The Answer


20 Juin 2015



Interview Cormac Neeson (face to face)

Hello Cormac, we saw each other at Hellfest 2011 already, is it a festival that you like a lot?

I love it man. Ever since we played it, we have been trying to get back here basically. Every year we tell our agent "please get us back on the Hellfest", because it's in a way a unique festival. Evrything is good about it, there is a little bit of Download Festival in the UK, and a little bit of Wacken in Germany. All the festivals we have played around in Europe so far cannot compare to this one. It's the organization coupled with an amazing audience. A very kind of respectful rock 'n' roll audience that enjoys every band that comes on stage, and it doesn't matter if it's death metal or rock 'n' blues, it seems like every band is doing very well up there. It's eclectic and it's fun, it's a pleasure to be here.

Not sure you heard about the problems they faced a month ago: some catholics extremist wrecked the site, burned some stuff. What do you think of this type of reaction?

That's not very cool at all. It's crazy, fuck that shit. I'm a catholic and that's not cool.

So how was your set in 2015? Did you guys raise a big Hell at Hellfest?

I think we did, yes. It was a big crowd and everybody seemed to be enjoying it. We had a great time up there. It was a very nice time in the day, I think. Comparing it to four years ago, there were obviously more people here and we have released a couple of new records so it was a good moment for us to come on stage and connect with those people.

How did you decide what the setlist you would play for such a short set at a large festival?

We have just come put of six month touring with the new record in Europe and in the UK. We are very happy with the new album, but also a lot that the material really translates to the live gig very easily, it feels good and natural to play. And you know whenever we are enjoying ourselves like that it's better to keep things fresh. We didn't really decided to play stuff from the latest album, we just played the set that fills right to the band. The crowd enjoyed it and that's the most important thing.

Are you going to attend some concerts while on site? Which ones?

I got a little bit tired of music earlier. It's been a busy day with press commitments and we have to leave right after this interview. We have a flight to Dublin today and we have a flight to America tomorrow morning, we are going there for six weeks. We are touring with Whitesnake, plus some of our own gigs, and some festivals too. I managed to attend one magic moment though, I watched Ace Frehley play Shock Me.

You guys have been around for fifteen years now, with the same line-up. What’s the magic recipe?

We didn't think too hard about it. Thankfully the chemistry in the band is right. James has broken his hand, and Maggy has had a kid, so from time to time other musicians have stepped into their shoes but it never felt right. We have been playing together for so long that now it's kind of impossible to break the link. And that's no bad thing.

Ok let’s talk about your latest album, Raise a Little Hell. Can you first explain the artwork, and the choice of those cartoons characters for each of you?

Yes. The album before this one we had Storm Thorgerson to design the cover which is really kind of prog and proper work of art. It was the very last cover he did before he passed away. He did a great job, but he is no longer with us, and we cannot try to imitate Storm so we thought we could go in the opposite direction, have a bit of fun and not take it too seriously, and see what we can come up with. There is a guy that does a lot of work for our label Napalm Records called Sebastian Jerke, we told him we wanted to reflect this kind of celebratory vibe in the music and he said 'well I've got this idea with your alter egos', and we thought 'yes let's go with it'. And it came out great. I think Micky had the original idea and Sebastian took it away and turned it into something.

How did you work on this fifth album?

Every album is a bit different from the previous ones, because you are different people. It was a year and a half since our last one. In song writting and in life experience, different things have happened, you move on a little bit. So you never approach the record with the same attitude as the one before which is good because you don't want to make the same record as the one before. But the essence of the band is still the same, we like to get into a room together and jam for a few hours and record everything and pick up the best bit and turn those best bits into songs. That's still the foundation of this record. Everybody if now writting songs and bringing different songs into the room, asking 'what do you guys think of this?' and 'let's work on this'... It's still a very democratic process, it's always the way we have done things, and it's always going to be the way we do things in the future.

Some of the songs on this album again have absolutely killer choruses. Who found those? How is this part in the writing process?

Thank you. Yes I've always been a fan of songs with big chorus, because I'm the one singing it. I want to be able to stand up on stage and sing big chorus. To me it's the same as a guitar solo for a guitar player. You want to have the melody in place and the message in place, so you can up there and deliver it to people with some passion. But again it always develops organicaly within the band. Sometimes I come up with chorus idea what might be big, but don't work for the song so we have to rethink. The thing with the Answer is that everybody is sympatetic about everybody else's need in the band. I don't like to get in there and start singing a big chorus over the top of the other guy's music just for myself. We all complement each other and fit as an overall piece of music. It's something we got better and better at over the years.

Micky does a fair bit of backing vocals.

Micky is very willing to do some singing because when we are on stage he does the majority of the backing vocals. Before that record we didn't spend too much time on Micky's role as a backup singer, but we probably should because it's an important part of our overall sound. So we thought it's another element of The Answer sound and making it unique.

In this album, I find Micky’s bass standing out, and I like that. Did you change anything in that respect?

Not really. If a member wants to step up at a particular moment in a song then just do it.

I really like the song Cigarettes And Regrets, can you tell us what it’s all about?

That one was actually written by Jaren [Johnston] from The Cadillac Three. A good friend of ours. When we were putting songs together for the album I got in touch with Jaren and he proposed a very basic demo of this song. We took it away, added a big chorus, and one of those songs with enough space for any band to make it its own. We took it to the rehearsal room and had a lot of fun with it. And it turned out to be one of the strongest songs on the album.

Last Day Of Summer sounds very hippie. In your little guitar/vocal duet we think of Page and Plant back in the days. What’s the story behind this song?

That song very much developped as a jam. We had that riff and every one of us felt really into that riff and in that case it's really easy to write a song. We used Last Day Of Summer as a metaphor for life. It came along very easily, and we recorded it live in the studio.

You play some Harmonica in the song Raise A Little Help. It’s considered very vintage to be a singer/harmonica player. Is this important for you?

I taught myself how to play it on the road, in the tour bus. You know I don't really walk in the studio and say I must play harmonica. It's an extra flavor, and this time we doubled up guitar with harmonica, it's just another flavor we can explore.

Strange Kind Of Nothing sounds a bit like U2. Is there an "Irish sound” you think?

Yes, I think that Strange Kind Of Nothing comes from an Irish folk music background. It was written on acoustic guitar. I really enjoyed recording it because it's so different from the rest of what we do. It does no harm to have a flavor on the record that clears the palette for the rest of the heavier rock 'n' roll music that follows.

I Am Cured and its intro with slide guitar reminds me a lot Rose Tattoo, is this a reference for you?

We always welcome Rose Tatoo references.

2015 started pretty strongly in the hard rock category with killer releases from you, Danko Jones, Koritni, Dallas Frasca or Devil’s Train. Do you know any of these guys?

Yes I know Danko Jones, and a couple of these guys. There is so much going on in hard rock 'n' blues: you've got the Blues Pills as well, Truckfighters, there is a lot of good music kicking around. We've just come off tour with a band from Austria called The White Miles, from Tyrol, we shared our tour bus for a month and a half, our two styles of music complemented each other very well. I love that there is so much to choose from.

And what do you say to folks that claim that everything was already done in this style by AC/DC?

For us, we tend to different ourselves from comments like that because we try very hard to make sure our music is original and fresh. For us it's important. And I'd say sometimes it's even working against us because we try to push the boundaries and some people want to hear plain old rock 'n' roll and headbang [he laughs].

What’s next for The Answer?

Tomorrow we fly to the US, then we come back on time for Wacken and a few more european festivals and then until the end of summer we will be looking into writing some new music again. Then get back on the road, and keep things moving...

Thanks a lot Cormac.

Thank you.