Toseland - Spring 2016

 The concept of the ‘difficult second album’ is an interesting phenomenon. For the uninitiated, history has shown us that a band’s follow up record can often fail to live up to the standards the band sets itself with its debut. The idea is that artists can often have their whole lives to create their first album but perhaps only a year or so for its next, the suggestion therefore being that some fans may have low expectations. However, it's clear that Toseland have not fallen victim to this with Cradle The Rage, their  powerful successor to 2013’s Renegade. 11 incendiary tracks that absolutely take everything that was great about Renegade to a whole new level. Toby Jepson again takes the production controls and joins frontman James to provide a winning songwriting partnership. From opening track Too Close To Call through to the closing title track, it's an album that takes you on a very satisfying journey of rock. It's with the greatest of pleasures that we sit down with James to talk about how it all came together...

You've just released your second studio album Cradle The Rage, and what an incredible record it is. Firmly in the classic rock postcode but what is evident here is how you are absolutely pushing the boundaries of the genre with some cool arrangements and tracks that supply hook after hook. What was your vision for this record and what approach did you take to its production?


Well production wise we knew we wanted to step it up from Renegade. We really concentrated on what we did best on Renegade and moved forward with what we were good at. The first album was the very first time I'd attempted writing rock songs and producing a record myself so we really concentrated on that. We knew that we wanted to up the production a little bit with the brass and strings which were live so we had to get someone to write the dots for the orchestra and string quartet. So that was really interesting seeing that come together on about four of the tracks but we knew we didn't want it on all of the tracks because we wanted to still represent what we did on the album live, and when you go too far with the production it's very difficult to represent the songs on stage.  Cradle the Rage was 8 months of writing, more or less exactly the same writing time as Renegade. Me and Toby followed exactly the same process. I gave Toby a few of the piano ideas I'd got, and Fingers Burned and We'll Stop at Nothing came from them which was nice, and Toby came with the guitar ideas he'd got. We came together once we got the outline of the song, and when we liked the vibe of it we started writing lyrics together. I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed Renegade but Renegade was the first time I was doing this so I had to really dig deep because it was all new. This one was a real joy because I knew what was coming, I knew what I had to do with the writing, the piano side of it and the vocals. We then did 3 weeks solid in Missing Link Studios recording, and then fortunately for us Mike Fraser who did all the Aerosmith stuff mixed the album. I was just really proud of what we done once we got it back from Mike.


This record sees you incorporating instruments such as saxophone, trombone and even strings. Is this Toby’s influence?


A little bit but we knew that when we'd gone into production, we'd got a bit of an Aerosmith vibe, a classic rock feel going on and we listened to a few of the albums that were written in that kind of vein and listened to their production and knew what instruments they were using and we thought 'yeah'. As I say, we didn't want it on them all, we just wanted to kind of push the songs that we knew were going to really suit them.


You're currently touring with Colour of Noise, and guitarist Bruce Dickinson is someone you have given your thanks to in the album sleeve. How has Bruce supported you with Cradle The Rage and influenced you musically?


Not really influenced me musically but subconsciously I bet he has being the guitarist from the Little Angels! It was really nice to repay the thanks for letting us support them on our very first tour, and that was such a big compliment from Toby and Bruce, for the Little Angles to put a band on that were completely unknown and give us a shot. And know he just started his new band Colour Of Noise that are doing really well and I thanked him on the album because for both albums he has lent me his cabs and amps for the recording of it, and that's where the connection comes from. It's been great having them on the road with us. They are a great band!


You've just completed a European tour with Black Stone Cherry. Tell me about your experience of touring with Kentucky’s finest.


First and foremost they made it really enjoyable for us. They are fantastic people. We had a really, really good time. It was our first major tour in Europe and to be on that kind of stage in front of between one and two thousand people every night with that production and for the main act to really welcome us and not make us feel like outcasts just made it really really enjoyable for us. We hope we can do some more shows with them because it was a real joy.


You will no doubt have been playing some extracts from Cradle The Rage on the Black Stone Cherry tour and as part of your current headline shows. What have the audiences’ reactions been on the new material?


Great! It's only been a week since the release so it's been difficult for the people to get to know the songs and connect with the songs yet but even from scratch I know people are connected to them and having a really good reaction which is really encouraging because this tour was really on the sales of Renegade still because Cradle has not been out that long. We wanted to get people listening to the new songs live to connect to them and then we're hoping for an extensive Autumn tour once everyone has had the time to gel with the songs.


Just taking a moment to reflect on your debut album Renegade, last year you signed a global record deal with the record being repackaged and re-released with Hearts and Bones and The Closer I Get. What stage is this project at?


Cradle the Rage is not released in Europe or America until April so they are a month later just to get everything prepared. But 2 albums will have come out in Europe and America within 6 months just because of the nature of what's happened. It took me 3 1/2 years to get a record deal so by the time we got the record deal we were ready for a new album in the UK but Europe and America have just released the first one so everything had to catch up a little bit. But I think it's going to be a real injection for us. If people do like the album, and it went fantastically well for the support slot with Black Stone Cherry in Europe, and people do see us and like us, we've got 2 albums already for them to connect to. That will hopefully give us a bit of a boost in Europe.


Renegade was a very strong record and so much more than simply a solid foundation. What we see now with Cradle The Rage is a stable line up that musically is demonstrating significant advancement. Do you now expect this to be the springboard to take Toseland to the next level?


Everything we is just always in that vein. We just want to keep bettering ourselves each time and that only comes really by playing live as a band because we are a live performance band. Selling records is very difficult at the moment but for the album to go number 12 first off in the chart and then stay in the top 40 mid week - number 37 - that's fantastic. All the hard work and all the expense, because it's not cheap, doing the tours. To get that recognition straight off the bat encourages us even more because it's amazing how high you do have to get in this industry before you can consider it as a proper job!


It's already been a very busy year but what does the Toseland calendar look like for the rest of 2016?


Well with these live shows and introducing the new songs a lot of industry officials, especially at the London show, were at the gig and that went fantastically well for us - one of the best shows on the tour so far, and sometimes that can be a little bit of a hard area to crack just because of how much choice people have down there to see bands but I really felt that we'd got to a milestone down there on this last tour. It's the first time we've played to over 300 people in London and the reception was fantastic. The industry were there and there are still some people sitting on the fence as publications, managements and agents and promoters of festivals can be. You have to get to a certain level before everyone goes 'hmm... actually, these boys are doing alright, let's give them a shot'. And it's just getting to that point now. So if it can start the ball rolling... We've got the Steelhouse Festival in Wales in July, Bike4Life Festival on 8th May and we are hoping for a few more festivals. We are going to be announcing on Tuesday a big support in July (a tour of Italy with Deep Purple –Ed) that we are really looking forward to. And if Black Stone Cheery come over, and if they have the place there for us because we did enjoy playing with each other in Europe so much - they invited me up to sing on the last song - that would really make the year. If we can do that and that can all come in then we'll see what happens. But because it's just started up in Europe and America now, we are at the bottom of the ladder again there really. So everything I've done for nearly five years here, we've got to try and catch up. But having 2 albums out so close, hopefully it will jump up a bit quicker.

As our conversation draws to a close, we reflect on how much Toseland have already achieved in the first quarter of 2016. With so many exciting plans ahead of them, this is going to be a tremendous year for this wholly deserving band. Enjoy the video for Puppet On A Chain below, a track which accurately represents the quality of their latest album. Curdle The a Rage is available on iTunes, at Amazon and from www.toselandmusic.com.