We’re kind of like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” says Monster Truck guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Widerman. “We’re all very different. You know how one of them is the science one, another is the cool dude, another is the joker, but they all come together to unite for this common goal? There’s a part of that in this band.”
Hammer have just enquired what types of personalities go into creating the foursome’s blend of 70s hard rock, traditional heavy metal and fuzzed-up grunge. We didn’t expect to hear comparisons with pizza-eating, sewer-dwelling comic book characters. But it kind of works. Sitting at Hammer HQ today, Jeremy is serious, pensive and answers every question in a considered manner, while vocalist/bassist Jon Harvey slouches back, practically sideways, in his chair, laughing and rolling happily along with his answers. Without the other two members of their band (keyboard player Brandon Bliss and drummer Steve Kiely) present it’s not possible to see the turtle analogy in full effect, but the two men that do drive this truck could be the odd couple leads of a rock’n’roll sitcom.
“It’s important for us to not have a stifling atmosphere,” continues Jeremy, baseball cap pulled down his face. “We don’t agree on everything, but we have to have the freedom to be ourselves. There is a lot of personality missing in rock music today, so we’re happy people can pick up on our different characteristics. I write the best music I can write when I’m with him. When he’s not there I can’t do it. I think after this ends, whenever that may be, I won’t be able to make music in a band anymore. I’ll just be a solitary old dude with an acoustic guitar sat by a campfire.”
It’s been a pretty wild couple of years for Monster Truck. Back in 2014, they stole the show on our very own Lords Of The Riff tour in support of debut album Furiosity. They were beginning to enjoy some sizeable success in their homeland of Canada, and the buzz was definitely building in the UK. Today they’re here to promote follow-up album Sittin’ Heavy, which entered the Canadian charts at Number 6. Its success has seen the band accept both the highly coveted support slot for compatriots Nickelback on their world tour later this year and a debut Main Stage appearance at Download Festival on the same day as Iron Maiden.
“It’s just insane the stuff that’s happened in two years,” laughs Jon. “If it looks odd from the outside, then you should try being in it. I still think of us as this little band from this little town! When I joined this band I was just happy to play a show. I couldn’t have dreamed… well, I could have dreamed it… But that’s all it was.”
Jeremy cuts him off. “I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t want this to happen, or that I’m just satisfied at where we are now,” he tells us. “In the scene that we came from, in Canada, there are a lot of bands. We’ve played with all kinds of bands, but only one of each type of band ever really break big. Look at Nickelback or Billy Talent – there’s only one of each of them, but they did influence the music in our country. A couple of years ago, it was just us playing this type of music, and now there are other bands popping up that sound like us. I feel like that’s our influence, the result of our success. So that gives me hope; hope that this style of music will continue to grow and hope that we can be the standout band of this era.”
These two answers about the merits of the band’s past offer a revealing insight into how the Yin and Yang elements of Monster Truck work. It’s the happy-go-lucky dreamer and the ambitious task-master axis in full effect. When asked about the future, particularly that Download performance, it comes to the fore again.
“I’m just going to go out there and play, man,” shrugs Jon. “You have got to be excited about this kind of thing, or what’s the point? If it all fucks up? Well, that’s what happens. I’m super excited. It’s an honour for us to be on that ground.”
Jeremy isn’t feeling quite so lax about it.
“I still have trouble coming to terms with it,” he says. “I’m not sure we’ve quite earned this slot in this country yet. That stage is the biggest stage we’ll have ever played on. I’m the only one that can move around, so I have to bring it. That’s a pretty big stage to cover, so there’s a multitude of things that can go wrong – I’ve had every onstage mishap happen to me in our career. I gotta make sure none of them happen there.”
Although there is one thing the two of them can agree on.
“We don’t change our set or our approach for anyone,” Jon says, when asked if they’ll approach the crowd at a Nickelback concert any differently to 100,000 rabid Iron Maiden fans. “We’re just going to go out and do our thing.”
“Whether it’s a festival show, a support slot with Nickelback or our own show in a small club, second-guessing an audience, or trying to appease them is not the way to do things,” agrees Jeremy. “People can either love it or not.”
With that, rock’s odd couple nod in unison. Polar opposites offstage they may be, but, when they unite for a common goal, these disparate superheroes of rock are an unstoppable force.
TEN CLASSIC JAMS PERFECT FOR DRIVING BIG-ASS TRUCKS
1. Cancer Bats - Road Sick
2. Gama Bomb - Hell Trucker
3. Black Stone Cherry - Drive
4. Limp Bizkit - Livin’ It Up
5. Danko Jones - Code Of The Road
6. Rob Zombie - Demon Speeding
7. Motörhead - Keep Us On The Road
8. Skindred - Ratrace
9. Saxon - Wheels Of Steel
10. Ozzy Osbourne - Road To Nowhere