May 31, 2023
Photo: Mark Latham.

The question as to the meaning of life is as old as human existence itself and no doubt someone sat outside in the bright late spring sunshine is musing that very question right now. While ancient civilisations blamed a bad harvest on their gods being displeased and millions have been persecuted, tortured and killed for their beliefs, wars rage and people continue to die but is there really a God and an afterlife? Science has answered many questions yet many more persist. Are we alone in the universe? Are our elected officials lying to us? Is manipulation by governments any different from the men that manipulate others in the name of religion to do their bidding? Charles Manson? Jim Jones? Heaven’s Gate? Waco? Does science really hold the answers to the biggest questions of the universe?

The mysteries of the universe, science, and religion, good and evil have been fertile lyrical ground for musicians for generations. Some of this subject matter is admittedly a fascination for Lee Storrar, vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter of UK band Servers who has just released their fourth album The Vertical Plane, an album that probes questions but lyrically has never been afraid to dig – and dig deep.

Servers: Welcome to the Hood. (Photo: © Servers)

Lee Storrar looks relaxed and untroubled by a face to face about his band’s new album and at that time of this interview, the record was several weeks away from release. On the other hand, Lee is candid in his words as to his experiences in not only his current band but also his previous bands Sunlounger and GU Medicine. “I was 32 years old when I learned how the music industry worked,” says Lee “it wasn’t until then that I realised that writing songs was the easiest part.”

Lee Storrar’s first band was Sunlounger, a three-piece featuring Lee, Chris Potts on bass and Pete Williams on drums. “I started doing the right things with Sunlounger,” reflects Lee. “It was a massive buzz and things were happening every day, Kerrang! [magazine] was phoning and we were being featured every week; being on Radio One and having [former Kerrang! Editor] Phil Alexander and [late and well-respected music journalist] Malcome Dome shouting at PR ‘you’ve got to sign this band!’ Malcolm’s review said that there were only 30 people there that night but there would be 3000 people saying that they attended the gig. Darren Sadler from Undergroove Records became interested, but it was Sanctuary – Iron Maiden’s company – that were really after us, put us on tour with [Brit band] The Almighty. This is a totally true story – one of the head honchos at Sanctuary was supposed to see us in London and the whole thing went ballistic. I grabbed the A&R guy who said ‘he didn’t make it, don’t worry, he’s coming to Oxford’ which he did but that night we died on our arse. He told us to get rid of the drummer but that was never going to happen, there were three of us in the band and we were like brothers. As soon as the interest fell away, I split the band. I formed GU Medicine; we recorded three songs, and we sent them to Darren, and we signed a three album contract with Undergroove.” Lee Storrar pauses and smiles ruefully, “we had some good times with GU Medicine, we went on tour with Mondo Generator, Skid Row and we toured three times with My Ruin, it was a blast. We did a Radio One Session and then we played Sonisphere in 2010. I’ll never forget that things were not great in the band at the time, we’d had some fallings out. After the Sonisphere gig, me and my wife were in the VIP car park and Iron Maiden’s helicopter landed and the down blast blew all of this shit towards my wife and I, I’m trying to get in my car to beat a hasty retreat from Knebworth and that was me done. Apart from my guitars, I sold all my equipment.”

Lee Storrar (Photo: Mark Latham)

Obviously, this was not the end of Lee Storrar. “As much as I know I should have sold my guitars, I’m glad that I didn’t because I got the bug again and I wrote Universes and Supernovas [majorly catchy number from Servers’ 2014 debut album Leave With Us] and Lee Wilde got involved. Lee used to like Sunlounger and GU Medicine, he was a fan, but he played bass. We sent a demo to [drummer] Ant Nettleship and he wrote back saying that he’d been in tears listening to the song and he had to be involved with the this [Servers] project.”

Lee Storrar had not only felt some revitalisation within his new material, but there was also an aim to revitalise an old partnership as well. “I got in touch with Darren from Undergroove and told him ‘you’ve got to put this album out,’” laughs Lee. “Darren said ‘no, I’ve finished’ but I pestered and pestered. When Darrren finished listening to the whole album he put that album out so it was the comeback of Undergroove as well, he garnered new attention and it was a great release, it was like Sunlounger all over again and wow, this could be next level.” Before there is another word, it would be incorrect to say that Lee was being defensive, but he is quick to prevent even the thought.

Universes & Supernovas: Servers’ Lee Storrar (Photo: © Servers)

“It has never been illusions of grandeur,” he says. “All I ever wanted to do was to have new experiences and open doors, it’s never like I wanted to be famous. It looked like it was going to happen with Leave With Us, people in America were contacting us about putting us on tour and it looked like it was happening again but it wasn’t and we had to scrape ourselves up and write another album which was as good as or better than Leave With Us. It wasn’t easy having to think ‘what was wrong with that album, what else do we need to do?’ and that is when Everything Is… Ok came along and while it was difficult writing that album, I was proud of it. Unfortunately, less happened with that album and then we’re on a lower plane and with the third album [Ad Nauseum, 2019] it’s down again and we’re trying to build up again with this new album.”

It is indeed a pertinent question to ask with the vast expanse that is known as the Internet, a wide-open door to walk through but the same one many others are at the same time and not all with the history and years of experience that Lee Storrar has. “It’s like you feel on a personal level that you’re on an upward trajectory but the industry itself is on a downward, we feel like we’re getting better but it’s getting difficult to the Servers continuum and offer different things. That was the rationale with getting in Will Price, to get a different album and I think that it’s happened with The Vertical Plane, it is more technical than the last one. Keep it sounding like Servers but do something different each time.”

On more than one occasion, Lee refers to having a ‘mini-crisis’ and while the Sonisphere gig was a turning point for GU Medicine and for Lee as a musician, Lee also relates to his former non-musical career as a fire fighter until retiring from the service after 30 years. “I’ve become more optimistic,” he beams. “No just for me but for the planet and humankind. I used to buy into the doomsday stuff, the climate and overpopulation and I don’t anymore, we are consumers of crisis, people swallow up bad news. We thrive on doom and gloom, and we’ve always innovated ourselves out of things. We are so much better off than our grandparents and it will be the same again for the next generation, it will be better. Being more optimistic can be difficult being in a band when you’re supposed to be doom and gloom [laughs]. It’s like Killing Joke and Jaz Coleman with the “end is nigh”, people love it but I can’t be that person anymore. I had that crisis and I’ve gone into a different world.”  Lee lets out a sigh. “I felt invincible working as a fireman,” he says. “It was like a commune, the camaraderie, massive friendships and then after 30 years you walk out the door. I’ve still got great friends and memories, but you realise that they were work colleagues, it was like taking a spoonful of sugar out of a bowl, it soon smooths over, they carry on. I felt a bit useless; music wasn’t going that well.” Lee laughs again as he says that he never actually wanted to be a fireman. “I only joined because of music. I looked at it, four days on, four days off and I knew that I couldn’t put all of my eggs in the music basket. The fire brigade seemed like a great option, I’ve written some of my best songs on night shifts, it was a masterstroke being in the fire service. When I left, it hit me, I felt vulnerable, there were a lot of changes and because I was in a dark place when I went down this [Swiss psychiatrist] Carl Jung individuation process.”

Servers (L-R) Jamie Beatson (guitar), Liam Power (drums), Lee Storrar (guitar/vocals), Lee Wilde (bass) & Will Price (guitar/vocals) (Photo: Mark Latham)

It is impossible not to admire Lee Storrar and his frank admissions of vulnerability, having to deal with change but rather than feeding into the new album as negatives, the song writing takes an intelligent route with its lyrical inspiration. Where does someone acquire the inspiration to write a song like Absolom about the Hebrew father of peace in the First Testament? “That could be about any deity,” Lee shoots back. “It’s just asking a question. I’ve never understood why people believe, I’ve always been an atheist until reading [17th century Dutch philosopher] Baruch Spinoza and then I started thinking about things and then realising that maybe intelligent design and DNA, it is difficult when people believe in a divine entity.”

I thought ‘fucking hell, the devil asked me for advice!’

Lee Storrar

The Vertical Plane is an album where it is difficult to predict what will come next. The slow but hefty opening of Absolom then moves into a piledriver, the menacingly titled Try To Get Some Sleep that is all layered, crushing riffs and cleverly mixing the real with the esoteric within the lyrics. “That is the fire brigade again,“ explains Lee. “It was the strangest thing; we got a call one night and one of the lads didn’t turn up on the engine. He was still asleep, and I go up to wake him, I opened the curtain to his bunk and he was there, eyes wide open and saying ‘help me.’ In my head I was saying ‘fucking hell, what is going on here?!’ [laughs] He snapped out of it and I said, ‘what the hell was all that about?’ and he said ‘I couldn’t move but I could see you…’, he basically had sleep paralysis which in the old days could be considered as witchcraft. That is where the song came from but also with the feeling that science can explain everything when in the past, religion was the answer.” Lee Storrar admits to a fascination with The Heaven’s Gate cult, and it is the voice of leader Marshall Applewhite who convinced 38 of his followers to commit mass suicide that closes the album after the final song Incorruption. “Universes and Supernovas is about Yvonne McKirdy who left five kids to join the Heaven’s Gate cult but [partner] Steven Hill left her, and I was thinking ‘fucking hell, these people were in love with each other, one stayed, one left, one has committed suicide and the other is left picking up the pieces’. It just blew my mind. Unconditional [from second album Everything Is…OK] is about who married Charles Manson. Leave With Us was not about cult leaders, it was more about the people away from the cult leaders and their back stories. Applewhite was a deranged nutbar but to have that impact on people’s gullibility. There is one song on Leave With Us, called Do-Gooders – and this is the gospel truth –  I had a dream and the devil came to me saying that there was a problem with political correctness and he said ‘I’ve got a problem and I can’t do the job that I am supposed to do because of all the do-gooders, grab your coat, I’ll show you what is happening.’ I woke up the next morning and thought ‘fucking hell, the devil just asked me for advice.’” Lee chuckles for a good few seconds and then shakes his head. “That had to be in a song.”

Mega-High: Servers’ Lee Storrar (Photo: © Servers)

The album title is derived from the 1989 book by Ken Webster of the same name who wrote about his experiences in commonly known as ‘The Dodleston Messages.’ Webster claimed that someone was communicating with him via a computer and that the messages were written in archaic English. The person – originally stating his name as ‘Lukas’ but later admitted to using an alias for fear of being accused of witchcraft – then revealed himself to be Thomas Harnden who had lived in Webster’s farmhouse during the reign of Henry VIII but had been given a computer from a mysterious entity from the year 2109. This was 1985 and a time when the Internet was in its infancy and only available to specialists, Webster’s computer had no means of connecting to the outside, had no hard drive and relied on small capacity floppy drives. “When I came across the Dodleston thing, I was blown away,” says Lee. “There were 300 messages between them, the society for psychic research was involved but they tossed it out as a hoax, but it is a fantastic story. Some interesting things happened, the people from 2109 said that the Vermass Lax theory was going to be solved before Ken Webster died and it was solved in 1995. They also gave the co-ordinates for a star that has subsequently been discovered.” Lee puts his head down for a second before saying “I don’t believe in any of that bollocks, but I would love to be proven wrong, I’d love anything metaphysical to happen so I can buy into it. They [Webster and his wife] thought that it happened. Plus, we needed something that began with the letter ‘V’” [laughs]. What Lee is referring to is that the album titles to all of Servers albums, the first letter of each – Leave With Us, Everything Is…Ok, Ad Nauseum and Vertical Plane are spelling out the word LEAVE. Which suggests another album. “There is enough material for another album,” explains Lee. “I don’t sit and write any more, I just know that there is enough, but I have stopped writing new songs.”

In terms of writing, Lee has predominantly written alone but The Vertical Plane does mark another change for Servers. “Will [Price, guitarist] has come in and he’s a very talented and proud guy, he wants to put his own stamp on things,” says Lee. “Will has written a couple of songs, Here, There And Everywhere is his song completely. I wrote the verses, but Will has done everything else. Crimson Tide is like two different songs, you can tell the first half is mine and the second half is Will’s” As to current band members, Servers is now a five piece – Lee Storrar on guitars/vocals, Jamie Beatson on guitars, Will Price, guitars, drummer Liam Power and returning bassist, Lee Wilde. “I play bass on the album,” explains Lee. “It was Will and I that wrote the album, but it was the intention going forward that I would play bass because I thought that it would give me some breathing space to kick back and concentrate on singing. When Lee heard the album, he really liked it and wanted back in, and it was his band as well back in the beginning and there was no animosity. It was good that Lee wanted to come back but it means that there are five people now, my ideal was three people because with five it can be difficult to get everyone together, people working, families and busy lives.”

Photo: Mark Latham

Lee Storrar committed to The Vertical Plane project as far back as 2020 but states that it has been an ongoing process. “This is the weird thing,” says Lee. “Every time we do have a new album, I’m always working on the next. After 2019’s Ad Nauseum, this new one was already in the works, the riffs for The Vertical Plane have been pulled from years ago, it’s just like revisiting things that I’ve done, getting inspiration, and cracking on. The hood thing is a problem as well.” What Lee refers to is that the whole band wears hoods both on stage, in videos and photographs. “I always thought that the if the first album would have fulfilled its expectation and with Undergroove back, it looked like it was going to travel so the hood thing was a big decision. If you imagine grown men – not kids –  grown men – we’re going out to play in hoods and it’s like it fit the narrative because we wanted something that lacked personality and individuality; we wanted anonymity. If the first album had travelled on the right trajectory everything would have been alright, but it didn’t and we’re left wearing hoods when it seems a bit cheesy and now, we’re locked in with the likes of Sleep Token and Ghost, all of these bands that are looking for something different.”

Servers look away from the light (Photo: © Servers)

While countering that had the intrigue not grabbed this writer then this conversation would not even be taking place, Storrar does quickly reconcile the idea for the image. “I can’t think of anything worse than looking at the five of us without having that mystery,” Lee retorts. “It started with [1980s synth duo] Blancmange, I went to watch them at Leeds University and the band supporting them – to this day I don’t know what they were called – but they left me with the most striking impression, they were like shadows bouncing around on the stage and I was like “fucking hell!”. This was 1985 and so the drama and a little bit of theatre always struck a chord with me. Or Jaz Coleman in 1990 on the Extremitiestour, he had a big jester’s hat on and an effigy of himself, he staggered on stage, and I thought that it was fucking wonderful. I always wanted Servers to be a little more than just a band playing. I mean, sex, drugs and beer is easy to sing about and even easier to front but if you want it more involved then there needs to be something different.”

On May 24th, Servers played a packed gig in the Lee Storrar’s hometown of Barnsley, and If there were any nerves of playing the new material, then none were evident as this five piece tore through a set list that had that new material surrounded by cuts from the back catalogue. With Will Price as a vocalist and that third guitar adding extra weight, Servers were on absolute top form as a unit.

Photo: Mark Latham

The Vertical Plane is an album that does require time and deserves undivided attention to explore its depth and breadth within its expansive alt rock meets metal soundscape. As much as Lee questioned himself as to what was ‘wrong’ with Servers debut album, the answer is that there is nothing ‘wrong’ with it and in fact, a decade on it is still an incredibly strong album. Line up all of Servers work, play one after the other and all the albums are different in their own way but the core of them all is the same – the song. Lee Storrar is a fascinating man; the strength of dedication may have worn thin,  he has seen success arrive and disappear, the world has changed and music is an entirely different landscape. Whether a fifth album does arrive or not is for now – no pun intended – in the lap of the gods but whatever that decision – when it comes –  Lee Storrar can rest assured that Servers has left behind a body of work that was never about here-today-gone-tomorrow-flash-in-the-pan. There is something timeless about Servers music, the dedication to the craft of song writing, the subject matter, and the stories that it tells are ones that will remain long after we have left this mortal coil.

Everything WILL be OK. All you have to do is believe but, in the meantime,…do try to get some sleep.

Servers: Serenity in darkness (Photo: © Servers)
Servers new album The Verical Plane released May 2023

The Vertical Plane is available now on Undergroove Records and can be purchased (along with the back catalogue) via the band’s bandcamp. Servers support Holy Diva at Sheffield’s Yorkshireman on Saturday, June 3rd, 2023.

Servers: Try To Get Some Sleep from new album The Vertical Plane (2023)
Servers – Claustrophobia from Servers debut album Leave With Us (2014)