Thank you! My name’s Phil and I’m the lead vocalist / rhythm guitarist in the band.
Final Coil came together, as far as the present incarnation is concerned, in 2008 when Richard and I started working together on songs that we’d originally worked on a few years before, when I was at University in Leicester. Jola joined us quite quickly, a few months after we first decided to do something I think, and then we went through the usual trials and tribulations of trying to find the right drummer. From there, we started to work on developing our sound and this we did through a number of recordings – Live With Doubt (an electric and grungy beginning), Somnambulant (the roots of our darker, proggier sound) and Closed to the Light (which attracted the attention of WormHoleDeath). In between, we honed our skills by playing any and every show we could, taking to every sticky stage we could find, braving mis-placed electrics, late-night line-ups, promoters of dodgy repute and, one case, a stage that shut down every time Rich or I decided to jump (which is often!) It was a great learning curve and, for all the chaos, a lot of fun!
When did you decide you wanted to be in a band?
Well, I grew up in the 80s and I think it was a time when music was really at the forefront of people’s minds. Bands like Queen, Europe, Genesis and Pink Floyd all regularly charted, cereals would give away stickers with rock and pop stars on (so much hairspray!) and, by the end of the decade, Guns ‘n’ Roses and Metallica were pretty much the biggest bands in the world. I would listen to all this stuff because my step-dad ran a little independent disco and he had boxes and boxes of vinyl, so I’d rummage through checking out Iron Maiden, Queen, Status Quo… all that good stuff.
I don’t think, at that time, I had it in mind to be in a band or anything like that (although I was a pretty mean air-guitarist), but when Nirvana came along that was it for me. I was hooked. I spent my early teenage years just hunting around independent record shops searching for bands like Mudhoney, Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers, Tad… and remember that this was pre-internet, so a lot of this stuff was hard to find. Anyway, it was Nirvana that made me want to pick up a guitar and it was Alice in Chains that taught me to play (I spent hours working through the Unplugged video). I loved the punk spirit of those bands, I loved how they were open and honest and occasionally shambolic on stage. The energy and passion with which they played spoke to me in a way that nothing else had up to that point and I knew then that I had to form a band – it was a compulsion and I’ve never lost that feeling.
What is different about being a musician than you imagined?
Well, I don’t know it’s exactly different, because for the most part I love everything that comes with making music and everything from playing live to recording has lived up to my expectations. However, I would say that, as the band has grown, the work that goes into getting the name out there - getting better shows and getting coverage (reviews / interviews and so on) - has become a much larger part of running a band than I had expected. I’m lucky because I have a huge amount of help and support, both from our label (WormHoleDeath) and from our management team here in the UK (Imperative), and it’s just as well, because I’m not sure I’d know where to start otherwise. But, I would say that’s the biggest difference.
What gear do you use and why?
I’ve gone through a number of different gear configurations, but for my current on-stage sound I use a Gibson Les Paul loaded with P90 pick-ups. People are always surprised by just how growly it sounds when I crank it up. It’s diverse, too, because you can get some really nice clean tones and, with the songs I write, that’s important. In terms of amps, I use Marshalls because, like my guitar, they get the perfect balance between lush clean tones and super-heavy distortion. Also, Marshall amps are the best for taking pedals. We use a lot of effects (I have a Boss BCB 60 board with a nice selection of Boss pedals – distortion, delay (the DD20), chorus, a looper pedal and an RV6 reverb pedal) because it’s the best way to capture the range of sounds we have on our studio recordings. Along with all that, I use Line 6 wireless gear because it’s the best for value vs reliability.
At home I have a selection of guitars, mostly Les Paul types, although I have an Epiphone Genesis which is very versatile thanks to its coil-tapped pick-ups; and I also have a Yamaha Pacifica, which I’ve had forever, and which is my go-to guitar for demoing. I also have a Peavey Bravo 112 which is a nice, 20W valve combo, which gets good tones. For synths, I use the Roland Aira range – the TR8 for drums, the System 1 as my main keyboard and the TB-3 for random bass noise. I am terrible for collecting gear and our spare room does look a little like the stock room of our local music store!
What music do you listen to that would surprise people?
We all have our own unique tastes in the band and I think it’s fairly obvious that I love grunge and prog, but it may not be quite so obvious that I’m a huge fan of bands like Darkthrone. What attracted me to black metal was the purity of the music. Darkthrone and their ilk record on lo-fi equipment and release music untainted by commercialism. It’s raw, it’s unpleasant and it’s almost as if they’ve made their name in spite of themselves. I can’t imagine anyone listening to Final Coil and hearing any connection to black metal save for the fact that we’ve always made the music that we wanted to hear. We have never tried to please a particular group of people or ape a particular sound and so, in that sense, that purity is there. So yeah, I imagine people would be pretty surprised at my love of black metal.
How do we find your music and merch to buy?
You can find us through the WormHoleDeath page, the Aural music store, Amazon, Spotify, iTunes, bandcamp (www.finalcoilrock.bandcamp.com) and pretty much any other outlet you could care to name.
How did you get a record deal?
It was crazy. We had been ticking along for a few years, gigging wherever and whenever possible when our drummer at the time left (we think he was kidnapped by Sardinian cheese-merchants, but we’ve made no attempt to clarify the matter). Anyhow, we bought in a new guy, Tony, and to bed him in we recorded an EP – Closed to the Light. It picked up a few really positive reviews and somehow it reached the ears of Wahoomi, who would later become our producer in Italy. He said that, if we wanted, he would share our EP with WormHoleDeath and I was delighted – I knew the label because of a great band called The Way Of Purity – although I figured we’d probably not be heavy enough. I should have given them more credit because the label manager, Carlo, is incredibly diverse in his tastes and, after speaking with both him and Wahoomi, they convinced me that WormHoleDeath was the perfect home for us. So, we signed a contract and we’ve never looked back. The label is very supportive - everyone I’ve met or spoken with on the team are dedicated, friendly and focused and they have given us amazing artistic freedom. WormHoleDeath gave us the platform to do what we wanted, they advised us on the best approaches and they put our record out there – it’s been fantastic.
What bands do people compare your music to?
For Persistence of Memory, our debut, we were lucky enough to get a lot of reviews and I think it says a lot about the diversity of the material that every reviewer seems to hear it in a different way. The most common reference points are Tool, A Perfect Circle, Pink Floyd and Alice in Chains but I’ve seen an awful lot of other names and genres thrown around as well and I really like that, because it suggests that we are (I hope) developing in our own unique way. I think if reviews consistently said that we sounded like X, then I’d almost be disappointed because it would suggest that we’re too caught up in our influences to offer something original and that’s really important to me.
It comes, I guess, from having such a wide-range of tastes in the band – it draws the music in different directions, so while I’ll agree that you’ll hear reference points throughout (and at this stage, with music being so ubiquitous, how could you not?), I’m very happy that each reviewer hears the album according to their own strengths and interests and that they haven’t simply pin-pointed one band, style or sound to which they think we adhere.
Are you pro Spotify / streaming services? Or do you think it hurts sales?
This is a tough one. I’ll start by saying that I understand the convenience of streaming and if that’s how people choose to find music, then fair enough.
For me, I hate the entire concept of streaming. It reduces music to a fast-food-style-delivery, background hum that people simply take for granted. Before this whole thing took off, one of the many elements that was so attractive in music was hearing a record, in full, for the first time. It was also a part of the attraction that, having heard the single, you had to wait for the album to be released and, on top of that, until you could get to a store to buy it. Now it’s just dumped on line for all to see with little more thought than you’d give to a flyer advertising insurance. How can anyone be expected to care about that which is permanently and freely available? Streaming neuters the experience of listening to music. It neuters the artwork and leaves it flat and lifeless in a 300x300 square on a phone you’re probably not even looking at. It’s consumption without thought and it renders a great artform as aural wallpaper.
I understand that some people do stream and *then* buy the album if they really like it. I understand the convenience of trying before you buy (we’ve all got dodgy albums in our collection that we’d rather not have bought… I get it!) but the problem is, even more than when the singles market was at its peak, it reduces to sequencing their records so that the ‘best tracks’ come first (surely every track on the album should be a best track?) and it leaves bands going for identikit production values to make sure they’re not disadvantaged when played alongside the next big thing.
So, no, I don’t like streaming. I’m not going to go into the commercial side of it, because that’s been pretty well covered in the last few weeks, but for me, it is a most dissolute way to experience something as nuanced and human as music can be when created outside of commercial interest and a desire for ‘hits’.
What’s the ultimate goal for the band?
There isn’t one and there never has been. Together and separately we make music because it’s something that we love to do. We didn’t expect to sign to a label or play festivals (which is not the same as to say that we didn’t hope to do that, of course), so each step just naturally leads to the next. When we were approached by WormHoleDeath, we were in a state of shock – why us? How would it work? Would we live up to expectations? But we had to trust that they knew what they were doing when they approached us and, of course, to have the opportunity to present our music to a global audience was too good to refuse. So, we signed with the label and worked on our first album and immediately I knew that I wanted to do a second record. I already had ideas in place and I just wanted to go back into the studio. It was so much fun.
So, right now, you could say that the goal is to make a second album… but after that, I don’t know. We’ll take this as far as our listeners are gracious enough to let us, but we’ll be making music in one form or another, I suspect, for the rest of our lives. Certainly for me, making music is too much a part of who I am to do anything else, so I’ll always be doing something. But I have no goals and no expectations – just a desire to always do more and the faith to allow it to lead me where it will.
Will we see you tour?
Absolutely. We’re very busy working on the follow up to Persistence of Memory right now, but the plan is to bring our music and our show to anyone and everyone that we can. I love playing live and there’s something amazing that happens when the four of us get in a room together. Recording is exciting in a certain way, but playing live is just a transcendental experience, so we are looking to get out on the road and in 2019.
Who would you love to tour with?
I think each of us would have a very different set of answers to this one but for me the opportunity to tour with Alice in Chains would be an absolute dream come true. Their music is incredibly special… timeless I would say… and I love the fact that they were able to come together once again in the wake of losing their brother, Layne, and continue their artistic journey. I never got to see them play with Layne, which is a great shame, but I have seen them a few times with William and the chemistry that he has with the rest of the band is amazing. I believe that bringing Alice in Chains back has proved to be an important part of the healing process for the rest of the band, and the energy that they have is inspiring. To share a stage with Alice in Chains would be truly special.
What is your favorite song of yours and why?
In terms of what’s out there already, I’d say Failed Light. I’ve told this story a few times, but I woke up with that song in my head. I could hear the melody and I could hear the way it could be augmented as the song progressed, so I leapt out of bed and disappeared into our spare room (I have a PC with Ableton for demo purposes) and I was there for the next eight hours. I think Jola was surprised because she would pop in from time to time and ask me if I wanted to eat and I’d grunt in a non-committal way and carry on. Anyway, it was dark when I finally came to an end, with the song pretty much complete and I couldn’t believe how much time had passed. I remember playing it to Rich and he said it was the most complete demo I’d produced up until that point, and I’d agree. Mostly my demos are good starting points, but the band colour it in their own way, but for Failed Light, the demo and the final version are very similar. It’s an epic and I like to think it takes the listener on a journey and I’m really happy with the way it turned out.
Why should people take the time to listen to your band over the thousands of other bands?
I’m a music fan first and foremost and that’s such a tough question because there are myriad bands that I would love to scream from the rooftops about. However, I think your question nailed it – we’re a band that people need to take a little time to listen to. We’re not that instant and we’ve tried to make something atmospheric and ambitious that has longevity. We’re deeply passionate about what we do and I believe that if people take the time to listen to our music, they’ll find something that has depth and that will continue to resonate with them for a long time to come. One review, in particular, stuck with me – it said: “A ride through the crowded city centre with Final Coil in the player…the view from the car window becomes a view into another world…” and that really sums up what we wanted to achieve. We want to transport our listeners, to take them away from their everyday lives and, if listeners give us that chance, I think they’ll find it’s a trip worth taking.
What are your favorite music websites / labels / podcast etc.
There are so many music websites out there for people to check out and it’s hard to list them all because, inevitably, I’ll forget someone, and they’ll feel aggrieved. What I would say is for your readers to check out the press archive on our website (http://www.finalcoil.com/?page_id=348). All of our reviews are there, and we are so incredibly grateful to every site and to every writer who has been good enough to lend their time and check us out. It means the world to us and that’s why I don’t want to start a list here and miss someone out.
In terms of labels, well obviously WormHoleDeath, because they showed faith in us and took us under their wing. They have a great roster too, and we’re proud to be a part of it. Other labels that I really like include the mighty Sub Pop, Peaceville, Nuclear Blast, Holy Roar, Pelagic and there’s a new one (which is super-cool) called Buzzhowl, who are well worth checking out. There’s also Nefarious Industries, who just have the coolest and most diverse roster – I’ve yet to hear a bad band from them – and they are just brilliant. It’s labels like Nefarious who give you faith that, even as the world seems to be increasingly homogenised and commercialised, there are people out there who have the interest and the enthusiasm to make something that is unique and interesting. They also know the value of packaging the music creatively and that’s really important. I’m sure I’ve missed a number of other great labels out there but essentially, I dig labels that are passionate about what they do and who take the trouble to support the artists in making great music that is more than simply a ‘unit’ to be sold.
Is imagery important to you? Do you judge albums by the cover?
It’s exceptionally important. I don’t judge albums by their cover – there are too many good albums with shoddy covers for that to work - but I have bought albums by bands I’d not heard of previously because they had great cover-art and, to this point, I’ve not been disappointed by my choices. Certainly I bought albums such as The Catheters: Static Delusions and Stone-Still Days; Caravan: in the land of grey and pink; King Crimson: In the court of the Crimson King and Paradise Lost’s Draconian Times that way – it was a great way to discover new music in a pre-internet age and my judgement served me well.
So, yeah. I think that artwork is incredibly important and, when we set about recording our debut, it was essential to me (and to the rest of the band) that we have the best possible artwork. It’s an extension, I think, of the music itself. There’s nothing more disappointing than buying an album and getting it home to find a single page card insert with a band picture and the credits just dropped on it. I think that if you’re truly a fan of music, you’re also a fan of the art that goes with it. Who can forget album covers by the likes of Hipgnosis for Pink Floyd, Travis Smith for Opeth or Geiger for Celtic Frost / Triptykon? Those bands both looked and sounded majestic and their artwork, for many, is a huge part of the experience of listening to those records. For sure there are many bands who don’t care so much and who still make great music… but for me, offering fans a complete package is very important. Fortunately, we were able to work with Andy Pilkingon, one of the best independent artists around, and he created artwork for Persistence of Memory that is simply jaw-dropping.
If you could choose a cover song your band mates would hate, what would it be?
Hahahaha – Oh I don’t know! One of the great things about Final Coil is that everyone is very diverse in their tastes, so it’s not as easy as you may think to choose something that the three other guys would all hate *and* that I’d love. There’s also the fact that there’s a great sense of humour in the band, so they’d probably take any wild suggestion with a certain degree of humour alongside a certain scepticism so, yeah, it’d be a challenge. I always really liked the idea of doing a super-heavy version of Peter Gabriel’s Intruder, and Jola’s not a fan, so maybe that might raise a few eyebrows… and I guess everyone would throw something at me if I suggested a Nirvana cover, but that’s more that they’re so overplayed rather than because anyone in the band has a problem with Nirvana.
Is the record or live show more important?
Honestly, I don’t think it can be as black and white as that. Each is its own entity. The way that we like to record is that we like to be as ambitious as possible, so you’ll get those banks of layered harmonies and you’ll get different guitar lines and elements worked into the song that, short of touring with a band the size of latter-day Pink Floyd, we could never hope to re-create live. So, on record, it’s very ambitious and detailed and it’s a different experience because, when you’re at home, listening to music *is* a different experience.
On stage, we prefer it to be a much more visceral experience. The songs are still the same, in terms of melody and structure, but they’re delivered in a much more organic, raw form. People are often surprised at the intensity of the live show, but when you’re on stage and you’re in the moment anything can happen and that’s the awesome power of music. Pretty much all my favourite bands approached their live show differently to recording (and that’s why tracking down live albums by Nirvana or Pearl Jam or Tool is so cool) and I think that’s great. Of course it’s going to look and feel different on stage – or you’d hope so. If not, then you’re not much better than a band playing to a backing track! So, I see the live show and the record as different sides of the coin, they’re different, but they’re both equally important.
Name 3 people dead or alive you would want to play your music for.
Oh man – another tough question that would probably get a completely different answer depending on when you asked it!
Well, it’s an odd one, perhaps, but when I was growing up it was my dream to have something played by John Peel. He was amazing. He had so much enthusiasm for so much different music – everything from Dreadzone to Napalm Death – and he taught me a lot about the importance of having an open mind and not tying yourself to genre. So, it would be amazing to have the seal of approval from him. I think that the UK music scene lost a great supporter when John passed away and I don’t think anyone has really stepped up to take his place. He was unique.
I think it would be amazing to play in front of someone like Neil Young because he’s so totally wrapped up in the concept of music as an artform and, as anyone would wish their musical heroes to admire their own work, I’d love to play something for him. Neil Young is one of the few huge stars who still plays like it’s his first day behind the guitar. I don’t mean in terms of technique, but in terms of raw enthusiasm for what he does and that can only come from playing exactly what you want for yourself and for no one else. I see Neil Young as a great artist, and not just a great guitar player, and I’d like to think that he might recognise the passion in what we do.
I guess, as a final choice, I’d go for someone a bit leftfield like Martin Bisi. If you’ve not come across Martin, he has produced an amazingly diverse list of bands including one of my favourite ever Swans’ releases, Sonic Youth, Cop Shoot Cop, Helmet and more… he’s just this quiet, amazingly influential guy working from a studio that has produced some of *the* great records of the last century and I would like to think that he would see the energy and passion in the band and consider giving it life on record.
Lemmy, Ozzy, Dio and Rob Halford in a cage match – who wins?
Oh dear – well, Lemmy is just brutal – he’s got that raw punk energy, so he’d probably be unpredictable as hell. Ozzy may well bite the head of something, but a human head is pretty damn big… Dio, I strongly suspect, is possessed of magical powers (it certainly seemed that way in Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny) and Rob Halford would probably bring along a motorbike and a ton of spikes with which he could do a fair bit of damage… Yep, it’s tough, but I think in this particular, blood-spattered pile up, you’ve got to go with Lemmy. The guy was like a human Panzer tank, but I think I’d prefer it if the four teamed up for a rock off… now that’s something you’d want to see!
photo credit : Ester Segarra.