TRACK-BY-TRACK: Massive Wagons – House Of Noise
Photo Credit: John McMurtrie
Lancaster rockers Massive Wagons are back with their fifth studio album House Of Noise, the follow-up to 2018’s Full Nelson which saw the band land a UK Top 20. Their most accomplished work to date, House Of Noise brings together the infectious elements that Massive Wagons are loved for: honest, straight-from-the-heart lyrics, poppy melodies and rock ‘n’ roll hooks. We caught up with vocalist Barry Mills to delve deeper and discover more about the tracks that make up House Of Noise…
In It Together
My teenage years were littered with killer British guitar bands, a lot of which are a big influence on me and my song writing. I’ve always been a lover of music, I’ve never been a genre snob, I grew up during the Brit rock era; bands like Ash, Skunk Annansie, Stereophonics and Terrorvision in particular are a huge influence. Oasis, Blur, Kula Shaker are some more bands of the ear that seem to go under the radar or are just plain disliked by a lot of the rock crowd, but they can’t deny these bands wrote killer songs. A big part of that era were The Wildhearts and their leader, Ginger Wildheart, for me the possibly greatest lyricist this country has ever produced, so when we got to support his solo tour back in 2016 we were super stoked. It was our first high profile full support tour, and it was a huge deal for us. In It Together is essentially about meeting Ginger for the first time. Walking into the backstage room in Bristol for the first time, shaking the guy’s hand and looking into his eyes and speaking to him, as apposed to being stood a mile away from the stage, the song is a genuine account of the conversation we had with him when we met. He has always been a huge supporter of ours and we are eternally grateful for that, he is a big supporter of music and he always strives to have the best supports on tour, we thought it would make a great song. The song is a rocker, big riffs, big hooks, and it is the first album we have had the chance to work with a producer. Two in fact, Colin Richardson and Chris Clancy, so the first time we’ve ever had the confidence to involve harmonies. That was the idea of Chris, we really took his guidance as he’s a killer vocalist in his own right, and he showed us how to achieve what we did. I think it completely lifts the whole album, and the song has since become the album’s lead single. It seems poignant during this current pandemic too, although the chorus is aimed at the music business as a whole, it in fact rings true of us all at the moment. It’s nice to know people see it as a bit of a call to arms, very cool indeed.
Bangin In Your Stereo
To be honest Bangin In Your Stereo is a straight up no nonsense rocker. We felt the tracks we had written thus far were missing something a bit more up tempo, a no nonsense kinda track, a big in your face riff intro, no deep meanings or hidden messages, just a big radio singalong track. It was good fun to record, we did like an American radio DJ type thing in the middle slagging our band off, the song basically says yeah people probably hate our band, our music and us personally haha but we just keep goin’, and keep doin’ what we want.
House Of Noise
The last song to be written for the album, and oddly written after the album name was chosen. Other albums have been named after a song but we kinda did it the other way round and wrote the track second. House Of Noise was a real last minute track. We wrote a large part of it in the studio, this time we had the luxury of living at the studio full time, so when the days recording was done we could hit the rehearsals and carry on writing. We did a lot of improving and song writing like this while we were there, the songs really benefitted for it. Adam came to me with riffs and a melody right before Christmas, we were due in the studio immediately after the holiday so I spent the time working on the lyrics and vocal melody. Adam also had some basic lyrics and told me what he wanted the song to be about, which was cool because it saved me time and it was a great idea anyway. The song is essentially about the thoughts that come and go, good and bad through your mind as you live and get older, the things you’ve left behind, the mistakes you’ve made, some regrets, worries etc. It’s a song that looks back at the life you’ve lead really. Adam and I talked years ago about great dance music, we both dig a lot of the big dance tunes from the 90s, they were epic and individual back then, and we always said taking a dance track formula and making our own rock track in that style would be cool. I know it’s been done before, but we haven’t done it haha and this is our go at it, it’s a real curve ball for us and sounds like nothing we’ve ever done before. I’m immensely proud of how it’s turned out, it was the biggest surprise for me.
This is one of Stephen’s songs really, or he came to me with the verse and chorus already sorted, I really really loved it. Ste recorded on Full Nelson but joined at the end of the writing process. He had some input into a few tracks but it was largely complete, but with House… he was fully involved from the very start. He’s a huge asset to the band, he has a great imagination, extremely talented guitar player and is great at developing songs which is very important. Freak City, although it sounds hugely upbeat and positive, which the music and chorus are, and that’s what I love about it, the verses are essentially about my own life and things that bother me and have for years. I suppose we all have these personal woes, but I’m not in the habit of making things up for the sake of a song, and I’m certainly not in the habit of pouring my heart out to a stranger or on social media! So my only outlet, and I’m thankful for it, is songs. I can be as cryptic as I like but still say what I want to say. I hope there at least some people who can understand what I’m saying some of the time haha. We have played this one live a few times now and it’s been an instant success at shows, it feels like we will be playing it for years to come.
Next up is Hero. This is where the album kinda lets off a bit, or breathes a little if you like. The previous four are all very much in your face kinda tracks, Hero is a bit more laid back and at over six mins long it’s longer than all but one on the album. The riff actually originates from the writing session for Full Nelson, for some reason it got sidelined, I think Adam sent me a handful of riffs together and I ended up using the others. I struggled with this one originally, nothing happened when I tried to write lyrics, just a mental block. As it happens I believe the song is a highlight of the new album, it’s got a Black Ice AC/DC kinda era vibe about it. The song is about having idols, and putting them on a pedestal, and I know it’s great to have icons in your life and people to admire, but the song is about realising they are only people like the rest of us, the same skin, bones and brains. If they can do it then anyone can do it, that’s kinda essentially what has driven me for so long with our band. Highlight of the song and one of the album highlights is Stephen’s solo. It’s his first solo in the Wagons, I think it’s a stunning solo, well crafted, so classy, it builds at the right tempo and to the right point. In the studio he totally nailed it and his guitar sound on that song is one of the best guitar sounds I’ve ever heard. It’s always worth taking as much time as you need to nail things like guitar sound before you record, never rush if possible.
It’s probably the rowdiest track on the album, we toyed with opening the album with it to be honest. Bang, big drum smash in the face, mean riffage, high tempo, loads of attitude and off to a flyer. If we weren’t gonna open with it then we wanted it to front side two on the vinyl release, hence why it’s at number six on the CD/stream list. Professional Creep was one of the first to be written for the album, it’s about a guy I used to work with, a real sleaze bag, had it in for his work colleagues, thought he deserved a song. The drums are the standout on this track for me, we recorded at Andy Sneaps‘ studio, an absolute musician’s dream of a studio. We rehearsed the songs tirelessly after recording had finished, the kit is that of Scott Travis of Judas Priest fame. The whole studio is a rehearsal/recording facility for the mighty Priest, it was a great vibe working there. Alex is a massive Priest fan and all that kinda thing just brought out the best drumming I’ve ever heard him play. He was a power house before, but now he’s a power house who’s extremely creative with fast drum hands, he’s incredible really. Yeah it’s a loud driving song with big dirty riffs.
Pressure has developed somewhat from its first incarnation, there are so many parts to it now. I don’t really know how we wrote it to be honest, it sounds beyond us to me haha, it’s like a feature length Status Quo/Green Day mash up. It’s fast, driving, there are a number of riffs, it’s like a racetrack of a song, with some kinda punk edge. It’s Adam T’s favourite track on the album, it’s in the live set too now and it ramps things up a big notch, it goes down really well. The track is about fans of bands whinging and whining about a band’s output, blaming this and that, outside influences because the album they just released wasn’t the same as the last one or has slightly different vibe about it. We certainly aren’t a band to make the same album twice, I don’t want pigeon-holing at all! We just make music we like and want to make, country, rock, metal, punk, we just do what we like in that regard. I imagine I’d have been bored years ago with it all if we hadn’t done that.
Stephen came to me with a totally random riff and chorus melody, it wasn’t like anything we’d done before but I loved it, quite repetitive and really catchy. If I’m honest I was completely stumped for a song theme, I wrote about four songs and none of them held up. They felt okay writing them, but when I sang them back I wasn’t feeling them, and then completely out of the blue the curry thing struck me! I just remember thinking the lads are either gonna absolutely love this or totally hate it haha, it didn’t take long to write considering there are a lot of words but it just flowed, I took it to practice and they loved it thank god! We didn’t actually finish the song ’til in the studio, we knew we wanted the heavy bangra style section in the middle, Alex mimicking the kind of beat associated with bangra on the drums. We added the riffs later and the top and fro chants, also Alex’s idea haha and it just totally came together. The aim was a total live crowd participation track, I can’t wait to play it live and start throwing curry chants around ha.
Glorious is a great big dig at some of the proper arseholes we’ve encountered over the last few years, part-time professionals, full-time arseholes, people who seem to enjoy making things hard for bands, or have a grudge for no logical reason. Maybe they have a huge ego, or just an overwhelming sense of self importance. Those mentioned in the song are real people, Dave is a real person but I made his name up haha. He was a real guy on a festival page thread though, I just wanted to embrace the hate and turn it into something positive haha. It’s a really melodic song with a big chorus, we’ve just started doin’ it live and it’s great to play.
Sad, Sad Song
Sad, Sad Song is also a true story, a story about me having some sort of an anxiety attack in Aldi. I know the song says Tesco but nothing rhymes with Aldi haha so it became Tesco, but yeah I had a really strange ordeal, it wasn’t at all pleasant. I’d never had anything like that happen before and I’m in no rush to repeat the ordeal. The song itself took a long time to get nailed, we kept changing the key, adding parts and taking them out, we really were unsure what we wanted to do with it. We left it for the studio, when Chris and Colin the producers heard it they had some great input and in my opinion it’s a hidden gem on the album. So glad we recorded it and never left it off, it was worth the extra work.
Hallescrewya is a parting remark to the guy who caught my eye leaving one of our shows mid-set in Dover. I’ve no real idea why he left haha, maybe he had to catch a bus, but I got it in my head he wasn’t impressed at all and just had enough so left! He really caught my eye and I remember thinking “where are you goin?!” Anyway I thought it would make a good song, about what he missed out on after he’d gone. The show was ace and Dover was a great place and people lovely, we will be back!
Matter Of Time
The closing track on House Of Noise is about eight mins long! Far and away our longest track to date, listening back to it it feels like such an achievement for us. That song, not only being that long and I believe engaging from start to finish, is a style of song we’ve never really touched before. The song is a message from me to my daughter about life, things I’ve encountered, things she will encounter. Life’s a tough road but she will always be loved and have support from me and her mother. I really wanted to write a song to her but really wanted it to be right and have the right tone, not cheesy or phony in any way. I took a long time over the words and the lads over the music, the bulk of the song is a left over from Full Nelson which just kinda ran out of steam. We picked it back up and it just flowed out. Recording it was a blast, it’s the only track on the album done in real time with no click track, just Alex keeping time. We had to nail it right which added some good pressure, Adam’s song vision and both solos are stunning. It’s probably my favourite on the album, probably because it’s so personal.
Massive Wagons‘ latest album House Of Noise is out now via Earache, available to purchase HERE.