Monday 9 May 2022

An Interview With Dan Flitcroft From Sergeant Thunderhoof and Pale Wizard Records

UK Psych Stoner Rockers Sergeant Thunderhoof return on June 03rd 2022 with their upcoming new album The Sceptred Veil. This is perhaps their best and most creative release to date. The album sees the band venture into Prog Rock territory whilst still retaining the classic "HOOF" Psych Stoner Metal sound.

I caught up with Dan Flitcroft (Vocals) from the band to discuss the making of the album and upcoming UK Touring Plans.

So read on if you want to find out more about their brilliant upcoming new album.

You can also read this great interview that I did with Dan and Tim who own Pale Wizard Records who are releasing the upcoming new album.

Hi Dan. Thanks for doing the interview. How are things with you today?

Very well thanks mate, the sun is shining for once!

For folks not in the know, can you give a brief history of how the band came together and where it is today.

We began as just four friends getting together for a jam. We’ve all played with each other bands in various incarnations over the years. We all became disillusioned with the business side of it and gave up any aspirations of trying to be a success and just focused on enjoying ourselves and making music that we would like to listen to.

How would you describe your own sound. 

Personally, I would say we’re a hard rock band with glimpses of classic rock, some prog, perhaps a touch of psychedelia and also a loving nod to the Seattle bands of the 90's.

You first grabbed my attention with your debut release back in 2014 that struck a chord with the underground Stoner Rock/Metal community. Did that surprise you when it was originally released?

It certainly did. We just put the record out there so our friends could hear it. We didn’t expect for a moment that we’d suddenly be getting messages from people all over the world counting us as one of their favourite bands. That was pretty strange for us, but clearly very pleasing.

Looking back, would you change anything about your previous albums and EP’s. 

No not at all. What’s the point? I look at albums as a snapshot in time. That was us then, warts and all. We try not to dwell on a release for long. You can sit on an album for months making changes to the mix, touching things up, polishing out the errors. All it does is sanitise the final product. So we definitely like to capture the moment and we don’t fret over every single drum sound or vocal fluff.

You guys have come back with your brilliantly progressive new album The Sceptred Veil. What can people expect with that album?

It’s still very much a ‘Hoof’ record, in that it has our big riffs, soaring vocals and elements of 
stoner rock and doom. But this record is definitely darker in tone and quite epic. I think repeated listens will reward the listener very well. At least I hope so. HA HA.

This is quite a different sounding album compared to your previous albums. This is more Progressive and more Doomier but still with that classic “Thunderhoof” sound. Was that the plan for this record to go slightly more progressive.

Exactly. We didn’t really go in to the recording with a plan. We just went with whatever feelings and sounds were coming out at that moment. We originally intended to write and release an album in 2020 before the world fell on it’s arse. I’m very glad we didn’t looking back, because what we’ve come up with is something much more personal and reflective of who and what we are now.

What was the writing and recording process like for the album. 

At first it was very tricky as we were writing and recording in isolation from each other due to family members having serious health issues. So the first few weeks and months of sketching the ideas out were done remotely. Once we could finally meet up properly, the ideas starting to fly out pretty quick. Vocally, I was very instinctual on this record and tried to be as spontaneous with the melodies and lyrics as I could. I had a bunch of poems that I’d written so I tried as much as possible to use those as a guide without overthinking what I did. 

I find that if I try and refine my lyric writing too much it starts to all sound too clinical and lifeless. This was a very rewarding album to record. Not to mention that relations within the band have never been better. We have such warmth and respect for each other now, which if we’re honest, was not really there when we recorded the last record ‘Terra Solus’. That was a bad time for us for sure. This record was a dream.

Did you have challenges recording this album during the pandemic?

Not particularly, apart from the actual act of meeting up at the same time. Many of us have kids and quite intensive day jobs, so trying to fit the music around our personal lives can be tough. 

Why did you call the album This Sceptred Veil.

It’s very much all interwoven with the concept of the album. Without giving too much away, it’s directly inspired by the beautiful landscapes where we live. The folklore of Old England, Glastonbury and Wiltshire features heavily.

What influenced you all when writing and recording this album. 

The lockdown forced us all to look closer to home for moments of serenity and escape. Personally, I took my partner and two boys walking around the beautiful countryside a lot. It made me very thankful and grateful to be living in such a wonderful part of the world. I guess that had a big impact on the lyrics and feel.

The artwork is  awesome. Who designed the artwork and how much input did you have into the overall design of this.

Once again, we had the wonderful Sara-Jane Swettenham design the album. She also happens to be the Mother to my children and my future wife, so that helps! Ha ha. 

Sara always listens to the music deeply to truly understand the concepts and emotions. I think she’s captured the spirit of the music magnificently. 

Pale Wizard Records (Dan’s own label) is releasing this album keeping with your long standing DIY ethic. Did you have offers to release this album by other labels? As you did work with Ripple Music for your 2020 split release with Howling Giant. 

We did have some kind offers from some quite established labels. But to be honest, we like doing it ourselves as it gives us complete control. Sure, working with one of the bigger labels could open some more doors for us, but we’re all at a point in our lives where we don’t feel the need to chase anything or prove anything. 

We do things at our own pace and it seems to work. We have a very loyal following and we get many messages from our supporters praising the way we do things. I think having that personal connection to our fans has really helped us. The past couple of years has really taught us to hold on to these people as tightly as possible. Their love, support and encouragement has been a constant source of happiness and surprise for the entire band.

You’ve reissued and released some of your back catalogue on Vinyl over the last couple of years which almost sells out right away. Has that surprised you by the response and anticipation by your fans within the Stoner Rock/Metal underground. 

I am never not surprised by it! Honestly, the idea that we have a whole bunch of dudes and dudettes listening to us all over the world is crazy. For a band who have never played outside the UK, it’s something else. 

You will be touring this album across the UK in June 2022. Are you looking forward to performing on this tour?

Absolutely, although we’d be lying if we said we weren’t nervous. Our last tour got destroyed by the blasted virus and we lost a ton of money on that. But mostly, we can’t wait to get out there and see some friends. It’s been way too long!

What can people expect from this tour and are you anxious about performing on the live stage after live gigs are finally making a welcome return after COVID-19 Pandemic.

They can expect some new songs but also a good mixture of our previous material. They can expect a band who go out there with no tricks, no backdrops, no backing tracks, no gizmos. Just four dudes playing way too loud and way too energetically for their advancing age. So yes, we’re anxious. I just hope I get some nice comfortable beds to sleep in along the way so I don’t do my back in. I’ve spent a bloody fortune on osteopaths and kettlebell classes over the last few years because of my ‘old mans’ back. Ha ha.

Do you have any other musical projects outside of Sergeant Thunderhoof that folks can check out.

I have a couple of studio side projects called Kong Social and Dis & Co that I do with Josh Gallop at the studio. Josh plays in the band Phoxjaw who are astounding and worth checking out before they become world famous. I believe Mark is planning on doing a crust punk side project later this year. Jim has made noises about getting his old band Ratz Ass back together too. But it’s fair to say that Hoof is our main passion.

Before you go, do you have any words of wisdom for your fans (such as myself) out there.

Try to smile more and be nice to each other. I see a lot of people spend their lives telling others to ‘be kind’ on social media, and then the next thing you see is them slagging someone off or calling every political figure or celebrity a rude word. I think we need a bit more compassion and love in the world, especially for those we don’t get on with. Oh, and my best advice is to buy the new Hoof album. 

It’ll definitely make you about 15% more attractive and will improve your love life, guaranteed. Cheers!

Words by Steve Howe and Dan Flitcroft

Thanks to Jade at Memphia Music PR & Management for arranging this interview and thanks to Dan for doing this interview as well.

The Sceptred Veil is available to pre-order now from Pale Wizard Records and Sergeant Thunderhoof now.