Interview: Tyla of Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons
Interviewed by Paul Hutchings
There can be few people in the world of rock and metal who weren’t saddened by the death of Lemmy. But after the dust settled, the band’s long serving guitarist Phil Campbell regrouped and formed his own band with his three sons, Tyla, Dane and Todd and vocalist Neil Starr. Since their debut EP, and subsequent album ‘The Age of Absurdity’, it’s fair to say that they’ve been one of the hardest working bands the UK has produced. With a new album, ‘We’re the Bastards’ due for release in November, Paul caught up with bassist Tyla from their respective Welsh county lock downs to chat about the new album and what Mrs Campbell thought about the band’s name!
The Razor's Edge: Welcome to the The Razor's edge, Tyla. A real pleasure to speak to you today.
Tyla: Thank you for having me.
The Razor's Edge: So, you’re already in local lockdown and I’m an hour away from going into local lockdown. Strange times again, isn't it?
Tyla: Yeah, very strange. I've been pretty strict throughout this. I think I've been to the pub twice. And I just meet up with my friends on a couple of weekends. We’ve been having a couple of tins in the park. It’s like this being 15 again!
The Razor's Edge: All you need is the bottle of White Lightning and you’ll be fine!
Tyla: Haha! Exactly.
The Razor's Edge: So, Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons spend a massive amount of time on the road, so this must have been catastrophic for you guys in terms of all your plans for this year.
Tyla: Yeah, pretty much. We haven’t played at all in 2020. We finished our German tour in December last year. Then we were writing the new album and we were due to start playing again in April and everything locked in lockdown start in the middle of March. The gigs are rescheduled at the end of December, but I don't know if they will happen with all the restrictions. So, basically, it’s a year of no gigs. I can't even get down the local pub with my covers band. Everyone in the same position. At least we do have the new album to look forward to next month.
The Razor's Edge: Talking about the album, we'll get onto that straight away because I've been lucky enough that Nuclear Blast have given me a digital copy to listen to in preparation for this interview. It carries on very much from where the previous album left off, and it seems a natural continuation. But tell me a little bit about how it came about because I didn't realise until I was looking yesterday that ‘The Age of Absurdity’ is the best part of two and half years old now. It doesn’t seem that long ago that it was released.
Tyla: After the album, Phil was doing his solo album so that kind of filled the gap. Todd recorded that album and Todd, Dane and I all featured on various songs on that album and we played a couple of songs live so it was kind of a Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons album with different singers. But yeah, it’s about two and a half years and it doesn't seem that long ago we were launching it in the with the YouTube stream on the day it was released. It’s crazy how time moves on these days. You know, back, like decades ago when record labels forced bands to release new music and sometimes albums would suffer because they were touring all the time and then as soon as they were back it was back to the recording. Nowadays, we must release an album and then tour the album to try and make a living.
Now, especially as there are no gigs happening, it gave us something to do for a good couple of weeks. We were always going to release the album anyway. We were writing it in January, February and we started recording in April in Todd’s studio, After a month of lockdown, I mean when it was proper lockdown, it was good to actually get in the studio and be productive. The recording process was a bit different; we were still socially distancing. It was Todd in one room and then whoever was recording in the other room. No more than two people at the studio at any one time. A slightly different way of recording but it worked, and I think you can tell that by the outcome.
The Razor's Edge: It has. The album is great. It seems that a lot of bands that are putting out albums this year are putting out stuff that they've recorded either just before lockdown or during lockdown. The writing you said was done at the beginning of the year before lockdown.
Tyla: Yeah, that's correct. The plan was always to write, record and release an album this year. Our UK tour was planned for November and we were going to release the album then. There was a discussion with the likelihood of the UK tour not happening and whether we should delay the album. But everyone just thought there was no point in delaying the album and by the time of the tour next year we can probably write another album, you never know! It gives the fans something to look forward to, some new music. A few bands have delayed album releases in the hope they can go out and tour. I’d rather get the music out there and everyone can have some fun with it.
The Razor's Edge: Absolutely, and one of the things I've picked up on the new album is that there seems to be, I wouldn't say maturity, but some of the tracks are a little bit more mellow, than maybe they were on the first album. Tracks like ‘Born to Roam’ and ‘Desert Song’ are a little bit away from the kind of anthemic belter which is probably the band’s trademark. Would that be a fair review so far?
Tyla: Yeah, I think so I think. On ‘The Age of Absurdity’ we did ‘Dark Days’ which was in a similar vein to those two songs and we didn't know how it was gonna go down because everyone was expecting this fast energetic rock band, just because of Phil and Motörhead’s name. But then when we release the ‘Dark Days’ music video, it ended up being our most popular song. So, I think we knew that people liked that part of our sound. We could delve into that area a bit more. I think that's why we knew the fans would like that vibe. With ‘Dark Days’ we risked it and it paid off. We thought we could try a couple more in a similar style.
The Razor's Edge: Todd has done a cracking job on the production side of things, and obviously you moved away from Romesh who produced the first album. What was the reasoning behind that? Was it to do with lockdown or was it always the intention that Todd would get involved given his work on the solo album?
Tyla: Todd was always in the running. For the first album he didn't want to record it as he wanted to enjoy the recording process as an artist, not stress about recording and producing but then yeah, once lockdown started there was only one option and we're all very happy with it. And we have Soren Anderson mix it, and he mixed Phil’s solo album and he has a big studio in Copenhagen so Todd was happy to let someone else mix it and we had the best of both worlds then.
The Razor's Edge: You've kind of lived and breathed the album for a few months, getting the recording stuff done. Are there any tracks that stand out that you? One’s that you really want to play live in front of a sweaty Tramshed crowd in Cardiff. I've got a few on my list that I really want to see but are there any that stand out for you that you think would really get the place moving.
Tyla: I think ‘We’re the Bastards’ is one. That song is basically about the fans anyway. So, I think either that could be like good opener or good like encore opener and get everyone singing along to that. ‘Son of a Gun’, that would be a good opener as well. One that I am interested to play is the closing track ‘Waves’, but I don't know how that would go down because the start is quite a chilled out ballad that then just goes into this big rock riff so that could be a potentially controversial set finisher. Hopefully whenever we do get back to playing, that will be a fun discussion to have with the rest of the band.
The Razor's Edge: You’ve been playing music a lot longer than you've been in this band. You've got The People, The Poet, and your covers band and stuff. When you got together with your brothers and Phil and Neil did you have any qualms about the fact that you were obviously going to attract this intense Motörhead crowd that are going to follow anything to do with Motörhead?
Tyla: Yeah, I think it goes two ways. So yeah, we always gonna attract Motörhead fans who maybe were expecting a replica of Lemmy, which is obviously not what Neil is or how we would want. You know, Phil never wanted that. Motörhead was Motörhead. We can’t recreate that and had no intention of doing so. But the other side of things is that we've gained a lot of fans, people who aren’t necessarily Motörhead fans, who don't know who Phil Campbell is.
The Razor's Edge: That’s really interesting and I'm really pleased that you are picking up fans that may have heard you a radio station or whatever and not even made the connection.
Tyla: Yeah, We are lucky enough to get a lot play on Planet Rock, and when we meet fans at gigs they say, I heard you first on Planet Rock and I never realised the Motörhead connection and then yeah, so that's also a cool thing. We get the best of both worlds as we attract Motörhead fans but we also attract Hard Rock fans as well.
The Razor's Edge: Phil had been touring for years, but doing these big European tours and traveling all over the place, you guys do it relentlessly? How's it being in terms of traveling with the family all the time?
Tyla: A band is always like a family anyway, no matter what band you are in and you're going to get your disagreements or arguments or whatever. We always make up at the end, there's nothing too stressful and you know, generally, at the end of a gig we’ll get on the bus and watch some compilations and comedies or some Benidorm or Monty Python. Yeah, so just chill out and then like on a day off we usually find a nice restaurant. A lot of people expect us to be like a big party band because of the Motörhead connection but Phil doesn't drink anymore. When you are on tour with your dad and two brothers there’s only so much you can do!
The Razor's Edge: Phil has always been very patriotic in terms of having the Welsh flag on the on the amp and his custom guitars with the dragon. And you guys are the same. Do you feel it's important when you are playing to have that identity laid out so that you are flying the flag, even if it's just for yourselves?
Tyla: Yeah, I think so. I go to a lot of Welsh football games and I had a couple of Welsh flags and I think we had one in a suitcase and we played in Belgium and I was like, oh, I have to chuck the Welsh flag on just to remind them of the time we beat them 3-1 and ever since them we’ve kept the flag. It’s nice, because sometimes people still don't know where Wales is. I was in a taxi in Las Vegas on the way back to the airport from the hotel and the guy had never heard of Wales and I did the usual, you know, Tom Jones, and this guy never heard of Tom Jones!!
The Razor's Edge: Oh my God, in Las Vegas as well!!
Tyla: I know. I think he had a vague recollection of Ryan Giggs was but no idea of who Gareth Bale was. But if they don’t know those three then you’re really struggling.
The Razor's Edge: So next time you play in Belgium will you all have perfected the Hal Robson Kanu turn on stage just to really wind them up?
Tyla: l’d do that. I think we got three festivals in Belgium next year and yes if someone passed a football to me on stage! I really like that idea. Or maybe on the screen, Just the highlights of our goal on there!!
The Razor's Edge: You were going to some of the Euro 2020 games I assume?
Tyla: Yeah, I had tickets to Azerbaijan, then fly back to Cardiff to see Rammstein and then off to Italy. I can’t do the Azerbaijan game next year as we have a festival, but Italy is still on. I did go to Azerbaijan for the Wales game in November. Very interesting place.
The Razor's Edge: It's amazing now. I mean the support the Welsh get away is astonishing and it's a really good craic. It's like being in a massive family away.
Tyla: Yes, you usually get a good 2-3000 every time. I mean there's a crazy amount of people who go regardless if they got tickets, or not. They’ve flown to Azerbaijan and no ticket. It’s crazy.
The Razor's Edge: I suppose that there are people that do that for, did that for Motörhead, and do that for various bands around the world. It's the kind of thing people do.
Tyla: Oh yeah. For our gigs, we do like a very big 15 days German tour and the amount who go to like 80% of the shows is crazy.
The Razor's Edge: I'm not going to ask the question about your plans now because obviously, you can’t have any until you get the given the go ahead. But you're obviously very involved in the music scene and and the whole band are. What would your message be to to fans about trying to keep music going? Would it be just doing that? Trying to to buy stuff to keep it going? Is there anything else that people can do?
Tyla: Definitely that, but just tell your friends, Facebook shares will get people exposed to music and that can spread. It is tough for all the bands now so anything that can help, buying merch and if there is an option to buy direct from the band then that is the best option where possible. Or from your local record shop. There are still a lot around who may just be doing deliveries. One good thing is that bands are becoming more creative, with streaming although Facebook are now having complications and restrictions on live streaming.
The Razor's Edge: Are you planning anything online for the actual album launch?
Tyla: Yeah, possibly we haven’t discussed anything at length yet but we have two months before the album is out but if we can find something that we can record and film and everyone is socially distanced then I think we would like to do it. There are some technicalities about doing it but that is a conversation we’ll be having very soon. So, fingers crossed we will be able to do something for everyone.
The Razor's Edge: The album cover is interesting. I don't know who who the artist was that did it, but I think they they've captured you all. Certainly, got your beard right, I think.
Tyla: Yeah, I’m the best one!! I definitely look the most pissed! Which is correct!
The Razor's Edge: If you have a look at it the next time, I'm a bit concerned about the state of Neil's hand, it looks a bit scaly. I'm slightly concerned about that.
Tyla: Haha! I will check out next time, but the guy that did the art for ‘The Age of Absurdity’, Matt Riste, he did it. He’s doing art full time now and he draws everything for us. We didn’t give him a theme or anything. We just said, you got any ideas and the first draft is basically that picture and we made him change a few things but it was a great idea and we can see the merch that will come from that. And the artwork on the vinyl is great. We’ve all got our own portraits. So yeah, so if you're into your artwork and your physical colour is a highly recommended to buy the vinyl, it will be worth it for the artwork alone. That’s what we do in the band as well. We try to make the physical copies worth your while you know, yeah, awkward pictures.
The Razor's Edge: My final question Tyla. I know that your mum wasn't over enamoured with the band name. Is she even more excited about the album name now?
Tyla: Haha! I don't think she realised what the album is going to be called! She’s developed what you might call selective hearing now! When we named the band, she said “you can’t have that” and we said “well, we already spent £500 on the backdrop” so there was no going back.
The Razor's Edge: Brilliant stuff. Thanks, Tyla. It's been a pleasure to chat to you. I know you're a regular in the Head of Steam in Cardiff so next time I see you I’ll buy you a pint.
Tyla: Crack on! Pleasure to talk to you too.