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Believe In What You're Fighting For

(Interview With Geoff Rickly Taken From Black Velvet 39 - Feb 2004)

By David Jackson

Times are good for THURSDAY. Emotional hardcore is arguably receiving more exposure than ever with major record labels hot on the heels of the elite of the scene. Thursday have released their first album on a major label to critical acclaim and are currently in the middle of a hectic touring schedule taking in more corners of the world than they have ever ventured to. However a panic is setting in. For some unknown reason I can't get through to the relevant people putting me through to vocalist Geoff Rickly. After a stressful half-hour the phone finally connects to a not entirely un-familiar American voice.





Apologies and explanations aside things get underway before Thursday draw their UK tour ever closer to its finale. The band are currently on England's south coast, in Portsmouth. "We're in a beach town at the moment," begins an excited sounding Rickly. "I've never been to one in the UK before. We've had a little time to explore. We found an Indian place that smells really good. We love the UK, September's London Garage show was amazing. This tour the Astoria was probably our most enjoyable date, we played really well and the crowd were great, it was a lot a fun."

Thursday's latest album 'War All The Time' has a lot to live up against. Their previous LP 'Full Collapse' was a much needed breath of fresh air to the rock scene while 'War All The Time' is sitting pretty among any number of similar albums marking the upsurge in melodic hardcore. However things are still riding in Thursday's favour, the band has received largely positive feedback for their latest LP. "So far it's been unbelievable, especially in America. It's been received so well and the press has been going crazy over there. I guess the press makes the record in some ways," explains Rickly before continuing. "We read a lot of the reviews. People who write the reviews have really interesting opinions, I personally want to know about it, and what they think."

Between 'Full Collapse' and 'War All The Time' Thursday upped and moved record labels. The move from independent to major record label is a well-documented one, all too often accompanied with horror stories of corporate control and music little more than a commodity. Things have been very different for Thursday however who's move to Island Records brought a new sense of freedom to the band. "I don't think this is the rule; probably the exception," suggests Rickly. "For us it's been very liberating. We can do whatever we want now. On Victory we had a real hard time fighting for everything we do because they saw us as their ticket to becoming this huge label, I think they thought we were going to be their Offspring. That's not what we wanted to do. Now we're on Island there's not the pressure to do that."
Not even the pressure to produce for them?
"Only from ourselves; the pressure to one up our last record, do something more intense. It wasn't, let's be more poppy. It was more, let's do something closer to what we've always wanted to do all along."
And do you feel you've achieved that? What have you achieved on 'War All The Time' you haven't in the past?
"I think this album has more hope that any of our other records," suggests Rickly. "It came through more. In the past I thought our music was hopeful but could never pinpoint how or where. On this record I think you can. I really think we were able to get a broader range of emotions on this record." Amid so much change one constant was producer Sal Villanueva. "Every record we've done we've worked with Sal. We thought about other people but so many things were changing we wanted to keep Sal producing," explains Rickly.

The album title, 'War All The Time', is obviously open to a very immediate interpretation, yet has different implications to Rickly.
"It's more of a personal title really," he explains. "A lot of the record is about love, I don't think it's actually very political in the traditional sense. I think it's more political in the way that politics affects the person. In the way it actually translates to your life and how it affects you on that level."
The first single released from it was 'Signals Over The Air', seemingly one of the more obviously contenders for release. "There were a few others I thought were going to be the first but the label was really certain about that song," admits Rickly. "The way I feel is that any song we have I love. We never write with the intention of songs being singles, so whatever ends up being a single I'm never disappointed by. It's very much more down the middle. 'Division St.' is much more a rock song; it's got the catchy chorus and stuff like that. 'Signals…' is a lot more atmospheric. It definitely has the big chorus but at the same time it I still think it's really adventurous for us as a single and a radio song."

Sitting among an album of hardcore guitars and screaming vocals one track noticeably stands out. 'This song brought to you by a falling bomb' is a sombre minimal piece, simply comprised of guitars and vocals.
"It was originally intended just to be an interlude with no singing," explains Rickly. "I just kept hearing things and I asked Andrew (keyboards) if it was OK to try some singing over it. It turned out really well. Being in the middle it gives you a breath almost."
The emotional content of Thursday's lyrics has been well documented, Rickly is not alone as a frontman ready to bare his soul on record. 'War All The Time' is no exception. What to some would be emotions to keep inside, Rickly releases through his lyrics, finding it natural to express his experiences and memories in such a way.
"I don't really know what else to write. That's just the way that I write," he admits. "I feel like everybody finds their own voice for what they need to say. I guess I've found my voice in writing about things that are very personal, I've never been one to talk about things that I don't know or understand."

Unknown to many, Rickly's skills stray further than those expressed in Thursday. In 2002 he produced My Chemical Romance's LP, 'I Brought You My Bullets, You Bought Me Your Love'.
"I've know those kids for ages, before they were in a band," explains Rickly. "They played me 'Vampires Will Never Hurt You' and I was so blown away I asked them if I could record a record for them. When it comes to Thursday though I don't want to be involved in producing. I'm already so involved with the band that it would just be another thing. I wouldn't want to get lost and not have any perspective on our music."

One of the many precursors to the current hardcore scene, and inspiration to Rickly is Jonah Matranga. A legend in his own right Matranga has played an integral part in the bands New End Original, Oneline Drawing and more importantly Far.

With Far's albums now being re-released Rickly is just one individual to be quoted in their accompanying press release.
"No way! Really?" exclaims Rickly, sounding genuinely shocked. "What struck me about Far was how honest, intense and beautiful their music was. I consider Far to be a band that were beautifully amazing and passionate."
Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore is another, maybe not so obvious influence on Thursday's vocalist.
"When I was about 14 I got 'Glue'" explains Rickly. "I loved Glue so much. I've always respected Sonic Youth, the way they have worked and done their band. They've always followed an artistic vision. It's really interesting for me because they're a band that cut their own path."
Another revealing aspect of Thursday's influences was seen on the B-side to 'Signals Over The Air', a track called 'Ni Batteri' by Icelanders, Sigur Ross, again not an immediately obvious influence.
"They're a huge influence on us as far as experimentation," explains Rickly. "To me it's fascinating because so much of what people think they're feeling in Thursday is about the lyrics. To me it's not all the lyrics, there's the beauty of music and Sigur Ross are an example of that. I have no idea what they're saying but I still connect to the base emotion of it."

Before embarking on a musical career with Thursday Rickly was training to be an English teacher in America, something he believes isn't as far from singing in a hardcore band as you'd imagine. "I always had this feeling about teaching. It was a pivotal thing in my life that helped me out a lot and the same thing with music. It was a time in my life when I needed something there. Both are things I feel you can devote yourself to, rather than just be a job."

With time pressing on and a gig on the coast looming for Rickly, he begins talking about some of the music that gets him through Thursday's gruelling tour schedule. Some familiar names begin cropping up including Godspeed You! Black Emperor! and Mogwai, Majority Rule and past touring partners Cursive. However there's just time to question him over comments he made at the band's gig at the London Garage in September last year. Before the finale of 'Autobiography Of A Nation' Rickly spoke out to the crowd telling them: "Make sure you believe in what you fight for, or you may end up killing people for no reason." Thursday have never been a band with an obvious political stance showing through their lyrics. However at a time when being British or North American is met with a degree of criticism from the rest of the world it's crucial to hear people speaking out against the actions the two governments sanctioned. It's unsurprising to learn Rickly's words were aimed at the political situation surrounding the invasion of Iraq.
"For me it was about not believing in a lot of things that our government is doing," he explains. "I never believed that Bush was telling the truth about the weapons inspections. In America people are starting to believe what Bush is staying just because he's the president and if anyone questions him they say you're a traitor. To me it's just like people are going along with it too easily. You can't just go with what's popular. I don't think most people in America even understand what's going on, they think somehow Iraq is related to September 11, there's so much misinformation. Bush is definitely a puppet and doesn't know what he's doing but there are enough people around him who could stop him and Blair is one of them but on the American side, we haven't got many."
Politics aside, the foreseeable future is a busy one for Thursday. The success of 'War All The Time' is a lot to take in, taking the band to every corner of the world, to countries they have never been. There's even talk of the band returning to the UK in 2004. "We're going out to Japan and Australia, then hopefully back to the UK," reveals Rickly. "This will be our first time to the Far East, it will be really interesting to see. We don't want to assume that people will go crazy for us."
With Thursday in such demand from press all over the world a rapturous welcome is an almost certainty wherever they travel, with little signs of this slowing down. Thursday's current album, 'War All The Time' is out now on Island Records.

Visit www.thursday.net for more info.



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