Green Lung: "We want our next record to be #1 at Rocking's year end list"

Singer and publishing company employee Tom Templar breaks down why Green Lung's day jobs provide them with artistic freedom and how success makes them rethink their ambitions

Από τον Παντελή Κουρέλη, 13/02/2024 @ 13:02

A lot of anthems about Green Lung have been written here at Rocking... They are clearly one of our favorite bands of recent years. With three records so far, the Brits combine hard rock, heavy metal, gothic atmosphere, the tradition and myths of their homeland, paganism and the occult into a very interesting amalgam. They do not claim laurels of originality, but with their talent they have managed to leave their mark on those who have spent time listening to them. We bear the mark!

After successive postponements starting from 2020, due to covid, Green Lung will soon find their way to Athens - dear Thessaloniki was lucky enough to welcome and enjoy them at the Street Mode Festival in 2019, in their first festival appearance outside their country and will see them again in a short time. Ahead of their visit, we had the opportunity to chat with singer Tom Templar, a man passionate about his creation and passionate about music and literature in general. Here are the interesting stuff that he had to tell us!

Green Lung

Good afternoon Tom! You have a new album out, "This Heathen Land", you will be visiting us for two shows and I've got some questions for you. Should I start?

Yeah, right!

We are huge Green Lung fans on t this website … (laughs)


Every year we make an editors' list with the 30 best records of the year and "Woodland Rites" was on #30 in 2019, then "Black Harvest" was #4 in 2021 and "The Heathen Land" was #3 last year in our list for 2023!

Wow! Ok! We're going in the right direction! (laughs)

When you make your third record, you gotta prove that it's not a fluke

Yeah, always upwards! But, getting away from the bubble that we live, what is the rest of the world's reaction to "This Heathen Land"? Is the world ready to be taken over by Green Lung"?

(laughs) It's definitely going a lot further than we ever thought it would. I think, this record it's been amazing, really. Last year was such a blur. We've just done this tour with Clutch and then in January we started recording really, so we went straight in. And we finished recording in early March, I guess. That album just took over our lives and there was a lot of work. And then, you only find out in November when it comes out if it's been worth it. I think it was definitely worth it, I'm really glad we did that at that point. It feels like you're really up and running when you do your third record. I think you gotta prove that it's not a fluke. The second record has the pressure of trying to beat the debut, but I feel a bit more free with "This Heathen Land". I think we made a record that really tested the boundaries of what Green Lung was, but felt like a Green Lung record completely. And we're really proud of it. I mean, in the UK it's kind of crazy. I grew up reading Kerrang magazine and we were on the cover. When we started the band, that's so not something we ever thought was possible. It was like we were all in our late 20s, which had a lot of bands that failed. A lot of bands that had basically played a pub to, like, three people was the best they got. It's been amazing, we're just enjoying the ride, to be honest. But also, I guess, we're becoming more ambitious because I think we realized that people really connect with the music and what we thought was like a little doomy, hard rock band could be like something a lot grander. And I think that's what this year is about. Like, "how do we take the live show to the next level and where can we go from here?". Because, it's a beautiful thing that's happened really and what's exciting is rethinking your ambitions for it. Our first ambition was to play a few gigs and maybe do a record. And now it's like "now I want to just take the live show to a next level"… And I think Green Lung's always been this little world in the design and the art of the records and just getting that out into the world and having fun with. It's exciting to think about. I just got into new places, like Greece. We played Street Mode festival back in 2019. It's the first festival we ever played, weirdly, like overseas.


Yeah. Our first overseas festival was in Greece. And we really wanted to do some club shows and then pandemic happened. And then we got offered that Clutch tour and had to take that. It's been four years now since Street Mode and we're a very different band. And it'll be fun to play to fans who were at that Street Mode show, but also to lots of people who won't have seen us before.

Greece was one of the countries that seemed to get us quite early on

You had some shows planned, but the pandemic hit and you didn't come here. Yeah, I remember that.

Yeah. And it was really frustrating. Because I feel that weirdly, Greece, was one of the countries, just in terms of online, where people seem to get it quite early on. You can see like Scandinavia, Greece… these pockets of some places just get it quicker than others. And you end up with this thing where you're like this popular in the UK, this popular in Germany, this popular here... But, it's just funny, cause Greece always seemed to get Green Lung.

We're waiting for you, that's for sure. "This Heathen Land" feels more of a concept album compared to the first two ones, as it seems you've drawn inspiration from British literature. I'm not saying that it's a concept album, but it feels more of a concept album than the previous ones. Can you describe the writing process behind it?

It wasn't like we set out and said we're going to do a concept album, a sort of a "guide book to folklore in Britain" and make the sonic version of that. We had written maybe two or three songs and then there was a break, and then we wrote two or three songs. It was quite a long process of nothing happening in between. But there were these little moments of energy when we'd write the songs. And I hadn't really realized it until towards the end of the writing process, that each song had a very specific theme, they were set in the local places in the UK and the there's a real sense of place in each song. And this time last year, I remember going into the practice space and being "OK, let's call it "This Heathen Land", and let's have it as the ark and be like a journey and a guide book". When we started recording, we were playing around with synthesizers that would have been like BBC documentaries in the 70s, like trying to get some of that into the sounds of the album. So it was a retrofitted thing, it was something that only became obvious right at the end of the writing process, but then it actually formed the sonic of the recording. It's interesting, that is something I'm really keen to do more. Not that we're going to do this concept album where there's a story and it runs through it, because that's quite limiting in terms of creativity, but I love the idea of finding other ways to sort of present the collection of songs with an overall framing.

So, let's say that the main theme was revealed to you in the end of the process.

Yeah. And that's unusual. I like to think that I'm quite careful about planning things, but sometimes you just gotta go with it...

Especially when art is concerned.

Yeah, big time. I have a really good relationship with Richard Wells, who's designed "Woodland Rites", "Black Harvest" and "This Heathen Land". We have a lot of fun putting in the little details and working out what these records are gonna look like. And I think that's become such an important part of the band, in the same way that those early Iron Maiden albums, without Eddie would look actually very different. I think having Richard has been a really important part as the band goes on and on, that's so important. And I don't really wanna work with anyone else, so I hope he doesn't disappear or blow up...

Making this concept album where there's a story and it runs through it, is quite limiting in terms of creativity

Can you tell us who Maxine is?

She is a real person! She's Maxine Sanders, who's the godmother of Alexandrian Witchcraft, which is a form of witchcraft invented in the mid-60s. And she's synonymous with the hippie movement and counterculture. She loved the tabloid press and those pictures of her standing naked with a sword on the Moors of the 60s. She was this very strange countercultural icon I guess. She was a hippie, but it was so witchy and dark that it didn't really fit with the hippie flower power thing. I love that kind of stuff. I'm really interested in it. I'm really interested in all the people who were there in London in the Summer of Love, but we weren't dressed in flowers, they were dressed in black or holding swords. I'm interested in those people because they're so fucking weird and fucked up. There's a cult called "The Process Church for the Final Judgment", who were there in all of those psychedelic events, but they were wearing like black capes and had a goat head on their badge. The weird thing is when we made out the video for that song, we ended up being in touch with her and she sent some members of her coven along. I ended up sending her a record.

Green Lung

Wow! She's still alive?

Yeah! She's 80 now and she's pretty old. I think she liked it. I think she liked the fact that people were still singing about her… that her legend was living on. But when I wrote it, I read her autobiography and thought. I mean, if a book's called "Maxine Witch Queen". It just sounds like a song already!

That's true! (laughs)

So it wasn't much of a push to write that song…

I grew up in the country in the middle of nowhere and a lot of how I interacted with the world was through reading books

Literature and Green Lung have been hanging with each other from day one. What is it about occult literature that grabbed you?

I think a lot of the film dealing with occult art and culture has been documented in heavy metal, like Electric Wizard have basically done. Between Electric Wizard, Cathedral and black metal bands, a lot of a cult film has been done. Οccult books is a world that hasn't been done as much, I think. I work in book publishing when I'm not in the band and I work with books, I love books. I grew up in the country in the middle of nowhere and a lot of how I interacted with the world was through books - like just reading. Even with music, I like magazines and reading about music. That is how I have found the weird shit that I'm into. When we started Green Lung, I realized there are a lot of interesting, both fiction and nonfiction, books that haven't really been approached by metal, and that could be brought into that world. Maybe they existed more in the folk space. A big influence on this particular is this book I've got behind me, "Folklore, Myths And Legends of Britain"… (he shows me the book)

I have seen this artwork... (laughs)

Yeah, we've stolen it out! It's like a guide to the folklore of Britain, from place to place. Every book I had since I was a kid is what got me in, so it was nice to go back to that and go right back to the source. The previous albums have been much more horror. This album was a bit more broad, it was folklore in general, it wasn't just folk horror. There's no horror aspect in songs like "The Ancient Ways", it's all about finding these ancient paths that still crisscross Britain and it's based on this book "Mythago Wood". "Song Of The Stones" is a ghost story rather than a true horror story. As for "Maxine", it's a love song about a witch. We don't have to find a horror aspect all the time.

It's like you have a more fun aspect than a horror aspect I would say.

Yeah. It's also gothic. Just the broader gothic world. And that's fun, it gives you more space to write. That was something I really like about this album. I think it has much more of an emotional range from the other albums. Although we're used to do ballads, like we have "May Queen" or "Graveyard Sun". We've always had one nuanced song in the middle of the big riff songs.

Getting to that level that we're getting to is going to allow us to do more ambitious presentations on stage

I remember at the last Electric Wizard show that I was at, they had a big screen, showing scenes from horror movies. Slaying women or having them crucified, they have incorporated things like those to their show. Is something like that a next step for you?

Yeah, I think that's a really important thing that we need to do is deal with the world of Green Lung there on stage more, because the venues are getting bigger and we've got more scope to do. You can't take a big video set into a tiny pub, but you can when you get to that level that we're getting to, which is really exciting, I that's going to allow us to do more ambitious presentations on stage. We definitely want to do more video stuff.

Two years ago I saw you at the Roadburn Festival…


Yeah! Where you performed "Black Harvest" in its entirety…

The one and only show!

I was really waiting for this show. Our photographer told us afterwards that your show was the most difficult to get in after it started, the queues were endless.


Yeah! And he only managed to get in the end to take some pictures of you. The longest queues were for Green Lung at the Roadburn.

Well, I love that man. I mean, I can't believe we even played Roadburn! Because on that line up in particular, it was a pretty noisy, weird line up and I think we would have been like the fun party band. It was so cool to play that festival. I've wanted to go since I was a kid, so just to play it was amazing. I'd quite like to do "Woodland Rites" in full at Roadburn as well. It'd be quite fun.

Maybe in some years, when it will be older and people will want it more.

Yeah, maybe. Yeah, I think you're right.

In a band like System Of A Down, you've got two people who write and two people who sing. That can tear a band apart

How are you working with one another in the band?

The band as it is now has existed since late 2019, early 2020, but since the pandemic, it's been the same five guys. John, our keyboard player, has joined after "Woodland Rites". We didn't have a keyboard as before then, so that whole sound has changed a lot. And Joe, our bassist, is an amazing musician and an amazing singer. He plays sax and clarinet, he plays guitar, he plays the piano. He happens to be playing bass in Green Lung, which is funny considering what he can actually do. But, he's really important in just making it musically a much richer thing. And I think what's really good about us as five-piece is that everyone has an expertise or a role. Like, I do the lyrics and the art. Scott does most of the music writing. John does a lot of the technological stuff. Joe does a lot of arranging. Matt does a lot of project management, working out how you do it live. So everyone's really good at something. Especially with me and Scott… I think we've spent a lot of time - maybe like 10 years or so - looking for someone to make music with and not finding that person. I could write lyrics and do the art stuff, but I couldn't write. On the other hand, Scott needed someone to do what I do. That means that we're dependent on each other, in a way. And you can see it in a band like System Of A Down, where you've got two people who write and two people who sing. That can tear a band apart. I think with Scott, he has this sort of Steve Harris type role, where he's the boss. If Scott doesn't like a song, we're not going to do it, and that's good. I think having someone in the band who can say that is or isn't Green Lung is really useful, but it's still a very collaborative thing with a lot of us. Like with "Maxine", I'd come up with that chorus and the subject of the song, and then Scott wrote around that. So it goes back and forth between us. So far, it works. We all just get along. We rarely have an argument about something, but when we do then it's usually over about 5 seconds later, because we're too old. We started the band in our late 20s, so none of us are like teenagers fighting.

Yeah, you had a level of maturity.

Well, we're just too old...

Well, you're never too old for that shit…

Yeah, maybe.

I read an older interview of yours and you mentioned that you all have day jobs. Do you still have them?

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I've been doing my day job today…

Every metal band that was touring in the 80s has a song like "Wasted Years", that shows they're fucking bored

Do you consider leaving your day jobs to become full time musicians?

Every now and then, like when we did the Clutch tour, it's tempting. But it's so hard to be fully reliant on music. I mean, just keeping the band on the road is expensive enough. If we toured relentlessly, I think we probably could make an OK living from it, but I don't like living in London. I think there's something about doing it as not your job that makes you more free to make the music you want to make. If Green Lung was my full time gig, you're suddenly worrying about keeping up your mortgage or whatever. And I think you are more tempted to go in a more commercial direction or to make decisions that are about business, not about art. One of the things that I have really enjoyed about Green Lung is that we've always just done what the fuck we want. And not worry too much about whether it works. If it works… great, then we get a bit of extra money. But we're doing it because we love it. Maybe it wouldn't be as much of a stress. Sometimes it drives me mad trying to fit Green Lung with my job, but I think a lot of metal musicians have day jobs. I think it's really rare that you don't. And I think some people might not have a day job for two or three years and then they have to go back. It's an interesting question, though. Sometimes I feel if we committed completely then that would be a really enriching thing. I still love going on tour because it's something different to my normal life, whereas if I was on tour all the time… you only have to listen to every metal band's song about touring and how miserable they are. Every metal band that was touring in the 80s has a song that's like "Wasted Years", like they're fucking bored (lauhhs)

Yeah. (laughs)

I love fucking tours. Because it's like a holiday.

If music is you full time job, you are more tempted to go in a more commercial direction or to make decisions that are about business, not about art

It's a holiday. Imagine if it was a job.

It's hard work! But it's good fun work and it's rewarding, and you get that amazing rush of being on stage and it's worth it. I think if we were still playing tiny pubs it would be probably rough. But it's always got more and more fun and it gets bigger and bigger. So, maybe there'll come a day where we'll want to do it full time. You mentioned Electric Wizard. I think one of the great things about them is that they don't overplay. So when they do play it feels special. And I think we don't play that much. Our last UK tour was the first one in two years, actually. And the show was probably special. If we were constantly on the road, maybe it would feel less special for us and for the listeners in terms.

And maybe you would have less artistic freedom.


When you think of yourself two years ago and today, what's the biggest difference?

(laughs) I know I can sing better. I didn't burn my voice out all the time.

Is that the biggest difference though?

No! I mean, the biggest difference is that we know what Green Lung is a lot more. I feel like the whole band is working towards the same thing. I think there were times where we were doing it by accident and now we're doing it on purpose and that's exciting. That's creatively a good place to be. I think we've got a really strong label and a really good booking agent and we've got some good long term partnerships and those are getting us good opportunities. I always wanted to play Hellfest. We're doing that this summer. There's been some big bucket list stuff we're ticking off, stuff I wanted to do since I was a kid. That's when you start to think about…

Green Lung

what's next?

We've been on the cover of Kerrang. What's the new ambition? To me, that's making the stage show as epic as it can be. And starting to think about album #4, but not putting too much pressure on ourselves. We've done three albums in six years and that's been pretty like bam-bam-bam. I wanna try and make the next one the best ever. That's always a challenge. You always want to make the new album the best one. If we win #3 last time, I wanna be #2 or #1 in the chart… (laughs)

We probably are more of a hard rock band, but we're very influenced by metal and we've got an essentially metal lyrical thematic approach

We are definitely positively preoccupied about your next album! When "Black Harvest" was to come out, we had the promo and I remember that we were gathered to a friend's house, we were doing barbecue etc and we were listening to it the whole day. It was like two or three months before it came out and we had a great time.

That's awesome! That's so cool.

I still remember it.

That's so cool! I love that I like the idea of Green Lung as barbecue music as well! (laughs)

Barbecue and beer music. These two go together!

Yeah… (laughs)

Would you label your music as more as metal or more as hard rock music?

Good question! I think it's kind of both. The moment that Scott and I love is like ‘74 or ‘75, where hard rock bands were becoming metal bands, but actually it's not codified. It's not like "oh, this is a death metal record, this is a thrash record, this is a power metal record", it's a bit of everything. It's like they haven't worked that stuff out yet and it's more musically free. We probably are more of a hard rock band, but we're very influenced by metal and I think we've got an essentially metal lyrical thematic approach. I see us as a big eccentric British band like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath or Deep Purple. People talk about them as heavy metal bands or hard rock bands or anything. It doesn't really matter as long as it's powerful.

Yeah, yeah. They're beyond labels and genres.

I'd love people to think about Green Lung in that way. Early on everyone was like "they're a stoner rock band". And I don't think people say that anymore, really.

I wouldn't say that you are stoner band.

And I wouldn't say we're a doom metal band, for sure. It's funny what people call you. You're like "OK, I can get it, I can see there's an influence, there's definitely a doomy thing"... But, not doom metal… a doomy hard rock band...

Being the hard rock band on the metal bill is a really fun thing

The occult thing is crucial.

Yeah, that really lands. I like playing to a metal crowd because I think being the hard rock band on the metal bill is a really fun thing. Especially on Damnation Festival, if people have just heard black metal, drone and noise all day, you come on and play some harmonized guitars and people are like "Yeeeah". I love being the hard rock band for metal people. I think Clutch have done that as well. Opeth now more of a hard rock band than a metal band..

Or a progressive band, maybe.

They're a prog rock band, but they're playing to a metal audience, and I think that's the kind of band we are. We're not metal, but we offer metal people, if that makes sense.

But Opeth used to be metal! (laughs)

Yeah… (laughs)

What records have you been listening to during the past month?

I'll go with Mindforce's "New Lords". They're a hardcore band. They have an Italian American guy screaming over the best riffs I've ever heard. That's so good, they're probably my favorite band at the moment. "Nightmare Logic" by Power Trip, amazing thrash record. RIP Ray Gale. Just a crazy energetic record that always gets me pumped whenever I'm bored. What the fuck is the new Dying Fetus album called? Oh, yeah, "Make Them Beg For Death". It's like death metal, meets hardcore and it's got these beat downs that make me wanna punch myself in the face. It's so good.

Today I saw a concert of theirs on youtube from like 10 days ago and there were some people in the audience that were not punching their own or somebody else's face, but they were punching the air. They were going crazy and it was very funny! (laughs)

That record is crazy. I remember that it was 2001 when I was like 11-12 years old, that the band was dropping a record. They've been doing it forever and they still kill. They're so good. I'll go with a box set from a band called Reverend Bizarre, it's absolutely massive. It's called "Slice Of Doom"

It's from your previous record label.

Yeah! These crazy motherfuckers in Svart! Who the fuck makes records like this? This is not about making money… (laughs) It costs more to make it than it sells. This is a very doom band… I love this band. It's the most doom thing ever. And then finally, I just bought this on holiday. "First Daze Here" by Pentagram. I've been really enjoying it. It's like the early demos, it's got "Forever My Queen", "Be Forewarned". I mean, fucking weird case of a band. How are these guys still alive? Bobby Liebling… What a freak!

You are one of the few that check their record collection to give me that list. Most of other musicians just check their Spotify accounts.

I'm old school!

Our shows in Greece are going to be a party

You have graced other cities of Greece with your presence and now our time has come in Athens. You are playing in Athens and Thessaloniki. What are your expectations and what should our expectations be?

Well, I think the band's evolved so much since the last time we played in Thessaloniki. I think no one in Greece has really - unless you've been lucky enough to get to Roadburn - has seen us recently, especially in a club show environment. Expect a setlist that is across all three albums. I really want people to hear all them. If people didn't hear "Black harvest" and "Woodland Rites" I want them to hear a bit of everything. I think we just played ten shows in the UK and they've been some of the best shows we've ever played. I think we're coming off a really great run and I'm really excited to get back on the road and keep up that energy, because we were really doing it as we've always wanted to. Yeah, it'll be a party. For us, it's the first shows back in 2024. So let's make them big.

Oh, your first shows in 2024 are here?

Yeah. Then we're off in the in northern Europe. But, the first shows are there, so tell the crowds to get to get ready, because we need them.

We'll do our best! Brexit has made it a bit difficult for us who don't live in Britain to buy stuff from the UK. Are you going to bring enough merch? Vinyls, CDs, shirts?

We'll bring plenty of merch, don't worry about that. And records. It's gonna be nice to be able to sign stuff for people. Obviously it is harder in Greece to get stuff, so we'll be doing all that. It's going to be nice to actually be able for people to buy our merch without having to spend 16 pounds and then sign them... Fuck Brexit… Jesus Christ…

Tom, that was all from me. This conversation was a pleasure and we are waiting for you.

Thanks so much. Yeah, we're looking forward to it. Now we've gotta get practicing. See you there.