Notes from Devin: I’ve always been a huge fan of this band and I was very stoked when their mighty frontman willingly did an interview with me!!! I bring you John Gallagher of the British Metal band, RAVEN!!!
John, it’s a pleasure to interview you! Raven has been a vital, well respected band and has been such an influence to many bands. When and where did the band start?
JG: Thank you! The band started back in the Cretaceous era… in 1974! This was in our hometown of Newcastle Upon Tyne in Northern England. My brother Mark and our friend Paul Bowden came up to me and said… “ we are gonna form a band… and you can play the bass!” and although all we had was a classical guitar… we were off! This was all kind of improbable- we knew nobody that was actually IN a band… but we just KNEW… We bugged our parents to get us a cheap electric guitar and a bass… made our own speaker cabs… dug through garbage to find old radiograms and remove the amp… basically begged, borrowed and stole to get barely adequate gear…. and we finally played our first show at our high school in December 1975!
I’ve seen Raven in the 80s and I saw you just a couple years ago. You’re better than ever!! How do you keep the passion and energy up after decades of touring?
JG: That’s easy… it may sound corny but we simply love the music. Playing live is our life blood… our reason for living. We pride ourselves on always giving 110% no matter where we play or how many people we play to…. and our fans appreciate that.
Who would be your primary musical influences? Are there newer metal bands that have got your attention?
JG: The initial influences for us to form a band would probably be Slade and Status Quo… we were lucky to see both bands at the height of their powers … as well as almost every other rock band treading the boards back then. They would play the Newcastle City Hall… a concert theatre that held 2000…. so we were so lucky to see these bands up close…. no YouTube or instructional videos back then, this was our education! So we saw & loved Budgie, Blue Oyster Cult, Judas Priest, Montrose, Black Sabbath etc and listened to everyone else… and gravitated to the faster, heavier stuff. Where most bands would do smoke on the water… we would play Highway star! So this all got out in the pot & we came up with our own take on it all. I had so many bass influences… Andy Fraser of Free.. John Entwistle of The Who.. Chris Squire of Yes… John Wetton of King Crimson..Martin Turner of Wishbone Ash… they and many more inspired me to do more than plod away banging out root notes! I mean in 1977 I was playing an acrylic see through bass with a violin bow through a fuzz wah pedal doing crazy solos lol!!! Just trying to push the envelope…. As for newer metal bands… there’s a wave of bands inspired by the NWOBHM that’s making cool music… Night Demon… Wolf… Cauldron, Volture, Bat… to name a few! I’m not a fan of the more extreme versions of metal… y’know the guitar sounding like a guy cutting sheet metal with the Cookie Monster on bass while the drummers having an Epileptic fit… the musicianship may be great but I need melody… and songs. So there’s also bands taking some 60’s & 70’s influences and doing their own deal with it.. like Rival Sons who are awesome… and Crobot who also rock!!
I’ve heard horror stories of brothers in bands that ended up hating each other, ie Black Crowes, Oasis. How has it been with you and Mark after all this time?
JG: Ha!!! Like most siblings we fought as kids… once we had guitars we took it out on our instruments instead! We get on extremely well… if there’s ever a disagreement we will have a shouting match… then 5 mins later it’s forgotten ! It’s one of our major strengths and of course learning together and playing together for so long we have this approach where what I play matches and complements what he plays.. making it greater than just the sum of its parts… it’s that “ esp” thing that’s so critical to gave especially in a three piece band… when Mike Heller joined us on drums a few years back he plugged right into that… we instantly had that chemistry!
Your new album “Metal City” is incredible! With the pandemic causing such turmoil, do you have plans to tour?
JG: Thanks! We knew we had a great album ahead of us as we had the songs… but then Mike joined and took things to another level… his playing and enthusiasm really inspired us to deliver… to raise the bar! It took far longer to do the album than we had planned … but the results were worth it! We are looking at a possible run of US dates later in the year.. and a Belgian festival… then a rock cruise and a European tour early in 2022… as things start opening up we want to be out on the road!
Many people who are even fans of the band may not know that the band formed in 1974 and gave Metallica one of their first tours!! The mutual fans of Raven that I know are brand loyal to you. You’re criminally under-appreciated legends!! How do you feel about how you have been dealt with through the music industry and perhaps the lack of push from the labels to make Raven a household name?
JG: Yep… Metallica’s first tour was opening for us in 1983… Anthrax’s first tour was opening for us in 1984 too! It’s been a long hard road for us but it’s made us into the band we are… our fans ARE amazing and we have a great following pretty much everywhere… our last touring cycle in 2019 took in Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, Belgium, Germany, Australia and Spain ( and that was in one month lol). It’s only been over the last 10 years that we’ve actually gotten some respect and acknowledgment.. and that’s great … a number of “industry types” pretty much tried to write us out of the picture back in the 90’s but we just kept doing what we do.. knowing things would eventually turn in our favor! We know most success in this business comes from great management… the actual talent of the band is almost inconsequential unfortunately…. any standing we have has pretty much come from relying on ourselves!
What is on the horizon for the mighty Raven?
JG: Well other than the aforementioned live work coming up… we are in the process of writing the next album…. we could start tomorrow lol as we have a great collection of songs… we just need a few more in order to do it right. We are working on getting the rights back to our early albums .. which would open the door to doing REAL reissues in a box set scenario… so that’s exciting… also planning another covers album like the “ party killers” one we did a few years ago!
John, I am humbled. Thank you so much for taking the time with Skull Smasher!! Raven is legendary. Thank you for 47+ years of incredible Athletic Rock and all your amazing music!!! It’s been a pleasure!!!
JG: Thank you mate! Cheers and thanks to the fans… see ya out on the road very soon!