By Peter Keevil
Hi Grahame, thanks for talking to Midlands Rocks, I’m familiar with your debut album ‘Where Are Your Gods Now?’ but could you fill me in on the background of General?
A friend of mine knew of these lads who got together every week to blast themselves in sludgey riffs, who were looking for a new singer. I met them in a now demolished rock bar in Coventry, where they played the most grizzly riffs I had ever heard.
They asked if I’d come down to their next rehearsal. I’ve been going ever since.
General had had a few incarnations before I joined, but this was the beginning of something bigger and better. I invited Dave Claridge to help with filling out the guitar parts a few months later. This line up made a little known EP back in 2006, and have been together ever since.
‘General’ is quite a, ermm, general name for a band, where did that come from?
Gaz invented this band name long before I’d joined. I warned him that it could be very hard to search for online. But the name was stuck. We couldn’t come up with anything that didn’t remind us of something we weren’t. General works for us because it doesn’t align itself with any genre. We could be called Green Demon or The Dirt but then we’d be “a stoner rock” band or “a rockabilly” band.
General is such a general term and gets dropped all the time, into everyday conversation, generally speaking. So anyone who reads this will be reminded of us about a thousand times a day from now on. Free advertising, so it may turn out that Gaz was right all along. Don’t tell him I said that.
Your debut album was released in Aug 2012, but now seems to be gaining traction, has it been like that for you?
Yes it really has and to be honest, right now the band is on a high because of it. When we released the album, General where complete unknowns, other than our loyal Coventry followers who have always been amazing to us, but once they had a copy, sales slowed right down.
But then, we noticed that the video for Bullet Train was being shared around on Facebook and we watched the view counters going up. It wasn’t planned, it just seemed that people were clicking with the music.
We released Monkey City as a video and single and then we found the video sharing started turning into Radio play and for some reason it started going bonkers with it being picked up in the USA, Chile, France, Germany, Italy and especially Greece. We have had air play from Kerrang Radio and the BBC in the UK so far so who knows what is going to happen next.
What we do know, is that with more radio stations and websites spreading the name and the feedback we get after gigs, we have definitely seen an increase in sales, and increase in traffic on our social media pages and general (there we go advertising again) interest levels are on the rise all over. We do feel that 2013 has been a breakthrough year for us in so many ways and we have learned so much.
You recently opened up on the UK tour with Clutch (read our review of the gig), that’s quite a high profile tour to pick up, how did that come about and what was the experience like?
I love Clutch! I have always rated their work highly. You can imagine my absolute delight when Gaz sent me a text saying “we’ve got the Clutch tour”
The amazing thing was that we never asked for it. Clutch found us, thanks to our video Bullet train. Stefan Koster, the guy helping Clutch to be the one band entertainment machine that they are, stumbled across us whilst he was looking for something completely different. It was Stefan that got us on the tour and we have to say, he and Clutch seem to be unique in this industry. Genuine people with a genuine desire to do the right thing by the music. There is just no bullshit with these guys. True to the core.
That UK tour was the most amazing event of our budding life in rock music. Clutch made us feel very welcome especially after me and JP found out we share the same “recreational” pass time. Ha ha. Totally Awesome. I hope we get to play with them again some day. It would be a real blast.
Your video for new single, Monkey City (above), looks a bit wacky what’s the story behind it? P.S. I loved the reference to Pen Island at the end (hehe).
Wacky, but hopefully unique and hopefully shows you can have a sense of humour while delivering high quality music.
A great friend to the band, Martin Edwards who runs Windupmonkey Video Productions created the video for Monkey City. “Knock us up a story board Mart” and wow did he follow through. It was brilliant. Being an independent band the video reflects the music industries trait of absorbing bands but making them fit to the labels wants and needs. Done as a tongue in cheek nod to the horror movie genre meant we had to release it on Friday 13th, what else could we do?
Personally I love the teary face at the end of the video, it gives me shivers. It’s like they are remorseful because the pure sound of independent noise manipulation is soul rendering. Or have I read too much into it?
Anyway, it has to be said, our friends were great, giving up their Sunday to help out as extras. As for Pen Island. It’s typical of us not taking things too seriously. We can’t even write a set list without someone drawing a cock and balls on it. Cue Freudian comments!
You don’t seem to play live that often, is that a conscious decision to ‘keep us all keen’ or just the state of the industry that it’s hard to pick up live dates nowadays?
Some of it is deliberate, some of it is an industry thing and some of it is a practical thing.
On a practical side, we are a working mans band, meaning we all have regular jobs that pay the bills and fund our music production. Slowly changing as we see sales rise, but will be that way for some time yet.
On the deliberate side, we want to deliver the best set we can and some gigs just aren’t right for us. We would rather be selective and say no when we have to.
As for the state of the industry at the moment, the value a band can deliver to a venue can be under appreciated. There is a lot of playing safe and the number of tribute bands taking the places of original bands like us is incredible. One thing we can say, is that at the moment we are inundated with gig offers but we want to make sure we team up with the right bands and the right promoters. That’s why we are playing with Hornet because those guys and SED records are the real deal. Professional and into putting on the best show possible for paying customers. Our Press Office guy was raving about Annie from SED records and he is a grumpy tosser, so it speaks volumes.
You hail from Coventry, which has a great history in music but perhaps not in your style. Is it a help or a hindrance to be Coventry based?
It is a mixed blessing. Being near the centre of England is great for gigging. A trip to Manchester or London requires the same thing. Just a couple of hours of motorway driving. Living outside of London is a disadvantage for all bands trying to get noticed but we are not going to quibble about it. We just keep knocking doors to let people know we exist.
Coventry’s musical history serves to show us that it can be done no matter where you are from and with the determination in this band it will not be a case of making any excuses. We will be pushing forward both in musical terms and in terms of hard work.
Ironically there aren’t many live venues left in Coventry but it has the healthiest music scene in a generation. The sheer quality of bands we play with locally is amazing and we are looking to support that scene as much as we can. I cannot wait to play to the home crowds again. Head nodding is put on hold as full on grunge dancing takes over. Bring it on! Great shows. But more about that for a later date!
With the internet the business is now truly ‘global’, what sort of reaction and support have you had beyond these shores?
Nothing short of amazing. If only we could play everywhere we get feedback and e-mails from.
There are some great rock sites out there. Stay stoned radio have broadcast and pod casted us. It’s based in Chilli yet they have become friends and supporters of General. Another radio station “Freedom Radio”, based in Florida also made us their “Independent Artist” of the week last month. One week we were on 3 Greek stations and we were all sat around looking at each other and saying “where next?”, it was great. Not sure I can ever get used to being in the UK and hearing “General from Coventry” being announced in an American accent though. It is a strange feeling.
As for social media, we get Facebook likes from all over the globe. It’s great to know that the music carries through international boarders. Some surprising likes have come in from China and Sri Lanka, and it is great for the band to know each and every like is genuine and not purchased through some dodgy service.
Bringing it back closer to home, when can we next catch you live in the Midlands?
Oh now you’ve put me on the spot. If I say anything at this stage our PR guy will shoot me. Let’s just say that as an independent band we have independent plans and as I said earlier we take pride in our live set so it has to be right. But, we promise the first people to know will be Midlands Rock, you have my word. We’ll make sure you have a spot to do an independent review. Watch this space!
What are the next plans for General over the next 12 months?
We are currently working on the next album and hope to start recording it before 2013 comes to a close. I would love to hit the festivals and throw a home coming gig, incorporating some of the great acts we have met over the year on this epic journey of rock and roll. Hold on, I think I have started answering your last question. Let’s just say that 2013 has been a game of two halves with the 2nd half being where we really started motoring. So we are now match fit for 2014 and we want to make it the best year so far in terms of the quality of music we create and the quality of the performances we deliver live. We have learned so much and I think people will see that.
Cheers thanks for your time. See ya soon.
Thank you. Good luck with the site and everything you do. With you in the hot seat, the Midlands truely rocks!
Grahame Stokes – Vocals
Gaz Imber – Guitar and Vocals
Dave Claridge – Guitar
Ru Mackie – Bass
Tom Smith (Tompon) – Drums