Scottish post-rock heroes What The Blood Revealed have built up quite a name for themselves recently with their expansive instrumental epics and relentless touring with the likes of Kylesa, This Will Destroy You, Crippled Black Phoenix, A Storm of Light and many more. M3 grilled drummer Alan Hayburn on the subjects of copyright, digital distribution and social media…
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Alan – I’m Alan Hayburn, I play drums in What The Blood Revealed.
What inspired you to form What The Blood Revealed? What are your own musical backgrounds?
I’m actually the last member to join the current band lineup, a couple of years ago now, and there’s been a few personnel changes since the band formed in 2004. I’ve been good friends with all the other members for years, long before WTBR was formed so I’ve seen them at the start and I’ve watched them evolve. The band was originally formed by Scott Hamilton (the only original member today), I think WTBR was a subtle instrumental response, or extension, to his previous screamy alt rock band.
My earliest memories of music are listening to vinyl of bands like AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Free and Big Country with my Dad, bands I still love today. Through the nineties I listened to a lot of Metal, Alt rock, Grunge and Melodic Punk. As I’ve gotten a bit older I listen to more Jazz and fusion like Billy Cobham and Mahavishnu Orchestra. I’d say I’ve got a pretty broad taste in music and I try to keep an open mind, I’m still AC/DC mad though.
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
Because I grew up listening to Vinyl there will always be a special place in my heart listening to Vinyl, and I think its still the most emotive, nostalgic and satisfying way to listen to music. It’s not the most practical way to listen to music these days but I still like going to record shops or fayres and searching through old vinyl. I don’t buy or download many MP3s, I just use what I’m given by friends. I think I’m kind of old shool in that I like to buy, hold and catalogue my music physically. I still buy a lot of CDs that I want because I like owning them and flicking through the insert to look at the pictures and read the notes. I still get excited about that, I guess because when I was a kid we didn’t have the internet so a gatefold Vinyl or CD insert was the only way you learned about a band e.g. pictures, who wrote the songs, what gear they use etc etc.
Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
When I think back years ago if I heard a band was good I’d go take a gamble and buy their album and you’d listen to the full thing to understand what a band/artist was all about. Now you can just go on the internet and listen to a 40 second sample to gauge whether you the like the band or not.
The flipside is that your music as a band is a lot more accessible in that people can buy tracks here and there.
So I think as a collective piece of art, if you write an album in that way, it has to be more difficult to communicate that to an audience who are not familiar with your music. The challenge for bands like us, and it’s the way we write our music, is to make all our songs engaging so any one can stand on it’s own right… we haven’t quite got to a concept album yet.
Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
If we lose all record stores it will be a tragic loss, but I don’t think that will happen anytime soon. There’s still plenty of people out there that get a thrill from looking through records, buying and passing onto their mates. Everything tends to go round in cycles like music, fashion etc. So maybe if the record stores are in decline there will be a resurgence of the older media.
Many people have claimed that there is no longer any money in record sales, and that touring is the most efficient way to earn an income as a band. How much truth do you think there is in this sentiment?
Unless your selling millions of CDs I don’t think there’s ever been much money in record sales, and even less in todays climate. Touring for big acts has always been the moneymaker for artists for many many years. For bands like us, we’re just happy if we’re getting our music out there, selling records in any format is really satisfying and encouraging. If we break even on a tour then we’ll be more than happy. Every band would probably say the same thing – if you’re in it for the money then 1) your doing it for the wrong reason and 2) you’ll be sorely disappointed.
How useful do you think social media sites are for new bands?
They are invaluable these days for bands. It’s a great way to advertise yourself, make contacts, network, arrange gigs, find new bands etc etc. It was more difficult and time consuming in my first band phoning round bands, promoters, sending CD after CD after CD out to venues, bands to get gigs.
Do you think the internet has rendered traditional concepts of copyright obsolete, or do you think they are still relevant?
Copyrighting your music online and having an electronic record is the most efficient method nowadays but I think depending on the resources you have, traditional methods of sending yourself music is still valid. Any time you perform a song and there’s the possiblity it may appear on the internet in MP3 or even video, you have to prepare your self that hundreds or thousands of people will see it. So you have to make sure it’s protected.
What would you say are the main challenges facing an up-and-coming musician/band in today’s cultural climate?
Today anyone with a computer can access an infinite amount of music and bands at the touch of a button, sitting at home with their feet up. The challenge for bands is do something interesting that makes you more stimulating than the next band and you need to do it on record and at a live show. There’s nothing worse than loving a recording then the band fails to deliver live, those bands don’t last long. You have to give people a reason to want to listen to your music, to pass it on and come to your gigs to see another dimension to your music. Our aim has always been to write music that is honest, stuff we enjoy playing, at the same time thought provoking for the listener and of course – rockin’!
Finally, what does the future hold for What The Blood Revealed?
We’re just back from a tour of Benelux so we’ve got plenty of gigs lined up in Scotland and England from April to August. In September we’re going back to Benelux and hopefully Germany. We’ll also be writing constantly to build up new material so in the new year we’ll start thinking about the next album recording.