Sunday, 7 February 2010

Interview: Rocking In The Name Of Rage Against The Machine

Tribute acts have become so much more than the classic Elvis impersonator. These days many have a fan base of their own with the likes of The Bootleg Beatles and ABBA tribute Bjorn Again proving hugely popular. If you can overlook the cheesy names – Fred Zeppelin, AC/DShe and No Way Sis are just a few that spring to mind – then the tribute act fulfils a purpose for those who are not fortunate enough to be able to see their favourite performers live.

Know Your Enemy, Bournemouth’s local Rage Against The Machine tribute act, do just that. With the increasingly popular RATM’s gigs becoming few and far between, the band - made up of Jim Larcombe on vocals, Grant Stevens on bass, Steve Mowbray on guitar and Ian Shuff on drums – were simply responding to demand when they formed three years ago. ‘We used to be a general covers band but we played a lot of Rage tracks. Everyone used to tell to us we should start a Rage tribute act so we went for it,’ explains Steve.

The guys haven’t always played the music of other artists. Starting out in ‘a crappy little band’ when they were kids, the guys began writing songs for fun but decided covering other people’s music was the way forward. ‘Obviously the main advantage of being in a tribute band is that you don’t have to sit down and right a load of material because it’s already written for you,’ says Steve.

Another benefit for this group of mates is that the band allows them to leave their day-jobs of construction worker, garage owner, full-time dad and mature student for a night and become their idols. It is very much a case of ‘builder by day, rock star by night’. Nevertheless, this advanced production of Stars In Their Eyes also comes with some added pressure, as Steve adds, ‘Obviously people expect you to be exactly like that band, so if you’re not then they leave disappointed.’

Needless to say, the guys are pleased about Rage Against The Machine’s Christmas Number 1. Jim remembers hearing Rage for the first time when he was 12 years old ‘I’d never heard anything like it, but when I played it to other people they didn’t like it. Now, 20 years on it’s taken off. It’s brilliant.’ Before adding, somewhat sarcastically, ‘But I do think Simon Cowell is really cool. Everything he touches turns to gold. If I could dance in front of him I would’. The chart success of ‘Killing In The Name’ has also had other benefits for the band ‘I’d say most of our shows coming up are a result of it. People are definitely more interested,’ adds Ian.

Being huge Rage fans, the guys have seen their idols perform live on several occasions. But, unless you count Grant’s insistence that Rage front man Zack de la Rocha rode past them on a push bike in Portugal, they have never had the chance to meet them face to face. ‘We’re probably not allowed to meet them, it would cause some sort of quantum flux disruption or something - a little black hole would open up,’ jokes Steve. When asked if there is any other band they would like to be a tribute act for Jim grins ‘Probably Kylie Minogue, the Wombles or Rick Astley’ before launching into an impressive rendition of ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’.

Before beginning their pre-show ritual of beer and Jack Daniels, the band, who list ‘No Shelter’ and ‘Bullet In The Head’ amongst their favourite Rage tracks to play, remember the last time they rocked The Old Fire Station. ‘It was exactly one year ago to the day,’ says Ian ‘But tonight’s sound is much better. I seem to remember the sound check went on for nearly an hour and a half last year’.

When the band take to the stage it’s evident that the audience don’t quite know how to react to a tribute act and many look a little embarrassed to be there. But a few songs in, the music starts to take over and the band bring The Old Fire Station to life with energy by the bucket load. Front man Jim, a fan of audience participation, regularly hands the microphone over to the front row giving Rage fans the rare chance to scream their favourite bands politically opinionated lyrics through the speakers. An experience which would be near impossible at a RATM gig these days.

By the end of the show the mosh pit is in full swing and a supercharged version of Killing In The Name leaves the crowd cheering for an encore. In true rock star style Jim ends the set by crowd surfing to the bar and the audience are left with no doubt that Know Your Enemy are the next best thing to their Californian heroes.

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