By Scott Birnie
Hot off the UK summer circuit, I managed to catch up with Wil Ray, frontman for English rock upstarts Max Raptor. With only a few years' experience and one album under their belt they are rapidly carving a path on the punk rock scene. A musical onslaught of power and precision with howling vocals, these guys are proving to be an example of how to bring the underground out of the clubs and onto the festival main stage. So in preparation for their sophomore album, due for release Mid 2013 I thought I'd get his opinion on the UK scene, what he thinks NZ and when are they bringing the sing along down under...
Wil! How long have you been together?
We got two dates with Billy Talent in 2009 and that sort of kick-started our campaign, it gave us the boot up the arse we needed because before that we were sort of one off gigging, recording bits and bobs and not really moving in any direction. So about 3/4 years.
I guess thanks to Billy Talent! How did Max Raptor come to be?
Matt (Bass), Pete (drums) and I went to school together and Chris lives in London. Matt met Chris through some gigs we played pre-2009 and we're just working on the second album. The two original members left a few years ago to pursue family life... and all around us the people we went to school with are starting families, settling down and we're rolling around in fields all summer on the festival circuit. That's life for us and couldn't think of anything better.
I've noticed you have been talking about a new album, when can we expect it and what can we expect from it?
Our first offering 'Portraits' was exactly that, sort of sketches of modern Britain warts and all. The next will sound different but it's not all going to be bright and airy... it will be dark, heavy-fast punk, full of energy, excitement, a bit of naive hope, power, current issues and songs about the past rearing its ugly head in today's society. We could have tried to repeat 'Portraits' but the album is stand alone and we want that to be the first part of the series.
What was it like touring with punk legends the Stranglers?
Massive, top guys too... massive inspiration to us. They've been going for 30+ years and for them to be selling out Hammersmith Apollo all those years later is testament to their song writing and their originality. They diversified punk in a time when Punk was King. They went against the grain and didn't give a shit, they were violent, intelligent, and political. I'd like to think we do that. There's not a lot we do that others are doing at the minute, we want to write about issues happening around us. Then at the very least we can look at ourselves in the mirror. There are so many bands at the minute who sing about 'things'... what these 'things' are god only knows... good luck to em.
You have played Leeds and Reading and Download festivals lately, how have you found playing major festivals?
Festivals. There are some amazing ones all over the UK. The weather can attempt to ruin it but for example, 2000 Trees in Cheltenham last year saw rivers of mud. It was mental, there were bins floating through the tents but it didn't matter. We used it to our advantage, the pits became sort of slippery circles with instant death if you fell over. There was a guy who looked like Phantom of the Opera or a 50/50 man. Like the bloke in Close Encounters of the Third kind when he looks at that spaceship but instead of an alien glow it was with mud. Yeah you get the idea, yeah we love festivals. Reading and Leeds this year smashed it. Big pits, crowd singing all the words, the perfect show. Download was insane too, and it's just up the road from us.
You are really gaining momentum on the festival scene in the UK, have you heard of Rhythm and Vines?
Yeah, looks like a great festival. NZ isn't just about sheep and hobbits then, much like people thinking Dick Van Dyke and cows make up the UK. The Black Seeds I'd definitely go and see them and I'm sure I've seen Tame Impala on the festival circuit somewhere in the UK. Either way looks like a right good time...
Who is Barney Hall, can you explain what that was all about?
Ha, Barney Hall is a 16 year old boy who went to a show (not our show) in London that was covered by Kerrang! Magazine. In their music of the week section they snagged Barney after the show and asked him who he'd been listening to. Kind Barney said, Max Raptor's 'Portraits' album. We found him online and said thanks and sent him a tee, his mates then started their own campaign by typing the words "Barney Hall" on every bit of social media we stuck out there, video comments, threads on forums, Barney Hall's name would come up. Then there was a discussion about "where should Max Raptor play?" and someone suggested Barney Hall's bedroom. I accepted the offer but challenged them to get an impossible 1000 people in 3 days to join a group to support it. Next day we were like, "ohhhhh shit, the group has the people and we're playing in this kid's bedroom. We chucked all our gear into a van, took down a sound guy and a camera man and played a set in Tooting, London which was watched live by 3,500 people on the net. So much fun and then Barney's mother made us dinner. Such a good day and way better treatment than most venues in the UK.
What should we expect from a Max Raptor show when you make it to our shores?
Chaos, riffery, crowdsurfing, surfing inflatables and then we'll need people to show us around. We actually want to see the places we play in not just helicopter in and out of venues.
What does the future hold for MR?
A guided tour around the North and South Islands of New Zealand, hopefully some live appearances on your shores and maybe we'll find a kiwi version of Barney Hall and come and play in your house?? New album and a load of touring.
How will the new album differ from portraits?
Portraits was about people and this one is about people. Little stories I've made up about the real life and what could be around the corner for everyone. It feels like we've written a sort of extension of Portraits, but with more balls, more maturity and a bit more experience. We had a sort of Fagin, Jack the Ripper's London theme going on in our heads. Iit's heavy, catchy and chaotic. THERE'S EVEN A BALLAD on there!!!! Don't worry, I wont grow my hair long and bash the piano keys with fingerless gloves. It just seems to wrap it all up.
How have max Raptor grown from then to now?
I have some white hairs, other than that we're the same... my Grandad had white hair at 30, I have 3 years. We always have what we're about in the back of our minds. Our fans have become more raucous and make the shows, we just love playing more I guess.
Are you planning to tour outside the UK in support of the new album?
Depends who wants us and if Matt has any international sanctions against him. We know of two plans to go abroad, fingers crossed!
What are your current tour obligations?
We are obliged to turn up, play, have a fucking great time. We head out over the summer in the UK, then again in September for the release of our first FULL LENGTH album!! Every year seems to have something exciting in it but this year will be a massive decider.
What can we as fans expect from the new album?
Some surprises, it's in a similar vein but there's something more exciting underneath. Portraits and this album will be like a Brother and Sister.
Max Raptor is one of many rock acts plying their trade on the festival scene. It's hard to look past the simplicity of what a few musicians coupled with instruments and seasoned with a tonne of passion can bring to feel of the experience. When it comes to getting a crowd on their feet, arms in the air and screaming along with the chorus there is nothing better, and Max Raptor are doing it by the boot load. See for yourself what all the fuss is about.