Interview with George Harris of The Raven Age @ Download Festival 2017: “We write for big epic things”

The Raven Age in Chile by John McMurtrie

The Raven Age are a young British metal band that are currently making waves. Having toured with the likes of Iron Maiden and Anthrax and released their debut album ‘Darkness Will Rise’ earlier this year, they are poised for great things going forward. We were able to catch up with The Raven Age’s guitarist George Harris at Download Festival to discuss the album, touring, which is scarier playing Download or opening for Iron Maiden, what he would be doing if he wasn’t in a band and much much more.

So obvious first question. How did your set go today?

George: It was awesome. We were bumped up from the third stage to the second stage. It was just unbelievable, the size of it, the size of the crowd. It’s lovely and sunny for a change, I don’t think I’ve ever been to Download when it’s been this nice before.

Was it more intimidating for you this time around being on a bigger stage, but also having the album out now as well. Because when you played last year the album hadn’t been released and you were on a much smaller stage.

George: Yeah definitely, that definitely adds some sort of extra nerves for us. We’ve got a great big new backdrop and new intro, so everyone’s into it because it’s a new thing. I don’t know I guess people are judging you a bit more than they would if you were playing the same old songs they have heard before. It was filmed as well for Sky Arts so I had this great big crane camera in my face as my solo was going on (laughs) But it was really really fun.

The album ‘Darkness Will Rise’ came out in March of this year. How has the album been received by everyone so far?

George: Its been great, It’s been really well received so far, It can’t be going any better in our eyes. I don’t even know how well it’s doing sales wise, I heard it’s doing ok, but in general, the reception we are getting online, the comments and stuff is actually really positive and that’s the main thing for us. I think word of mouth is the best source of promotion really. I had a quick look yesterday actually and it looks like our streams have doubled in the last four weeks so people must be telling people about it and they must be listening so that’s really good for us and really exciting.

I would imagine the fact you guys are playing Download and the buzz around that has helped with the album and vice versa.

George: Oh yeah big time.

When I listened to the album. I could hear what you guys were trying to do thematically and where you were trying to take things. I hoped that when I saw it live it would translate to a bigger audience. When you wrote the album did you have the live show in mind.

George:  Yeah I think the way we write, maybe not subconsciously but we write for big epic things. That’s the kind of music we like we really like film scores and big epic pieces of music and we sort of filter that down into metal, and it has a bit of that sort of flair in it as well. So I think naturally at least in my head anyway it suits a great big production with all sorts of shit going on, so hopefully one day we will get there.

Obviously, when you wrote the album you lived with those songs for a long time, and you still do when playing them live. Do you ever think about anything that you could have changed or would change.

George: Yeah I think as a songwriter and a musician you are always going to have that, you are always going to go back and think that there’s little bits & bobs where I should have tried something out there, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that if we had done that then we would have been sitting on the album for ages and ages. I think an album is almost like a snapshot in time of the band and where they are in that time, so I think you want to get the album done, get it recorded and that’s what The Raven Age was at this time, then you sort of grow and develop, then start writing for the next album.

It must be a huge relief for you guys to have it out now. Because you were touring with Massive bands like Iron Maiden and Anthrax as well as doing festivals with only a handful of songs, so it must be nice to have a full set of songs to draw from.

George: Yeah, exactly. That’s the thing, we were very limited in our set, so with these extra songs, it’s been really fun for us. We’ve been practising the album songs in rehearsals and figuring out what’s going to go where. It’s really nice not to hear the same intro as well. The track ‘Uprising’ which is what we used to come out to, which is the first track on our e.p I’m pretty sure just repeats in everyone’s nightmares now when you are feeling nervous and getting ready to go onstage those three notes start and it’s horrific. But it’s great to have new stuff.

For you as a band what is more daunting being told you are going to support Iron Maiden on an arena tour or being told you are going to play the second stage at Download.

George: They are both up there. I mean supporting Maiden was such a huge jump for us, it was the biggest indoor show we had done was the Forum in London with Tremonti which was brilliant. Our first show with Maiden was in Fort Lauderdale in a 22,000 capacity Ice Hockey arena or something like that, so the jump up was just so weird. But then it’s the same thing with Download, jumping up from the third stage to the second stage this time and being filmed, then seeing your name up there on the bill is quite daunting but it’s also really exciting.

Did you find yourself looking at the lineup and thinking that someone was having a laugh, and then realising you were actually going to have to do it. (laughs)

George: Yeah, we all said that this year actually, looking at the poster, I can’t actually believe you can find our name within a few seconds of looking for it. It’s really weird, but it’s really cool.

How do you feel having these experiences has changed you as a band. Do you feel like it’s made you become a better band through necessity or do you think you have just naturally progressed to where you are now.

George: I think it’s definitely like being thrown in at the deep end, it forces you to become a better band just in terms of the size of everything. Even watching videos back you feel like you’re really going for it and then you look at yourself on this great big stage and it looks like you are kind of just stood there nodding your head so you have to exaggerate everything a bit more. You know things can go wrong, and you go through those things together as a band and it’s made us a lot tighter. At the moment we are absolutely loving it.

So what’s the plan for you guys after this.

George: We’re not too sure at the moment. We’re really eager to test the waters with some headline shows. We’ve supported a lot of people and we’ve hit Europe quite a few times which has been amazing, but what we really want to try is a couple of headline shows. Obviously, they will be massively downscaled to tiny little clubs. It’s so nerve-wracking because you don’t know until you try it. It could be that 5 people turn up or 500, you just don’t know. So I’m not too sure if we are going to be doing that this year, but it’s definitely something we are talking about.

As you say that will be the real test. Because that is where you are going to find out where your audience is. As you say it’s nice to play Download or big arena shows, but you never really know who is actually there to see you.

George: Yeah exactly, are these songs converting into ticket sales. It’s just going to be very scary.

It’s interesting that you talk about the prospect of a headline tour being scary and not knowing how it’s going to go. As a band of a certain level, how do you feel about the industry as a whole. With things like ticket touting, or illegal downloading still hurting bands. Is that something you are acutely aware of at this stage of your career.

George: Well, the weird thing is because we actually haven’t put ourselves out there as the headline band it hasn’t affected us too much, we have been kind of riding off the back of other bands at the moment. We don’t really take the hit on those kinds of things. Obviously, album sales are affected by illegal downloading and for us, this is the first time we have been signed to a label and we want  them to be happy with us, and illegal downloading affects that and it’s shit so don’t do it.(laughs)

As you say being signed to a label makes you a little bit more aware of certain things because you see first hand where the money is being taken from.

George: Exactly, it really could be the difference between us signing up for another couple of albums and becoming a bigger band or not.

Have you already started thinking about the next album or is that a little bit too far ahead at the moment.

George: We write on the road. We try to write whenever we possibly can. We are definitely thinking about album number 2 right now. We have got a lot of stuff down and we are pretty excited about it, I’m not too sure when it;s going to be recorded or when it’s going to come out yet but we definitely want to keep the buzz going. We don’t want to leave this album out for ages, then try and get everyone hyped up again, we want to get it down, smash it out and keep the hype going.

So now we move on to the random portion of the interview. 

If you could swap places with any other member of the band for the day, who would it be and why

George: I think I would swap with Jai (Patel) our drummer. It’s so unnatural to me, I can’t play the drums (Laughs) If I was swapping talents with him, I would love to see what that’s like smashing away on the drums. He’s always at the back on the riser, he’s got a great view and he gets to watch all of us idiots as well. Today I went to jump on his drum riser, and sort of kicked it and he’s laughing his head off, so that sort of stuff would be great to see.

If someone asked you what The Raven Age was all about, what is one track you would play them to sum you guys up in a nutshell.

George: I would probably give them ‘Salem’s Fate’ which is the single we released, we did a music video for that. I think I would give them that. It’s quite a lengthy song, it’s not a short snappy thing but I think it’s got a lot of dynamics to it. It shows off a lot of stuff that we have to offer.

If you weren’t in a band what would you be doing.

George: I don’t have a fucking clue. I really don’t. Growing up as a kid, like most kids I wanted to be a footballer because I’m well into my football. but that was never going to happen. Maybe I’d like to get into some sort of songwriting or something like that. I’d love to get into film scoring, my girlfriend actually bought me the Hans Zimmer masterclass for Christmas, which I’ve yet to start and I’m really excited about that so maybe something like that.

And lastly, do you have any closing comments.

George: Yeah, if you haven’t checked us out already, please do check us out, we have an album out called ‘Darkess Will Rise’ and keep your eyes peeled for a potential headline tour at the end of the year.

The Raven Age’s album Darkness Will Rise is out now on BMG.


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