After a while, you come to realise that what happens in those comedies is a fair reflection of life in a band!
Any favourite venues around the UK?
The Fleece Bristol for sure. Scruffy’s in Birmingham. We have an upcoming gig at the Iron Road Rock Bar in Evesham, Worcester which is a great venue in the Midlands.
How does the song-writing in the band work out usually? Do you build songs and ideas from just riffs initially or is it more of a full band participation thing?
I usually come up with riff ideas. Rooster also has ideas which we feed into those riffs. Once I am sure that we have a viable set of riffs for a tune, I demo these to the band (mainly at deafening volume) and we mould the song structure around those. Sometimes it clicks immediately. Other times we review and amend songs over time.
I’ve got to ask about this name! Where you all sat around one day pondering “Man, what shall we call the band??” when suddenly an episode of Danger Mouse came on some long forgotten Sky TV channel and you were like “Let’s name ourselves after that toad!” or what?
I think we have Max to thank for that one. Thinking up band names can be fun, but very frustrating at the same time. It might have even started as a joke after a few beers, but it stuck as the name is instantly recognisable / memorable.
Are there any bands you look to for clear inspiration or do you try to make Baron Greenback as incomparable as possible when you jam new tunes?
I am always inspired by most music I listen to, whether that’s classic rock from the 70s, or music from more modern outfits such as Church Of Misery and Kylesa. We don’t try and sound like anyone in particular, but we are proud of our roots and wear them on our sleeve!
If you could choose just one of either Sleep or Kyuss, who would you pick and why?
Wow that is tricky, as I love both bands. Can I Sleep on that one please?!
I’m a big fan of ‘Imploding Sun’ off the new record – its badass and sounds killer live too. Given free reign, what’s your personal favourite song to play live?
That is my favourite song to play live, as many people appreciate that tune. It is nice to see the reaction that it gets. A close second is ‘Shoot From The Mouth’ as its one of our heavier numbers.
That’s a pretty shredding guitar style you’ve got yourself there – not many acts attempt to frazzle so many frets as fast as possible within the doom community. Do you feel this gives your band a different dynamic versus so many of the Sabbath clones out there?
My earliest memory of music is stealing and listening my older brothers’ Sabbath and Van Halen albums. I think that had a considerable influence on how I wanted to play music ultimately and I have a healthy appreciation for the technical side of things. Many people have commented on my style of playing and how it fits so well with our music – I am always happy that people notice as I work hard on every aspect of my playing. If it gives us an edge or means of differentiating us from the crowd, then that makes me immensely proud.
Are there any pieces of gear Baron Greenback simply couldn’t play without? Or are you more of a “let’s just plug in and go!” kind of bunch?
Without wanting to get too technical, we’ve been using 7 string guitar and 5 string bass for many years, to give the music a real low-end thump, but retaining musicality. We wouldn’t be able to replicate that approach on de-tuned or baritone 6 string guitars and 4 string bases, as you lose the upper playing registers which are perfect for soloing or creating different soundscapes.
Which other bands/records are on heavy rotation in your boogie van? Who else should we all be checking out?
I am listening to a lot of Orchid at the moment. Pallbearer and Opeth feature on the stereo as well. Personal favourites Fu Manchu and Truckfighters always go down a treat as well. Closer to home bands we all love are Line of Fire, Lifer and Shebrew.
Picture the scene: You’re due to play a huge show but the other three Barons are struck down with a temporarily paralysing back condition (let’s call it Greenbackache for now…) and are unable to play. Who do you call in to replace each band member at the last minute given three open choices of any other musicians on the planet?
Ha ha – being the age that we are, we’re all prone to a bit of Greenbackache!
This is very difficult. I think I’d enlist Pete Stahl on vocals, Matt Cameron on drums and Geezer Butler on bass. Any chance I could throw Bill Steer in there on guitar and just watch the band myself?!
What do you do when you’re not making music? What else keeps your days busy?
We all love music. When we’re not making it, were listening to it or absorbing information about it. It pervades our lives!
Thanks so much for taking the time out to talk to us Mike and best of luck with everything in 2014 and beyond! Is there anything further you’d like to add or share? Forthcoming plans perhaps?
Of course. Upcoming gigs:
13 September – Iron Road Rock Bar, Evesham
19 September – St James Wine Vaults, Bath
20 September – Cavern, Bristol (tour with Mother Of God)
21 September – Gullivers, Manchester (tour with Mother Of God)
22 September – Cellar, Oxford (tour with Mother Of God)
Interviewed by: Pete Green