Scott Holiday with the rest of Rival Sons (Scott pictured first on the left).
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Scott Holiday, lead guitarist of Rival Sons, one of the best bands to come out of America in recent years. This has probably been one of my favourite interviews to date and as well as being a bloody nice chap, Scott really know his stuff when it comes to vintage gear so he is a real pleasure to listen to. Scott’s band, Rival Sons, have had an almost metoric rise to fame and are riding a resurgent new wave of classic blues based rock n roll. Fusing the best elements of bands like Led Zeppelin and Free, the band have an irresistable blend of authentic ‘old school vibe’, catchy hooks and great songs.
Having recently released their new album ‘Pressure and Time’ and enjoyed a successful summer of touring including this year’s High Voltage festival in Hyde Park, I managed to catch Scott on a Friday morning in a cafe near his home in LA.
How the band got together and their rise to fame had already been covered in great detail (check out June’s edition of classic rock magazine for a great interview) so I was keen to find out how Scott was handling the band’s new found fame.
How to you manage juggling a family and being in a successful rock band?
Scott: It’s really far out and we are just starting to get busy so it can be challenging. I’ve always been a guitar player so they are pretty much used to it by now. But it so heart breaking when you’re gone for a month or so and it’s really bitter sweet given how well things are going right now. I thinks it’s a healthy balance though and it keeps me really grounded.
The glam metal scene left a lasting mark on LA’s musical legacy. Do you feel any responsibility to set the record straight with Rival Sons?
Scott: I don’t think it’s as much that as more of a personal quest and the fact that I had this in myself and I wanted to be in a rock band that was true to form so to speak. I’ve played lots of different types of music, the band have all played different types of music but this was my biggest strength by far.
Not that the sun had set on rock n roll but it had gotten further and further away from what it was truly about. I wanted to make a band that embodied what rock n roll was about and I think LA could definitely do with more rock n roll rather than the many off shoots.
You’ve been billed as one of the best bands to come out of America? Do you feel much pressure with comments like this?
Scott: We definitely take it our stride. People write a lot of things both positive and negative and we’ve been blessed with many positive things having been written about us. Even the negative things you take in your stride but we chuckle when we read a headline like that (laughs).The big statements are funny. When people make claims like that , we are like “uh oh”. Comparisons to some of the greatest bands in history and the feeling like we need to live up to them or being the greatest band in America, either way we are just going to go and play the songs we wrote and do our show and hope that people enjoy it.
Rival Sons at High Voltage
I caught some of the footage from this year’s High Voltage festival on Sky Arts and you guys looked like you were on fire.
Scott: I know that there was a lot of negativity towards the main stage. The sound was so quiet. It’s a bummer when a rock band it too quite. I remember when I went to see the The Raconteurs at the Greek Theatre here in LA and they were so quiet you could actually hear yourself talk doing the gig. I remember thinking “This is terrible”.
So I heard there were some complaints like that and you could tell that people wanted more. But I have to tell you I wished they had taped the second show at the Metal Hammer stage that night. A band that we were hoping to see, Electric Lizard, pulled out and they asked us to headline that show. That show was really great. I wished they would have taped that one!
You manage to capture a vintage tone that has what you refer to as a real ‘dirty’ vibe. How do you go about creating this tone in the studio?
Scott: It’s just a live record you know? Our producer Dave Cobb knows exactly what we are doing. We basically just setup live and play together and use the fuzz boxes and the same drums along with some really good miking techniques. It’s simple in nature but just not being done so much these days. It contributes towards a rough and ready feel. But rather than trying to be vintage, we were just looking for the best rock n roll sound. I think that’s what you want to hear from a rock band, you want to hear the sound breathing.
I mean rock n roll between 1965 – 1972 was just amazing, those records just sounded fantastic. The drum tones, the guitar tones. Everything just sounds good from that era. Even the soul records, motown and the jazz records that Miles (Davis) was doing in 71/72 they just sounded incredible and I think our sound was definitely inspired by the recording techniques of that time.
We had all the different gear that we needed in the studio, that said we did have some equipment from the 50′s, like all the radio equipment and we mixed on a Neve console. Even the most modern sounding bands like the foo fighters still want to use Neve preamps and old compressors. For our kind of sound however it’s really perfect.
I love that kind of sound personally, particular with bands like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. The albums with John Frusciante, the band just sounded like they are in the room.
Scott: I love John Frusciante! He’s one of my favourite dudes. I mean, still to this day, I think that Blood Sugar Sex Magic is spectacular. I think the guitar sound there is over the top! I don’t think they ever matched it personally but that’s how it goes. It’s a magical record for them and I’m sure they realise that too.