Canadian rockers Monster Truck have been tearing up stages and making fans around the world these last few years, and just this week, they released their third album, “True Rockers” (read my review).
The band’s keyboardist Brandon Bliss recently took some time out of his schedule to answer some of my questions for Rock And Roll. Huge thanks to Brandon, and huge thanks to the band for another awesome release.
Congratulations on the new album. I listened to True Rockers over and over again last week before I wrote my review, and I loved it. If you were going to describe your music to someone who hadn’t listened to the band before, what would you say?
Brandon Bliss: I don’t think the rest of the band agrees with me, but I always say it’s a mix of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine.
What were your feelings and state of mind when you put together this album? Did you have a theme in mind or a certain kind of vibe were you going for?
BB: We wrote most of it while touring the last album, so we were mostly in the state of mind of a travelling rock band. We really have our own style that has got us to where we are and is what people have grown to love about us, and we have a mentality of maintaining that and building upon it. And we’re proud of that and we love it too, so we really don’t wanna stray too far from that. Having said that, there are a couple songs that were written later and are attempting to do something a little different, but I think that’s healthy and doesn’t mess with the overall classic Monster Truck vibe of the album.
How do the tracks usually come together? Do you write separately or as a group? And, has that process changed over the band’s career?
BB: It’s been pretty much the same the whole time. Jon or Jer will have a riff that they bring to the band. Then we jam it and demo it and over the course of 5 or 10 jams we usually have the arrangement. Jon writes the lyrics, sometimes before, sometimes after.
How did Monster Truck come together, originally?
BB: From the music scene in Hamilton — we played in bands together or our bands played together. We were all connected to the same general group of music friends in Hamilton. It was maybe April 2009, and at a party one night it was suggested that there should be classic rock style band with Hammond organ in it. I wasn’t at the party but I got a call the next day, as no one else really plays Hammond. I think the first jam was a week or two after that.
When you look back at the last few years, with the release of the Brown EP in 2011, and then Furiosity, Sittin’ Heavy, and now True Rockers, with the band touring so much and so widely in the last few years, what are your thoughts on that journey for the band? Was this the plan all along, or are you sort of astonished at where you are now? Are you happy with where your band is at right now?
BB: I think starting around the Brown EP it became our intention to tour a lot and have a go at making it our job. We’d been through that with previous bands and/or worked with other bands who were doing that so we definitely had a consciousness of what we wanted to do and how to do it. Obviously some things change as time passes. From a wide perspective, when I look back at all we’ve done and seen, I am astonished to a degree. But never was I astonished during the process. I’m so inside of it and it’s constant work to keep the band functioning and moving forward… not really an astonishing place tbh haha. It’s harder to see the beauty of a sailing ship when you’re on deck pulling ropes and setting sails. But I’m definitely happy with where we are. We’ve done a lot of work establishing ourselves and finding our place and now we can use that as a base to grow and expand from.
One of my favourite tracks on the new album is “Undone”. It’s such a powerful tune. Can you talk about the inspiration behind that song?
BB: Any good rock band and album has some slower songs to change the pace. We always want to have that and this is that for True Rockers. I can’t really comment too much on the lyrical inspiration because I didn’t write them. Obviously there’s an emotional side to feeling ‘undone’ and I think those emotions are better accentuated in slower songs or ballads. I have always sad songs and ballads so this is one of my more favourite songs on the album too.
“Undone” reminded me of “For the Sun” from Furiosity – it has that slow-burning intensity and emotion – which is one of my all-time favourite tracks by any band, ever. (And I’d like to add for those who haven’t seen you live that you do a smoking hot version of it live.) Do you have any favourite tunes from the new album or previous albums that you particularly love to play live?
BB: To be honest, I really love playing most of these new songs. I feel like I personally really expanded my playing and my sound and it’s represented on this album much more so than on any of our previous albums. True Rocker and Thunderstruck definitely come to my mind first.
I saw you in Vancouver at The Commodore a while back, The Temperance Movement opened for you, and it was a stomping good show from start to finish. You have a very dedicated following in Canada with some great fans turning up at shows. Do you find that you are getting that kind of following in Europe too?
BB: Yeah I feel like that’s happening more and more every time we come over. It’s definitely become a big priority of ours for a while now to come often and grow the band there. We noticed pretty quickly how great the fans and the rock scene was and we just wanted to become as much a part of it as we can. And we also love Europe and the culture there. North America sucks in comparison! Haha.
Monster Truck is heading out on another European tour this fall and winter, but also played some gigs at home in Canada this year. What are your thoughts on the difference between touring Europe and touring in Canada and the US?
BB: To be honest, European fans are much more dedicated and sure of themselves. They might not like your new album as much as an old one, but they still keep coming back every time you show up. Can’t say the same for it over here. North Americans are a lot more unsure of what they like and change their tastes more often. I think that’s not just musically but culturally as well. North America is a loud mouthed know-it-all teenager and Europe is a mature adult who let’s it’s actions and achievements speak for themselves.
What were the albums or bands or musicians that first really got you hooked on music and made you want to play and be on stage?
BB: As long as I can remember I’ve loved the Beatles. I still watch the same videos and listen to the same albums I have my entire life. I had completely taken control of my parents record player and records by age 5. Then when I was a teenager there was a really great DIY punk scene in my town. We were putting on our own shows in church basements and rec halls every week or two. Lots of cool bands came from there and went out and toured Canada and America and showed the rest of the kids in our scene that was a possibility. I never knew how special and influential that was at the time, but without that I really don’t believe I would have got to where I am today.
I hear so many people say rock is dead. I don’t agree because I see so many new bands making outstanding music, and obviously bands like Monster Truck are proof rock is very much alive, but do you have any thoughts on that, and that kind of nostalgia for the “good music of the past” that often seems to go with it?
BB: Honestly, it’s definitely not as popular and influential as it has been in the past. I think it’s at an all-time low really. Yes there are great bands and lots of great and dedicated fans, but we have to be realistic that things are not what they used to be. It’s not only other types of music, it’s entertainment and society in general. Home entertainment is so great nowadays that a lot less people feel the need to go out to enjoy themselves. And obviously the internet has put literally anything you want at your fingertips. Am I worried that rock music will die? Definitely not. But I think we can strengthen it by being more conscious and dedicated in supporting it, which really only means listening to the songs and albums and going to the shows. It’s really that simple. Can people do that? I don’t know. I really should note that I feel this is much bigger of an issue in North America than it is in other places in the world. Especially Europe, which is why we wanna come there so much!
If you could mention any particular high points of your music career so far, what would they be? And hey, if you have any “craziest moments” or “worst moments”, I’d love for you to mention those too!
BB: For me in particular, touring with Deep Purple and making friends and learning from Don Airey is definitely at the top. They are such legends and Don is such a wonderful guy, not to mention a completely spectacular player, it really doesn’t get any better than that. Especially for a rock and roll keyboard player! However, touring with and getting to know Slash and Alice In Chains isn’t too far behind.
If you could give any advice to young musicians starting out in the business, what would you say?
BB: Don’t do it!! Kidding. But to be honest, only do it if you really love it and are enjoying it. If you’re doing it for fame or money, you could be in for disappointment. It’s a shady business filled with way too much ego and attitudes. But maybe that’s your thing? Know that you or your band is the product and that it doesn’t exist without you. But also know that most people behind the scenes are gonna make more money than you!
What music, what bands or albums, are you listening to right now, whether it’s new music or something old?
BB: I’ve started DJing, doing a classic rock night at my friend’s bar in town. So through building my tracks and playlists I’ve been digging through all the classics from all the eras and really enjoying that. It’s really invigorated my love for the history of modern music and where it’s all come from. So cool to see the way it grew from 50s to 60s to 70s and beyond. Also that Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack is really great as has led me to some lesser known stuff that’s great. Discovered the Raspberries there… So good. Been digging everything Steve Winwood lately. I also have been into some more ambient and electronic stuff lately, I went to see Jon Hopkins the other night and had my mind completely blown! I get too bored if I listen to anything that sounds too much the same these days. I find it hard to listen to whole albums even, the modern streaming world has got me hooked on playlists.
Again, thank you so much for this!
BB: You’re welcome!