It’s the one that almost got away. Now saved from the ether of the interwebs, it’s the Ginge Knievil and Chris Morgan interview. The Stay Voiceless main man talks of his beloved Manic Street Preachers, upcoming recordings, THAT sample of a Michael Sheen NHS rally speech, and more. Sit on the edge of your seat, it’s time to get angry.
Photo credit: Stay Voiceless.
Interview by Ginge Knievil.
MM: Alright, Chris? For the uninitiated, can you tell us a little bit about Stay Voiceless? I know you’ve all have been in various bands within the South Wales music scene. Could you share a scattered history?
CM: I’m good thank you Ginge, and yes of course. Music’s a funny thing, and something that I love and hate equally. It may just be me, but when a band you’re in has run its course, there’s a lull where you tell yourself “right, that’s it now, no more music.” After cutting my teeth with Merthyr madmen Midasuno, and my follow-up project going through about 4/5 line-up changes, I thought I was done, but a few weeks of pretending to be normal, I had the itch and couldn’t put the guitar down. Cerys had felt the same since leaving her former band Along Came Man, as had Andrew for a short while after the demise of his band Haddonfield; who were arguably the best punk band to come out of the South Wales scene. I’ve known them both since I was around 16 and whilst we’d never played together before, knew we had that connection. I sent over some home demos I’d recorded and Stay Voiceless was born.
MM: I noticed Richard Jackson produced the We’re Not Lovers single. I was big fan of Novocaine during their time in the so-called “New Seattle” scene in Newport in 90s. This partnership seems a perfect match to me, and you guys seem to get one another. Would you agree with that statement?
CM: Definitely, and we’re so grateful that Steve [Evans, Novocaine singer and guitarist] was able to help make the link. I know Steve as he used to run the practice space my first band used to rehearse in above a shop in Tredegar. We got talking again after a gig at the Ebbw Vale Institute, and Steve said he’d love to hear what Richard could do with us – as were we – so when he said he might be able to make it happen we jumped at the opportunity.
Sonically, Rich just “got it,” capturing what we are as a band rather than what he thought we should sound like – knackered guitars and all! We’re really excited for everyone to hear the rest of the tracks from the session and look forward to working with him again in the hopefully not too distant future.
MM: Your lyrics are politically charged, and let’s face it, there’s more than enough to be angry about in the modern world. Do you take a no holds barred approach or are some things off limits?
CM: I don’t suppose anything’s ever truly off limits. When writing songs, I always think to myself, “what do I expect from my favourite band?” and the answer is always “honesty,” so I write and sing about what I know, things I see, things I believe in. Music’s nothing without passion and belief, and if you’re heart’s not in it, you probably shouldn’t be singing about it.
MM: The Those Kids Have No Idea Whatsoever of What Went On at Stalingrad single featured a sample of an NHS rally speech by Michael Sheen. How did that come about and how easy was it to obtain permission?
CM: Well, I’d attended the peoples march for the NHS in my hometown. My mother had often told tales of her as a child up on my grandfather’s shoulders going to hear Nye Bevan speak on the hillsides, so when Michael took to the bandstand in Bedwellty Park, I knew that it would be one of those “I was there” moments. I wanted to document as much as I could and recorded the best part of the day on my phone. Talking about it at practice the following week, it clicked that Michael’s speech shared so many themes with the song, and that sampling an extract would be the perfect accompaniment to the middle 8 of …Stalingrad.
Regarding permission, I spent the next few days tracking down names, contact details, email addresses, everything for Michael’s management, trying to draft the perfect letter to get granted consent to use the sample; trying to do it all above board, but I guess impatience had set in as Andrew just messaged Michael on Twitter instead. Surprisingly, we had a reply from him within the hour saying yes – which I couldn’t believe!
MM: For someone who quickly glances at the band name and song titles, an instant Manic Street Preachers comparison may be drawn. How much of an influence are those guys and what others inspire the Stay Voiceless sound?
CM: It’ll come as no surprise to anyone that I’m a massive fan. Manic Street Preachers for me are the most important band of a generation so there probably are (lipstick) traces of the Manics’ influence in Stay Voiceless, just as you could hear the Guns N’ Roses influence in Generation Terrorists. I think it’s more the “destroy rock and roll – us vs. everyone else” mentality rather than a musical similarity, but obviously any comparison is welcomed with open arms.
Manics aside, I was very much into the Melody Maker alternative indie scene; Placebo, Suede and that. Eddie likes his 90’s/00’s punk rock; Alkaline Trio, Hot Water Music etc, where Cerys digs The Distillers, Red Hot Chili Peppers and shouty, heavy hardcore bands [laughs]. Even though I don’t thing it’s infiltrated our sound, punk seems to be where we all agree; our middle ground.
MM: You got yourselves out there in 2017 with a string of live dates in England and Wales. I’ve yet to catch you guys live but heard nothing but positive reports. I’m guessing there’s an intensity. How would you describe the Stay Voiceless live experience?
CM: Loud! Most places we go we get told by someone that we’re loud, which rightly or wrongly, I take as a compliment given that there are only three of us. I think a lot of bands these days fall into the trap of rehearsing every single twist, turn and jump in their set that it’s embarrassing to watch. Checking how long their leads are in sound checks to see how far into the crowd they can run, and things like that. There’s no substance to the performance. I think we just go out and play every gig like it’s our last. There’s definitely a ferocity to the set, but I think when you’re singing about things like child poverty, that’s unavoidable.
MM: You’ve taken the singles approach thus far. Will you continue with this formula for the time being or can we expect a long player in the future?
CM: Yeah, to be honest it hasn’t been a conscious approach to keep dropping singles. When Comfortable stirred a bit of interested and had BBC Radio Wales’ backing, we had to follow it up quickly. Truth be told, we fell into the singles approach so we could build some momentum and keep the interest whilst we worked towards financing the album/tempting a label. We’ve just finished preproduction and as it stands, we’re on course to hit the studio to record the album in the summer.
MM: Amid all the spike and vitriol that blasts from Stay Voiceless’ music, what relaxes you? Do you take solace in the mundanity of sorting out your sock drawer or something; y’know, to divert your mind from all those angry lyrics? [laughs]
CM: Funnily enough, I’m actually quite finicky over my sock drawer, to the point where I only ever buy the same socks so I can never be in a situation where I can’t find a matching pair!
MM: Many thanks for your time, Chris. It’s really appreciated. The final words are all yours. What’s your parting statement of intent for the Mass Movement readers? Go!
CM: Everyone has something incredible to achieve and the opportunity to learn; don’t let your low points ruin your highs.
Check out Stay Voiceless here