Barry Mills - In The Class Room

Welcome back to the Class Room. Today's supply teacher gives out lessons in 'How-to-Rock' on a gig-to-gig basis. He's the lead singer of one of the best rising rock acts in the UK. In the midst of his current tour supporting Ginger Wildheart, frontman of Massive Wagons, Barry Mills - let's get talking...

JC: Massive Wagons, undoubtebly one of the most renowned hard rock acts around and gaining more fans all the time. How did it all begin for MW and where did the name come from? 

BM: That's very cool of you to say man, Thank you. Honestly, it all just began with Carl, Adam T and our original drummer Baz jamming in his garage really, Adam was teaching Carl to play, jamming just your standard covers, DC, Sabbath etc, and during a standard boozy evening in our favourite drinking hole they were on that no one would sing and they couldn't find anyone to give it a go etc. I was like 'yeah fuck it, I'll give it a go, I've never sung in my life, but I'll have a doo till someone proper comes along'. Haha, and yeah that's it really, we had a friend called Rob on bass duties, and we were off! Local cover gigs is all we did at that time, a great laugh, good craic, and the name was chucked in just to go on a poster cos we didn't have a name. It was code for the well top bolloxed bar maid in said cocktail emporium, Terri Edwards haha, that's her name, not the pubs name, daft name for a pub.

JC: Haha! That's one mystery cleared up right off the bat, excellent. So, seven years in, do the band have any future targets/goals? Have you achieved anything you set out to already, or are just happy going out there and being the Wagons? 

BM: I'm no expert, I mean I can only speak from my experience, the way we have done stuff, but yeah, we started from the absolute start together, none of us had any experience of band stuff or gigs at all, few cover gigs but that's it, a lot of bands are formed from other bands breaking up and a lot of the members have industry/gig knowledge from previous bands, this is the first proper band we've all been in. We had seriously no idea at all seven years ago what to do or where to start. We've built it with no idea, learning as we go, making it up, making friends, blowing wigs off. Seven years might seem like a long time to some, but if you take a band and ask the members how many years they have spent in all other bands they've been in trying to get on in the biz then it adds up.

I'm massively proud of what we've done in seven years. Ok, the world ain't on fire but we've the best most solid fans anyone could ask for, and I think the respect of our peers, that's all we want. I think because we were so knowledge-less at the start we have done most of it on just being so wide-eyed, keen as mustard, maybe naive too. We've never been disheartened playing in other bands so we were just so convinced we could make it work, setting achievable goals, writing good songs, being good live, these are the things we have done that we can control. Hard work and 100% commitment too, we just wanna keep playing to appreciative crowds, on big stages if possible, with great bands, making progress and having fun, that's it, and we are currently having a blast.

JC: Great to hear, sentiments I can echo enitrely. In regards to the critics, reviewers always seem to comment about The Senton Bombs being from Blackpool, do you get similar treatment coming 'straight outta Carnforth'? What's the music scene like there? 

BM: Haha! We always get Lancaster, but yeah Carnforths correct. To be honest there is no scene in Carnforth, some great musicians, and singer-songwriters, but no real scene to speak of. Lancaster is where it would be, and yeah some ace bands, Promethium, Idol Minds, Merichane, Bloodyard, Fighting Keegans, it's a healthy scene indeed, there is a Lancaster Music Festival every year when most pubs and venues have bands on for full days and nights, loads and loads of music all over town, it's ace, all genres, people really get out for that, which is great to see.

JC: What are some of Massive Wagons key influences and some of your personal inspirations as a lead singer? 

BM: Key Influences, hmm, as cheesy as it may sound, seriously, we are influenced by anything at all. From country music, pop, heavy rock, blues, metal, any good bands making good music, genre irrelevant, I think you need to be open to all music, inspiration and motivation are a key aren't they.

As for inspiration, it's common knowledge maybe that Airbourne were and still are a massive inspiration to us, the live show especially. Brutally energetic, 100% effort, it's mega. Joel is a huge influence on me, I mean I've loads of influences, you can't avoid them can you, but yeah live he's the man. Writing wise, not sure really, hard to pin point as I listen to a lot of stuff, I do love old skool hip hop, the anger and passion, maybe that comes across I don't know, but it's defo there, films, books, other artists, my imagination, I love just clearing my mind and pushing my imagination to see what happens, see what comes out haha.

JC: Honestly, your response is one I've given myself several times, even down to the 'old skool hip hop'. It may sound cheesy to some but the non-subscription approach keeps it fresh, open-minded and most of all - fun. Has anything changed in the musical approach between 'Fight The System' (2014) and 'Welcome To The World' (2016)? What has the reaction to WTTW been like? 

BM: I honestly don't think there has been, musically, a conscious decision made to take a different approach. We are still doing things song-wise the same way. I think the songs have improved naturally through experience and practice, and we have evolved naturally as a song writing outfit. I think WTTW is completely a level up from FTS, and that's exactly what we were aiming for, so I'm well happy that way. Maybe the only different approach this time was writing all the songs in a more concentrated time space for WTTW, FTS has songs left over from the first album 'Fire It Up' on it, it's a bit of an amalgamation really, but WTTW is a group of songs written specifically for that album, and we absolutly couldn't be happier with how it's been recieved. Absolutly fantastic! For a band like us, at this level it's been mega!

JC: That's also great to hear, well deserved from where I'm listening. Throughout the albums you've mentioned what has inspired your lyrics? On songs like Tokyo there are clear digs at the industry, what are your thoughts on the music business today? 

BM: What inspires my lyrics? Hmm, anything and everything I suppose. I try and be inspired by anything I can to be honest, from life experience, being in a band, to books and movies, to anger and things that piss me off, really anything at all that just sparks something really. Made up stuff, real events, I really do try and keep it original, well, I do my personal best too anyway. Ha, it's a big question that one.

As for Tokyo, aye well, like I said, being in a band, I've come to know and understand how the industry works, to an extent. I'm no expert by any stretch of the imagination and yeah I get it and I appreciate it, there's nowt I can do to change how it operates to a large extent, but that dosnt mean I can't be totally fucked off with it too. Aye Tokyo is a jab at parts of this industry, I like to think it's not me being a whiney ungrateful fucker, cos it's really not, I know what we get in regards to support for what we do and I'm so incredibly grateful. But yeah, I wanted that song to maybe be a bit of a voice for bands and hopefully for people in bands to identify with it somewhat, cos sometimes you just can't get through to the people you would like to. You think you are, but you're not, who knows why not, money, not sleeping with the right person, haha, but hey ho, got my frustration out in a song. Onwards and upwards. Just for the record, I do have a thing about writing lyrics with a totally contradicting vibe to the music, dark, mean, angry lyrics to an upbeat AOR style maybe, haha, know what I mean, keeps it fun for me.

JC: I know exactly what you mean amigo. Tell us about your biggest 'Train Wreck', a gig where the wheels came loose from the Wagons? 

BM: Train wreck of a gig ay, we once played a gig in Morecambe, there were about 5 people in, and the only one on planet earth not off his face or asleep was a giant sted head at the end of the bar who I firmly believe given half the chance would have arse raped me at any given opportunity! Not a rock fan that's a fact! 

We've had a few close calls. We were lucky enough to play Bloodstock and Carl forgot his guitar!?!  We played in Wales somewhere and the place was full of pregnant chav women, all waiting for midnight when the DJ started and beer was cheap as fuck. Halfway through one of our songs one of 'em launched herself at the stage and started grabbing wires, cables, plugs and just pulling 'em all out frantically. We just stood and watched, waited till she had finished, plugged it all back in, cranked it right fuckin' up and carried on, mother fuckers haha.

JC: Sounds frighteningly familiar. When you're not fronting MW what keeps you occupied? 

BM: Doin all the other band shit! That and sleeping.

JC: Best make the most of that. A big congratulations to you and Terri with your baby due soon, how excited are you? What are the first records you're going to be educating your kid with? 

BM: Ahh Thankyou man! Thanks a lot. I'm mega excited to be honest, can't wait! Having a little girl, Lyla is her name so far. September she is due. Ah, she is gonna listen to all sorts, but yeah music is gonna be a big thing defo. I started with 50s Rock n Roll, Elvis, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochrane, then onto Deep Purple, Rainbow when I was a bit older, maybe that's a good place to start, at the start with Elvis, can't beat that shit.

JC: All the best with it man, it's the greatest. My two-year old daughter hit me with a stick yesterday, she was pretending it was a lightsaber, stared me in the eyes and said "I... am your father". Bringing 'em up the right way ay. Recommend us a book, film and band. 

BM: A book, well, I read a bit, not as much as I'd like. I'd say the funniest book I've read in a long time was the last Ozzy autobiography, laugh outloud stuff that! My favourite book as a kid was called 'A Boy and His Bik'e, a kids novel, few hundred pages, about a lad who wanted this awesome race bike and ended up with a fucking ex-military jobber, I identified with him.

A film, blimey, Into The Wild, based on a true story about a lad who just fucks it all off and goes livin in be wild, it's an awesome film and Eddie Vedder did the whole soundtrack, and that's just sublime, so yeah, top movie.

A band, haha bloody hell, how do I pick a band??? I like to big a lot of bands up, I think we all should to be honest, but for summat a bit different, RSJ, band from York. I'm no expert on what genre they are I suppose, some sort of 'core' ha but all I know is, it's metal, heavy as fuck, awesome as fuck, they are real as fuck on stage, massive energy, passion, great songs, I really rate em highly, so check em out!

JC: Anything you want to promote? Leave us with a message, something profound (or not)?

BM: Just thanks anyone who's supported us, I think it's important we all keep on supporting all bands. Bands need to keep coming and going for this wonderful music to keep on growing, to find your next favourite band and the new festival headliners, cos for fuck sake we need more big British rock and Metal bands!

If you're in a band never be dismayed by how little progress you think you're making, if you do, just look back at what you've done and you'll realise just how well you're doing and how much more you've done than you ever thought you'd do when you started. I get pissed off, and then realise what we've done, it's a fantastic thing being in a band, a lot of people wish they could do it and never will, so as my dad always says 'keep the faith pilgrim'.

JC: Wise words Mr Mills. A massive thank you from me for entering the Class Room and answering my questions. I'm really enjoying prying information from some of the top rockers around. You can find more out about Massive Wagons at their website and all the usual social media sites.

Cheers for checking in, be back soon!