If you’re on the lookout for the future of music, then where better to find it than where the legends of the past were created? Today, CR has congregated on the hallowed turf of Donington Park for the annual Download festival, rock’s biggest shindig of the year. Behind us, Slash belts out a fat-free, greatest hits set on the main stage. But, for once, we aren’t here for him. Or headliners Kiss. Or Mötley Crüe’s final UK festival appearance. Instead, we’ve descended to the back lounge of We Are Harlot’s tour bus to discuss the future of the genre with two of its brightest hopes. Danny Worsnop (vocals) and Jeff George (guitar) of Harlot have just released one of the best debuts of this year, packed with sleazy, glammed up instantaneous rockers, and are joined by Erik Grönwall (vocals) and Eric Rivers (guitar) of enigmatic Swedish melodic hard rock crew H.e.a.t.
Everyone is in high spirits after both bands dominated the second stage earlier in the day, and it’s turning into a full-blown love-in as both bands profess their admiration for each other. Our job is to contain them just enough to get some perspective on the state of rock in 2015.
As we get everyone to settle down, the dynamic is immediately established. Worsnop and George are the swaggering motormouths, while Grönwall and Rivers are more laid-back and effortlessly cool. So gents, in 2015, what shape is rock in?
Erik Grönwall (to laughter from everyone): It’s terrible. A terrible business.
Danny Worsnop: I just know, from when we started the band, I’d turn on the radio and it all sounded the fucking same. I couldn’t tell one band from the next.
Jeff George: And you look at the bands from the 70s, the greats like Kiss, Sabbath, Zeppelin or Van Halen, and even though they were all playing rock’n’roll, they all had totally different personalities. That’s what I look for in a band and that’s what we tried to do with this band – let people see our four different personalities. Now you’ve got a system and a tried and tested formula that people are sticking to, and I hate that homogenisation. Which is why I think it’s great to have two bands here that are bucking that trend.
Eric Rivers: Individuality. It’s being lost. We are trying to be as honest as possible. We are going for that organic feel, trying to record as live as often as we possibly can. I’d love to record an album in a garage, because that’s where these songs are born.
Worsnop: It’s a lost art form.
Rivers: It is. And I just want us to be a band that sound like how we actually sound.
George: And those old records used to swing. You could hear the human touch in them. Records made now? We’ve lost that. So when the younger generations hear those old records, they think, ‘Whoah…’
Worsnop: A human being is playing that. And bands don’t bring in money any more.
**George: **They used to develop bands. Not now.
Worsnop: But even those bands that didn’t have a hit were still bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not now, and if you aren’t bringing money to the table, it’s tough.
It’s a fairly serious start. George decides we should all do a shot of Jack Daniels to lighten the mood a little. It works too, as all the guys start discussing their favourite AC/DC album. But we’re interested in how this love affair started. And both bands have the usual stories: Grönwall previously featured in Swedish Idol (essentially Sweden’s answer to X-Factor) and Worsnop recently quit high profile modern metallers Asking Alexandria in order to concentrate on Harlot. Both have come from opposing ends of the spectrum yet ended up in the same place. How so?
Worsnop: The whole rock’n’roll common ground.
Grönwall: It was hard, because it’s not a good place to come from, the pop world, when you are trying to make it in rock. But even when I was on those shows, I always tried to stay true to myself. I’d sing the songs I loved on the show and by doing that, it worked out for me. It helped that Sweden is a country that likes rock music and rock bands.
**George: **And you can tell with those people, like in the States we had Daughtry and Adam Lambert, who’s doing his thing with Queen, those people weren’t in the system. You saw the ones that played the game and you saw the ones that didn’t sign the deal at the end and went and did their own thing. And he [pointing to Grönwall] is one of them.
Worsnop: It’s funny because a lot of people were surprised. And a lot of people said to me, ‘Was it hard to learn the rock stuff?’ But I grew up on that stuff. My Grandad played the blues and my parents would always have Aerosmith on, so I had to learn the metal stuff. That was more a rebellion against my parents. I reached the point where I said, ‘Oh my parents listen to that so I’m going to listen to something super heavy.’ But my heart was never in it. I just wanted to go back to my roots.
As drinks are passed around again, it’s becoming clearer that these four gentlemen are highly driven and ambitious. Inspired by the efforts of their heroes, you know they won’t rest until they’ve emulated them. But is that a realistic aim in this day and age?
Worsnop: Emulate, yes. Duplicate, yes. But to do it the same way as if it’s something that means a shit? No. Because those bands were one of a kind. We can do something that sounds the same, but that isn’t cool.
Grönwall: The thing is, we haven’t earned it yet. We can sit here and talk about all the things we want to do, but we’ve done nothing really. We spend every day trying to earn the same level of respect that those bands we’ve been talking about achieved. You earn what you deserve to earn.
Worsnop: Everybody wants to be famous but nobody wants to work for it.
George: Let’s be honest here: nobody thinks we can do it. The odds were stacked against us from the start. It took us four years to get this album out with people telling us it was a no-go, and it comes out and does really well. Now we’ve got people saying, ‘I told you so.’ So we will make people come around to us. And if we have to do it little by little? Fine. But we will do that.
Another drink is poured, and steely determination and seriousness morphs once more into a much more laid-back and inclusive environment. The guys are clearly having a good time, which is what rock stars should do. After all, it’s not just the legendary music, but the legendary tales that have shaped the mythology of this genre. But just how important are those antics to the members of H.e.a.t. and We Are Harlot?
Worsnop: Is it important? Yes and no. I’ve got a reputation and I’m fine with that. But some people just have this rock’n’roll gene in them. Look at Dee Snider, never had a drink in his life.
George: And is one of the strongest frontmen.
Grönwall: You don’t want to do something just because other people have done it in the past. I want to do what I want to do…
Worsnop: And that’s rock’n’roll.
Grönwall: I don’t want to try and be what Freddie Mercury was. I want to be my own man, I have my own set of rules and I do my own thing.
George: You’ve got your own beer too. It’s good. We’re drinking it now.
Grönwall: Thanks man.
George: I do always think back on those stories…
Worsnop: Which we can only speculate on.
George: Of course, but I think about those guys and what they did and do often find myself going, ‘Oh man. I should maybe be doing this or that.’ But then you aren’t yourself any more. So I don’t think those things exist to us as rules… but we’re still in a kick-ass band and we like to fucking party.
It’s getting close to the time that Kiss are due to hit the stage. Which, understandably, no one wants to miss. So one more swig from the now near-empty bottle of Jack and one more question. If we meet here in 10 years’ time, what sort of state will we find rock’n’roll in?
Grönwall: I’d like to think it will be in good hands.
Worsnop: There’s a whole bunch of young kids at the moment who don’t know about this type of music, and that’s fine. You need to learn to walk, you know? I remember that Asking did a bunch of Skid Row covers and our fans thought it was new stuff. That blew my mind that they hadn’t heard of Skid Row. But Sebastian [Bach] saw me and said there had been this surge of kids buying their CDs again. So there is a hunger for this music, and it won’t go away.
Grönwall: The thought that one day I could be someone’s Freddie Mercury…
George: You probably already are.
Grönwall: That just blows my mind. I know I’ll never reach that standard…
Worsnop: But it’s all about perspective. To you, you aren’t. But to a kid that’s never heard Queen…
**Grönwall: **Exactly, I’ll continue trying.
George: And I have kids telling me I’m the greatest guitar player in the world, and I know I’m not. But we will be an evolutionary stepping stone for future generations. If we can do that… dude. I’d be honoured.
Grönwall: But what people need to do is stop relating everything back to the 80s. We hear this, ‘Oh you’re like a band from the 80s,’ and yes, we’re inspired by the 80s, but this is 2015, and if we keep looking back then there will be no evolution. Both of these bands are here, now and looking to bring new sounds to rock music.
**Worsnop: **It’ll be fine. Rock music is the genre that never dies.
And with a whoop, a cheer and a final draining of their bottle of Jack Daniel’s, the members of We Are Harlot and H.e.a.t depart to watch Kiss, cradling the future of rock very safely in their hands.