Latecoming live report and chat with The Safety Fire guitarist Derya Nagle, covering moustaches, game shows and e-mails from Mike Portnoy
A mere two days after the release of their stellar new album Mouth Of Swords [read our glowing review here], London tech-metal five-piece The Safety Fire set out on a short UK tour with Zoax that served as both a refresher for the British audience, and also as a warm up for their forthcoming North American tour with Between The Buried And Me, The Faceless and The Contortionist. We headed down to see how the band’s new material sounded live – being given its first live road test since completion – at Islington’s Upstairs@ The Garage.
It was a little while back now, so forgive any idiosyncracies, but unfortunate computer troubles conspired against this article like you wouldn’t believe.
We also spoke to guitarist Derya “Dez” Nagle a couple of weeks ago, in the wake of a fairly nasty bicycle accident. You can catch that below our live report of the tour’s first leg in London.
When you’ve got a two-band bill, you have to hope that all your eggs aren’t in the headliner basket when it comes to quality. I mean, that’s usually the band people come to see, but having not heard of Zoax prior to their announcement on the run, the blank slate afforded to them was refreshing.
Charismatic Irish frontman Adam Carroll danced around the crowd, interacting with the crowd very well; pulling entertaining faces and engaging individuals throughout the set. He was also great both in hardcore screaming mode and with his more melodic singing parts. The music is quite dichotomous to match; sounding like a cross between Thrice and Glassjaw. and played with the requisite tightness needed to pull something like that off. It was also quite pacey, lending itself very well to the live setting, where they’re clearly already thriving.
A few people I spoke to afterwards were pretty impressed, so mark these ones down in the “check out ASAP” category.
The Safety Fire
This was the band’s first show in eight months, and honestly it sort of showed, but only slightly, and since then they’ve played over 20 shows, so don’t let that put anyone off their current North American run.
A few times their pace caused them to slip out of sync with the backing track, which was a little distracting, but they soon pulled things back into shape, mixing a lot of new material – including videod tracks “Red Hatchet” and “Yellowism” – with favourites from last year’s Grind The Ocean (“Huge Hammers anyone?”). Although the album stream had only been out a few days, I think everyone was clamouring for “Beware The Leopard (Jagwar)“, which features an instantly recognisable guest vocal spot from Between The Buried And Me frontman Tommy Rogers.
Sean was on form, showing what a diverse and absolutely first class vocalist he is. He hits his soaring highs with apparent ease, and his distinctive growls are biting yet completely understandable, which is one of the great things about this band; they’re completely understandable.
Aside from the couple of slips, the instrumental element of the band were on form and clearly enjoying their first forays back onto the stage, and hopefully a rousing and well-received performance like this will have served them well for their myriad forthcoming shows.
As far as demeanour goes with The Safety Fire, you’re pretty much the antithesis of metal aren’t you?
To some extent, yeah, I suppose that’s a fair statement!
You know, because you guys are a lot of fun and it seems to annoy ‘proper’ metalheads
So to save your cred, what’s the most metal thing you’ve ever done or said?
Erm…wow, you’ve put me on the spot there!
It could be something from tour, or…
Yeah, I’m just trying to think of something which is kind of gnarly…damn!
I’m guessing your one-sided fight with the tarmac recently was pretty metal
Yeah, I was gonna say that was kind unfortunate moreso than metal, although I did get up and spit my teeth out, which I suppose was pretty metal. I broke three of my teeth, and someone was like “are you okay?”, and I looked around and felt the inside of my mouth and spat out blood and chipped parts of three teeth and said “no…no I’m not okay!” [laughs]. I suppose that’s kind of metal, but I think there are moments of us…I suppose the most metal moments shouldn’t really be talked about…
…because it’s more debaucherous than metal necessarily
That’s fair enough. How do you respond to allegations that your accident was all faked publicity to give yourself an actual mouth of swords?
[laughs] I would love to say that was true, but the amount of pain I went through was definitely not worth it, let’s put it that way.
Is the moustache okay though?
The moustache was actually slightly damaged, which was one of the first things that I noticed, from all the blood that came out of my nose; it hardened, and the nurse that was cleaning decided to just rip that bit out, so yeah, it’s growing back healthier than ever but it was a worrisome few days.
Oh no, that’s quite gutting! I’m guessing your first instinct would have been to protect your fingers rather than your face!
To be honest with you, I didn’t actually have enough time to think about anything; the guy pulled out in front of me so late on that I just slammed my brakes on as hard as I could. I think I was going about 25-30mph so my front wheel just completely locked up and my face acted as a brake for the rest of my body. Thankfully I’ve only got a few scratches on my fingers but nothing serious in any kind of way at all, so while it’s not the best thing to have happened, I’m kind of glad I didn’t break a wrist!
So keeping with Mouth Of Swords, is there a story behind the album title?
Basically the first track (“Mouth Of Swords“) was the first track that was written during the writing sessions for this album, and it kind of started with that working title which was something I had for a while, and in turn Sean (McWeeny, vocals) also had a lyrical idea which fit with that as well, and I think the idea of a mouth of swords, to some extent, is the dichotomy between something which is a giver of life, and also something which takes away life and…not an oxymoron exactly, but that kind of idea I suppose…it’s open to interpretation of what that is exactly. It’s not life or death literally, but the beginning or end of something, or so on and so forth.
I understand you wrote the album pretty quickly?
Yeah, it was after we finished the tour with Between The Buried And Me last year; we had a little bit of downtime and as soon as that came to an end…you know, we’d been playing the songs from Grind The Ocean for some time and we felt that it was the right time to move onto the next album. We already kind of had directions that we wanted to explore, and there were a lot of ideas and energy behind that, so when it came to actually writing it it was a very fluid and organic process, so it came out very quickly, which is quite different for me especially; with my writing style I usually spend quite a lot of time with the song and let it develop slowly, but with this it just seemed to pour out and I didn’t really question it too much. Every now and then I’d listen back to the songs and go “is this good? This happened too quickly. This is good? Okay, okay…”, but aside from that little bit of hesitation and questioning it was all good.
I’m guessing the Between The Buried And Me tour was how you got Tommy Rogers involved?
Yeah, in the earlier stages of the tour he was toying with the idea of coming on on stage with us to do a song, and in the London show he said he’d do it then but wasn’t able to do it, and then afterwards said he was really sorry he wasn’t able to do that, so I said not to worry about it and I’d get him a guest vocal on the next album, so we kept in contact and when the track was written we sent it over to him and asked if it was something he’d be interested in doing and he was totally into it. So from there it was like a boyhood dream come true, so to speak!
So how do you guys actually go about writing a song? I know it’s probably something you get asked quite a lot, but having written it so quickly…
For this album it was very much…I write the majority of the material and I sat down with my guitar playing riffs and then I literally just record those riffs to a click track. I always have a vision of where I want to take a song from the get go, and I think from that I would just record a part, listen back to it and think “where is this going next?”, and you know I was writing songs in a day or less, which is very unlike me; I think I just had this pent-up creative energy of sorts or whatever.
So yeah, the song kind of starts like that; I kind of work out a structure, work out the arrangement, parts and harmonies, accenting and stuff and show it to the guys and see if everyone is happy with what’s going on, then record those demos – and then me and Sean will sit down with lyrics and work out what is what basically, and just see what fits with what and go from there.
Okay, I was going to say, you’ve been together for a long time now as a band now haven’t you?
Yeah, literally we picked up our instruments when we were fourteen or fifteen and rehearsed in Calvin’s living room for the best part of two years. Obviously we weren’t really playing the music we are now exactly, but we’ve been playing together for nearly ten years now.
So you’re pretty comfortable together…
Yes, yes, that definitely could be said! [laughs]
Does that affect you operate in terms of writing and general band decisions?
We basically operate as a democracy in the sense of everyone has an equal share and equal say in whatever we do, and I think also in with that there’s no ego of anyone trying to prove anything to anyone else, you know? We were kids at one point and we might have done that, but you know, now we’re adults and we realise this is all for the greater good, and there’s no kind of premeditated…or any kind of showmanship or oneupmanship or anything like that. We’re doing this because we enjoy it, and we’ll carry on doing it as long as we enjoy it.
Whose decision were the moustaches?
That was…Joe’s suggestion, in fact! Last year, before that BtBaM tour, we were thinking of doing photo shoots, and we wanted to do a photo shoot of us as 70s football players…
…so the ‘taches kind of came from that, and we thought “well why don’t we keep the ‘taches for the tour?”…and then after the tour I said “well why don’t I just keep the ‘tache?” Happy mistake, basically!
[laughs] It would be hard to let go now, I think
Completely. I was wondering at one point “when do I shave this off?” “Do I shave this off ever?” or, you know, do I just accept it for what it is now. There’s enough people who stop me on the street who want to talk about it, so I suppose at some point I might need to make some kind of mask without the moustache…a kind of reverse disguise of some sort…but yeah, for the time being I’ll keep it and take the adoration in the UK and the complacency of the Europeans who have much better moustaches than I do.
Oh yeah; you see these bearded twelve year-old Norwegians…
Pretty much, yeah. Like, I think mine still has some acceptance because of my stylistic choices, but yeah, it doesn’t really compare just purely on hair to face ratio
[laughs] so, to wrap up, you guys were on Eggheads a little while ago weren’t you?
We were indeed, yep!
Without giving anything away: how was the experience, did anyone fluff up big-time, and do you know when it’s airing?
Um, we don’t know the exact day; we were told back then that it would be airing some time between October and November, and obviously it’s in chronological order because of the way the show works, so it should be around then. As soon as we get confirmation we will undoubtedly be promoting that quote a lot.
But yeah, it was amazing; it was a very surreal thing that we never expected to get on, and then when we did we kind of laughed about it for three days, and then got on a train as soon as we stopped laughing and tried to study up on as much knowledge as we could on the way up.
But yeah, it was really fun, and I think it was just an excuse to go to Scotland for a day and a half and make fools of ourselves. It was a good time! I wonder what the majority of people who don’t know who we are will think when they see five guys wearing Hawaiian shirts at 6pm on BBC2. I assume that people will think…the worst, maybe, but yeah!
They’ll have to check how much sherry they’ve drunk I would imagine…!
So, you’ve got your little UK tour coming up haven’t you?
Have you got any more touring plans?
We’re heading out to the states pretty much straight after that, with Between The Buried And Me and The Faceless and The Contortionist, and then we’re heading back to the UK again, and then I think we’re going to try and do another tour either by the end of this year or early next year when we’ll be doing a UK/European tour, which is still in the works at the moment. That’ll be in between the U.S. tour that we’ve got booked and the cruise that we’re doing in February.
Now that sounds like a story!
Yeah, I got an e-mail a couple of weeks ago now, and it just came up on my phone as ‘Mike Portnoy’, and I was like “when did I sign up to the Mike Portnoy forums?” and I slowly read through the e-mail and was like “okay!”. I thought it was a joke at first, but yeah, just very surprising to be getting an e-mail from Mike Portnoy offering me to play a cruise between Miami and the Bahamas, so we’re very much looking forward to doing that.
That’s a good time of year to go to the Bahamas as well
Yes, for sure!
Yeah, it’s cold as balls here, and…yeah
Can’t complain, that’s for sure!
As mentioned, The Safety Fire are currently opening for Between The Buried And Me with The Faceless and The Contortionist on their North American 2013 Fall tour. Make sure to catch it if you can!