October Burns Black - Interview

Updated: Mar 26, 2019

What do you do when you want to form a band, but each member lives in a different country? You just think outside the box and get the project going against all odds.

What do you call that? October Burns Black.

Have a look at this excellent line-up consisting of Tommy Olsson - Guitar; Lars Kappeler - Guitar; Ger Egan - Vocals; James Tramel - Bass; Simon Rippin - Drums (live support) – I am sure you remember my Long Night interview with Tommy & the name Simon Rippin should ring a bell… “Mixer, Producer and Drummer with The Eden House, GIG, RSR, OBB etc. Ex Nefilim /FOTN, NFD etc. etc.” – as can be read on his social media profile.

I usually interview band members, but given the unique working method of this band I thought it’d be cool to talk to the Man who holds it all together: Ed Shorrock, OBB’s manager.

You’ll understand soon enough what I mean…

Photo by Marge von Munchingindahausen

Crow Xp: Welcome, Ed. Nice to have you with us. Let’s talk a bit about you first. I know that becoming a manager of a band was not exactly something on your bucket list… How great a challenge has it been for you?

Ed Shorrock: Thanks for the introduction Crow – not sure I hold it all together but I certainly have a hand in providing a bit of structure, operational management and strategic oomph to the setup. I think it’s only with hindsight that you realise what has actually been accomplished to date given the geographical hurdles which are inherent in something of this nature, but it’s been a challenge for sure. The exciting bit about it is that now we have some air under our wings, the challenge will be in seeing how high we can fly…although I do remember a chap called Icarus 😉.

Photo by Gary Quarmby

I think it’s fair to say that apart from being in a band during my school days my interaction with the music scene for the past thirty odd years until mid-2016 has been as a punter, a consumer if you will. On the one hand you could argue that that is a disadvantage because the learning curve is so steep and that the embedded knowledge that comes with years of experience isn’t there. The counter arguments are equally powerful in my view though – I see everything from both viewpoints: As a manager on the inside and a fan from the outside. Every time OBB undertakes an activity – a new piece of merchandise; corresponding with fans, promoters, other bands, publicists; a social media post; a piece of artwork; agreeing to gig dates…the list is endless by the way – I always ask myself how this would play to our fanbase.

The division of labour works very well in practice. The band members just want to write and play music, the rest of the stuff is down to me and I’m fine with that – you meet some interesting people when you have to get immigration paperwork completed and you learn a lot about all sorts: T-shirt printing, websites, postal systems, graphic design, music formats, sales tax regimes, the absolute requirement in Germany to wait for the little green guy to appear before crossing the road, baggage restrictions…..

Photo by Gary Quarmby

That said, I have to hand it to the guys who between them must be clocking up well over a hundred years of cumulative experience in the business. Every time I ask for advice or guidance it comes back perfectly wrapped and precisely on point – not that I always take it up! Having access to that network of individuals and their contacts is invaluable. Want a crash course in hiring vans, backline and driving in London? Ask Simon. Want a view about the German music scene and where to go and what to do? Ask any one of my German friends. Need someone to source some blue jeans? Ask James!

Basically, running a band is a never-ending series of challenges and each decision you make comes with consequences which potentially affect a large number of people so to that extent you have to be mindful that you have people’s musical reputations and careers on the line. That tends to focus the mind a little.

Would I swap it? No. Never. Sure, there are some low moments, some dull ones, but the privilege of being allowed to do this job is something I never take for granted but put it this way – roles like this don’t exactly turn up every day of the week. You’re either in this life to make something of it or not – the music may be digital but life certainly isn’t.

Ultimately, there are only a few rules which I consider inviolate: Don’t be a dick, maintain a sense of humour and recognise that what goes around, comes around.

Photo by Marge von Munchingindahausen

Crow Xp: I have to say OBB is so interesting for so many reasons. Let’s start with your locations haha I remember inviting OBB for our Rehearsal Vid Competition on Global Music Club some time ago… You answered: “We don’t ever rehearse.” And I thought you were pulling my leg.

Ed: Yeah, well that was a bit tongue in cheek but it is a function of the setup. You’ve got people spread across a number of jurisdictions: the US, Norway, Germany and the UK and it’s hardly practical to get together at the weekend! When James was assembling the band I think it’s fair to say he was looking for the right blend of musicians rather than their capacity to pitch up at the weekend.

The natural extension of this point is to explain how the music does actually get made. First up, OBB is blessed with five incredibly strong songwriters – what ends up on the cutting room floor most bands would (in my humble opinion) happily donate a limb for. That is both a blessing and a curse as you can well imagine – well, it’s a nice curse to have I suppose.

Sometime James will chuck over a bassline, sometimes a full formed piece will come from either Lars or Tommy but one thing is for sure, everyone will have a view and it will get analysed in intricate detail before it makes the grade. Finally (and almost inevitably), Ger will have a significant amount of input from a vocalist’s perspective and it’s just as well. While the instruments are critical, in my view the vocals define the feel, vibe and outlook of the band, maybe you could go so far as to say its soul but maybe that’s pushing it a little far.

Photo by Gary Quarmby

Not to be overlooked is Simon’s role in the process. Although he is not a member of the band in the traditional sense his understanding of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to the drums has significantly enhanced a number of songs. Being a drummer he’s also very organised and methodical which is essential when it comes to the mixing stage too.

All hosted on Google Drives and discussed/debated over FB and Messenger. It makes for a rather extended process sometimes as what could be sorted out in five minutes in a rehearsal has to cover six time zones.

Crow Xp: I guess that’s really something… the way you are taking advantage of new technologies in music.

Ed: Yes, through technology this is the only way OBB could operate and I don’t just mean from a music-making perspective. Given live performances are few and far between (although we are working hard on that), social media also plays a large part. I know it has its detractors but it is the only way we can realistically reach our audience with news and developments.

Fortunately, pretty much 100% of the people who interact with us are good folk and use the technology for its intended purpose. People who have a genuine interest in the music tend to coalesce together and so the self-selection process that goes with that means we are pretty fortunate to have a nice bunch of helpful and supportive fans.

The same goes for the other promotional activities I get involved with – treat people with respect and genuine interest and you end up with a genuine community of friends.

Crow Xp: Amazing. How do you manage that… in the exact sense of the word. And how did it all start?

Ed: Who said anything about managing the music-making part of the process!? I have an overview of what is going on but I know where my limits are. Besides which there is plenty else going on and needing to be managed, especially in the run up to a release or a gig. There’s also ‘business as usual’ keeping social media ticking over, nipping down to the Post Office to mail a T-Shirt/beanie/CD to South America or New Zealand so I’m more than happy that the musical process moves forward under its own steam.

How did it start? Good question. When you find out, please let me know!

There’s short version and a long version of that answer but I’ll try and keep it somewhere in the middle. Back in the day, let’s call it the 80s for argument’s sake, our genre of music was pretty popular in the UK and then it went missing in action as far as I was concerned (although it existed underground and flourished in other countries), so a few years back I went looking. To cut a long story short I found Sweet Ermengarde and Lars, who happened to mention one day that he was auditioning for a new band. That band happened to be OBB – Tommy and Ger were already involved in the project but I thought if it’s good enough for that calibre of individual it was worth investigating.

Photo by Gary Quarmby

I got chatting to James and before we knew it we had the origins of something like a management team – a good dollop of social media, some merchandise and away we went, but it wasn’t until 2018 that things really started to happen with our four inaugural dates in the UK in April in Nottingham, Leeds, York and Camden and the release of fault line, the debut EP in the July. We’re forever indebted to people like Piers (de Mison), Howard (Rickards), Kirstin (Lavender) and Chelle (Dorrington) for sticking their necks out – in some way, shape and form I hope I can and have been repaying that debt. That’s the funny thing about the music business – beneath what can appear to be quite a cutthroat industry there are a ton of people who will put themselves out for you simply on the basis that you share the same outlook on life.

Never lose that attitude because you never know when you might need to draw on that capacity.

Photo by Gary Quarmby

Crow Xp: I can’t but think of you as an effective band member… What have you been working on so far?

Ed: Apart from the gigs we have lined up our second EP which is also well on the way. Entitled Slow Erosion it will be a four track release which builds on fault line. Some of the tracks for fault line are nearly three years old now so hopefully people will be able to notice a development in the sound. It’s still characteristically OBB, don’t worry – I can assure you that we aren’t going divert down a particular path because it is seemingly commercially advantageous or that we think a saxophone might spice things up.

Me, a band member? Not in the normal sense but given how things are structured and crucially, all of the other members have other projects which are active, I guess I have the time and energy to devote to OBB. I do get involved with other projects though, one in particular which will shortly see the light of day and which I am particularly excited about.

Photo by Gary Quarmby

As a result of the various things I’ve been up to, including taking Sweet Ermengarde on a little trip to the UK last October, I’ve set up a label, Outland Media. It’s nothing fancy but acts as an umbrella for music-related activities, whether a label under which OBB releases music or tour management.

Crow Xp: I believe your next Live Gig will be at Gotham Sounds in Hilden Germany on May 4… Will you rehearse before or go straight to sound check?

Ed: 2019 is shaping up nicely with Gotham Sounds Festival in Hilden in May, WGT in Leipzig in June and Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival in Whitby in November. As ever, getting everyone in one place is the real challenge.

We do have a day for rehearsals set aside but I guess there aren’t many bands who only rehearse for such a short period before putting on a show. It’s a testament to the professionalism and abilities of the guys.

Crow Xp: Do you ever get nostalgic when it comes to music? What do you think of the music scene today, in general terms?

Photo by Gary Quarmby

Ed: Nostalgia is great but it doesn’t get you very far. Don’t get me wrong, I think all of us have our heroes and memories of the past but one day we will be the past so it’s all about creating something in the present and for the future.

I’m acutely aware that some people will say OBB has strong connections to sounds from the 80s and 90s. It does, but I like to think it’s refreshed them and made them available to not only our contemporaries but also a younger generation. What I find intriguing about OBB is that when people who would not traditionally associate themselves with alternative music like ours, when they hear it they invariably remark how good it is. That brings me to one of my hobbyhorses which is that we should be expanding our horizons and not falling into a clique-like mentality where only a very narrow range of genres are accepted.

Funnily enough I do detect a resurgence among people who like what we are about, particularly in the UK where some of the hard work has been paying off.

Crow Xp: I sometimes ask for some funny story when on the road… but today I think I’ll have to ask if you ever had a panic moment working like this lol

Ed: I think the band could fill up an entire encyclopedia with road stories. Panics tend to be few and far between but when they happen, it can be seat of the pants stuff. Generally speaking I think it’s only a good idea to worry about the things you can control rather than those you can’t.

Panic moments tend to involve things like airlines going bust or band members being arrested but fortunately we’ve avoided that so far so I’m stuck with more mundane things like merchandise packages getting stuck in customs. Come back after Gotham Sounds and WGT and I’ll let you know if anything else happens.

Photo by Piers de Mison

Crow Xp: Thanks so much for this chat. Was fun. Let’s do it again soon and get some road stories next time.

Ed: My pleasure. I do seem to have rather rambled on a bit but that’s what happens when you speak to someone about their passion. It would be good to catch up, maybe on the road sometime.

OBB can be found online at the usual places:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/OctoberBurnsBlack/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/OctoberBurnsB

Instagram: www.instagram.com/octoberburnsblack/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZSsq1aE4kHGJ8w_Y40RCvA

Bandcamp: www.octoberburnsblack.bandcamp.com

Web: www.octoberburnsblack.com