Alex Veale loves it when a plan comes together
As the golf legend Gary Player put it in the oft quoted phrase: “The harder I practice, the luckier I get.” That is almost a cliché now, so often has it been said, but like many – probably most – clichés, it is based in sound common sense.
There is, it seems, a musical equivalent: “I’ve been in bands before where it’s been a slog. In this band, it just came together really quickly.”
That one isn’t Gary Player, but instead Alex Veale, the guitarist and singer in the West Country’s finest rock export (face facts Muse), Tax The Heat. He continues to explain why: “With Tax The Heat, we knew who we wanted to manage us, we knew who the booking agent was going to be, we even knew who we wanted to work with. Fingers crossed, it all seems to have gone to plan so far.”
Alex, convivial, friendly and polite to a fault, doesn’t seem at all agitated for a man who “is on stage in 27 minutes.” We are in the dimly lit upstairs bar of the Wolverhampton Civic Hall, a building that is halfway through a huge renovation, and which a week or two ago was reverberating with a load of beered up men and women who had been watching the UK Darts.
And if that sounds like MV’s idea of hell, then tonight is the opposite. Because after Tax The Heat have done their thing, it’s over to the reformed and reinvigorated Terrorvision to do theirs. This is the second night of the UK tour and, according to the singer, it got off to a fine beginning. “Yeah last night was really cool. It was an early start,” confirms the singer, but it was one of those shows that really filled up by the end.”
That is nothing new to Tax The Heat, though. One of their plans at the start was to get out and tour with more established acts and build their fanbase the old school way. They’ve opened for Black Star Riders and many others. Indeed these UK shows are merely just another few in a European trek. The four piece have been opening for Europe all over, well, Europe, so there are no cobwebs here: “Sunday night, we played Italy to 3,000 people,” smiles Alex. “It was a great show, so we feel good.”
Not for them, either, the idea that trying to sell your music to other people’s fans is hard to do. “It presents its own challenges, of course,” considers Veale. “But largely we’ve been very lucky, we’ve not had any difficulties really.” Ask him what he puts it down to and he pauses for a second, adding thoughtfully. “Perhaps it’s just the bands we tour with have an older crowd, and they are more tuned into listening to new stuff.”
One of the bands they opened for was Aerosmith at the Calling Festival in the summer of 2014, and this one in particular was special, “yeah Aerosmith, they are my favourite band, it was an amazing thing to be on the same bill as them.”
This Terrorision tour has a personal element for the singer too. In his early 30’s Veale remembers Tony Wright and the boys “Regular Urban Survivors” album as “the first tape I ever bought, so its pretty funny that they are playing it in full tonight. There’s definitely some memories of the album, for sure.”
And that goes for family members too. “My uncle is a huge Terrorvision fan, “ offers Alex. “He was thrilled and got a ticket for the gig in Norwich even before we were announced. So I said to him ‘do you know who the support is……?’ so that was great.”
It is perhaps strange that TTH have done all this without actually sounding like anyone else in particular. In fact, it is the press release at their label, Nuclear Blast, who sum it best. MV doesn’t want to steal anyone’s lines, but when you’re right, you’re right as the saying goes. On all communication about the band, they suggest that Tax The Heat are “classic rock with a modern roll” and that nails it. Often (wrongly) lumped in with the likes of retro looking bands like Temperance Movement and Rival Sons, they offer something else, and the singer agrees. “I think those bands are great, but I think we are doing our own thing, we have our own sound. We bring a lot of rhythm and blues into it.”
Which leads us neatly onto the subject of their album. “Fed To The Lions” emerged earlier in the year, and it was good as you’d hoped it was going to be, based on their EP and their shows. Produced by Evansson, who has also worked with artists as diverse as Robert Plant and Goldfrapp (“working with him was a really excellent experience” suggests Veale) But the does present its own issues. Not least of which is that you have a lifetime to write a debut record, the follow up is a little more – by necessity – rushed. A point that he confirms. “We actually have a bunch of songs that were left over from “Fed To The Lions” but I don’t think we’ll be using them, on the simple grounds that if they weren’t good enough to get on the last record, then why are they good enough for this one?” Not a band that can write much on the road, either. They plan to use free time to “jam some ideas and get working on the next one.”
As you might expect from a band that has had such a definite plan so far, then Tax The Heat have more than an idea of where they’d like to be in 12 months time. “I very much want us to be at the level where we can headline club shows,” says Alex with a steely determination that suggests he doesn’t want to be denied. “We’ve built this the right way. We didn’t want to be one of those here today gone tomorrow phenomenon’s. One of those bands that bursts onto the scene with a million Facebook likes and no real fans – mentioning no names. The only way to do it these days is slow and steady, and that was our plan from the start.”
That word again, and it helps that Alex is still a music fan who goes to gigs. I think you have to be, you have to keep that enthusiasm, we are lucky we have been able to do it.”
His favourite ever gig was a relatively recent one too. Led Zeppelin at the O2 Arena. “My dad got the email to say he’d got the tickets and he thought it was a hoax. It was an incredible evening. I’ve watched the DVD since and it doesn’t do it justice.”
The band he most wishes he’d seen, is equally quickly answered. “AC/DC with Bon Scott” he shoots back, “that would have been great.”
Those last two questions were asked on the stairs. Alex is after all needed onstage in 10 minutes. When he and the other three men who make up Tax The Heat play to an already busy room, the bars – like last night – empty and another set of fans has been won over. Like every night.
They might practice it, but it was nothing to do with luck. Tax The Heat are only heading one way, and that was the plan all along.