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BLOODSTOCK INTERVIEW: Hank Upton – Lionize

In the decade since their birth, LIONIZE have been climbing the ranks in becoming of the most snazzy modern classic rock bands out there. They recently played Ramblin’ Man and appealed hugely to the audience of Bloodstock Festival (read the review here), we had a chance to chat with bassist Hank Upton about why LIONIZE appeal to both sides of the rock/metal world, their upcoming record Nuclear Soul and the resurgence of more modern classic rock bands.

How are you?

Hank: Good! I’m good! How are you?

I’m brilliant thanks! So, you’re going to be playing the Sophie Lancaster stage, are you excited?

Hank: We’re very excited, we’re stoked that it’s a really good time slot so yeah, we’re stoked.

What can we be expecting from LIONIZE?

Hank: They can expect probably the fastest, loudest stuff we’ve played and a bunch of new tunes, oh and some interesting stage wear.

That definitely sounds intriguing, what interesting stage wear?

Hank: Nate has some interesting stage wear but it’s better a surprise than me talk about it.

So, in the space of a couple of weeks you’ve gone from Ramblin’ Man to Bloodstock, both appeal to different sides of the rock/metal spectrum – have you seen a difference in the crowds?

Hank: I’d honestly have a better answer for you afterwards but I know obviously that this festival is more towards heavier stuff and Ramblin’ Man is more bluesy classic rock stuff. Ramblin’ Man went really well for us but I know that historically we’ve played with a lot of metal bands and metal crowds tend to really like us. I think that’s partly because there’s a lot of technical stuff going on even if it’s not metal, we’re certainly not metal but there’s a lot of technical playing and stuff that goes on which I’m hoping that works out for them today, I think it’ll be good!

What about ages between the two festivals then?

Hank: I guess from my little bit of experience walking around the two, this seems like it is a little younger, that one was definitely older.

Nuclear Soul is out next month, we’ve already heard Blindness to Danger – what else can we be expecting to hear on the album?

Hank: The next single is called Fire in Athena and we’re doing an animated video for that and that should be out pretty soon, that’s a song we just did up there on the Epiphone Bus. The rest of it is just like really song orientated kind of like classic rock, acid rock, funk sort of stuff with some curveballs in there.

LIONIZE work with CLUTCH a lot and Jean-Paul Gaster worked on the production for Nuclear Soul, do you think having another musicians ear helps produce the album musically a little more?

Hank: Oh yeah of course, that’s why we’ve always been really lucky to work with JP and Tim from CLUTCH plays guitar on two tracks. Anytime you have anyone like Jean-Paul who is an all-around amazing musician, so this record and as well as the previous record Jetpack Soundtrack, we did all the pre-production with him and we would just sit in a room and play the songs and try to make them better and he is really invaluable, J. Robbins too the guy who produced it. That’s why you work with people cause if you respect their musical mind, they’re always going to be an asset

Once again, you’ve worked with CLUTCH and other notable names in your career which has been just over a decade now but only recently have LIONIZE started breaking through – do you think working with those names has helped you in a sense?

Hank: Well yeah! CLUTCH obviously have definitely kind of mentored us with being from the same place and took us under their wing but also, I think it’s just also collective experience of having been like 11 years in and you’re a lot better when you’ve played, I don’t know how many shows we’ve played, like 1,200/1,300 or something? You get better as you do it and you realise that songs are your currency and songs are the only thing that matter, so I think we’ve just focused a lot on that and we’ve got a lot of that off bands like CLUTCH and STEEL PULSE and other people we’ve worked with a lot, you’re always learning something. If you think you have it figured out you’re doing something wrong.

So, what is next for after Nuclear Soul?

Hank: We’re going to do some stuff in the States right when it comes out and then we’re going to be coming back to the UK towards the end of the year, hopefully mainland Europe and then we’ll see. I try not to get ahead of myself, I got to deal with today, I got to get to the stage and play, I just keep that in mind.

Not like others then that have the next five years figured out then?

Hank: No, no! There’s too many moving parts for that!

A lot of bands now from the older generations are now calling it a day and LIONIZE definitely got a sound that fits into that classic rock style, do you feel any pressure in following their footsteps and become a memorable band that can take after these classic giants?

Hank: I don’t see it as pressure, I see it as a really awesome opportunity to fill a vacuum that exists because there’s not a lot of bands now that play or are doing that sort of thing and I certainly don’t know anyone doing that sort of stuff with a Hammond Organ out front and that kind of place. I see it as a good opportunity to carry that torch on, I don’t think there’s pressure.

That classic rock sound is definitely making a big revival with some newer bands – is that nice for you to have somewhere to fit with the youngsters?

Hank: Of course, everything is a pendulum, right? There’s a cycle to it all and everything will go in and out of style in the mainstream and then it’ll come back. If you believe in whatever it is you’re doing then eventually people will find you to do it and I would love for there to be more rock bands for people to listen to in general or like classic rock song orientated bands. In America, there isn’t a huge straight-ahead rock bands, there’s the FOO FIGHTERS who are huge and there’s CLUTCH and MASTODON but there’s not a merging of anything like that stuff, people are more interested in hip-hop or electronic music or pop music, so eventually you got to feel like that pendulum is going to swing back the other way.

Can you see a difference here in the UK then as opposed to the US?

Hank: England and all the UK has always been more responsive to rock music. The first time we came here and we saw the rock discos, that’s crazy to me, the idea that college kids go into a club at night and party to RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE and SOUNDGARDEN and stuff that’s totally impossible to imagine in the States. I don’t know anything of anywhere like that!

There’s nothing like that?!

Hank: Nope!

Here we have societies at universities and everything where people meet and go to concerts together and loads of rock clubs!

Hank: The closest thing we have to that culture is hip-hop and electronic music, it’s a different thing so England has always been really good to us!

Well! I think that’s it for today as you’ve got to get up on stage shortly but I wish you the best!

Hank: I think you’ll like it! It’s good, come and see us live! It’s a different thing for us live because we improvise a lot and we change the set every day and every show is different that way.

Do you ever forget what songs you might be playing then?

Hank: We trade! Every day is a different guys responsibility to make the set-list so the worst is somebody forgetting to write it and writing it like 3 minutes before we go on stage but that’s what keeps it interesting and I understand the logic of doing the same set and getting it tight, there’s a lot of sense to that but for us it works better to keep us on our toes and it forces you to listen and that’s when you play the best stuff cause you listen, when you’re just spending your time listening to what you’re doing instead of everyone else, that’s not as good.

It’s been a pleasure, I wish you all the luck in a bit!

Nuclear Soul is set for release on September 8th via The End Records.

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Jessica Howkins

Co Editor-in-Chief for Distorted Sound Magazine, Music Journalism student.