Tailgunner - Interview

Ever since I gazed into the "New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal" world for the first time, I simply knew there was no turning back for me. Where my curiosity led me at the age of 20, I suddenly felt like I came to the right place where I was able to discover a plethora of amazing bands. As of recently, one of these amazing bands that was recommended to me by a friend, was Tailgunner from the UK, which has been around since 2022, and has released their debut album "Guns For Hire" on July 14th, 2023. The album was met with great response from fans and critics, with biggest points going to their songwriting and the excellent sound production done by legendary Olof Wikstrand of Enforcer. Tailgunner may be a new face in the NWOTHM scene, but they managed to reach some cult status among the younger generation of heavy metal fans, successfully exceeding their past works and quickly breaking into the new horizons. For this occasion, I've exchanged some words with the band's founding member and bassist Thomas "Bones" Hewson, where we talk about the band's history, their work on "Guns For Hire" album, the recent lineup changes and many things along the way.


Greetings Bones! First off, I'd like to wish you a warm welcome on behalf of the MetalBite crew! I would like to start things off by asking you a bit about the band's short history. How did all of you guys get together, especially Patrick who is a Dutchman and the rest of you are from the UK?

Thanks for having me! It took me a couple of years flyering in metal bars, guitar shops n' online to find the rest of the band. It was a really long, sometimes painful process. Patrick was already living in the UK though.

Could you tell us a bit about how you got in touch with Fireflash Records and also get signed to their band roster?

Markus, who is our label head is also a co-CEO of Atomic Fire, he knew about us from day one, when the label added our debut single to their Spotify playlist. We knew him and the label were keeping an eye on us, and it was a few months later when Markus ordered a copy of the independent version of our EP and a T-shirt, we thought it was time to get in touch. Straight away we were on the same page, and he's the guy we really wanted to work with even from day one, so it's really cool for that to now be a reality. There's so much experience there from the Nuclear Blast days, and working with Helloween, Accept, Manowar, Hammerfall… So many cool bands!

When someone mentions traditional heavy metal or heavy metal in general, there are so many great bands in the mainstream and the underground that people will mention. What bands were the biggest influences on you when you started out, specifically those that were of key importance to your songwriting, lyrical themes etc.?

The five key influences are Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Helloween, Megadeth and King Diamond… Though I could name hundreds of bands from the NWOBHM and around that time period!

Not a week has passed since your debut album "Guns For Hire" was released and it was already met with overwhelmingly positive reviews from fans and critics. I think it's safe to assume that Tailgunner basically has a lot ahead thanks to the album's success. How are you feeling now that the album is out? Were there high demands to perform at festivals or gigs in other countries?

The reaction to our album has been crazy, it's totally blown us away. It's been such a journey, I started writing that record back in 2018, so it's surreal now that it's out in the world. We're starting to book shows all over Europe in 2024 and we wanna play as many countries as possible next year.

I know it's not fair to ask a musician this question, but is there any Tailgunner song or perhaps songs that you really like a lot and for what reason? Which ones do you love to play live the most?

I love 'Guns For Hire'! That's the song I'm the most proud of. It was the second track I wrote for the band, so I knew the first wasn't a fluke!

Rose Tattoo have 'Rock N' Roll Outlaw', a song about being in the band and what this music means, and we have 'Guns For Hire'. It's about playing this music, and being a fan of this music in the current times. Taking no shit, standing with your backs to the wall, facing down the world… and not taking no shit from anyone!

I believe that one crucial contributing factor to Tailgunner's success that should be mentioned is Olof Wikstrand of Enforcer, with whom you've worked previously on your singles and EP "Crashdive", and now "Guns For Hire" as your latest output. How is it working with him, especially considering that Enforcer is one of the biggest heavy metal acts of the modern age and you're basically following the same footsteps as they do?

It's awesome to hear you think we're following that same path, I have a great respect for Enforcer and Olof. He did an awesome job engineering the album! It was really important we nailed the middle ground between a classic production, and also not being too lo-fi, still commercially viable. I love bands that sound like a demo from 1984, but that won't get you on the radio or whatever.

Since I already mentioned Enforcer, I am curious to know whether you've thought or perhaps spoken with Olof about the idea of an Enforcer/Tailgunner tour in US and Europe in the near future? Would you be on board with that idea?

I can't speak for them, but we're on the same booking agent, so I think a tour would be very possible - We both have new albums to tour too! We'd love to come to the US too.

Your longtime guitarist Patrick van der Völlering recently parted ways with Tailgunner before the album's release, but currently you have Rhea Thompson as the band's live/session guitarist with whom you've already done some shows. How did this sudden change affect you, especially since Patrick played with Tailgunner for 4 years?

Yeah, sadly we had to fire him. Rhea has done such an amazing job, n' people have taken to her so well too, she's killing it! The change has been really great for us, things are a lot less stressful now. We put up with a seemingly endless amount of bullshit from Patrick, the guy wouldn't even learn songs properly and Zach had to track most of his parts, I won't even go into everything, but we kept him just for the sake of keeping the band together and on track, but his actions in May were the final straw. It's really awesome having Rhea fill in, getting to hear those songs how they were written and with all the little harmonies and stuff! Plus she actually runs around on stage and really brings a show, something Patrick wouldn't do because he said the songs were too hard to both play and perform at the same time…

What are your current plans for the position of a second guitarist in the band?

We audition people this weekend, so let's see who the new guitarist will be! We'll make a decision very quickly, then likely make it public sometime before we head out on tour.

You are probably aware about the "New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal" and the fact that Tailgunner is considered a proud member of that family. Do you manage to follow up on the bands that are part of this NWOTHM? Are any of them your personal favorites?

It's funny, I don't necessarily consider us a part of that. It's a great scene, but I don't want people to have this impression that everything we do MUST sound like it's from 1986 or something, because I feel like that's already not the case with us, for instance our track Rebirth, that's a lot more modern sounding.

That being said, it isn't really up to me to decide how people see us!

I really like Enforcer, Riot City, Visigoth… They aren't considered part of that scene, but I must say Hellripper too, they're one of the best bands around.

Something that I admire the most about traditional heavy metal bands, including Tailgunner, is the fact that songs have a ton of simplicity, catchiness, melody and expression. Tell me a bit about the songwriting process behind Tailgunner's songs, what do you guys focus on the most when coming up with new material?

On the first record, we didn't really collaborate. I wrote 9 of the 10 tracks, with Craig rounding out the album with Rebirth. So it was really a case of showing the guys what I'm working on and getting a feel for if it's something we think is good enough to work on, and to record.

For me, the melody is the most important, it has to be memorable. I think there's a lot of bands that play great music, but it's a slightly worse version of something that's been done before. People might say that about us, but I don't think we sound specifically like any one band, so having that unique identity is also extremely important. We went through a process before recording the album that if anything sounded too much like another band in feel, we'd scrap it.

Are there any specific rules that you apply to your music or do you just let everything flow naturally?

Just don't sound too much like another band. It's more than fine for people to know exactly who our influences are, but we don't want to be ripping anyone off. It's funny, as some reviews mention the album's gallops, probably because our name is Tailgunner, but there's actually no gallops on the whole record!

This might be a weird question to ask, but considering that you're coming from the UK which has a very rich and famous history surrounding heavy metal music, especially the NWOBHM, do you think that this fact in some way contributes to the band's status? Do you feel proud knowing that you come from a country that gave birth to such a genre?

100% - and we lean into it HARD. Britain has been waiting a very long time for a band like us. Like KK Downing said to us, he's been waiting since Def Leppard for a band like us to come along, and we're extremely proud of that, and feel like we have a duty and a responsibility to uphold the metal tradition on this island. We're extremely proud of the rich history with Sabbath, Maiden, Priest, Motörhead, Venom and others.

Thank you so much for doing this interview, Bones! I am looking forward to hearing more great stuff from Tailgunner in the future. Are there any final words you'd like to leave to your fans?

We hope to come play for you all! Ask your local metal festivals N' Heavy Metal for eternity!

Entered: 8/4/2023 8:29:33 AM

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