Meet Andy, Brian, James and Ben, the rockin’ minds behind the Glaswegian band The Hammerin’ Tongs. We caught up with them for a wee chat.
What got you into music?
Andy Welsh: As a kid I was always into art and I am a nifty doodler. When I started listening to music properly, I was hooked, so gone were the doodles and in came the rock and roll. Besides, the ladies seem to prefer muso’s to lonesome doodlers.
Brian McCoo: Watching Nirvana’s unplugged performance on a continuous loop a couple of times a day when I was 14-16. They tend to be remembered for how heavy and chaotic their live performances where but that acoustic set showed how much depth and talent they really had. Kurt Cobain may not be the most technically proﬁcient guitarist in the world, but he showed if you have enough creativity and enough heart, you can transcend genre’s and stereotypes to be a truly great artist. As a teenager the idea of communicating things you weren’t able to articulate and have people still understand you, I consider it a hugely important right of passage. I asked my Aunt for her beat-up old acoustic and started learning Nirvana songs.
James Storey: As a kid I was generally bored of music, but then I was introduced to rock & roll and I was hooked by the likes of Nirvana, Radiohead, Muse, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix and so on. It was then that I found my calling in life. I played albums incessantly, mainly for the sheer pleasure of it but also to get right into the nitty gritty of how a record came together.
Ben Campbell: What really got me into music was when American Idiot of all things came out. Green Day were the ﬁrst band I had a love affair with. I would sit mesmerised watching Billie Joe Armstrong perform and at that moment I knew that I wanted to do the same as him. I wanted to be a rockstar.
Who or what inspired you to do so?
Andy: I admired a few musicians in my school and when I was a shelf stacker some older lads introduced me to the likes of Nirvana, Ash, The Stone Roses etc. In the house there was always 80’s music on. So at the time, the likes of Kurt Cobain, Billy Corgan, Billie Joe Armstrong, Flea, Dave Grohl etc. were all my idols. Now there are too many idols and genres to list.
Brian: Nirvana were the band that inspired me to pick up a guitar, Manic Street Preachers were the band that made me want to learn how to play the damn thing. Meeting other musicians who could actually play was startling. I had no idea how bad I was till I saw people who knew what they were doing. Meeting these people also introduced me to other bands like Stone Roses, The Smiths, The Libertines, Arcade Fire even up to things like Pantera and Megadeth. If you want to play those songs, you’ve got to get good.
James: When I ﬁrst heard John Bonham is when I ﬁrst realised I wanted to play drums. That big, bombastic sound appealed to me more than anything else. Also watching Nirvana shows heavily inﬂuenced me in stage performance. Their energy was indescribable and I wanted to emulate that and create something amazing that people could lose themselves in.
Ben: Again I refer back to American Idiot as that was the initial point that I picked up a guitar. I can still remember my ﬁrst guitar. I’m pretty sure it’s still kicking about somewhere and it’s had many uses from a mic stand to a coffee table. I then discovered The Libertines and I haven’t looked back since. They have all the attributes of what I think makes a great band – wild, ambitious and rebellious – much like the Tongs, we don’t really give a fuck.
As a band, what’s the best and worst gig you’ve done?
Andy: Best gig had to be the one in Coyote Whiskey Bar, a while back. I was bruised for days after falling off my amp and it got busted up a bit. The place went mental for us that night. Seeing a group of people crowd surﬁng at our Record Factory gig was brilliant. We have played that venue a few times and our worst gig was in there and no crowd. Was a punter exodus.
Brian: I haven’t been a part of the band for very long but Coyote Whiskey Bar was tremendous crazy fun. A packed pub dancing and falling over. A speaker fell on top of me, which sucked at the time but I’ll never forget Andy falling over, Ben getting in the crowds face, even I, normally quite an introverted person couldn’t help but want to jump in and give back as much energy as the crowd was giving me. With the Tongs, I can’t say there’s been a bad gig but with older bands I was in, there were occasions where I didn’t want to be on that stage, band mates who couldn’t stand one another and stand-ins who didn’t know the songs and that we hadn’t rehearsed with. An audience that just feels bad for you is worse than one that doesn’t care.
James: The best gig so far would be one we did at Coyote Bar a while back. It was complete chaos, people where literally on the ceiling, I couldn’t hear anything, I think one of us nearly died, but my god the energy was incredible! I’ve never encountered anything like it before or since. The worst gig? As a Hammerin’ Tong I haven’t really had any bad gigs, just the odd one with bad sound. I have deﬁnitely had my own share of bad gigs in the past though. I remember once playing a gig to literally just the sound engineer and the bar staff since they did no promotion whatsoever, and then the drum kit disintegrated. Yea that was pretty bad.
Ben: We just played a gig at Coyote Whiskey bar and it got pretty wild that was fun for sure. I think the worst was a Record Factory gig that didn’t go as planned due to numerous different factors. Sometimes these things happen.
What superpower would you most like to have?
Andy: Super power? Wolverine’s healing power and anti-aging would be cool. Maybe some mind control to change people’s minds about the worlds current political affairs, but alas, we have the corporate media already moulding minds and I don’t want to be anything like them.
Brian: Would have to be Wolverine’s rapid healing ability but it would also have to apply to emotional pain. Expanding on that- immortality/indestructibility. You could live without fear or time restraints. Think of what you could achieve. Even if the planet blew up, you could spend eternity exploring the universe. Realistically I’d probably spend all eternity renting a ﬂat in Glasgow. Predicting the future would have come in handy on a few occasions.
James: Mind control, then I could rule the woooorld. Mwahaha!
Ben: Probably levitation.
What’s it like being on stage?
Andy: It is hard to explain. It is a great feeling, to get on with three other happening musicians and creating some top tunes with them. Amplify that ten times when you are on stage and the crowd is feeling you.
Brian: Sometimes it’s a ﬁght. Sometimes it’s a dance. It’s aggression, sensuality, vulnerability, conﬁdence, adrenaline, anxiety. When the band comes together and we’re in sync and the audience is right there with us. The feeling is somewhere between being in a ﬁght and making love…. And it could honestly go either way.
James: Being on stage to me becomes that special moment when everything but that time and space disappears; my entire consciousness is consumed with the music. It’s an amazing feeling of elation, hyper focus and freedom; this is only heightened by other people’s reaction to what I’m doing. Very little else makes me happier.
Ben: I love being on stage it is by far my favourite thing to do. It’s better than any drug. The high is unreal and I’m addicted.
Any advice for young bands/artists starting out?
Andy: “Just be true to yourself and never give up. There’s gonna be people that love you and gonna be people that hate you – but screw them”.
Brian: Don’t wait for the world to fall into your lap. (Things easier said than done); don’t be self-conscious. Don’t be afraid of looking stupid. Set-backs will happen but don’t be discouraged by them, learn from them.
James: Work on your songs, craft them till they’re the best they can be, rather than just rehearsing them till they’re tight. Serve the song, it’s not about any one member of the act, it is all about the song and the atmosphere you’re trying to create. As soon as you lose your ego, your band will get better. Also at least one of you needs a business/PR head. You could be the best band in the world but if the right people don’t hear you it counts for nothing. Learn the industry, get out there and network, give away demos, whatever you have to do to grow your audience and prove yourselves to record companies.
Ben: I have no boundaries, don’t give a fuck what any c*** thinks. Most importantly believe in what you are doing because if you don’t then how can anyone else?
If you want to see them live, you can do TOMORROW at King Tut’s in Glasgow.