Silent Front are truly phenomenal, punching out beautiful songs based around staccato beats, passion and a raging guitar. Influences range from the obvious likes of Fugazi to the more esoteric. This interview was done at the Bull and Gate in Kentish Town, London during the summer of 2004.
RN: First of all do you wanna do names and introductions.
RN: Anyway do you wanna do names and intros?
Phil: I’m Phil, Mann, and I play guitar and I sing.
Russell: I’m Russell Whitehorn and I play the bass.
Dean: I’m Dean and I play drums.
RN: How’s the band going?
Phil: At the moment the bands been going really good. It’s just picking up. We just played a show with Million Dead and that was quite a big thing for us and with the Rocksound connection they have been really good to us recently, so a lot of stuff has kinda come out of that. It’s been good for us. We’ve got a lot of gigs coming out and the EP which is coming out is on Genin. We’ve had a lot of feedback from that as well and every review we’ve had so far has been good so we’ll wait till the bad ones start coming in… (laughs)
RN: With like your demos and stuff you’ve been putting out I’ve been really surprised at how well done they were. I mean like the cases and the packaging as well. Are you putting quite a lot of your own money into that?
Phil: Yeah, but a lot of its done through friends as well. Its quite a friendly network. The guy who done our cover for our demo was a school friend. They are all at university and stuff like that. Wayne who recorded it…
Russel: And the EP artwork came from another friend. And we had this idea to do a whole load of different designs and kind of mess ‘em all together and try and make them all fit, and our friend just did this really amazing image for us.
Phil: Have you sent the artwork yet?
RN; I haven’t seen the new artwork.
Phil: It was originally like a black photo which was taken by a school friend of ours again. Its all very incestuous. (laughs) And Jason – this friend – played around with it a little bit and it looked really cool. I’m really pleased with it. It’s al through friends really. Our group of friends all kinda help each other out and do each other favours for helping them so that’s the main thing for us.
Russell: We were lucky as well because we’ve had a lot of help from Wayne who used to be in Ursa. He’s helped us out a lot.
RN: One thing I was going to ask was if you’d found it difficult to get shows, because with the exception of maybe Ursa, and now Bullet Union, there aren’t that many similar bands to you in London?
Phil: That’s a good question, man. (laughs)
RN: Like coming from Kingston who were you able to go to and ask to play on their bill?
Phil: yeah, basically for a long time when me and Russell were mucking about we were still doing a similar sort of stuff but its only recently when dean’s joined that we’ve really kinda gone for it.
Russell: By recently he means about two years. Three maybe. (laughs)
Phil: There have been a lot of bands that have come out like Bullet Union maybe and stuff like that. Its been a bit hard at first but recently its been fucking awesome because there are some really good bands that maybe a lot of people haven’t heard yet and then a lot of them are also friends of ours.
Dean: We’ve played loads of gigs with Birds of Paradise.
RN: How many gigs have you played with them now?
Dean: About twelve.
Phil: Yeah we’ve played with them lots. We like their energy.
RN: Oh, yeah I was gonna ask about what its like starting out as a band in Kingston just in general?
Phil: Its pretty hard. Obviously one thing being that there aren’t many bands around that are of a similar style. And also at the same nu-metal was about so it was pretty hard.(laughs) And them ‘emo’. To try and blend in with things like that… like if people are listening to dum dum rah, dum dum rah… You know if you have a 6/4 beat no ones gonna listen to you because its not like the norm. But I’m not saying we are like amazing technical or anything…
Dean: I reckon though… I think its down to … like when we used to play at the Peel quite a lot there would also be that nu metal crowd but there would always be maybe 4 or 5 people who would come up to you and go ‘oh you remind me of Shellac’ or something a bit more… more sort of bands that maybe people didn’t hear so much but think they can hear that influence in us. we were all into totally different bands. But we all play together, and try and bring all the influences together.
Russel: We’ve got the same core…
Phil: Yeah, we have the same core of music but then…
Russel: Well you love Tool and I hate them. (laughs)
RN: For someone that didn’t know you what would you say you sound like and what would you say your influences are.
Russel : progressive punk
Phil: Yeah progressive punk rock I’d say.
Dean: I think main influences are like the Fugazi, Shellac style bands…A lot of that sort of stuff.
Russel: Anything with a bit of balls to it.
Phil: I think like the Melvins are in there as well. I think me and Russel are attracted to really earthy sort of raw guitar sounds. I think if you listen to our EP that you can hear that coming through.
RN: Completely on a tangent but being you’re smoking right now what do you think of Ken Livingston (the mayor of London) wanting to ban smoking in public places?
Phil: (Iaughs) Go on Russ.
Russell: Umm, I just think, it is difficult and I agree there should be more designated areas and stuff but I think its against your human rights surely.
Phil: I dunno. I think in a way it’s a good thing, in a way it’s a bad thing. I smoke so I can’t really talk. I probably wouldn’t go to the pub as much and drink so much and smoke as well. So probably in the long run yeah it’s a good thing. (laughs)
Russel: you’ll just see people drinking outside…
Phil: Yeah maybe. if they had a way for people to just go and drink outside … but you’ve got to wear about ten coats in the winter.
RN: I figured I’d drop it in there. Ok. Well I mean what are you hoping to achieve in the band. Is there any particular message you want to put across or is it just really your own sort of catharsis.
Phil: for us as a band I think we just wanna play and get this sort of release….
Russel: Yeah it’s more just about going all out.
Dean: If people like it then they like, if they don they don’t….
Russel: I think we’re just about playing to people, and even if you play to a crowd who don’t like you it’s still cool. And if you get just one person that comes up to you still get exactly the same feeling as if everybody came up to you.
Dean: It’s a lot less crowded too. (laughs)
its just about playing really. And if someone… I doubt very strongly that we are gonna have someone coming from Sony and approach us and ask us for a deal.
Russel: That’s not gonna happen.
Phil: We just enjoy playing. If people like it then they like it, if they don’t then they don’t.
Russel: A lot of my favourite bands I had to search to find out about them. I mean I’d heard their names maybe through a friend, but every band I’ve ever been into that has meant a lot to me I’ve had to learn about them the hard way because they are not in my face all the tame on the radio or on Top of the Pop or whatever.
Phil: But I just don’t think that our music’s like that, do you know what I mean. There’s no way that we’re going to be appearing on something like that.
Russel: But it’s about integrity. Its not about putting your face on magazine’s its about getting the music out there and people hearing it. And you know, if they like you, they’ll listen to you again.
Phil: There is some kind of message in the lyrics, if you read them, which I guess I’d hope might have some kind of influence in a positive way. Maybe it’ll change somebody’s perception I don’t know.
RN: Well lyrically then what are you trying to put across.
Phil: It’s kind of hard. I mean like some of it can be my personal stuff. But it’s things that I’m feeling at the moment but sometimes they move towards more socially conscious lyrics. Don’t expect me to be able to explain this very well. (laughs) They’re not very obvious. I think I want people to make their own interpretations and assumptions on the lyrics.
RN: What do you think of the bands that practice and do demos but don’t play and try and get there music out there because they are waiting for that big break and the record executive to come along and give them a big paycheck and they can go on a big…
Russel: its their choice. some people are in bands to make money. That’s their own choice. I mean every band has their own reason for doing what they do. I mean I’d love to do this for a living but I don’t know whether I could handle being “big”.
Phil: Well the other point as well is that if a band is just sitting not going out and get what they want, no one’s going to come in and give it to you, are they? You gotta work hard for what you want no matter what it is. If you didn’t go out there and struggle for it and work hard for it then I don’t think you’ll feel like you earned it, and I mean if that’s what you want to do then you’re going to need to work for it. That’s not what we want to do but…
Dean: I mean if we ever were approached by Sony or whoever and they would probably ask us to change a few things but we just could never do it. It just couldn’t happen. There’d be no point playing the music anymore if it wasn’t what we wanted to create.
Russel: That’s a complete contradiction when labels approach a band and ask them to change their sound, and the band’s got all this way, and worked that fucking hard, and they just sort of go, ‘Ok we’ll do it for money!’
RN: You guys seem to work quite well together, did you know each other previously.
Russel: Yeah. I knew these guys for about four, five years.
Dean: It just happened one day and Phil rang me up and said their drummer had left and the first thing I said was ‘I’ll be your drummer.’ I was getting on a bus at the time and going…
Phil: Russell I’ve known since school. We went to secondary school together and we’ve always been friends and hung out with each other. But so far as writing goes we’ve only been doing that a few years. I think we’ve been quite privileged though ’cause a lot of the stuff that we’ve got has been through friends so a lot of the stuff’s free, we haven’t really had to pay for much. We’ve probably only had to pay for about 10 rehearsals…
Phil: Our friend works at a studio as well so we get free rehearsals. In terms of song writing we try to take as long as possible over it so that everybody can have a say over what we’re doing and be happy with it.
Russel: Yeah for me every second should be satisfying. If I’m to be part of this I want every moment to be satisfying. I mean I don’t want to just get bored of playing the songs that we write, so we need to make them good!
Phil: It’s just like so many bands are like, ‘Oh I hate this song’ you know what I mean? And I always think to myself, ‘Well why do you play it?’ If its not a release surely it’s not so important that you have to play it. I mean music for me at any rate should be like all the way, you know. There should be nothing stopping you and making you think, ‘Oh I can’t do that.’ If you don’t like a song then you shouldn’t be playing it. It may sound a bit selfish, you know, ‘We know what we want and we want it now’. (laughs)
RN: What do you guys do. Are you all studentents, working full time?
Phil: I went to college and then I worked.
Russell: I left school and then I worked with children… and clean.
Dean: I work.
Phil: its pretty much … For me personally I didn’t really feel that there was very much point in going to university. I’ve always been wanting to play in the band and I thought I could do it to my best potential if I dint have any other distractions.
RN: Do you find that work distracts you from doing the band or have you managed to fit it in ok?
Phil: Yeah we…
Dean: … it sucks when like today we are all working and then you have to do a gig after .. but still we’ve gotta make money.
Phil: A lot of my work is mostly … and that anyway so it kinda helps. They are really good to me. All of where we work is pretty good with what us do… and they let us have time off….
RN: Have you done much touring around the UK?
Phil: you can answer that one russ go on…
Russell: er not really no. We’ve done like gigs dotted around but not major.
RN: Do you hope to?
Russell: Yeah, we really wanna. Yeah. … but again its organising it… having the people… because a lot of the people up north will not have us simply because we arefrom the south.
Phil: Yeah I mean if someone has not heard of you then its kinda quite hard to get in with promoters and stuff. And that’s what we are trying to do now. Trying to maybe network a little bit more and get people …. so everyone bonuses. We do a lot of like whole like exchange shows, where like…so say we get a band from Scotland we get them a gig down our end and then the next week they get us a show up in their end.
RN: Do you think the internet has helped co-ordinate doing things? Do you guys put MP3s up and shit like that.
: yeah I think email has been like. I cant really say without it because since we’ve been around the internet has been with us.
phil: yeah its been there pretty much form day one but recently its …. trying to concentrate on …. im spending a lot of time emailing people, just like chatting to people. It works pretty well. And if you … can just look them up.