Being one of those older fans, and having put their tracks “Shinobi vs. Dragon Ninja” and “Bring 'Em Down” in many a mix back in 2000, I watched as this band helped to define a new genre of rock that was to be copied by many, still to this day. So… of course I was stoked to hear that my hometown, Sacramento, was to be their first stop as a headlining act in the U.S. after they’d spent the majority of the last six years touring Europe and the rest of the world. The show at Ace of Spades was great and the guys brought some extreme energy to the stage. The crowd, with plenty of listeners both new and old, reciprocated… keeping with the name Sacramento has made for itself as having the loudest, most passionate of fans. And so, I was not surprised to hear singer, Ian Watkins, mention on stage that they had hand-picked the city to be their first stop back in the States.
I was doubly stoked to get to speak with the bands drummer, Luke Johnson for a brief Q&A. He shared with me, in his thick Welsh accent, the humbling experience of reacquainting themselves with the US market after such an absence, how great it has been to reconnect with old fans and make new ones along the way, and their surprising connection to Prince Charles. Enjoy!
How’s your day going?
Great. We just finished sound check, we’re playing Anaheim House of Blues today. So yea, so just sitting down now, having a coffee with my buddy… it’s just a nice day out and things are pretty mellow, eh?
Nice. You guys are touring with Cherri Bomb, how’s that going?
Great! …they’re very, very awesome people. It’s so nice to tour with people that are just great. They’re a bit young, but still, they’re not… you know? They’re a fun group of girls, and they’re really good at playing their instruments, they’re a really good band, their crew and tour management and that all come out, they’re all great. There’s just a good connection there. They’re really, really awesome girls and I think they’re going to go really far. It’s really nice to tour with someone whom you’ve become close.
That’s really awesome. You met them through the Warped Tour. How was that?
Yep. We just finished Warped Tour. It was interesting, because having not been touring in the states for six years, and coming out to Warped Tour was… ahh... was interesting for us because we didn’t know what to expect with that tour. Would the band be in touch with the crowd, or a younger generation had sort of like missed us, or whatever, you know? So we went in there soft expectations, more of the attitude of “expect nothing, get everything” hopefully? (laughs)
Lucky for us, we got an awesome crowd. A lot of people remembered us. We gained new fans, we made new friends with these bands. So it all went successfully, and a good way to reintroduce the band into the US market.
Absolutely. You guys were away, but not forgotten.
Yea, we’re headlining Warped Tour UK as well, which is awesome. So, we got reintroduced by United States through Warped Tour, and we’re reintroducing Warped Tour to the UK by headlining. (laughs)
That’s a good swap! (laughs) So yea, you guys missed some stops along the west coast leg of the Warped Tour, and it’s cool you’re making up for that with this short west coat tour that you’re doing.
For sure, we don’t have any intention on being away like before. We’re gonna keep on it. We’ll be coming back and touring next year, over here… so we’re just excited to try and get back into the mix.
You guys were away for about six years, right?
Yea, six years, that’s right.
So, ummm… it’s kind of funny that I read that most of you guys live in California, too. So that’s kind of interesting. (laughs)
Yea... (laughs) Four of us live in Los Angeles.
Nice. Well, we’re excited to have you back.
I actually caught your show at Ace of Spades, your first show back on August 7th. The fans were committed and the energy was awesome. It was so great to see you guys play again.
Yea, that show was really good for us, cuz we didn’t know if people remembered us in Sacramento. It was a nice way to start back. We had some 250 kids there, we didn’t think we’d pull that many. The kids came to meet us at the merch table afterwards, and we just tried to make an effort to come say hello and thank everyone for coming to the show. It was a really good vibe… a really good starting headline show back.
Yea, it was great show, so thank you for that. You have Weapons, that just came out, with singles “Bring Em Down” and “We Bring An Arsenal” …and other popular tracks like “Jesus Walks”. In your words, what would be the concept of this album? How would you describe the message?
I remember in a discussion before we wrote anything or recorded the record. We were like the boys had recorded (Liberation Transmition) all these track themselves and spent long and hard sweating over it, and it had this raw vibe. Just to do whatever they wanted to do, not go by a record label or producer or label, just doing what they wanted, and that’s what the trend was. In hindsight, people are saying to us, “oh… that was your failure record, that record was a misfire.” In no way did the band, or anyone associated with the band, think that was a misfire, that was just the band doing their record… and so they said in the conversation right before we decided we were going to go in and write this, “well, ok if everyone thinks that, that these guys are the big Lostprohets, well then we‘ll have Liberation Transmission be the last of that Lostprophets. We’re going to retire that in the next six months"... and I think we achieved that. It’s something that’s all encompassing, like racking up the critical idea, he (singer, Ian Watkins) feels like… speaking with him recently, we were having a conversation, he feels like album six is going to feel like album number one over again. It’s like a new era. We kind of like it’s the book end, Weapons is, to the first part.
Absolutely. Yea, my first listen to “We Bring An Arsenal” definitely brought that, I definitely felt that connection. That song particularly, has such a great message. So empowering, you know? That we can make a difference. And alright, if everyone tells us that we’re weak and that we cant make a difference, then screw them! We’ll do it! (laughs)
Yeah, yeah! Totally.
...and that’s awesome. That’s very cool. I’m glad things are going so well for you guys in your in your United States comeback. You guys have been touring pretty heavily over in the UK and Europe, is that right?
Yea, we are very lucky to have the crowds we do in UK and Europe. Australia and Japan, also, are great for us. We can get a bit spoiled by that. And so, here, in coming back to the states, I think everyone was kind of a little worried, but that wasn’t the case. For me, it was a highlight of the year coming back and touring here, cuz I like touring America so much. So, I think it’s been a bit of an eye opener for everyone. There’s definitely a lot of work to be done here for us, but we just kind have got to keep on it, and maintain it, and just keep playing to our fan base each year. It’s just exciting that it’s not ruled out and it’s exciting that it’s back on the map. You know, we’ve done some of the hard work already, some of those hard steps, so it’s great.
Yea, absolutely. I wanted to ask you, that new logo you guys were wearing… I heard that was designed in a hotel lobby. What was the story behind that?
Yea, we were just looking for some sharp imagery, the bands never really had a logo you know?
We kind of went with the liberation sort of style, and updated it a little bit, whereas you know when Metallica tried to change their logo and it’s like “what the fuck guys?” (laughs) You know? We’ve never had a single logo, it’s changed with every record, because Ian is a graphic designer… and OCD, (laughs) so he cant leave it alone. So we kind of tried to start it with a different logo and that came along with it. Jaime, our keyboardist and singer, kind of designed it and tightened it up. We were kind of impressed that he came up with it. It’s kind of stuck, and we’ve put it on shirts. It’s definitely added some sharp imagery for the tour. It may well be sticking around, who knows. Never know with those things.
Well, the image itself definitely fits with the message and sound of Weapons… so yea, it is a good fit.
That’s cool, thank you.
I was wondering about some "highlight" moments you guys have had. I heard about the Ryder Cup you guys played. How was that experience?
Yea, we did that thing with the Ryder Cup in Whales, and they had some famous Welsh celebrities there. We were able to share the back seats with the Prince of Whales, Catherine Zeta Jones... and basically at the ceremony, they invited us up to play. It was really good cuz we ended up hanging out with the Prince of Whales, you know, Prince Charles?
That was very interesting. He was very enamored by our band cuz we started the band through the Prince of Whales Trust.
He felt stoked that he had a hand in getting us started you know?
Yea, that’s really cool. Kind of coming full circle.
Well, I know you have a show starting soon. Thank you so much for chatting with me Luke. I really appreciate it.
And thank you for including us in your magazine.