Mage are, “five guys who’ve been around in a variety of bands over the years, brought together by a shared love of “THEE RIFF” and a desire to jam and see what happens”. As it turns out the end result is pretty awesome, and they’re from Leicestershire! Their debut album, Black Sands, was amongst our favourite releases of 2013, and, we want more, MORE!!!
We chatted to the band at Leicester’s Firebug Venue, in a quest to find out more.
Ok, we’re here talking to Tom, Ben and Woody.
Tom: With Mark hovering in the background
Ok, so who came up with the name Mage, and what were the alternatives?
Ben: Can you remember who came up with the name Mark?
Tom: I thought it was you (looks at Ben).
Ben: Was it me?
Mark: It was a joke, we were taking the mickey out of World of Warcraft weren’t we. Kept asking what a Mage was.
Ben: Quite possibly, oh yeah!
Mark: And we ended up with the name Mage
Tom: “What the hell is a Mage?” seemed to be the quote.
Ben: It’s always hard to think of a band name isn’t it. You want something that sort of represents you. The kind of stuff we do has that slight mystical fantasy sort of thing, that sort of vibe to it. And a Mage being a wizard sort of seemed right.
Tom: It still amazes me though how many people don’t know what a Mage is. I just feel like a super geek now whenever somebody actually says “What’s a Mage?”.
Ben: How do you pronounce it? Maggie?
Ben: Mage as in, rage!
Tom: How do you not know what a Mage is?
Mark: I think the description is “a learned man or wise person”.
Tom: Oh, so it’s completely irrelevant then!
Woody: So nothing to do with us then.
Ben: Thanks! Speak for yourself!
Woody: Were there any alternative names?
Ben: No. I think that was pretty much it. That was the first name that really stuck. We were playing nameless for a while, and that came up, and we thought that it would make a good band name.
Tom: I just remember you turning up at practice one week saying “We’re called Mage now”, I just though “oh, ok then, whatever”.
Ben: It’s always good to have a short band name as well, because you can get your logo nice and big on posters. You have these people, and they all have these ridiculously long band names and they take up so much space on a poster. But a four letter name, brilliant!
Mark: Everybody just abbreviates long names anyway.
Don’t forget, it always has to be in an unreadable font too.
Tom: Well, we did have an unreadable font version once.
Ben: Oh we’ve all kinds of versions.
Tom Ben actually, because he’s a graphic artist, actually designed the logo for a band, didn’t you. What was the name of that one? The one where they actually asked you to design an unreadable logo.
Ben: Oh yeah, I can’t remember, but they did send it back saying “oh no, it’s too readable”. I thought “ok, I’ll just add some more spikey bits then”.
Tom: We’ve played on the bill where a few bands, well, where we were looking at it and…
Woody: Who are they!?
Tom: Yeah, exactly. We’ll just turn up and see if we can hear the names read off at some point.
Ben: Perhaps they should always have it translated below the band logo?
Black Sands was recorded in Nottingham’s “Stuck on a Name Studios”. What was it like working with Boulty? And how did you fund it?
Ben: Well, because we recorded a four song EP before Black Sands, which we all chipped in a bit of money, and we recorded the EP in a day, and I think it was £130 a day for the studio. So we all chipped in a bit. Recorded that, and from the sales of the EP, that generated a bit of cash, then we did a t-shirt, which generated a bit more cash, so it seemed to be a bit of a cycle of…
Tom: Merchandising. That’s what he’s trying to say!
Ben: Recording and then releasing. If we get any money from gigs, which is rare, then stick that in the pot. We’ve sort of got a band fund, so yes, by the time it came round to recording the album we found that we had enough for a couple of days so thought “yeah, let’s do it”.
How did you actually find that studio?
Ben: Lot’s of googling! I looked at lots and lots of studios, but I found that one and had seen who he had worked with. We exchanged a few emails, and it was apparent that he was aware of our influences and of the other bands in our scene, and was confident that he could record us and capture our sound.
Tom: Which he did. It was a good find. I mean literally, we didn’t have that many conversations with him about what the sound would be. We went in and started recording, layed down the first track, went back into the studio to listen to it, and it was awesome. It was amazing, it was like he had mixed it already. It was pretty much he knew exactly what we wanted.
Ben: Yeah, sometimes it’s very intense in the studio. Especially when you do it in such a short time. Very intense. A lot of bands, to do a 10 track album that would take a week or two weeks. But I guess, because we’re all seasoned musicians, old.
Tom: Are we?
Ben: We’re quite tight as a unit so we can go into the studio and just bash the songs out. But it is a very intense process. 10 songs in 2 days is just ridiculous. Well it took two and half days didn’t it Woody?
Woody: Yes it did!
Ben: Why was that Woody?
Woody: Ahm, because I was really rushed with the solos? I hadn’t written some of them before.
Mark: Is that because you only had five minutes to do your solos?
Woody: Yes. First take, we’ll give it a go, and everyone said that it sounded great, we moved onto the next one, and I said “well wait, can hear that first one back again please?”. A little bit rushed.
Ben: To be honest it worked though.
Tom: There was one track where you did about three solos, and they were all really good, and because of the time we just said stick them all on.
Ben: They worked really well together, blended and crossed over each other. And it was very easy to work with Boulty, he was very much on our wavelength. Put up with us, you know whenever you get a band together, there’s a certain amount of stupid behaviour, the jokes. He was great. He gave advice when it was needed, and sat back and let us do our thing when it was working fine.
Tom: The only time we had to sit down and go through what we wanted was once we had recorded everything and it was about editing some bits out, and asking where we wanted to chop it. Apart from that though it was all smooth sailing. And considering he only had one eye when we were recording we have to give him extra credit for that. He had had an eye injury at a gig
Woody: Had he been moshing?
Ben: I can’t remember.
Tom: Detached his retina or something
Ben: Horrible. But he had two ears so that was alright then.
Tom: Well we assumed they were working
Mark: May have been prosthetic ones though.
What have been your favourite venues to play in?
Ben: Hmm, favourite venues.
Tom: For me, in Leicester, it’s definitely the Musician.
Woody: The Musician is a great venue yeah.
Ben: I enjoyed the Queen’s Hall in Nuneaton.
Tom: That was good yeah.
Ben: I think that’s because I had paid to see some bands play there, and it always struck me as a “proper venue”. I’ve seen Clutch play on that stage, and now I’m playing on it, brilliant!
Tom: Here is good to, Firebug.
Ben: We’ve not really played anywhere that’s been terrible. Or have we?
Mark: Not really no.
If you could perform anywhere, where would it be?
Ben: Woody’s bathroom.
Tom: You don’t want to go there! Well, Woody has performed in more places then we have so you’ve probably played in bigger places.
Ben: Yeah Woody, where’s good?
Woody: Holland is really good. America is really good, Japan.
Tom: Brilliant, just list countries.
Ben: Anywhere really. Anywhere that’ll have us.
Tom: We’d like to get a few more shows outside of Leicester though. We’ve played quite a few now, but still need to play more really, build up a fanbase elsewhere.
Ben: It would be nice to do London just to say that you have, you know.
Tom: Yeah, we should just turn up and play. Busk. There’s loads of people down there busking.
And your favourite musicians?
Woody: What’s that sorry?
Ben: Three of your favourite musicians, go.
Woody: Tony Iommi, Bill Steer and
Ben: Rick Astley
Andy: Ben Woody and Tom.
Tom: I was going to say that!
Woody: You can’t say that, he’s not a musician, he only sings!
Mark: Me, me and me. No. Jack Bruce, Josh Homme and Billy Sheehan.
Woody: Always bass players isn’t it.
Ben: Les Claypool, Tony Iommi and Woody.
Tom: Can you feel the love.
How have they influenced the band?
Ben: Well, we try to steal Tony Iommi’s riffs, and then just change them a little bit because we all love Black Sabbath. Sorry not steal, borrow. No wait, pay homage to.
Woody: I adored Sabbath, when I was 4 or 5 years of age.
Tom: If you listen to the album there are so many different influences. I mean we started off as Stoner / Doom project, but it’s become a lot more then that. We’ve got elements of thrash in there.
Woody: Yeah, all sorts really, thrash, oldschool..
Ben: I suppose the favourite musicians influence each members playing style, but then that comes together, and we make it our own.
What was your first ever show like?
Ben: Can’t remember!
Woody: Er, patchy.
Tom: I enjoyed it because it was the first time that I had seen ToL.
Ben: Oh, the first one was with Temple of Lies and The Kinnells? That’s about all I remember about that one really.
Woody: First gig, lots of nerves, just trying to get a good sound on stage.
Ben: We must have done something right because we’ve done 35 gigs since. It’s our 36th gig tonight.
Tom: Is it?
Ben: 36 in 3 years.
Tom: Does that include birthdays?
What do you hope to achieve with Mage?
Woody: Get a new guitar
Tom: Stay alive
Ben: A glorious death on stage.
Tom: I see, well, we obviously want different things Ben.
Ben: That’s it over now isn’t it.
Tom: Artistic differences.
Mark: Sell merchandise!
Tom: Yes!! To come up with most amazing merchandise ever!
Ben: Seriously though, just to play to as many people as possible, to carry on what we’re doing really and to continue enjoying it. We love it. Bigger and better.
Woody: More albums, more tours.
Tom: Well, a tour.
Woody: Sorry, a tour.
Tom: You’re getting confused now aren’t you about bands.
Do you have anything coming out soon EP / Album wise?
Ben: We will be recording in 2014 for an as yet unannounced thing. It’ll probably be an EP of sorts.
Tom: By doing that haven’t you just announced it?
Woody: In the process of sorting it out anyway.
Ben: So there will be new music near the start of the year, but in what form..
Woody: It could be thick and fast.
Tom: But like most people, we’re always looking to improve. So an improvement on previous recordings anyway, that’s the main thing.