Raven have enjoyed a lengthy career, keeping their hard rocking sound fresh through multiple decades, but it all had to start somewhere. In this edition of Gear Factor, we speak with bassist/vocalist John Gallagher, who takes us through his riff history.
Gallagher details his blue collar youth, working to scrounge up money to buy (and sometimes borrow and steal) musical equipment, all to get to a point where he could be a working musician. He counts Slade as one of his earliest musical influences, rocking out a bit of “Take Me Back Home.”
Gallagher recalls, “I’d listen to all these guys, John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin, Gary Thain, John Wetton with King Crimson. I’d sit there forever trying to play even though it’s not played on the bass. Ritchie Blackmore solos on ‘Burn’ — I was playing and learning classical guitar my own bastardized way, so I’d apply a lot of that.”
As for his early days as a musician, he recalls getting started with a number of covers. The singer humorously recalls, “We started to play the clubs and people would come up with beermats with requests on it. So you’d see ‘Victim of Changes’ by Judas Priest or ‘Highway Star’ by Deep Purple or if we were playing Sunderland, which was the rival football team, the request would be ‘Fuck off,’ so we had to put up with that too. We’d also play stuff like Montrose, ‘Space Station No. 5.’”
Gallagher called out “Tyrant of the Airwaves” and “UXB” as some of his favorite Raven songs. He also cited “Faster Than the Speed of Light” as a favorite the band still plays today.
As for some new material from Metal City, Gallagher says, “On the new album, I get to mess around and play a few solos here and there. The first song, ‘The Power,’ has got a solo played on my old red Explorer bass. It has a whammy bar and it’s had one since 1980, as I conned a local guy into making me one out of a Stratocaster block.”
He also rocked the opening riff and solo from “Top of the Mountain” and recalls a bit of how they were able to achieve the sound of their epic closer, “When Worlds Collide,” on his eight-stringed instrument.
“To us, [playing live] is what it’s all about. The recreation of your latest studio opus note for note onstage with your click track in your headphones with somebody telling you, ‘And coming up it’s the chorus, 1-2-3-4,’ which I know a lot of people do, that’s Broadway, and I’m not into fucking Broadway,” says Gallagher. “We’re into rock ‘n’ roll, heavy metal, getting out there, making it real and doing it right. We’ll stand or fall on our own talent and not what’s programmed into a box.”
You can hear Raven playing their brand of heavy rock ‘n’ roll on their latest album, Metal City. Be sure to pick up the album here.
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