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Below the calm surface

Mike Barr, Throat's drummer and resident spokesperson, tells all about the Stateside tour with Clutch.

The last time Distorted sat down to speak to Throat was in April 2003 when they were in the middle of an Irish and English tour with rock monsters Clutch. They spoke in length about how they were looking forward to starting work on their second album, the still untitled follow-up to 2002's "Knievel is evil". Since then, on the surface anyway, things appear to have been very quiet for the Northern boys.

But, as Jaws taught us, calm surfaces can be deceiving. Throat may not be running at us, bearing an album's worth of recorded material and urging us to sup on its delights, but that doesn't mean that they have been unproductive. Throat have, in fact, been far from quiet, it's just the noise they were making was happening much further away - 6,000 air miles away in fact, all the way to America, where they played twenty shows, once again supporting Clutch. Finally off the road a few weeks and refreshed after returning from a snow-boarding holiday, Mike Barr, Throat's drummer and resident spokesperson, is eagerly talking about how his band got on there.

"The US tour was amazing, extremely hot, but amazing and one of the greatest experiences we've ever had," he enthuses. "We got to tour the entire East Coast of America with two of the greatest bands around, Clutch and Mastodon. We played around 20 shows in places such as New York, Washington DC, Texas, Memphis and the ultimate party town, New Orleans. Some nights we were playing to around 2,000 people and they really made us feel welcome, especially when they heard our wonderful Larne accents," he adds with a laugh.

However, it was not all fun and games for Mike, Willy Mundell (guitar/vocals), Russell Crookes (bass), Rory McGeown (guitar/vocals) and the two friends who decided to join them on their epic American adventure. "Although most of the places we played were fantastic, we have now gathered a better understanding of 'da hood' in the US," Mike explains, placing special emphasis on "da hood". "Some places were a little scary to say the least. When we were driving home from Irvington, New Jersey, we were warned to keep the doors locked and try and not stop at red lights because people are known to jump out and pull a gun on you.

"We also had a lot of creepy incidents in the motels with disturbing phone calls at 4am from mad American mouth breathers." The most frightening of which had to have been when an eerie, heavy breather asked for "the guy in the yellow shirt", meaning Russell. He had obviously been watching them enter their motel room. It is probably safe to assume then that Deliverance was not the most popular film in their tour van, especially when they neared the southern states.

Sexually perverted phone calls aside, the other most shocking thing to happen to Throat in America occurred in the ominously named town of Kill Devil Hands, where the Wright Brothers flew their very first plane. "This town was beside the sea," Mike says, "and we were up to 7am in the morning drinking and swimming, that is until we heard the sounds of a screaming war veteran who was running up the beach shouting to warn us that we were swimming in shark-infested waters. It was like watching Roy Scheider in Jaws all over again, only this time it was real."

Throat's relationship with Clutch was solidified on this tour, but the two bands have a tight history, with the Maryland rockers watching out for Throat in the same way an older brother keeps an eye on his kid brother. "Clutch are the coolest guys in the world and have been more than good to us throughout the last few years," Mike says unashamedly. "When we originally asked Neil Fallon [vocals] to appear on our version of The Osmonds classic 'Crazy Horses', I really wasn't expecting him to do it. It only really sank in when he was downstairs in Manor Park Studios in Magherafelt screaming his lungs to our recording."

That song eventually found its way onto Throat's debut, which also featured a contribution from Therapy?'s Andy Cairns, another hero of Mikes. "Clutch have taken us out in Ireland, the UK and The US and have treated us like family," the drummer continues. "We have shared tour buses, food, drink and, when we toured the States, they actually brought an extra back-line for us to use so we didn't have to carry across amps and drum-kits, etc. They are the best bunch of people you can meet and I hope we can hit the West Coast of America with them later this year."

As for the much-anticipated second album, fans will be disappointed to hear that it is not finished yet. Songs have been written, but Throat still have some problems to iron out. "We hope to get a new album out this year, but we want to find the right record label first and make sure that we are one hundred percent happy with the songs and the recordings. We have recorded a lot of demos for the next album so we plan to release a new EP or single within the next couple of months. You can hear one of the new songs, 'Saturday', on the new NIMIC compilation".

Even with at least 50 songs written since the completion of "Knievel is evil", Mike points out that they can only agree on around eight that they think are up to their new standards. Throat are eager not to disappoint with their follow-up having seen plenty of bands rush into recording a second album and churning out a dismal failure.

Even though he doesn't want standards to drop, Mike is quick to point out that they would never let a producer or record label push them in a direction they were uncomfortable with, just because success beckoned. "We absolutely hated it when people from the record company [Riverman Records - no longer home to Throat] would come along and say things like, 'Yeah that songs good, but what you really need is a great two-minute pop song', you know? Like, verse chorus verse chorus end. We don't mind a producer making suggestions, which, I feel, will help improve our music, but I don't like people telling us to write 'pop extravaganzas'. There's enough of that crap around at the minute with bands like Busted and The Cheeky Girls".

Even though they are only just back in Ireland, Throat have made plans to return to the good old US of A in March for the world famous South By South West (SXSW) Festival in Texas. The plan, according to Mike, is to try to get a few more shows in while they are over there, so things are a bit hectic in the Throat camp as visa forms are being filled out and posted. Irish and UK fans of the band need not worry that they will be distracted by the bright lights and glamour of America though, as Throat are hoping to fit in a quick UK tour in late March or April, to coincide with an EP or single release. That is if Clutch don't drag them off on tour again. Life sure is tough isn't it.

Interview: Fans with their heroes as friends
Throat - Knievel is evil
Clutch, Whelan's, Dublin, 11th April 2003.

Ken McGrath

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