» George Harris - The Raven Age
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Interview conducted March 4 2017
Interview published March 12 2017

"When I was really young I was never into music, really."

Up and coming youngsters The Raven Age is putting out their first full-length record on March 17th and as they made a stop in Stockholm, Sweden as support act to the American thrash/heavy veterans Anthrax, Metal Covenant was given the opportunity to speak a while with one of the founding members and guitarist George Harris.

As many people may know already, George is the son of none other than Iron Maiden legend Steve Harris and even if I'm fully aware of that a few words about his father would certainly be of interest for people reading this, I still decided early on to leave the Maiden icon completely out of this conversation in order to just cut the boy some slack, and seriously: who would really want to talk about his own father's accomplishments when you're just about to start a personal career yourself?

Tobbe: If you really and truly must put a label on The Raven Age's type of music, what would it be?

George: Well, we kind of have a bit trouble with that. We stamp ourselves as melodic metal, but I think with what we're doing we kind of cross a few genres really, so it's hard to pinpoint it a little bit. We obviously grew up being, you know, inspired by, like, metalcore band. You know, bands like Killswitch [Engage], Bullet [For My Valentine] and Trivium.

These bands were like the guys we were looking up to and stuff. And Parkway Drive, especially musically for me, as a guitarist. There's so much melody in there and also heaviness in there, in their riffs and stuff. But we kind of wanted to do something a little bit different and not trying to sort of emulate them exactly. We wanted to keep the vocals clear.

You know, I think it kind of opens a few more doors for us in a certain way. Yeah, we just sort of cut out the real aggressive vocals. All the catchy hooks and stuff are the favorite parts with these songs anyway, so we thought "Why not be a bit different?", so melodic metal is kind of what we come up with.

Tobbe: Personally I find it awesome that you have chosen to use a singer instead of a screamer and was that your clear intension all from the start?

George: Yeah, it was. I mean, before we got the rest of the guys onboard, myself and Dan [Wright], the guitar player, first we just started jamming and writing some stuff and we thought that this would definitely suit, like, a screamer, but we knew we definitely wanted singing and we just decided to use that, like "You know what? Why not have singing on it? It's a little bit different to our favorite bands at the moment and it just sort of gives us a bit of a different edge.". So yeah, we decided that quite early on.

Tobbe: So going back to when you were very young, what did you listen to back then?

George: When I was really young I was never into music, really. I was more into, like, sports and stuff. I was massive into football [soccer] and tennis and stuff like that and that was kind of what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a football player when I was young, like most young English kids do. But yeah, I guess your friends at school and stuff help with this sort of thing and what sort of guys you hang out with.

I started to get into, softer stuff, like Foo Fighters and just more rock type of things, I think. And obviously all that classic rock stuff, like Guns N' Roses and that sort of thing. Then I kind of developed a little bit more into, like, sort of pop-punky stuff like Blink 182 and Green Day and that sort of thing. From then, from a young age, it just kind of got heavier and heavier.

It's weird and I remember all I kind of did was watch Kerrang! and Scuzz all day on TV and it wasn't, like, the real heavy stuff, like Slipknot and stuff like that and I would always be like "Oh. Turn it over.", 'cause it was too heavy for me back then, but I somehow got used to it and then ended up enjoying it.

Tobbe: Melody on top of a heavy background is obviously important to you and in what way or how many times do you have to rearrange the songs to make them fit in the right place?

George: It's just different for every song, really. Some songs have come, you know, just straight off-the-cuff and they kind of worked and the melody, you know, was instant. For instance, like one of our tracks on the album, Promised Land, was a bit like that. I wrote the riff and instantly the melody came into my head and I just draw it some lyrics and ideas straight down and we had verse 1 there and sort of the rest of the song stems from that. Some of them have taken a lot longer.

Obviously we had quite a few years in between our first release [Self titled EP. Out July 2014] and our album, so yeah, like listening back to some of them we are like "You know what? This bit is not quite as cool as the rest of the songs." and we had that chance to rearrange them and stuff, so. Yeah, it kind of varies for every song. It's weird, I can't really pinpoint it.

Tobbe: You have chosen to include 3 out of 4 songs from the EP on the new album and why weren't those songs, like, allowed to live their own life?

George: Well, we generally stuck them on the album as well. I mean, it's not like we just wrote a few more songs and made it like 2 EPs together, 'cause it's 13 tracks and the album is like 76 minutes long. But we didn't want them to miss the opportunity the album is gonna get, because we just kind of thought that those tracks dynamically really worked with the album and the guitars were re-recorded and we used guitars with different pick-ups trying to get a bit more bite and it's remastered and stuff.

Yeah, I guess not as many people have heard that EP, so we were really giving them the best opportunity, I suppose. And yes, a different mix. Obviously, the intro [Uprising] is still on the EP if people wanna go back and listen to that. It's weird, it's only like an intro, but some people will tell us it's their favorite song. Quite strange, but… [Laughs]

Tobbe: Like you said, 76 minutes, and that's a little bit longer than one would expect out of a debut record and what actually made it become so extensive?

George: Well, it was just the fact that we had all these songs together and we couldn't pick any to get rid of. We did have to do that and we had some other songs, like "These aren't quite strong.". And obviously having the EP. And we didn't realize at the time that it was quite close to where we needed to put it on a double album and it was like "We can't do that for our first album, surely.".

But it just kind of worked and I think it's just our writing style as well. We don't tend to kind of think too much about the length of the song, like a "Hey! Let's try and make radio-edit songs." kind of thing. It's just like: if the song needs to sort of go off and go quiet and mellow for like 3 minutes and if that feels right "Then let's do it!" and that's just kind of how it is. I think we've taken that onboard in our writing style and we're both into kind of epic music, like film squad type of things as well. So I think that portrays in the length of our songs, definitely.

Tobbe: Besides the intro there's only one song that doesn't reach the 5-minute mark and do you kind of find stuff along the road to implement to the songs all the time so they actually get longer than they originally were?

George: No, it's actually the opposite. Like in a couple of songs we actually, like, chopped choruses in half and we were realizing, you know "This is us kind of repeating ourselves here and it doesn't really need to be in the song again.". Basically, we just go on how it feels, like if it feels like we need to do it, we'll do it. And "Does this need to be 7 and a half minutes long?", like, we were repeating the verse 4 times here or something. You know "We have kind of done this.". So yeah, the total opposite and we came in to reducing it. [Laughs]

Tobbe: So with your first record soon out, is there any pressure within the band to get successful quickly now?

George: Not really. It's no pressure. I mean, when we set out, you know, like every band obviously we had a vision where we were confident in ourselves and our beliefs and writing and stuff. But the last couple of years has been so overwhelming for us, like I kind of think we can wish for much more. Obviously we hope our album is successful and stuff like that. It's our first time signing with a big record label [BMG] and stuff, so we obviously want it to be successful and make them happy and everything.

But everything for us at the moment is so positive and we just won "Best new band" yesterday at the Planet Rock Awards, which was, you know, really, really cool. Wasn't expecting that at all. I don't know, I think things are looking up for us and I'm hoping that the album sort of gets the recognition that we think it deserves.

Tobbe: Who does your music actually address to? Is it to younger people only? Or even older metalheads that have been around for a while?

George: I think we kind of just assumed like that it would be younger guys than us who would be listening to our music, but with the tours we got on, like, you know, we toured with British Lion and stuff, and we toured with [Iron] Maiden, we kind of got a bit of everything and we seem to go down really well. So, I think it kind of spreads across all ages and I think what we said about having melodic vocals has done that for us. But, you know, we've not really done a tour yet where we've played in front of really young crowds, so it'll be interesting to see, you know, if they're actually digging us as well.

Tobbe: So do we have a headlining tour coming some time here?

George: You know, that's another first for us and that's really exciting, but we haven't really thought too much about it yet. I guess we'll sort of see how our touring schedule is for the rest of the year. We got to maybe jump at some point, so. It always will be a scary one. I think, start small and trying to do it up.

Tobbe: Like you said, you're touring with those older bands, and you're out with Anthrax now and how does that work between the bands? I mean, you guys could be their kids obviously.

George: Well, it's cool. 'Cause all these bands have been there and done it and have been in our position, so they know how we're feeling and know how we're feeling about the uncertainty about the future and stuff. You know, so far everyone's been really cool and giving us advice.

For instance, Frank [Bello] and Joey [Belladonna] from Anthrax were popping into our dressing room and asking how it's going and giving us advice about this and that and saying "Oh. Don't worry about it. It's gonna be cool." and it's just really nice to hear from guys that have really become successful at a young age and they're still doing it now.

Tobbe: So what advice do you give them, in a completely different world?

George: To them guys? I don't know about that.

Tobbe: You have to do it like "For the majority of the people the internet has been around for 20 years.". Go tell them that.

George: No, no. I think we're too shy. [Laughs] We don't wanna come across as patronizing and tell them what to do, no. But they know what they're doing and they got some younger guys working for them and doing their social media and stuff. Yeah, they're good.

Tobbe: So what is the most important thing for a band in the early days of their career?

George: It is to just stick to your vision and stick to your guns. It's the advice we got given at an early age. I think it kind of resides throughout your career. It does apply to absolutely every situation you're in, especially as you get more and more stuff coming in and it's more and more people sort of jumping onboard and there's more opinions and changes.

I don't know; just kind of be headstrong and have, you know, the courage to say "No. This is what we set out. This is what we want our band to be.". It really does happen on a daily basis. Even little things, like you're putting on a show at the end of the day and you're on tour and if something is not how you want it you've to make sure that it happens. So stick to your guns. That's the main advice.

Tobbe: You're still young obviously and is this something you wanna do for the rest of your life?

George: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, I mean, what is there that is better to do than create your own music and play in front of people? Obviously we're still just supporting, but already we've seen people singing our songs back to us and there's no better feeling than that. So if you can get that on a larger scale I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing.

Tobbe: But do you even dare to set up a long-term plan, in this time with your first real album soon out?

George: Well, it's a worry I've always had. Our track Promised Land is kind of about that. It's like being a musician and the uncertainty of success, but it's like "Do you throw absolutely everything into it and sort of risk it's not happening?".

But I also think if you don't do that, if you don't put everything into it, then you'd be kicking yourself, thinking "Oh. I wish I'd just given it a little bit extra and focused on it a little bit more and maybe it would have happened.". So at the moment, with the touring schedule for the last couple of years, everyone's quit their day jobs and just really hammer it, so. So we kind of have our fingers crossed at the moment. [Laughs]

Tobbe: And being young musicians and touring Europe and stuff must be like a dream come true for the guys in the band.

George: Yeah, definitely. We've toured pretty extensively over the last couple of years now. It's just so cool to actually see all these different places. And especially in Europe we've been out. You know, not loads, but we've been here a fair few times and we come back to the same places and it's really cool coming back to cities and you kind of know where you're going and you've been to this bar and suggesting other things. Or even seeing similar faces, that you've seen on other shows, coming and watching you and it's really, really cool. It really is no better feeling, really.

Tobbe: Well, we'll see in 40 years when you call it a job instead.

George: Yeah, I guess we'll have to do an interview in another 20 years and see if I say the same thing. [Laughs]

Tobbe: Yeah, keep the spirit, man. So, my final question, and an important, but perhaps silly, one. Why don't you guys have long hair, when playing metal?

George: [Laughs] Well, that's a good question. I think it's just a generation thing and the era we were brought up in. You know, the bands I was looking up to and stuff, not many of them had long hair so it wasn't really like a necessary thing. I guess we were seeing it just like more of an old-school thing. I mean, I have had long hair, and just me personally, my hair is so thick and curly that it didn't really work.

So I cut it down to about my shoulder and I was like "No. I've had enough of this.". [Laughs] It was going out rather than down. So I had that problem, so I just got rid of it. But yeah, you know, we're a 5-piece band and all of us have short hair, so I think it's just for that thing; we've grown up in that era where it doesn't really matter.

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