Nitroville Interview – Vocalist Tola Lamont and Guitarist Kurt-Michael Boeck.
Serving up Rock n Roll that’s as straight to the point as an arrow in the head, Nitroville are proud to continue the fine tradition of uncompromising Blues based hard rock, and the work ethic to match. Just two years since the band began proper, and work already under way on a second release, co-founders Tola Lamont and Kurt-Michael Boeck explain how they keep the pedal to the floor…
How was your Christmas and New Year? Did you find time to relax and kick back?
Kurt-Michael Boeck (KM): Christmas was as overrated and commercial as ever. However we worked on new material and started producing with Bob Marlette, the big boy behind Lynyrd Skynyrd’s last album Gods and Guns, also, bands like Slayer, Alice Cooper, Sabbath, Sheryl Crow and other artists. He likes our thing so he’s working on a single re-release of ‘Let It Roll’ which will be out soon.
For those who don’t know Nitroville, can you give us a brief insight into the band?
Tola Lamont (TL): We (that is myself, Tola and Kurt Michael) formed the band in the early summer of 2010. We came up with the name Nitroville as we wanted something hard hitting, explosive and edgy to reflect our music and the way we play and perform. We also thought it sounded like the name of a place in a comic book or action movie, so we were just playing on a bit of humour also! Nitroville means straight-forward, uncompromising and unfiltered blues driven hard Rock n Roll. We are not middle of the road Blues Rock!
KM: Nitroville is about unfiltered, straight to the point no nonsense Hard Rock n Roll. We believe in good musicianship, strong song-writing and want to be able to produce live what we record in the studio.
Your album “Can’t Stop What’s Comin’” was released only a year after the band was formed – how did you reach this level so quickly?
KM: Through very hard work, focus and having a strong idea of what we wanted to create and achieve. We shared a vision of the type of Rock n Roll music we wanted to create and got together a couple of times a week besides doing our homework. Tola can fire out lyrics like on an assembly belt! My strength has always been in churning out riffs by the dozen. This helped in speeding up the process. There are pros and cons in working this fast, sometimes however, you just need to keep the momentum and be relentless in achieving a relentless sounding album.
You’ve managed to really capture that bluesy old school deep Southern American sound, yet the band is based in the UK – do people often mistaken you as being from the States?
TL: Interestingly enough, just recently we had a review from a German webzine called ‘Home of Rock’ who described us as ‘In between British heavy blues and US Southern Rock of the 70’s’. Without a doubt our music is influenced by American Rock and more specifically Southern Rock – specifically the 70’s era which we are happy to be compared to! However, we definitely have the British heavy Rock vibe within our music also. We haven’t really been mistaken for being from across the pond so much, as we’re quite specific that we are, as individuals, from different parts of the globe, making up an international southern Rock band.
KM: These days people figure out in an instant where you are from, through the Internet. In the old days there were some British bands putting on an American identity and even Americans mimicking a British image and got away with it for at least a while. Nowadays it’s all too transparent since the arrival of Google. It’s bullshit anyway, why hide your identity? I also think it would clash with our ethos of straight up Rock n Roll if we were trying to do this and by that compromise our integrity. True, we are American sounding when you listen to Nitroville for the first time. However, we also have our British blues hard Rock influences that some of our more knowledgeable reviewers have clearly noticed. Let’s not forget, Rock, no matter how excellent British bands are, is American in its origin – as a consequence, the rootsier you get, the more you sound American by default.
The album has been well received with a lot of positive reviews – what does this mean to you? Do you feel more pressure now, or does it drive you to do better?
KM: We are glad that we have had some great feedback so far, it’s particularly important when you start out fresh whilst leaving your musical past behind. Releasing an album is the make it or break moment and you come to the realisation that it’s judgement day for all the very intense work. the blood, sweat and tears that you have invested as a musician. Do we feel more pressure? No not at all, in fact less if anything. We now have the patronage of a great producer such as Bob Marlette, who I mentioned earlier and with his resourcefulness, experience and talent we will sound much better than before. In it with the big boys, if all goes well. Does it drive us to be better? Well, you should always be as good as your latest work and the good thing about Nitroville is that we are never short of ideas. Time to accommodate these ideas and to develop them into whole blown songs is always another matter, but we are never afraid of the sheer whiteness of an empty canvas so to speak.
TL: Writing impulsive, kickass and memorable Rock songs keeps us alive and we love it! We have started writing new material for our following album already. Lots of ideas flowing at the moment.
I understand that the band is not big on heavy post-production – do you think this sort of enhancement is overused today?
TL: I think if people want to go for that sort of sound that is totally up to them and their own business and we respect that. However, for us personally it’s not so much a lack rather than a deliberate absence of effects as there wasn’t a need for them due to the level of everybody’s musical ability. If you are a strong vocalist for example, well, we tried adding effects in the studio and it didn’t make it better, worse in fact, if in doubt, just leave it out, less is more, even in Rock n Roll. We also wanted to make sure we could recreate ourselves live and so keeping things simple was paramount really.
KM: As a general rule I would like to say this to everyone out there who’s thinking of doing an album: Think of how much production and effects you really need on your songs, you add some, you lose some. At the end of the day effects are an enhancement, a kind of strong medication. The bare bone components which make a good Rock song are still the same of what they were decades ago, adding numerous modulations does not change this, in fact this can come across as a disguise to poor song craftsmanship if anything.
Even on stage you stand by ‘pedals are for pussies’ – does this mean that you have to put in a lot more work practicing your craft?
KM: “Pedals are for Pussies” is quite tongue in cheek, not to be taken too seriously! I am not a member of the pedal Gestapo! However, I just don’t like them, they put a bad sound into my beloved 57 Les Paul and take the bite out of it. Do I have to practice a lot more? I don’t practice, I think if you practice you may just haven’t got it, I prefer just playing to boring practice. My playing has got to be varied though. Practising reminds me of overly ambitious hair metalistas, who practise their lines for so long till they are ready for the big stadium and their first blowjob backstage – this kind of guitar isn’t my cup of tea. In my teens Billy Gibbons was my guitar idol, his playing is effortless and cool. He doesn’t have to adhere to the guitar police, which is blogging lots of nonsense around the net. Hendrix was right when commending Gibbons as the next big thing in guitar playing. Also a reminder of how long ZZTop have been going.
TL: Kurt-Michael’s guitar playing is very varied, consisting of different tunings, different kind of thumb-harmonics, all done by his fingers and a plectrum, plus pure amp distortion. Who can pull this off these days? Not that many that we know of.
KM: Simply speaking, to create a contrast to heavy production lead music, where tracks are churned out in masses at level 10 throughout, leaving no space for dynamics. I think with that comes a requirement to rethink and to contemplate. Relentlessly trying to break the sound barrier isn’t going to work anymore, you may just as well bang your head against a brick wall. Nitroville is blues driven, at the end of the day, this is the music where hard Rock comes from anyway. We are not interested in cramming too many things into this, as our turf gives it all that heavy rock needs. We don’t need obscene brutality in order to get noticed, and boring satanic references are just lame and outdated, this kind of vibe doesn’t give us a good time, we’d rather give up! We have stripped back in order to get rid of the unnecessary clutter which stands in the way of good, high energy driven, hard rock.
As a band with a female vocalist, do you get a lot of people forming preconceptions about your sound? Do you find you’re categorized quite early on?
TL: Not so much. I think people just need to listen to us and then they can make their own judgments! Some reviewers compared me to vocalists that are definitely very much a strong influence on me, so I think that’s really cool and I take that as a massive compliment and appreciate the time people take to listen to the vocals on our album properly. Also, people do make some comparisons with singers I haven’t actually heard of, but that’s cool if they’re hearing something different it means that it’s possibly sounding more diverse. I don’t think there’s any band exactly ‘like’ us as the moment that’s the thing, with the mix of female vocals, and all the influences that we already mentioned before. There are probably ‘similar’ bands, but I don’t think anything the same. We’re not cutting any new ground musically, but that is kind of our point! We’re proud to be called ‘dated’ – (WTF hasn’t been done these days anyway)?!! If that old fail safe comment ever comes up – you can be sure of a big thanks from us!! It’s so easy to accuse any band of being ‘dated’ – 70’s, 80’s or 90’s – whatever….it’s an easy target! Plenty of people enjoy listening to Classic Rock and times are great for female fronted hard rock bands!
KM: I heard a couple of young guys recently commenting on a classic Van Halen track, I think it was Running With The Devil, saying the singer sounds gay. It wouldn’t have struck my mind, but it explains all the screamo male front men in Metal these days. It seems in some cases men aren’t allowed to sing properly anymore without being associated with for example, say, Rob Halford of Priest. That of course opens up great possibilities for female fronted bands.
Can you give me any hints into what’s next for Nitroville – any major tours perhaps, or work towards your next release?
KM: Work on our next release is happening as we speak. We also have a re-release of a single, “Let It Roll” on the way, remixed by Bob Marlette in LA. We will play gigs in Denmark, Germany and UK this year.
What would you say is your most stand-out moment so far in your career?
KM: Lol! I don’t know if there’s such a thing but besides the purchase of my Gibson Les Paul 57 Goldtop, meeting Tola on July 3rd 2010 for a session checking out whether we could work together. Well, we wrote two songs in a day within the space of 3 hours, ‘Got What It Takes’ and ‘Cuts To The Bone’.
TL: Yeah, well you were late for that session!! Meeting KM has been the turning point for my career, he motivates me creatively, I guess with song writing you either click or you don’t. I first met him when I went for an audition with his previous band in 2009…which I didn’t get! I was gutted about that, I really wanted to work with him! After that I didn’t want to work with him at all and I was really pissed off…! Haha! Then a year later I saw an advert by him in a London music paper – he was looking for a vocalist/songwriter to start a band with. I was singing in a blues band at the time, but wanted to start my own band from scratch with somebody. I contacted him and well, the rest is history! I’d say the highlight of my career has been creating our debut album, challenging but rewarding!
Some reviews I’ve read have said that ‘Can’t Stop What’s Comin’’ is a perfect soundtrack when putting your foot down, but if you’re headed out on a long drive what’s your go-to driving music?
KM: I think they’re right. In the year before I met Tola, 2009, I drove several thousand miles all along the Mexican border from Texas to Tijuana in Baja California on my own, pretty lonely long drive and very mind-clearing. I guess that has left mark. In London we don’t drive, you are quicker walking! However, both Tola and I share a love for road movies, especially in combination with crime fiction, No Country For Old Men is such a movie which inspired Dust Devil and is a reflection of desolate West Texan landscape. Tola’s favourite is Natural Born Killers which we roughly musically translated into one of our tracks “Killing Kind”.
TL: I love that some people are getting that from our album as we did have that in mind throughout the writing process! For me, on a long journey I would play ‘Barracuda’ by Heart, or anything by ZZ Top or Aerosmith!