» Jack/Louis - Dirty Thrills
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Interview conducted May 14 2018
Interview published May 29 2018

The British rock band Dirty Thrills recently supported Skid Row on part of their trip through the European continent and as the bus made a stop in Stockholm, Metal Covenant was able to hook up with guitarist Jack Fawdry and vocalist Louis James.

Tobbe: The band, Dirty Thrills, isn't known to a bigger audience yet, so who are you guys and what do you try to come out with musically?

Jack: Well, we're a rock 4-piece from London [England] and what we try to come up with musically is something that combines all of our influences, main ones being bands like Led Zeppelin, Rival Sons, The Black Crowes... (Louis:) Yeah, a bit of old school and new school kind of thrown in together. A kind of rock 'n' roll bluesy kind of feel, sometimes with a bit of a heavier edge, but other times quite melodic as well. Just a huge flavor pot, basically.

Tobbe: You seem to find inspiration in the late '60s or maybe in the '70s, I would say.

Jack: Well, I think we would have enjoyed being alive at that time, or being in our twenties at that time. The music, the culture and the imagery just seem to be things that resonate with all of us, in different ways, I think. I, myself, didn't really find that inspiration until I joined the band and then I dived into it. Louis showed me a lot of old records and stuff and that really kind of opened my eyes into a lot of music that I'd never really listened to. So it's been quite a great journey of discovering new music for me as well. And writing new stuff too, which has been awesome.

Tobbe: Lyrics-wise. What do you in general try to come out with?

Louis: We tend to write a lot of stuff about hardships that have fallen on particular members of the band. You know, certain kind of everyday issues and situations that people could find themselves in. And then from time to time we just write songs that… they make sense, but, you know, it's just about rock 'n' roll. A typical kind of rock 'n' roll where it's just, you know, sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, basically. But recently it's a lot about some issues that happened to myself personally and I've been putting them on paper.

We like themes a lot of the time as well, so on the last album [Heavy Living, 2017] two of the songs were connected, kind of by mistake at first, but then we realized that they actually did work hand in hand. So a song called Law Man was about the native Americans getting driven out of their homeland by the Americans and then Hanging Around was: the dead Indian, should we say, was in limbo basically and he couldn't figure out whether to get to heaven or hell. Yeah, so there you go.

Tobbe: And what's most difficult with trying to come out with your type of music considering all the technique we have today and you're still playing, like, with an older sound?

Jack: Well, I find that one of the main things is I've strayed away from using a great deal of technology when it comes to my sound, live and in the studio, really. I like pedals that look like IPA beer cans and stuff and I've been using a Laney Valve amp for a few years. I'm not really into the amp modeling thing and Aaron [Plows, bass] is just using a standard… I'd say proper amp. He's using, you know, something that isn't digital. And that keeps us, I think, away from something that is, I don't know, too processed, I suppose.

For a very long time I didn't use any effects pedals at all and that's because every time I got new ones they got stolen. So, recently I've start working with Boss pedals and I've got, well, a load of new sounds I've borrowed; begged, borrowed and stolen over the last couple of tours and it's really nice to almost use pedals that you've never tried before up on stage.

(Louis:) I guess some of the sounds come from the influences of who we listen to as well. So if we're striving to have a song that sounds like X band, you know, we'll kind of have a little listen to as to what they're actually using maybe and then not completely copy what that is, but having your own spin on it with it, you know. It's just kind of adding texture and dynamics to the songs as well and I guess it tends to be that way when there's no rhythm guitarist as well, I suppose.

(Jack:) Yeah, back into old schools. We don't wanna make the tones, you know, dated or anything like that. It's just preference really, I think. It's just what you like the sound of. We always record as, like, a live band as well when we're in the studio. You know, we're not saying that's better than everything else; it's just preference really.

Tobbe: So what modern elements do you in fact incorporate in your music then?

Louis: The melodies and the chorus lines can have a twist to that. We've had time to write some new material now and we've actually been focusing on chorus building first, rather than writing a song from scratch, from the beginning, kind of typically verse or a riff. So we actually get down a lot of really, really catchy choruses with a bit of great hook lines and, you know, the whole shebang and then kind of formulate the song around that chorus and it's been working amazing for us. I mean, that's not saying that Heavy Living, the last album, hasn't, because there's so many good choruses on that.

(Jack:) What we've done with that as well, how we made it slightly more modern, I think, is we're just going with those choruses and verses almost like we're writing music in the same vein as, like, someone who may be writing songs for pop artists, you know. The way with structure in our songwriting is it's definitely a more modern approach for us; it may not be more modern for somebody else.

We're not hung up on influences; we've just been writing things and it has just transpired to that a lot of the new sounds we've got are a lot of more current, but still with that, like, rock/sleazy twist on it, so that's good.

(Louis:) We've not premeditated it in such a way, like… Obviously we're trying to keep our integrity by sticking to our guns with a rock 'n' roll sound, but adding that kind of contemporary feel to the music as well. You know, it's an old school sound, but I definitely think we've got an edge. Most people who review us say like "They have that classic rock kind of sound, but there's something about them that's not just classic rock.".

Tobbe: What kind of musical background do you guys have in order to come out with this type of music?

Jack: I started playing guitar in, I think, about 2005, completely by accident, and that was because I used to play saxophone and I hated it and I left it at a bus stop and it got stolen, so I went into school with no instrument so they gave me a guitar. So I started playing guitar and then quickly got into really quite heavy music, like Trivium, Whitechapel, Lamb Of God and Children Of Bodom.

I listened to metal for a very long time and then fast forward and a huge amount of time, about 8 or so years after playing guitar, after university, where I met Louis and Steve [Corrigan, drums] and then got into blues rock stuff. So it's kind of metal for a long time and then it just went and then changed into, like, blues rock and stuff.

(Louis:) I grew up with music, for my whole life. I was born into a musical family. My dad [Nicky James] was a singer/songwriter in the '60s and '70s and we had a recording studio at my house, so as a little kid I'd always be going in there kind of having a go on all the instruments, all the drums and the guitars and this, that and the other.

So I started life as a drummer initially and it wasn't 'til the band I was playing drums in said "We decided to swap with the original singer.", because they preferred my voice and at that time I was very shy; didn't wanna sing at all. My dad was, you know, the greatest singer I've ever heard and to follow in his footsteps was just impossible in my opinion. But in the end I became a singer and that's where I am now.

Tobbe: Did you guys already at an early age, like, dream about playing music on a professional level?

Louis: I actually wanted to be a Ghostbuster first, when I was really young, but then soon after that I was yeah. I had everything, honestly; I had the backpack and the trap. Honestly, it was amazing. I'd always be Ray. (Jack:) I started thinking like "I wanna do this." as soon as I started playing the guitar. The day I came back from my school with a guitar, 'cause, like I said, I left my saxophone at a bus stop, I learned a Beatles riff and, you know, growing up just outside Liverpool everyone played Beatles songs.

And then I quickly realized, after about a year, that I wasn't gonna get anywhere just playing the guitar for my parents, who didn't wanna hear me play the guitar very much. [Laughs] So I started playing in bands from when I was so, so terrible at the guitar. I started a band pretty much 6 months after I started playing the guitar. And since then that's been my only focus. Since the age of 15 that's all I've tried to do and now it's the fact that that's actually happening and it's just ridiculous. I didn't think I ever would.

You know, everyone always says "If there's no doubt in your mind…". I don't think that's true. I think people have doubts in their mind for this happening all the time. So yeah, I've always, for the last odd 13 years, wanted to do it. Now it's happening and it's just amazing, really. So, very grateful.

Tobbe: Heavy Living was out last September on Frontiers Music and just how important is it to have kind of a bigger label backing your music up?

Louis: I mean, it's really important, because they give us that cloud that we kind of need behind, and to really push it out there rather than just kind of us taking it in our own hands where we can only distribute a certain number of kind of CDs. You know, a handful of CDs to our family and friends and stuff, which is not gonna get you anywhere. We needed that big boost from a label, Frontiers, to kind of help us get there really. I mean, it's the same with everything: Management, all these little things come into place to really kind of, I don't know, keep the cogs working.

(Jack:) And getting new people to hear it is cool as well and having just small things that you've always wanted, growing up listening to music. In England there's a huge music mega store called HMV and, you know, growing up buying CDs or vinyls you always would love to have your CD there, and going into that shop when we're back in England and seeing our CDs on the shelves with all these rock bands that we really love is amazing. And vinyls as well. We wouldn't have had the vinyls without having our label as well and they've been brilliant.

And just the connection with new fans in different parts of the world has been fantastic. We started the Skid Row tour in Germany and we've checked with our label and some of our biggest sales were in Germany, so that was really nice to go there and have fans that we've never met before that had already bought our music. It's just been really cool.

(Louis:) That's actually another… Getting back to your other question: With the old school kind of sound, although we try to have a contemporary edge as well, our approach as far as, like, gigging and playing and getting ourselves out there is very old school, so we're very much a touring band and we would be playing every day of the week if we could.

Tobbe: Is it hard sometimes to take good advice from people who are trying to help you in your future endeavors?

Jack: Sometimes you don't know if it's good advice or not. You know, with the best will in the world someone may say something to you and you think "Oh, I'll just ignore that." or, you know, someone may say something to you to try and trip you up slightly and you think it's great advice. But you can't ever really tell if it's good advice until it's over, really.

(Louis:) And it depends on who it's from and it depends on if you value that person's opinion. There's so many reasons whether to take someone's advice or not. Joey Tempest gave us some good advice at one point and he said "Stick to your guns and don't let the naysayers put you down.".

I mean, I heard something about Lemmy as well and they stuck to their guns, Motörhead. You know, they weren't at all commercial, but they managed to become one of the most successful metal bands out there. I think listening to yourself is very important, but also, you know, having a bit of a helping hand can really help.

Tobbe: Is it even possible for a rock band to see some kind of a brighter future in this day and age?

Louis: With a positive mental attitude anything can happen, man. Until I don't believe that this is gonna get any bigger, that's when I hang up my clogs, you know. (Jack:) And you got a lot of clogs to hang up. (Louis:) Got so many clogs. I currently got 7 pairs of clogs. No, until I feel in my soul that it's not going anywhere, then… you know. (Jack:) It feels like sometimes it's big steps and sometimes it's small ones, but it does feel, to me personally anyway, that it's getting better all the time. (Louis:) And with the new music that we're coming out with as well. We're always very excited, you know.

Tobbe: It's very hard to build a real career on music today and you probably need a big amount of luck too, I guess.

Jack: Yeah, it takes a lot of luck. I suppose, if we just keep writing songs and keep doing it, eventually the luck will come there. We make our own luck, you know. Well, I think we feel extremely lucky where we are at the moment. We've been touring all these amazing places that we would have never gone to if it wasn't for the band.

(Louis:) That's success already. Like, you know, I would've never probably come to Sweden if it wasn't for this band. Playing music has brought me to this amazing country and I'm really grateful for that. Or everywhere; I mean, I had never been to Cyprus and France in my life before this band and I've been playing in pretty much for 90 percent of Europe. Maybe 80 percent 'cause I always exaggerate. I always do that, with size.

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