If you have been a regular reader at HardRockHideout.com, you have heard me carry on more than a few times about this awesome new band from Northern Ireland called The Answer. Hard Rock Hideout recently had the pleasure of speaking with The Answer’s Cormac Neeson. We talked about the history of The Answer so far, the bands’ current tour with AC/DC, and their soon to be released album. Take a few minutes, and get to know The Answer!
The Answer is:
Cormac Neeson – Lead Vocals
Paul Mahon – Guitar
Micky Waters – Bass
James Heatley – Drums
HRH: Tell us a little about the history of the Answer. How long have you been together?
Cormac Neeson: We have been together close to eight years. We got together. Originally it was Paul Mahon’s idea to get a band idea together to play this hard rock like we are currently playing. They have been in out of different bands from fourteen years of age. They wanted to do it right this time. They got in touch with me. I was back in America at the time. I was working in a pizza place in New Jersey. They sent me a letter and said if you are coming home any time soon to look them up and get the band up and running. As luck would have it, I was heading home a month later to enroll in the University. As it turns out I was in the same class as Paul, which was quite a bizarre twist of fate. So we got a practice organized and got James on board on drums, and after that we haven’t really looked back since.
HRH: It almost sounds like it was meant to be.
Cormac Neeson: It sounds like it yeah, I am afraid so. (laughs).
HRH: Who are some of the key influences in your music?
Cormac Neeson: Key Influences would included a lot of late 60’s and 70’s rock and roll bands, like Led Zeppelin, The Who, and The Rolling Stones and stuff like that, but also I suppose The Black Crowes and a lot of varying influences. Paul is into the 80’s metal. We all have different influences, but the music we play is kind of where we all meet in the middle.
HRH: Are you listening to any of the current artists that are out there today?
Cormac Neeson: I suppose today we are into bands like Queens of the Stone Age, The Raconteurs. Any bands that are playing the hard style of rock and roll we would be in to.
HRH: How do you think the music scene differs in the United States as compared to Ireland?
Cormac Neeson: I think there are a lot more choices in America. I think a lot of that has to do is the number of radio stations playing the different genres of music over here. At home everybody listens to two or three of the same radio stations and thats about it, you know. Definitely there is a lot more diversity, which is very healthy, I think at home. A lot of people kind of fall into specific categories that are heavily influenced by whatever radio DJ they are listening to. Over here you have so much choice. People tend to make up their own minds, which is a very good positive thing I think.
HRH: I first found out about The Answer when you won Classic Rock Magazine’s Best New Band of 2005. What was it like receiving such a cool award, and how has that affected your career so far?
Cormac Neeson: That was great. That was the first taste of success that the band had. We haven’t even released our first album at that stage, it was all based on a couple of EP’s that had been released before hand. I suppose more than anything else, it was a great boost and great encouragement, and obviously it got us a lot of positive press off of the back of it. It was a nice platform, from which to release our debut album and kind of take things from there. It was an enjoyable experience that I can look back on. I got to meet Jimmy Page that night. It was great.
HRH: Prior to your tour with AC/DC, you have played with Whitesnake, Aerosmith, Deep Purple, The Who and in front of 80,000 people with the Rolling Stones in Serbia. What has it been like playing with so many classic hard rock acts?
Cormac Neeson: It has been amazing. If I had to pick a favorite gig that we have played, that would probably be it. The sheer number of people, standing and clapping their hands. It was breath taking. It was as far as the eye could see. Up to this point, we haven’t managed to play for more than 80,000 you know. The fact that is was supporting the Rolling Stones you know, I mean The Rolling Stones and AC/DC are probably the two greatest rock and roll bands still currently touring. It was unbelievable and breath taking.
HRH: How have these bands reacted to your music? Have they given you any advice?
Cormac Neeson: Different bands react in different ways. Some bands like to keep to themselves. Other bands like to take us on, and take us in as part of the family. AC/DC is one of those bands. Brian Johnson is consistently coming in to the dressing room and making sure that we are all right, and having a good time. When we toured with Whitesnake we were made part of that touring family which was great, you know. A band is going to give you advice, it is always to keep our heads down, to not to do many drinks and drugs. The usual kind of stuff. It is nice to know we have friends in high places that keep an eye on our progress.
HRH: When did you find out that you landed the AC/DC tour, and what was your reaction?
Cormac Neeson: We found out literally, two weeks before we packed our bags and headed for America. It was a whirlwind. It was an unbelievable shock for the band, but obviously a great shock. One day we were in London recording B-Sides for a future single. He took us out for a pint and sat a paper face down on the table in front of us, and said boys, I have some band news. You can’t do the European tour that we had planned for you this November. I said “Why”, he said flip that page over and you will find out. There were 42 dates on the page with AC/DC for all of across America. It was a real cause for celebration. It happened so fast we really haven’t had time to step back and think about it all. We have a week and a half off at Christmas. We will take stock of where we are at. This is a great opportunity, and hopefully we will make the best of it.
Cormac Neeson: We were yes. That was the initial plan, but obviously you can’t turn down a band like AC/DC if they ask you to come on tour with them. Black Stone Cherry are a great band. We were very much looking forward to that tour, but it wasn’t meant to be.
HRH: How have the U.S. fans reacted to your live show?
Cormac Neeson: Very positively. I think the cold weather, the rain and the wind, helps get everyone into the arena. We are playing to 80 to 90 percent in arenas every night. We were told and warned in fact that the support slot for AC/DC is no easy task. They haven’t played here in 7 years or whatever it is. You expect crowds to be very impatient. We have been getting standing ovations every night, and a lot of hits on our myspace, and a lot of positive stuff. We seem to be really devolping a good solid fan base over here, which is great considering this is our first tour of America.
HRH: Last Christmas you performed with Paul Rodgers at the Planet Rock Christmas party, which you later turned into a live CD later on. How did that opportunity come together, and what was the experience like playing with Paul?
Cormac Neeson: It was a dream come true for myself. Paul Rodgers is probably my greatest influence as a singer. It all came together, just a lucky coincidence really. Paul Rodgers was supporting Led Zeppelin the night before our gig in London. He got word that we were playing, and said he wanted to come down. We suggested that he get up and do a song or two. He came down, and we rattled through “Mover” and “The Hunter” during soundcheck, and decided we would give it a go. We had a great gig from the offset, and the fact that Paul got up and did two songs with us was amazing. It was also great that we caught it on tape and could release it as an official bootleg. It was nice to have that part of history documented.
HRH: Why did you choose to release the Never Too Late EP instead of your CD “Rise” in the U.S.?
Cormac Neeson: Unfortunately we tried very hard to get our first album released over here, but we just couldn’t get the label to get a date over here in time to release it. By the time we released Never Too Late a few weeks ago, we have our second album ready to go with the released date of 17th of February. Rather than release two albums in such quick succession, we thought we will release an EP, and whet peoples appetites a little bit. Then we will hit them with a full album in February. People can always go back to Rise if they like what they hear. Our opinion is the second album is better than the first, so why not give America the best we have to start with. Then people can trace us back to our roots.
HRH: Do you foresee Rise getting a release in the United States at a later date?
Cormac Neeson: I am sure it will be released later on down the road. We don’t want to short change our audience. We will keep putting out fresh material. If there is a demand for it, we will put it out there.
HRH: You recently had a couple of your songs used in the video games Guitar Hero World Tour, and Pure for the Playstation 3. How did that come together?
Cormac Neeson: To be honest, I don’t really know, their must be somebody in the gaming industry that likes the band, and puts our songs in those games. That is an unbelievable opportunity to get our name out there. Guitar Hero sells millions and millions of copies worldwide. In fact on the AC/DC tour, coming in every day, I hear “hey man I was playing your songs on Guitar Hero last night, drinking beers”. Between that and that AC/DC tour, and our new album, it is all coming together nicely for us.
Cormac Neeson: I have my fingers crossed. (laughs)
HRH: You have a new album coming out in February. What will the new album be called?
Cormac Neeson: The new album will be called Everyday Demons.
HRH: What was the writing process like for the new disc?
Cormac Neeson: It was very positive, and completely different from the process of the first album. Obviously, every bands’ first album is going to be a collection of tunes basically dating right back to the very beginnings of the band. In our case we had three or four years worth of songs to choose from. In contrast, this album was written in six months just before last Christmas. As a result it is a lot more consistent, and a statement that we are trying to make is a lot more fluent. The band is captured where we are right now in our song writing, musical ability and everything like that. It is a true statement where The Answer are currently at. It is good.
HRH: How long did it take you to record it?
Cormac Neeson: It took us two months. We did 5 weeks in L.A., we did a couple of weeks pre-production before we came to L.A. and then Paul did some more guitars in London for about a week and a half on the way back from America. It was very intense and very hard work and not a lot of breathing space, but the end result was well worth it.
HRH: With so many cool videos under your belt already, do you have videos planned for the new record?
Cormac Neeson: We actually just made a video for a song called On and On, which is the third track on the album. It is going to be the first single on the album. We had a gig in East Rutherford, New Jersey recently. We had the day off the next day, and went to Brooklyn to a big studio and set up a lot of different backgrounds, and shot a video for On and On. It was great you know. I got to a lot of work with a with a beautiful model which is never a bad thing.
HRH: Do you know when the single will be released?
HRH: What do you feel are some of the highlights of your career so far?
Cormac Neeson: Nothing is bigger than the current tour we are on, but as we already mentioned the Serbia gig with the Rolling Stones, we got to meet them as well, they are living legends you know, signing with Paul Rodgers and supporting Paul Rodgers in the Albert Hall was amazing. We always really enjoy getting out on tour for ourselves. We would like to be playing for an hour forty or an hour fifty minutes, getting to really entertain the audience for long stints of time. We did a couple of tours in Australia and Japan which was a great experience. It is always great to get back to Belfast at the end of a long tour to do homecoming gigs.
HRH: How long do you expect to be on the road with AC/DC?
Cormac Neeson: We honestly don’t know, we are hoping that they will give us some of the European bits. Nothing has been confirmed yet, so we can’t really presume that we are doing that. We are on tour with them until the end of January all across America. If that is all we get, we will be happy with that, but obviously if we get some more gigs, we will be even happier. (laughs)
HRH: If not, hopefully you can come back to the U.S. and do a tour of your own.
Cormac Neeson: Absolutely, as soon as we come off of tour with AC/DC, we are going to start having to do tours of our own in America, and Europe and Japan and Australia. It is going to be a very busy couple of years.
HRH: What would you like to tell all of your fans?
Cormac Neeson: I would like to say keep your ear to the ground, and don’t forget about us. Check us out. If you are into your rock and roll, we are a good honest hard hitting rock and roll band. I think you will enjoy us very much. I hope to see you very soon at a gig of our own, where we can entertain you for a couple of hours, and have a few beers with you after the show.