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Sunday, 18 December 2016

The Spotlight: Interview With Lionize (Interview By Paul)

Before the Clutch gig in Cardiff, we were lucky enough to have ten minutes to chat to the band’s bassist Henry ‘Hank’ Upton.

Interviewing bands isn’t as glamorous as you might imagine and we conducted the interview in the luxurious setting of an alley outside the venue, next to the service lift which was in constant use during the interview. Still, we soldier on and Hank was the most engaging and charming dude. We started off by asking Hank about his musical influences.

Hank: “I started out really into funk music. My favourite band was and still is Parliament [legendary funk band from New Jersey led by George Clinton in the 1970s]. I liked Parliament and James Brown and The Mears. I thought funk was the coolest thing when I was growing up, and then I got into classic rock around high school. Because we were in the DC area we heard a lot of Go-go [funk sub-genre which originated in DC in the 1960s and 70s] like Chuck Brown and stuff and that came into the funk world too. Then through Nate [Nathan Bergman – Lionize vocals and guitarist], Nate had a giant reggae collection and was super into reggae so through Nate I got very into reggae … and the classic rock stuff was always there; so basically, all of those things”.

We moved on to talk about Steel Pulse, the legendary reggae band from Handsworth, Birmingham. Hank wasn’t aware of the huge reggae scene in Cardiff so we put him right on that and then asked him how Lionize’s relationship with Steel Pulse had started.

Hank: “Well, we were already fans of Steel Pulse and we got a gig opening for them in the DC area. We got to talk to them a bit … and for whatever reason they took a liking to us. We were different at that time as we were playing on reggae bills, with more reggae elements but we were still playing riffs, doing more of the heavier stuff; what you might call rock reggae you know. I think we were different and just sort of developed a friendship with those guys. They were there last night, hanging out actually”

MOM: “Oh really, of course, you played the Institute last night didn’t you”.

Hank: “Yeah, in Birmingham. They live in Birmingham and Selwyn and Griz from Pulse came out last night and that was awesome. They are actual living legends. It’s a crazy thing”.

Next up on the list of questions was to discuss Clutch. Lionize go way back with them and are on Clutch’s Weathermaker label. We asked how touring with Clutch was.

Hank: “Well, at this point, I just think of them as our friends and these tours are always the most fun tours you can do; they are arguably the best band on the planet. They have the smartest lyrics of any band and we just get along very well with them. They really took us under their wing and taught us a lot, helped us immensely and continue to do so and we are just very fortunate to have developed that relationship”.

When we mentioned that Clutch are finally getting recognition Hank laughed “Yeah, they are a 25-year overnight success!”

It was quite surprising to find that Lionize played at the infamous annual GWAR-B-Q in Richmond in 2012. We asked Hank what that was like and how they went down.

Hank: “It’s wacky. They do it by this lake, in a mini water park and a camp ground … and there is all sorts of interesting people around and GWAR fans are interesting people. I loved GWAR since I was a kid actually, so the shows, their shows are always crazy and everyone there is just the most intense GWAR fans. We did get a good reception; most of the bands there were way more metal than we were but yeah, we did get a good reception”.

With five albums and three EPs under their belt, including this year’s EP The Voyage, we asked Hank what was next musically for the band.

Hank: “We’ve already written a whole record, which when we get home we are going to record and hope to release it around Summer 2017”.

Disappointingly the band hadn’t had chance to get a look at our fair City, which is hardly surprising given their intense schedule so we moved onto our final question, the inevitable “which is your favourite sheep?” [for the uninitiated, the interviewee is presented with a poster of British Sheep and asked to select their favourite].

Hank: [perusing the poster] “you can judge them by just their appearance but then you have to take into account their names … I’m taking this seriously, I think the North Ronaldsey, he’s stately, the sheep ambassador!”

So there you have it. A warm and engaging guy, our massive thanks to Hank for giving up his time prior to the show to talk to us.

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