As Welsh metal superstars Bullet For My Valentine round off their latest sell-out UK tour, Aaron Carey and Gemma Day talk to drummer Moose about fans, family, and a certain feud…
The past three months in the lives of South Wales’ most famous sons, Bullet for My Valentine, has been the stuff of dreams. With their faces gracing the front cover of every metal magazine on the planet, a silver disc to mark admirable sales of their November release ‘The Poison’ and even their own BBC tribute site, the stage is set for BFMV to take over the world in 2006.
On a tour bus in the car park of Leeds Met Uni’s Refectory venue, drummer Moose (real name Michael Thomas) modestly accepts the praise, “We hoped it would do well, in the back of our minds we wished it to do this well, but it’s going really good, it’s gone silver already. It midweeked at number 10, which is good to know, and we beat HIM, which was nice!”
Although 50,000 copies in three months might not sound a tremendous result to a James Blunt or Coldplay fan, for a hitherto unknown British metal band to break into the mainstream in such a way is no mean feat. This is especially true when one considers the heaviest thing to come out of the top 10 in recent times has been the Foo Fighters or Blink 182; American imports with a publicity team bigger than BFMV’s sell out crowd tonight in its entirety.
Fame and fans clearly have not affected Moose to any great degree, however: “To be honest with you, I don’t get recognised because I don’t get to walk the streets much except when I’m home, and then I have my two children with me, so I think that people would be very rude to come up to me. When the record came out, I saw a guy fall over a curb looking at me, which was funny.”
Although the other members of the band may be able to step back from the limelight once the show is over, such a luxury is not afforded lead singer Matt Tuck, who has become something of a teen heart-throb in recent months, often gracing poster spreads in metal and mainstream magazines alike.
But what do the rest of the band think of his new-found status? “I suppose I just let it go over my head really, it’s just weird! If it’s gonna sell a magazine for them let them put it in; fair play to them. I know I couldn’t get up at the front and sing.”
With Wales’ reputation for rather a softer approach to rock music, embodied in Catatonia and Stereophonics, Bullet for My Valentine have emerged as one of several edgier, more ferocious bands to emerge from the country in the past few years.
Indeed, as a metal band they are something of a rarity in their UK origins, which is something that the band are all too aware of: “There hasn’t been a really big British metal band for, what, 20 years? There should be more real British metal bands, and that’s a strong point my band are really annoyed with.”
When the subject of BFMV’s rivals and fellow Welshmen, crossover rockers Lostprophets is brought up, things start to get a little heated on the tourbus. “You said good metal bands! I got told off for the last comments I made about them, and all I’ll say is that I heard the lead singer was asked by a magazine what made him laugh in 2005, and he said Bullet for my Valentine…I just retaliated. What’s funny is we now rehearse with their old drummer in Pontypridd, he’s a good guy.”
“Would I buy a Lostprophets album? F**k no! It would be Judas Priest, early Metallica, Iron Maiden, Funeral for a Friend, Still Remains (support on the Kerrang Tour). Cradle of Filth’s new album I’d buy, I really like the songs I’ve heard off it so far. Mostly old stuff really.”
An interesting moment arises when the most successful band around at the moment is raised in conversation. “Who the f**k are they? There’s a band called Arctic Monkeys? Never heard of them.”
As unbelievable as it sounds, of the recent bands that have graced the charts, it is noticeable that Moose only has good things to say about another Welsh band, Funeral for a Friend, whose album ‘Hours’ was something of a surprise hit last year. Having toured with the band around the time of that release, Bullet are used to playing to sold out venues, but tonight it is all about them.
“Yeah, it’s good to be packing them out ourselves. We just love the energy off the audience. When a crowd sings your songs back to you it’s a great feeling. Even though I’m at the back of the stage I feel like I engage with them. I walk on stage first, that’s my moment!”
Being able to enjoy touring is a neccesity for Bullet for My Valentine. The band are rarely off the road, promoting their current album across the continents, and have admitted that if they are invited, they will play the festival circuit this year (after their opening set on the main stage of Reading/Leeds 2005). We asked Moose if the band ever got tired of their gruelling road schedule.
“Well it’s what we wanted to do,” he sighs. “I mean, if we knew what we were letting ourselves in for…I haven’t been home for…I don’t know, I mean we just came back from Japan. It’s difficult, I’ve got two children at home and I never get to see them.”
“After we finish this tour, we go to Germany. That’s great, European metallers don’t listen to crossover metal, we’re bigger than Lostprophets in Germany! We get some time off after that. Well it’s not actually time off, it’s to write and record. Hopefully the new album will be out the beginning of next year. We’re trying to get them out as quick as we can. We’ll keep it up five years, no, 20 years! I f**king hope it lasts! If Maiden can do it we can, hopefully we’re following in their footsteps.”
It is clear that Bullet have set their sights a lot higher than most metal bands would dare to tread. Talk of stadium tours, platinum sellers and a US tour with American industrial metal giant/film director Rob Zombie are not far-fetched ideas; these are achieveable goals for a band whose reputation and fanbase grows in stature by the day.
Although Moose is in no doubt that these things are possible, he is somewhat less enthusiastic about the ‘riches’ that come from the band’s fame. “We’re two million dollars in debt from the last album!” he admits, grinning.
“We’re not going to make any money off this record. We get £150 a week to live on and the money from the t-shirts we sell. We’ll eventually get money for the gigs and things, but right now we’re all skint. It’s not as glamorous as people think!”
“I think we’ll pay it all off with the next record, but we’re not rushing it out. We’ll tour this one till November and then concentrate on recording the new one. The label wanted us to have it out this year, but we said no, we wanted to take our time.”
Indeed, Bullet have earned themselves something of a reputation for making completely independent decisions within the band whilst still retaining the support of their record label. Having shunned Roadrunner records for Sony in 2003, the band insist on doing their own thing, whatever the cost.
“The record label got us together with the guy who produced Rage Against The Machine’s first album, in America”, Moose admits, “but he wanted such control over what we were doing, we just said ‘No, thank you’. It’s actually written into our contracts that we have 100% control over our music. It’s nice for such a big label to be completely at ease with what we are doing.”
You can be sure that nobody is going to tell Bullet for My Valentine what direction to take with their next record, or for that matter, their career. Being one of the few bands determined not to succumb to commercial pressure has ironically made this band all the more successful.
Although Moose admits that chart success is “nice to know”, it seems that Bullet make music which they enjoy, and which they are proud of. If it sells well, if the critics enjoy it – so much the better.
After shaking hands with Moose and leaving the band preparing for another blistering live show, I can’t help but feel that a lot of today’s critic-orientated rock acts have much to learn from this band, and that maybe, as BFMV’s status grows, they will do exactly that.
Bullet for My Valentine’s first album The Poison is available now on Visible Noise.