Dead Man’s Whiskey Interview
Words: Anne Estella | Photos: Anthony Firmin
It may have been a long time coming, but the London-based hard rock five-piece Dead Man’s Whiskey finally made it to Manchester this month to headline at the ‘Crazy Cowboy Live Events Presents NWOCR Special’ - supported by Preston’s Building Giants and local classic rockers Mouth In The South. We met up with the band for an interview before their show at Gullivers NQ to find out where the road is taking them next and who their favourite Superheroes are!
First of all, welcome to Manchester! Why has it taken you so long to visit us?!
[Elliott] Thank you!
[Nico] Honestly, it’s not for lack of trying, it’s just opportunity. We’ve wanted to come up here so badly, we’ve even got links up here in terms of friends and family and we really wanted to get to Manchester but the opportunity hasn’t presented itself until now, so when it did we jumped on it straight away!
You’ve just played at Winter’s End Festival - was that your first appearance at a Planet Rock event? How did it go?
[Nico] Yes, technically. We did Ramblin’ Man which they are a part of, but it was our first proper ‘Planet Rock Presents’ thing and it was unbelievable – it was so cool! They’re so professional - they look after every band the same way and they treat everyone with the same amount of respect. Everyone gets the same quality in terms of sound. It is fantastic – as a band it is the best experience, it’s so good!
[James] We were on at quite an early time - we were on at midday - and what was just amazing were the amount of people that turned up, because we thought, “How many people are actually going to be there? They’re all going to have hangovers!” and stuff like that, but so many people went out of their way and afterwards said “We got up early especially for you!” So the reaction was fantastic.
You’ve just re-mastered and re-issued your 2017 album ‘Under The Gun’ - what was the reason for the re-release and what’s your favourite song on it?
[Nico] When we first put the album out we put this pressure on ourselves to get something out there, but we didn’t have the experience or the funds we have now and we convinced ourselves that we needed to get an album out into the universe straight away. I’m glad we did, because it meant people got to hear our music, but when we then had the resources to release the whole album that we wished we could have put out in the first place, we had to seize that opportunity. Personally, my favourite song is War Machine, because it’s about a giant robot and I just really like that sort of thing! I can probably guess everyone else’s as well… Last time I checked Billy’s favourite was My Year, but it might be Racing Bullet now.
[Billy] Yeah, it’s probably Racing Bullet or War Machine, just because that’s got the longest guitar solos in!
[Charlie] My favorite one to play live is probably Hoe Street - I love playing that song live! But I think my favourite song on the album is actually Raising Hell. I love that song! Controversial I know, because I’m probably the only person that does like that song…
[Nico] We all like it!
[James] I’d probably say Racing Bullet, because it’s been a long time in the making and we were keen to record it. We asked ourselves, “Do we want this to be a stand alone single or do we want to put it on ice?” But then we felt that it was a really big part of our set already, so that was the main reason we wanted to have it on the re-mastered album. I guess another reason we did the re-mastered album was because we really wanted to kind of ‘lock the box’ by saying, “These are all the songs from this time period and then we’re going to move on afterwards with new stuff”.
You’ve got a headline show coming up in Camden in May but you haven’t yet announced who will be supporting you… will you tell us??
[Nico] We’re going to give you an exclusive here! You’ll to be the first people to hear... We’re going to be supported by Ryders Creed, who are another big NWOCR favourite and are old friends of ours. We’ve been gigging and hanging out with those guys for I would say too long – almost as long as each other, so they’re going to be joining us in London!
Will anybody else be joining you?
[Billy} No. We had another band lined up but it fell through. We actually had Fragile Things, who were going to be the opening act, but they disbanded (not because of us!), so we’re just sticking to the one support act now.
Why did you choose Dead Man’s Whiskey as your band name?
[Nico] A couple of the guys in the band used to be in a band called Whiskey Chaser, but they moved away from that after I joined and we were sifting through piles of names trying to find the one we wanted. We’d landed on Dead Man’s Hand and we put it into Google and ‘Dead Man’s Hand band’ gave us ten squillion results, but we really liked the name so I quite flippantly said “Well let’s smash ’em together”, let’s be ‘Dead Man’s Whiskey’ - thinking that everyone would say “Shut up!” - and then they all went, “Actually that does work!” I think my favourite ironic fact about it is, we said we’d move away from Whiskey Chaser as much as possible, and then our fans named themselves Whiskey Chasers!
What have you got planned for the rest of the year?
[James] After the gig at The Camden Assembly, we’re doing Dementia Aware Fest in Birmingham. We’ve got Monsterfest in Scotland and we’ve just announced Winter Storm as well. We’ve got HRH C.R.O.W.S. in Sheffield; Just Push Play with Massive Wagons; Redemption Festival... There’s also Crazy Cowboy 3 at the end of this month. We should be going into the studio too, so new music will be coming soon as well!
If you were headlining your own one-day festival, but could only choose FIVE New Wave Of Classic Rock bands to include in the lineup, who would you pick?
[Everyone] That’s easy! Hollowstar would be our first choice; Ryders Creed, Stone Broken, Those Damn Crows and Mason Hill. And Kris Barras!
[Nico] Can we have an extra slot? We’ll start the day early!
I want to have our own separate stage like AC/DC had when they played Download, just because we’re special… but if we could squeeze Kris Barras in as well, that would be lovely!
What’s the craziest or most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to the band (or any member of the band) at a gig?
[Nico] We played at a Student Union and I had a pint glass full of water at the front of the stage and someone in their infinite wisdom said, “Why don’t we give all these drunk students a load of balloons?!” and some balloons got thrown at us - the water went over in our final song - just coming up to a guitar solo, and it spilt into the transformer that everything was connected to! All you could hear was the drumkit going. I had to try and rally the crowd without a mic, and there were two bands on after us! God it was bad…
[Charlie] I had a 5-minute drum solo!
[Nico] One of the reasons I don’t use a mic stand anymore is that at a gig we played in Leicester, a screw in the stand was loose, and as I moved towards the mic to sing, my breath pushed it backwards and it disappeared! There was Rostra blocking in front of the stage and it fell into the gap and I had to reel it out with the XLR cable, like a fisherman! It was so embarrassing!
[Everyone] And there’s a video of that!
[James] There was another one at a student gig that thankfully got overlooked because of the stage blowing up! There was some bunting hanging from the ceiling and when I held my bass up it got caught in the bunting! Another band came up on stage mid-song and were giving us shots while we were playing and other people kept coming up and giving us shots... That was probably one of the weirdest gigs we’ve ever played. It was at Guldford University and one of the members of the Rock Society there had seen us in London and emailed us saying, “I really want you to come and play at our SU – I know you don’t normally do that kind of thing, but would you?” And we were like, “What do you mean we don’t normally do that kind of thing?! Is there a stage?! Wicked – see you there!”
You supported Stone Broken recently at some of their ‘Home’ tour shows along with Those Damn Crows – what was the best thing about the experience for you?
[Charlie] Well, there was a 10pm curfew - we were on at 6:30pm, it was a Friday night - and I remember walking over to the side of the stage and it looked like there were probably around 200 people in there, so it wasn’t that full, but there were people there. Then the intro music started playing and we walked up onto the stage, looked out and the place was rammed! It was one of those moments where I just went “WHOA!”
[Nico] The amazing thing about Stone Broken is that their fans, ‘The Broken Army’ as they called themselves, are such a tightknit and supportive community, that it was lovely! There’s no negativity – everyone is there because they absolutely love being at gigs, and they had Hollowstar, us and SKAM open – every night was guaranteed to be an absolutely fantastic gig and the crowd knew that, so they came in already happy and it just meant that it was a pleasure to play.
[Charlie] There was us, Those Damn Crows and Stone Broken, and we first played with Stone Broken at The Wheatsheaf for 100 people. We first played with Those Damn Crows at Fuel for about 50 people, so to have all three of us playing a big venue with an 800-person capacity – it was just amazing to see how all three bands are progressing and how the crowds are getting bigger.
You were 3rd place runners up at HRH Highway to Hell in 2017 and were one of only two bands (the other being Manchester’s own Gorilla Riot) voted for by the public to appear on the Rising Stage at last year’s Ramblin’ Man Fair. What do you put your rapid success and popularity down to?
[Nico] I genuinely think it’s because there are no airs and graces with us whatsoever. We don’t put any energy into having a public face – everything is just as we are, and I say all kinds of weird stuff on stage! If you look at photos of us, we’re all smiling and laughing, because we’re genuinely happy! I think that when you come off stage and you’re still that happy and you’re still that same person, then people want to come and speak to you. We talk to everyone because without the people who have supported our music, we wouldn’t be able to make music - so to think that the crowd owe us anything is ridiculous – we owe everything to the crowd. The fact that we’re mates with them I think has really helped, because people want to see their friends succeed.
[Charlie] I think also we made a decision early on in this band that we weren’t just going to be a London band, but we were going to take the music to the people across the UK. There are London bands who may just be content to stay where they are, but we felt, “You know what, let’s go to the Midlands, to the North West, to Scotland, to the North East – let’s take the music to the people!” And people really appreciate it! We went all the way to Carlisle to support Kris Barras and people said, “We don’t usually get bands like you coming all this way”, so they were really thankful and I think that’s why people voted for us to play Rambin’ Man - because we make the effort to travel and it’s great to see our support growing.
And lastly, just for fun… answer one or more of the following questions:
What is your favourite; scene from a movie, line from a song, Superhero and pet hate?
[Nico] My favourite scene from a movie is the ‘Bridge of Khazad-dum’ in The Fellowship of the Ring. Watching Sir Ian McKellen go face to face with a giant CGI demon! The first time I saw it I was eleven years old and still to this day…
That man brings so much gravitas to pretending to be a wizard, it’s unreal - it’s absolutely brilliant.
My favourite line from a song is in Falling In Love (Is Hard On The Knees) by Aerosmith – Steven Tyler says, “Don’t give me no lip, I’ve got enough of my own” - and I think that is absolutely fucking genius!
As for my favourite Superhero… define Superhero! This is probably a good time to say that I’ve actually got an Avengers tattoo… But my favourite Superhero is Iron Man.
[Elliott] He’s not a Superhero!
[Nico] It depends on your definition of a Superhero…
[Elliott] My definition is someone with super powers, and he has none of that!
[Nico] As for my pet hate – it’s people who put ‘Ks’ on the end of words like ‘something’ and ‘anything’ – I really hate that… “SomethinK!”
[James] My favourite scene from a movie has got to be something from Pulp Fiction! Probably when they go to collect the briefcase from Brett…
[Charlie] (lifting a T-shirt sleeve to reveal a tattoo of lyrics on his arm) My favourite line from a song is “May you never be broken again” from Blackbird by Alter Bridge. It’s my favourite song from my favourite band and that line just means a lot to me.
[Billy] I’ll take Batman as my Superhero… (turning to Elliott) Don’t give me that, “he’s not a Superhero” - his parents died when he was young, okay?!
[Elliott] That’s not a super power
[Billy] Well it worked for Harry Potter!
[Elliott] But he had magical powers!
Thank you Dead Man’s Whiskey – I think we’ll leave it there!
Meet the band:
Nico Rogers - Vocals
Billy Kons - Lead Guitar
Elliott D'Alvarez - Rhythm Guitar
James Titley - Bass
Charlie Gray - Drums
Catch them here:
Fri 22nd March - The Station, Cannock
Sat 23rd March - The Maze, Nottingham
Sat 30th March - Crazy Cowboy Festival, The Facebar, Reading
Sat 18th May - Rock Den, Hatfield
Sat 25th May - The Camden Assembly, London
Sat 13th July - Dementia Aware Fest, Route 44, Birmingham
Sat 31st Aug - Just Push Play, The Apex, Bury St. Edmunds
Sun 8th Sept - HRH C.R.O.W.S., O2 Academy, Sheffield
Sat 14th Sept - Redemption Festival, Warehouse 23, Wakefield
Fri 15th -Sat 16th Nov - Monsterfest, The Ironworks, Inverness
Fri 29th-Sat 30th Nov - Winter Storm XIX, Troon Concert Hall