Rules for Modern Rock – Survival Code Interviewed!

What attracted you to the area of music you work in?

I have always loved playing, writing, and performing music. I also don’t remember there ever being a time or a choice in my life when it came to my love for guitars, rock and drums. Both Tom and I have always gravitated towards the imagery, sound and attitude of all the bands

Growing up I admired the rock bands of the time, we were lucky to grow up when bands like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and The Offspring who were on the radio and TV daily, which helped start the journey for us

That direction ebbed and flowed in and out of metal and punk over the past 15 years to where we  find our sound today. The aim has been to try and find a balance between the bite and musicianship of metal with all the gloss and rock feel of a stadium rock band with great vocals…so no pressure basically 🙂

Tell us about the differences between the music scenes in Dublin and London? How do you think you fit in?

They aren’t a million miles apart even though Dublin is about as big as a borough in London. The rock scene is unequivocally bigger in London as the city is big enough to support so many sub-genres, but the same terrain faces any guitar band in either place

Rock music does feel as if it’s facing an uphill battle to be seen and heard nowadays, especially as the venues keep closing (I read it’s a third in the last 10 years in the UK), and the preferences appear to be for smaller setups, frequently electronic music instead of a live band. So it’s hard to ignore both cities have their issues with venues closing and bands playing in city centres on a weekly basis

In terms of how we fit in, we have never tried to fit in particularly and in the strangest way that’s what’s helped us to find our place in all of this madness. We have been focusing on creating energetic live performances where we leave absolutely nothing on stage. We place a huge emphasis on crafting honest songs with high levels of musicianship in an attempt to satisfy all cravings and find that translates no matter where the place. Give or take preferences of music, we find people are very engaged in our shows as we truly try and offer all of that every time

We also fit in as we have a great great deal of persistence and an ever thicker skin. We are basically created for this terrain, like a an animal adapted over time, a cockroach of sorts…something that somehow manages to always be there no matter what, if they take the venues, we’ll sing on the streets 🙂

You’ve got a huge concert lined up – what would be your dream venue?

Well if you’re giving me an open book and I can interpret as potentially a festival, it would have to be Glastonbury! But seen as though I am based in London for so long, and the highest profile music venue in town is the O2, and rock shows rarely feature these days unless you’re giants like Avenged Sevenfold, it would be an honour to be a rock band playing on that stage these days!

 

Tell us about how you go about creating your music, from initial idea to completion.

Writing songs for us is always the same and follows these steps:

1.A riff is born, a few days or weeks further go into building it, adding extra notes, movements, trying to make it as harmonious and balanced as possible even if you only hear/have a guitar. This is why most of our songs feature 5/6 fret chord stretches, always trying to bring out an extra note underneath that completes the mood or moment.

 

This stage always feels like you’re trying to bring the tune home, as soon as a riff is born, it’s ones responsibility to ensure you fulfil it’s potential and get it to the point it should be/have always been so the pressure is there to make sure it gets to it’s rightful place

 

  1. Once the riff is developed and is near ready, I define what part of the song it is and put it into a setup with intros/verses/bridges/choruses and middle 8’s (or what’s needed for what I’d like to achieve), this helps to give the songs a “skeleton”.

 

3.This structure is the first time I would show Tom and we would jam the song. There are usually a few areas we both feel need work and we discuss those in depth, we go away

 

  1. When we come back I have 3 or 4 options for us based on our chat and we choose one of them and hopefully within that jam we have a finished song of sorts

 

  1. The lyrics

 

The lyrics come after and are sometimes subject to what’s possible with the instrumentation as sometimes an area is too active with guitar and needs a break from singing and sometimes it’s almost impossible to sing, play and move with certain times or patterns so we choose to drop one of the three.

 

The lyrics is one of my favourite part, I tend to take notes everyday as I’m going about life. I find this is the best way to reflect my actual thoughts rather than sitting down as I used in the past with a blank sheet and nice tune after step 4, I rarely ended up in an honest place from that disposition.

The band exists out of a need to write. These songs are a means of coping with the everyday, some of it trivial and some of it profoundly overwhelming. We can all relate to aspects of both I feel. That is what the Survival Code is for me, a vocation, writing and toiling to find answers and I find my best topics are things I have thought about on the tube or at drinks with friends and wrote down immediately trying to capture the notion and it’s essence

 

What equipment do you use (the more information the better – that way we can also target publications relating to specific instruments/brands)

As I started out as a drummer for over 10 years in bands when I took up the guitar in earnest as a front man 6 or so years ago I had a very basic approach to playing. I had a tuner and a distortion pedal and felt proud of that at the time. Having played so many shows, with so many talented people for so many years my position couldn’t be any different these days.

We currently have the most pedals we have ever used despite not currently using our vocal harmony pedal for this release:

MXR GT-OD – Distortion pedal

TC electronic Sub n’up – Sub pedal for low end

TC electronic Mimiq – a doubler

TC electronic Spark volume pedal – volume boost

Polara digitech reverb – reverb pedal

MXR 10 band EQ – eq

Boss Ns-2 – noise suppressor

Boss RC30 loop pedal – loop pedal

To that extent and how busy and active our live performances are, I am currently trying to incorporate a pedal switching system which for me having come from where I have with all the above is like programming Microsoft for the first time :). I am adding the JOYO PXL8 as the switching system and hope to have a video on YouTube soon discussing how it all went with explanations for anyone in the same position or unsure of certain pedals

The guitars that have suited this band best have had active pickups – EMG’s in 90% of the cases and with my passion for metal, we ended up using ESP’s or ESP LTD’s on all the recordings. We have two eclipses, one ESP LTD phoenix 6000 and a seven string baritone ESP LTD SCT601. We had a Gibson and a Fender for some original recordings but the ones i had didn’t live up to these so we have never looked back

Amps, we have similarly journeyed through heavier more classic and found our feet recently in the form of “Mesa Boogie mini rectifier” versus an Orange Dual Terror or ENGL Powerball

Other bits : Pedal Train pedal board

Shure Wireless guitar tuner and system

We use a wireless in-ear system too and my favourite recent purchase SHURE SE315s which are real quality in ear monitors

Tell us about how you came to your current line-up

Heartbreak 🙂

We have been on a member merry go round for 3 years and it’s been so frustrating! Now that we’re here (as a duo) it makes a lot of sense but was never the intention.

To hit the background again quickly, *cue 50’s comedy music

We started as 4-piece, became three for our debut album for creative control. We got a new guitarist for the launch of the album after recording and he turned out needing to go to rehab a few months after starting completely derailing our release and gigs.

We then got a new bassist (Pete gave us months notice in fairness before leaving) and a manger to make a proper start of the new chapter. Just after recording the EP with a string of dates for the year our new bassist that replaced Pete left to join the band Total Chaos – which at the time was heartbreaking  for the release period and gigs booked. We completely understand though and are still good mates with Chema, he just couldn’t turn it down. The manager I mentioned was the nail in the coffin of that release as he ran away with 4 months work and no product and hadn’t been seen or heard of since

This lead us to want to get a new bassist or stop really. We got a new lad in who was very talented and with us for 10 months. Ultimately it wasn’t until we were in the studio recording the new album that it became apparent all the things he signed up for at the start (which we are overly clear on), he could do about 60% in each aspect… which for what we needed it was never going to work

We entered the studio with a very purist approach – we only wanted aspects on the record we could reproduce live. That went out the window when we recorded “Same Skin”. It was an afternoon recording session when it was me and the two producers coming up with every and any vocal harmony for the end and the song felt complete, for the first time… we had to have them

So began the discussions of how do we use backing tracks

When the bass issue arose with the member we had already decided how and what to put on backing. So I recorded the bass parts over a few days and we put them on the backing too

So our duo was possible, and born

 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a two-piece?

Never waiting. Never being late. Knowing where we stand. Being on the same wavelength for the first time as a unit ( changing bassists and constantly showing old songs when you’re writing new ones leaves an odd atmosphere in the band and we had that for over two years )

The major and only disadvantage is the lack of spontaneity. Everything is so much more planned now and even when we’re writing new tunes we’re subject to recording the bass tracks and getting them spot on before we can get the real idea

 

Tell us about the inspiration and making of the videos which accompanies your tracks

We’ve been lucky to make a number of cool videos in the past and we’ve worked with a number of talented people and companies. This time though we wanted more control of the overall feel and communication in our vids – so we decided to make them ourselves

It is important for us to have the right amount of humour in them as we don’t want to take ourselves too seriously, but ideally the narrative is captivating and the performance energetic, hoping to show some of our best assets as a band. I expect the coming videos to have a similar feel to “Not Working”, watch this space

 

What would be your ultimate aim in the industry?

We need to get one song that cracks the main stream in some meaningful way so we can play festivals of our choosing every summer for the rest of our days 😀

What can we expect from your forthcoming album?

Powerful sounds, beautiful melodies, active guitar and drum work without that doesn’t smother the tracks.

The tunes pack a punch and we explore new feels and harmonies along with keeping everything super catchy with solid beats

A very united offering and theme. The name of the album also came after and we couldn’t be happier with it for it reflects what we’ve been through which clearly bled into the songs, so apparent now in hindsight but at the time we really struggled to pick a fitting name and from the above I’m sure you can relate to the HOPELESSNESS OF PEOPLE

A tightness and overall feel we have not come close to on any other offering to date. It helped that we went from 18 songs to 12 on the final album so we had time to select the right songs that worked i the offering

We also can’t believe how it sounds post master and we’re struggling to find another album either of us have that’s louder or clearer which is all down to Matt Hyde (Slipknot, Funeral for a Friend, Trivium). Matt mastered our first album “MMXV” but we never worked with him, we were introduced by our producer on that album John Merriman

We came to Matt last February after a long standing arrangement with the producer Simon Efemey fell through at the last minute. He threw himself into it helping on every level, the album wouldn’t sound the same without him

 

What sets you apart from other bands?

Survivability: back to that cockroach thing 🙂

As I was saying we have played with so many talented bands over the years that aren’t here any more due to the usual pressures. Growing up, jobs, members, money, direction… You could go on, the reasons to stop outweigh the reasons to keep going a lot of the time

We’ve been lucky that we’ve been able to stick to our ideals in our writing and creative process. We’ve been allowed and enabled to make the mistakes and learn the hard way

 

Is there anything you would like people to know about your new single?

I always encourage people to take what they can from a song no matter what it’s original intention so not sure if there’s a need to dictate the feeling. Having said that the title isn’t keeping too many secrets in fairness, so I suppose the new single is just about putting your hand up and letting anyone/someone know if it’s not working for you. Not endorsing full scale rebellions or riots here, more meaningful discourse and articulating an issue. It feels all too often that we’re all passengers and too polite to say how we really feel or what’s needed and “Not Working” is the “full-stop” in a normal day, that hopefully sets a course of change

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