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To celebrate today’s release of This Is Broken Lines, we had a chat with Whiskas (aka Samuel Nicholls), the brains behind Honour Before Glory. As one of our favourite musicians from West Yorkshire, this is one interview that makes us particularly pleased. Whilst we’re running it during our “Wakefield Week,” there are a few folks from our neighbour who have played with Whiskas, so it’s not too off topic.
I think we all know he’s been very active over the years, from ¡Forward, Russia! to Dance to the Radio to other recording pursuits, but it’s quite fascinating to find out all of the things in which Whiskas involves himself.
Read on as we discuss how this project came together, the wealth of culture Leeds has to offer, and as well, a quick natter about football and other sports.
1. Please fill us in on HBG. How did the project start? Describe its recent evolution. Who makes up the band?
l kind of like to say that HBG has always existed as it is inherently me, my ideas strewn into song. I guess really though, it became evident while writing the second FR (¡Forward, Russia!) album that there were ideas that weren’t FR ideas and that’d be nice to do something else with them that wasn’t as dependent / reliant on the input from other people and I could see what happened with the ideas that I forced myself to develop them myself, which I really enjoyed basically. So that was when I started trying to put things together, but it took along time for anything to come from it.
I did some demos with my friend Jamie (Mi Mye) and Jon (Duels) but I think I still didn’t know what I wanted from it. Eventually I taught myself how to use a studio and certain techniques so I could manipulate things in a way in which I knew I needed to, to define the way in which the songs needed to be written. And from there I put together the first bunch of songs that then helped define the sound of the whole project – as well as at the same time getting the opportunity to go out on tour supporting my friends in Germany. That happening relatively simultaneously helped kind of ‘launch’ the band/project I guess. That tour was solo acoustic, partly out of necessity and partly out of not knowing how else to do it.
The putting together of the live band took a while and quite a bit of planning. The recording family was made up slightly differently as I played all the instruments apart from drums (which is Simon from I Like Trains) and then I brought it lots of friends (Dave from I Like Trains, Jon from Duels, Fran Rodgers, Fran from Shut Your Eyes) to add vocal texture and so on – so that wasn’t replicable live. The live band has gone through quite a few changes but have featured some of the above as well as James Kenosha, Sean Shut Your Eyes, Chris Kirkpatrick, Ben from Shark Teeth/Swimming Lessons, Sam Airey and Jim from Duels at various points. Which might be part of the problem!
2. We’re not one to ask this question, but we’ve always been curious – how did you come upon the name “HBG”?
I kinda of wanted a name that was personal to me and said something about the ‘project’ – Honour Before Glory does that
3. Leeds has gained a reputation as a very supportive and exciting music scene. How has this fed into your music and how you approach HBG?
I guess pretty intrinsically if you look at who’s been involved! Ironically probably not into the music as its really been un-collaborative, but it couldn’t have existed without the time and support of those who contributed to it. It was hard though as I wanted to bring people in without disturbing my maniacal vision
4. What are some of the best kept secrets of Leeds?
Musical or otherwise? The parks are amazing, and actually the museum and culture I think, especially if you extend that to something like the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. And the ales, there’s some great local breweries cropping up, supported by some great independent bars and we’re finally starting to see more independent vendors and traders which is fantastic.
Music wise I think it’s hard to keep a secret as stuff gets blown up here so quickly, but people are still doing good, though it kind of feels like we’re ready for a new movement akin to what we did with DTTR (Dance to the Radio) seven years ago
5. All of us at Bubblegunked are big sport fans, especially football. Who do you guys support? Do you have a chance to see matches whilst on the road? Any particularly exciting moments that stick with you from over the years?
I’m a big sports fan, I support Nottingham Forest and I’m now starting to follow Union Berlin pretty seriously. It’s just a much better way of doing things over there. Infact most places. I hate watching football ‘live’ football in the UK, although every now and then I give it another try. Me and some friends went to see Paul Scholes testimonial in August and just found the whole thing pretty unseemly. And that was a testimonial!! When I was kid I never got to see Forest much so I always went to watch Emley in the Unibond league, but they got taken over/ messed around and that’s not the same. I went to see Union Berlin last summer and it was just a fantastic experience, lots of families, good food and drink, everyone treated with respect. Hoping to get back soon.
On the road I don’t know if I’ve ever managed to catch a football game, but FR did manage to go see the Cleveland Browns one time, which was an unexpectedly brilliant game (the Browns are historically one of the worst NFL teams) and again one of the most entertaining experiences of my life.
Always go to the test matches at Headingley as well, and seen some great games there. Though on the last Ashes tour it was of course the one game England got absolutely thumped and we ended up walking out
6. What does 2012 hold for HBG? Tell us a bit about the new single, “Maison.”
Well, I’m pretty focused on just trying to get this album out properly. It’s finally getting released properly on iTunes and so on, but I’m trying to get the physical article manufactured, which just seems utterly cursed. After that I’m gonna take a break from worrying about it, although I hope to come up with some new music before the end of the year, but it won’t be a priority for me. I’m collaborating with quite a lot of people at the minute, and I’m enjoying that – as after completing This is Broken Lines, it’s nice to do something different!
Maison – well, it’s 4 different versions of the same song. Basically, the acoustic version is how the song came about, how I initially played it out, though it was never conceived as definitive, and always had a lot more emotion behind it. The Maisonette version is how it was originally worked, to kick a bit live, but always thought it lacked variation and consistency with the other HBG tracks so I re-worked it in to “Maison.” Then that got re-developed slightly for live
7. How do keep yourself busy outside of music?
There isn’t a lot of time outside of music really – as well as Honour Before Glory, I record a host of other bands (http://whiskasproductions.tumblr.com), run a lot of educational industry and enterprise projects (mentoring in collaboration with Eiger Studios, and various bits of speaking and involved with the Leeds Music Hub – http://www.theleedsmusichub.co.uk/) – specifically I curate the Unconference which is part of Live At Leeds which pulls together lots of local and national experts for a day of panels, workshops, networking and more. I’m also responsible for the Live At Leeds 5-a-side. Oh, and I’m playing in a couple of bands for folk I recorded last year (Sam Airey & Monte Carlo). I also have a wife and child. And have a “proper” job as a music lecturer at Leeds Met University (although that encompasses some of the above). I think that’s quite enough really.