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theroseofavalanche2023 02Interview with

Phil Morris (vocals), Alan Davies (bass guitar), Glenn Shultz (guitar), David Wolfenden (guitar) and Mark Thompson (drums) from The Rose of Avalanche

It’s a Thursday evening and I’m sitting upstairs in the private section of one of Leeds great institutions: The Grove pub with another great Leeds institution: THE ROSE OF AVALANCHE were originally founded in 1984 by Phil Morris (vocals) Alan Davis (bass guitar) and Paul James Berry (guitar). With awesome tracks like ‘LA Rain’ and ‘Velveteen’, THE ROSE OF AVALANCHE were a well-loved band in the 80s and released four albums, before going their separate ways in 1992.

Fans were delighted when speculation of them reforming, came to fruition in 2019, with the original five piece line-up of Phil, Alan, Paul, Glenn Schultz and Mark Thompson. They received positive comments on their Facebook page, from as far away as Japan. In May 2020, the band was looking forward to supporting THE MISSION for their UK tour, but when Covid 19 hit, the tour was postponed until 2022. The fans enthusiasm for the band, never waned, though. In fact, when the tour did take place last year, not only did their existing fans rave about their performance, but the Leeds based band, gained quite a few new ones.

After the tour Paul left to continue his own successful solo career and was replaced with the legendary David “Wolfie” Wolfenden of RED LORRY YELLOW LORRY and THE MISSION fame. The unique Gothic Rock crossover style appeals to a wide audience and the band’s sense of humour comes through on stage. Whether it is Phil crooning a couple of lines of an REM track between songs, or an impromptu extended jam from the rest of the lads, THE ROSE OF AVALANCHE always give a spectacular performance. Ahead of their rehearsal, for Tomorrow’s Ghost’s Festival, Phil, Alan, Glenn, Mark and Wolfie, chat about touring, their new single and tennis racket air guitars.

Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: You guys are obviously in a different place than when we first met, how do you feel about the reception you have received.
Alan: It’s extremely gratifying. You are going to get a different reception at every gig you play, but it’s been amazing for me and a much better experience than the first time round playing THE MISSION tour in particular. We played to a lot of people, including a lot who weren’t particularly familiar with us - and whilst we didn’t always get a huge ovation when we walked on stage,  we won them over and I thought that was really something special.
Glenn: What you were saying about it being better than the first time round, I’d echo that. The order of magnitude, everything about it. It’s a lot more relaxed as well.

RoD: You weren’t getting beer thrown at you for being the support band cos they all want to watch the main act then.
Glenn: Yeah, well I think the way I remember it, we lived entirely on us (our) nerves - it was stress!
Wolfie: I think it’s because you’ve chosen to do it now, not because you’re forced to do it. Cos you’ve chosen to do it, it’s like a pleasure to do it and music should be a pleasure to do.

RoD: I think that now, bands who’ve reformed, they look like they are enjoying themselves on stage and are doing it because they want to be there - not because they are chasing a dream of fame and fortune.
Alan: Certainly feels like that - definitely. It’s a second crack at something, isn’t it.
Wolfie: Going back a while, I’d go out boozing on a Saturday night and I’d see Phil in Northern Guitars (café) and that and we do go back a long way. I’d say to him: “Come on, when are you getting ROSE back together?” and he’d kind of laugh but I could see a kind of twinkle in his eye and he was thinking, “Well should I or shouldn’t I?” (laughs). I used to say, “But what’s the worst thing that could happen? You might actually enjoy it, and have a lot of fun, because your expectations are completely different to what they used to be, you know like - you know - back then, trying to look where you are in the indie charts and all the things that we’ve been through, but it isn’t like that anymore.

RoD: Is there still an indie chart?
Wolfie: There is actually still an indie chart. It’s on Apple, they publish the indie chart. The only band that I’d heard of was THE NATIONAL - whereas it used to like THE SMITHS or NEW ORDER or THE CRAMPS or something. I mean I do quite like THE NATIONAL but it was the only band I recognised!

RoD: So Wolfie did you listen to these guys when they were first around?
Wolfie: Yeah, I played with them once before, but I don’t think I was in a good space to do it. I think when something dissolves - whether it’s a relationship or a band, you have to just sort of stand back from it and just sort of feel the shock of it dissolving and then kind of come up with a plan. I think it was just the wrong time cos things had changed for them a lot and things had changed for me a lot so it wasn’t a good time to do it, whereas now it feels like it is a good time to do it.

RoD: Oh so you played with ROSE OF AVALANCHE before?
Wolfie: Yeah, a long while back,  but I think they were going through a state of transition and I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to do it or not, cos I was totally drained.

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RoD: So did you all have any projects between ROSE OF AVALANCHE the first time round and ROSE OF AVALANCHE the 2nd?
Glenn: Well Wolfie’s been in every band around.
Wolfie: Yeah, there’s not many bands of this genre I haven’t been in (laughs) but that’s one of the advantages of being old. You sort of have a wide network of friends, but it’s just a privilege to do it and it’s difficult to imagine your life not having that.  None of us have got rich out of it, but then again I don’t think we ever wanted to get rich out of it. It would have been nice but there aren’t that many people who do this, that we know who’ve got rich – a couple and you probably know who they are too as they are from Leeds. I think everyone just thinks it still keeps that spirit of when you were miming with your tennis racket in your bedroom and for me, it still is like that. You know - you’d have your BLACK SABBATH poster and think, “Fuck, that must be great to feel that kind of energy. What does that actually feel like?” So that still is a privilege and it still feels like the best feeling in the world.
Alan: It’s a bit flash having a tennis racket, rather than just an air guitar. (laughs)
Glenn: Well me and Mark have played together since, it’s kind of the same band all the way through wasn’t it.
Mark: Yeah, different singers.
Glenn: We used to go through singers like nobody’s business for various reasons.
Glenn: I think that was helpful cos a lot of the time, we had even lower expectations. We were just like getting together at somebody’s house once a week for years. We’d try all sorts and then the next week, you’d go through it and change bits of it. There was no pressure, you’d just do what you wanted so it was quite an interesting learning experience.

RoD: You’ve kind of answered my next question which was (Wolfie) how it was working out with these guys.
Wolfie: Well I’ve known Phil, Glenn and Mark for a long time cos Dave Hall who managed THE LORRIES (RED LORRY YELLOW LORRY) managed ROSE (OF AVALANCHE) so back in the day, we sort of shared a workspace and offices and things like that so you know, we knew each other and were all part of the Leeds network of musicians so you know. That to me has always felt like a sort of brotherhood, you know - like being in a motorcycle gang. There is a kind of code, you know - don’t be an arse and be respectful, do your best and be professional and all this stuff. Treat people right and give it plenty.  That’s a common language that hopefully, we all understand.

RoD: That should be everybody’s code
Wolfie: It should be, I think it’s strong in music though, because not everybody does this and the people who do it hopefully get that. If you don’t get that then don’t do it, you know.

RoD: I think you can have a lot of messages within songs that people might not necessarily get but as long as you know what that meaning is.
Alan: That’s a mystery to me, I genuinely don’t know what a single one of THE ROSE OF AVALANCHE songs are about.
Wolfie: That’s a good question, ask Phil, he writes all the lyrics. Ask Phil what his lyrics are about cos we’d all really like to know.
Phil: That’s the mystery of the song isn’t it. The way you do a song - well to me anyway, is it’s not just a straight line, you’re trying to dress it up in some fancy clothes and making it “more”. In my head, that’s what it sounds like. I can see it meaning a few things to different people. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t really like explaining what the songs are about.
Wolfie: I’ve thought of a question you should ask Phil. You should ask Phil what his favourite song is and why.
Phil: Well yeah, I don’t know if I’ve worked that out yet ‘Velveteen’ has always been like, one of the main ones, that I’ve liked, musically as well. It’s a great bit of music.

RoD: So obviously you’ve just played with THE MISSION and I heard great things from everybody.
Wolfie: What’s good I think is that THE MISH are from Leeds and these guys are from Leeds too, so it is part of that old network. This is a band that’s not based on ‘bullshit’ and neither are these guys.

RoD: I do think there is a certain pride of being from Leeds with all these bands. It’s part of the heritage.
Alan: Yeah, absolutely, we use the term “goth” but you can’t talk about that for more than a minute without mentioning Leeds or if you do, then you’re missing something massive. There’s a new compilation come out from Batcave (early 80s club) down in London, a six vinyl LP set and it’s great. It’s really nicely put together and there’s bands that played there, bands that they danced to there, bands that influenced them and stuff like that, but it’s a shame there isn’t something similar for the Warehouse (Leeds live venue ) cos the Warehouse was so hugely influential. I think we were all there at times and it was such an influence on the scene - not just the bands that played there, but the physical place itself was almost as big an influence. We were there all the time.

RoD: You recently played The Antenna Festival in Leeds, how did it feel to play with all the local bands? I think that was something amazing because people had waited years to see all these bands on together!
Wolfie: And it was great to see so many people there and so responsive.
Glenn: And we all shared this… backstage it was like this yoga studio and everyone was just chatting to each other and getting on - rather than making it difficult and being on each other’s case. It was like everyone was just - let’s make it a nice experience for all of us. It was very pleasant.
Alan: And we all ended up doing yoga together (laughs).
Glenn: I think it was like that because we don’t have anything to prove, rather than back in the day, we were all trying to prove ourselves.
Phil: “We’re better than the other band,” and all that crap, when we didn’t need to be.
Wolfie: Another thing is that life experience, which is another reason why I think everything feels so relaxed now, like Phil says, no-one trying to prove anything, we’re here to enjoy this.

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RoD: Me: There isn’t that elitism of “We’re the headline band?”
Alan: Not from the experience that I’ve seen so far, and from what the other guys have said. I’ve not noticed that yet - although that’s not to say that it doesn’t exist still in the music industry. It’s just that a lot of the bands that we’ve been fortunate enough to play alongside, since we reformed, it hasn’t been like that at all. It’s been great, really, really good. The one thing I would say, about Antenna Fest is a huge thank you Choque Hossein for asking us about it. We had a lot of discussion about Antenna Fest when we were first invited to do it and we didn’t know the venue, we didn’t know anything about any other bands who were on at the start and he really pulled that off. It was great and you know it was so professional from start to finish - the sound system, the sound guys, the venue, the bands, everything was amazing really.
Glenn: Ran like clockwork, didn’t it.
Wolfie: John McKay (ex SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES) did a talk / show there the other night which was really interesting He wrote a lot of the original BANSHEES songs like ‘The Scream’ and ‘Join Hands’ so he did some of his original lyrics to ‘Hong Kong garden’ and played it like he wrote it and then she (Siouxsie) changed it.
Alan: And was it better?
Wolfie: Erm… it was different. I mean you could see what a massive… I mean, I think this is the guy that invented post-punk. That style of guitar playing didn’t exist before John had done it… all these bands that came later like KILLING JOKE and WIRE. I mean when I saw him, I couldn’t figure out what he was doing. You could figure out what Steve Jones was playing, cos you could do that, but you couldn’t understand what John was doing - so then your job was to go away and figure out how he was managing to play all these jazz chords and make them sound good in a punk context. That’s why for a lot of people, he’s the man who invented post-punk, but he won’t admit that. He’s incredibly modest about that. Gerard (a  BANSHEES songs.” He said, “I’ve never, ever tried to work out any other songs!” He (Gerard) said, “You must be able to play ‘I wanna be your dog’ and he (John) said, “Can you show me how to play it?” (laughs), so he’s a pretty unique character and a real innovator, you know.

RoD: You played a new track ‘The man’ in Huddersfield. Great track. Are you writing an album, or just one or two songs. What’s the plan?
Glenn: We’re taking it as it comes.
Alan: Yeah, we’re not rapid!
Glenn: We believe in quality, not quantity (laughs). It was Mark - when we were coming back from that gig in Belgium, we were sat in the van and Mark said, “I want you to write a song that’s E to A to D to G or something like that. So I went home and came up with a riff - which Alan discarded 95% of and we kind of built on that (laughs). It’s often the way in it.
Alan: So yeah, I think the album at that rate would be…

RoD: In ten years’ time?
Glenn: (laughing) More like hundred!
Alan: I don’t know, it’s funny, to be honest we haven’t really sat down and talked about that. I think as Glenn was saying then, there is a little bit of take it as it comes. There’s always been stuff to keep us occupied, really and so we’ve never been at that lull where we can sit down and say, “Right, we’ll write a lot of new material now.” Maybe that time’s to come, I don’t know.
Glenn: Also when we go back to old songs that were written a long time ago, when I listen to them again, I like to listen with fresh ears. You kind of go, “Ah… if instead of doing what I did, I do this… all of a sudden it changes things and it’s almost like writing new material. 
Alan: So we’re just re-writing everything that we ever did (laughs).

RoD: Obviously, you played at Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival in Whitby. How was that?
Alan: It was brilliant. Obviously, we were meant to play before, but it was delayed by Covid and erm... lots of other stuff. It just felt long overdue and we were all really up for it. We’ve tried to develop and professionalise our stage performances over the past few months and the audience seem to really appreciate it and understand and support what we are trying to do. As everyone now knows we played ‘Alice’ the old SISTERS OF MERCY tune, as the finale to our set at Whitby. Glenn and I had initially talked about covering an old goth tune for our headline show at the Leeds Goth Fest last year, but for various reasons it wasn’t the right time. I really liked the idea so raised it again with the guys and suggested ‘Alice,’ as it was just the right balance of genuine tribute, tongue in cheek and great song. We only practised it for a couple of weeks, but knew we played it well, so it was in. It was TOP secret - no-one outside of the band knew (even our crew) so it was a complete surprise to everyone and it went down a storm. So many people have contacted us to say it was the absolute highlight of the weekend and well, who are we to argue!

RoD: Did you go for the whole Whitby goth experience?
Wolfie: I’d have loved to, as NEW MODEL ARMY were playing and they’re my favourite band, but I had a show with my other band so was unable to stay.

RoD: What’s next for Rose of Avalanche or is it just take it as it comes?
Alan: We have a short tour lined up for July, where we are playing Glasgow, Leeds, London and Nuneaton. We have SALVATION as support in Leeds and London and a great duo called HEARTBREAK NOIR are supporting on all dates. We’re also delighted to have the brilliant TURNING BLACK LIKE LIZARDS supporting us in Nuneaton.
Wolfie: And we are on Stewart Lee, the comedian’s playlist of four songs.

RoD: Which track?
All: ‘LA rain.’
Wolfie: And he’s a top geezer is Stewart Lee. Top night out. And that does make it sort of worth it, you know what I mean!
Alan: I don’t know why it came about but John Robb’s been doing this tour to promote his goth book and Stewart Lee rocked up at one of them and he sent him his favourite goth playlist in advance - number one was ‘LA rain.’

RoD: Thank you so much for speaking this interview.
All: It’s been a pleasure.

All pictures by: Mel Butler

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