Artist: Rich Rutter (Toledo Steel)

Date: 12 September 2019


MM - The band's latest album 'No Quarter' was released last May, were you pleased with the response it got from the fans and critics?  
Rich - We were very pleased with it.  The feedback that we got back from it for the most part been pretty solid.  We would have liked a bit more time to record it, we might have liked a bit more pre-production on some of the songs.  It turned out a really good result in the end and we were pleased with it.

MM - The band have been pigeon holed as a N.W.O.B.H.M. band, how do you feel about that?
Rich - Well N.W.O.B.H.M. is distinctive to certain types of bands that were around in that era, now you have the New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal scene, as it's been labeled, and we've been put into that category. I guess any band that plays any particular type of music is in danger of being pigeon-holed, but we don't worry about it too much.  we just like to write songs that we are happy with and that will come across well live.  So we don't really focus in on any genre labels that are put to our music that much.

MM - The band first started out in 2001, what made you decide to firstly start a band and secondly, to play old school heavy metal?
Rich - I think it all stemmed from us being fans originally.  We loved listening to the music and just wanted to go one step beyond that and to create some of our own music.  I met Matt (Dobson) our drummer on a night out one time.  From there we had a different guitarist at that time who came in to the band and together we wrote a whole bunch of songs.  Felix (Dock) our bassist was one of the original members also, although he was only with us the first time very briefly before he left the band.  He's back with us now so there's three of us from that first formation of the band.  

MM - This is the first night of the next leg of the tour, although you've been on tour since March.  how have things been going?
Rich - Well obviously it's not been a constant tour, but we've been trying to play as many gigs and also get out of the UK and across to Europe to play some shows.  There's a more consistent scene over in Europe of this type of metal, particularly with the German fans.  We've been over the Germany and to Belgium.  We're going to play our first show over in France in a few weeks time.  We find that doing shows across the weekend is the best way to do it, shows on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night are more popular, because if you're not a well known band and you try and play small cities on a Monday night, then there's less chance as many people will turn out to see you.  

MM - How would you compare the European fans to the UK fans?
Rich - That's difficult because it's different. I would say that in Europe they tend to let loose a little bit more than here in the UK, but I suppose British people on the whole tend to be a little bit more reserved in general.  That comes across at gigs, but overall there's some great scenes over here in the UK.  We've found sometimes it can be hit and miss with shows and sometimes we've found it's just not worth playing a particular location at this point in time for where we are as a band.  It's just not worth traveling to a location if the turnout is not quite there yet.  I think in the 90's the whole metal scene died down a little bit, but in Europe they seem to have maintained a strong underground scene that continues to be consistent, which is great.      

MM - Have you managed to make a start on the second album yet?
Rich - Yes we have about six tracks finished so far.  The first album had eight tracks on it but for this second one we're hoping to go for nine tracks.  We've got two we've already started working on and the plan is to start recording the album in January 2020 and to release it Summer time next year.  We want to make sure we have all the tracks ready to the highest order, pre-production, before we start recording.

MM - Will it still have the same sort of vibe as 'No Quarter'? 
Rich - It's going to be slightly different.  It's still going to be a bit darker and quite heavy, but the next album should be a little bit more upbeat with a feel good vibe to it. A bit more melodic is what we're aiming to incorporate into the vocal lines this time.  So yes it's still going to sound like the same band, but we didn't want to just do another bunch of songs that sounded the same as the one's we've already done/  I'm feeling very positive about it all.  We're really looking forward to recording it and putting it out there and seeing how everybody likes it.  I don't see why our fans wouldn't enjoy it because we're still the same band, we're just trying something a little different with the next album.  

MM - How do you feel about the current scene and the internet, do you think there are too many bands out there now to how it was in the past?
Rich - Well obviously there are a hell of a lot of bands out there, but I think there probably always was before, we just weren't aware of it because we didn't have the internet back then.  Now you have Facebook, Spotify, YouTube and all these other avenues to discover music.  I think every band has something slightly different to offer, as everyone has their own sound.  I think there's more than enough room for everyone to have a shot at it by doing their own thing.  Genres and Sub-Genres are something we definitely have way too many of these days though.  

MM - I think music has become too disposable these days and fans don't seem to want to invest in a whole album the way we used to.  They're quite happy just to buy one or two tracks, rather than the whole album. Rich - Yes, I actually think this is a real problem for some bands as they no longer want to put in all that time and effort to create a whole album if they think their fans are only going to buy one or two tracks.  I think when people listen to the first few minutes of the first song on an album on a platform such as spotify, unless you grab their attention musically straight away, then their attention span is going to wander on to another track or band which is flashing up for their attention in the top corner.  It is very difficult for bands.  Plus if you're not willing to invest you time and money into buying a physical copy, then you're not really giving us much of a chance to show you what we can do.  

On another side of it the internet is really useful to find and network with other bands who you could collaborate with to do shows together.  

MM - In the past the music press was Sounds and NME, so we would get to hear about some bands from the UK, but people in Japan or Australia would most likely never get to hear about these bands unless they broke really big.  Nowadays with the internet bands and their music is far more global, so no matter where you live, you have the same opportunity to hear their music. 
Rich - Yes, although I find the problem with YouTube is sometimes people might check out a video from a band's show and make a decision based solely on that video as to whether they're going to like them or not.  But often these live videos are being shot on dodgy little camera phone recording with a less than adequate sound recording system.  If I get into a new band I try not to delve too much into such live videos and recordings as they rarely accurately reflect how the band actually sound.  I prefer to listen to official recordings and will then go and check the band out myself and make my own decision on how they sound live rather than rely on those types of videos.  

MM -If the band had a mission statement, what would it be and what's next for Toledo Steel? 
Rich - Our mission statement would be to continue doing as many live shows as we can.  Playing shows at as many places as possible, both new and old.  Hopefully get some longer running tours supporting some bigger named bands.  Also to keep writing and recording new material.  Next year we'll be releasing our second album, so we'll be looking to tour as much as possible to promote that new album.

MM - Traveling the distances you currently do to do shows, do you all have second jobs or is the band your main job? 
Rich - We all have second jobs, we couldn't do this otherwise.   We're lucky that our employers are quite flexible and lenient and allow us to take holidays or time off to do gigs. 

MM - Will the second album be on the same label your debut was released on? 
Rich - Yes, it will be the same label as we have a three album deal with them.

MM - How does the label support the band and it's release(s)? 
Rich - They have helped us out tremendously actually both with the promotion of the band and also financially with the recording of the first album.  So on the whole it's been a very positive experience for us to be with this label.  We were an independent band for about five years, but then obviously any band who want to be taken seriously need to look to get signed to help promote them and to give them that standing as a band that's very much a part of the current scene.  Some of the bigger labels don't seem to be signing Heavy Metal bands so much at the moment, Hard Rock bands yes, but not so much Heavy Metal bands.  

MM - You're on tour with Demon Queen from Belgium and recently did some shows over there with them, how did they go? 
Rich - Yes we played a couple of shows over there about a month ago, a Friday and Saturday night and they were both great shows.  The first was in a place called Brie and the show was in a very small part of town.  The club was like a farmhouse type building in the middle of nowhere, but when you went inside it was brilliant.  There was a really big stage and a good bar and the Belgium fans all came out and had a good time.  The following night we played in Ostend and that turned out quite well as it was on route back to Dunkirk, so it was easy for us to get the boat back to Dover. That was good fun as well.  We're getting exposure to fans who might not have heard of us before but who will hopefully come and see us again if they enjoyed the shows.

I think there are a few bands out there who think you can just release an album and put it online and then play a couple of shows and that's all you need to do.  I know we have the internet to promote things on but I personally don't think you can beat actually going out there and playing the shows and meeting the fans face to face  It's hard work, but if you're a real band then you know this is what needs to be done.    

MM - Well we really enjoyed seeing the band perform at the S.O.S. Festival in Manchester in July. We found your music made a refreshing change to some of the more generic heavy metal bands we see, so we're really looking forward to the show tonight.  
Rich - Thank you.  We're not reinventing the wheel but we do try to keep it sounding fresh and we try to put our own stamp on our music.  We like to put our own personality into our music.  Hope you enjoy the show.

Interview by: Barry McMinn



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