Interview with Imperial Vipers

You have just been on a huge UK tour. Where have you been playing?

We’ve done about 30 or so shows as headliners beginning in February at Reading and we continued right up until the middle of May where we finished at Worksop and covered just about every inch of the UK on the way. We’re going to have a couple of weeks off before going back out on the road with Hanoi Rocks and Ginger from the Wildhearts.

It must have been quite a daunting prospect to cover so much ground over such a short period of time?

Yeah, well I was actually looking forward to it big time before we started. If you take it day by day it doesn’t seem that bad, but if you look at it and “think bloody hell there’s a lot of gigs there” then it can seem a bit more daunting, but really I just look forward to playing. We were touring to promote the singles that we had released and for our debut album, Searching: Falling: Silence, which has just come out. We’ve been playing a lot of stuff from our album as well as some things we’ve just recorded that aren’t on there and even a cover or two. We’d been playing “Search and Destroy” by Iggy and the Stooges at some shows so it’s kept things interesting for us and also for the fans who’ve come and seen us a few times.

Was that your first tour as headliners?

We’ve done some headline dates last year, but a lot of time it’s better to do as many shows as possible as main support to other bands. We’ve played with The Towers of London; we go drinking with them quite a bit! We’ve played shows with Dogs D’Amour and Dan Baird from The Georgia Satellites and, of course, we have the dates coming up with Hanoi Rocks and Ginger. It’s all about getting out there and getting yourselves known, and hopefully people come along and catch our set and like what they see.

What do you do on your days off to relax?

I sleep quite a bit!!! But really, on our days off we still do a lot of work promoting the band, or we’re in the rehearsal rooms working on new material, or sharpening our set up, so it’s pretty full on at the moment with the new album out and all of the shows to play … so there’s not a lot of time off at all.

Is this the tour that in 10 years time you’ll be looking back on, all misty eyed about travelling the country in a battered old transit van?

Ha!! Yeah, we have to pay our dues you know but hopefully this will be the start of something big for us.

Is there anyone you’d like to go out on tour with now that your album is released?

We’d like to tour with The Backyard Babies at some point .. that would be a good tour … or The Hellacopters or The Datsuns. If I could pick and choose, though, I’d have to go for the Chili Peppers, to be honest. They are doing a few dates in England in the summer and it would be great to land a slot on those shows. Not only would we get to play with a great band, but the exposure we would get would be amazing. I think we’d go down well with their fans.

Have you played outside of the UK?

Yeah, we’ve played at the Bercy Stadium in Paris as headliners at the Kone Funboard Festival in front of 10,000 people. We came down from the ceiling in a kind of boxing ring-sized stage that was lowered down from the lighting rig which, was a bit surreal. We’ve also played at the X-Treme Sports Exhibition at Disneyland in Paris, and we’ve toured through the Czech Republic, and me and Ash have done some acoustic stuff over in Australia at a residency that we had over there, and that was a lot of fun.

How do you psyche yourself up prior to going on stage?

We have like a little ritual before we go on, which we do before every gig. It’s usually a rousing speech to get us all pumped up before the show. Once we do that, everyone is really focused. Most of the shows have been packed out so it’s easy to be up for that, but you get the odd duff show where it hasn’t been promoted well and the turn out isn’t too good. Most bands can put on a good show before a receptive audience, but when the chips are down we still have to play our guts out and put on a great show for the punters who have turned up — that’s what makes a great band.

The press coverage has been quite impressive, as well as coverage in the Rock press, the national newspapers, and even the BBC have taken notice. For a band who have just released their debut album, this is quite impressive. What do you make of it all?

We totally believe in what we’re doing. We’ve played the length and breadth of the country in a transit van and feel that we’ve put in the hard work and hopefully that’s reflected in the great coverage we’ve been getting. We’re just grateful that people have gone to the trouble to write such great things about us.

There are those that will say it’s a case of another over-hyped band who will fail to make the grade. What have you got that the others haven’t?

We are a totally honest band and we work flat out on our live show and leave the stage at the end of the night totally exhausted. If you’re totally honest about everything then you can justify that hype. The other night this guy came to us and said that we were the best band he had ever seen, which was great, then again we might’ve been the first band that he’s seen, (ha!). It’s nice to hear that sort of thing, but we do totally believe in what we are doing and when we go on stage supporting bigger bands, we do our utmost to upstage them. It just gives us more incentive to put on a great show, but at the same time we’re not big Rock ‘n’ Roll stars and we appreciate everyone that comes to the show and appreciate those people who write about our shows and our music.

How did you first get together?

Me and the bass player Bim are brothers and that’s always a good start. The rest of the band are mates, we’re all friends going back years. In fact we were mates before we could even play guitars. It’s always felt right being this way. I was talking to someone the other day and he said that he only became mates with his band once they were in the band together. I thought that was a bit strange, then again to him our set up might be pretty strange too!

You spent some time recently over in Australia. What made you give up the sun of Australia for the wind and rain of Dunstable?

Me and Ash had no money and we had to do something when we were over in Australia. I was talking to Ash in the toilet of this bar that we were in, saying that we would need to play somewhere to make some money and this guy overheard us and said that we could come and play in his bar and he would set everything up for us. He gave us free accommodations and free drinks and we had a residency in Bondi in Sydney.

We had tickets to see the Chili Peppers one night and we heard that The Hellacopters were playing in a small club but fortunately The Hellacopters were going to be playing after the Chili Peppers finished their set so we got to see both. Anyway, after those shows I just knew that I had to be in a band and that was what I wanted to do with my life. We thought about staying over in Australia, but thought a move back to England would be a better place to start up the band.

How did you feel when you finally had your first single pressed and ready to sell?

I just wanted to get on and do more and get the album out.

We did a lot of hard work to get to that point. We had to round the rest of the boys up as Corky was in Thailand and Ash stayed in Australia for a bit longer. We eventually all came back and started writing songs acoustically and working with Dave Allen, who had worked with The Cure. He took us as far as he could, and we started working with other people to sharpen us up. We started booking gigs and playing, playing, and playing. We signed a deal with Eminence Records last year and recorded our first album in two weeks on a bit of a budget. Geoff Pesche, who has worked with Rammstein, mastered that and the album Searching: Falling: Silence was released at the end of April.

Have you heard yourself on the radio yet?

No, I haven’t, but some of the other lads heard us on XFM a while back but I missed it! Bruce Dickinson has played some of our stuff on his Rock show too. It’s good to see English bands getting some good coverage in the media. We don’t really fit in with what’s happening at the moment. There’s a big Indie scene around here, but I’m not prepared to change my style just to fit in with what’s popular.

Your last single “Jewels” is quite a different style to the previous single “Promised Land.” “Jewels” has a more Punk/Rock ‘n’ Roll type of vibe whereas “Promised Land” has a more Classic Rock groove to it. Is this diversity typical of the material you are writing?

Oh, yes, big time. I think the live show is varied. It ain’t all Metal and it ain’t all Punk. I think that comes down to the different influences in the band. We all share the same core bands like AC/DC, but at the minute Vim is listening to a lot of American Punk stuff like Rancid. We have quite an eclectic mix with everything from Monster Magnet through to Frankie Goes To Hollywood, who gets a few spins in the van every now and then. I think that those diverse tastes have rubbed off on the music that we write.

The acoustic version of “Jewels” is so different to the electric version that you’d think it was a different band. Do you tend to write on acoustic guitar and then give the song the full electric treatment?

I normally play on this tiny little Marshall amp thing and work around the riff and chords, and I work on that then take it to the band and it’ll be two thirds done, and then the boys can like knock it into shape and put their mark on it. A good song should be able to work acoustically though.

With “Jewels,” we did that there and then in the studio, it was kind of made up on the spot. We went into the studio hoping to do something different and we came out with a new arrangement to the song. We didn’t just want to swap electric guitars with acoustic guitars, we wanted to entirely rework the song. I think it has a bit of a Fleetwood Mac vibe to it. I don’t know how that will go down with the hard rockers, but it is another feather in our cap and shows that we can do a variety of material. We don’t do that sort of stuff live, though, we’d rather be more Punk Rock or Hard Rock at our shows. The set is a lot more punky and punchy now. I’ve changed guitars and am now using a Gibson SG instead of a Les Paul and Corky is using a Grestch. I think that makes a big difference to our sound.

So why did you change the type of guitars you have been playing?

Well, I’ve just had a back operation and the Les Paul was too heavy, that’s as good a reason as any!!! Corky, preferred the Grestch as it has a harder, grittier sound, and has more bass to it. The SG has more attack to it … it’s more in your face and it suits the sound of the band; it gives us a more of an aggressive sound.

Searching: Falling: Science has just been released. What can we expect from this?

The songs are very diverse but there’s no ballads or acoustic stuff. It’s punchy and in you face but, there is plenty of variety on there and we cover a few different styles.

The album is being produced by Stuart Epps who has worked with such varied artists as Twisted Sister, Bad Co., Chris Rea, Elton John, and Robbie Williams. How did you hook up with him?

Someone from our label met him and asked him to help us out. He basically came in and pressed a few buttons. We already had the songs done and finished and he just had to record them. Next time I think we’d like someone who could come along and pull things about a bit and work us hard to bring the best out of us. Stuart was really the person who was the connection with the band and the engineer so he didn’t really have that much input into the songs. We just wanted to catch the vibe of the band within the time that we had. We didn’t want to spend days and days getting the right drum sound or anything like that.

Who would you ideally like to work with on your next album?

I’d love to work with Rick Rubin, I know that’s shooting for the stars a bit, but you never know, or Trent Reznor would be someone else I’d like to work with. They could look at our songs from a different view point and get us to try new things rather than someone that would just sit back and say “Yeah! that sounds great!!” and move on to the next piece.

How long has the recording process taken?

I think we took about two weeks to record the whole album. We didn’t want to spend ages perfecting every little thing, otherwise we would have lost the vibe of the album.

How many songs are on the finished album? There’s 12 on the album and a few other songs that were recorded in our acoustic session. We moved into this converted farmhouse, which was a recording studio, and recorded six acoustic versions of our songs, and we even had a mouth organ player in to add something a bit different to them. They’ll be used for free downloads, B-Sides, and stuff like that.

What’s the strongest song on the album?

I like “The Streets of California” — it’s just the way it comes across, Ash’s vocals comes over great on that one. I really like it. I’m very pleased with how the album has turned out. If we could do the album again, of course I’d do things differently. I think most bands would say that, but I’m happy with it and it’s a snapshot of where we were at the time.

Imperial Vipers is a great name for a band …who came up with it?

I’ve always liked the name “Viper.” It’s got a great sound to it, and I think the name is really fitting for what we do. I just liked the name.

Where does the name Wev come from?

My second name is Weverley, so it just came from there. That’s all I’m known as really. When we were doing the album they asked us whether we were going to put our “real names” on there, but we just wanted to use the names that people know us by, so it’s Wevs, Ash, Corky, Bim, and Lofty!!

What’s your involvement with Luton Town F.C.?

The whole band are behind Luton Town F.C., the other guys are more into it than me, but we’ve been fans for a long time and get to quite a few games if we can. We finished just short of the Play-Offs this year, but hopefully we can do better next year and with any luck get back into the Premier League, mind you we desperately need a new stadium though. I don’t want to be playing at that stadium when we hit the big time.

What have you got lined up for the rest of the year?

Well, we have the dates with Hanoi Rocks coming up and we’ll probably play more shows throughout the year, but we’d love to get out and over to America, but at the moment we need to crack it over in the UK. Last year we played over 100 shows in the UK, so we need to keep on working to keep increasing our profile, and things have been going really well for us and we’ve been getting some great press and it all helps, so we just have to keep working hard and build on what we have already achieved.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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