Back in October, midway through their 'The Final Party' tour, welsh rockers The Blackout were forced to cancel the remainder of the tour due to vocalist Gavin Butler suffering a recurrence of a neurological issue known as a hemiplegic migraine. Thankfully Butler is ok and the rescheduled tour got underway two nights ago in London.
Tonight that tour rolls on through Norwich and eGigs had the opportunity to catch up with bassist Rhys Lewis to discuss Butler's health, the bands future plans and much more. Here is what Lewis had to say.
Most importantly, how is Gavin?
Yeah, he's good. It's just obviously when it initially happened, it's one of these rare things you've never heard of before so it's kind of "what do we do?" At the time it was like "let's take things in small steps and go from there". He's kept on top of it now though, he's been to the doctor and he's dealt with it.
You were onstage at the time were you not?
It happened in Manchester, like obsessively - but the night before, I think it was Birmingham, and there was a slight problem there. He's also had it in the past when he's done his own solo tour. Fingers crossed it doesn't happen again.
So it's not something which should affect the band again in the future?
No it's something you can take pills for and keep on top of - so he knows what he's dealing with now.
You played 'The Best In Town' in full last night in London, how did that go?
Yeah it was really good. It's just mad to see people cheering about an album that was out about 5 years ago now. It was pretty full on, start to finish, and everyone knew all the words!
Were there any songs you hadn't played live before?
Yeah well there's a couple we haven't done for a while but there's quite a lot from 'Best In Town' in a regular set anyway, but it got us to play a couple more.
Playing albums in full seems quite popular at the moment; is this something you'd consider doing again in the future?
I guess it's more for old school fans. It's the biggest album that I guess we put out, so that's probably the best one to do - but I wouldn't mind doing one in the future as it's a pretty cool idea. Maybe we could do a 'Hope' one. We're always open to stuff like that, different ideas, keeps things fresh.
Your last album 'Start The Party' was released a year ago now, how have you found the reaction to the record?
Good. It was slightly different because we went in a different direction with it. A mixed reaction, but on the whole we were happy with it and I guess a lot of people got it, got the idea behind it, the concept - just to have fun and stuff. At the time we were kind of on a high after the 'Hope' tour - that was great for us. Being in a band is the best, so what's the point in whinging about it. Let's write these positive songs and stuff. We haven't had the best luck in the past year or so with label and management and stuff, so I don't know what the next album might sound like. It might be a big angry one.
You were riding high on the back of 'Hope'; it was a big release for you and went really well. Do you think the way 'Start The Party' was released lost momentum for the band?
Yeah, for a start it shouldn't have been released in the winter. It should have been a summer album, because I guess a lot of people when they see the artwork in winter they think "I don't want to party. It's pissing down outside!" It could have been better, a better time frame would have been a better idea, but we just wanted to get something out.
You gained experience using Pledge Music with 'Hope', is that a platform you might use again?
We'd like to, but at the same time, a lot of those experiences that we had were kind of once of a lifetime sort of things. If we did it again it might seem a bit cheating, like to the people in the past, but if people are willing to pay for things like that. It's obviously hard to make money from albums these days, especially from record labels, nobody makes money anymore so you've got to make it from playing live shows. It's always something we'll explore as it worked really well the last time and we might have a different fan base this time, so it might be different things you can do with new fans.
This tour is billed as 'The Final Party Tour', which will conclude your touring cycle for your last album 'Start The Party'. So, what's next for The Blackout?
We've been writing since the start of the winter pretty much and got about ten songs done-ish at the moment so we're just keeping on top of that really. We've got to deal with getting a new manager and label and stuff and get on top of that, but yeah just keep writing. Hopefully we'll do some festivals in the summer. Then we can possibly put something out at the end of this year hopefully.
You mentioned a different direction for the new material, is it sounding different?
I guess at the time we did 'Hope' we had been in the same predicament as we are now, like label-less and management-less, so we kind of wrote that with that sort of feeling in an album. But then we kind of were on a high and we did 'Start The Party', and now we're in this predicament again. I guess it's kind of, we don't want to dwell on the negatives, but something needs to be said sometimes, expressed through music. As a music writer rather than a lyric writer it's a bit chunkier and has bit more balls to it. I guess we always write songs to play live anyway so they always have that kind of integrity and balls behind them. But yeah we might want to vent a bit on this so it might be loud and angry, but it's obviously got positive connotations in the background.
You have a song named 'Ambition Is Critical', after over ten years as a band, is ambition still critical and what is yours?
You've always got to keep on top of things, and any little thing you might overlook whilst being in a band might kick you in the arse a few months down the line - so you've always got to set your goals and keep on going. It's a quote from Dylan Thomas the poet. It's written in stone outside the Swansea train station.
In all your time as a band, you've managed to maintain a constant line-up, how important has this been for you?
We just can't kick any of them out! No we just grew up as friends so we've all known each other since we were young, so we've never seen any need to switch it up as we're all mates and have a tight writing bond. It has always worked, has for 10 years now.
Festival season is fast approaching, and as we are the sister site of eFestivals, can you give us any hints about your summer plans?
At the moment we're trying to get on Download possibly. We've got a few little ones. We've got Redfest, and there are probably a few smaller ones as they're always fun to do. We'll hopefully do something like Download or Reading again.
You were on the bill the year Sonisphere Festival was cancelled.
Yeah, we luckily jumped straight on to the Reading bill straight afterwards otherwise we'd have had nothing to do.
As far as bands are concerned is Sonisphere now a damaged brand, would you be willing to do it again?
We'd love to do it. The line up was awesome when we got announced for it, then it got axed and we thought "oh great", but obviously its hard these days due to the climate and money and that's one of the reasons it got knocked on the head and suffered from ticket sales and what not. We'd always do it if the line up is good. But it's hard; it's horrible to see promoters and festivals failing, so if we had the chance to help we definitely would.
Your upcoming Leeds Cockpit show is billed as a 'Slam Dunk Refreshers' show. Is that a hint that you'll be playing this year's festival?
Again we haven't heard much with it. The offers come in late in the day sometimes. We'd love to do Slam Dunk again sometime; it's one of my favourite festivals. We've always had a good time there, the venue is chaos with bands and stages everywhere, and we always cross paths with bands we know and stuff. The weathers always pretty good and there's a lot of alcohol flying around as well.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Keep in touch with us and hopefully we'll have something out by the end of the year.