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Interview with Leaf
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
Gary Glitter’s 1976 Christmas annual (unfortunately?) was a turning point for me (Colin) and started a love affair with the ‘showy’ side of music. If I wasn’t a musician, I would be a performer of some kind – massively introverted offstage but unhinged on stage where I can play the ‘real me’. Jarad was surrounded by a musical family and immersed from a young age. He has a need to get something in his hands, so a future as the worlds fattest pole vaulter? Mark and Dan just listen to music constantly, their lives are consumed by music but both of them are sensitive souls so they would likely be counsellors, priests or suchlike. Dan would also be a pretty good instrument builder – he has many talents
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I teach kids, trying to guide them towards a better future. Beyond that music is all, but the energy of youth permeates my every day and inspires and frustrates me in equal measure. My songs and Leaf are my cathartic release. Jarad eats his weight in meat in between smashing riffs out constantly -our group chat is bursting at the seams with his noodling. He doesn’t like TV which forces him to practice. Mark is an avid news/FB/social media whore and his anger and frustration finds its outlet in the drums that he smashes two shades of holy living hell out of. His light and shade is inspiring and that comes from his day job as an advocate, supporting those forgotten by society. When Dan is not playing he is listening to music and lots of it. You should see his CD collection; he brings a musicality to the bass missing in lots of bass players. Oh, and he fiddles with pedal boards and kit constantly to add that extra dimension.
How long has your band been around?
Original incarnation was in 1992. Bass player had worrying habits which lead to internal friction with the original drummer who was more ‘cucumber sandwich’ than 12” toke. It was also a big mistake for Colin to try out for the Wildhearts and that was the final straw for the band, and we imploded. Between us we have had many, many experiences both professional and not so. Colin had a career in the professional library music biz, made some money, did session work for the BBC/ITV/Channel 4. The rest of the band trod the circuits in multiple bands (Goya and Electus are a couple). Roll on 25-30 years we are older and wiser now, all the crap is behind us in the past and the songs are raw, real and actually mean something.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
Stoke-on-Trent is a very poor city in the UK. We are overlooked for national funding form the government and life can be a grind. But Stokies are tough and gnarly and that influences every song that we write. As we said they are ‘real’ and full of attitude, there are no stories of goblins and dragons, no simpering love songs. If you want ‘fluffy clouds’ Leaf songs may not be your type of thing, but if you want to feel connected to your music, get angry and punch the air, then we are for you
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
We used to do a cover of Sweet Leaf when we first got together. The mighty Sabbath obviously had a part to play, but I can neither confirm nor deny that the song has anything to do with a five lobed leaf (which is Jarad’s take on it). There are other Leaf bands in the world, but I think being around since 1992 gives us the right to the name…but UK on the end stops other people having a groan at us. It feels like our name. Someone once suggested ‘Powerhouse’, but that just made us double up in laughter at the utter cackness of it.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
Every show is better and better. We are no spring chickens, but we give it our all (I try to always be very animated). Most memorable? The one that ended in a fight and a chase in the van? Actual;ly that has happened twice. Maybe the one where I lost it with the soundman because he switched the power off 30 seconds before the end of Butterfingers because we had played over by 2 minutes. Jarad looks like a mass murderer but has a very calming influence, thankfully.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
We will play anywhere and everywhere, but with a left-handed drummer we must get on with the sound man to accommodate the mad lefty kit. Tap and Tumbler in Nottingham is a good one, we played in a place called Percy’s in Whitchurch that had the best soundman that we had ever met (fantastic sound and atmosphere). All the venues that we have played have positives and negatives, and I don’t think anywhere is off our list. Like we say, book us, hear us, book us again.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
That is a difficult one because we all have differing angles and approaches to music - we don’t listen to the same bands at all. Motorhead (for Jarad), Led Zep (for Mark), _______ for Dan and the Pistols for me. And I think we all agree on AC/DC? Obviously all of them in their heyday, rather than having to exhume bass players etc. If you want current bands? Anthrax, Chili Peppers, Clutch and Rival Sons. Oh, and Idles because I have a man crush on Joe Talbot. Am I allowed to say that?
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?
Don’t copy. Develop your own style by listening to a range of music and never ever give in to the pressure of doing covers. What a soul-destroying endeavor it is to be in cover bands and particularly tribute bands. Pretending to be someone is never going to be satisfying, so we refuse to do that anymore. We can play a 25 song set at the drop of a hat, and only one piece is someone else’s and we have mashed that up. Advice to our younger selves would be don’t let a partner/girlfriend/wife dictate when and where you can be for rehearsal nights – they are sacrosanct and make bands what they should be, tight and professional. Don’t take no for an answer and concentrate on the song. It is all about the song.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
For me it would be don’t do the Wildhearts audition. It will make you angry and resentful because they didn’t really want you and as a result it will piss your band off. The earlier advice about ‘girlfriends etc’ is particularly poignant given that they will make you sell your gear for a pittance to fund something unimportant. Just think how much that 72 Fender Telecaster is worth now!
Keep sticking at it and if you believe, the audience will believe too! Play from the heart, concentrate on crafting every song, every bar, Think about that riff. Is it catchy? Is it needed? What does it bring to the song? Is that arrangement just standard because you just want to make life simple? Is it complicated because you want to look like a muso? It is, we repeat, all about the song.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
That is an impossible question. Every song we play has a message, is personal and steeped in angst. However, if it were not for a piece of my music written in the late 90’s, I would have sacked off music permanently. I heard it playing when watching the Dallas Stars in 1998 in a break time playlist alongside GnR and AC/DC at a particularly low point in my life. It showed me that I was as at least as good as my heroes.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Butterfingers is a belter to play and is usually the set closer. You can really dig in and thrash and the riffs are massive. What I Saw also has the kind of riff that makes you bang your head and it bounces when you play it and we have a 2.5 minute song called Disruptor that has a cheeky little stop in it that makes the audience smile. Long Road, Black & White, Do it Again and Long Road all have the massive hooks and melody. You know, it really depends on which crowd and what gig, we cross so many sub-genres that we can satisfy most audiences and we have such a big catalogue of songs that we can adapt to any audience – we have a flexible approach to
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
Most of the time I will write the stems and demo a tune. I bring it to the rest of us, who rip it apart, criticize, dissect and enhance, then we end up with a decent tune …that we rework again! Or we just pick a monster Jarad riff and jam it to death. It is absolutely fantastic to be able to properly jam with creative and thoughtful, non-judgmental people. Our inspiration is everyday life and getting people to wake up and understand the crap that we all go through is the same, so that connects us to everyone.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
We do not write about escapism or fantasy and definitely about boy meets girl kind of nonsense. We just get angry, frustrated and rail against the monotony and boredom of life and that is the basic message. We will always try to touch a raw nerve in the audience, with some humour though, we are not afraid to take the piss out of ourselves and life has ups as well as downs.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
We do get grumpy with each other, but any disagreement is mainly about a bum note or something like that. To be honest, the outside world is the main source of pain and anguish. When we get together, we splurge and let it all out. We are sounding boards for each other so ‘fallings out’ are extremely rare and we counsel each other; we are thinking of starting a podcast/YouTube channel just us four getting together and talking rubbish as it may help those pseudo-macho types who cannot open up.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
Gigs, wherever, whenever and getting our music out there. We have 5 tracks waiting to be released produced by a fantastic young guy called Jonny Price (you can have a sneaky listen if you want?). They are fantastic. We have so many other tunes, we work on new material constantly and we are going back into the studio in December. We thought we had better record some more before we die of old age. Keep an ear out, Leaf UK are coming! Possibly with the aid of a Zimmer frame.