I am ashamed to admit that I only very recently stumbled across Voodoo Six, even though the band have been around in one form or another since 2003. Given that their sound has all the classic hallmarks of Alter Bridge, Creed, Slash, Pearl Jam, Velvet Revolver, HIM, Avenged Sevenfold, Zal Cleminson’s Sin Dogs….how I’ve managed to miss out on them before is a total mystery to me! Still, it goes to go that in the wonderful world of rock, you are ALWAYS potentially about to discover something new and amazing – that’s part of the magic!
This band are just about to release their sixth studio album, Simulation Game, due out on 16 October. It follows on from their last, critically acclaimed, 2016 album Make Way For The King. The band specialise in driving, contemporary hard rock with an undercurrent of metal, blues and cut through with killer riffs. they’re also renowned for being a formidable live force, notably as special guests of Iron Maiden, UFO and Extreme. They’ve also toured on their own throughout the UK and Europe, and are a popular staple on the festival circuit – the band has performed at Download four times and Sonisphere twice.
I recently had the pleasure of reviewing the new album and found it to be a really, really good heavy rock album. Across the industry, there is a sense that the band have raised themselves to another level with this release. I caught up with the band as they were preparing for the album’s release, and talked to Matt Pearce, long-serving guitarist and one half of the core of the band, his “other half” being band founder, spokesman and bass player Tony Newton.
Having made the point that since lockdown it feels like interviews have become more important than ever, I inquired after the band’s health, and Matt confirms they’re all okay, and are raring to see the album released, not much else having been happening for several months now.
The band’s last album, Make Way For The King, was released in 2017 but they’ve been quite quiet on the recording front since then. Matt explains: “After the last one, we did a fair bit of touring, a UK one and then around Europe with British Lion, and then I think we were all a bit busy with other stuff, I did a ‘Matt Pearce & The Mutiny’ album in that downtime as it was fun to do something different and outside the main band. A very different vibe to V6, even though Joe drummed on it and Tony mixed it..!”. “We were working on this one in the second half of last year and had it all finished by the end of the year – all ready for release in March, but then… y’know…”
I mention having reviewed Simulation Game recently, and that in the course of my research I’d seen another review for ‘MWFTK’ that described the band as “Alter-Bridging the gap between classic rock, metal and alt-rock”. Matt liked the sound of that tag, and goes on “Yeah I think that sums it up pretty well, especially since Nik (Taylor-Stoakes) has joined on vocals. His influences are definitely a tad more ‘modern’, we’re all fans of old-school classic rock but sometimes you can get stuck a bit in that sound and Nik helps to give everything a harder edge in attitude and sound.”
That gave me the obvious intro to ask how Simulation Game compares with their earlier albums – and whether he has noticed a change in musical style as a band, with the new guys coming in – or whether they’re still close to their early styles and influences? Matt says “There’s always a core V6 sound which comes from Tony being the main instigator of musical ideas and also producing the albums (apart from MWFTK), and this is the first album that Nik has been involved in the writing right from the start, so that changed the song writing dynamic a bit I think. We certainly all had a lot of fun writing and producing it!” “As for me, I’m possibly not trying to put so much of my bluesier rock influences in there now as I’m doing the side-project, so it leaves the band much more focussed on that core sound.”
I touch on how changes in personnel can sometimes disrupt a band, or give a new impetus with fresh blood – but that it certainly feels like the latter with these guys! Matt confirms that “although there have been several key line-up changes over the past 15 years, that can also help to freshen things up a bit at times. It was great to consolidate things with Nik on this one and also to finally do some recording with Tom Gentry who’s an old mate of ours who we’ve gigged with in the past.” I also suggest that their new record label has maybe played their part? Matt emphatically agrees “Well we’ve had some really shit labels in the past but we’re very optimistic about Explorer1 as the guy running it is an old friend of the band. So that then motivates us to try and make something really special to put out there – it was a real catalyst for the new material!”
It’s also very clear that the band has a very supportive mentor in Steve Harris, founder and bass player in Iron Maiden. Matt describes how Tony and Steve have been friends for a long time, and that back in the day Tony’s previous band Dirty Deeds was signed to Steve’s label. “Steve will only ever help out if he thinks what we’re doing is good enough..! So, when he does, we know we’re doing something right!” “So we knew Maiden pretty well, then got to tour with them”.
Going back to the new album, I mentioned that it seems as though each track has a different twist about it, with a really impressive variety of compositions. I asked whether that reflected the songwriting duties being shared around, with different influences from each of them; or a reflection of what sounds like a fantastic production crew? Matt points out “One of the changes this time was that Tony wanted to really integrate strings into the sound of the album, not just as an extra something on top of the odd track but as a part of the writing process. And as that was a new thing for us, I think it led to some very different arrangements and song structures that might not have happened if we just made a more traditional rock album:
I mention that, because of that variety, I was hard pushed to pick a personal favourite from the album, with Inherit My Shadow and Liar And A Thief probably sharing top spot. Both of these are absolute monsters, so I ask whether they find themselves writing some of these tracks specifically for great ‘anthemic’ live performances? Matt disagrees slightly, he says “I don’t think we’ve ever done that, but I remember when we did ‘Lead Me On’ me and Tony were sitting there like ‘wow that would sound amazing in a stadium’! And then to get to play it in stadiums on the Maiden tour was just unbelievable!” ” ‘Gone Forever’ was written right at the end and very quickly, it was obvious to us that it would be a very immediate song so would be perfect as a first single and also great for playing live.”
And I guess that’s the point – a great heavy rock band lives to perform live – which leads me into asking about the prospects for touring next year… “I think we’re all just so desperate to get out there and bring this music to people, so at least getting the album out there is a start. But it’s obviously a hugely frustrating time for all musicians. And a very challenging time for everyone in the music and other businesses.”
Echoing that, I ask whether the five of them struggle to keep the “band momentum” going, and whether, like many bands, rehearsing together has got a lot more complicated?” Matt laughs” Ha, well we don’t really rehearse, unless we’re rehearsing for some upcoming show, and even then we tend to keep it to a minimum to keep it fresh. We’re believers in everyone really knowing the material very well so it’s mostly running through stuff to check it and remind yourself which pedal you’re using when..!”
Thanks to Matt for the chat, he’s a nice guy – and they’re clearly bursting to get out there again – so do get to listen to the album this month, and watch out for live shows in 2021!
VOODOO SIX’S NEW ALBUM SIMULATION GAME IS RELEASED ON OCTOBER 16TH. AVAILABLE TO PRE-ORDER BELOW