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Interview – Tom Harte, TRUCKER DIABLO – June 2013

| 13 June 2013 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

Northern Ireland’s TRUCKER DIABLO have followed up their impressive 2011 debut The Devil Rhythm with an absolute balls-out killer of a record, Songs Of Iron.  Singer and guitarist Tom Harte took a lunchbreak off his graphic designer job to call down a crackly phone line and talk about the album, the band’s plans and the state of the music industry.

Trucker Diablo Tom Harte
100% ROCK: Hey there, Tom, how are you?

Tom Harte: All right Shane, how it’s going. Not too bad.

100% ROCK: Cool, man. I believe I’m calling you at your job. You’re a graphic designer – is that right?

Tom Harte: Yes, just on my lunch at the moment, so it’s perfect timing.

100% ROCK: Excellent, so you do the artwork for the band. Is that right?

Tom Harte: Yeah, that’s right, anything artistic really, they normally call me to whip it into shape.

100% ROCK: That’s part of the deal nowadays for bands, isn’t it, because the record industry’s changed so much – you kind of have to wear every hat yourself and be a real little cottage industry?

Tom Harte: Yeah, for sure – this shit ain’t going to sell itself. You need to get stuck in and get hands on.

100% ROCK: That’s a good little catch cry there, “This shit ain’t going to sell itself.” That’s dead right, man, but, look, the album is fucking fantastic.

Tom Harte: Cheers. Thank you.

100% ROCK: It really is THAT good. I’ve read some of the reviews that have come out. I’ve got my own half written already, and it really is as good as everyone is saying. You guys must like it as much as everyone else is digging it as well, so it must feel gratifying to get that sort of feedback.

Tom Harte: Yeah, absolutely. I know there’s always going to be some people who are jacking off – people always say that [something is good], but I think [this time] we really knew that we had something. We’ve been playing a handful of songs live over the past year or so and we knew just from reactions from people that it’d be going down well on record, and when we first sat down and got a listen back to the first run of the album, I said, “Oh holy shit, this going to blow the first album out of the water.”

100% ROCK: Yeah, that’s just it. The first album made a really big impression around the world, if not in terms of financial sales and things, but certainly in terms of people pricking their ears up and going, “This is interesting.” Then this album just to my ears it sounds like a game changer. You know what I mean?

Tom Harte: Yes, and I think this album, the first album was so impulsive, y’know. We sat down to write songs for an album just because we wanted to get an album out. It was really just to get something out there for people who wanted something, so it was very, very impulsive, because some of the songs, they were written so quickly and there was a real great feel about them and we just put them straight onto record.

This time around we took all the songs we had been playing for the past year or so, so they had really sort of matured themselves, but we sat in the studio for like two weeks and just made sure we got everything right and then we took another week to mix it, so there was just a bit more time and thought, so I would say this is what we can do part-time, imagine what we can do full time?

Trucker Diablo

100% ROCK: Yes, for sure.

Tom Harte: I’m just really pleased that people are really getting into it.

100% ROCK: How much blood, sweat, and tears went into the making of this record for you guys?

Tom Harte: I have my own sort of rock shed at home where I go and write songs and write riffs. I probably spent about, I’d say six months, in the shed sort of doing some recording on my own and just making sure a lot of stuff went into it. But, y’know, as a band in terms of blood, sweat, and tears, we worked really hard on the live scene to sort of push our first record and just get the band out there. Having that album to back up the work that’s been done has been great, and we put a lot of work into it. We all worked [a ‘normal’ job], but we managed to play 40 or 50 shows in the last year. So we’ve just really tried to work our arses off to rise above the noise.

100% ROCK: The album opens with Red Line On, and you’ve got that great refrain in there: “You’ve got to be good/ and you’ve got to be strong”. Is that kind of a subconscious mantra that you guys live by?

Tom Harte: Yeah, I always say you’ve got to be good to your fans, and you’ve got to stay humble, and that’s the best way that you’ll succeed because at the end of the day we’re the same as everyone else. We just happen to love music and we’re very fortunate to be able to do something that we really love. And you’ve got to be strong in this business because, you know, you can be hot one minute and cold the next, and you just got to keep pushing on through pretty much, with the strength of US. We’ve stood together for five years and sort of strengthened the band, and we all want to achieve the same thing so there’s a bit of a message in there I reckon.

100% ROCK: On that note, it’s getting harder and harder for a band. There’s more bands out there, there’s less CDs being sold, people are buying maybe one song instead of an album, all that sort of stuff. The record industry is in serious danger of imploding. Do you see that ten years on from now that somehow it could be better or worse?

Tom Harte: Pauses… Erm…It’s kind of hard to say. I think I lot of bands are trying to ride the storm and adapt with the changes that are happening within the industry. I think if record companies, I know it’s harder and stuff, there’s a lot of that [fake] music about at the moment as well, but I still think record companies have their function to really help bands with their own contacts worldwide and things adapt.

I think that’s where bands suffer, in terms of it’s okay to play music but you’re only reaching out to your immediate audiences, but really getting the PR behind everything that you’re doing [is hard], so you need to get really inventive and very innovative if you want to sort of get the sales back up. I know vinyl and stuff’s coming back around again so there might be a resurgence of the older formats and things coming back. Hopefully that will take us back into the swing of things for some of musicians and bands.

100% ROCK: Maybe eight tracks re the future, Tom? [laughing]

Tom Harte: [jokingly gasps and laughs] There’s some band over here actually distributing tapes again.

100% ROCK: Oh wow.

Trucker Diablo 2

Tom Harte: ‘Cos some people have older cars and only have tape decks so the damn tapes are the only things they can play in the cars!

100% ROCK: I got a tape in the mail to review about two or three years ago from a punk band in America, and I thought that was kind of kitsch and kind of cool. I’m glad it came with the digital songs as well. [laughs]

Tom Harte: Yeah exactly! Well, we have vinyl and we have a digital release as well with the vinyl.

100% ROCK: On that note, you guys seem to be at the forefront, or at least up there with the leading pack, in terms of having mastered using social media to reach not only fans but people who can then reach more fans for you. Was that a natural thing to you or did you learn it by trial and error as you went?

Tom Harte: It’s probably more circumstantial. I ran my own business for five years. And we’re all sort of heavily involved with the business side of things, so right from the outset we’ve seen the band as something that we love, but also as a business and also because we are sort of blue collar guys, if you put out a product [it has to be] something for people to actually buy into. I think we’ve almost created some kind of movement in the way that some people really follow us, because we are normal guys and the whole social media thing it really came naturally to us to use it every day to pump the awareness of the band and now it’s just like second nature. Anything we do just goes on immediately and we make sure we update and people know what we’re doing.

100% ROCK: Oh it’s interesting because I was aware of your name through my 100% Rock Facebook page before I was aware of the band. That’s how much I think that you guys have been getting out there and putting it about. You’re always posting stuff and I was like, “Tom Harte, I know that name”, and then I found the first album through that and then here we are now a couple years later. It’s working. Whatever you’re doing, it’s working, and that’s the main thing. It’s all about finding a new way nowadays .

Now another great song on the album on is Year Of The Truck. That’s one full of balls-out confidence, isn’t it? Do you think that this or next year is going to be the “Year Of The Truck” and if so how are you going to make it that?

Tom Harte: Well it is sort of that kind of a self-statement. Look guys we have to do this. It has be our year. We’ve worked so hard. It’s more of a message of hope, and a message of motivation for ourselves to get stuck in, so hopefully this year we’re just pretty much promoting the album and hopefully in 2014, all the work will pay off next year because there’s talks about us maybe heading to the States, maybe heading to Australia, over to you guys, so it’s just really a matter of picking the best opportunities and seeing what we can do.

We’re just going to do the same as we’ve always done and try to get as many fans as possible, try and play to as many people as possible and just try to get the name out there. I think in terms of singles, though, on the album, we’ve done The Rebel and we’ve just done Drive, so I think we need to be smart about what the next single’s going to be. A good thing we always do is we let the fans choose the single so whatever their favorite songs are on the album we run with it, and they feel involved as well.

100% ROCK: Yeah. Cool. Well, why not? Once again, it increases that one-on-oneness and that special feeling and I think that’s what you have to do nowadays. Music is essentially merchandise now, isn’t it? You have to make people feel connected to it.

Tom Harte: Yeah, exactly!

Trucker Diablo with Dee Snider

100% ROCK: You just mentioned coming to Australia potentially in the next year or so. One of the questions I was going to ask, I’m going to fast-track to that. I do think you’d like it down under. I think Australians would really dig you guys and your music. It sounds like you like to party and you like a few drinks. In terms of getting out to different countries and interacting with different cultures, how universal do you think the Trucker Diablos’ music is?

Tom Harte: Pretty much about 80% of the world likes to drink, so as long as they like to drink and enjoy music, it looks like we’ll fit in pretty well! I think Australia will be a great fit. I think the Irish culture and Australian culture are so well matched.

My partner, she has out a lot of relatives that live in Australia, so in terms of places to stay we have no problem with that. I think we’d just fit right in. We’ll get the beers out and just drop pretty much. I think it’ll be great.

Germany seems to be on the same kind of vein as well. We had a few French reviews of the album that weren’t great. We played in France last week and it was unbelievable. The place was packed, singing the tunes and just rocking out so you know, again the album is really not everyone’s taste, but hopefully most rock fans will dig it.

America is harder to break and we just got to continue delivering the message. We are a good times party band when we’re away, we all like to have a few beers. I don’t think we’ve ever went on stage without having a few beers. It just helps us deliver the message that we’re here to rock and we’re here to party so you’re more than welcome to join in.

100% ROCK: In terms of America being harder to break, it’s not so much – it’s harder to break on the same scale, I think, because there’s 300-plus-million people, but I think you could very easily go over there and earn a half-decent living just driving around in a circle, you know what I mean?

Tom Harte: Yeah, you probably could. I’m sure there’s a lot of venues in the States to do that, but then again for us we need to sort of make that big step and if someone comes along we signed a two record deal at the moment and there’s talks of maybe another one in Japan coming on board.

It’s really getting our act together and getting some of them backing us so we can actually sell the album. Most of the guys in the band, we’ve all got kids and stuff so we’re really doing it for them as well as much as we’re doing it for ourselves, so we need to sort of share a bit of the risk with someone else so we can say’Well guys look I believe you can do it so let’s quit your jobs and rock.’

100% ROCK: You’ve attracted some pretty big-name fans. There’s Joe Elliott, Ricky Warwick, Cormac Neeson, and a bunch of others who’ve all sung your praises. Does that sort of thing open doors, or does it put you under pressure or a bit of both?

Tom Harte: Errrrm… I think it puts us under pressure. In terms of opening doors, it’s sort of helped us get noticed more. Why wouldn’t it? Which really sort of opened the door to making the next leap to the next album but having those guys [interested] – you know, when you start playing guitar when you’re 14 or 15, listening to some of the bands these guys have been in, and you learn their songs and you just go holy crap when you’re mentioned in the same sentances [as them] – it’s unbelievable for us working with these guys, I mean – RIcky, but what a great person to have on side. He’s just mentioned us on American television and stuff like that out there, and he had sent me a message to say, “Look, guys, I mentioned you on this rock TV show. It’s national. It’s going out to millions of people. I just wanted to let you know.” And I’m kind of going like “Holy crap, how do I even respond to that?”

100% ROCK: [Laughs] “I’ll buy you a pint next time I see you, Ricky.” There you go.

Tom Harte: [Laughs] I think the next seven pints are on me, definitely!

100% ROCK: It’s no surprise to me to read that you’ve actually toured a little bit or done a couple shows with Black Stone Cherry. There seems to be a real similarity and influence. It’s not necessarily in the deck sound, but you can hear similar things coming through. How does a band from Northern Ireland have that southern USA edge to their sound?

Tom Harte: It’s probably a lot to with my taste, as well as Simon’s, the other guys will be more sort of into classic heavy metal and thrash, and our drummer [Terry Crawford] is more into punk and sort of older school stuff, but myself I grew up listening to Metallica, Cry Of Love, Pride and Glory, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and all those kind of bands.

That was definitely around at the start so I think when you start writing songs you’re always nailed into a mash of all your influences, so it kind of started there for me. It’s great to be compared to Black Stone Cherry. We just happened to play a couple of shows with them because we were probably the most compatible band to do a couple of shows, but it’s obviously never a conscious thing to try to sound like them.

It just sort of came about like that, so obviously we’ve all got great influences. I would listen to a lot of American bands when I was younger. I was a massive Pearl Jam fan and big Metallica fan at the time. It’s strange how it comes about but it’s great and we all played and having to those big sort of riffs and big choruses and made a crossover so everyone could listen. It’s just great to be compared. It could be worse. We could be compared to One Direction.

100% ROCK: [Laughs heartily] No. No. Really, you couldn’t, anyway. Look, on to the band now, Trucker Diablo. I’ve got no Spanish further than “Uno cerveza por favor,” so does it mean ‘devil trucker’ or ‘trucker devil’, and is there a distinction between the two anyway?
Tom Harte: When I initially came up with the name it was more like a trucker ‘handle’, in a way. You know what a trucker handle is: It’s truckers who would have handles [names] when they’re on the CB. So it’s like a trucker handle. When I thought about it, it was just like a trucker traveling from place to place and having a good time, so it’s almost like a metaphor for the band if you want to get that deep with it. It’s kind of like that, so it doesn’t really mean ‘trucker devil’, it’s more like a handle for a trucker.

100% ROCK: Cool, no worries – got it. Obviously, there’s that similarity between traveling around on the road as a band and being a trucker and that sort of stuff. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I think I’m running out of time. One more question for you, Tom. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording of any album in history, which would you choose to go back to?

Tom Harte: Holy shit I would really love to be a part of the Cry Of Love album Brother with the original singer, Kelly Holland. They only recorded one album with him. For that band to come out at that time, they were very underrated so definitely Cry Of Love.

There was a different singer on the second album, [Robert Mason, now with Warrant] but the first guy Kelly, he was unbelievable. On the first album he was amazing. I always have it on the iPod and stuff, so definitely it’d be great to listen to that album so you can see.

100% ROCK: That’s very obscure. Most people would have picked like a Black Sabbath or an Iron Maiden or a Bob Dylan or whatever.

Tom Harte: Yeah, you know I like sort of all those bands but they don’t really move me musically in a way. I think when those guys came out, they were doing something completely different at time and it was really new. That was sort of definitely got me on the road to loving southern rock.


Category: Interviews

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