Despite it being early days of the first ever Rebel Alliance Tour, van problems have already ensued, but that doesn’t stop Random Hand from returning to Newcastle, yet again, and, this time round, Faye manages to catch up with them, as they discuss the forthcoming departure of their drummer, the current state of UK ska-punk and their non-stop touring schedule, as well as a whole lot more!
Faye: Can you say your name and what you do in Random Hand?
Joe: I’m Joe Tilston, and I play bass and do a bit of ranting.
Robin: I’m Robin, and I play the trombone and I also rant.
Faye: How’s the tour been going so far? I heard you’ve being having some van problems…
Joe: We’ve had a shakey start, we’ve only been to two of the gigs so far out of four, but we’ve had a really good time so far and we’re friends, so it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Faye: Isn’t the other Joe, your drummer, leaving the band soon?
Robin: Yeah, he’s sort of doing the first half of this tour and then in the middle of the second half, we’re doing a date in Leeds, and that’s going to be his last proper show, which is obviously incredibly gutting for us, because he’s been in the band for seven years and a good mate of ours, but he decided it’s time to move on and do other things, you can begrudge him for it.
Faye: So, you’ve got a replacement sorted?
Robin: Yeah, we’ve got a guy line-up up who’s going to be able to do the rest of the stuff booked, and then we’re sort of looking for a few people to join as a full-time member after that, we’re still going to be going.
Joe: Yeah, it’s not stopping yet.
Faye: Have you got anything special planned for his last show?
Joe: It’s all a bit weird to think about right now, we’re just going to see what happens really. [laughs]
Robin: We might bake a cake, or something like that.
Joe: I might kiss him on the lips.
Faye: Will there be tears?
Joe: He’ll cry.
Robin: I probably will cry a little bit, but I cry at anything.
Faye: On this tour, it’s a rotating bill, is it a bit strange subbing to bands like The Skints, who would otherwise be supporting you?
Robin: It’s not even an issue, it’s not something anyone thinks about, not just because we’re on the same label, but just because of the nature of the scene at the moment, this isn’t a scene where you can get egotistical in anyway. It’s very much about supporting the bands that do the same as you, so it’s important that we’re able to go out together and get some solid shows, and try get this style of music prominent in the live scene. It’s like I always say, and it’s a very cheesy cliché, but it’s basically like a big extended family, we’re all really good mates, so we’re more than happy to be playing with each other.
Joe: I don’t think anyone minds supporting anyone, we’re just getting on having a bit of fun and that’s what this is, it’s a big touring party.
Robin: To be honest, I quite like playing early anyway, because we’re quite a lazy band and we like to get it out of the way, then watch the headlining band having to rush and pack up quickly before they get kicked out before doors close, and be like, “Ha! We packed up hours ago.” [laughs]
Faye: It seemed that the UK ska-punk scene was in a bit of a slump for a while, but it appears to be making a comeback, would you agree?
Robin: Yeah, it’s always going to be there in some capacity, but, like any genre, it’s going to have waves of popularity and come and go. There was definitely a boom in the Household Name-era where you had your Capdowns and all the rest of it, then it slumped for a bit, but now with things like Rebel Alliance, the scene’s become a bit more focused and unified, but there’s always going to be people doing it and people trying to push it. It’s kind of good that it’s an underground sound, I think that’s where most of the drive comes from, the people involved don’t get help, so you need to push yourselves, that’s where all the passion comes from.
Faye: Random Hand seems to tour non-stop, do you ever go home?
Joe: The most we’ve had off in the last few years is a month at any one time, but, obviously, with the nature of Joe leaving and things, that’s changing a bit, we’ve got three months off to find a replacement, so we just have to see what happens, really, but, yeah, we never stop. [laughs]
Robin: Again, the thing is, in this sort of scene you can’t really stop, you don’t get that upper tier support.
Joe: Yeah, it’s the only way we can get the funds, is to play every gig we can really, and just hope it keeps us going in the right direction.
Faye: So, is the band a full-time thing for you? Do you not have any other jobs on the side?
Robin: Yeah, full-time.
Joe: Yeah, we haven’t got the time for anything else
Faye: Are you happy with where you are now, or would you ever want to get any bigger?
Robin: To be honest, I think we’ve pretty much achieved our ambitions that we had when we started the band, when we were sort of teenagers, like big festivals and places we’ve been to. I think we’ve got more than we could have asked for, and the fact that we’ve been able to do it is good enough.
Joe: To want too much more can lead you to disappoint and I think that’s part of the reason why we’ve been going for as long as we have. I think if we expected to get chart success or anything like that, we would have been disappointed and broken up a long time ago. We’re happy to operate on this level and anything more than that is great, but we don’t expect anything like that.
Faye: On some of the last visits to Newcastle, you’ve played some weird shows, including Ben from Sonic Boom Six’s last gig, opening up for The Skints and Sonic Boom Six at the last minute, as well as playing Northumbria University Freshers Party, what did you make of them both?
Robin: The freshers thing was awesome,
Joe: Yeah, it was really, really good. I think the funniest thing about it was that there were no freshers there. [laughs]
Robin: That was just a really fun show, but, genuinely, hand on heart, Newcastle is one of the best places for us to play and it has been for years.
Joe: It’s our home from home.
Robin: Yeah, absolutely. We love Trillians to bits and Jonesy who runs it, but it’s sort of cool to mix it up and play some different venues here, and the Freshers Party was just a great thing for us to try somewhere new, it was a great room. Ben from Sonic Boom Six’s last show, that was a lot of fun, it was a very last minute thing for us and, from our point of view, it was kind of a shoddy last minute exercise, but it was well worth doing, so much fun. We all went for a curry afterwards around the corner and it was really emotional, I nearly cried. [laugh]
Faye: Didn’t you go to Europe for the first time last year with Sonic Boom Six, how was that?
Joe: That was phenomenal. We’ve tour with Sonic Boom Six lots and lots and lots, and when touring England, it’s kind of easy to go home, but in Europe, they throw beer at you and they give you a bed to sleep in at every venue, so we just have these Brits abroad parties every night, which was very fun, lots and lots of fun. They’re just great friends of ours as well, so we had a really good time.
Faye: Were people familiar with you?
Robin: There were some surprises, and like, obviously, we don’t have a proper name for ourselves out there, but there were a couple of people who had checkout the MySpace and stuff like that. It was really weird to play somewhere like Serbia or somewhere like that singing along. The people out there were just so welcoming and so polite, we were very, very well looked after.
Faye: Aren’t you going back over to Europe in March?
Robin: Yeah, straight after this tour, it’s a bit of a big one this time, we go a bit further east and go a bit further west this time, it should be a lot of fun, hopefully.
Faye: As a small touring band, how important is it that people buy your records? I’ve seen them uploaded on a few blog sites, do you mind? Or do you see the benefits?
Joe: There’s such a big debate whether it’s good or bad, and I could literally argue each side of the download debate to the cows come home, I do genuinely have a big argument for both sides, I can’t give a straight answer. The thing is, there’s the whole positive thing, like there’s people who would have never known our stuff if it was all CD format, there’s people in Russia downloading our music, there’s people in Bulgaria, and really random countries that we’d never go to that listen to us more than this country, especially Russia, it leaked over there, and you know Last.fm? Most of our top listeners are Russian and that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for that kind of thing. When our album leaked, it didn’t leak in England, somebody put it up and then it got picked up by somebody in Spain, and it’s just these little things wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for downloading. It’s resulted in more people are coming to out to our gigs and buying t-shirts and things. But, yeah, it’s bad because labels don’t make a lot of money now, so they can’t support bands the way they used to and that’s a big difference, but at least we’re getting to play shows and that’s where we belong, playing live to people. Both sides can be argued, there’s equal positives, I reckon, to be honest, too.
Robin: I think the illegal downloading thing is going to be more of a concern to much bigger bands, bands that are on big labels that rely much more on shifting units, but we’re a live band, that’s our niche. Obviously, we need to sell CDs, but it’s more important to play shows on our level, but, yeah, there’s positives and negatives.
Faye: I’ve noticed that Inhale/Exhale is on Spotify, is that up there with your permission?
Joe: It is up with our permission, but I don’t know who put it up. [laughs] We want it up there, though.
Faye: Do you get any money from Spotify?
Joe: Things trickle through the electronic side of things, like little bits from iTunes and little bits from Spotify, and it’s all down to how many listens, I think you have to get like 1000 listens per song before it even covers the cost of being on Spotify, so I wouldn’t expect anything any time soon.
Faye: Do you think the format of the CD is becoming obsolete?
Joe: I think there’s always going to be a solid format, it’s like vinyl, there’s a rival or whatever, but there’s always going to be a convenient solid format, because there are people who want to collect things. That amount is going to drop drastically, I mean, I don’t even buy CDs any more and I used to love having a collection of CDs, but that’s probably because I’m poor. [laughs] But, yeah, I think there’ll always be a hard format, but, to what extent, I don’t know.
Faye: Have you been writing for a new album yet?
Joe: We’ve got a bit done, we’ve got a few tracks down, but, obviously, with Joe leaving, it does set us back a bit. We were hoping to get something out this year, but I think, we have to focus getting the band back up to full-standards, so watch this space.
Faye: Is there anything else in store for Random Hand? Aren’t you playing Rebellion Festival again this year?
Joe: Yeah, we’re back at Rebellion again, and there’s talk of more foreign tours, and that’s what we want to do, we want to spend a bit more time getting out, we’ve already done a lot of England!
Faye: Change the record, who should we be listening to?
Joe: The band, who’s album I picked up last year, who I absolutely love is The Arteries, they’re an underground band and they’re amazing, so, yeah, check them out.
Robin: I’m going to name three people, if I may, Resolution 242, who are like a ska-punk band, their album’s really good, I really enjoy them. There’s an acoustic duo from the Durham area called One Night Stand In North Dakota, who I’m a very big fan of, I’ve seen them live a few times now, I love them, and the end of last year, we played with a punk band called ICH from Colchester, who’s album is absolutely fantastic, it’s basically straight punk stuff, but it’s done just so well, so I think those would be my pop picks, as it were.
Faye: Is there anything else you want to say?
Robin: If you’re over 18, use your vote, you can make a difference. You can make a difference! [laughs] Yeah, that’s it.
– Faye Turnbull.
Many thanks to Random Hand, and for more on the band, visit: www.myspace.com/randomhand.