WORDS: ADAM HOPKIN
In a cutthroat business where success can be instantaneously measured by how well you line the pockets of the industries’ upper echelons, artists find themselves scrambling for not only influence and to become the next household name but perhaps most importantly of all, identity. Manson shepherded the fantastically absurd; Cobain was an orchestrator of hate and the Beastie Boys fought for our right to party. The argument that Rock n Roll is dead is nothing new, or particularly convincing. If anything the pedestal that these classic, anarchic interpretations of Rockstars where so delicately perched upon has finally been knocked over.
“I think there are lots of elements of the rock star excess which are dark and horrible”, explains Jock, frontman of the London rock trio Puppy. “I think for us as well re-interpreting a lot of that music in our own way there is a kind of cartoonish element to it for us, just the way that people behaved it’s almost like pantomime, there is just no way that we could do that and people probably shouldn’t.”
As the vocalist explains the image of what artists are expected to be has evolved. The age of the “classic” rockstar has become little more than a cliché, at best laughed at through rose tinted nostalgia with every act following this curtain call bearing more resemblance to a parody. “we never set out to be involved in a scene”, clarifies the vocalist, “we felt kind of isolated in a way, but I think that has been really helpful in feeling that we are different from other people, that is what has galvanised us to kind of do the band in the first place and keep pursuing our own sound and our own vision of how things should be.”
“we never set out to be involved in a scene.”
Nothing makes the London lads “vision” more apparent than when assessing their rider. It would have been all too easy to make demands featuring all the usual suspects, working their way down the typical checklist of sex, drugs, and rock and roll all ready and waiting before they even hit the stage. “That is… that’s true” stutters Jock admitting to the guys requesting a framed photo of the late Carrie Fisher adopting her iconic role of Princess Leia of Star Wars fame from every venue they play, “We have only received it twice”. Bassist Will quickly contests this claiming there to be a third,” but it’s always a real treat when we get it!”
With so many bands bringing about change with the fully fledged seriousness of hardliner activists, and with each album release seeming to push a new global agenda it’s refreshing to see Puppy tackle the clichés of musicianship armed with only wit, sarcasm, and a goofball personality. Naturally though, eventually someone with an overdriven sense of scepticism will try and see through what they believe to be nothing more than a selling point or act. “I guess we are just real as fuck”, snickers Will after a short silence. “Let me ask you something mate”, Drummer Billy shouts over the screams of laughter, “Do you ask the wolf where he hunts?”
“I don’t think that we can really take each other too seriously”, chuckles Jock, as if trying to make a short departure toward seriousness, “if we are being questioned as a group it’s always going to be quite stupid.” As it turns out he was not wrong.
“Yeah I’m trying to get involved with George Foreman grills if you have a contact there?” enquires Jock. “I want them to make teeth grills” blurts the drummer in a moment of sheer genius. Understandably this may seem like complete nonsense, maybe even immature but this is calculated and just another intricate layer to the band doing things their way.
“if anything we want to encourage people to do their own thing and have fun”
“There is so much so ripe about this music because it’s so powerful and dramatic but so much room to play in there, and I think it’s a shame that more people don’t fuck around with it more”, explains Jock with clear frustration. “Maybe a lot of it is us trying to resolve our own awkwardness in the metal world I guess,” he continues, touching on the groups image and how they can be perceived, “Maybe we feel a little bit out of place and somehow the videos and the merch, the artwork and even the sound is a way of navigating our personalities within that landscape… I certainly don’t want to give the impression that we are trying to be above anyone if anything we want to encourage people to do their own thing and have fun.”
Despite being hailed as the sonic nomads of the modern metal landscape, Puppy have been unable to shake the landslide of comparisons to old school, legendary acts of yesteryear, perhaps falsely leading you to believe their fantastic debut effort The Goat holds more in common with a long forgotten greatest hits album, than the anthemic cultural resurgence it is . “I think musically it’s the best stuff we have done, it’s definitely an improvement on what we have put out before” confidently asserts the frontman. “I wish we had a pool of like 50 songs to choose the ones that give the best narrative that would have been cool.” Upon face value this could be confused with a lackluster result but if anything this artistic ethic is exactly what makes Puppy and their The Goat so pure, “it was just us digging deep and trying to come up with our best work.” No commercial angles. No bullshit. Just creatives and their art.
“There hasn’t been a lot of current metal that we have been drawn to…I guess what we do is our version of what we think heavy music should be”
At its very core Puppy are closer to the “Anti-artist” than a parody act, collectively laughing at the joke certain realms of the industry have been warped into, but you would be a fool to mistake their light hearted approach for a group without passion for their output. “I think that if anyone does mistake it for a lack of conviction then I don’t really care”, calmly asserts Jock “If they’re dumb enough to think that then fuck them. I don’t feel that I have to prove anything from that angle. Like I said we work really hard on our songs and our shows and even the stuff that we put online that takes ages to make. I think that if there is anyone like “it doesn’t seem like they are taking it seriously enough” then they are probably a pretty shit person.”
With this statement the frontman is being anything but arrogant, simply taking pride in his art and continues in trademark puppy humour and mockery, “we just continue doing things the way we are and the way we have always done because it makes sense and it feels right for us, I don’t think that it’s a question of trying to maintain any sort of integrity because I don’t think that we had any to begin with.” “Yeah, if anyone would like to help us sell out, we would take the first possible opportunity” cracks Billy.
“If anyone kind of was to look at us and feel that we weren’t taking it seriously, maybe it’s a good thing; maybe it’s kind of cool that we give that impression, reflects Jock. “It’s like when you meet up with your friends and stuff, you don’t go and meet up for a beer and go like “right lets fucking sit down and do some chatting!” you know what I mean?… it’s a bit kind of self-important, and I think a large part of what we do is balancing that love of heavy rock and big songs with a kind of awkwardness I guess”
“There hasn’t been a lot of current metal that we have been drawn to”, the frontman continues, “I guess what we do is our version of what we think heavy music should be. “ Despite their lack of connection to current champions of the metal scene and the overwhelming comparisons to mega acts of past decades; with their meme heavy online presence, painfully distracting interview etiquette and hilarious antics, Puppy are exactly what the rock world needs right now.
You can catch Puppy on one of their many UK headline dates this April:
• 17th – Southampton Joiners
• 18th – Bristol The Exchange
• 19th – Birmingham The Flapper
• 20th – Manchester Star and Garter
• 21st – Glasgow Garage Attic
• 22nd – Newcastle Think Tank
• 23rd – Nottingham Bodega Social Club
• 24th – Leeds Brundenell Social Club
• 25th London Underworld