Amplifier: from Manchester with power and affection
Plaudits showered self-titled debut album by Amplifier was followed by the band’s first official headlining tour of the UK and a brand new download-only single ‘Panzer’. The track was the Amplfier’s first ever download track, with an incredible running time of seven minutes, to set the record for the longest officially released download as far as the mid last year.
Audacious ambition, gloriously scene-altering record, crunchy riffs, epic choruses, outstanding debut to equal ‘Led Zepp’, apocalyptic space-rock, riff-psyche-tastic trip into transcendental grooves… This is a sum-up of accolades.
Similarly, ‘Panzer’ was a huge track that thundered like God‘s correctional weapon, a social comment matching it, with its epic duration echoing the true spirit and power of the debut disc. As formidable as it is, the song is no match for their explosive, captivating and technically brilliant shows. Usually sounding like a band of many, this Manchester trio’s personnel is Sel Balamir (gtr/vox), Matt Brobin (drums) and Neil Mahoney (bass).
Things suddenly turned sour when their label Music For Nations was absorbed by [Sony]BMG and the trio was left without a contract. A year later they are back with the album re-released with an additional disc [Link to our Review].
We find the leader of the band in their rehearsal studio waiting for the other members to have their daily play-through.
“If you are in a band, then you have to do it every day. It is craft and you have to perfect it. Take Tool, for instance: they’ve been together for 10, 12 years [15, actually], they can’t go out and just play a show. They are at the level I compare to being a sportsman, you have to train every day to retain the form. In a way it is like this is our track-field and we have to stay on top of it.”
Witnessing you live one knows you are in top shape: tight, powerful and humongous sounding.
“For me that is the difference between bands that make it and the ones that don’t. If you do it everyday, regardless how much natural talent you have, you gotta get f**king good. If there is no talent whatsoever, as you pessimistically hint, then it is a question of perseverance and being lucky. It happens very often but there is nothing you can do about but admire people who have worked hard.”
As the album was canned a while back, you toured it extensively, new songs have emerged; what developments, changes, are you noticing?
“We recorded the album a while back and been waiting to be released for years. We believed in ourselves and never once doubted it wouldn’t come out. As long as we played and issued singles regularly, we were happy… We also know that if it had come out last August, when it was ready, nobody would have bought it because very few people have known us then. It‘s worked out better.”
“It may not represent how we sound now but that will always be the case with bands. You always release music that was written a year ago, sometimes even older. That’s fine, that is the nature of the business and use the time to keep it fresh, developing things, working on new material, jamming… Some of the songs on the album are even five years old!“
The quality of the album is staggering, it’s been generally praised, you know it is good; how important is it to turn it into sales?
“That’s the question, a Zen one; it is important to have enough sales to make absolutely sure that we make the next album and the one after that. We’ve never had any money and have got used to exist like that and if things change in our life, we’d very careful not to lose perspective.”
“Our entire objective has been to get to this point and release this album… Thus, the aim was to make an album like we’d never make another one and we made it sure that is the best album we could make… Like, in ten years time, we’d still be proud of it.”
“As well as putting everything we’ve got into the album, we play each show like it is the last one. An opportunity missed is an opportunity wasted and you have to take each and every one.”
The musical language spoken here is lexicon-like, reaching as far back as Led Zeppelin to bridge it with Radiohead, mincing Tool with The Verve, merging Joy Division with Queens Of The Stone Age and Nirvana with Motorhead and Soundgarden…
“We’ve been listening to the music for years and all have very varied tastes and we all pass the records on… Our parents have had vast, and eclectic record collections; the first album I played air-guitar to was, probably, Queen’s ‘Jazz’, at the age of six or seven. We’ve always been fans of music and that’s what made me want to play guitar… I’ve not had a guitar model that I followed…”
Your onstage actions suggests [Jimi] Hendrix could be your ultimate idol?
“No, not really and I appreciate what you are saying… But, being a fan of music, I’ve listened to so many different things that I’ve never got hooked on anyone… It all must have influenced me and know that his 'Machine Gun'… That’s probably the greatest guitar solo of all time but I also like Bob Marley, The Cure, Jane’s Addiction…”
If your first guitar ‘experience’ involved Queen, what’s your take on The Darkness, comedy-rock or plain rip-off?
“Well… People get really heated up about The Darkness and I don’t think that music should be sensible, responsible and serious all the time but also stupid and entertaining as… I was telling my members, ‘Imagine being in a band where you have a costume change!?’ It must be quite exciting! It is not for us but if that’s what you wanna do - who’s gonna tell you are rubbish or whatever? Being in a band that has spent time getting somewhere, touring and taking the shit to be in a successful band, they have my total and unequivocal respect.“
“I don’t care what style they are playing… When I was younger I could never understand how Alice Copper, Keith Moon and John Denver all used to hang-out together, completely different types of people… I understand now because they respected each other for staying alive, paying the dues and getting there. Anyone who has an ambition, good luck to them.”
For people who haven’t seen you live, your show in Krakow, Poland, had been recorded for a release but a DVD never materialised?
“It was recorded but edited so badly… To be honest, we did that show before a tour and two months after the previous show, and it was a bit - rusty. I really enjoyed it but some of the equipment wasn’t working and I was wearing a brown shirt and as soon as I started sweating, it wasn’t a pretty sight. So, it never appeared in its entirety but some parts were used on another release last summer.”
“When we saw the edit, we realised how awful it was. That’s the way we are, if something is not right - what’s the point? So, to see what we can do live, people have to come to our shows... For our first-ever headling tour [last year], I had a bit of apprehension of no-one turning at certain venues and us starring at empty darkness. It was a bit scary…”
No need to worry, quality does attract... not as frequently but it does.