THE RAVEN AGE – Facing The Conspiracy
April 16, 2019, 4 months ago
With a unique, overarching mythos that stretches from the songwriting to artwork, and indeed the The Raven Age name itself, Conspiracy is a significant leap forward for the ten year veterans.
Made-up of founding member and guitarist George Harris – son of the legendary Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris – bassist Matt Cox, drummer Jai Patel and new recruits Tony Maue (guitars) and Matt James on lead vocals, The Raven Age thread the line between modern hard rock and complex and sophisticated heavy metal.
Catching up with BraveWords during a recent headline tour of Europe, Harris discusses the blueprint of Conspiracy, growing up in a heavy metal household, and their upcoming North American arena tour with Iron Maiden.
BraveWords: I was gonna ask how you think fans are responding to the new album Conspiracy? Particularly live. I really see this album as being a step up for the group.
George Harris: “That seems to be the general theme with our fans as well. The album has been received so well. You know the comments and the reaction again from the live show has been absolutely incredible. It feels like there’s buzz around us at the moment. Obviously with our own fan group, but yeah it seems to be going well, the people are really, really digging it. The people who were into us before, they really, really loved the new album. I think it has kind of outshined the first album which is obviously a nice thing for us to hear from people. I don't think we could ask for it to be going much better at the moment.
BraveWords: Talk for a moment on the lineup additions in the last two years with Matt (James) and Tony. How are those guys fitting into The Raven Age group dynamic?
George Harris: “I mean they bring a lot to the table. Matt obviously being the singer, especially in a band like ours where we're using clean vocals and like the tone of voice is in the forefront of all of our music basically. To get that right was a big deal for us and I think we really have done that with Matt. He just brings so much to the table with his vocal range and his delivery. The good thing about it with Matt is he has a superb range and he can hit all these great big high notes, but you know anyone can kind of do that in the studio with all the tools but he can actually do it live as well. He has been, every night, so it's just really good to get to portray our album live. And Tony as well you know is an amazing guitarist and he's also a great singer too. So having him sort of helping out MJ with the backing vocals live is great. Both those guys have brought stuff forward writing wise as well which actually helps with the dynamic of the album I think. So two more songwriters in the mix, which just sort of keeps it fresh.
We're definitely feeling like a stronger team at the moment.
BraveWords: Absolutely. I want to talk about the Conspiracy record itself in terms of thematically, conceptually. I know you guys had really big ideas in this one that carry all the way through with the title, the artwork, everything to do with the mythology and the ravens. There's really big themes at play here.
George Harris: “Yeah yeah. It's something we've always been super drawn towards, before we were even a band. Back in the day when it was just me and Dan (Wright) jamming and then we came up with the idea of the band title. You know every element with the band, the music, the lyrical content and the band name and the artwork we thought why not just make try and make as big and epic a story out of all of it as you possibly can? It just gives even more for the fans to get their teeth into, that maybe once they hear the music they think that this band sounds cool. They could look up this whole concept behind all the individual songs and the band meaning has a bit of story behind it, and the artwork means this. It's something we got really into and had these nerd out sessions and get carried away basically.”
BraveWords: Has that been something you've been a fan of you know throughout your life, rock and metal albums that do have conceptual themes? Maybe something like Operation Mindcrime or Seventh Son of a Seventh Son?
George Harris: “Not really. I mean I can't really say I've come across one, a concept album which I really got into myself previously and said this is really great and it tells the story from start to finish. It's kind of just been a bit of a development. I don't know, maybe subconsciously I like these kind of themes. I mean people seem to think that because it has similar kind of themes with it and with the lyrical content and stuff like that. But I've always kind of been drawn to these big epic sort of stories and like anything which has like a lot of depth to it. Usually there's a lot of information behind a lot of songs, so when I'm writing it's easy for me to kind of get up some spots and find out some cool lines or cool words and try and portray it with the music. It's more of just a natural evolution I guess. I mean I never considered myself a songwriter at all. The only reason I started writing lyrics and stuff like that was because it was two guitarists jamming out music and where you had no one else to do it, so I kind of gave it a crack and discovered that I quite enjoyed it.”
BraveWords: Whether it be the writing in the studio versus the live performance, is there a certain place you're more comfortable? I know sometimes there's folks who are more comfortable in the studio and enjoy the process more than the touring and vice versa.
George Harris: “I think the live performance side for me is always the pinnacle I guess. It started out as just jamming for fun. I'm seriously passionate about writing. But I think performing these songs live and seeing people's reactions and you know at the moment we're out on our own tour, so it's pretty amazing seeing people that already know the music and they're loving it and they're super passionate about it, and singing the words back to us and we’re gaining new fans. I think definitely playing live is the ticket for me.”
BraveWords: I want to touch on your life growing up in heavy metal and rock music. Of course we know who your father is in one of the biggest bands ever, metal or rock be damned and your sisters have a lot of background in the business. Was this something where you said it's kind of in my blood, I'm going to be in the music business or was it always evident you were going to be on that path?
George Harris: “No not at all. I mean I was I never pushed into music or anything like that. I kind of picked up bass guitar myself when I was around 12 or 13 years old... I picked up a guitar when I was 14 and just enjoyed noodling around. More than anything when I was younger I wanted to be a footballer. I played for a club since I was six years old and I tried out for a bunch of different teams. I was actually out on trials for a team in Norway and I brought my guitar out with me and was hooked up into my laptop and I had so much spare time there that I could end up writing a lot music in my room because I had nothing else to do and I was just kind of messing around. And it made me think you know I actually quite enjoy this. You know I wouldn't mind sort of getting into music. So I went home and I did a course in audio engineering London. It was before then that I met Dan, who is our ex-guitar player and now our manager. Me and him started this thing. I found out he was a guitar player and could sing this style of music and we kind of started jamming out. I just sort of ended up falling into it. It wasn't always ‘I want to be a musician’. I actually wanted to sort of get myself into sports more than music, and just kind of discovered sports didn't really work out and I really enjoy this.”
BraveWords: Did your father lend you any advice in terms of particular paths or maybe do’s and don'ts of the business?
George Harris: “I think the music is probably ingrained in me, I've been hearing it since I was born. So even if I wasn't consciously kind of listening to the band or thinking about it or drawing inspiration through actively listening to them, I probably just did anyway. My dad loves the music and he definitely keeps himself separate. When he was working with my sister he was a lot more involved in what she was doing and I know they kind of butted heads about stuff all the time just as you do, like father and daughter type stuff. You know I don't really want that to happen with this. I mean he offers his opinions all the time. I think the best advice he's given us is basically this is your band, just make sure you stay true to yourself and your own opinion, basically. But you know the bigger your band grows the more people will be either working for you or just offering opinions. Just make sure you stick with guns and end up making the decisions so you don't end up kind of going down a different path you might not truly want to go down just because you think it might please someone. Basically stick to your guns. I think that's the best advice I've been given by them.”
BraveWords: I want to ask about the summer tour with Maiden coming up. Any chance you get to open for a band like Metallica or Iron Maiden, you can't really put a price on the exposure of that.
George Harris: “Yeah I mean the opportunity is just absolutely massive. You know we probably can't really ask for a bigger platform to present ourselves. Opening up for a band that size, Maiden and Metallica are probably the biggest metal bands out there really. So it's absolutely an unbelievable opportunity. We're totally, totally grateful for it. And I understand how big an opportunity it is and how many people would kill to be on that stage at that point. We really just need to concentrate on making the absolute most of our opportunity, really grabbing it with two hands and run with it. So we really need to make sure we're tight and that we're performing every night on the top of our game and that we're converting as many Maiden fans as we possibly can. I mean they're notorious for having a particularly tough crowd ... I think they just want to see Maiden, turn up, have a few beers with their mates and just want to see Maiden. So anyone else is in the way, almost like an inconvenience. So winning over those guys is going to be the hard part. But we've played with them before and to be honest we actually go down with their crowd pretty well.”
BraveWords: Conspiracy is your second album now since 2017. How active would you guys like to be moving forward?
George Harris: “Yeah I mean we just want to keep the momentum going. Basically I think that's all you do as a band our size. You really do just need to keep in everyone's faces especially like at times like these where there are so many bands out there and basically the main advertising is these social medias and everyone just scroll past all these adverts and bands all the time. You really need to keep hitting it to keep yourself fresh in everyone's memories. We're not planning on slowing down anytime soon. Basically we're doing this tour. We're trying to figure out what we're doing at the end of the year. We're going to try and get back out there, maybe Europe again. And in between the end of this tour it's going to be right in pretty heavily trying to get album three moving and try to get it finished in that gap. But you don't want to rush it just for the sake of finishing it. You want to be happy with it. We do have three months on the road to be sort of tweaking and coming up with ideas and stuff as well. I think the next year we want to churn out another album and keep the ball rolling.”