The latest album from Northern Ireland hard rockers The Answer is Solas. We caught up with bassist Micky Waters, who fills us in on their sixth full-length studio album and other topics.
Chad Bowar: Was there anything unique about the songwriting process for Solas compared to your previous albums?
Micky Waters: Yes, an awful lot actually. The mandolin, bouzouki, banjo and samba band for starters. (laughs) When we started out on this one we did not know where it was going to end up.. Usually we have a fairly good idea of the kind of record we going to make. With this one the idea was to infuse some Celtic roots music into The Answer’s solid classic rock foundation.
How you go about that: write, produce, record, convince the record label, management and our fans that it’s a good idea is another matter! But we knew it was time to take off the rock ‘n’ roll straitjacket and write and record in a more open and creative way than on previous albums. it was a huge challenge, but one that brought the best songs we have done to date.
The album was mostly recorded in our home rehearsal room in Ireland. We have been rehearsing/writing there since we were 16 years of age, so it’s very special for us actually record an album there. It was a very liberating and expressive period and I think is reflected in the dimension of the final tracks!
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
Probably hearing back just how great James’ drum sound was in our old rehearsal room. We had no idea that it was gonna turn out so good. And on the day we started recording a black swan showed up to stay in the flooded field next to the house. It was never before seen in our area. It stayed for the duration then took off. We are not the most superstiticous bunch of guys, but this was pretty weird.
How has the band’s sound evolved/progressed on this one?
Hugely different approach for us, more progressive at times, with elements of trad, folk, Americana, and we co-wrote one track with Neil Davidge (Massive Attack producer) adding a cinematic sound into the mix. I would say it has much more dimension, layers, interesting sound design and definitely much richer overall.
The vocals have been treated differently with Cormac experimenting with more tracking and myself adding in many more harmony and counter point ideas. Paul tried many different guitar sounds, both acoustic and electric and the overall production was more about sonic depth and color rather than blasting rock solos and beats.
Is there a lyrical theme or thread running through the album?
The album Title is Solas which means “light” in Irish Gaelic language. We have all been through personal battles over this past couple of years. We used our music to vent our anger and add a little color into our lives to help get over these dark times. “What the light don’t fill, the darkness kills.”
What are your expectations for the record?
Multi platinum! (laughs) Truly that it gets the opportunity to be heard by as many people as possible! We believe we have created our best work so far.
How did you decide on the concept for the “Solas” video?
We received an idea from Northern Irish director Dermot Faloon and his wonderful team at Street Monkey. We wanted a video without the band in it and to have an eerie narrative that was something between The Wicker Man meets Game Of Thrones meets True Detective. Northern Ireland has such a vibrant video skills service today, what with most of the Game Of Thrones being shot there. We wanted to bring that rich cultural look to our video and I think Dermot really nailed it. They did a great job.
How important are videos these days?
Not as critical as they were back in MTV days when that was the one big channel you had to get your coverage on. YouTube/Vevo and other visual platforms have allowed a proliferation of videos to appear on the internet and this is both a good and bad thing. It’s good from the point of view that you can create your own platform but bad from the point of view that to get eyeballs on your video, it sometimes has to have that special/novel quality that can cause it to “go viral.” We didn’t want a novel video, but something that represented the song in a bit of an old fashioned video sense.
What has been your most memorable The Answer live show or tour?
Our Everyday Demons tour across the USA for 6 plus months brought so many good times and fun memories, mostly hazy. That will always be tough one to beat. Young and let loose across America in a rock and roll band! What can go wrong? (laughs) We performed at Madison Square Garden to the Forum in L.A., although coming home to a sold out headline show at the Ulster in Belfast was probably the show highlight.
What are your upcoming tour plans, and are there any plans to come to North America?
We hit the road starting in Scotland on November 12, tour the UK then Europe until December 20th. We are playing the Monsters of Rock cruise out of Florida in February. Keep an eye for future U.S. plans on our website and Facebook.
What was the best concert you’ve been to as a fan?
My first ever festival experience Reading ’94. I was 14! Was an awesome lineup: Helmet, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Therapy, Rollins Band, Soundgarden, Radiohead, all at their best.
Since it’s Halloween season, what is your all-time favorite horror movie?
Nightmare on Elm Street still gives me the heebie-jeebies! I like The Shining. Stephen King movies are always good for a fright!
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
The new Opeth album Sorceress and a lot of Yes.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Check out The Answer on Spotify. Lots of good playlists on there. Cheers to ya!
(interview published October 28, 2016)