Interview with Mick Priestley of The Green River Project

Spice: You have a deep interest and intrigue with serial killers and every year we see on the news how *nameless person* had been listening to his favourite 'metal' album before heading out to slaughter a school full of children. What made you choose a band name linked to a killer of 49 women between 1982-1984? Was this to shock, repulse and/or cause controversy?

People blaming heavy metal music for violence or indeed serial murder is actually very rare - in terms of school shootings, the original allegations that the Columbine shooting was due to the music of Marilyn Manson were found to be false, as it was discovered neither Harris nor Klebold were wearing Manson t-shirts as first claimed. Cho Seung Hui, as far as I'm aware, didn't blame any type of music for the Virginia Tech Massacre… Richard Ramirez claims he listened to AC/DC when he was cruising for victims but that was back in the 80s.
I decided on 'The Green River Project' more because it's a subject I've always been fascinated by so in a sense the band name makes it all a little more personal to me. We didn't just go through the Kiss albums and find a song that sounded cool this time. I suppose people might find that a little morbid, but to be fair the band name sounds perfectly pleasant until I'm asked to explain what it means. I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the controversy but to be honest with you we get more controversy over the band logo, as people try to decide in their own heads what it is or what it means. Bizarre suggestions so far have ranged from alien symbols right through to Nazi garbage - neither of which are the case. I heard Marilyn Manson got the same controversy over the artwork in the Holy Wood album sleeve. It's actually the sign of the Zodiac - I always thought it looked more like a bullseye/gunsight than anything else. It's deliberately wobbly and off-centre because it's actually in the Zodiac's handwriting. I thought that was a nice touch.
Gary Ridgway was actually convicted of 48 counts of murder in 2003. He's a very naughty boy. Another band name I was throwing around was 8213 Summerdale - which again despite sounding perfectly pleasant was the address of John Gacy's house. I can understand why people might like to whinge about the band name or whatever but I can't say I'm too bothered. We're a heavy metal band - we have a scary name. I'd like to think people tend to judge us more on the music than whatever happens to be on the poster.

Spice: What tempted a young skinhead of a Sunderland lad to the bright lights of the big city and how have you seen your musical career flourish since you did?

The skinhead was a long time ago! Everyone had their heads shaved where I grew up, it wasn't such big deal. I always wanted to grow my hair long from a very early age but it would do that annoying thing where it would grow to in front of my eyes, it would get annoying and it would inevitably be shaved again. It made getting ready to go out a lot easier!
Sunderland has a lot of talented musicians, but the brutal reality of it is that anyone outside of the place doesn't really give a shit about what goes on there. If you want to be an actor, you go to Hollywood. If you want to be in a band (and you're British) you go to London. Everything's totally different since moving here. There's actually a 'scene' that was entirely absent before. People start to take notice of what you're doing and you're in a position whereby you can meet the right people. A lot of the big magazines/radio stations/TV channels in the UK are effectively London businesses. You don't necessarily have to be a huge band to attract attention from these people, you just need to be in the right place for them to see you and be good at what you do. I like to think we've done pretty well so far. The Green River Project is kicking serious ass (we've only played two shows) - a quick glance at the MySpace shows that we mean business! Muggsy and I are very aware of the Nothin' To Lose days - we've toured Europe, played shows with guys from Guns n Roses, sold out large venues with us headlining, flown to strange countries and seen our faces in magazines we can't even read before playing to big crowds. That's a pretty alien feeing to a degree but always very flattering, more so because you really start to get a sense that you're doing something right. These are all things that wouldn't have happened if I'd stayed where I'd grown up. It doesn't matter where you're from, it's where you end up that counts. Would I be doing this interview if I was still up in Sunderland? I doubt it.

Spice: The Green River Project EP is extremely guitar-driven - a 5-track EP, 2 tracks of which are guitar solos. Is this what we can expect from a GRP album?

Something within this band is that everyone's influences really shine through. I've always had a thing for the over-the-top virtuoso shit - I grew up listening to Malmsteen, Vai, Michael Angelo, stuff like that. I wouldn't really consider the two tracks in question as guitar solos - more as instrumental pieces of music. Nobody ever refers to The Four Seasons as a violin solo. It's not just about the lead part, which is nothing without the arrangement going on behind it. There's a guitar solo in 'Dig Your Grave'…I would consider 'The Flight Of The Bumblebee' to be something entirely different.
When the album's done, it's gonna tear you a new one! We're all working our balls off at the moment to get it all together. It's not just about guitar solos - that's just one part of the whole thing. At the end of the day you need to know when to go crazy and when not to - if you get the balance right the whole songs comes together. No amount of guitar soloing will save you if your song sucks.

Spice: Each member of the band has brought a variety of influences to The Green River Project but which shine through the most within the music itself?

Something cool about this band, I like to think, is that you can hear them all. If any one guy in the band was replaced with someone else, it would entirely change the sound. Clearly you can hear my influences, but you can also hear Andy's influences in every line he sings. Alex's drumming experience is obvious in everything he plays and Muggsy's bass playing has always been a mixture of styles. It's all down to the way you learn your craft and whatever it was turned you onto it in the first place.

Spice: What influence to Muggsy, Andy and Alex have over the songwriting?

When we're jamming a new song, even if it's something that I came up with originally, it all comes alive in the rehearsal room. The basic ideas will be thrown out there and everybody gets stuck into it, which in turn creates the track that we'll throw down on the record. If one of us has an idea, it gets complimented by something else. Basic vocal lines are turned into shit-kicking harmonies by Andy, chord arrangements and root notes are turned into kickass grooving bass lines by Muggsy and Alex's drumming is always the backbone of the entire song, powering through whatever we're doing and bringing it all to life. Something I feel privileged with in this band is the opportunity to work with such great musicians. Everyone in the band has such a lot of experience at what they do - we'd all done cool projects before but I guess I feel like this is where it all comes together and pays off. I've got a bit of a reputation among some people (who don't know me at all) for apparently having my head up my own ass, and it probably comes from saying things like that! But fuck it. It's not arrogant if you're actually good at what you do, and we're all proud of what we're achieving with this band.

Spice: Muggsy stated in an interview with Komodo Rock that "the whole band is dedicated to a point we never thought we'd see". Is this still fact?

Of course. We all mean business! Who wants to be in some crappy band and go nowhere? If you're going to do something, do it properly. It's not about being the richest or the biggest necessarily; it's about looking yourself in the mirror and knowing you made the most of your potential. What we're interested in at this point is getting the music out as many people as we possibly can, dragging people away from the evil clutches of emo and being able to look back as old men knowing that we rolled our fuckin' sleeves up and kicked ass.

Spice: Did you get around to shooting the video for 'Dig Your Grave'? When can we expect to see the release of 'From Hell To Here', and what's happened to the live EP?

These are all things that are in the pipeline. We've got a load of people ready to start on the video (which is a fairly massive affair), we're in the studio recording the album (new tracks are on the way very soon)…the live EP is something we've never announced we're actually going to do, but is something we'd like to get done at some point. Like any unsigned band, money is always going to be an issue. Unless you're going to get Donald Trump on backing vocals everything has to be funded out of your own pockets, which is a surprisingly expensive task to anyone who hasn't done it before. The original three-track demo was done for just under a grand, which I think was pretty impressive considering the amount of work that went into it. Everything from recording studio costs to petrol money to printing up posters for the next show is being funded by us and us alone. We've done a lot so far and we're working hard to keep the ball rolling faster. 'From Hell To Here' has no set release date - but we're working on it right now. There are more tracks being recorded as we speak - there are a few pretty much finished that may or may not make it to the album too. Keep checking the myspace, google us and feel free to email us for all the recent updates. When we're talking about videos, live EPs and full albums, these are usually things that bands take years to get ready. They're things we're working on right now but give us a break - we've played two shows! In the meantime, we'll be tearing up Camden's Purple Turtle on July 3rd, followed by The Yardbirds rock club in Grimsby on the 24th June, then Mexborough Civic Hall on the 25th, then we're off to Bloodstock Open Air festival on August 14th. We've been in over 30 magazines/webzines in the last few months alone - including Metal Hammer, Terrorizer, Total Guitar, Devolution, Classic Rock Magazine, Nihilista Magazine, Sugarbuzz Magazine in the USA - we're on the cover of this month's 'Anarchaic Times' magazine in Michigan - we've been featured on Total Rock Radio numerous times, done two interviews on the air on Texas Radio, one in Minnesota, I'll be on the air in San Francisco in July…I think we're doing pretty well for such a new band. It's nice to see people digging the band the way we're digging it.

Spice: You've mentioned to me in a previous conversation that you'd like to work with an established musician on a song. Have you thought any further about this? Who would be your top five choices?

This is something I think about from time to time - it was an honour to work with Adrian Erlandsson on the 'Dig Your Grave' EP, and I love working with new musicians because it always adds an extra sound to your music. If it was entirely up to me, I guess I'd have to say, in no particular order - Yngwie Malmsteen, Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, Ozzy Osbourne… then maybe someone completely off-the-wall. Snoop Dogg. Possibly. Just to freak everyone out. Maybe it would kick ass. I have no idea, but it would be interesting to find out! There are plenty of other people I'd like to work with, though not necessarily with The Green River Project, possibly on something totally different, in an entirely different musical style, just to prove to myself that I could do it. Perhaps I'd like to record a country album with Alan Jackson, write a musical with Andrew Lloyd Webber and do a rap EP with Eminem. None of these things are planned but I'd be up for it! It's always interesting working with new musicians - perhaps more so if they're from a style of music entirely different to your own because it opens up your ears and introduces you to new things, and indeed new styles.

Spice: You're currently working with Steevi Jaimz who has just released his new album 'My Private Hell'. Would you be happy to place The Green River Project on hiatus if needed, or is this your priority above everything else?


Steevi's been a good friend of mine for quite a while so when he asked me to play guitar for his live shows I was more than happy to do it. Alex is actually going to be on drums too - not a lot of people know that yet! It'll be cool to get out there and kick ass around Europe, not just to get out there to new places but also because it's a great opportunity to work with new musicians in new musical styles (see previous question). He's got a big fan base pretty much anywhere he goes so we're expecting the shows to be pretty wild! Judging by the emails I've been getting already from chicks in Steevi Jaimz t-shirts I expect that is indeed going to be the case…
To cut a long story short, we can't wait to get out there with Steevi but we play for The Green River Project… this is something we work our balls off for and something we've built entirely from the ground up - The Green River Project started as a three-track demo recorded on my home studio. Fear ye not though, dates aren't going to clash. Steevi does his thing, and we concentrate on ours. There won't be a hiatus.

Spice: Where do you see The Green River Project one year from now?

Blasting from your speakers and staring up from your magazines - and which self-respecting band would answer that question any other way?! We're coming to get you.

Spice: I know you've been transcribing classical music to guitar (other than that of "Summer-Presto" and "The Flight Of The Bumblebee" available on the EP). Would you ever consider attempting to record an entire classical-come-metal guitar album and do you think there would actually be a market for this?

Funnily enough, this is something I was talking to Alex about not that long ago. Not that we're seriously considering doing it at the moment, more that it would just be a really cool thing to do. To have a heavy metal band kicking ass on one side, and an entirely classical project on the other. Play some shows with Nigel Kennedy. There's a guy I should have added into that guest musicians question. He's an awesome musician.
If we were to do that album, I really couldn't give a flying fuck whether there was a market for it or not. I suppose there probably would be - I seem to remember Malmsteen stuck out an entirely classical record, but I believe that was him with an orchestra playing music he'd composed himself. I can't imagine it was his biggest seller but I'm sure I've got a copy somewhere. Whether or not we'd shift 73 billion copies wouldn't even be a question raised if we decided it was something cool that we wanted to do. We'd just do it because we know it would kick ass. End of. If we were in it for the money we'd have formed an emo band, grown ridiculous fringes and toured with Fall Out Boy.

Spice: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician just starting out his or her career?

Stick with it. Don't be put off when people tell you 'no'. In fact, don't take 'no' for an answer. Remove that word from your vocabulary altogether. If someone tells you NO, think of another way of approaching them with it. But also be bright enough to take a step back from what you're doing and decide for yourself whether it's actually worth putting all this effort into. If you can look intelligently at what you're doing, and hear your music in a realistic, unbiased way, you need to decide for yourself whether you're ready to take on the world or whether you need to put a little more effort into it and get more experience first. Some people are happy playing small pub circuits and stuff - and that's fine - but if that isn't for you, you need to roll your sleeves up and go for it. Being in a band is effectively a full-time job if you see it like that, and if you really are good at what you do, people WILL start to notice you for it if you have the balls to stick with it. You make your own luck in life - I don't know about you, but I don't want to be ninety years old, look in the mirror and feel like I could have done it if I'd worked harder. Don't ever let anyone tell you, you can't do something. In a thousand years' time, who's gonna give a fuck anyway?

Spice: There's an area of your musical career, which seems to be plaguing you and looks like it will continue to plague you no matter what form of music you decide to play. Nothin' To Lose have been and gone yet The Green River Project, a deeply Yngwie Malmsteen-influenced band are still likened to bands on the cock-rock scene. How does this make you feel?

Are we? I don't really think that people actually compare The Green River Project to bands on the cock rock scene, What I DO get a lot of is 'Did you know Mick Priestley used to be in a glam band?!'… when I don't really think we were a glam band anyway. I always thought we were just a dirty rock n roll band - someone told me the other day that they reckoned if we'd had quiffs and dressed a little differently we might have ended up playing with rockabilly bands. I don't really think that was the case, but I think loads of bands end up being typecast as something they're not. I seriously doubt anyone's digging out our EP and comparing it to some hair band. Pantera used to be a glam band… nobody ever compares them to Poison.
I'm just glad that we made enough of an impact with our old band - which we're all very proud of - to be remembered for it when people are talking about The Green River Project. If we'd never done it, I suppose we wouldn't have evolved like we have.

Spice: Sell yourself. Why should people spend their hard-earned cash on The Green River Project and can they currently buy a copy of your EP?

Honestly? Because we kick ass. If you want to hear the most exciting new metal band in the UK, check out The Green River Project. If you want to hear something less exciting, you'll find an endless amount of garbage on Myspace.
If you send an email over to ottpromotions@hotmail.co.uk, we'll send you our five-track 'Dig Your Grave' EP (Dig Your Grave, No Return, The Flight Of The Bumblebee, Nowhere To Run and Summer-Presto) as mp3s FOR FREE… all we ask in return is that you spread the word! Music fans have spent more than enough money on dodgy demos from endless bands claiming to be the 'next big thing'. We want to give something back and get people excited about underground music again.

Spice: Slightly off topic, but we all know you have strong 'world' opinions and are not afraid to share them. The main issue within the UK right now is a political one. What are your view on the MPs who have been using taxpayers' money for personal use?

The expenses scandal, while remaining a complete disgrace, surely comes as genuinely shocking to nobody. It's the latest in a 12-years-long sleaze campaign by the New Labour government, who ever since being voted in have allowed everything in society to slide while they fill their greedy pockets with your money. They're not sorry they did it. They just honestly never thought you'd find out about it. I think the media storm surrounding the fiasco is not just due to this single revelation - it's the fact that the revelation comes as the latest in an endless list of piss-takes, and it's the straw that effectively breaks the camel's back. Personally, I wouldn't be too bothered about paying for John Prescott's bog seat getting fixed, if as a British citizen I was able to walk the streets every day and bask in the great benefits I have experienced since he took office. I wouldn't be at all bothered about paying for Jacqui Smith's £400-worth of plant pots (or indeed her husband's porn), Gordon Brown's £17,000 cleaning bills, or the £6,000 Bob Ainsworth billed us for to fit oak beams in his second house, if I could think of a single thing that any of these people have done to transform the country into a better place since they were voted into power. Can you think of anything? I can't. Tony Blair was a moron but at least he had the common decency to step down. Alistair Darling isn't even going to lie to you any more either - he's just going to take your money. Ken Livingstone is a Labour MP, and is anybody sad to have lost him? What a prick. The fact that he still has the cheek to stick his nose in everywhere, writing newspaper columns on the faults of Boris Johnson is sickening. I'd rather have Boris Johnson make an honest mistake than have Banquo's Ghost deliberately and maliciously deceiving you, lying through his teeth to set himself and cronies up with the money that you worked your balls off to earn.
Let's get something straight here - New Labour have NO INTEREST in your well-being. The only people they are out to serve are themselves, scraping by with the bare minimum of effort towards the people with no concern about anyone other than themselves. Do you trust any of them?! Gordon Brown? Jacqui Smith? Blears? Darling? Mandelson? Prescott? Their astonishing incompetence and breathtaking contempt for the British taxpayer is nothing short of criminal negligence and should see them charged. You hear about the MP claiming £16,000 for a mortgage he's already paid off? I believe he wasn't the only one. You tell me how that isn't fraud. If you were on the dole, fiddling benefits they'll dump you in jail. I'll be here holding my breath waiting for the charges to arise against these morons as they resign one by one with smug grins on their faces to rake in a massive pension.
Ultimately though, the expenses scandal, as part of the big picture, barely even matters. It's actually taken people's attention away, albeit temporarily, from the fact that crime rates are through the roof, we've got children killing each other on a regular basis and carrying knives into school, the hospitals are an embarrassment, the school system has fallen apart and the police force remain a complete joke - a deeply incompetent, criminally negligent band of racist goons, who consider themselves above the law and who along with the Government, have NO INTEREST AT ALL in the well-being of the public they're supposedly sworn to serve. They live in fear of genuine criminals, preferring to spend their time meeting targets rather than actually doing anything like, say, fighting crime. They'll fuck you good-style if you're a fare dodger on the bus, or if you're drinking a beer in the street, perhaps flicking a fag-end on the floor…but do nothing to protect the public from the explosion of knife-carrying scum and genuine criminals who currently have free reign to do pretty much whatever they want, with little or no fear of genuine consequences.

Spice: You're a bit of a daredevil on the sly, so how would you go about convincing the other guys to join you in say, a bungee jump off Sydney Harbour Bridge?

I don't think it would take too much convincing! I can see everyone being up for it… I wanna find somewhere that still does a human slingshot, or perhaps somewhere that would fire us out a of a cannon. One of the next things on the to-do list is the bungee jump at the Macau Tower in China - you jump from the 62nd floor, which is more than slightly extreme. I've always been a bit of an Evel Knievel freak - death is there to be defied!

Spice: And finally…I believe you had a rare bird incident in your bedroom the other day! Pigeonia would you like to tell all ha-ha-ha!

You know what? It's just one of a series of bizarre incidents that have been happening recently. I was sitting on the bed smoking a cigarette when there was a noise, I looked up to see a huge pigeon come hurtling through the window like some sort of missile, smash into the bedroom wall, flap around at a hundred miles an hour and then dive-bomb into the bin. Which was weird. Then it just sat there, stared right at me and sank comedy-style, entirely motionless, to the bottom. It was buried, entirely out of sight, so I covered the bin with a towel where I took it outside - with people staring at me like I'm about to perform some sort of magic trick. I emptied the bin out, Mr Pigeon seized his chance for freedom and took off, sending garbage everywhere and terrifying some Muslim woman who was standing about two feet away at the time. That's nothing though - I plugged the microwave in yesterday and it exploded. I could have died - possibly. Somebody's got it in for me.

Interviewed by Spice D. Warlock

Visit the Green River Project Website