Frontman Jon on being a support band, headline UK tours and Branston Pickle
Being on tour in a rock n roll band. Come on, just the words sound glamourous, right? There isn’t a person reading this that hasn’t dreamed of a world where our band isn’t playing to thousands of adoring fans. We’d get there on a private jet, obviously, and it’d be a never-ending parade of models, parties and well, excess.
The thing is, life ain’t like that. Well it might be for Iron Maiden and Ed Force One, and it might be in biographies of Aerosmith, Guns n Roses, Motley Crue or the Rolling Stones, but for everyone else its….
Well it’s: “I might get some lunch and try and chill before we go onstage”.
MV is on the phone with Jon Harvey of Monster Truck. Multi-award winning they might be, praised to the hilt by the likes of Slash they definitely are, but right now, he’s on the line in “snowy New Brunswick” around four hours before show time and he doesn’t have a lot to do.
Monster Truck are on tour with fellow Canadian’s Billy Talent, who are but the latest in a very long line of arena botherers they have gone on before. According to Jon this was part of the plan they had for the band: “yeah, definitely” he admits. “We see it as the best way to build a fanbase as quickly as we can. Plus, it’s good to get on these huge stages and prove to ourselves we could do it. That’s very important.”
Since forming in 2009 they have done just that. Their first UK jaunt was with Vista Chino (the supergroup that involved Jon Garcia and Brant Bjork) since then they’ve been out with Alter Bridge and returned to Europe with Nickelback last autumn, while the list of bands they’ve played with elsewhere is like a who’s who. Guns N Roses, Volbeat, ZZ Top – and that’s just three. All of which has been fun, but it is almost like an entrée to the main course. Later this year they play a series of dates in mainland Europe with Deep Purple. To say Harvey is thrilled is something of an understatement: “Yeah that’s amazing. To be honest, the chance to play with the band that made me want to be in a band…..! We sound the way we do because of Purple, Jon Lord [late – and god-like Deep Purple organ player] was such an influence on us. Now to be able to play with them, it’s incredible.”
Sadly, those dates don’t extend to Deep Purple’s UK shows, but Jon is philosophical on that: “Come on man,” he jokes. “Getting on those shows in their country, I don’t think so!”
Not that he’s short of dates in the UK. This chat is taking place mere days before the guys are due back in Britain for their biggest run of shows. Previously they’d co-headlined some gigs in small venues with the mighty Scorpion Child, but this time it’s the Monster Truck name squarely up top on the poster.
It’s a fact that the singer and bassist is acutely aware of. “Yeah,” he says. “And there’s no doubt that the UK was one of the first places that got us and it’s a market that has been steadily growing for us and we are glad to be back.”
For Harvey that’s especially the case. His family originate from Southampton, and he had a very English upbringing. “My Grandparents settled here [in Canada] after the war and we’d go to my grandparents as kids and it was English food, and I’d be the only kid in the school with Branston Pickle and Pickled Onions in my lunchbox, you know? My girlfriend’s family are from Southampton too, so it always feels good to be back.”
Of course, being in the roll of headliners now means there’s a support on before them – eager to impress no doubt – and for this tour they’ve got the brilliant German two piece The Picturebooks joining them. And, according to Harvey, that’s just fine: “Yeah I am fully familiar with their music, and I am looking forward to playing with them very much, “ he says.
The band are one that likes to keep control of such things too. “You get offered a lot of support bands,” he explains. “So you speak to the Booking Agents and the Promoters and try and get a good one, you know? Hopefully you end up with a good package.”
As luck would have it, MV is talking to Jon just about a year after their second full-length record was released, so it seems like an ideal opportunity to discuss the reaction to “Sittin’ Heavy”. “It’s been really positive,” he states, happily. “We were very pleased with it and people seem to have responded to the fact that it is good time rock n roll….”
He trails off then adds, “mind you, no one buys records anymore!”
That leads to the obvious question, then. If no one buys records, then how do you survive? Jon is honest in his response: “Well, obviously, you’ve got to get out and play. That’s the thing for a band like ours. There’s always somewhere you can play, some festival, a tour, whatever. It’s a case of getting on the road. That’s what we’ve been lucky enough to do. We’ve been able to get ourselves out in front of other people’s fans and prove ourselves, and the tshirt sales help. But more than anything you’ve just got to be happy with what you do.”
Even if the bottom has fallen out of the record sales market, that hasn’t stopped the band thinking of album number three. In fact, plans are already well under way, with Jon saying: “We’ve been writing some songs on the road in-between shows, and things are coming on. I imagine it will be in a similar type of vein to [full length debut] “Furiousity” and “Sittin’ Heavy, just rock n roll.”
He is less forthcoming on the issue of the Producer, mind you. “Yeah I think we’ve found the person we want to work with and hopefully it will happen,” he laughs “But I am not going to tell you who it is!”
Whoever the mystery knob twiddler turns out to be, he’ll be working with a band that is highly praised. Receiving the Juno Award [the Canadian version of the Grammy’s] for Breakthrough Artist of the year in 2013, they have had love heaped on them by Dee Snider, Dave Navarro and countless others. For Jon, though, whilst these things are nice, he takes it in his stride: “Yeah look its cool that these people like us and mention us, of course it is, but we’ve played with a lot of them and you just gel musically or personally.”
It’s four hours before they are due to go onstage. And whilst he is looking forward to lunch and chilling, he does admit with what no doubt is a knowing grin, that some of those excesses might not be too far from the truth, even in 2017: “Yeah, it is still rock n roll, there’s still parties, there’s still girls, its not too different from how it used to be, you just do it on a smaller scale these days…..”
In that case, the UK had best prepare for four decadent Canadian’s coming over here – and the supermarkets had best make damn sure there’s pickle of the onions and Branston variety. Otherwise there really will be trouble. After all, to paraphrase the slogan on their Tshirt: you don’t mess with the Truck, or something.