Interview with Jack Edwards of Piston

For everyone complaining that the music scene ain’t the same as it was back in the ‘70s or ‘80s, there are at least a few dozen bands around to prove them wrong. One of them is the UK-based Piston whose debut album hit the shelves last year (and, to the record collectors’ delight, is also available on vinyl). But why did it take the British five-piece so long to come up with their first full-length effort? What was it like to support the huge names of the music industry, including The Cult, Phil Campbell & The Bastard Songs and Glenn Hughes? And can a working musician find any positive aspect in this year’s doom and gloom…? Here’s Piston’s guitarist Jack Edwards giving a sneak peek into the band’s world.

Piston, 2020. Photo used by the band’s permission.

Alexandra Mrozowska, Rock Speculo Interviews: For a good start, let’s look back a bit. What’s your and your bandmates’ experience prior to Piston and how do you think it translates into what you do today?

Jack Edwards: We have all always been in bands through our careers. Brad [Newlands – drums], Stuart [Egan – bass], and Luke [Allatt – guitar] were in a high school band together and Rob [Angelico], our singer, has been an independent songwriter for years. At the time, when Piston got together I was playing in multiple covers bands and then decided to focus all my efforts into this!

AM: And as it turned out, it was a good decision! Piston was founded in 2012, with an EP released in 2013 and the debut album following seven long years later. What’s prompted such a long break between the recordings?

JE: We had a line-up change – that was the main one! We found a new singer – Rob – and it has been no looking back ever since! We also scrapped a whole album worth of material and started again, that was a bold move but it paid off!

AM: How did the band develop throughout those years in terms of songwriting and stage experience?

JE: I think it all develops naturally mainly from being out on the road with one another. The dynamic of everything starts to change, it’s really interesting how it works! We are and always will be a live band.

AM: As it’s been a little more than a year since your debut album hit the shelves, are you still happy with it?

JE: Yes, of course! It was an incredible moment for us and A LOT of hard work went into it. It sounds amazing on the new vinyl!

AM: Also last year you released a cover of Slade’s classic 1972 hit “Mama Weer All Crazee Now”. How much are you influenced by Glam Rock and what’s your approach to its larger-than-life aesthetics?

JE: I think it’s all about putting on a show. We have always aimed to do that. We may not dress up in the make-up or outfits, but we always give the audience something! It’s all about the energy. Loose, loud rock’n’roll.

AM: What do you think was the most memorable gig for Piston so far?

JE: It has to be opening up for The Cult for sure! We played to 2500 people a night as special guests. It was a CRAZY experience!

AM: Being a band that surely turns up their amps to eleven, can you think of any Spinal Tap moments in the band’s history?

JE: There are so many. I would not be allowed to divulge! (laughs)

AM: Speaking of playing live, how long has it been since the band hit the stage and what kind of impact did the lockdown have on Piston?

JE: We last played in March. I think the break has done us the world of good. It’s hard work being in a working band and it takes a lot out of you. We have used this as ‘rest’ time and we have been writing for album number two.

AM: You’re also a guitar teacher. Having admitted that your own early experience with being taught how to play the guitar wasn’t too encouraging, how does it influence your approach as a teacher? Do you enjoy it?

JE: Well, I used to use different guitar teachers for different aspects of playing when I was younger. I’ve housed all of the good stuff that I learnt and developed my syllabus from that. I love teaching! It’s very rewarding and it’s great to see people go on and form their own bands writing their own music coming away from the lessons!

AM: In one of your songs – “Go Now” – there’s an encouragement to “…party like it’s ‘89”. What do you think is so inspiring about that decade?

JE: That is something you would have to ask Rob about as he is the lyric man! I couldn’t comment because I wasn’t alive in the 80s! (laughs)

AM: Neither was I, but everyone loves the ‘80s (laughs).

JE: I think it’s all down to that era as to how a lot of guitar driven bands have progressed…

AM: Most probably! Speaking of the glorious past, the UK bands I interviewed lately often complain that your homeland isn’t as much of a Rock powerhouse as it used to be. What do you think of the contemporary British Rock/Metal scene?

JE: Well, I am not quite sure what scene they have been in but pre-COVID the Rock scene was booming! So many amazing bands coming out!

AM: Any last words?

JE: Come see Piston live!

Piston Official Website
Piston on Facebook

Check out the new video to Piston’s single “Let Us Rise” (J. C. T. Radio Remix) below:


Interview with Häxan

The 20th century in music was largely about the never-ending arms race between the UK and the US (and, more often than not, a cultural exchange between the two). These days, the music industry is far more international – but does it mean the former cultural superpowers actually fall behind…? “Personally I don’t think we’re quite the creative powerhouse we once were”, says Harriet Wadeson, the bass player of the UK Rock ensemble Häxan, when asked about the current state of the UK’s music scene. Assuming she’s right, Häxan is one of the bands that definitely challenge this status quo. And speaking of challenges, there must be at least a few in the life of an all-female trio. I caught up with Harriet, Sam Bolderson [vocals, guitar] and Jess Hartley [drums] for Rock Speculo Interviews to discuss them and  their first full-length album White Noise. And as it turned out, the girls’ tongues firmly in their cheeks, I ended up asking them how does it feel like to stroke a Sphynx cat too…

Haxan: Sam Bolderson, Harriet Wadeson and Jess Hartley. Photo used by permission.

Alexandra Mrozowska, Rock Speculo Interviews: One thing that intrigued me about Häxan from the very start is that you provide very little information on the band, its history etc. on both your official site and social media pages. Is it a deliberate decision?

Harriet Wadeson: I’m personally very shy and don’t like people looking at me or knowing anything about me. 

Sam Bolderson: I don’t think it’s intentional to be so mysterious. But now you’ve brought it up, I guess it can’t hurt, as we gotta have something going for us. Anyone who likes the band seems to do so for the music and gets to know us through shows etc. Our personality comes across on stage and off, and long bios just aren’t our thing! 

Jess Hartley: It’s 100 per cent intentional. No paper trail. 

AM: How did you girls hook up and what were the circumstances that led you to recording White Noise?

SB: Harriet and I are a classic example of an online advert that went too far. Neither of us can back out now, it’s been years. She’s stuck with me, no matter how much she kicks and screams, I don’t give a fuck. Jess took the drum throne a little over a year ago and I can only imagine that she regrets this on a daily. White Noise is our first child, and we are super proud of how it turned out. We’d been together a long time and needed to put out new material, we are so lucky that the fans were so patient and supportive. I hope it was worth the wait. 

AM: White Noise is your full-length debut, but technically not the first recordings you’ve released. Why didn’t you include the material from your 2017 debut EP on your new album?

JH: We wanted to release something with all unreleased songs. The band has been going a while and felt it was owed to the fans to not only have an album of all new recordings to listen to, but also to have a bunch of new stuff to hear live! 

AM: What was the songwriting process like?

SB: Turbulent (laughs). Sometimes the songs and lyrics come easy, other times, it’s sleepless nights and blisters. Usually music first. Unless we find a hook and write a song around it! 

AM: The band earned their chops live before entering the studio, which is the old school approach of course. How do you think this kind of experience translate into the content of the album?

SB: As much as we love recording and put our all into it, we are a live band through and through. I think so much about Häxan is old school. Again, unintentionally. But it works for us.

JH: I think it gave us a chance to find out who we are as a band, musically, and allowed us to build experience playing as a unit. There’s only three of us in the band and we don’t like to record or put out a sound that isn’t us or that we can’t recreate live. I think the album represents us as a three-piece, and shows what we’ve built and developed through playing live together. Being a three-piece, it’s even more important to really listen to what each other is doing and play for the song, so with this album we’ve paid a lot of attention to every part of it and made sure everything compliments each other, which is something we’ve learnt through playing live.

AM: So that’s how you deal with Häxan being a power trio…

SB: We make it work. I’d say we make about as much noise as a ten-piece, and we get more share of the rider between three of us,  so everyone’s a winner. 

JH: I honestly wouldn’t say there’s any major limitations. Of course there’s guitar solos where we obviously can’t have guitar under them live, but Harriet and I love filling that space and having the freedom to have a little bass and drum fun here. 

AM: Was a decision to go as power trio deliberate in the first place?  Do you plan to add some musicians to the line-up in the future?

SB: We’re happy as we are. The sound is raw and energetic, and we have a great time on and off stage, and it’s been said before that we sound full and tight as a unit, so there isn’t much call to add anyone. Plus the van is a three seater, so it would totally balls that up. And we get each other’s shenanigans. We’d struggle to find someone else who understands without calling the authorities. 

AM: Speaking of gigs, obviously 2020 is a very tumultuous year for the music industry. How was Häxan affected by the pandemic and how do you deal with the obstacles?

JH: Now we drink in our homes rather than at venues. Like everyone else, everything for this year has of course been cancelled, and we had some really great stuff like a cruise in Australia with Suzi Quatro and tours of Bulgaria and Germany. We’re very sad that these couldn’t go ahead this year, but the album has helped us hold to at least a small piece of sanity, and everyone’s positivity surrounding it has maybe helped us regain a little more.

AM: Do you think the still ongoing pandemic will have further influence on your promotional plans, touring in support of the album etc? What are your future plans?

HW: It’s going to influence everyone’s plans (or lack of being able to do so). No one knows what is going to happen even still, and although shows are starting to slowly creep back in, it feels very tangible for it all to be taken away again if shit starts getting real. We’re cautiously excited for next year but I think we all agree we don’t want to be playing gigs where four people are assigned a corner each. 

SB: We’ve got an ever growing gig list for next year, and its got some bangers and some international and some UK tour dates on there. So fingers crossed, they all go ahead.

AM: Häxan labels itself as a “Classic Rock” act, which is a term often applied to ‘60s or ‘70s acts. Is it more about the inspirations or, perhaps, the generation of listeners you intend to address your music to?

JH: I think the Classic Rock label comes from our sound. The album in particular has an old school Classic Rock feel to it, but with a modern edge. I wouldn’t say it’s exclusively aimed at a generation who favour ‘60s and ‘70s bands and I hope anyone who enjoys rock music will find something they like on the album! 

AM: Do you receive a lot of feedback from younger Häxan fans?

SB: Looking at statistics on our socials (boring), I’d say the album has definitely helped us reach a younger audience. Mainly through Spotify. It’s nice to have fans of all ages to be honest. Ranging from 6 to 66 and beyond. 

AM: Being an all-girl band, do you look up to other female Rock bands from the past, from The Runaways and Girlschool to The Donnas for example?

HW: Not really. We often get pigeon-holed in with these bands and it’s easy to understand why because let’s face it, historically there haven’t been a lot of options. But it never took for me to see a female with a guitar to want to do it – it would’ve probably put me off if anything. 

AM: Do you think the music industry is still as male-dominated as it used to be in the past?

JH: It’s definitely still male-dominated, but that’s just because there’s more all-boy bands, and that’s ok. I would say there’s more female musicians and bands getting recognition now, and for the right reasons, because they’re banging musicians (as in really good..), and that’s pretty cool. We’ve had some negative experiences related to us all being girls, but you just have to take it on the chin and show them who we are and what we do. At the end of the day, we’re just a band who love music and love playing, who also happen to all be girls. 

AM: Right on! You’ve surely been doing a lot of press recently, so is there any question related to the album or the band you’ve never been asked but you’d like to?

SB: Yes. No one’s asked us what the Sphynx cats felt like. I thought they would ask.

AM: So, what does it feel like…?

SB: It’s skin. A warm bag full of lumps. Made of skin. 

AM: That’s exactly how I imagined it (laughs) And speaking of the music press, do you think media in the UK are supportive for bands like Häxan in terms of providing exposure and promotion of your album?

JH: There’s tonnes of independent and less-mainstream media that have and continue to provide incredible support and promotion for bands such as ourselves, and we’re eternally grateful as I’m sure so many others are. Huge shout out to people like Guy from Great Music Stories and Naomi at Distorted Sound, and so many others, for championing the band and the album over the last few months. We love you guys! 

AM: What do you think about the current UK scene?

HW: Well… not much going on at the moment. Personally I don’t think we’re quite the creative powerhouse we once were – countries like Australia and France are pushing out incredible bands right now and we need to catch up before we get left behind. 

AM: Any last words?

SB: I like turtles!

HW: I smell like beef.

AM: …So now you know more about those girls! (laughs)

Häxan Official Website

Häxan on Facebook

You can check out Häxan‘s video to their song “Nine Lives” off their debut album White Noise below: