The Answer are cleaning their horizon

Spending a year and a half on the roads and seas of the globe alongside AC/DC is bound to leave a few marks. So even if the career of The Answer shot off at top speed with their high-ranking album Rise, the band had to ask themselves a few questions regarding their evolution sooner than anticipated – at the end of the Revival tour, to be precise. That’s just one of the many things Cormac Neeson explains in the following interview, conducted shortly after the release of New Horizon and after the band have decided to become emancipated by changing many of the people working with them.

A new era is starting for the Northern Irish musicians, who love rock’n’roll so much they’re constantly paying homage to it through their songs, and who were lucky enough to work with Storm Thorgerson, the almost mythical artist behind several famous cover artworks, among which Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon. They tell us how this man and his way of working impressed them, and how they see the future of a young band that has already lived many things and wouldn’t want its career to come to an abrupt halt. Although Irish people are said to be headstrong, they’re still keeping a lucid eye on the future.

« After we released Revival, we toured about eight or nine months and we kind of got to the end of that cycle. […] The worst thing we could possibly have done was to just continue in the same manner. »

Radio Metal: A lot of things have changed within The Answer’s team. You have a new management, live booking agents a new record label. What triggered this change?

Cormac Neeson (singer): I suppose after we released Revival, we toured about eight or nine months and we kind of got to the end of that cycle. For the first time in the band’s career, we were kind of treading water a little bit, you know? And we’ve been together for over ten years and it has always been step by step, getting kind of bigger and better with every step along the way but then, for the very first time, we had a kind of plateau. We realized that the worst thing we could possibly have done was to just continue in the same manner and keep everything standing as it was, because we realized that something needed to change. We had a band meeting and we said that we needed to really shake things up. And we made some tough decisions and parted ways with people we’ve been working with for quite a while, you know? But as tough as those decisions were, it was nonetheless necessary. Even doing the way we wrote the songs for his record, we thought: “Let’s make a clean break here” and making hard decisions for the greater good, and hopefully send the band on its way for the next few years.

How are things now, how can you describe this new organization you have?

Well, it’s an excellent place to be right now and in The Answer, we’ve got a great new record and a motivated team of people working for us and… Yeah, it’s a good place to be, we’re excited about the future and confident that we’ve made the right call, back a year and a half ago. We’re just optimistic about the future!

The album is entitled « New Horizon ». I guess this is a metaphor for the band’s will of change…

It is, yeah. Again, I think we channeled our late experiences into this record. I think that the situation in the band and everything else that’s going on in the team has actually helped to give the record a sharper edge and a bit more aggression than the last record. You know, it packs a punch, and it’s a mix of statements about where the band is at and where we want to get to.

The artwork of the album was one of the very last realizations, if not the last one, of Storm Thorgerson who passed away recently. How do you feel about that?

We obviously feel honored that Storm agreed to work on our album in the first place. It’s obviously a mass of loss for the music world, for popular music, popular culture, because Storm was such a massive part of that over the last forty five years basically. We’ve nonetheless feel very grateful that we got to experience how a genius like that works and goes about his process. It was quite inspiring just to see how thorough he was, with regard to listening to the record, interviewing band members to get a full picture of what kind of people we are and the identity of the band. And then, coming up with ten different concepts, anyone of which could have been a great album cover! Unfortunately, we had to pick just the one. Album covers is something we’ve kind of struggle with in the past, and there never seemed to be that many great ideas floating around, that would kind of sum up what we were trying to say through our music. But Storm, after talking to us for a few days, was able to come up with ten unbelievable concepts. We’re just really honored that we got to experience, first-hand, about how a man of his stature goes about a project.

« By the end of the last album we felt that we needed to break free from those shackles and literally spread our wings, you know? (Laughs) »

On the artwork, we can see four birds flying away from a cage. I guess you guys are those four birds, but what does the cage represent. From what did you break free?

From what we’ve talked about, how we thought we needed things to change and it’s just that general environment we were working in. By the end of the last album we felt that we needed to break free from those shackles and literally spread our wings, you know? (Laughs) And as a matter of fact, we spread our wings. And anybody, at least that has made changes for the better, will know how much of a release it is, whenever you’ve made those difficult decisions that you encounter on your way. And the record cover obviously symbolizes breaking free from those shackles and looking forward to what lays ahead, the new horizons that lay ahead, you know?

The videoclip for « Spectacular » shows the typical vision people have for rock’n’roll parties. A lot of bands have already done video clips like that, why did you choose this theme particularly?

One decision we made was regards to making a video that we wanted to have, you know, you have kind of stereotypical rockers in the background, which has be done many times before, but I mean, the video that we shot was pretty much a true representation of any party on the Friday night in Belfast, any house party in Northern Ireland! So, we really wanted to convey. It’s an upbeat rock’n’roll song that deserves to be portrayed in that manner. It’s just loud young people listening to a band and having a good time, you know? Drinking some alcohol and make a night, you know? It’s not rocket-science but at the same time, it captures the spirit of what rock’n’roll music is all about.

Your debut album had an incredible response and had immediately great sales. How can you explain that?

I’m not entirely sure, but we obviously have utmost belief in the music that we make and we feel that as a band we deserve to be kind of right up there, at the half level, because it’s honest, soulful music, and whether it’s rock’n’roll or not, it’s from the heart. I appreciate any musician, or artist, or band who play from the heart and play with passion, and obviously love what they do, you know?.

« It’s honest, soulful music, and whether it’s rock’n’roll or not, it’s from the heart. »

You toured for two years with AC/DC. What are the concrete repercussions of such a tour?

We definitely learned a lot of a year and a half with AC/DC. I think we’re a much more professional outfit, now that we’ve come out of the shade because, you know, you have to! I mean it’s a lot of fun but you really have to be quite disciplined to endure so many shows for such a lengthy tour across the entire globe, basically. So you really need to have your shit together, for lack of a better term. You know, I think our live shows have benefited greatly from watching a band like AC/DC work a crowd of up to a hundred thousands of people every night, at The Stade De France for example! You know, you just learn a lot, we’re the kind of band who definitely learn from every experience that we go through, and we shook it all in, and had to become bigger and better people for that experience!

OK, that will be all for us. Do have one last thing to say?

Yeah, just looking forward to getting over to France at the end of November and playing in Paris, Strasbourg and Lyon, and had some great experiences in France and we’re just looking forward to getting back out there, and play all our new music for all you good people!

Interview conducted by phone on Septembre, 9th 2013 by Metal’O Phil.
Transcription: Amphisbaena.
Introduction: Amphisbaena.

The Answer’s official website: www.theanswer.ie

Album New Horizon, out since October, 8th 2013 via Napalm Records.

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