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Antony "Mobs" Mobray
As a crossover band, Century Media's Stampin' Ground gets to tour with both hardcore and metal bands and we went to see them in Cologne on the first day of their tour with Zyklon and Arch Enemy. In a tiny backstage room that we shared with Zyklon who had just finished their set, I talked with the very symphathetic and talkative Mobs about Stampin' Ground and its achievements, the new album and its producer Andy Sneap, tours and the biggest marketing succes in music ;) Since I'm really good at postponing things, I didn't type this interview out until end of July. But not a lot has changed since February. Stampin' Ground has been on tour with Anthrax and played a.o. the Fury Fest in France, which was an absolute highlight for the band. But let's continue with my chat with Mobs, one of the guitarists of this very hardworking and down-to-earth UK band.
How was your trip? You got here so late.
It was the fucking trip from hell! Absolute trip from hell. We started from the UK yesterday at 1 o'clock in the afternoon and we picked up these guys from Heathrow (pointing at Zyklon) and we had to wait six hours for the bus - we had major bus problems. It's taken us a day and a half to get to Cologne.
Yeah, pretty much. Hateful. Absolutely hateful. And we got here 5 minutes before we had to play, no soundcheck or anything, so... It keeps it interesting!
So how did the gig go for you, under these circumstances? It was probably not a regular one.
To be honest, it was the first time we ever used the drumkit, first time we ever used the equipment, but we just plugged in and played and hoped for the best, really. It's a real shame, because if we'd had more time we'd have a soundcheck and all, so I can only apologize if the sound was shit, hehe! But shit happens and it will be OK tomorrow.
I enjoyed the show and it's the energy that counts I think and that was there :)
Really, oh that's cool. But it really was not great, straight from the bus unto the stage, you just want to get into the swing of things, you know.
So this was the first night, are you very excited to tour with these guys (Zyklon and Arch Enemy)?
Yeah we hate Zyklon already! (laughter from everybody)
Haha, that's a good start!
Yeah we don't like any of them, I mean, just look at them! They're such hard work! They're into death metal, they keep on threatening us with guns and stuff (laughter and Zyklon commenting in the background "I'll kill you" ;)). I'll be honest.. we're going to play with Zyklon, they are a bunch of insane murderers and stuff, but they've been really cool! So far...
I mean, you're still alive, could've been worse hehe!
Haha, we've been giving them a false sense of security, tonight we'll beat them (again laughter and comments from Zyklon :)).
Strike when least expected, right!
Yeah we'll do it! So, it's been cool. The bus is a fucking nightmare to be honest, I'm sure you can vouch for me on that (Zyklon: "oh yeah"), it's been bullshit. So it can only get better.
You guys share a bus?
Yeah, well, a bus... heheh! It's probably about 40 years old!
The thing they call "bus"..
There's no key in, no electric, you plug something in and it explodes! (more additional comments from Zyklon). So yeah it's cool, it's going allright! So far so good.
In your 8 or so years of excistence you've been touring so much already, but mostly with hardcorebands.
Yeah, on and off. We started with playing with bands like Earth Crisis, Cause For Alarm, Agnostic Front, you know, traditional hardcore bands. As time progressed.. we started playing with Hatebreed, Sepultura, Soulfly, we've come off tour with Chimaira.
To me that's still all metalcore, not pure metal, not like this package...
I know what you mean, this is THE most metal tour we've been on. It's gonna be hard work for us I think. We're not stereotype metal kids.
New fans, new territories.
It's a challenge to us, which is cool. With Stampin' Ground, we're essentially about breaking down the barriers a bit, we may not be like metal kids or whatever, but we love metal, we play metal, and people like it. Who gives a fuck how you look or anything like that. So we're trying to break down any of the preconceived ideas of "you should look like this" and "sound like this" and so on. We just wanna go out there and do it. To kids that like extreme music, that like metal, that like hardcore music, it doesn't matter. Just get the fuck out there and do it - get the fuck out there and support it. If it's not mainstream MTV, who gives a shit.
Is it hard to have the opener position? I mean you've done headliner tours..
You always get problems associated with opening, but that's OK. We respect these two bands. And we respect that it's gonna be an essentially death metal audience, gonna be a metal audience. So we can't expect to have main support or whatever, we wouldn't be that cocky. We want to go and do it the right way, like we've always done things the right way when we first started in the UK. We played shit tips, we've played cocksy venues to no people, we've built a scene, you know. And if we want to do the same in Europe than that's what we'll do, it doesn't matter. And we're doing what we love doing, which is playing music to people who wanna hear it.
You don't feel that this is something you shouldn't be doing anymore?
Not at all, no. We appreciate that we've got a lot of work to do on mainland Europe and it's been a long time since we've been over doing this sort of thing, so we're gonna start from the bottom again. It's no problem. You know, there are good crowds out there and if some people are into it, brilliant, even better.
How do you combine all the touring with your day-time jobs?
We've done a lot, we've got some UK gigs coming up, America is being sorted out the the moment - when we go there it's gonna be like 6 weeks or whatever - then back to Europe, so we don't actually work as such anymore. When we have time off we do some temp jobs in between, since we don't make any money doing this.
But the bills have to be paid anyway, and maybe some of you have families?
Well, I'm quite old!
Haha, how old is old??!!
Ah, I'm older, I beat you! I'm 40 :)
Really, are you?? Hehe! Well, you see, the only money we make is from the merchandise, it's that simple. And that's what keeps us fed. Until the next show hehe! So we know we're gonna lose on this tour anyway. Before this one we did the Chimaira tour and a couple of tours prior to that where we made a little money, knowing that we're gonna do 2 or 3 tours where we're gonna lose some. But that's how it works you know. First 50 gigs Stampin' Ground did, we didn't make any money, we lost on all of them. So we're used to it, that's what you have to do. I think being from the UK doesn't really help, not by a long stretch. You just "have" to be from the States of course, but we manage.. and that's the important thing.
I always thought the UK scene was pretty non-existing for a lot of years.
Totally, there's nothing there! I mean, there are a couple of bands, but I don't know what's happened. Hmm, I think what it is, I'll be perfectly honest... I think it's the US syndrome, you know, people support US bands and it puts UK bands into arbitration.
And that's funny when you realize that, at least for metal, it all started in England.
Yeah, absolutely! Some of the best bands at the moment happen to be American, but I think you have to support your homeground scene first I think.
It's always been typical for England that the press has not supported their own..
Absolutely. People are gonna buy into the American way, I mean, don't get me wrong, it's fine.. but we've got a lot of work to do.
A few years back you already did some shows in the US.
We've done 2 US tours, both on the East coast, with an old band called Cause For Alarm.
Did they get you to the US, since you already toured with them?
Yes, we haven't been gigging extensively, because we have such a long history, but we forged a friendship with them in Europe and then they asked us over there which was really really cool. We're still good friends with a lot of the guys from the New York scene. The second time, we did some festivals and toured a bit. The weird thing is, when European bands go to the US, there is a respect there, that I suppose you can't get over here.
The grass is always greener on the other side.. How was Eastern Europe?
Best gigs we've ever done! We've done quite a lot of work in Greece and Bulgaria and it really really helped, the people are totally into it. Big crowds, huge pits, huge walls of death and stuff. We've built up quite a good fanbase. So if any band can get to Bulgaria, than they really need to go, because it's probably one of the best scenes I've ever seen. A humble band like Stampin' Ground can play to 800 people in Sofia, it's insane. And they all go off! Very friendly people and totally open-minded. That's what we want haha!
Did you expect that before you went - what did you expect?
No. In Greece we kinda know the score, we actually sold all of our merchandise as soon as we got to Athens, we had to get reprints and stuff, so that gives you a rough idea of how it went. With Sofia, Bulgaria we had no idea what to expect. It turned out it was amazing. Hungary and Bulgaria, totally new territories for us, and it all went really really well. We went to Austria from there, lots of people for a monday night, very cool! So we do things the weird way I guess.. as you may have seen on the website, Iceland and stuff - we like to play in places where most bands don't go.
You don't wait for the top conditions, you just go.
Talking about conditions.. first time we had a blizzard was in Greece, the wind was unbelievable and I mean, Greece! You expect sunny holidays, not 8 ft of snow!
You just toured with Chimaira in the UK, how was that?
Amazing. We always do well with bands like that, so it was a really good UK tour, one of the best we've ever done. And they're very cool people as well.
That's very important when you have to live together in a bus ;)
We did that one different, with a van without windows, freezing cold hehe!
What was your biggest show, your biggest audience ever?
Probably Donnington, Donnington Park, on the main stage, 35.000 people. We had 2 walls of death going on at the same time. Unbelievable seeing 35.000 people just go insane.
From all the countries where you haven't been to yet, where would you like to go the most?
To be honest.. we haven't been to Japan, that would be quite interesting. Australia, I'd like to go to Australia. You know... anywhere and everywhere!
And with whom? Zyklon??;)
Ah, I wouldn't want to go with these again! (laughter) Well, if we had to, we'd go. If we got payed more haha! Ehm.. with who.. I don't know. We're all about breaking down the barriers, we'd go with anyone pretty much. As long as it's not a fucking fascist band or something like that. Anyone and everyone. I'd be happy to tour with whomever. I'd like to go on tour with Type O Negative actually, for some reason. It would be interesting. People would hate us, haha, lots of goths.
They'll just stand there..
Yeah, looking sad hehe! No moshpit... No, I really don't care who we play with to be honest.
We already talked about the UK scene a bit, that non-existing one ;) What about the hardcore scene, are the scenes seperated? I think they pretty much are, here on the mainland. From what I hear from the US and Canada it's much more mixed.
Yeah, that's what I've seen too. In the UK it used to be really good. At the moment it has become more segregated as it has over here, that's a shame. There is a massive scene, we played to 1200 kids with Chimaira and stuff and that was a good mix. But it takes bands like that to bring people out of the woodwork. It's the usuall bullshit: American bands comes over, loads of people turn out. UK hardcore band or metal or whatever: 50, 60 kids, unless they play London where you get 300, 400, you know. London is a really good scene. There are people, and there are scenes in the UK, but it's splintered. There is a segregation, definitely.
About your latest record, "A New Darkness Upon Us"... which is a great record, awesome production!
How was it to work with Andy Sneap?
He's a slavedriver!! If your fingers ain't bleeding, than he doesn't want to know!! Perfection is the key word there. Anything less than perfection, forget it. And never a truer word has been said. He's a really cool guy, we still sort of meet up with him. We hooked up with Andy not so long back, where we took him on a curry eating contest. We went with Andy and Adam from Killswitch Engaged, we went out and we had a really cool night. We tried to get him back for making our fingers bleed, he was struggling big time ;) Andy Sneap cries when he eats hot curry!
He's a really good producer, we really love to work with him again, definitely.
Was it a conscious decision to work with a more metal producer?
It was one of those things where Dave Chang, our old producer, had kind of pushed it as far as we feel he could go and we wanted more separation in the sound, we knew that the new material needed more separation, because of the way we wrote it, the style of the music, so we just needed to work with someone that could take it to the next level really. And we've known Andy for a long time and he took it on as a project, which was pretty cool, because he was totally into it. He won't work with bands he doesn't like, which is cool I think. Otherwise it's false.
It gives the best results..
Totally, so we're totally happy with everything about that and Andy is cool, a really nice guy.
How was the reaction in Europe and now in the US?
It's been positive all around actually. We're quite fortunate, we haven't really seen any bad criticism about the album. Occasionally the album will get passed to people who are into stuff like Helloween, and we get a shitty review, but ah it's been really good. And in the US they have a major radio network and in some charts we end up higher than Hatebreed, which is weird, really weird. So we're doing very well over there as well.
Would you say your style has changed over the years? Like, towards metal?
Yeah, for sure. A lot of us come from hardcore/punk bands, except Neil, the drummer, he used to be in Benediction. Musically we are getting away from it a bit and getting more metal in our approach, without question. It's cool, metal is an obvious progression, isn't it, I think, from a musician's point of view.
The lyrics used to be Ian's job, who's gonna take care of it now?
Adam wrote a lot of them on the new album. Amazingly, the thing that strikes me most is that Adam can actually write! (laughter) I was quite impressed with that really. So not only can he write, he can actually write lyrics, which was a double surprise ;)
We still have a lot of Ian's lyrics. He's still a very good friend of ours.
So he might still participate in the songs?
Yeah absolutely, which is very cool I think! If he's up for it, I'm sure we would go down that road. But now Adam is doing fine with the lyrics. Not so fucked up as Ian's haha! Ian's bitter and twisted. But he's not anymore though, since he left the band. For some reason. (laughter)
Turned into a family man...
Yeah that's basically the reason why he left.
And how has Ben been received by the fans?
Oh they hate him, they throw bottles, they threathen him with knifes..
Yeah, everything. Which is cool. (laughter) Nah, he's fine! He's a natural progression actually, because he's done a lot of work for us in the past anyway, so when Ian wasn't able to make it, it was quite an obvious way to go.
Is he already eager to write new material?
Yeah, yeah, but we're not going to let him! When we get away from the venue, we put him in a box, into the van, and that's where he stays! We sometimes feed him.
Until the next gig and then you unload the box and there he is.
Exactly. He's a tool! (laughter) Quite literally. Yeah that's Ben ;)
The artwork has been explained on the website, how the world was all fine until humanity took over and caused destruction and darkness. Is that what you believe is happening in the world and is there still a way out you think?
Everything humanity touches turns to shit. Basically. Call me a pessimist, but things can only get worse. (looks at my puzzled face) I wish I could be more positive on that, haha!
Actually when I was thinking of this question I was like "I need to be positive", I'm a positive person. But if you see what's being cooked up, I also see how you can wonder "how is this going to go better again?". I have to believe it somehow though.
It's terrifying. There are a number of evils in the world I think. Just so happens that the world is being policed by one evil... it's depressing. It may not turn out like they fucking want, like can it get worse??
Haha, is that happy metal? ;)
Haha, maybe that's the saviour!
Ah yeah, happy metal, Helloween.. THAT's how we're gonna save the word!
I read some news about you being featured in a movie called "Lovesick"? That did happen?
Sort of! We did some scenes. We had some problems on the second day, there were some misunderstandings about equipment and so on and so forth. So unfortunately on the second day we were unable to get the equipment that we needed to go. So whether or not the scenes we are in will actually be used, I really don't know. We would actually be performing as a band as well, that's where it all went wrong. Just a communication thing, that's all. But about the scenes, I really don't know what happened.
It probably still has to come out or what?
I haven't got a clue.
You didn't play in the movie, other than that? Because the ad said you were supposed to be the male lead's metal band?
No, that was kind of the whole story. The scenes we did involved being in a bar, and the following day we were supposed to be in a scene with this guy, so it wasn't Stampin' Ground as such, just members of a band. It was pretty cool, but because they didn't communicate with us what they needed on the second day...
Did a lot of people react on that ad, that you needed extras? That's where we got the news from btw.
We had only two or three days, but the bar was full. And it would've been fine, but it was a really weird experience. But if they'll ever use it, I don't know.
We'll see it some day I guess. Or it's probably some underground movie, so maybe we'll never get to see it hehe!
I don't know if you've ever seen any of the guy's work (Wolfgang Buld), but it's pretty fucked up, some of the stuff he's done in the past. Totally fucked up. So maybe it's a good thing, haha!
Let's go over some general stuff... what were your main influences to start making music?
Sex Pistols! They started it for everyone! Because, as I said, I'm 36, so my main influences originally were the Sex Pistols, the Clash, stuff like that. I got into punk in 1978, so I was like 10 years old, got my guitar in like 1981 or 1982 and the first thing I wanted to do was play punk :)
Hehe, totally! And from there it just developed from punk to metal and hardcore and shit like that. As Stampin' Ground the main influences are Snapcase, Inside Out, Earth Crisis, bands like that. But before that it was like Anthrax, Pantera and bands like that with a really good chunky sound.
Who are your heroes nowadays?
(pauses) I don't know.. music is leaving me fairly cold these days, do you know what I mean? I mean, I do love Hatebreed, don't get me wrong, but there's not a great deal out there.. every band has something to offer, but there's no band specifically.
And as a guitarist?
I'm just a rhythm guitarist and I write the music, so I don't really look up to any guitarist. I just hear and play to the best of my abilities, which is limited ;) So I don't really have a hero as such, which probably sounds weird as a guitarist... but I'm not really that type of musician. Acutally, if you're that influenced by individuals or bands, you really do sound like those bands. There are always people who say we sound like Slayer, which we don't! I don't own a Slayer record.
I guess it's hard to say. I do hear some Slayer in the music, but there's Slayer in so much music, so if the influence comes from another band it might still be that similar influence, it's all over the metal scene. Like old Metallica riffs and such.
Absolutely. Yeah, before they had that country record and went garage-punk and took a piss at people, which was fucking outrageous, but I don't want to get into that ;)
If I were a beginning band I would be so ashamed of St. Anger...
Totally, totally... what the fuck is going on? It was the biggest marketing success in music, that they actually managed to market St. Anger for what it is, when in fact it's actually a piece of shit. Totally takes a piss at the kids that fucking buy it! Outrageous. Fucking unbelievable. But enough's been said about all that, I mean everyone knows...
But it did get some good reviews...
Ah that's bullshit, that's political, probably! It's like, you have to... ah I don't know! (laughter)
Politics, 'nuff said. I'm glad we're just a small webzine ;)
Yeah! Mags like Kerrang or whatever, they can't be seeing it how it is, Metallica, they can't. Because Metallica pays them a wage, you know. If they put Metallica on the front cover, they're gonna sell a lot of issues. Their label spends a lot of money on these mags. You start dissing Metallica, that will end. Fucking politics, bullshit.
Yeah, enough. What are the plans after this tour?
We got some bits to do in the UK and Ireland and so on, and America probably and then back over here, we're gonna do as much in Europe as we possibly can. Maybe with Anthrax or with a band that's a bit more suited to what we're playing. We want to do at least 3 more tours in Europe this year, so we've got a lot of work to do and we understand that.
Are you already planning new stuff for an album or just the touring for now? Because some bands seem to be writing for the new album before they even go out on the first tour for the current one.
Not me! For now it's just the touring. I'm lazy haha! I want to sit down and watch tele! (laughter)
I can only wish you success in the future tours, gaining success and whatnot - do you have any last words?
Thanks for the interview, I really wished tonight's show had been... (thinks)
Less rushed? (laughter)
Thanks for taking the time to come and talk to us anyway, that was really cool!
See you on a next tour!
submitted by Marlies 11.08.2004