In just over a year since their formation, York alternative rock five-piece A Joker’s Rage have gained a following in many cities, released an EP and supported big bands like The Darkness. They are about to release their next EP, Black Sheep.
The members – Zakky Boy Taylor, Adam “Twiggy” Gauton, Al Scott, Geordie Ginface and Matt “Bam Bam” Collinge – are no stranger to the stage, having played with other bands local to this city in the past. For example, Zakky was previously the lead vocalist in sleaze rock band Kid Ego and Al was in the metal band With One Last Breath.
Ahead of the release of their Black Sheep EP, Zakky told Arts York about how the band gained popularity, gave some insight into the band’s new EP and explained a little about that black and white face paint – the #GameFace – they wear on stage.
Q: How hard is it to be from York, get a rock band going and gain a following? Feel free talk about your experience in Kid Ego as well as A Joker’s Rage if you like.
A: It was certainly a lot easier seven years ago. Over the last decade the popularity of learning instruments and starting bands has spread faster than the clap. Of course at first you rely on your friends to come and support you regardless of whether they genuinely like it or not but they often have a ton of other friends in bands who they have to spread their support to as well. It’s extremely tough right now for anybody to gain a solid following.
Q: What is it about A Joker’s Rage that attracts fans from York and beyond?
A: Well based on the subject of the previous question, we certainly didn’t just want to rely on our social popularity and friends and family etc. We knew if we wanted to take this shit seriously we had to go old school and light ourselves up so people can clearly separate the good from the dross. There are many fantastic bands locally and we are very proud to be part of the York music scene, however it’s no secret that we go above and beyond most when it comes to our live show.
“I write riddles and poems more than songs so we don’t expect people to understand the meanings behind the words they sing along to.”
I’d love to say “It’s because people can relate to our music and the words we sing” but that would be bullshit. I write riddles and poems more than songs so we don’t expect people to understand the meanings behind the words they sing along to. I think they are attracted to the theatrics of everything we do. Somewhere over the last twenty years the visual aspect of a live show got lazy. It was suddenly normal and cool to just walk on stage in the same clothes you went for lunch with your mum in earlier that day whilst finishing off a packet of pickled onion Monster Munch, plug in and say “how ya doing, this song is called…” Our show is a fucking Show!
Q: You said that writing the Black Sheep EP was the only way to deal with hatred, revenge and jealousy. What was causing you to feel that way?
A: Not too long ago was one of the worst periods of my life. I know the other guys faced some hard and challenging times too. Our batteries were low, personally my soul felt like it had been sucked out of me by Bette Midler in that Hocus Pocus movie. I felt betrayed by certain people in my life who I’ve bent over backwards for. It really put me in a dark place that heightened my sense of danger and suddenly all I could see was the dark side of everything and everyone. I knew the only way to gain closure and perspective on the issues that were draining the life out of me was to either lash out and destroy everything in my path in the physical world or to embrace these dark emotions and put ink on the paper. Thankfully the latter has proved to be therapeutic for me in the past and poses a lot less risk of going to jail. So that’s what I did. The guys in the band seemed to understand where the music was going spiritually and tuned right in. It was written very naturally.
A: I think it’s heavier. The guitars and bass sound a lot meatier. We’ve still got that diversity throughout the record so I think there’s something for everybody but I would say it’s generally darker and heavier. I also think it’s a lot more interesting as a musician. Matt and I would love to go back and actually re-work some of the tracks on the Masquerade for the future.
Q: What inspired you all to wear the #GameFace on stage?
A: We didn’t want to be ourselves. What is exciting about seeing that guy who serves you in the bank looking the same way on stage? More importantly #GameFace represents an escape. It’s about not following the herd and not trying to ‘fit in’ to anyone else’s society. Some of the guys in A Joker’s Rage are the quietest, most modest and self-conscious people I’ve ever met. They put that #GameFace on and they become gods!
Q: After touring cities around the UK, how does it feel when you come back to play in York?
A: We love it. As much as it is an achievement to tour and create fans in different parts of the country or world even, you must never forget where you came from and those fans who started it all back home. The York music scene is leagues above many of the big cities we’ve played in and we’re lucky to have a place in it. Our home town fans are a part of A Joker’s Rage. We’re family.
“Our home town fans are part of A Joker’s Rage. We’re family.”
Q: What was the best experience you have had as a band while on tour?
A: We soak up all the good experiences on tour. You have to in order to remind yourself why you do it. At this level you’re certainly not rewarded financially and you’re sacrificing time with your family, loved ones and careers that do make you money. Chasing the ‘dream’ of becoming a famous rock star isn’t enough by far anymore. It’s about embracing that feeling of unity and appreciating strangers coming and telling you how much they loved your art. We’ve all done the cliché rock and roll debauchery. But frankly I find talking about how many drugs you’ve taken or women you’ve fucked extremely tedious and weak. How does that inspire anyone?
Q: And what was the worst?
A: We do a cover of ‘California Love’ by Dr Dre and Tupac. I like to get into the crowd and go bat shit crazy during that song. If my mic cable will reach I always jump on the bar and dance my way down it. During one particular performance in Harrogate, the bar was very wet and slippy! I think you can guess what happened. Thank God it was the last song in the set because I went home with bruised ribs, a concussion and a very bruised ego.
Q: After the release of your EP, what have you got planned next?
A: We’re hoping to shoot some more videos very soon. Not just music videos but short films even. We’re collaborating with some very talented locals who we consider family. The writing process has begun for our debut album and we’re aiming for a summer 2015 release which means the recording process is likely to start soon in the new year.
Q: What advice would you give to other bands in York that want to follow in your footsteps?
A: Well, first of all, don’t follow in our footsteps too much! It’s important these bands believe in themselves and their objectives enough to create their own path. There are so many bands that focus so much on what everybody else is doing that they don’t know who they are anymore. They just become good at imitating others. Never be afraid to be different! never be afraid to be hated! Be true to yourself and what really makes you tick creatively. Don’t rely on ANYBODY to make things happen for you and never be sensitive about rejection. Use disappointment and other other emotions as fuel for your fire!