Making music can be as stressful as it is rewarding. After recording and releasing several records over the last few years (2011/2012 Gambit, 2012/2013 Chapter Zero, 2013/2014 Phantom High) and working on the new album from December 2014 until pretty much last week  – we’re finally going to be taking a break from the studio. A lot has gone into the new one; time, energy, money, passion… and It sounds better than we could have ever hoped. The plan is to build the release, schedule some singles and work with the record label to get as much exposure as possible. Then, hopefully we can travel the globe playing it live.
From and including Sweet Chin Music in 2009 we have recorded 59 songs, and 21 songs on various demos before that taking the total to 80 - that’s a lot of original music. I have literally written hundreds of songs, some decent, some awful and a whole lot in between. Many start life on my acoustic Marina, the guys are cool enough to hear my rickety rendition and then transform it into the mighty loud sound we call the Senton. Over the years reviewers have likened us to a plethora of bands so I thought it might be interesting to explore the major influences on the song-writing and see how close those comparisons are.
As the main song-writer throughout the bands existence, my lyrics and song-writing style have been inspired by many, nearly always what I’m listening to at the time of writing. I won’t account for every ingredient in the Senton cauldron as the other members have their personal spices they throw in (they just can't be bothered writing blogs). However, I think this list is pretty accurate for us as a collective, top down, here we go:
I remember it clearly, completing Crazy Taxi on my Dreamcast, as the credits rolled I heard “Inner Logic” for the first time. I couldn’t believe the lyrics – I didn’t know songs could be written like this; intelligent, informative, melodic and rocking. From that moment Greg Graffin changed the way I would approach song-writing forever. When I heard the opening line: “automatons with business suits swinging black boxes, sequestering the blueprints of daily life”, I turned to my girlfriend at the time, gave her all the money I had (about £8.32) and said “please go buy me a Bad Religion album”, as she was off to town shopping. She returned with ‘Stranger Than Fiction’ and I’ve loved BR ever since. There’s so many songs, so many lines, so many words I’ve learned from the band. Whilst you can’t hear the BR influence in the SB music as much these days (although there is a clear nod to them on the new record), the impact they have had, specifically my writing, I consider unparalleled – Number one!
Album that started the love: STRANGER THAN FICTION (1994)
I got into the Clash really late. Strummer, who would become my hero for a time, had died the previous year. I was working the stock-rooms at Index Catalogue Store (remember that place?) and I bought their first album on a whim during my lunch break at Music Zone (remember that place?). I immediately fell in love with the band. As with all my favourites, I obsessed over them – watched all the documentaries, films, read the books, scored all the records – even to the point of owning the US and UK versiona of the eponymous album on CD and vinyl. The Clash had passion at the fore, meaning in the songs and a really unique delivery. What impressed me most about them is that they did not subscribe to genre. Whilst they started out with a punk ethos, even tat the beginning they began to introduce other styles (Whiteman in Hammersmith Palais, Police & Thieves cover on the first album). As the band progressed they transformed, simply writing songs unrestricted. Between Jones and Strummer the variety comes through strongest by London’s Calling, 19 tracks of all sorts. The quality of their output declined somewhat in subsequent records, but they continued writing whatever they wanted. Whilst I was already writing as I pleased (from metal and punk to rock and country etc.) The Clash provided a clear template and encouraged the continuation.
Album: THE CLASH (1977)
As my friends played basketball in the sunshine I was forced to stay at home and revise for my GCSEs – I don’t know if I’d have survived without Megadeth. I didn’t do much revision beyond analysing the rasped delivery and lyrics of Dave Mustaine. What first struck me about the albums and songs of Megadeth were the titles – Countdown to Extinction, Foreclosure of a Dream, Symphony of Destruction, Sweating Bullets – they just sounded cool and powerful. From then I decided I would always attempt to give my songs/albums cool, over the top titles – like each one is a film or a book. Dave’s lyrics went from biblical cataclysms to politically motivated allegories and comical stories of dread. In the early days of the Bombs I attempted to imitate his voice (as well as Fat Mike from NOFX) which, I suppose, is how I’ve developed the ‘sandy gravel’ voice as it was recently described to me. I also attempted to capture the awesome narratives from songs like ‘Captive Honour’. The Megadeth obsession goes way back... introducing Damo to them on the way to amateur wrestling practice (maybe a story for another time) and also winning a competition to roadie for them in New York only to be told we shouldn't have entered the competition because we didn't live in the Tri-state area. Devastated. Without doubt - my all-time favourite metal band.
When I was in college some of my friends were into the Suckers but I just didn’t get it at the time. I take recommendations off people I can count on, but I’m very much on my own slow-moving musical journey and I always get there in the end. After an SB gig in 2005 someone said to me “you remind me of the Supersuckers, especially with you playing bass and singing like Eddie”. The name rang a bell from those college days, intrigued - I quickly managed to score a copy of Evil Powers. Safe to say – I got it this time. It pretty much became my favourite album of all-time over night and remains there now. I recognised the similarities with the SB but this was so many levels beyond. The lyrical content was cliché rock but delivered in a slightly sarcastic way, some of the songs purely sardonic in content – the key to all Suckers songs being Eddie’s easily accessible vocal (very sad to hear he’s been diagnosed with throat cancer, really hoping for the best for him). Even though we’d inadvertently developed some Sucker-esque traits, from then on I purposefully attempted to write some songs in their style – ‘Buy Me A Gun’, ‘Jersey Dolls’ etc. One of the most underrated bands in all of rock and the earliest confirmation we were on the right path if we were sounding anything like the ‘Suckers.
I remember when Virgin Mega-stores was running a ‘2 for £10’ deal on Epitaph records. Me and Damien cleaned-up and bought them all between us. Next thing we were downing our MD20/20 and dancing around Dean Reilly’s living room to the catchiest songs we’d ever heard. I got into Rancid before the Clash, in hindsight I later realised how derived their style is but there is no denying good songs are good songs… and Rancid have plenty of them. Rancid teach the art of the anthemic chorus. Nearly every song builds to an instantly memorable, sing-along chorus. Whilst their lyrics usually recount personal tales of catching buses around the East Bay or stories about their friends – they still have an undertone of political and societal rebellion. Even deeper entrenched in the writing of Rancid is the motto of unity, acceptance and brotherhood. Just like their Operation Ivy origins (another band I couldn’t get enough of), Rancid are about good times with good company. A sentiment well worth emulating. Side-note – I attempted to teach myself to play bass learning Matt Freeman bass tabs, talk about baptism of fire.
From the moment I heard the opening of ‘Bob’, track three on  ‘White Trash, Two Heebs & A Bean’, around at Stormy Weather’s house at the influential age of 13 -  I knew I would always dig NOFX. The first thing that struck me was the vocal. Fat Mike Burkett has an infectious voice that I found easy to imitate. His flow and lyrical content are sublime, Mike has also mastered the art of writing comical music with deeper meaning, pure satire with so many great lines. Some of it is dumbed down purposefully, the songs almost sarcastic in their tone. This was another band that changed my understanding of song-writing – if Bad Religion taught me that songs could be intelligent, NOFX taught that they could also be stupid and funny… and at the same time - some of the most serious points are best delivered with a smirk and wink of an eye.
One of the biggest bands on the planet with good reason. A catalogue of classics stretching back to 1970. Whilst I do enjoy a lot of the big stadium rock records of the late 80s into the 90s (especially Permanent Vacation), it’s their debut eponymous album along with 'Toys In the Attic' which have always been my favourites. Tyler has a penchant for the tongue-in-cheek, cheesy lines delivered in such delightful fashion. The songs employ brilliant guitar work throughout and always reach a mighty chorus, anthems galore. Tyler is the ultimate vocalist for me, I saw him live on my stag-do at Download in 2010 and I’ve never heard a voice like it. So much power, performance and melody. Where the Epitaph bands got me into punk, it was Aerosmith who began my love of rock. There are snippets of them in lots of our stuff, often imitated never duplicated.
Album: AEROSMITH (1973)
The Boss - what more can you say? The biggest influence he had on me was his versatility. Such a variety of styles in his music, Bruce uses his most appropriate voice for the song… and he has a fair few. Low, high, deep, gravelly – Sometimes I would barely recognise his vocal. It takes the “write what you want” mantra to a new level, “write what you want and sing it any way you want”. Me and Damo saw them live in Manchester a few years ago and even now, 40+ years into their careers, they show so much passion and energy for what they do. Springsteen’s songs really lend to the songwriter, usually quite simple in chord progression – it’s his lyrics, voice and the imagination of the E-Street Band which bring it all to life. I learned to play so many of their songs, we even ended up covering ‘Dancing in the Dark’ at our first gig, albeit a rather rocking punk version. I liked the song 'Born to Run' so much I wrote a whole song about it called 'Born To Ride' (on Sweet Chin Music), unfortunately it didn’t quite find the mark.
Album: BORN TO RUN (1975)
Just a phenomenal song-writer. The visceral emotion in his voice –‘Old Man’, ‘Cowgirl In the Sand’, ‘Alabama’. The stories where the lyrics mean so much yet remain vague and ethereal – ‘Cortez the Killer’, the masterpiece ‘After The Gold Rush’. At a time when I was beginning to write about life in a rather direct manner, Young’s cryptic lines and wondrous imagery infected me – I couldn’t stop listening to him… even when Sally was saying he sounded like the paedo from Family Guy, or high pitched old lady, I didn’t care. Heavy to soft, powerful and real, catchy and timeless - Neil Young!

By far the most recent influence on this list. In 2012 I wrote the songs 'Darkest Horse' and 'Black Chariot' within a couple of days of each other. They were both written for a side-project with female lead vocalist (both songs intended to be sung in the first-person). When I showed them the SB they insisted on us using them, which was a bit of shock considering the style of the songs. It was then that Damien mentioned to me “these sound like Drive-By Truckers songs”. Shortly after, I was purchasing all their albums, reading all their interviews, watching all their live footage - immediate obsession. With three singer-songwriters dominating their line-up at various times, what struck me most about the Truckers is the brilliance of the lyrics and the variety of the songs. The turn of phrase that Cooley, Isbell and Hood have is special, the songs capture the lyrical themes so well. DBT reminded me of the importance of the narrative, they inspired me to write darker – which will be evident on the new album.
Album: DIRTY SOUTH (2004)
So there it is, probably quite predictable in parts, not so much in others. I’m sure people will note some glaring omissions, even members of the band might want a word. So to cover some of the bigger influences that have been overlooked for the top 10, here’s a brief list: The Ramones (could have made the ten really), Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The Misfits, Gluecifer, Hellacopters, Backyard Babies, Danko Jones, AC/DC, RHCP, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Kyuss, Fu-Manchu, Weezer, Alice In Chains, Metallica, Anthrax, The Rolling Stones, Guns N Roses, Van Halen, Tom Waits, Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt... and numerous rap artists too (e.g. Onyx, NWA, Wu-Tang Clan, Cypress Hill).

Yeah, I have likely missed quite a few but it’s not as easy to map all the SB influences as I thought it would be. One thing is certain, every song we write is a remnant of the music which has poured into our ears through our lives. Sprinkles of inspiration which we subconsciously mould into something we deem new, something original, something unique without eliminating it’s musical ancestry entirely. A hybrid, sometimes deformed, offspring of the greats that have impregnated our minds with rhythms, hooks, techniques, words and everything else the medium brings. The importance of music throughout history is something I’m only beginning to get a grasp of, but my appreciation grows daily. I shouldn't be surprised, after all, this material world is but shape moved by sound, governed by number.
Until next time folks. Class signing out.