The Temperance Movement interview (Phil Campbell)

"The computer has become something of an overzealous school warden, often the enemy of creativity"

23/01/2014 @ 11:56
The Temperance Movement's debut album made it (among other things) to the 11th place of last year's Top 30 albums. They play blues rock and they make it sound fresh, for today. Phil Campbell, singer of the new and uprising retro rockers, talks about influences, how computers kill the vibe of music and his love for tzatziki.

The Temperance MovementHow did the band form and what were the common things that brought you together?
The band formed in London in 2011. We all knew of each other in some way. Luke (Potashnick, guitar) told me his idea for forming a band three years before, but it wasn’t possible at that time. He and Paul (Sayer, guitar) were mates and started jamming some time in 2010/11 and they asked me in to sing. Damon (Wilson, drums) came next and it was an easy choice. We looked hard for the right bass player and when Nick (Fyffe) eventually joined us the line up was complete. The thing we have in common is a love for soulful, exciting music, performed with passion and authenticity.

Can you tell us your band’s major musical influences?
Major influences range from The Faces and The Stones to Eric Clapton and Delaney and Bonnie, Peter Green and John Mayall, James Brown, Sly and The Family Stone, The Black Crowes, The Band, Grateful Dead...

If I asked you to describe your band and its music with 5 words which would you choose?
Bravery, Passion, Vulnerability, Laughter, Control.

The Temperance Movement - The Temperance MovementIs the 'Temperance Movement' going to prohibit drinking during live shows? How did you come up with this name actually?
The name is an ironic take on the clichéd excessive rock and roll band. The band members drink. There is no preaching - nothing of the sort!  I thought it was funny. I hadn’t counted on anyone taking it seriously. It is also an ‘old world’ style name, a la Creedence Clearwater Revival, or Old Crow Medicine Show. We wanted a name of substance as opposed to the throwaway single syllable punk name like The Dicks...

Is there a clear target every time you begin the creation of new music?
Yes and no. You must always be ready to move when something good happens. We jam out a funk groove and we’ll say, ‘yeah, it’s that Meters vibe’ or if it’s a heavy thing ‘wow, that’s pure Sabbath!’ We’re constantly surrounded and inspired by great songs and artists and we see our band as a conduit for the same kind of inspiration. In part music creates itself and the most you can hope for is to harness it for a moment, but writing songs takes a little more time and patience. When writing lyrics it’s always good to have a subject, so there is a target but its not at all clear and if we hit, then we’re lucky.

Was there a certain process for the writing of the songs in your debut album?
We do it in different ways. Paul comes up with riffs and chord structures at home. Luke goes through spates of emailing us ten MP3 ideas at a time. Or, they’ll sit together for an afternoon with tea and scones and turn out three song structures minus a melody and lyric. They email it to me and say ‘your turn’ and I’ll sing something on them.  I like write too and I try to impress them with songs on my acoustic guitar with chords I know they can actually play better than me. After a while we’ll get together and collate all the material and then it turns into a real shit fight.

The Temperance MovementListening to your album (and the previous EP) I get the feeling that you had a 'keep it simple' approach. Is this true and what’s your opinion on overdubs and overproducing in general?
The problem with today’s recording methods is the seemingly limitless options available via Pro Tools etc. The computer has become something of an overzealous school warden, often the enemy of creativity. Multiple takes for vocal comps can kill a vibe. Mind-numbing mixing sessions remoulding with plug-ins can kill a vibe. Hours deliberating over sample speed can kill a vibe and finally the metallic tones of the digital signal itself kill the vibe until it is indeed dead. It is however useful for some things. We used one roll of 2” tape, recording on a Studer tape machine. The tape is only 30 minutes in length so we could only fit two or three takes of two songs on the roll. When we were done, we’d dump what we had onto Pro Tools, and then we would erase the tape and record on it again. In truth, tape is expensive and we could not afford more. However this situation provided some healthy limitation which meant we had to really play well and capture the songs or else we couldn’t move on. We did this over four days.

How did the record deal come around with a label like Earache? Is there a certain plan of the metal oriented labels to create a classic rock buzz gathering the best of the talent out there (Rival Sons etc)?
We met with Earache at the same time as some major labels. We liked them better because we felt we’d have more say in what goes on. They wanted to widen the net in terms of their roster, having had good success with Rival Sons.

The Temperance MovementI am 35 now and I loved that you released the new album on cassette (among other formats). Was this a move for the people of my generation?
I think the label did it to appease Luke who for months kept going on about cassette release! It’s retro. It’s cool. It’s pretty useless these days, but again it harks back to our youth when we’d record the chart run down on a Sunday evening or whatever.

Tell me about the Sunflower Jam and how did it help the band.
The Sunflower Jam was a massive break for us. It put us in front of some big rock radio people and gave us a chance to share the stage with some heroes. I met Brian May afterwards and before I could shake his hand to say thank you for the guitar solo in “Killer Queen”, he stopped me to say how good he thought my band was! It was amazing.

Was Planet Rock’s and Classic Rock’s support the key for the initial buzz around the band, especially in the UK?
Without a doubt yes. Those audiences are die-hard rock fans disgruntled by the plastic pop era and national radio’s anti-rock play list. The magazine embraced us to the point of giving us an award! It’s been pretty special.

The Temperance MovementDo you agree that live shows are the true test for a rock artist? What reactions did you got so far of your concerts?
If I love a band and they can’t do it live, they lose my interest. They say we play well. I’ve never watched us, so I don’t know.

Is the next step the conquest of the rest of Europe?
I think we are planning to visit Europe a lot more. We had some great shows on our last tours. Germany, France, Spain and Sweden all had their highlights. We must go back to make more friends!

Do you have any plans to visit Greece and southern Europe (except Italy)?
I love tzatziki. Outside of Greece there is just never enough garlic in it. For this reason alone I would tour your country. Plans are currently being hatched for touring Europe next year so I look forward to meeting you soon!

Antonis Moustakas