Back in 2014 Gene Simmons set ablaze an argument that filled many with rage when he stated “Rock is dead”. Like most I spat out a barrage of profanities and thought that’s it, the man has flipped. After I had calmed down I made myself read his interview in Esquire magazine and I sadly had to agree with a lot he said.
If you dig past the headline his comment is not about the amount of bands, not about talent but more around the fans and how music was no longer purchased in a physical form and how streaming sites were killing the hope for bands to break through.
Gene is no idiot, the man is a merchandise genius and he is lucky to have held onto many fans, who, like me want something to hold (no innuendo please I am being serious). Just like we all laughed at Lars Ulrich when it turns out the man was a bloody fortune teller.
I have to say that this trend worried me. I refuse to use a streaming site, I cannot happily pay my 15 quid a month and have a clear conscience that I am doing my bit to help the bands. I know many will be saying I am a bit hypocritical here as I will get free music to review and free gig entry but my severely warped units creaking under the weight of CD and my favourite format Vinyl tells another tale. I have had two wardrobes collapse just under the weight of band t-shirts. No, for every free gig I spend on merch as I know it goes straight to the band. It was only this year that I found out Amazon take 30% from every album sale so please take note, if you do buy please go direct to the band.
For a long time I felt it was only the older generation that were the ones who wanted physical copies but with the rejuvenation of vinyl I think people are coming on board again and this was my first indication that Gene may be wrong.
Just after that article I came across a bunch of young a very enthusiastic guys from Lancaster…Massive Wagons entered my life and have been there ever since. They were a shot of adrenaline to the heart and little did they know it then but they were starting a re-emergence of incredibly talented young bands, bands that realised what Gene said could be true and shook up a three decade, tried and tested music industry formula.
Back when I first fell in love with Rock and metal it was easy for bands. You looked good, played a bit and followed the NWOBHM template and you had a good chance of getting signed and ending up in some big venues supporting the guys who had cracked it already. Enter late 80s, early 90s and the template changed slightly, look even better (more like a girl the better), played good and followed the hair metal template (if you were bad boys you would go to the top of the pile)…then grunge, nu metal etc, etc, etc.
Its been like this forever until labels just stopped signing bands. There were not enough record sales to make it profitable. The old school bands held on in there and ended up getting bigger and bigger. The only bands to seemingly be able to still rack up the sales.
So where did that leave the rest? How the hell were you meant to make it? Andy Copping has been saying for years he has no future headliners and this is not the bands fault. No. This, people, is your fault. Look at the last decade and tell me more than three bands you think are worthy of filling arenas and headlining the biggest festivals in the world. Exactly, I doubt you can.
So Massive wagons and many other bands said if the labels won’t do it we will. The boys toured every venue they could, they took on support slots as often as available, they travelled to play gigs knowing they had made a loss before they even left their houses…all in the hope the audience would be entertained enough to spend some money on a t-shirt or a CD. It also helped that for every single show the band would be at that merch stand, they spoke to the punters and they happily got photos taken. With every show they gained new fans, more merch was sold and the train kept a rollin’.
This hard graft mixed with one of the best live shows you will see brought them to their third album and finally a big player in Earache records signing them up. Never has here been a more earned appointment.
So what is all the fuss you ask, well Massive Wagons just became the first Lancaster band to break into the UK top 40 album charts, not just that they came in at number 16.
Now back in the 80s and 90s I would not have batted an eye. It was a hell of a lot easier to do it back then and if you have a look at my comparison below you will see just how big an achievement this is. This was bonding of a band with a solid fanbase and a label willing to take some risks and those risks have just paid off.
The fans bought into the idea of getting this band to this landmark and it proved that one, rock fans are the best in the world and two the appetite is there to purchase physical offerings. I do not say this lightly but this is a turning point, yes for Massive Wagons but for Rock and all those struggling bands out there. It can be done. I wrote an article a couple of years ago where I said it was down to the upcoming bands to change things, drag people away from the arenas and only leaving the house for the likes of Maiden, AC/DC, Sabbath and Metallica. If we banked on these bands Rock would die and within that Article I mentioned Massive Wagons as being one of the bands that could do it. Everyone likes to be right but I felt so much more when I saw the band post that they had managed to break into the top 40. I was as proud as hell to say I watched this band play the tiny venues, do the half hour support set and I have watched them grow.
The second part of this turning point is the labels, they will see this, it will hit home that Rock and Metal can make them money again. It started to trickle through last year as some of the bands I have been raving about got signed but now the floodgates may very well open and we could see a flurry of signings with a push for bands to record and get on what could now be the Massive Wagons template.
Well done to Massive Wagons and thank you for fighting every inch of the way and shining a light and showing the path for both bands and labels alike. Enjoy your plaudits and keep pushing the boundaries. To the fans who bought into this and supported not just an amazing band but a way of life for many take a bow…this is your success as much as those damned hairy Northerners(well, except that super sexy bass player).
Chart position Band Facebook Likes YouTube views(last release)
1 Mamma Mia 2 N/A 5.1 million
2 Greatest Showman N/A 19 million
3 Drake 35 million 87 million
4 George ezra 657 thousand 44 million
5 Nicki Minaj 41 million 14 million
6 Travis Scott 1.4 million 27 million
7 Mamma Mia N/A 5.1 million
8 Miles Kane 277 thousand 134 thousand
9 Elvis Presley 13 million 128 million
10 Ed Sheeran 18 million 1.3 billion
16 Massive Wagons 12 thousand 18 thousand
Review by Ritchie Birnie