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The lead guitarist and singer with indie-punkers The Rifles on being mates with the Modfather and having your own band beer

How did your latest London Weekender gigs come about?
We always have a really good crowd in London, so we thought rather than trying to do one big gig, like Brixton, which we have done before, to split the days up.

Will you be mixing the setlist up for both nights then?
We are trying to change the set for both nights,  so we are going to have to go through all the old stuff and relearn loads of songs that we haven’t played in a while.

You recorded the new album Freedom Run in Paul Weller’s studio…
Yeah, he played guitar on [single] Sweetest Thing and a couple of other things, too. He’d just pop in and get involved. 

How did this musical friendship come about?
We had supported him before and sometimes he would just come in and watch us rehearse.

Your songs are always uplifting, are you all positive guys?
Lyrically, I have never tried to be any particular way, that is just how I am. I am a big Bob Dylan fan, his style of lyric writing has had a big influence on me, the stories he would tell. And Ray Davies [The Kinks], too. Alex Turner [Arctic Monkeys] is brilliant at writing – he just sings it all as you would say it.

What inspired you to start a band?
The reason I picked up a guitar was a friend of mine at school. He had a guitar and I used to watch him play – I had never played the guitar before at that point. My birthday fell about a month afterwards and so that was when I got my first guitar. My mate Richie Faulkner  was really into Jimi Hendrix and so then I got into him, too. I hadn’t seen Richie for years and now he is Judas Priest’s guitarist.

So he still plays, too …
Yeah, but he got in to the heavier side of it all, the metal stuff. He was always really good, though, so it didn’t surprise me that he went and played in America for a massive band like that.

Did you have a heavy phase yourself?
Rage Against The Machine was the heaviest I ever got. I went to see them on their first album tour when they played at Brixton Academy, with Billy Bragg supporting.

Do you still get out and see a lot of bands these days?
Not so much. I am pretty bad like that. A lot of the time we are gigging and so when you get some time off you want a break.

What other bands these days do you get excited about?
Arcade Fire, who we played with once at a festival, are a great live band. There are loads of them running about the stage playing and if one of them is not playing an instrument in one particular song, they’ll just dump it for something else – it becomes like a theatre show!

How did you get your own ‘band ale’ The General?
We got approached by a brewery who were trying to get ale from being seen not just an old man’s drink, but one that younger people also drink. They approached us and we thought, ‘Why not?’ So when we were in Stoke on tour we went and had a tasting session, where we told them what we liked and what we didn’t and then they went and made a Frankenstein.

Do you get a life supply then?
No, we’ve had about one crate so far, so I need to get on to them about it!

On your first album No Love Lost, you worked with the Lightning Seeds’ Ian Broudie who wrote [football song] Three Lions – would you consider writing a sports song, too?
It’s a risky thing to do. For every Three Lions, there are loads of songs that didn’t make it. And it is easy to get tarred with the one brush. Everyone will remember Ian Broudie for that one song, not for the Lightning Seeds.

You recently saw a video of your first London show at the Bull and Gate in the early Noughties – did it match your memories?
Someone had it on the tour bus and so we popped it on and had a watch. It was quite funny. We looked like four people who had
never met each other before, stuck on a stage and trying to work it out then and there. We got better with time, I think.

The Rifles play Shepherd’s Bush Empire, W12 8TT on Fri, Mar 30. 7pm. £17 
Station: Shepherd’s Bush.
Web: o2shepherdsbushempire

They play Troxy, E1 0HX on Sat, Mar 3. 7pm. £17 
Station: Limehouse
Web: www.troxy.co.uk












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Interview: Joel Stoker of The Rifles on being mates with the Modfather, band ales and Judas Priest
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