INTERVIEW: The Gaslight Anthem

We caught up with Benny Horowitz from The Gaslight Anthem during their current UK tour.

Q.Hi Benny how are you? How has the tour been going so far?
A. Yeah man i’m doing well, all the shows have been good.

Q. We saw you on the tour last year and I must say it was an amazing show, is it a case of more of the same on this one or are you planning anything new?
A. Yeah we just want to play well and play songs that people want to hear and hopefully us and the crowd have fun and interact.

Q. You played two sold out nights at the Manchester Apollo at the end of last year, this time round it’s two at the Academy what’s the thinking behind playing the smaller venues?
A. I think it’s just a case of mixing it up but there is also a lot that goes on behind the scenes that we don’t know about.

Q. You regularly sell out venues over here do you have ambitions to come back and make the step up and play arenas yourself soon?
A. No it’s not some kind of master plan or anything, the only way that would ever happen is if we got to a point when we were playing venues like this and tons of people who wanted to come to the shows couldn’t that would be the only reason really. We don’t really have much of a production, a gigantic live show or props so no I don’t think it’s like the next step or anything.

Q. Like many bands and artists associated with you, you seem to tour non-stop how important is that to you as a band?
A. It’s really important, it has always been one of the biggest focuses of the band. The process has always been to write and record the songs then introduce them to people at shows that has been the vibe from day one. We are definitely a road band and do well out here, it will probably stay that way. A band has a window normally and for some reason right now a lot of people want to listen to our music and thats totally rad and if you have that opportunity you should make the most of it because windows tend to open and close pretty fast in this industry.

Q. ‘Handwritten’ is your first album on major label Mercury Records was there an added pressure on this one?
A. Not really, not from us, the way we approached the record was to focus on it. I’m sure it’s definitely in people’s heads but we are honest in the songs we were writing and enjoying the songs we were writing as well. We also work with good people and by the time we were done recording our songs we had a bunch of them that we were really proud of and a record we were excited to put out. The standard of expectation we needed to meet were only our own expectations and once they were met we were happy and that’s were the pressures from. We didn’t have people barking in our ears the whole time we were recording it, they were really cool about us doing our thing as we would and just hearing it when it was done. There were more cooks in the kitchen and more things involved when its on a major label but the process similar.

Q. Brendan O’Brien has a massive history of involvement with great albums how did he help the album?
A. Honestly with my age and my taste in music I feel presumptuous in saying the good thing about Brendan O’Brien was this…  because its like talking about a zen master when your like a young… I don’t know (Laughs) He definitely knows how to organise people and the events in the studio to keep people motivated on the record which is really important. One thing he did which we have never done before was to finish two songs before moving onto another two songs because typically the way people do records is to record 12 drum tracks then 12 bass tracks and then 12 guitar tracks and pile them up and by the fourth week the drummer doesn’t have shit to do leaving you with production ideas or something. So I like what he did there keeping everybody engaged. He’s also good at getting the best out of somebody without changing what they do plus he’s a mellow dude and great to be around which is good for us as we are a mellow crew and low drama.

Q. There is a cover of ‘Silver’ a Nirvana song on the deluxe edition of ‘Handwritten’ a bold move some might say but as a band you don’t shy away from the odd cover, do you like to play songs that have influenced you live?
A. Yeah that’s the point of covers, it’s to play a song that’s fun. My favourite covers are the ones that everybody kind of knows because they already like them. I remember actually when we got asked to do The Who song because we were playing this Who tribute concert in New York city and we got asked to play late and they asked what song do you want to play and Brian was like ‘Baba O’Riley’ . All the bands playing the show had taken all the deep cuts and hidden Who songs and we were like fuck it thats the jam we will play it, luckily we have the guitar player Alex who can play all the weird extra instrumental stuff on his guitar because he’s really good at it.

Q. You have just made a short movie with Kevin Slack tell us about that?
A. Yeah when I wrote the video for ‘Handwritten’ and showed it to the guys, they really liked it and thought it would be great to use for the video. So then I started talking to Kevin because i’m not a director, I love films and I really love to write but i’ve never done anything like that before and Kevin is a really talented dude, he made a short film last year that I really loved and me kinda want to try to do something. So when this idea came about we started talking about potentially turning it into a short film through the same process. We shot everything for the video while we shot everything for the film. We could only have 1 and a half minutes of content from the shooting we had because of the performing element of the band so there wasn’t a lot of time to tell the story. So we started flushing it out later and editing on a longer level and shooting a couple more things and scoring it which took a long time. Eventually I asked Alex Rosamilia if he wanted to take a stab at it as he’s really good at stuff like that and we finished it about a month and half ago and just a few weeks ago we had a premiere in New York for it.

Q. Do you have any plans to do any more films in the future?
A. Actually yeah, I’m already putting ideas together on potentially not only a short film but a feature as well but like i said earlier i’m really new to this and learning as I go as far as the technical aspect goes.

Fan Questions
Q. Any plans to tour hook up with Chuck Ragan or any of The Revival Tour over here?
A. Theres always a chance, we are taking Dave Hause to Australia so we are poaching one of them here.

Favourite song to play live?
A. I really like to play ‘Queen of Lower Chelsea’ from ‘American Slang’.

Q. Whats been the biggest influence on the new album?
A. I think the name of the record.

Q. What is your opinion on Jaded Punk Hulk?
A. (Laughs) The mystery of the Jaded Punk Hulk… I think it’s awesome man. I think he’s super funny so he can get away with shit. I just hope he can keep it up, I also hope he never shows his face because it would ruin it but I think it’s pretty hilarious. Sometimes I love to try bait him on twitter to try and get a response out of him even though I know he will tear me a new asshole. So yeah i’m into the whole pro hulk.

Q. Finally, it’s been a massive rise for The Gaslight Anthem over the years if you look back when was the time you realised you made it?
A. In all honesty when I quit my full time job in 2007 and started doing this full time. After that I kinda reached a point where I was pretty much doing what I wanted to do, my whole goal was to play in a band and play music as a living and not do anything else. In 2009 and 2010 I was pretty much supporting myself from it. That’s where I was kinda like cool and nothing is going to surpass this.