Terminal Gods are the leather-clad outlaws that will leave you feverish and under their spell from the very first crack of the drum machine. They are bringers of dark dreams and devilishly infectious garage rock, you’ll never be the same again after listening to this band, one taste and you’ll be taken for life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The band are heading out on a mini UK tour this July (for the full list of tour dates see below) with their post-punk friends, dressmaker, it’s going to be one hell of a tour you just know it.
We caught up with Terminal Gods to discuss everything from their very first steps on to a stage, their upcoming tour and their thoughts on digital music, plus much more.
Seen as most people reading this will probably be new to your band, to break the ice I thought it would be great to know a little random fact about each member of the band to introduce yourselves.
Josh Cooper (guitar): “My name is Josh, I play guitar in the band and a random fact? I learnt to play guitar after I joined The Gods.”
Robert Maisey (lead guitar): “I’m Rob and I programme drums and play lead guitar, I also own a pair of bright purple babyliss crimping irons, despite now having relatively short hair. They’re caked with crusty hair spray and I’m sure I’ll need them again one day.”
Rob Cowlin (singer): “I’m also Rob, I’m the singer in the band. I run a contemporary cold wave night at a speakeasy styled bar.”
Jonathon Campbell Ratcliffe (bass): “I’m Jon, and I play bass. If I could be any piece of stage equipment I would be a smoke machine. Make of that what you will.”
Describe Terminal Gods in three words or less.
RM: “A Forlorn Hope”
J: “Heavy Leather…leather”
RC: “Sweet like chocolate.”
JCR: “black skinny jeans.”
You have your fingers in many pies, not just being satisfied with making music and gigging but you also run live music and club nights in London and you own your record label, that’s very cool. How is it having your own record label – is it everything you thought it would be? Are there any other ventures that are on the bucket list that you still have yet to tick off?
J: “We do, thanks. We’re all promoters in our own right. As Cowlin said, he runs a surprisingly successful cold wave night, born from a blog, in Tuffnel Park. At the very same bar I run a garage revival club. Jon has HotGothic, a two piece political elctro clash outfit, while Rob writes music reviews – all under the Heavy Leather umbrella corp.
Individually we’re all quite proactive and I think that’s why we work well together, there’s a passion there for music that has become almost competitive.”
RM: “The label isn’t all that, it’s really just a separate face for our self-releases and promotions. For us, part of what makes a great rock band is that they encompass something bigger than just the sum of their parts. A good rock and roll act is its own world and the Heavy Leather organisation is just our way of expressing that – creating coherent musical and cultural surroundings for us and our contemporaries to flourish in. It was that or pander to a pre-existing fashion or set of trends, which isn’t and never was an option.
Basically we’re a legend in our own lunchbox.”
Your live shows have created a real buzz surrounding your band, for people that are yet to see a Terminal Gods live set, can you give them a little tease into what to expect?
RC: “I think, at the core of it, our purpose is to entertain. People that come to our shows regularly know that they will have a good time, get blasted with strobes and smoke, hear a dumb cover, and get down to some Terminal grooves. Based on some of our earlier reviews, I think certain people come expecting some kind of arch mope-fest. That’s just not our style.”
JCR: “We always try to add something new. We hate playing the same things show after show, we get bored and we certainly don’t want whoever’s watching to be bored as well.”
You’re about to go out on your first UK tour next month, congratulations on that by the way. What are you most looking forward to doing when you’re out on tour other than playing of course? Are there any places that you’re most looking forward to visiting?
J: “I’m really looking forward to my first visit to Scotland. We’ve toured together so much now that honestly I’m excited to be going with more lads, we’ll be doing the entire tour with fellow London rockers, Dressmaker. Also, this will be the longest stretch we’ve done; I’ll be interested to see who makes it back.”
JCR: “I’m very much looking forward to being able to produce our first tour t-shirts. That, and being able to play out of London and not spend a whole day on a bus to get there. Half a day is so much more civilised.”
Do you remember your very first gig as Terminal Gods? How did it go?
RC: “There’s a god-awful video of it. When we’re famous I’m going to set up a fake account on eBay and make some extra cutter selling DVDs of it. The gig was at the St Moritz club in Soho, we were headlining and the stage was under a leaking air-conditioning unit. Our then bass player got covered in air-con goo. On the whole, I think it went quite well. Good crowd, small cramped venue, not a lot has changed.”
JCR: “I wasn’t actually in the band at that point…hang on, I think my other band was headlining that night?? In fact I’ve got still got the poster somewhere, I should check! Anyway, my (other) singer came and dragged me in, telling me I had to check these guys out. Watched the whole show, and thought it was great, songs that I was walking away humming. Then followed these guys to most of their London gigs after that – in fact I think I’m in all of the early videos in some manner or another??”
How do you feel the band has evolved since taking those first steps on to a stage?
J: “We learnt to play our instruments.”
RM: “For one thing! Our set of influences have expanded exponentially and the vision has changed from emulation to creation. Like many bands, Terminal Gods started out as a vehicle for hero worship and an excuse to stay up late and get drunk. We used to listen to what other bands sounded like/looked like and then go off and try to sound/look like them.
Now we listen for what great songs make us feel and try and express those emotions our own way. We won’t listen to Roadhouse Blues and then try and write a song that sounds just like The Doors, but we might go away and try and write a song that we’d want to have a bar fight to, here and now in London 2014. We don’t sound much like our main influences because we try and tap into the spirit of the music, not just the face of it.”
JCR: “We still stay up late and get drunk though, right?”
Can we go a little deeper into the back story of Terminal Gods, do you remember the first time you played together? What was it like and what did you play? When was the moment you realised that ‘yeah this could work well actually’?
RM: “The idea of the band started out as Leeds/London partnership between Rob Cowlin and I. We were both keen to start something but didn’t necessarily know how we were going to do it. We spent some months just bouncing demos back and forth between ourselves. It was Josh, my long time best friend, who offered me a place to live in London so I could move down and get something started. I repaid him by shanghaiing him into the band!”
RC: “The first time Rob and I played together (drum machine, guitar, vox) we had already written three songs (since recycled) over email so it actually sounded okay as we already knew the stuff! The first time we all played together as a four piece it sounded like a one man band falling down the stairs (the drums sounded great though). The first time I thought “yeah, this could work” was after our second gig. We used to video all those early shows and I watched the tape after the gig, three months of constant rehearsals had evidently paid off and I think we sounded pretty good that night. Since then, it’s turned into “this will work” as we don’t have any other choice.”
What was the first gig that you personally went to yourself as a punter? Do you think your first live gig experience had any influence on who you are today – did it spur you on to start your own band?
J: “I honestly couldn’t tell you what my first ever show was. I saw Suzie Quatro when I was very young, at a beer festival. Those leather trousers probably altered my life forever.”
RM: “Nightwish, London Astoria. I don’t boast about it though. And no, it didn’t.
I used to collect demo tapes and live bootlegs of obscure early 90s UK Goth bands. Those really inspired me to start playing and writing for myself. As a kid I found big production stuff beautiful to listen to, but I couldn’t hear any way of entering into it as a participant. Same with live music performed in real time. It was a closed book.
Listening back to the cruder, under-produced bootleg material gave me a gateway. By hearing the mistakes, the roughness and the separation it broke the spell. I’ve moved on a little from Rosetta Stone and James Rays Gangwar bootlegs now, but some of my favorite albums of all time are still live albums.”
RC: “I wish it were some obscure post-punk revival band. I went to my first gig in 2004 and (with hindsight) there were loads of great underground dark indie bands running around London at that time. Alas, it was HIM at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire.”
JCR: “I absolutely cannot remember. Although almost certainly some long forgotten Australian pub rock band?”
You’re clearly fans of vinyl having released a lot of your music that way. What are your thoughts on the way the industry is heading digitally, and the resurgence of love for vinyl that’s been happening lately?
RM: “I genuinely think the digital thing is an unsustainable farce on an artistic level, although it is already creating positive backlashes. It’s taking all the commoditised dross and pulling it out of the record shops and into into “the cloud”. I’m happy for it to exist there on taxi radios, high street clothes shop playlists and other disposable, transient mediums.
Once you take out all the artists and consumers that have no interest in interacting with music on a physical, material level you’re left with a clear and readymade market for vinyl. The vinyl market isn’t anything like it was in the “golden age of album sales” but at least it’s there and it’s passionate and it’s REAL.”
RC: “I’m a self-proclaimed hi-fi enthusiast (maybe that should’ve been my random fact earlier?) and I see things a little differently to RM. Digital recording is great, it has a lower noise-floor compared to analogue tape and, consequently, can provide a greater dynamic range. Listen to any CD manufactured prior to 1994 and they sound really nice. Sure, the ADCs weren’t as high quality as we have now and some of them come off a little thin sounding compared to rumbly old vinyl, but the dynamics were there and they were well preserved. Unfortunately, since the loudness wars took over, digital has become loathed by “audiophiles” because CDs and mp3s have been used to squash all the dynamics and nuances out of great recordings. As seen on thousands of original CDs, it’s not digital that is the problem, it’s the mastering engineers, record company execs, and uneducated bands that have pushed digital into the realm of the scapegoat. The age of mp3 was a real low point for music in the home, as people became more and more accepting of hearing low bitrate music from a computer speaker (thus necessitating highly compressed masters).
Thankfully, things are improving as people are investing in wireless hi-fi systems that bring music to every room in your home. I don’t think such a system will ever replace a well thought out integrated set-up in terms of sound quality, but at least people are buying proper speakers again (and hopefully they’ll start questioning the quality of their mp3s). It’s also nice to see commuters listening to music on actual headphones, rather than tinny earbuds. RC pro-tip: do your research and buy from a reputable headphone manufacturer, not Dr Beat. By releasing on vinyl we force the engineers we work with to consider their actions a little more. Thankfully, that old myth that turntables can’t play hyper-compressed masters without having the stylus skip is still in engineers’ heads, so they tone things down a bit – which is good. Our digital masters are still too loud for my tastes; this is something I’m working on with our new recordings.
In terms of digital sales, I like the fact that the industry is moving towards higher resolution downloads. Personally, I’m yet to hear a substantial enough difference between 44.1 and 96 / 192 kHz to warrant investing in a high-res set-up (though I acknowledge that higher bitrates do yield better sound qualities), but anything’s better than mp3. The real challenge is to stop the proliferation of brick-walled masters. What’s the point in having all these high-resolution tracks if they don’t have any dynamics? If high-resolution digital becomes affordable I think it could take off. The majority of bands releasing on vinyl are recording in high-res digital anyway, wouldn’t you rather have access to those digital masters, rather than a record that is x-generations removed from the master?
In terms of the vinyl resurgence, I’m on the fence. It’s great that independent record shops are thriving and that people are investing in physical product (good news for bands) but the current vinyl boom has highlighted a number of issues for me. The biggest one is, unsurprisingly, gear related. Everywhere you go records are marked up in price: Rough Trade, Sister Ray, Oxfam, even the car boot sale on Holloway Road think they’ve got some sort of Aladdin’s Cave of records. So you get people prancing around with their tote bags full of £20 records, and what are they playing them on? Those god-awful Steepletone “vinyl players” (spit) that you see in Urban Outfitters for £100!
These things will ruin your records. If you’re buying used vinyl, these things will ruin documents of the past. Their heavy VTF, crude styli, vibrating inbuilt speakers, and plastic edges make for a record munching machine. If you’ve got £100 to blow on one of these things, why not go on gumtree or eBay and buy a proper used hi-fi turntable from the likes of NAD, Rega, or Technics? They won’t destroy your records, they’ll sound great, and you’ll get to write long-winded interview responses where you come off all knowledgeable.”
All the tracks you’ve put out so far are very distinctive, especially in differentiating you from other bands that are out at the moment, when it comes to writing and putting the tracks down in studio what’s the process like?
JCR: “Really?? I love it, especially when it all starts to come together. You hear just the drums and bass together and think it’s sounding great, but by the time everything else is finally layered on top, and we’re getting into the mixing, it starts getting really exciting.”
What can we expect in terms of material from Terminal Gods this year?
RC: “We’re putting out our first cassingle in July to coincide with our UK tour. We figured punters would like a cheap souvenir to take away with them, it’s not as expensive as vinyl (to buy or to press), and it’s cooler than a CD. The Cold Life cassingle will be available exclusively at gigs this summer and I have the dubious pleasure of recording each and every one of them. When they’re gone, they’re gone.”
Terminal Gods are heading out on a UK tour in July for the full list of dates see below:
July 16th at 13th Note, Glasgow (w/ Dressmaker) TICKETS
July 17th at Bannerman’s, Edinburgh (w/ Dressmaker) TICKETS
July 18th at Wharf Chambers, Leeds (w/ Dressmaker) TICKETS
July 19th at Giffard Arms, Wolverhampton (w/ Dressmaker) TICKETS
July 25th at Buffalo Bar, London (w/ Dressmaker) TICKETS