Now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s be serious for a moment. We’re as indifferent and desensitised to news of yet-another-band-reunion as the next set of jaded metal bloggers, but the news earlier this year that Raging Speedhorn would be reforming to perform select festival dates (and as it later transpired, a tour too) triggered whatever spark of excitement that still manages to survive deep within our black, cynical hearts. This was one of the band that helped define out youth. This was the British band who bloody well took it to the world stage. This was our band.
So we got on the phone and interrogated John Loughlin, one of the band’s two terrifying vocalists, to get the inside scoop on what brought about this reformation.
Why have you guys decided that now is the time to reform Speedhorn?
We were bored. We thought fuck it, why not, might as well have a giggle. Get back out, we all missed each other. We just thought fuck it, let’s do it. Now’s the time.
What was the initial thing that precipitated it? What was the thing that made it happen immediately?
Well, to be honest, it was me and Gordon [Morrison, drums] that first said let’s get this band together, and it turned into Raging Speedhorn. We met up, I was helping out Acoda tour managing them, and he was tour managing Funeral For A Friend, and the [Acoda] supported them. We got chatting at that show, we were…it would be cool to do it again…yeah yeah yeah…and then no more was said about it for few months. But then? We got chatting again and were like fuck it why not? Let’s do it.
The first public official confirmation of the reunion was Damnation Festival’s announcement. You guys were the second announcement after Bolt Thrower. That’s kind of a big deal.
Yeah they announced Bolt Thrower then announced us. We’ve been friends with Gavin [McInally, Damnation Festival’s Director] for years. We headlined the first ever Damnation Festival, Raging Speedhorn, for this reason: Most of the people who originally started doing Damnation met on Raging Speedhorn’s forum on our website. It was originally sixteen or eighteen of them, and eight or twelve of them met on our forum and then asked us if we’d headline it and we were like “of course we will!” You help us out, share everything and let people know about stuff, most of you are part of our street team, why wouldn’t we come and do it for you?
When [Speedhorn] were talking about getting together, we cheekily sent Gav a message, saying we were thinking of getting back together and for him to keep a slot open for us at Damnation, like with a little sort of giggle at the end. He instantly messaged back “Are you serious?” That’s basically how Damnation came about, and it all went on from there. Other people then asked if we can do shows – we’ve been offered all over the world now so you know, if we want to go and do it, we can…
For loads of us in our earl 30s/late 20s, you guys were one of those bands that came along at that right time…nu metal was still a big thing, and then you heard something like ‘Thumper’ and…wow. It’s easy to look back in retrospect where every song in the world is on YouTube now, but back then it acted as a real eye-opener into heavier kinds of music for a huge numer of people.
It’s crazy. I was tour managing Acoda at Hevy Fest, just walking along, sorting stuff out at the festival and I see Gordon. We started talking and he said I should check out Feed The Rhino. I was “yeah yeah I’ve seen them, they’re really good I really like them”. Then later the guys [from Feed The Rhino] came over with Gordon and were chatting to me and they were like “I can’t believe it, you were in Raging Speedhorn! If it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t have got our sound or started playing our instruments.” To hear bands say that now is…it does make you kind of miss it. And of course a year later we were all deciding we were going to do it. No need to miss it anymore!
There’s been various line-up changes in the band over the years and the big deal in this reunion is that both you and Frank [Reagan, co-vocalist] are coming back. Obviously Frank left the band just before the third album. That’s kind of weird, obviously How the Great Have Fallen never got a proper live showing. The recording line up wasn’t the touring line up for it.
We played two shows for that record with the full studio line up.
I can understand why you guys have said you’re focusing on the first two records for the sets that you’re going to play. Was there ever any discussion to see if you were going to try play anything off the third record?
That’s the weird thing, we set out to do the first three albums – Damnation that’s what we said we were going to do. Me and Gordon were talking about it should we do some stuff off the third album and we were, we talked about it like let’s do it, let’s do it. And then we all got together for the first practice, two months ago and we decided, you know what, it doesn’t need it. The stuff we’ve got from the old albums, people are going to enjoy that a lot more than they are the stuff off the third album.
Because of the record company stuff at the time, we’d been through nearly a two-year hiatus where we’d done absolutely nothing before we could come back with a third album, and the crowd wasn’t the same. People had forgotten or had moved on [from listening to Raging Speedhorn]. That’s what happens in music. People aren’t hearing it there and then in their face they forget about it. We knew that was going to happen with as long a break as we took but when we released it we saw it wasn’t doing as well as the first two albums. We’d done something wrong here but we knew that was going to happen. That’s why we’ve decided for these festivals we’ve got at the moment we’re going to just do what we do and bust out some hits from the first and second albums pretty much.
When the band split up, you had postponed a tour, then rescheduled it for later in the year to coincide with the new of the break-up. Was the break-up something that happened quickly or had it been building to a head over time?
It was building to a head then something else just happened after we had the whole tour booked. We decided that we couldn’t tour [How the Great have Fallen] at that time, and instead to wait a bit and make a decision about what what we were going to do. That’s when we decided that’s we we’re going to stop. Our record company at the time weren’t doing their job, they took the album, never paid us the advance and we just got sick of getting ripped off by managers, record companies, t-shirt companies, the lot. We were being ripped off by everyone. We were young, we were dumb, we didn’t read contracts, we thought “yeah brilliant we get to go out tour the world and play shows, sell t-shirts and make money! That will pay our bills!” and it didn’t. And why didn’t it? Because we didn’t read the contracts. We were idiots, basically.
That’s exactly what happened. We got to a point where we were so sick of getting ripped off and so sick of being downtrodden we just decided “fuck it, what’s the point?”
It’s interesting because in many ways, you guys came at the end of the era where that was possible. It’s partly because record labels have got fuck-all money today compared to back then. With you guys, everyone’s got a rumoured story or two, with people trying to read between the lines of songs on the albums. Such as who ‘Fuck the Voodooman’ is really about…
[Unfortunately, we can’t publish John’s response for legal reasons]
I’m trying to think of a way of saying this that doesn’t sound trite or condescending, but you can definitely hear the rage of [the band’s frustrations with the music industry] in your music.
All of the first album and half of the second album was literally us, trying to be in a band where we could be as heavy as we possibly could and making as many people to hate us as we could and it worked at the time. And then we started writing about what we felt and we lost it a bit. We just went off on a” let’s get fucked!” party tangents, and that’s eventually what ended up with us getting ripped off as badly as we did.
We were getting fucked, we didn’t give a shit, and by the time it was time to give a shit, it was too late. We were getting ripped off, everyone had already gobbled all the money. The sort of band we were, to get away with doing the sort of festivals, shows and support slots that we did, we were stupidly lucky. There’s no denying it, we should never have got 90% of the shows that we did. But people believed in us, they put us on the shows, we played the shows, people liked us, we sold the records, we sold the t-shirts. We did really well, and everyone else took the profit.
You were so different from everything else that was on the same level of exposure that you guys were at. As a 17 year old kid, back then when the internet didn’t exist in any sort of useful way, going to shows was the only way you’d hear a lot of bands. Bands getting tracks on a magazine cover CD was still a big deal. The first time I heard you guys was when Metal Hammer did a covermount CD in collaboration with XFM and I think it had a demo versions… it might have been Superscud… or Thumper…
I think it was ‘Thumper’. It was done with Marc Heal from the band Cubanate. They’re like industrial metal. None of us were really happy with it, but the record company released it anyway and it all got put on that Metal Hammer XFM CD.
I was going say it sounds a lot different to the version that made it on to the actual album
Oh yeah! We made sure of that! We weren’t happy with it but they released it on there anyway. We ended up rerecording it for the album which we were a lot happier with.
I mean, you mentioned that yourself and Gordon have stayed working in music do you think that the negative experience that you’ve had with Speedhorn have helped you handle the music industry better ?
Do we feel that our experiences have helped us to deal with what the music industry is? Yes. But at the same time, it helps us to deal with the music industry by knowing those back doors to get around the music industry, you know? It gives us that extra little bit of insight so if we’re tour managing a band, or teching for a band, whatever it may be, we can say to bands “look, they’re going to try and do this this and this – don’t let ‘em! If you let them get away with that they’re going to know instantly you don’t know what you’re doing, and they’re going to rip you off.” We can help bands; as soon as they say do this, we can say don’t do it. Or you sign this, or this contract. Read the contract, know what it means. If you don’t know what it means, ask people who do – that’s what you’re paying them for.
It’s ridiculous. These bands…you don’t want to say too much because you don’t want to ruin the excitement, but you don’t want to not say enough.
OK…let’s go back to the Speedhorn reunion. Was there ever a moment when you were in the preplanning stages when you were unsure whether it would work at all? Or were you sure from the start?
We were still unsure of the final line-up when we announced Damnation was happening. Luckily that’s all been ironed out now, we know what’s going on. Until we got in the practice room for the first time, we were all still a bit unsure – was this going to work? For our first practice we had a set list of 22 songs, we went through them and there were about four that we had to stop and start again because we were a bit unsure. But the rest? It was like we never left the practice room to be honest. I think from that moment on, we’ve all be confident that yeah, this is going to work.
I know you mentioned earlier, back in the day, the gap you guys had been away had a negative impact on the way people reacted to you but almost sort of the opposite of that seems to have happened this time around.
Yeah, I think the break sort of … it’s a bit longer. When you’re in a touring band, you’re supposed to be out there all the time, if you’re not touring, people don’t know you’ve broken up then a little hiatus is too much. Anything over six months to a year, you’re looking to start losing fans, people are going to lose interest, people don’t want to know …… new albums, you can go away for 3,4,5, 6 8 years and come back and release an album and people go “wow”. But if you’ve broken up, you can get away with being away as long as you want and come back and people will be “I remember them yeah” and because they remember you have those fond memories… It’s not like if you’re new album people are like what’s it like, ’cause if it’s no good I don’t wanna fucking know. But the difference of it being you’ve been away and people are like yeah I remember going to see them blah blah blah. If you release a new album, people are going to be sceptical about whether you’re still going to be the same band they loved six months ago. The reality of it is, that band’s never going to be the same band they were six months ago because they’ve been in the studio and recorded a new album and have learned from themselves because that’s what bands do, everyone expects you to be the same no matter what.
It’s interesting that point of view. We spoke to Karl Middleton from Earthtone9 a couple of years ago when they were in a similar situation. They were just mucking about in the studio, and all the blocks almost fell into place by accident for them, and I guess they’re back into some kind of semi-retirement again now. I think my point is that this whole era of British metal that you and them come from seems to have had no sort of contemporary…well, I don’t want to use the phrase “contemporary survivors” as that sounds really morbid.
I prefer to call us the last of the ones that god bent over and shafted.
It’s certainly a very philosophical way of looking at things!
That whole era, the end of the 90s start of the 00s, there’s so few bands still around that period… even if you compare it to a few years before that or a few years after that
Realistically you’re talking about Korn, Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park. And Slipknot. They’re pretty much the only main ones that are still around, still touring, still busy. Even the ones that went on to be be successful or have some kind of careers, Disturbed, Papa Roach and so on – they’re nowhere near as busy as they used to be, definitely not in Europe and the UK. They’re either “taking a break for a while”, or they’re nowhere near as big as they were back then when they were at their peak.
Despite all of the negative stuff that happened to you as a band, do you regret it?
We don’t regret it because we got to do some amazing stuff but I regret some of the decisions we made, definitely. The timings of different things that happened, and the timing of stuff going on in the band…it definitely could have worked out a lot better, we could had done even better than we did, if we carried on. Every band has hurdles and obstacles. There’s no point being optimistic about something that happened because every band’s got their little weights on their ankle that’s going to slow them down. You’ve got to look at it realistically, we went out and did something that…never should have gotten to the level we did. The sort of band we are, we shouldn’t have had Top 50 singles, and gone out and played shows with stupid, big metal bands stuff like that,
We got really friendly with the guys from Ministry, Al Jourgensen looked after us, like we were his own fucking kids. Literally that well, he wouldn’t let anyone talk shit to us. If we got told we weren’t getting a rider, he’d demand a rider for us or he wasn’t playing the show. He was in one of the biggest metal bands going and he still would be like “right, I’ll help you load in.”
I was talking to about something similar with someone the other day, when it came out about Davie Brockie dying. That guy was a fucking saint. We went on tour with him, with my other band, Murder One, with Paul Catten and Jammer and stuff. On the first date of that tour, [Brockie] came running out to the bus, exactly the same way that Al Jourgensen did when we toured with Speedhorn, and was like “where’s your stuff? I’ll help you load in ’cause I want to see you soundcheck.”
We were friends with bands like that, and it’s fucking unbelievable. A band that big, who’ve been doing it that long, looked at us and said you guys are awesome. We were amazed by that.
I interviewed Brockie a couple of times at festivals and shit. The first time I met him was at Bloodstock a couple of years gao and they just come off the main stage and he went and did the whole press junket still in his full Oderous costume. It was one of the hottest days of the year, and he was basically hallucinating from heat exhaustion by the end of it, but it was still one of my favourite interviews that I’ve ever done.
He was a genius.
I didn’t see that Ministry show but I remember reading about it, was it one of the most combative shows you guys had with an audience?
That was a really strange show. We’d done a one-off show, which we were told to advertise it as much as we can as their people weren’t sure it was going to sell out. It was their comeback show – they hadn’t played in England in six, eight years or something like that – and there was this one show at the Astoria. We got there and we were a bit sceptical that it was going to happen ourselves. They were running to the Virgin Megastore over the road from the Astoria to buy CDs to listen to the songs to learn some of them . It wasn’t until we got back together and we were listening to the songs on our fucking iPod and we were like “now I know what Ministry were up to…”.
We were getting a bit worried that the show wouldn’t happen and we ended up just going on stage for a ten minute sound check, we didn’t have any shit prepared. It was our fourteenth ever show and we got on stage and we had these industrial goths throwing cans and bottles and anything they could at us, going “you’re not like Ministry, get the fuck off the stage!” We supported them five years later, after going out and touring and getting people actually knowing who we were at the Astoria, and we came back everyone fucking loved it. Why couldn’t they have done that the first fucking time? Oh yeah, it’s because we were shit the first time ’cause it was our fourteenth ever show!
That in itself is mental. That a band that was so green would support a band like Minstry.
We were really lucky because we got some really lucky breaks, knowing some really clued in people who could help us. For as much as they say it’s not what you know, it’s who you know and all that, it is true. Maybe I’d say that it’s 70% what you know, 30% who you know, because if you haven’t got the talent to show those people then they’re not going to fucking touch you, not with a shitty dog stick. People are like “it’s just ’cause you know so-and-so”, but to that you’ve just got to say “yeah, but they believe in us which is why they’re helping us. They’re not helping us just because we know them, that doesn’t work.”
One of the things that really grabbed me when I first heard you guys when I was 17 was that [Speedhorn] were one of the first truly heavy bands in my record collection. I was weaning myself off from the shittier end of nu-metal at the time, and hearing your music then just gave me such a feeling of fearless. That’s the vibe I got.
We straight up didn’t give a fuck basically. Literally three months into the thing together, we played our first ever show, and not a month after that we played our third ever show which was the Terrorizer Christmas bash at The Garage and that was with Iron Monkey, Orange Goblin, Medulla Nocte, Stampin’ Ground, Kill II This…all those fucking bands that we were like “wow, they’re awesome, they get to tour everywhere” and our third every show we’re playing with them. We we’re all “ahh this is going fast, right okay, we’re cool with this, just keep playing the shows, do what we’re told, we’ll be fine.” That kind of attitude was us being young and dumb – just throw a contract in front of us and that was it.
You mentioned Murder One earlier, who obviously had members of Medulla Nocte, was Jules from Pulkas in them as well?
Jules recorded the album wth us, and then the only ever tour we did after that album, Jules couldn’t do it so we had to get someone else in to do the tour, that was the GWAR tour we did. It was Jules [McBride] from Pulkas, Jam, Mark and Paul Catten from Medulla Nocte. And Dan Marshall, he’d been in a few bands, but was really good friends with Mikey from Sikth which is how we got to know him. Catten was chatting to Mikey about a guitarists, he sent him up, we did the album.
OK, so what is the “official” line on what the future holds for Raging Speedhorn at the moment?
The official line on what the future holds for Raging Speedhorn at the moment is we’re completely undecided. We haven’t talked properly about what we’re going do. There may be more coming, so the official line is, we’re undecided. But keep your eyes peeled and your ears open, because there may be more….
Raging Speedhorn play this year’s Damnation Festival at Leeds University Union on Saturday 01 November 2014. All of their albums are out now, and have been for years. Go and buy them all – the self titled, We Will Be Dead Tomorrow, How The Great Have Fallen, Before The Sea Was Built, and hell, buy their rarities collection while you’re at it. Then buy a ticket to their UK tour and pick up a t-shirt while you’re there. Basically: give Raging Speedhorn as much of your disposable income as you can.