INTERVIEW WITH SCREAMING EAGLES
Date: October 31, 2015
TWO FOR TWO. THAT IS THE SCREAMING EAGLES’ TALLY AFTER DELIVERING TWO SPECTACULAR ALBUMS TO DATE. THE RATHER SMALL COUNTRY OF NORTHERN IRELAND APPEARS TO HAVE A GIANT ON ITS HANDS AS THE SCREAMING EAGLES HAVE ALREADY PROVEN THAT THEY CAN INDEED DELIVER CLASSIC KICK ASS ROCK N’ ROLL. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH ALL FOUR MEMBERS OF THE SCREAMING EAGLES TO COVER EVERYTHING FROM THEIR NEW ALBUM ‘STAND UP AND BE COUNTED’ TO THEIR NEW VIDEO FOR THE SONG “BREAKIN’ ALL THE RULES” TO THE BAND MEMBERS’ NICKNAMES.
Sleaze Roxx: You have a new video that is about to be released for the song “Breakin’ All The Rules.” Who came up with and what was the idea behind the video?
Chris Fry: It was an idea that came up from a lot of ideas we threw around between us. We always try to make fun and interesting videos and hopefully that’s what will come across. The storyline was changing right up until the day of the shoot but the core of the video never really changed. The idea is of a Reservoir Dogs-esque scenario with a Mr. Big and some low-life gangsters (i.e. the band!). We got an actor/friend of ours called Graeme Woodcock to feature in the video and bring an extra dimension to it, which really worked in the end. It was shot in an old warehouse in an area of Belfast where the Titanic was built. It has a massive indoor space and was freezing cold — perfect conditions! One of the guys at the warehouse had an old 1960s American car, which we were able to use as a backdrop to the performance footage. When he started it up, we nearly suffocated from the fumes! We worked with Phil Matier and Tristan Crowe who did the video for “Save Me” a few months back — very talented guys.
Sleaze Roxx: What made you pick ‘Breakin’ All The Rules’ to be the next song to get the video treatment?
Chris Fry: We’d originally planned to have “Breakin’ All The Rules” as our first release off ‘Stand Up And Be Counted’ as we thought it had real potential as a single, but after some deliberation we decided to go for “Save Me”, as it represented the album a bit more. So “Breakin’” was the logical choice for the next single as it shows a totally different dimension to our sound in terms of vocal harmonies. It’s a great rock n’ roll song with a straight ahead beat. We experimented with some different guitars and it came out really well. We’re really proud of it. In fact, it was one of the last songs we wrote in the weeks running up to the recording and we didn’t know if it would cut the mustard in the end. We were proved wrong.
Sleaze Roxx: I think that Screaming Eagles have proved to have a sense of humour with their videos and I am thinking in particular of the debut video for “Rock N Roll Soul” and even “Breakin’ All The Rules” to some extent. Do you agree and if so, is this intentional on the band’s part?
Chris Fry: We’re a fun lovin’ bunch of guys and I think that always comes across, not just in the videos, but hopefully in our live performances too. We’re not exactly four De Niro’s so you ain’t gonna get too many decent dramatic performances in…. And as long as I get my bottle of Buckfast in, I’ll be happy! We see too many videos that are just performance based, which in truth gets quite boring after a while. So we try and mix it up a bit. We are always up for a bit of acting but I have to say that some us just ain’t cut out for it [laughs]. Check out Adrian’s acting in the “Rock N’ Roll Soul” video [laughs]! The hard part is coming up with an idea or a story for the video. It doesn’t necessarily have to link up to the song’s lyrics — just look good visually and be interesting. It’s usually Kyle who brainstorms all the ideas for the videos. I sometimes wonder where he got the idea for robbing banks and fire breathing transvestites…
Sleaze Roxx: Usually, the songs for a band’s first album have been kicking around for a long time which explains why debut albums are often really good. In the Screaming Eagles’ case, your debut album ‘From The Flames’ was actually written in only four months while your sophomore effort was written in 14 months. Can you please compare the writing process for each album and which Screaming Eagles album do each of you prefer?
Chris Fry: We approached this album a lot differently than the first one — in my case anyway. ‘From The Flames’ was my first venture into song writing. The guys had a lot of ideas already floating around when I joined, lots of riffs and bits and pieces from songs of their previous band, so everything was already there and came together pretty fast. Adrian, Kyle and Ryan had ideas on how the music for the songs would be arranged. They had been waiting on an opportunity to break free of the constraints of previous bands and just play the songs the way they wanted. I came into that set-up, wrote the lyrics, pitched in my own ideas and the end result was ‘From The Flames.’ On ‘Stand Up And Be Counted,’ I had a little more experience and maturity going into the writing process and I think it came across in the songs. We were very aware that this was our “difficult” second album. However, we were able not to get side-tracked and focused on the task at hand of writing another batch of great songs — ones that would show that we had progressed as a band and that we would get a kick out of playing live.
Our producer Ross Cullen also had a major influence on the songs when we got to the studio. We did some pre-production about a month before recording to give him an idea on where we were at with the songs. During recording, some of those songs drastically changed in the studio, in particular “Streets of Gold” and “Get Out While I’m Ahead.” “Streets of Gold” originally didn’t have the sweeping half-time chorus. It was up-tempo like the rest of the song and realistically didn’t fit with the vibe of the song. Ross was able to watch from the side and advise where we were going wrong and how we could improve the songs. He is a true genius of recording and song writing. We had some heated exchanges with him in the studio over song arrangements, chord progressions, lyrics — everything in fact! But this is what you have to do to be able to come up with a great record. It was all worth it in the end. As for preferred albums, of course we’re all gonna say the new one’s better.
[Interviewer’s note: All three other Screaming Eagles members nod in approval]
Chris Fry: …although I’ll always have a soft spot for our debut.
Sleaze Roxx: Who came up with the title for the new album and what was the idea behind it?
Ryan Lilly: In my experience and probably the rest of the guys would agree, the titling and running order of the tracks and certainly album title etc can be deliberated over for quite some time, and right up until we went to print, these details changed back and forth. This part is normally the last phase of the process for writing/releasing a new record. In my own opinion, one can get a little too caught up in how important the title is — as let’s face it — ultimately, the tracks will be judged on their own merit so I don’t necessarily buy into how important an album title is. Of course, we want it to be cool. We want it to obviously have some meaning for us as a band but it’s not the be all and end all. There was a lot of good ideas and concepts and a lot of rubbish as well. Getting four guys reading off the same page can be quite difficult as although rock music is our one common denominator, individually we are quite different in personality.. So at first, we had a lot of fun laughing at each other’s ideas and suggestions. Eventually, we whittled away the crap and we short listed a selection that we were all at least “OK” with. One of the track titles is called ‘Stand Up And Be Counted’ and from memory, I believe this one was on my list of suggestions. Having a relatively successful debut did put a little more pressure on this release and we felt that we had something to prove as we were being touted as newcomer kingpins of our wee country… Now was the time to actually stand up and be counted, prove our metal — no pun intended — and show our fans, peers and the industry that we could cut it. It just fitted perfectly and we all liked it… So there you have it!
Sleaze Roxx: For each of you, what is your favourite track on ‘Stand Up And Be Counted’ and why?
Ryan Lilly: This is a difficult question as all of us have changed our minds numerous times on what we consider to be our favourite tracks — and our favourites are certainly no indication of what we think will be popular with the fans or critics. It’s purely a personal thing.
Chris Fry: My favourite track is “Get Out While I’m Ahead.” I really enjoy singing it, especially the chorus. I also like the arrangement of the track, which offers a little light and shade between verse and chorus. This gives me the opportunity to reign it in and then go full throttle.
Ryan Lilly: Chris doesn’t always tell us exactly what his lyrics mean or signify as he prefers to let the fans take what he says and apply it to something personal in their own lives.
Kyle Cruikshank: I also enjoy “Get Out While I’m Ahead.” I like this track mostly because of the rhythm and beat. For me, it sits right in that groove pocket and I particularly enjoy the chorus vocal as I get to do a little warbling myself on it. For some reason, it’s the song that when it comes on and I’m driving in my car, it makes me wanna turn it up, put the pedal to the floor, air-drum the steering wheel and escape from normal life.
Adrian McAleenan: I like “Stand Up And Be Counted.” This is the first track on the album and it was intentionally put there to slap you right in the face and get your attention. It probably has the quickest tempo of all the tracks. It’s simply full on, no let up, hard rock. That one and “Save Me” — I can’t decide right now. “Save Me” is on one of our heavier offerings and I really enjoy the Drop-D which gives it that extra pounding beef. It’s just a great riff and it has lots of little hooks here and there.
Ryan Lilly: I have probably changed my mind the most on what track I would consider to be my favourite and there’s been a few. I find a lot will depend on my mood at any given time. Again, “Get Out While I’m Ahead” has possibly the best guitar solo on the record for me. It reminds me of something like Slash would have written. The tone is beautiful and I love how it crescendos. But having played “Screaming Eagles” live a number of times now, that’s got to be it. I really like the sampling of the WWll fighter jets during the breakdown and the gang vocals from all of us during the chorus. It makes me a little moist… It’s actually weird putting it into words. It’s just how it makes me feel I guess, which is what good music really should do after all.
Sleaze Roxx: The song “Chase You Down” has a funky rhythm sound to it that is quite different from the other tracks on ‘Stand Up And Be Counted.’ In a recent interview, Ryan indicated that he could not wait to see how the track was received. What has been the reception to “Chase You Down” thus far and will there be more songs in that direction in the future?
Ryan Lilly: “Chase You Down” didn’t start out like what we recorded. I think of all the tracks we demoed in preproduction, this one morphed the most from its original shape and sound to what became the finished track. You’d be right describing it as having a funky rhythm, more so than any other track. This was by no means intentional. We didn’t sit round with our producer and be like, “Yeah! Let’s get all funk on this.” We did try a few things which didn’t work, and more or less, you know instantly if something isn’t going to work. It is a little different from what we have recorded previously and we think it shows an extra dimension to our song writing but importantly, it still has the essence of rock — no doubt about that! The track hasn’t really been featured or singled out as yet — just played live a few times — but it has always went down well whenever we have played it. There’s something for everyone on this record. I can tell you we won’t be concentrating on this style of writing in the future, but I can’t say it won’t happen again. We don’t write songs with a preconceived idea of how it should sound. It literally flows out of us in rehearsal headquarters, and if we like it, it will make the cut. It’s as simple as that.
Sleaze Roxx: What has been and/or do you think will be the impact of Screaming Eagles’ licensing agreement with Sony Music Pictures in the US?
Ryan Lilly: Firstly, Wow! This was real a shock, but in a mega kind of way. We didn’t actually believe it at first so we were a little sceptical. They contacted us directly through social media, not via our label or our manager so we thought, “Yeah right. Someone’s playing with us.” But no, it was real. To say we were elated would be the understatement of the year. It really was a special moment for four guys from little Northern Ireland sitting down to watch the first episode of the hit series ‘Justified’ and hearing our track “Rock N’ Roll Soul” being featured — surreal actually. The thing is, there’s so many bands out there trying to forge a path in this industry, so many really good bands… It becomes ridiculously hard to get anywhere, especially with these huge corporations. In terms of sales, due to the sheer volume of viewers the show has amassed, we did see a huge spike in downloads and album sales off the back of the show, and still now we are shipping albums to America. This is no doubt down to this exposure. I’m sure almost everyone has heard a song clip or track to a show or a movie and felt the need to search for it. It’s not even just about the sales. It’s getting that proverbial foot in the door. We’re on their radar now and whoever else has noticed that we don’t yet know about. It also carries some weight being able to use it as a selling point in terms of getting better slots on the festival circuits as not everyone can say that! I think it’s fair to say that it’s probably our greatest achievement so far on the Screaming Eagles journey, which we hope has only just begun — so watch out, we’re coming!
Sleaze Roxx: In my mind and I may be mistaken, Northern Ireland has never been a hotbed for rock and roll bands. What was or is the music scene like in Northern Ireland?
Kyle Cruikshank: You could be forgiven for thinking that! We are a small country but we have had quite a few local acts breaking through internationally — the likes of Snow Patrol, Therapy, Van Morrisson, The Answer, Devine Comedy, Mamas Boys and Stiff Little Fingers to name but a few have all done well. There is a very vibrant local scene in Northern Ireland but it is a lot harder for local bands to break through as very little talent scouts or record companies actually visit Northern Ireland. Most local bands need to travel to the UK mainland to be seen by the right people. This all costs money so bands really have to be focused and properly managed in order to make this happen. The local live scene is thriving at the minute with great venues such as The Limelight and The Diamond Rock Club. We played The Limelight last week with two other great bands — Gasoline Outlaws and Baleful Creed. There was a massive turnout and we could see that rock n roll was alive and well in Northern Ireland.
Sleaze Roxx: The band’s name is Screaming Eagles but your group’s nickname is “Screagles.” How did you come up with the band’s name and how did the nickname “Screagles” come about?
Kyle Cruikshank: It took us ages to come up with a name that we all liked. Adrian came up with Eagles Scream after a Motorhead lyric and we just flipped it round to Screaming Eagles as it sounded cooler. I think Chris can take the credit for that one. We later found out about the Screaming Eagles Airborne Division from World War 2 and we wrote a song about them called Screaming Eagles, which features on our new album ‘Stand Up And Be Counted.’ The nickname “Screagles” came from Chris registering our name on Twitter and just shortening the full name to “Screagles”, it seems to have caught on with our fans!
Sleaze Roxx: I noticed that the Screaming Eagles’ manager Roy Galpin is apparently based in Trenton, Ontario, Canada which is only about one hour and a half from Toronto where I am based out of but quite far from Northern Ireland where you guys are at [laughs]. How and when did Screaming Eagles and Roy Galpin join forces?
Kyle Cruikshank: Roy seemed to have stumbled upon us online when we self-released our debut album ‘From The Flames’ and he really loved our music — so much so that he spent a lot of his own time trying to get our music heard by others. He never asked for a penny and he has worked damn hard contacting blogs, reviewers, magazines, radio stations, etc. In fact, he has been our biggest asset from day one. Roy has done more for us than anyone and all just because he believes in us. He is great at getting results, has a great knowledge of the music business, he’s passionate and doesn’t take no for an answer. We decided that there is no one else who could do the job better.
Sleaze Roxx: Given that your manager is based in Canada, when can I expect Screaming Eagles to play in Canada and the US [laughs]?
Adrian McAleenan: [Laughs] Watch this space man! At the minute, we are getting some really good airplay in the US and Canada. That is entirely down to [manager] Roy [Galpin]. We’ve recently done a number of interviews with radio stations in LA and Oklahoma in the US with in particular one with Brady Benton who has been a great supporter of the band for both albums. Roy is looking into getting us over for shows at some point. Rocklahoma Festival has been mentioned but nothing confirmed yet. It obviously takes a lot of dollars to get a band over from Belfast to the US and Canada, but we are working on that at the moment. The US and Canada are great markets for us and we have doing very well there in terms of record sales, especially after Sony Pictures picked up “Rock N Roll Soul” for Justified. That helped immensely. In fact, we recently learned we had over 55,000 streams and downloads of our debut album ‘From The Flames’ in the last eight months. The rock DJ Luc Carl has also been kind to the band with some really nice comments recently. Hopefully, we’ll get some airplay with him and increase our profile over there.
Sleaze Roxx: This might seem like a strange question [laughs] but Ryan and Kyle, both of you do not have the typical rock and roll look with your bald or shaved heads and clean cut looks compared to Adrian and Chris who have longer hair and in Chris’ case, a scruffy beard [laughs]. Does this lack of a rock and roll look ever translate into funny situations for the both of you such as people not believing that you are part of the Screaming Eagles?
Adrian McAleenan: I’m gonna answer this one on behalf of the guys! Firstly, don’t be fooled into thinking they have shaved heads. They are as bald as two snooker balls [laughs]! Yeah, me and Chris certainly have that scruffy rock n’ roll look compared to the other guys, but you only have to look at rock bands out there and see that there’s a lot of short-haired guys in rock n’ roll. It hasn’t done us any harm! I don’t think anyone has really pointed this out before so it hasn’t been something we’ve had to think about.
Sleaze Roxx: I tried to come up with at least one question that you had not heard before [laughs]!
Adrian McAleenan: Our looks are one thing but our passion for rock n’ roll is the main thing. In terms of funny situations, I have to say the funniest things that happen are within the band itself and what we call in Ireland “slagging” each other or taking the mickey out of each other. There are several nicknames for each band member — some we might get arrested for if we put in print!
Sleaze Roxx: You can’t leave me and the Sleaze Roxx readers hanging like that [laughs]! You have to at least tell us the nicknames that are “printable” and how those nicknames came to be! It would be even better if you just told everyone all the nicknames and the stories behind each one [laughs]!
Adrian McAleenan: OK. OK. I can give some of the less controversial ones away. Ryan — his nickname is “Baz” in the band as his name was once misprinted in a paper as “Brian Lilly”. Over here, anyone called Brian usually gets referred to as Baz! “Slug” is one of my many nicknames in the band. I think Kyle coined the phrase as on tour, I usually spend a lot of time sleeping wrapped in a quilt and apparently look like a slug! Kyle — honestly the nicknames we give Kyle are unprintable. I don’t want you to be sued by anyone [laughs]. Chris doesn’t really have any nicknames other than “Fry.” We’ll have to think of something more offensive!
Sleaze Roxx: Last question for each of you — what are your favorite albums of all-time and why? I am going to go out on a very small limb by predicting that Adrian will have at least one AC/DC album in his top three [laughs] but maybe Adrian, you’ll surprise me?
Adrian McAleenan: Well predicted! Yeah. My favourite album of all-time is probably [AC/DC’s] ‘Highway To Hell’ followed by [AC/DC’s] ‘Back In Black’ and then [Guns N’ Roses’] ‘Appetite For Destruction’ — unbelievable rock albums!
Chris Fry: My top three are ‘Powerage’ by AC/DC, Pearl Jam’s self-titled album and Audioslave’s self-titled album.
Kyle Cruikshank: My top three are ‘Thriller’ by Michael Jackson, ‘Euphoria Morning’ by Chris Cornell and ‘Hysteria’ by Def Leppard. ‘Thriller’ is just an amazing album. It has it all — groove and grit. Michael Jackson was also a fantastic entertainer. ‘Euphoria Morning’ has some amazing singing and songs from the Soundgarden frontman, It was a big departure from the sound of Soundgarden. Def Leppard’s ‘Hysteria’ is such a massive sounding album. I think this was the first ever digital album and the production and feel is just immense and still sounds great today.
Ryan Lilly: I am going to name five of them — the ‘Black Album’ by Metallica, ‘Appetite [For Destruction’] by Guns N’ Roses, ‘Who Cares A Lot’ by Faith No More, ‘Cowboys From Hell’ from Pantera and ‘Nevermind’ from Nirvana.
Sleaze Roxx: And what are your reasons why you pick those albums? But let’s keep it to the first three.
Ryan Lilly: Metallica’s ‘Black Album’ was my first real proper listen to a full Metallica album — obviously apart from hearing other tracks here and there. The first thing I remember was thinking the sound was far superior compared to their earlier stuff and the first two tracks — ‘Enter Sandman” and “Sad But True” — literally had me banging my head like an eejit. It is possibly one of my most played records and so much so that I probably wouldn’t intentionally put it on now, but if it came on shuffle, it would make me smile. This record made me want to acquire their entire catalogue, and hence sealed my love for this band — probably my favourite band ever. Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Appetite For Destruction’ is famous and widely regarded as one of the best debut studio albums by any rock band in its era. The artwork was cool too! So, it’s not surprising I was caught up in the hype. What makes a brilliant record? For me — it’s if you put it on random on your player, you won’t care which track comes on and you will listen to every one without skipping. Slash happens to be one of, if not, my favourite guitar player there has been. That’s a whole new debate right there!
Faith No More’s ‘Who Cares A Lot’ is a best of compilation. The band toured with the aforementioned acts. The music is not mainstream rock like Ac/DC, Metallica or Guns N’ Roses. It had quite a strong punk element to it. Some tracks were really off the wall but the songs made me feel… What it was — I find it hard to put into words — but it made me feel all warm and fuzzy, so to speak. It has all the cream that their catalogue didn’t always offer apart from standout tracks on each of their albums, so this captures the best tracks of a band that excited me. I really like the production and mixes of their songs, and Billy Gould’s bass is quite prominent and he pounds his bass something shocking!