Here's an interview with the ever amazing guys that make up American Steel by our equally amazing UK buddy Ricky Bates. If you haven't already picked up this band's latest album ("Dear Friends And Gentle Hearts"), please do so now or you'll continue to miss out on this... well, amazing album.
PRT: So we are here with ..
John: I play bass
Rory : I play guitar and sing
PRT: So you guys have never been to the UK as American steel only as communique why is that?
Rory: we reformed about 2 years ago and before that we never really had the opportunity and were always so busy touring the states, i don't know how much of it wasn't crossing our minds also how viable it was to us, we've been meaning to get here for a long time so when we got offered this tour with all American rejects we were like lets do it! Lets finally get over to England.
PRT: because you came to Germany round 6 months ago but only there?
John: yea it was with the German band the Donots
Rory: we thought about the logistics of definitely doing the UK then but when we broke it all down it worked out the same cost to do the UK from Germany as it would be to do it from the U.S , so lets just to it again later for proper.
PRT: so was the AAR thing planned or?
Rory: yea it came together pretty quickly about a month ago
John: they'd been planning their tour for a long time but hadn't figured who they wanted for support, they do extremely well here and most the shows are sold out before they even announce support since there under no pressure to choose support we only found out about 6 weeks ago that we could!
PRT: so have you been going down well on those shows?
John: yea we are fast and sing loud so kids were moving around a little
PRT: so based on the scene you come from is it not a controversial thing to say we going to tour with AAR?
Rory: yea well we've been on tour with major label bands before so you know,I don't think we've ever got any grief about it, we don't really give a shit about what other bands do, its not like were out killing kittens or something, however bands want to run their careers they can it comes down to personal opportunity's.
John: we wern't going to lose our chance just to come over here , sure some people are like I dont like that band so im not going to go see the support, I understand that I wouldnt usually go to a huge show just to see the support with a shorter set too, it might be harder for them to justify but at the same time we cant really come over here on our own for the first time.
Maybe now we can having done this tour, we couldn't just jump on a plane over here and hoped people showed up.
PRT: so dear friends and gentle hearts, how did this experience differ from all the other albums you've recorded, working with a producer etc?
Rory: no, well we do our own records, the last two at least, our guitar player Ryan kind of owns a recording studio back at home and he records us, so the last two records were pretty similar the way we went about it, its all pretty laid back we have time to be mellow and the songs are always pretty well worked out and things.
PRT: So you have a complete DIY set-up in terms of having complete control of everything that's going on the record, is that good thing to have?
Rory: yea that's the way we want to do it, we were joking with somebody how people misunderstand how bands work , some kid was giving us grief about not being DUI – DIY..
Rory: we are quite DUI my friend! No so we were like dude we record at own studio we do all the stuff ourselves and our guitarist even builds our own amplifiers! Could we do any more? Should we manufacture the CD's as well?
John: vinyl press?
PRT: so do you write before you go into record then?
Rory: yea 90 per cent
John: yea Rory really prolific not prolific in the sense ow I have some riffs but having 20 complete songs, maybe not every part of every song but complete with vocals which I think is really rare, when you see documentaries of bands in the studio there's always some guy sitting there uninspired and unable to write anything and then days stretch into weeks.. our songs are pretty much done when we go into the studio, some bands I think need a producer to get them to finish their songs, which is a completely foreign idea to us! We usually have to many songs and cut a few while were recording but with some bands all they can do is squeeze out 10 or 11 songs for a record.
Rory: Also the chemistry between us all, we've been together so long that when I come in we are just a real tight band as far as putting them together, when were in the rehearsal space before the record l show up with all the songs but its still matter of getting them all together and playing them correctly, we'll do two a day or one a hour we'll do it really fast nowadays.
PRT: Having all the time off from American Steel do you feel you had time to reflect on the music scene? Then coming back from Communique was it hard to adapt being back as American Steel?
Rory: no I don't think it was, if anything I think we might be more oblivious now more than ever of what other bands are doing.
PRT: It does feel like that actually when you listen to the music as if you shut out everything else and just become your own band
PRT: Tours! How have they since you've been back? Do you think having the time off helped build up your fan base?
Rory: I think it did, I don't know what the net result was as far as like numerical value, I think we lost some along the way too but there's definitely people since we've been back saying its so great that your back I got into you a year to two after you stopped playing so there's a lot of that!
Our first tour back we were on the road with the Lawrence arms we just kind of hopped on a bus together and did it it was kind of funny because we were both at the same stage of things where we are very selective about when we tour and very deliberate about how we put our records, were not really pressured to rush by anybody.
John: and then meant we could book our own club shows around the country, that helped both our bands and bands like us, we had nice weather and enough people to justify having a bus, having four bands on one bus so it made sense and was cheaper.
Rory: we were being environmental!
John: yea we were being totally green, hanging things out the windows, HA
PRT: What do you think about the punk rock scene at the moment in terms of who's doing what? Do you think there too much hype behind certain bands which might eventually kill them off?
Rory: I don't know, I think every band should just do what they feel comfortable doing, that doesn't stop me from having my opinion about what their doing I don't really begrudge anyone for changing gears, just do whatever you want to do, I don't think any one band owes it to anyone unless they somehow made a promise to them, which has happened a few times but even then I don't think you owe it to them, people change their minds
John: its not a written promise, ha ha. I think if your supporting huge tours that's a lot different then headlining that huge tour, that's when bands have to really put on the brakes sometimes, when they somehow become that band that can suddenly fill a stadium and then its like what do you do? Were obviously not that band but we know a few bands that have gone from playing bars to arenas, you start getting all these different offers.. again were talking from the outside since we aren't that band, we don't have enough of a single sound that people can latch on to and be 'that' band, but a lot of bands we are friends with can fill 1 to 5 thousand person venues, such as alkaline trio or the gaslight anthem and now hot water music.
PRT: In terms of record labels, do you think they are necessary any more?
Rory: I don't think they are necessary but it all depends on what your trying to do, we've discussed not dealing with labels any more, but we haven't had that time where we want to deal with all the stuff, for us its sort of laziness or convenience you know
John: its sort of just a nice home base for us now, record sales are going down every year, your on a label to make records and to make them available your not always on there to sell records any more some people still do, but it can serve as a nice home base where if someone wants to interview your band they can contact your label, and the label can then contact you its just a nice hub of communications, otherwise we'd have to take many many hours out of our personal lives but some bands do it, like the do-nots from Germany run their own label and do everything themselves, and the band is kind of all they do but we have always valued our sort of other stuff going on.
PRT: sure, also 'normal' people think that a band on fat wreck chords could stand to make a lot of money but don't realise you need to have normal jobs also..
John: Yes, but the only people who understand that are people in other bands or people who do shows, you know we don't just go home and go on vacation in Mexico, we go home and go back to work
Rory: Even the bands who do make a living doing it, the perception is so inflated because the bands who do make a living from it make such a modest living they might as well be school teachers
John: unless your like green day
Rory: yea unless you have a top 40 song your lucky to make a living off of it, so yea we have always worked.
PRT: Some of your lyrics seem very personal, is this the way you feel you can send your message out to other bands and so forth by listening to the records as opposed to bitching on the internet on some forum or blog?
John: sure I can see what your getting at, we are one of the more private bands that I can think of. A lot of bands are every other day blog update or video update and all over the internet and reveal every detail of their personal lives and we have a layer of...it sounds hard to say but I think we let our music speak for ourselves and let the music be what we are saying. We reluctantly do the self promotion thing, a lot of bands love it they cant wait to update their Myspace page and that's fine that's great and maybe it would be to our benefit to do that more but none us really enjoy that. We don't set out to be private but we just are a lot more private people than people generally are.
PRT: Are there any songs from the last two albums which have a favourite subject?
Rory: not a favourite subject necessarily but for me its sort of it comes out whether its political or personal I don't really sit and think I am going to write a song about this or this album should be like this I just let it come out, for me my favourite songs on our record are the ones we are playing at the moment because its fun to perform those songs, once they're written they get passed to the venting process before I bring them in to show the band, you know I feel on the newest record that the lyrics are simplistic and sometimes a little too tongue in cheek but im not afraid of being almost silly since I feel we have such a large catalogue that its neither here or there so its never representative of our work in one way we can get away with a little low brow
PRT: anything in terms of future releases?
Rory: I think FAT are releasing some demo's aren't they?
John : ow cool, laughs* ha I usually find out what we are doing from the internet, nothing major we haven't done much U.S touring on this record. There might be a few digital releases of old 7 inches that weren't available and maybe an under the influence split with the gaslight anthem where we both cover songs we like.