Living Hell: A Conversation With The Men Behind Knuckle

Hello and welcome to the dawn of a brand new week. We have been planning and working on the content you will see posted in the coming days for the better part of the summer, and to be perfectly honest it is a bit of a relief to know they will all soon be shared with you. This blog exists to promote the future of the music industry, and to do that we need input from people like you and your music-loving friends. If you have any questions about the content in this article, or if you have an artist you would like to see featured on this blog, please contact james@haulix.com and share your thoughts. We can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

The internet has changed essentially every aspect of the music business. From the amount of time between an album’s recording and release, to the way news is distributed and the way artists engage with their fans, nothing is the same today as it was even a decade ago. As someone who lived through it all and can clearly remember the days before everything you ever wanted could be found online, I constantly find myself blown away by the amount of change and evolution that has taken place within my own lifetime. It seems anything is possible these days, as long as you’re willing to work for it of course, which is part of motivation behind my decision to feature a relatively unknown band by the name of Knuckle on the blog this afternoon.

About a week ago, I received an email that brought to my attention a new duo from the UK who call themselves Knuckle. The two piece, as the press release explained, met on Halloween night in 2013 and decided to launch a band not long after. Their first single, “Living Hell,” can be enjoyed below:

I don’t know what you felt when you were hearing the song above, but the first time it met my ears I immediately knew Knuckle were onto something great. I reached out for more material, but their publicist informed me the guys only had a few songs completed and were focusing on developing their presence before releasing more music. This is a common response given to people requesting unreleased music, especially when talking about newer artists, but the more I pondered on Knuckle’s need to gain further exposure the more I became fascinated with the way the industry has changed. The members of Knuckle met less than a year ago, but already they have played with internationally recognized groups (Little Barrie), recorded some great songs, and released their first music video. Call me crazy, but there was a time when achieving all that mean you had ‘made it’ in some small way.

Anyone old enough to drive in the United States no doubt has a decent memory of the world before social media. In those days, if your band formed in October you would probably have a minimum of six months, if not more before you began playing shows. As for recording, you either needed to do it yourself with whatever equipment you could find or save enough money to enter an actual studio, but in order to that you first needed to generate income through playing shows. As a result, it was not uncommon to see even the greatest new artists take a year or two or more to find their audience. There was no Twitter to turn to with every thought you have, nor Facebook to post tour dates on. Bands that wanted fans had to hit the pavement and promote. They had to create actual press kits and pay whatever ridiculous postage was charged to get those kits into the hands of every record label, music publication, and management team whose address was available to the public. You may have an EP out six months after forming, but it would not hold a candle to the quality or quantity of content being produced today.

The world has changed since then, however, and whether you think it’s for the better or for the worse there is no denying that we are able to discover new artists and the music they create easier today than ever before. The hard part, at least as far as artists are concerned, is turning that person who discovers their music into an actual, financially supportive fan. That is the place where Knuckle find themselves right now, and it was one of the many things we discussed when I had the opportunity to interview them at the end of last week. You can read highlights from our conversation below.

Knuckle will be working on new music well into the fall, but I expect another single will surface before snow starts to fall. Follow the band on Twitter and Facebook to stay updated on their latest activity. If you have any additional questions, please comment at the end of this post and we’ll do our best to get them answered.

H: Why, hello. It’s a pleasure to have you with us. Before we begin, would you please take a moment to introduce yourselves to our readers:

K: Hello there! We are Knuckle, a two piece from Huddersfield consisting Jonny Firth AKA Jonny the Girth (refers to his waistband and not penis width) on Lead Guitar and Lead Vocals and Ben Wallbanks AKA Ballwanks on Lead Drums.

H: Thank you, Ben and Jonny. We have been looking forward to this interview ever since we first heard “Living Hell.” Tell me, how has the response been to that single so far?

K: Pretty good. We’re really happy with the reviews and radio play we’ve had from it. People have started singing it back to us when we play it live which is a bit weird, but awesome.

H: After hearing the single I had to look up your story, and I must say I am a little blown away to learn that you have been together for less than a year. Would you please share your origin story with our readers? Bonus points for descriptions of the costumes I’m told you were wearing at the time:

K: We met on Halloween last year (2013) at a gig Ben was playing. Jonny was the support act. Ben was wearing a potato sack on his head, a rice sack on his torso and gold sparkly tights on his legs. Jonny was dressed as himself (like an American trucker). Picture of Ben enclosed. After that we got smashed, went to a reggae night and decided we should be called Knuckle

H: Had you ever crossed paths before that night, or was this a random first-time meeting? You must have shared mutual friends.

K: We’d probably crossed paths around Leeds or Huddersfield before but never seen each other, either that or we’ve met a few times and been too fucked to remember. At the Halloween gig we met through a mutual friend that plays in the same band as Ben and fixes Jonny’s amps (The Amp Shack, plug plug plug).

H: So, who was the first to say ‘Let’s start a band’?

K: Ben was the first one to mention it, as soon as Jonny got off stage at the Halloween gig. I think the exact words were “You play guitar like I play drums, we should be in a band”.

H: Before we talk about this project any further, we should probably learn a little bit about your history. What other groups, if any, have you been a part of?

K: Jonny has a one man band thing called Jonnythefirth and is in a band with two girls that he can never win arguments with called Crybabycry.

Ben has played in all sorts of shit, from an experimental 18 piece ensemble to Space funk band Kava Kava and many other rock bands along the way.

H: I have read a number of articles about your music, and it seems everyone has their own way of describing your sound. How do you explain the sound of Knuckle to people who have never encountered your music?

K: We throw all of sorts of genres at them hoping to get one right from garage blues to surf punk. We just baffle them with bollocks.

H: Along with releasing the single “Living Hell,” you also released a music video. What can you tell us about the creation of that clip? Just so you know, we’ll probably embed the video into this story, so feel free to be as descriptive as you like

K: We were very lucky to be able to work with Marco Zafffino who is an award winning film maker. We wanted a dark and dingy performance video, so we went to the pub… Just so happens they have a dark and dingy basement. Jonny wanted there to be freaky masks involved because he’s a bit strange like that, so we got a load of mates to wear some… then we got fucked (can you see a recurring theme here?).

H: You’ve already played with a number of internationally recognized acts, including Little Barrie. How did you go about setting up your first shows, and what has the reaction from crowds been like thus far?

K: Like we mentioned earlier, we’ve played in a few bands before this one and people seemed to be excited that we were starting a band together, so they booked us! Luckily most of the people loved it. Some people have walked out because we played too loud, but fuck ’em.

H: How would you describe your live show?

K: Raucous and unpredictable, mainly because we never practice! Some nights we decide to jam, sometimes Jonny jumps into the crowd or climbs on tables, sometimes there are shameless drum solos.

H: You’ve been a band for less than a year, and even though you kick a lot of ass the vast majority of music fans have yet to discover your music. What steps have you taken to get your name out there?

K: We’ve gigged and gigged and gigged this year, playing around 45 gigs in 6 months, sometimes we have 2 or 3 gigs in one day. We also try to keep our social media stuff interesting, funny and/or dirty. Getting as many features in blogs and on websites is always a priority too, Wall of Sound pr have helped us with this massively.

H: What is the hardest part about gaining recognition for your music in 2014? There seem to be many channels for sharing your work, but getting people to pay attention seems like another battle altogether.

K: I think he hardest part of getting recognition is cutting through the bullshit. It’s so easy and cheap for anyone to put their music online so there’s a lot of competition… Even us two idiots did it!

H: Do you have any advice to offer others who may be considering starting a band in an age where marketing an recognition mean more than ever before?

K: Start a band because you love it!

H: What are the biggest challenges facing Knuckle right now?

K: The biggest challenge right now is getting over this bastard of a hangover! After that, I think it’s still getting our music recognised and listened to. We’re a long way off being able to sell loads of records.

H: Do you have any goals for this project? Go on, be lofty!

K: We want to give up our shitty jobs!

H: What is the hardest part about being a musician in 2014? Best?

K: The best part is the same as it’s always been, playing live and getting that buzz that can’t be replicated. The hardest is like we mentioned earlier, being noticed in a sea of bands all trying to get the same thing.

H: Okay, I think I’ve taken up enough of your time. Before I let you go, do you have any final thoughts or observations that you would like to share with our readers?

 ddddddLet’s party!

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.