The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster are doing things differently. There’s no other way to phrase it, really. Playing York in May of 2010 you would never have guessed the group has been out of the limelight for six years battling a variety of personal issues including drug addiction alongside label and line-up changes. After we catch up with them, the frenzied live show and unique energy drives them forward through an hour-and-a-half of chaotic alterna-post-punk-rockabilly-avant-garde-flavoured anthems to the delight of a dedicated northern crowd. Before the show, we managed to grab vocalist Guy Mcknight, guitarist Dom Knight and bassist Sym Gharial for a quick chat about the themes behind their latest album, ‘Blood And Fire‘.
“It was almost like we had come full circle to start again”
S] How’s the tour been so far guys – what’s been the most positive experience?
Sym] [all laugh] To be honest I think that the most positive thing has been being able to catch up on the Inspector Clouseau films that we haven’t been able to watch recently. We haven’t been watching them, just acting them out!
Guy] Yeah, ‘The Pink Panther Strikes Again‘ is a particularly good one in case anybody hasn’t watched it yet.
S] It’s been a while since we have seen you on tour but, what do you enjoy most about playing northern venues?
Dom] I think the north is great to tour. There are some amazing cities and the majority of the crowds up here have been really responsive and very friendly to us. This has been the most positive leg of the tour.
Guy] I think that people in the north are a lot less concerned about just looking cool. They seem to really get into the music.
Dom] That’s true. People seem really genuine as well. If they don’t like you up here, they will make it known, but when they love it seem to feel it more.
S] Is there a song from the new record, ‘Blood And Fire’ that you feel defines where you are at as a band at the moment?
Sym] I really don’t think that it would even be possible. [laughs] I couldn’t pick one. We are proud of the whole thing. There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears during the making of it, but I am really looking forward to writing the next album now. The new album sounds really fresh and new to us, and so it will to anybody that hasn’t heard it, but yeah, we are just looking forward to going back into the studio to write some new material.
Dom] Personally, ‘Mission From God‘ is my favourite track off of the new album to play live, ‘So Long Goodnight‘ is not as fun to play but it’s a great one to listen to. I also love ‘Homemade‘ because even thought it feels very weird to play live because it is so slow, musically and lyrically it’s my favourite track.
S] How is the inspiration different for this album, in contrast to 2004’s ‘The Royal Society’ in terms of the ideas and influences that led to its creation – you recorded in France, how was that?
Guy] I think that it was heavily influenced by people’s mental breakdowns had a lot to do with its general vibe. While we were recording in France, we were based in a village and you really needed a car to get around and none of us could drive. As a result we suffered quite a lot from cabin fever. I watched a lot of the David Lynch series called ‘Twin Peaks‘ and also much of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation‘, and those things were a big influence for me.
Sym] We had written most of it by the time that we had got there but it was a really interesting experience for us. For me, because I wasn’t drinking or doing any drugs, that was new. I was going slightly insane just trying to go to bed for about 10 at night like everyone else.
S] How was recording this album different to working on previous records?
Sym] It was very different. For starters we didn’t even have a producer and our lead guitarist Tristan‘s brother produced it. We really were left to our own devices for the recording of this album which was really exciting in a lot of ways.
S] What was the turning point for you then, when you decided that it really was time to “get back in the game” so to speak?
Sym] I think that, once I pulled myself back from the brink of death I said to everybody in the band, ‘Look, we need to put an album out to people even if it has got no songs on it,” but it took a lot longer than I thought it would. We had a load of songs and we wrote some more after Tristan joined the band – it was a really intensive rehearsal period for us and then we went in to record. After that though, we had to wait a while to get it ready because Guy was in a film that was set in the south of France.
S] That was a leading role, right Guy?
Guy] I had a stunt-man and everything. I landed the role through pure good fortune. I think we played in Paris back in 2003 and the film’s director was in the audience. He stayed in touch with me and in 2007, that led to me going over to Vladivostok in Russia to create a short film. What I did back then he didn’t find offensive so he then asked me to play the lead in a feature-length film which we shot last year. It comes out this year and our music is going to be used in it as well. It’s called ‘La Succession Strakhov‘ [Strakhov’s Succession].
S] What’s been the band’s defining moment throughout its history?
Guy] I think the most important times for us have also been the most intense times, where we have had a period of struggle. For example, splitting with our manager of seven years and then Rich Fownes [former lead guitarist] and Tristan joining, also Marc Norris [former rhythm guitarist] leaving and Dom joining. All of these difficulties have been there to help us grow.
S] Do you have a favourite memory from your history as a band?
Sym] This might sound obvious but my favourite memory is the first time that we ever played a gig. When we started, this band was just a fantasy. It was something that we talked a lot about but never really did anything. Nobody in Brighton would believe we were in a band.
Guy] They just thought we were fools!
Sym] Yeah, we used to get called ‘the baconheads’ [laughs]. I think as well as just playing a gig, getting to tour with Queens Of The Stone Age was pretty amazing – every night with them was just really good. Those are the memories that I can think of off the top of my head along with just getting to the point of being able to put this album out. It was almost like we had come full circle to start all over again, just waiting for this album to be released. It got the point where we were saying, ‘is it ever going to come out?‘ So, it has been quite rewarding seeing it in HMV – I thought it was a mirage at first!
Guy] Yeah, it’s tucked away in the darkest corner!
S] You’ve said that you are working on a new full-length album already, after the gap between your last ones what inspired you to begin writing again so quickly?
Sym] It was never that we stopped writing, it was just that we were doing it in fits and starts. Why it took five years though, I cannot put my finger on. I think the plan is to try and get one out for next May. Everyone has got their own songs to contribute but getting us all to agree on things can take a very long time.
S] Dom, since we have you here, what has it been like for you joining the band and how was your perception before you joined different to what it is now?
Dom] I had been interested in the band since I was about 14-years-old. I have always been a musician, and I have never felt just like a fan that’s come along and knows the songs. I think these guys appreciate what I have done in the past and what I am still doing. Being in this band is surprisingly normal and it chills me out. It feels like we are on a path and that we’re going the right way. Touring together has been good, but tiring. It’s a nice experience seeing parts of the country that I’ve never seen and also being able to spend time with people that I’ve admired – it feels right really.
S] For Guy and Sym, how well are you getting on with the new members and how has it been recording with them and bonding?
Guy] I don’t know really. Sometimes it’s like we get on like a house on fire and sometimes it is like we are all trying to get out of the house before we burn to death.
Dom] That’s what a band is though. It’s a collection of people just trying to survive.
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