If you thought heavy metal was on the wane with modern invention, then you obviously have not come across UK metallers Down In One. Hailing from Nottingham, the quartet unleashes what they declare as “Whisky fuelled, heavy-goddamned-metal”, and their fans roar as being bruising, exhausting, and irrepressible rock ‘n’ roll. Sent their way by a man with an ear for talent, Andrew of Stencil PR, we grabbed a moment or four with vocalist Gon who, with guitarist Jonny offering further insight into the band, let us get to the root of this emerging force from the Midlands.
Hello and thanks for sharing time with us.
Can you first introduce the band and give us some background to how it all started and what brought you all together?
Sure thing! I’m Gon and I’m the vocalist. We’ve got Jonny, our resident guitarist, Rich on the bass and Jimmy on drums. The four of us make up Down In One and we like to call ourselves whisky fuelled heavy-goddamned-metal. Meghan Trainor might think it’s all about that bass, bass, bass but for us it’s all about them riffs, riffs, riffs!
I met Jonny a couple years back through work and we quickly realised we had a mutual passion for loud metal and getting stupidly drunk, forming a band was clearly the logical progression! Jonny was looking for a vocalist at the time and as luck would have it my last band had just called it quits.
Jonny then met Rich through his next job and we got together and talked about the band over cheap whisky and an outdoor showing of Batman. It was a good evening! Lastly, I’ve known Jimmy since we were fresh faced 16 year olds. We used to play in a band years and years ago so I asked him if he wanted to come and jam with us, he was in the band that first sesh!
So you have been involved in other projects before? Has that experience had any impact on what you are doing now; in maybe inspiring a change of style or direction for example?
I’ve been playing in bands since I was 14 and I’m 27! I think previous bands are a lot like previous relationships, every band I’ve been in has taught me something and had an impact on who I am as a musician now. The biggest impacts so far are from two of my previous bands. I was the guitarist and main songwriter for my first band Diyu, with Jimmy, and I try to use that experience when we write as a band in Down In One. You never forget your first love either and I’ll always remember the good old days of my youth, when we were a bunch of scene kid teens trying to be brutal! (OK, so maybe I was the only scene kid, but let’s gloss over that point…)
After a couple of short-lived projects, I then joined RH Conspiracy as a frontman with next to no experience as a frontman. I think I’d only played two gigs as a frontman by that point. RH Conspiracy had been going for a while before I’d joined and the guys in the band were way, WAY more experienced than me. The first few times I jammed with them definitely felt like a sink or swim kind of situation! But I thrive on that kind of situation and I think the whole jumping into the deep end thing made me work damn hard to catch up. RH Conspiracy really helped shaped the frontman I am now.
As for changes of style, I’ve tried to move away from what I used to do and become more versatile as a vocalist. I used to be a full on screamer/growler and I’ve shed most of the anger that fuelled most of that, though I guess I used the experience and technique from before to build on.
What inspired the band name?
Like a lot of important band decisions we decided on the band name while drunk! We were down at our local haunt one night, mulling over what name to christen our new found band with, and Jonny suddenly bursts in and goes “Guys! I’ve got it, Down In One! Because y’know, drinking!”
So in a word: Booze!
Was there any specific idea behind the forming of the band at that moment in time and also in what you wanted it and your sound to offer?
I think the why of forming the band was simply because we love playing loud metal, getting drunk and partying hard! If there’s one thing about the band that I love (and trust me, there are many things to love!) it’s the passion we all have for music and the genre. An old friend of mine once said that being in a metal band is a labour of love and he’s absolutely right. If we wanted to take the easy route we could have been something radio friendly like indie but no, we love metal. We live for metal. We breathe and bleed metal and we’d fucking die for metal! I’d rather stop playing music altogether than write and play something just because it was popular!
We didn’t really have a specific sound we wanted to go for when we formed, it was more general than that. We just wanted something heavy and riff driven, music that you can get drunk and party to! And really that’s what we wanted to offer; we love to entertain and nothing puts a bigger smile on my face than when I see a crowd headbanging, dancing and singing along.
I imagine then that the same things still drive the band as back when it was fresh-faced, or have they evolved over time?
We’ve only been going a couple of years so far, but I’d say the same things definitely still drive us. The love of music and that passion I talked about keeps the fire burning bright; we want to get out there, entertain on stage and party like mad bastards after!
How would you say your sound has evolved over those couple of years?
The main way our sound has evolved is half because our skills as musicians have improved and half us finding our sound. I’ve said this before but I’ll gladly say it again; I am incredibly honoured to be playing in a band with such a talented group of lads, we’ve all improved so much since we started and now our earliest stuff sounds so different to how we play it now! It’s not that we’re not happy with our songs; it’s just that we’re always improving them. We record a song and then within a week we’ve changed this and that, it’s a never ending march of self-improvement!
For me personally I’ve tried to really make my vocal style my own. Before Down In One, my vocal style was basically screams and growls. After RH Conspiracy I’d shed the anger that fuelled that and the lyrics I was writing at the time began to reflect that. Not only did I want a new vocal style to better suit and explore what I was writing but when Jonny showed me some of the new riffs he was working on I knew I definitely needed something different, the style of music was completely different to anything I’d done before! So on our first EP I was still finding my feet with this new vocal style I’d only really been using for a few months by that point. A lot of it was me testing out what I could do. A couple years on and I now have much better control of my voice and I’ve definitely developed what I sound like, but I’m always pushing myself to do new things.
It been more of an organic movement of sound or more the band deliberately wanting to try new things?
It’s definitely been an organic movement of sound, we’re always pushing ourselves and each other and as we’ve improved new things have come about naturally, we’ve never really sat down and thought “We should do X thing”.
Presumably across the band there is a wide range of inspirations aside your early projects; are there any in particular which have impacted not only on the band’s music but your personal approach and ideas to creating and playing music?
See, that’s another thing I love about this band, there’s a huge range of inspirations both inside and outside of metal driving what we do.
It’s funny because nearly all of my inspirations aren’t metal and I’m the vocalist for a metal band! My main inspirations when writing would have to be H. P. Lovecraft and Aesop Rock. The way Lovecraft writes and crafts this immensely oppressive atmosphere of dread in his stories is amazing. When I write lyrics I like to tell a story and I love trying to create the same magnitude of atmosphere, giving the story and lyrics life. Aesop Rock is an utter genius when it comes to manipulating and crafting the English language into metaphor and imagery. I love toying with language and I always try to make my lyrics interesting, I’m nowhere near as good a writer as Lovecraft or Aes but I damn well try!
Mötley Crüe has had a huge influence on my performance, it’s the whole entertainment thing and that’s something I always keep in mind on stage. When Mötley Crüe play, it’s not just four dudes on stage playing their songs, it’s a full on show y’know? I want to be the embodiment of rock ‘n’ roll when I’m on stage, holding nothing back and going fucking crazy is the name of the game!
Jonny: I think we all have our own inspirations and things that impact us as individuals but one thing that always sticks out more and more the longer we have been together, is that the way we approach writing and letting these influences flow is exactly the same. Somehow we all seem to be able to get our different ideas, styles and influences to complement each other nicely. My favourite moments are when we’re just dicking around at practice and someone will just come out with an idea that someone else will chuck another idea onto and then you get that electric moment when you know something awesome is about to happen and it all clicks. Pretty much all of our tracks have been written this way and it seems to work for us pretty well so far! I’m pretty sure that, other than a few obvious staple bands, if you were to go through our individual member’s music collections you’d get pretty much every genre out there! It’s something that I’m pretty proud of really.
You talked of songwriting there, is there a particular process which generally guides the writing of songs?
We do most of our writing at band practise; usually one of us will come in and play a riff or hum an idea and then another one of us will go “Do that again, I’m gonna try this…” and it just builds up from there. We all work off each other really well when it comes to writing, as soon as we get going ideas start bouncing back and forth until we get a basic song structure down. Then I write some lyrics for the structure we’ve got down, we jam the song with the lyrics and see what needs tweaking or if anything needs adding. After that we just keep improving and tweaking!
Where do you, more often than not, draw the inspirations to the lyrical side of your songs?
My biggest source of inspiration is personal experience. As I said, I love to tell a story and I can put so much more into my voice and performance if it’s something connected to me. I also like to write songs about things I’ve read or seen that interest me, so for example The Call, from our first EP, is based on The Call of Cthulhu by Lovecraft.
Give us some background to your latest release.
So our latest release is going to be the Mad Gun / Elena EP. We recorded the two tracks a while ago with our good friend Mr. Kev Simpson and I think the two tracks really represent what our sound is becoming. I do love what we put down on our first EP, but that was sort of us four finding our footing and style; we’ve changed how we play the songs on that first EP a lot. These two new tracks are absolutely fucking huge and I’m massively excited to release them!
We also recorded a video for Mad Gun, which we can’t wait to release either. We’re currently planning on releasing that very very soon; keep an eye on our Facebook and YouTube channel!
As an early spoiler, can you give some insight to the themes and premise behind the songs.
Mad Gun is all about how much I love going on wild nights out, drinking myself stupid and saying a massive “Fuck you” to the consequences and how drinking myself stupid should be something I enjoy rather than how I deal with my problems, a lesson I learnt very slowly…
Elena is based on the real story of Count Carl von Cosel and Elena de Hoyos. For years Carl had visions of his true love during his dreams and in the 1930’s he met and developed a morbid obsession for Elena, as he recognised her as that vision. Unfortunately she died from tuberculosis in 1931, but Carl’s obsession was so great that he dug up her corpse nearly two years after she died, wrapped her in plaster and lived with her corpse for seven years. It’s one of my favourite weird stories.
Back to the music side and are you a band which goes into the studio with songs pretty much in their final state or prefer to develop them as you record?
I’d say we go into the studio with songs in a state where we’re happy to record them, definitely not in their final state though! We do tend to make a fair few changes or tweaks when we record. I find inspiration always strikes when you can sit back and listen back to something you play instead of actively playing it. And the ideas start to flow like water when the four of us are sat around listening! Kev, who recorded all of our stuff so far, always has good ideas too.
Tell us about the live and maybe one of your major favourite sides to the band?
Oh hell yeah! I absolutely love playing live; one of the things Jonny always says is that what we record is great, but you really need to see us live to see and hear what we’re all about. I think a band’s live performance is every bit as important as the music itself, I’ve seen a lot of bands who’ve recorded great music but they just stand there on stage going through the motions and it’s honestly not very inspiring. I love to see the passion behind the music and on stage is where that passion for what we do can come out. We never do things by half measures, especially on stage!
We most definitely pay for our live shows the next day as well, finding odd bruises and injuries is the norm, as well as a horrific bangover that feels like whiplash to accompany the hangover! You’d think we’d gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson with the state of us the next day!
It is not easy for any new band to make an impact regionally let alone nationally and further afield. How have you found it? Are there the opportunities to make a mark if the drive is there for new bands?
I’ve been playing in bands in Nottingham since I was 16 and I’ve gotta say, the music scene here is absolutely fantastic. We’ve got loads of rock pubs/venues like The Tap, which are run by people who absolutely love what they do. A lot of the local venues here do “Introducing” nights, where they give local bands a chance to shine. We’ve also worked with some fantastic promoters from Nottingham, people like Phil of Torturous Promotions and Mick Devlin always put on amazing shows that we always have fun playing. There is definitely loads of opportunities for new bands to make a mark!
City to city has been a little harder though, every city has its own scene and players; trying to break into that local scene can be a little difficult. But we’ve gigged with a lot of bands from around the country and that’s been great for meeting new folks and swapping gigs to get us out there to other cities.
I’ve not had a gig yet where I’ve thought “Christ, we really went down like a lead balloon” with Down In One (amusingly there was the time a promoter booked my last band RH Conspiracy, a very heavy metal band, to play on an indie night. We went down about as well as you’d expect…). The crowds we’ve played to have always been fantastic and enthusiastic, and that’s not just in Nottingham! A lot of boring, miserable, cynical people like to bitch and moan about how the scene is dead and how it was better back in their day, but honestly? The scene is alive, well and rocking like a bastard!
Jonny: I think bands these days have it harder than ever, with downloading and everyone wanting their music for free. That said this ain’t no sob story and we aren’t the kinda people to sit back and whinge about it! The same can be said for promoters, venues, and almost anyone involved in the underground music scene in any town or city. Despite the challenges, there are people out there doing great work to keep their local scenes alive and that is definitely true here in Nottingham. We have been lucky to have worked with some great promoters so far and gigged some fantastic venues and we are truly grateful every time we are offered the chance to play and show what we can do.
How has the internet and social media impacted on the band to date? Do you see it as something destined to become a negative from a positive as the band grows and hopefully gets increasing success or is it more that bands struggling with it are lacking the knowledge and desire to keep it working to their advantage?
Christ, I’m going to sound like such an old man now but back in my day when I started playing and gigging MySpace was still relevant! Shit, I suppose most kids nowadays won’t even know what MySpace is! But anyway, old man rambling aside, I cut my teeth during a time when every band already HAD to have a social media presence. I think I’ve been responsible for social media for every band I’ve been in so far! For the most part, social media has had a great impact on being in a band. Social media has allowed us to easily get out there in front of a near limitless audience and connect with fans and promoters while keeping them updated on what we do. It’s a very useful tool if, as you’ve touched on in the question, you know how to use it. My favourite thing about social media is the interaction with fans; we can get the banter on and hopefully entertain some people off stage! I also like how social media gives every band a level playing field. Any band, no matter their technical proficiency can get started with it and get themselves out there.
But it’s definitely a double edged sword. I’ve never seen social media as the be all and end all of being in a band and the thing I dislike the most about social media is that we all have to have it. I can’t think of one underground band I’ve ever met that have actively avoided social media and being able to keep going. While it’s a useful tool, the fact that we all have to be on social media has fostered this culture now where a lot of the music scene is focused way too much on metrics. There’s an obsession with likes, views, followers and all that shit and I think that pulls us away from grassroots and the point of being in a band in the first place; the music. Metrics are exactly like social media, they’re a useful tool yeah, but they aren’t the be all and end all. We shouldn’t be measuring our worth as a band or as a musician by random numbers, especially when you do need a fair bit of knowledge to use social media “properly”. It’s exactly as you said, if a band lacks the knowledge and desire to keep their social media going then they’re at an automatic disadvantage.
Once again a big thanks guys for sharing your time with us; anything you would like to add or reveal for the readers?
No worries! It’s been a pleasure, thanks very much for having us! As for anything to add…drink booze liberally, fuck authority, listen to loud music and support your local scene!
The RingMaster review 28/02/2016
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