Interview: Ruled By Raptors
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
Nick: We all have various different version of the story that we grew up around an alternative scene and as music was such a big thing in our social groups we each found ourselves slowly learning music. If it wasn’t for music I doubt any of us would know what we’d be doing but if we were forced to answer we’d all probably find ourselves somewhere in the arts.
Will: I've always tried to keep a pragmatic approach to things so I made sure I had a plan B career in IT so I'd probably be doing that.
Chris: I tried the IT approach, I enjoy IT, just not as a job. I think I have a people tolerance issue.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Chris: My creativity comes and goes without warning, I don’t write because I want to make something, I feel compelled to do so, more as a cathartic relief than anything. It helps me process things. My hobbies aren’t as creative, I like building things, but mostly I like gaming, cycling, football, standard stuff.
Nick: Personally I spend some time playing video games and spending time with family/friends. That being the case I tend to find inspiration for music in the form of phrases I hear in videos games or sometimes in documentaries.
Will: If I'm not playing music, I'm listening to it, or going to a gig normally. I do try to have a social life around the band because sometimes being 100% full on all the time can hit your creativity because you're ready for a break and just put off anything creative for a while.
How long has your band been around?
Will: We formed in 2019!
Chris: No we didn’t!
Matt: We’ve been playing music together under various guises for a long while now, but Ruled By Raptors officially started at the end of 2018.
Chris: That’s right! We had a fairly convoluted genesis as a band. Prior to Ruled By Raptors we did a year or two together in my previous band Digits. I was the only original member left and it just felt right to draw a line and start something new.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
Chris: We often just say Newcastle for ease, but we’re all from a pretty impoverished area of South East Northumberland. Blyth, Bedlington and Ashington. In all fairness we shouldn’t get on at all due to township rivalries! It’s the most populated part of Northumberland, but it’s a very working-class area going through a period of regeneration following on from the collapse of mining and ship building.
Nick: We’ve found influence in the scenery around the area. We’ve definitely been very fortunate to use the local area as good inspiration for our music videos.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
Chris: I’d love to give you a more interesting story, but it was very methodically thought out and planned. I was pretty intent not to make the same mistake as Digits did with our band name, I wanted something that no one else had thought of and where the website address and various social media pages could all be the same. We also wanted it to have some meaning to the content of our lyrics - Ruled By Raptors had a very reptilian Elite David Icke feel to it which we liked, plus a lot of regal and hierarchical imagery involves ornithological raptors, so all this imagery and the alliteration, it just seemed perfect.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
Will: We've had a few, playing in what may as well have been someone’s living room in Scotland up in Inverness is up there, we’ve played some of our favourite venues up and down the country too!
Nick: One of the most memorable shows that comes to my mind is a show we played in Newcastle. The night before, we played a show in Warrington, that show went down pretty well and we all had a lot of fun.
Chris: It was a bit of a quiet night, some of our friends from that year’s Lars tour turned up to see us which meant an awful lot to us.
Nick: All went well until it came time to set off for home. Once we all sat down ready to set off for a late journey home, at around 12, everyone other than Chris having had a few bevs courtesy of the venue, we quickly realised that Chris’ van wouldn’t start.
Chris: Yeah that was pretty horrendous. Turned out I had a battery problem and Matt had sat in the van charging his phone and listening to the stereo without turning the engine over so the battery was dead. We played with my mates Zebedy, an absolutely unreal band from Wales that everyone should check out.
Nick: It was immediate panic. We all jumped out quickly and tried to bump start the van to get it moving… no luck.
Chris: Because my van can’t be bump started due to its clutch start function.
Nick: We called out a recovery company and they couldn’t get the van started… Even after trying to charge the battery with the most battered jumper cable I’ve ever seen in my life. Eventually after much waiting and a slightly drunk Will trying to tell them where to actually attach the cables…
Chris: Which he turned out to be right about…
Nick: We figured we’d have to wait for a tow back home. Now bear in mind the gig in Newcastle we were due there for about 1pmish and we’d been waiting for this news until about 4 in the morning needless to say we genuinely thought there was no way we’d be able to play. We eventually got a tow truck to arrive at 7/8 in the morning after a few of us got some rough sleep in the back of Chris’ van. When at that point our truck driver heard our story and called another recovery van to try and jump start the van… wouldn’t you know it they got it started. At this moment we decided ‘F*** it we’re playing Newcastle today.’ We instantly contacted the promoter who we’d last let know we were struggling to make it to the show. I kid you not we got to the venue with about 30 minutes before our slot. We jumped on stage exhausted, HAGGARD after our ordeal and, I swear down this is true, we played the heaviest, angriest and best we could. And lo and behold the venue loved us. Was there a moral to this story? No.
Chris: To be fair though, the guys at Live Bar in Warrington looked after us for as long as they could. They stuck Bottom on the projector and gave you all free beer. I drew the short straw with pints of coke and zero alcohol beers.
What is your favourite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Nick: Favourite venue? I’d probably have to put my vote to Little Buildings in Newcastle. I do have one venue I’d love to play in Newcastle just to say we’ve done it and that’s gotta be the Utilita Arena in Newcastle.
Chris: You’re so basic.
Will: We always loved playing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle, which is sadly no longer a music venue, we're playing King Tuts on our May/June tour which is one of our bucket list venues so that's going to be awesome!
Chris: I think for me it was probably the O2 Main stage in Newcastle.
Nick: That wasn’t us.
Chris: I know. Still one of my favourites though! For us probably The Joiners in Southampton, or that bizarre gig at Stockport Hat Museum – It was filled with kids because of Koo Koo Kanga Roo and we got about 20 seconds into our first song and 5 kids burst into tears and had to leave the room. Not gonna lie as a dad I felt a bit bad!
If you could play any show with any line-up, who would be on the ticket?
Nick: God. If I had it my way there’d probably be about 1000 bands on. But if I had to narrow it down a little I’d love to be a main support for System of A Down.
Matt: Biffy Clyro, Enter Shikari, Arcane Roots, Reuben. Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. Bosh.
Will: I think it would have to be a 4 band bill. Biffy Clyro support from Hundred Reasons, Rueben and ourselves!
Chris: This is tough, we have a lot of line ups coming up with bands I like, Kkett, All Ears Avow, MC Lars – of course… I like gigging with our friends Tired of Fighting and Hivemind. Bigger bands, I’ve been fortunate to play with some of my favourites over the years… Ones still on my list are Reuben/Jamie Lenman, Frank Turner, Enter Shikari. Deftones, we’d just have to play Waves on repeat for that one though.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Nick: Practice, practice, practice. Write, write, write. Keep playing and writing tunes. You can only write the good stuff once you’ve waded through your worst stuff.
Matt: Know your worth from the get go. Never undersell yourself. 2 pints before a show maximum.
Will: Get in a band with likeminded people, it can be really easy to join up with a few other mates who play but ultimately don't have the same end game or even starting point as you. And as for my younger self, get off the Xbox and practice more!
Chris: Because I run a rehearsal studio, I get asked this a lot anyway, and it’s difficult. My experience is not necessarily the same as someone else’s. I guess it’s treat the band as a job, there are tasks that have to be done and you just can’t neglect them. The other would be “shy bairns get nowt”. Pride is for losers, ask, the worst thing they’re going to say is no. Unless of course you don’t want to do the bigger things – That’s fine, enjoy playing the way you want to play it, but make sure that you’re all on the same page. As for my younger self – I dunno, he was going through stuff, his attention span was short, I had an opportunity to know stuff that I still don’t know, but ultimately, I wouldn’t be with the guys I am now if I changed anything. Causality exists for a reason, right now this is where I’m meant to be.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Nick: Same as before. Practice more. Write more stuff. Even if it stinks write it. Then write more music. And eventually you’ll find the right sound.
Matt: Buy lighter amps. Do more yoga.
Will: To be honest, I don't think I would have any. the choices we've made so far have taken us to where we are now, sure we could have done a few things differently but then we wouldn't have had the learning experiences we have had.
Chris: Don’t stop going to the gym. Just because you have a car, don’t think you stop running to Seaton Sluice and back. Put that pint down.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Nick: Right now. The song Dance of Wolves hits me very hard. Currently I’m having a difficult time with my own personal mental health. A lot of the lyrics hit my heart very close right now.
Chris: That kinda means a lot to me what Nick said, when we wrote it – it never seemed to be one he was really excited to play - he likes rowdy ra ra songs, but the lyrics to that was a very personal one to me. I can still vividly recall the feelings of having got stuff off my chest when I wrote that song. Oxy’s Moron is equally a very personal song, I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder which involves a lot of invasive and repetitive thinking. I have a place I go by the sea, some cliffs where I feel compelled to go to… It’s difficult to explain, but the air just feels… Better there. Unfortunately not long after I wrote the lyrics to the song an old friend of mine took his life near to there and at his funeral I found out that he sought the same solace from that part of our beautiful coast.
Will: Probably Time, it was probably the first song that we all wrote as a band together and it formed the process of how we go about writing songs now.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Nick: Personally my favourite song to play is probably Waves, I just love it’s aggressive and visceral sound. Our most played song is Braggart so I’d guess that one would get the nod for our most requested.
Matt: I’m not sure if we’ve ever had any requests pop up at a show, but we always love opening with Waves. It’s so high energy it really sets the pace for the rest of set.
Will: Probably Waves, it's normally our opener and going out and starting with such an in your face tune is just brilliant. Time gets requested a lot but it's a permanent fixture in the set so it's usually just a case of keeping the crowd waiting a little bit longer
Chris: Time gets asked for every now and then… For a long time I’ve had an issue with the song, I sort of wrote and brought it to the band fully written, changes were made to make it more of a band song, but despite what Will said about it, it never sat well with me that although they had their say in its arrangement and admittedly Dance of Wolves was the same, I prefer the songs where we build it together from the start. These had lyrics and developed verses and choruses before we then dismantled them and rebuilt them. Admittedly though, we have recently done more work to Time and removed parts that I do and changed what they do and I feel it’s vastly improved the song and I’m really looking forward to airing that on this next tour! As for favourite song to play, I think there’s a bit of a consensus in regards to Waves!
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
Will: Normally we don't set out to write songs.
Matt: We’re very much in the band-in-a-room style of songwriters. Our inspiration is just the drive to create, it’s what we want to do. We’ll hash out arrangements and songs just the four of us and expand on them at the demo stage, if we need to add more layers or synths or anything. Our phones are absolutely full of voice notes of songs at this point!
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
Chris: Although I’ve always been open for the others to bring lyrics to our songs, so far I’ve kind of dictated the directions our lyrics have gone in just by issues that I’m processing at that time. I’m rather politically minded, interested in history and due to my OCPD have touched on Mental Health subjects on this new EP, which is a first for me as I prior to Ruled By Raptors I usually preferred to write songs that observed others rather than commenting on myself. Thankfully a lot of the subjects touched on have spoke out to the lads on issues that matter to them as well.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Chris: No – Never. Our band is like a temple.
Will: All. The. time. Any band who says they don't have disagreements is lying haha!
Nick: We’ve had a few heated debates. After all we’re all pretty big personalities so we’re bound to clash at some point. Fortunately, we are all able to, eventually, see each other’s points. I’d like to think we don’t hide anything from each other. As a band I feel it’s super important to be upfront and honest with each other and ourselves.
Matt: We fight like brothers. We’ll argue over the finest detail in anything, and then just hug it out later. We’re close enough where we don’t need to hide from each other, and I think that comes out in what we make too.
Chris: Will and I are literally brother in laws, I’ve been with his sister since he was like 7 or 8 years old, ironically, I think we’re the ones who have the least conflict with each other. I know that if I can get him over to my side, I can generally win the other two over. Matt and I though, I think you’d think we were generally brothers the way we fight. It always gets dealt with there and then, but it can get pretty heated. In a different way, Nick and I clash at times, mostly because we’ve known each other the longest besides me and Will but there’s a noticeable age gap there… Wait… Am I the problem?
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
Matt: We’re going out on tour with our friend MC Lars, alongside Schaffer the Darklord and Laser from the Doubleclicks on 26th May, we’re acting as Lars’ backing band for the second time too. Our new EP ‘Silent Sound’ is out on the 15th June!
Will: We've been given the opportunity to play SlamDunk Festival as MC Lars’ backing band as part of the tour as well, which we are very excited for!
Chris: After the tour we’ve got some pretty awesome gigs coming up with our friends in Kkett who are doing very well for themselves right now, as well as All Ears Avow, Elessar, Boy Hits Car and The Breathing Method, not to mention we’ve just found out that we’re going to be played on Alex Baker’s Fresh Blood radio show on Kerrang! Radio next week which has us really excited that some awesome people are really getting behind this EP!