Pantheon is arguably the most “metal” band in York. What does that mean exactly? Well put simply, their pure mix of classic, no-frills thrash-influenced sounds is probably the heaviest, hardest (and most positive) around North Yorkshire. The hard working band have entertained crowds across the UK over their time together, and now with their collective sight firmly set on Europe we thought it would be a great time to chat with Matt Dawson (guitar), Simon Dawson (vocals and bass), Danny Richardson (guitar) and drummer Andy Hayes about plans for the future…
“Every time we get on stage now, I feel great” – Simon Dawson
S] How has it been for the band forming in York?
MD] “It’s been a long process. York’s metal scene is small any way, and we formed four-or-five years ago in college. We started off in Stereo [back when it was Certificate18] and gigged in York for about a year and then used the next year to refine our songwriting style before taking ourselves out of York and touring – we have had a few line-up changes since, so it’s been challenging but we feel like we have the best line-up possible now. We have become a lot more confident as a band and it shows because in the last few years we have played all of the major cities in this country. Our advice to any other band in York is to just get out of the city and perform as much as you can”
S] How about your sound – how do you define it?
AH] “We feel like we have a very unique sound.”
MD] “For us it is hard to define because I am not always comfortable with people calling us a ‘thrash metal’ band. It’s hard to break through that though and show people that we are different.”
SD] “We are just playing the kind of music that we like and we have been doing that for the last four years. There is a heavy thrash influence. Over time, people have said to us: ‘Oh, we can’t put you in a box with a genre – are you thrash or heavy metal?’ my reply is always that we are simply a metal band. We like to play heavy music and we have never gone for a specific niche.”
S] What kind of bands inspired you when you started out?
MD] “From a playing point of view, I learned guitar from Iron Maiden and 80s metal bands like Judas Priest. As a player I take influence from things like Eric Clapton – so, I’m not just into heavier music but in terms of writing songs and contributing to a sound, as a band we have been very influenced by the new wave of British heavy metal-type bands [NWOBHM]. We have a certain standard when it comes to writing music, but we don’t always know where the inspiration for that will come from.”
DR] “Yeah, myself and Matt can be sat watching something like Blackadder, or be sat out in the garden and something will come to us. Or, it could come when one of us is on the loo! Back in the day, we would just throw riffs into a song, and sometimes songs meant to be four minutes have turned into ones that are over six – we’ve thrown a few away because we are always pushing ourselves to do better.”
SD] “It’s a mix of all of our influences. It’s hard to answer a question about what we sound like and I think that could make our road a but longer because we can’t be ‘sold’ as a set product. We could sit down and ‘box ourselves up’ but we don’t want to do that. For our most popular song [‘Blade Runner’], I had been listening to a lot of Van Halen and cheesy 80’s stuff – the song-writing process is very spontaneous.”
S] What’s the writing process like for something like ‘Blade Runner’?
MD] “The song usually begins as a main riff which has been collaborated on by two of us, then we will work out a structure. With ‘BladeRunner’, I even remember the point where we thought that it could be a song! Mike had been playing a random beat and I was jamming on the guitar and we built the chorus and everything else from there. So, we built the chorus, then Simon came up with the verse-structure before Dan came up with some parts. One of us comes up with a small idea, and then the rest add on to that.”
AH] “We always seem to do vocals last though!”
SD] “Yeah, we had written the vocals first for that one though, and then had a rough idea that it was going to be about the film. We took the introduction to the film – listen to that, and you will hear the beginning of our song. Most of them take about six hours to write because we all have an input on songs, no matter who comes in with the first idea.”
S] What about the songs on ‘No Way Out’, your latest EP – how do you feel about those now?
MD] “Yeah, we have dropped a lot of our older songs. It’s important for us to not get too attached to songs because we have found better songs within the new EP – they’ve got better structure, they make more sense and are more fun to play. We feel that we have found ‘the sound’ we have been looking for. The latest EP is a collection of our most confident songs.”
S] How have your goals changed over your time together as a band?
MD] “I think that we have just become a lot more realistic. We started off thinking that we just needed to get out of York.”
SD] “I think that we have all realised how much time and effort this is going to take. When I started out, I wanted to be headlining Wacken in a year’s time! We still have sky-high dreams about what we want to do, but we are being more realistic. The drive and reason for doing it, because we love the music hasn’t changed. We have just grown up a bit.”
MD] “At this point in time, we feel confident and ready that we can move forward as a band – tours, and whatever. We are ready to do it all.”
SD] “We are learning new stuff as we go. We’re thinking out the quality of our recordings more now and making sure they are up to ‘industry standard’ – we are very much a live band, though. So, we need to play to bigger crowds. We love being on-stage.”
S] What do you enjoy most about touring?
MD] “Stopping off at a service station having a fry-up.”
SD] “Driving out of Newcastle cooking tea in the back of a van!”
MD] “It get the buzz from playing to a completely new crowd who haven’t seen us before – it’s a new reaction every time and if we can keep getting a decent reaction from every crowd, then we know that we are doing something good.”
SD] “If someone says to us that they enjoyed our set, then that means the most to us. For every down-point, when that happens, it makes it all worthwhile.”
S] Have you had a defining moment so far?
SD] “The best thing for me has been getting this line-up together. Now, every time that we get on-stage, I feel like we can ‘do it’. We can look to the future and be excited now.”
MD] “The tour with the Skull Branded Pirates was great for us!”
AH] “I’ve made no mistakes during shows, so that’s great! I’ve been playing to my full potential. I don’t know yet. It’s good to play to a decent crowd.”
DR] “We promoted a metal show at The Junction in York – it was the first time we had done anything like that, and we managed to get over 120 people in. We were in college back then, and we were really inspired from that, to take things forward with the band.”
S] You seem to have created a very good network for yourselves in terms of becoming friends with bands outside of York in areas like Hull, Leeds and Manchester, are there any bands you are particularly impressed with right now?
SD] “There is a band called Risen Prophecy from Sunderland that we gigged with in Newcastle recently – we really clicked with them because they had the same ideas and attitudes. It’s good to have bands around with the same attitude. You get bands who are arrogant about their position, but it is important to be professional and modest about success.”
MD] “We now promote gigs ourselves regularly, and it is important to incorporate one band from out of town so that they can help us out in their town. We are all in the same boat and we’re trying to get out there. People say that they enjoy playing with us.”
AH] “There’s not really much of a metal scene to support in York, but there’s no excuse, because it’s got castles!”
S] What do you want to achieve in 2011?
SD] “We are seriously looking at going to Germany to do some gigs because we want to get out of this country. There’s a different attitude towards metal in Germany. We’ve got regular gigs out of town planned. We are always writing stuff, so there might be some new material as well.”
DR] “Ideally, we want to be supporting bigger bands in bigger venues.”
MD] “We know that we will get more notoriety if we can just stick at it. We are always looking at ways to improve.”
S] How have you dealt with the challenges that you have had to face?
DR] “I think that getting a different line-up was probably the biggest challenge.”
AH] “One of the biggest as a band is learning as a band to ‘find our own sound’ and to work with each other. It’s challenging to find a group of people with this kind of dedication.”
MD] “I think no matter what problems we face, it’s important for us to ‘stick at it’. People will always have mixed opinions, and I think that’s the biggest advice I could offer to someone else in a band around here – just keep going, no matter what.”
S] What do you look to for lyrical inspiration?
SD] “Personally, I will be in to a band, and I can listen to them quite heavily and then parts of that bands style will make it in to our songs. Like, one of our new songs called ‘1509’ is influenced by a band called Runnin’ Wild – they have a different sound, and so we thought it would be cool to incorporate elements of that into the track.”
DR] “You can tell. If someone listens to that band and then our song, they will understand the influence.”
SD] “Sometimes, the inspiration can come from the lyrics. One of the new songs is called ‘Minotaur’ – we got a banner with a Minotaur on it, and so we decided to write something. So, we based it on that rough story of ‘Theseus And The Minotaur’ – when we are writing the lyrics and wanted to experiment by incorporating a big solo section when the Minotaur dies. We are quite keen on the whole story-telling idea. We have a mixture of songs – some of them are very opinion-based and our early stuff was heavily focused on the war in Iraq because that was what happened when we formed. Sometimes we like to have ‘fantasy’-type songs, and then on others we like to make a point. The best song to come out of our early years is ‘Arena Of Invasion’ – the lyrics are pretty harsh – a lot of bands do it, but we really had something to say: ‘oil and greed just breed pain, likes and gain.’ So, that’s what it’s all about. The reason we chose our name was to open up our association with mythology.”
S] If you could rip out the soundtrack to any film and replace it with the sounds of Pantheon, what would you pick?
SD] “We were talking about ‘Sleepy Hollow’ recently – I hate the film but it’s not a bad story…or ‘Rambo 4’ – it can’t just be guns and killing though. There’s got to be a bit of a story to it.”
DR] “What about ‘Troy’? The Brad Pitt version.” [all laugh]
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