It’s like the time when Pink Floyd wrapped themselves in pink for a photoshoot. Or when Snoop Dogg’s dog got an Instagram account. Or when Thunder played in a thunderstorm at Download (OK, that might not have been planned). Yes, the Very Literal Publicity Stunt has been done before. Though seldom this literally.
But it happened. They did it. Mascot Label Group – distinguished home of Joe Bonamassa, Walter Trout and other heavyweights – put Canadian hard rockers Monster Truck in a monster truck. Not figuratively. Not even in Photoshop. They literally got a monster truck and put Monster Truck in it. And drove around London, from Westminster to Camden. Monster Truck IN A MONSTER TRUCK.
OH. MY. GOD.
Well, we say Monster Truck. We mean a quarter of them – amiable, beardy guitarist Jeremy Widerman, who’s flown in to promote their new album Sittin’ Heavy. He seems as disbelieving as we are that his label have actually gone ahead with this most literal of publicity stunts. Not that it hasn’t been suggested before, of course.
“Everybody’s talked about it,” Jeremy nods, having gone for a spin round Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, “but we’ve never been able to actually put it together. All of our die-hard fans, who’ve been clamouring for this for years, are pissed; they want it to be in Canada. So it’s funny that it’s now happening in London, where the roads are twice as narrow!”
And Big Ben’s not the most obvious pairing for a monster truck.
“But it’s more fun,” he says. “And our fan base back home like seeing us overseas, trying to spread the gospel over here.”
Are any of Monster Truck monster truck enthusiasts?
“No, not really.”
You are popular with truckers, though, as well as hockey teams, power lifters…
“Yeah, those kinds of people who like that kind of stuff, they do like rock’n’roll music,” he agrees. “They’re not listening to fucking dubstep.”
Indeed, the need for big trucks is probably greater near Monster Truck’s homeland (Hamilton, Ontario). But this is England – home of the country lane and the mini. Do we even do monster trucks here?
The vessel rolls up at TeamRock HQ and, fair play, it is an actual proper monster truck. It’s huge. According to our driver, it’s become an increasingly in-demand vehicle in the UK. “We do teenage proms and weddings,” he tells us. “The white limo finished about five or ten years ago. Now people want tanks and monster trucks.
As we drive into drizzly Camden Sittin’ Heavy blasts out from truck-top speakers. Me, Jeremy and photographer Will hunch in the back, the walls pulsating. It’s an incredibly bling ride, but the album’s a good ‘un – a beefy, slightly more ‘grown-up’ graduation from 2013’s Furiosity. We stop outside the Underworld for some photos. As Jeremy gamely throws some shapes, one woman pulls her two small children next to the truck for a photo. A gaggle of schoolgirls watch on, taking snaps with iPhones.
By now, multiple bus drivers have wound down their windows and grinned “wanna swap?!’ As we approach Dingwalls Jeremy does some iPhone filming for the Truck’s social media following: “OK, we’re still doing this shit…”, and picks up a couple of new fans by cheerily thrusting T-shirts at passersby.
“What do you drive back home?” I ask Jeremy.
“I don’t. I have a skateboard,” he replies.
We wind up at Chalk Farm, outside the Roundhouse. The venue is being prepped for the Pirelli annual calendar launch. It’s all very shiny and red carpet-y. Humourless heaps of muscles in suits with heads sternly tell us we’re not allowed to shoot there. Will takes a quick couple of photos nearby anyway; Jeremy’s now a total pro at throwing devil horns while hanging off the front door and wheels. The muscles in suits look disapproving.
Some onlookers, it’s fair to say, seem more enthused by the truck than the band. As we prepare to head home, one man approaches looking excited: “Oh my god is that the real Gravedigger? Ohhhhmigod I’m so stoked right now! Is there a monster truck rally happening here?!” We tell him no, he looks briefly downcast but cheerfully compliments Jeremy on Sittin’ Heavy (still pumping from the speakers), before we pound back to base camp.
It’s not hard to imagine a less imaginative PR initiative – it’s impossible. But there’s something truly admirable about a plot this brilliantly unsubtle. As a means of blasting some good hard rock into Camden, it’s effective, and even in the drizzle — Londoners are a jaded, Tube-trodden bunch — attention was caught by this. Silly fun, but fun nonetheless.
And why stop here? Think of all the band names just waiting to be rendered very literally. Why not photograph Walter Trout in a trout onesie? Or take Fish on a fishing trip? Or get Camel to dress up as camels? Or cover Blackberry Smoke in blackberries and shove them in a smoker??
Over to you…