Manic Street Preacher: An Audience with Reverend & The Makers’ Jon McClure

reverendandthemakers-1One of the hardest balancing acts in rock is the one between popularity and credibility. Often, to achieve one, the other has to be compromised or abandoned altogether. Sometimes, despite the best efforts and intentions of the credible artist, being successful and popular becomes the driving force where once maintaining a stance or remaining true to your roots was the main focus.

Given the fact that his band has just scored a second Top 20 album with the follow up to their debut record and have just come off one of the UK’s biggest stadium tours supporting Oasis, a man in Jon McClure’s position may be excused for flicking through a portfolio of mansions or test-driving a new Bentley. Instead of capitalizing on his sky-rocketing profile, the Reverend is planning to pack up his troupe of Sheffield troubadours and busk his way to China.

“I’m not in this to sell loads of records,” McClure says. “If I was, I’d have said yes when David Letterman asked me to go to America. And I wouldn’t have gone to Beirut to play a gig instead. So I’m in a bit of a war with my record label at the moment because they’re on at me to promote the record because ‘it’s not selling as well as we’d like it to’. I’m like, ‘no, the record is not selling as well as you’d like it too’. So instead I’m going to busk from Sheffield to Beijing, going on the Trans-Mongolian and all that shit, railing it all the way, and we’re going to record all these tunes I’ve written with street musicians and film it all. But the record company is all like, ‘you can’t, man, you’ve got to promote the album and do another tour’. Hang on, I’m not a whore. I’m not your bitch. I’m here to make music and inspire people and say it’s a big world, what’s going on in it – have a look.”

Reverend and the Makers may be enjoying an elevated status at the moment with second album A French Kiss in the Chaos beginning to make waves but, just as many of the songs on the record can attest, McClure is still a man on a mission – not to conquer the charts but to open people’s minds. To that end, rather than becoming a slave to popularity, the Reverend is using the growing interest in his band to expand his flock.

“One of the advantages of the band taking off is that people are taking me a bit more seriously,” he says. “One of the crucial things which have come about is Twitter. I don’t have to put my ideas through a publicist – I can just say them. And people are picking me up on Twitter and going ‘yeah, man, he’s talking sense, he’s telling it how it is’. Then I started getting invited onto shows like Newsnight and The Week, you know? So people were then seeing me on respected shows, telling the truth. You go from being this laughing stock, as some sections of the press were making me out to be, to suddenly talking absolute sense on TV. The tide starts to turn. People tell people and then there’s the opinion that, he’s telling the truth, that Jon McClure. He’s not that dickhead they were saying he was.”

Away from the infectious fusion of dance, rock and funk that his band produce, McClure himself has been making headlines in the British press for his outspoken political views and his pro-active involvement in initiatives such as Instigate Debate, which encourages the public to challenge power brokers and news makers on hot topics, and the 10:10 climate campaign to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The coverage he’s been getting has not always been complimentary and at times downright insulting. As a result of what he says is a distortion of reality and a breeding ground for the hate and fear culture he sees within British society, McClure’s distrust and distaste of the media has grown.

Jon McClure / Reverend

“The tabloid culture in the UK is out of control, man. It brainwashes people. The Daily Mail put up a headline recently – “Fagan’s Heirs” – about Romanian pickpockets running riot on the streets of London. Just one person was charged with possession of a stolen mobile phone but the knock-on effect is that British people start to demonize Romanian people which is utter bullshit.

“I think that for a long time I was like a lone voice, that I was literally the only person who’s been saying anything about this culture of fear and hate. Now we’ve got this Instigate Debate thing and other projects and now the face of things, the façade, is starting to crack. Once things start to hit people in the pocket, like with the MPs scandal, or when the death toll in Afghanistan starts piling up then people will start looking around and they’ll say ‘you know what, I think this guy’s telling the truth.’ So I’ve been getting a bit more of a receptive audience as time’s gone on. There’ll always be people like me and people are becoming more aware.”

McClure sees himself as coming from a long line of politically aware musicians whose main goal is to get a message across to the people who buy their records or come to their shows. But the Reverend finds himself in a very different age to many of his heroes, where celebrity holds sway over the national consciousness and real issues get buried under stories of Hollywood divorces and Big Brother scandals.

“My heroes are John Lennon, Bob Marley and Joe Strummer,” McClure says. “Just like some DJs pretend to be channeling the spirit of John Peel while being told what to play, and journalists pretend to further a debate while following the editorial line, so some musicians think it’s enough to have a picture of Lennon or Marley on the wall rather than take the soul of what they were saying. John Lennon said that musicians are the newspapers – we’re just reporting what’s going on. We just sing about it rather than write about it. When you can pick up a newspaper and read such blatant lies, then perhaps the need for people to speak out politically is more important than ever.

“The moment you put your career and your financial profit ahead of the lives of innocent people, then what sort of person are you, man? What does it say about society when Israel is dropping phosphorous on little kids in Gaza, burning their skin off, and they put Jade Goody on the front of the paper? Someone who two months earlier they were calling a racist.”

The dichotomy of McClure’s situation is that he has to operate in an industry he obviously resents in order to get the widest audience possible for the views he feels are ignored and feared by many of those in the music business. As one would expect, he has a strong opinion on the state of music today and the musicians that he feels are ignoring the responsibilities which come from having people’s minds open to your words.

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“We live in the era of corporate music. We live in the era of the careerist musician where people, wrongly I believe, feel that they can’t make a statement without being crucified for it. I’ve had loads of abuse from people, like the NME, who you would think would be my natural allies. But they’re not. They’re complicit in it.  Back in the day, they would have been the vanguard, the people leading the charge, but now they just want to put celebrities on the front cover.”

McClure believes that music’s foundations in rebellion and revolution are being trampled on in the stampede for the dwindling cash flow. The music business is experiencing one of its darkest times financially and the Reverend believes the desperate pursuit of what little money is available has added to the dissipation of the art form’s soul.

“People just want to make money because these are tough times, especially in the music industry where people are downloading stuff for free. There again, this is the industry founded on the idea of rebellion and they’re the ones telling people off – don’t steal music. How can you act like you’re the law when you’re supposed to be a rebel? Basically the reason that this decade has been so disappointing in terms of the mainstream is because money is the all prevailing thing. Wherever we’ve been, talking to audiences at festivals and the like, the overriding feeling is that they hate being given what the bands and the media think they want. ‘We think you want four skinny white lads with guitars so that’s what you’re going to get – every week’. Or a company says we want that type of record, and they do it but there’s no soul in it. It’s just for profit.

“It’s the way businessmen behave, like they’re providing a public service by giving the public what they think they want. It’s not how an artist behaves. They want to laud bands like the Klaxons as the future of British music – the same band who said in an interview that they sat down and thought ‘which style of music hasn’t been reinvented yet? We’ll have some success with that.’ And then they decided on rave. And then you get Johnny Borrell saying that he really wants to crack America with this album. What the fuck? That’s what you say in a marketing meeting. You’re supposed to be a songwriter, man.”

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After playing some of the biggest gigs of his career as support to Manchester legends Oasis this summer, McClure spent enough time in the company of the Gallagher brothers to believe that the band’s split will rob the music industry of one of the few truly honest and independent bands it could count on.

“I’m gutted about the Oasis split, man,” he says. “I got a text from Noel telling me what had been going on and stuff, so I’m really sad about that. Oasis will be very sorely missed. They were the last band who would say the same thing to you in the pub as they would do in an interview. They would be completely honest without any thought about the effect on the wider aspects of their career. And now we have so many PR trained wankers that it’s dulled down music to the point of tedium.”

Despite the bleak picture he paints of the industry he works in, McClure maintains that he’s an optimist and that change is not only possible but essential – in music and society in general – but we are going to have to work for it.

“Musicians changing the world? It’s got to happen, man. The counterculture has got to readdress the balance because at the minute the establishment’s winning, completely, hands-down. It’s a chaotic time. The reason people like John Peel or John Lennon or whoever the fuck you want to mention made a difference is because they continually did things that challenged the people who were into them already and pushed it. As long as you can challenge and inspire people to think and question, you can fight back and win.”

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The Interrogator Grills…Mikel Jollet, Airborne Toxic Event

Musicians, like all artists, are a strange breed. They either profess to showing their true selves through their work or present a public face that they think the people want to see. It’s very rare that a musician or artist will open up and give you a glimpse behind the persona. One of the most tried and tested forms of getting some truth from musicians is to lull them into a false sense of security by asking them seemingly random and bizarre questions, then hitting them with the incisive stuff. It works like sodium pentothal. They struggle but eventually they can’t help themselves.

 This is the job of The Interrogator – the journalist tasked with getting a peak behind the stage curtain at the person behind the rock star. This week, MIKEL JOLLETT, frontman and songwriter with The Airborne Toxic Event gets grilled.

mikel-jollett-002-largeWhich great American novel do you wish you had written and why?

East of Eden. John Steinbeck. I think it’s probably cooler to say something like the Great Gatsby or American Pastoral by Phillip Roth. You know, something filled with analyses of America’s worst impulses.

 But I feel comforted whenever I read East of Eden. It’s a hopeful book. Steinbeck writes like a bull, pushing his characters through large swaths of time. He’s also got a canny understanding of the aspirations of poor people and the power of hard work.

 This tendency is comforting in an age obsessed with people’s moral failings and the voyeuristic draw of celebrity, money and pornography.

 Is being a rock star everything you expected it to be?

 No. It’s just another role one plays in life, like “uncle,” “son,” “friend,” “writer,” or “miserable failure.” Which is to say, it’s temporary and nothing is to be taken too seriously.

 What do you feel more comfortable in: nice suit or jeans and t-shirt?

 Nice suit. That’s the worst part of living in Los Angeles. It’s always too hot to wear a good jacket.

 Have you ever hunted anything, killed it and eaten it?

 Sort of. My parents raised rabbits for food when I was a kid. We used to slaughter them every few months and make stew. I still have dreams about it. I think to them it was about respecting the life cycle: you know, if you’re going to eat something, you should kill it yourself so that you understand the sacrifice.  To me, it was just another chore and I always wanted to go to Wendy’s.

I think about the rabbits sometimes. How they died. It wasn’t some romantic thing like death always seems in stories. It was just a dull thud, a kick of the legs, then silence. It’s not like a Silence of the Lambs sort of thing where they’re screaming and haunting me or whatever. Just that the very banality of how they died sticks with me. I read somewhere that in a study of black box recordings on airplane crashes, for 80% of people, there last word is, “shit.”

 How much of an influence does your medical condition have on your life?

 Some. It keeps me within certain boundaries I would otherwise probably transgress. The only way to deal with Autoimmune Disorder, generally, is to live a balanced life: you know, sleeping well and eating well and avoiding stress and that sort of thing. Which of course is the way one is supposed to deal with life. Otherwise, I don’t really think about it except that every now and then when I’m really stressed I lose a clump of hair or an eyebrow. It’s kind of funny.

 When it comes to a night out on the tiles, are you a full-on dancer or an appreciative nodder? What gets you on the dance floor?

Full-on dancer. Old soul, new hip-hop and Swedish electro. Put Al Green, Kanye West and the Knife into a blender and hit “puree.” Lately I’ve been into new dance moves like “the jacket toss,” “the tie-straightener” and “the sleeve brush.” There’s also been a lot of pogo-ing at shows lately.

 Who are your heroes in music, literature and life?

 Leonard Cohen.

 What are the benefits of fame?

 Your friends think you’re rich. Your ideas seem more important. These are also the drawbacks of fame.

 If you could front a band of musicians, living or dead, what would the line-up be?

Eric Avery and Stephen Perkins from Jane’s Addiction in the rhythm section. Jason Lytle from Grandaddy and whoever plays all those greats lines in Passion Pit on keyboard, playing songs co-written with Regina Spektor in a production conceived and orchestrated by David Bowie

Would you ever wear a cowboy hat, either seriously or with irony?

 Yes.

Are you mentally compiling notes on life in the music industry to turn into a book one day? Would such a book be complimentary of the industry or a warning to others?

No. There really are no secrets. The best moments in music are the ones that happen between your ears as you listen to your favorite song. The rest is all folklore and mythology of a world which doesn’t really exist.

Away from the on-tour catering, do you cook? What’s your specialty?

 Salmon and various types of breakfast scrambles.

You’re trapped in a lift with a critic who has been very severe in his/her appraisal of your work (think Pitchfork review). What do you say to them?

You can’t use my phone.

Many of your songs are about heartache and loss in relationships, what are the most important lessons you’ve learnt about the affairs of the heart and what advice would you give about avoiding the pitfalls?

I’m probably not a good person to ask. And anyway, I think people figure out such things for themselves. It’s never anything you read. I will say that I tend to think that fate does not exist and that symbolism in relationships is pointless. You know, “this event means this.” et cetera, and that if you want to be with someone, the way to make it work is to work at it.

You can either have the problems of a single person or the problems of a person in a relationship.

What would be your first reaction to an Airborne Toxic Event?

I’d probably want to know my folks were OK.

jollett2Do you read your own press? If so, do you take any notice of it?

I try not to. I think it’s human nature to want to know what other people think of you but it’s the kind of thing that can also make you very self-conscious. It’s probably best to take it with a grain of salt. Most people have no idea who you are.

Having said that, I really like music journalists. They tend to be smart and kind of sarcastic. They’re cynics and true believers at the same time. We have a lot of good conversations about David Bowie and Sufjan Stevens.

There’s also something kind of great about a good writer who can capture in words why they love a piece of music. The feeling in the room. The excitement at a great show. The ideas driving the music. Why people are responding, jumping, clapping, screaming, swooning. Like it’s the last night on earth. It’s not easy. You know the old line about dancing about architecture… It’s true.

What’s your favorite (legal) vice and why?

 Ambien. Europe is a whole other experience when you can sleep at night.

 TATE are now a Big Thing, after being the Next Big Thing. Who in your opinion is the Next Next Big Thing?

Passion Pit. They’ve cornered something. I can’t decide if it’s a sound or an attitude towards songwriting or a gift for rhythm and melody, but whatever it is they are fucking talented.

What would your personal profile description be on Facebook?

 “I am not on Facebook.”

 What’s the deepest statement you’ve ever come up with and does it still resonate, or does it sound pretentious now?

 In a drunken stupor I once scribbled on my wall: “Everyone is an orphan.” Yeah, it sounds pretentious as hell.

 After meeting which famous person did your opinion of them completely change? What did you think before and after you met them?

David Bowie. He was shorter than I thought he’d be.

We talked for a long time about Nietzsche and moral-relativism and the death of God in the 20th century and we ended up having this oddly paternal moment when he asked me if my generation had a problem believing in anything.

 I nearly wrote a book trying to answer that question.

Was Michael Jackson really the King of Pop? What’s your favourite Michael Jackson song?

Yes. Right now I’ve been into that song “Say Say Say” he did with Paul McCartney.

What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve done when drunk, that you can tell me?

Hmm… When we were in San Jose for a show, for some reason I decided to go to the bar downstairs and play the piano. The bar was closed. Security showed up and told me to stop. I just kept looking at him and saying, “Hey man, someone’s got to be the piano player.”

He called the police. 10 minutes later (as I was walking away across the street) five police cars arrived. A block later one asked me if I’d been in that hotel. I said, “no. But could you tell me where Carl’s Junior is?” He gave us directions and we went for milkshakes.

I guess that’s not very embarrassing. There was a time when I was nearly passed out drunk in a field and I had this hour-long conversation with a very polite and well-spoken girl. It turned out she was a blogger. She printed an account of the whole thing including pictures of me lying passed out under a diesel truck.

Which is more expressive: literature or music?

Who knows? Every major change I’ve ever made in my life has been predicated upon a book. But then you never love anything like a song.

Are we doomed?

No. But it’s best to think we are.

You have won a major music award at a flashy industry event and are expected to take the podium – who do you mention in your acceptance speech? Who would you credit for inspiration and support?

Philip Roth, Milan Kundera, Eric Bachman and the Henry Clay People. The first three because they were the ones that it seemed like they were whispering in my ear, you know saying things that sounded familiar and true, but a little incomprehensible and beyond my reach. And the HCP because they are a great local band from Silver Lake and I think they’d be excited to hear their name on TV.

Your album has been widely acclaimed and rated as one of the best rock albums of the year. Surprised or what?

Sometimes. Sometimes I wonder how anybody ever even listened to it, because it’s just like a role and not real and feel like it’s all absurd and it was just a home recording we made at our friend’s house and I should be somewhere writing a book. Other times, I feel like it was two wrenching years of life poured body and soul into 38 minutes and I guess I understand it.

You’ve been given your own state to govern – let’s call it Mikelistan – what would be the five most important laws of the land? (And remember – you’re the boss, it can be anything!)

It would be a terrible idea. Power corrupts. Always. I think all five rules would have to be about how to equitably share power and make that power based on a democratic system. That and that everyone would be required to listen to the Final Cut by Pink Floyd.

Is there really no place like home? What do you love and loathe about LA?

Los Angeles is widely misunderstood because most people think L.A. is Hollywood and Hollywood is dominated by white people and Los Angeles is not. It’s mostly Latino and black and Asian immigrants. It’s sort of like how 4 years ago if you went to Europe, everybody thought everyone in America loved George W. Bush. We only exported the worst caricatures about ourselves.

L.A. is like that. All it exports is Hollywood. Hollywood is a tiny island of 90,000 power-seeking, white people surrounded by an ocean of 14 million working people from all over the world.

Which is to say, I love the tacos. I love playing basketball in the park, I love the Korean Barbecue, the Ethiopian food, the empty beaches by the airport, the weather at my parent’s house, Fox Hills mall where all the black people are rich and the white people are poor. The Armenian ladies at Hollywood Park who try to steal chips when they lose a hand. The Vietnamese noodle shops. The hills above Griffith Park and the way rushing, muddy rivers form in the gutters when it rains.

What would you say to the 16-year-old Mikel Jollett if you could go back in time and meet him?

Don’t waste your time on math.

What is your opinion on rock stars using their standing to address political and social issues? Can musicians save the world?

We all can. It’s like a billion ton boulder we all have to push together.

Which is more difficult: writing a novel to learning to play guitar?

Writing a novel. Playing guitar is fun.

jollettWhat are your initial impressions of President Barack Obama? Are you optimistic about the future of your country under him?

I’m worried he’s going to be shot. All the extremist right wing redneck rhetoric is frightening. It’s like the anti-Semitic propaganda of the middle ages or something. There’s so much blind hatred. All these people worried about socialism and that n***er president. And here he is just trying to make sure people have health care.

I picture some guy with an ailing mother threatening Obama’s life because he’s trying to reform health care. The mother is dying in bed of cancer and her son is at some rally screaming “Socialism!” It’s madness.

The Republican Party in America has convinced poor southern white people to vote against their own interests by fanning the flames of racism, nationalism and xenophobia. They are out of ideas.

Having said that, I think Obama is the most promising politician the world has seen since Roosevelt. He’s a pragmatist at heart and I like this about him since our system is designed to reign in the schemes of ideologues. He’s not a revolutionary; he’s an exceptional steward with a silver tongue. Every great elected leader in history has shared these two traits.

Does being a guitarist automatically make you awesome at Guitar Hero? Ever tried it? What song do you rule at? Any of your band colleagues any good?

It’s actually the other way around. I suck at Guitar Hero. Daren is pretty good. I think the game appeals to the drummer world-view which mostly revolves around hitting things in rhythm.

Cold beer or scotch-on-the-rocks?

Yes, thank you. How kind.

What are your expectations for the band? Do you have a plan to become the biggest band in the world?

I don’t think you can plan for that. It’s out of your control. We don’t talk about it. We focus on more basic things like staying friends or maintaining balance in our lives. This is getting harder though. The balance part (we are better friends than ever).

I think we’ve all lost our minds a little bit. Life is beginning to feel like some endless waking dream. Like my band mates are just recurring characters and every new face I see looks like the composite of a few I’ve seen before. I’m currently  typing this on a laptop on an airplane in a string of endless flights, shows, wild nights out drinking, phone calls home, quiet hung-over mornings slumped over a guitar, deafening wild-eyed evenings slumped over a microphone, meet-and-greets, sound check parties, signing tents, band meetings, rehearsals, bus trips, jet-lagged days where you wander aimlessly through the streets of a foreign city reading signs and looking for basic necessities like some kind of bleary-eyed zombie in tight black jeans.

The whole thing is kind of silly.

Another Score for Satan: Introducing The Black Box Revelation

blackboxxxJan Paternoster is missing. Two hours before Belgian blues rockers Black Box Revelation are due on stage at the Cactus festival in Bruges, the singer/guitarist is AWOL. No-one knows where he is. Thankfully someone knows who he’s with, which seems to reduce the latent unease among the group’s entourage dramatically. “He’s with his girlfriend,” says Dries Van Dijck, the band’s cherubic drummer. “Don’t worry, he’ll be here,” he adds, calmly. “Want a beer?”

This confident and cool response speaks volumes about the relationship between front man Paternoster and his pint-sized powerhouse partner-in-crime. After the laconic singer eventually ambles into the backstage area, it’s clear the bond is strong. They banter like brothers; cracking each other up with shared anecdotes and memories. On stage, the connection is almost telepathic. Trust is everything. It has to be when the show, the music and even their futures rely so heavily on just the two of them.

“From the very first rehearsal, we agreed that we wanted to become a really good band and not stay a shitty little Brussels group that just played for about 20 people,” says Paternoster, after relocating to the band’s dressing room in a nearby school. “We like the fact that it’s just the two of us. In the old band, there were four of us and when we wanted to rehearse there was always trouble getting everyone together at the same time. There was always someone who couldn’t make it. We ended up hardly rehearsing. With the two of us, it’s easier and we’re more committed to making it work.”

The old band is – or was – the Mighty Generators. Legend has it that after a demo session for a recording the Mighty Generators were entering into Belgium’s biggest band contest, Humo’s Rock Rally, Paternoster and Van Dijck used the remaining time to jam on some songs the singer had been toying with away from the band. “I wrote one song, Love in Your Head, and it didn’t fit with what the Mighty Generators were doing,” Paternoster says. “So I said to Dries that maybe we should try and play this song together, just guitar and drums. We rehearsed just the one time and it was like ‘Nah…’ but then I wrote two more songs and we played them again and it sounded pretty good. The music we played, just the two of us, was more like the music we wanted to play.”

Both the Mighty Generators and the embryonic Black Box Revelation recordings were entered into the contest. The Mighty Generators were eliminated in the first round. The Black Box Revelation won the silver medal. The rest is recent history

“After that, we thought we should stick with Black Box Revelation and try and make a go of it,” says van Dijck. “We’ve never really regretted the decision to leave because we’re doing quite well and this is where we want to be. From the start we said to each other that we wanted to go for it and become famous. And it’s happening.”

It certainly is. Despite their tender ages – Paternoster is 20, Van Dijck is just 18 – they already have a wealth of knowledge gained from growing up in the business and stories from the rock ‘n’ roll’ coalface.

“My first gig ever was with a band called The Feminists,” says Paternoster.  “I wasn’t playing guitar at the point. I could only sing and not that well, I hadn’t learnt how to breathe properly in the songs and I had this very low voice. And they made me sing Stairway to Heaven. On the one hand it was terrible but on the other it was really fun. Robert Plant had nothing to worry about though. And the guy on drums is the only drummer I know without any rhythm. He just played whatever he wanted over the top of the guitars and my singing.”

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Just how famous the Black Box Revelation will get remains to be seen but the initial signs are good. They already have a growing reputation and a burgeoning following in their home country while high profile support slots on international tours and increasingly large headline shows around Europe are helping to spread the message.

“We’ve done three tours since the start of the year,” says Paternoster, putting his band forward for a nomination as one of the hardest working new acts around. “We toured through Europe with the Eagles of Death Metal and then we toured France with (fellow Belgians) Ghinzu, which was weird because in the Flemish part of Belgium, they’re not that big but in France they were selling out big venues of 2000 people every night. Then we did our own headlining tour in Germany and Switzerland. But now we’re playing one or two festivals a week.

“Things are also going okay in the UK,” he adds. “We were in the NME three times and our next single comes out there in three weeks and then we’re going to play a show. But it’s hard to create a buzz around our band in the UK because they have lots of bands there. I think they have so many bands that some people wonder why they should listen to bands from outside the UK. It’s working out well though, but it’s not easy. “

“We played the Scala in London with dEUS and White Lies and that was cool,” says Van Dijck. “The guys from dEUS told us that we had to come back and play as many times as we can in the UK. Just keep coming back and playing. Get as much attention as you can. So we will, when we get the chance. Last time we played in London it was a great show and the people said they liked us, so…”

Despite the increasing exposure to the hard-living rock’n’roll lifestyle, these young Belgians seem to have their heads screwed on and their feet planted firmly on the ground.

“We’re not the type of band to have superstitions and rituals,” says Paternoster. “I think it’s too dangerous to start with superstitions. Once you think you have to have those things, like the lucky underpants, you might have one day when it’s like, ‘oh shit, the lucky underpants aren’t clean’ and then you think it means that it’s going to be a bad show.

“We know how important this all is,“ adds Paternoster. “We always drink a beer before a show but we never get drunk. We’re not drunk onstage because we did that once or twice and it wasn’t that good so from that moment we said that we would always be sober on stage. But we have the one beer to get in the mood.”

“We don’t act like big stars because we’re not…yet,” adds Van Dijck. “On our rider, we only ask for two bottles of wine; one red, one white; a bottle of whiskey, enough beers. If we get really big maybe we can ask for something stupid before every show and see if they bring it for us. We can see if they pay attention to the rider or not.

“Dries used to have Red Bull on the rider,” laughs Paternoster, imitating an over-caffeinated drummer. “He would say that he wouldn’t go on stage without his Red Bull. Some bands have their booze album, some have their cocaine album – our first record was our Red Bull album. The next one will be the coffee album.”

TheBlackBoxRevelationTrue to their word, after a series of neck rolls and intense pacing, they toast their band with a single beer and go into a two-man huddle before taking to the stage. The atmosphere, already electric due to a series of passing downpours and threatening storm clouds, crackles from the moment the band greet the crowd. After the briefest of introductions, the band tears through an hour long set of funked-up punk blues at illegal volume and breakneck speed. The majority of debut album “Set Your Head on Fire” gets the high octane live treatment, with Van Dijck splintering drumsticks with abandon while Paternoster struts and screams like a possessed young Jagger, torturing supernatural riffs from his battered guitar. While the White Stripes and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club comparisons make sense when confronted with the cut-and-thrust of songs like Love, Love is on My Mind and Gravity Blues, it’s the band’s love of the Rolling Stones which drives the scuzzy jive of crowd pleasers like Stand Your Ground and I Think I Like You. It’s a fast-paced celebration of the Devil’s best music.

They are even granted the festival rarity of an encore, an even more anomalous event considering they aren’t even the headline act and this is a mid-afternoon slot, not a closing set. One breathless discussion later and the band are back on stage for a ballsy, truimphant version of Fighting with the Truth. Then they’re gone in a squall of feedback; ears ringing and drenched in sweat.

It’s obvious from the state of them after the show that creating such a noise and generating such incredible energy leaves both band members on the point of collapse.

“We have to create this wall of sound, just the two of us, so we have to give 100 percent all the time,” gasps Paternoster, as he shakily signs autographs while Van Dijck struggles to find the power to hand out drumsticks to young fans nearby. “I have three amps but it’s as much to do with the power and effort we put in as much as the amplification. I think it has a lot to do with the way we play together. We’ve been getting louder and louder as we’ve gone on. The first year, we never used ear plugs but after that, the ringing in the ears was so bad we had to start wearing them. I think since then we’ve been even louder. I can’t put my amp at just one or two because Dries is drumming so hard I can’t hear it. I have to turn it up to eleven, like Spinal Tap.”

Once the adoring hordes have been satisfied, it’s time for friends and family. “I’m here for all the Belgian shows,” says, Elisabeth Van Lierop, Paternoster’s girlfriend, as she props up the exhausted singer. “It’s the only time I get to see him at the moment. They’re either in the studio or on the road.”

Considering the band are due back in the studio in August to put the finishing touches to their much-anticipated second album, she may have to get used to her boyfriend being away from home a lot more.