Mason Hill are making waves in the world of rock music. They are the first rock act to have a debut album in the UK Top 20 since GRETA VAN FLEET in 2018. Released on March 5th, their new album, Against The Wall achieved the UK national album chart at number 19, taking a coveted top 20 album position, and reached over 750,000 streams on Spotify. The long-awaited album, which received critical acclaim from both media and fans alike, also hit number 1 in the UK rock album chart. We spoke with guitarist James Bird about the bands’ new album, their history as a band, and what the future holds.
XS ROCK: Tell me about the latest band news? Any new projects coming out, live shows, or announcements?
JAMES: Latest news for the band is we just debuted in the UK national album charts at #19 on with our debut record and #1 on the UK Rock & Metal official album charts! We are so amazed by this and now just ready to go and gig gig gig as soon as Covid 19 allows us to. We announced a 24 date UK headline tour for Sept / Oct 21 and tickets are selling like hotcakes!! Aside from that, we have an exclusive streaming release of the Foo Fighters cover ‘Best Of You’ which if you go ahead and follow us on Spotify you will not miss. It’s our own version and is out on April 23rd.
XS ROCK: So how long has the band been together?
JAMES: The band has been going officially since 2015 but it wasn’t as you see it today until the end of 2017 early 2018. It took time to develop the band to get to where it is now as Mason Hill bloomed from a high school friendship between myself and Scott (Vocalist). We had a high school band which we disbanded in our late teens to start a new group which we managed to start recruiting members to after recording some demos in 2013. First came Craig on the drums which allowed us to start gigging under the name ‘Mason Hill’ which led to a debut EP in 2015. After that Matthew joined on Bass followed by Marc on Guitar. It’s a proper grassroots band which has gone through the classic way of finding members with ads on the internet and posters so we view ourselves as having been Mason Hill since the last member (Marc) joined the missing link.
XS ROCK: What was your main motivation for originally starting or being in a band?
JAMES: I’ve played guitar since I was 9 years old and it was always the goal ever since then. It’s not easy when you’re just a kid in the bedroom that doesn’t know many other musicians around the same age who want the same thing so I just kept practicing with it in my mind that I would always meet someone to start a band with. When I moved to Glasgow I met Scott and it was then we were able to do that. Persistence was always important to both of us and sure enough we eventually got what we were looking for! Like-minded people who have the same drive as us wanting to go all the way.
XS ROCK: What is your music background?
JAMES: Me personally, I’ve played since 9 years old, worked really hard and took quite a shine to the guitar and then ended up being endorsed at a young age by some music products which saw me play at events on behalf of them. It led me to playing with Zakk Wylde when I was just 11 years old which was an amazing experience for me given how much of a fan I was of him. (You can check out a photo of 11-year old me and Zakk on our Facebook timelins!) It was definitely a moment which sparked something in my heart to forever continue playing guitar so that when my parents divorced at the age of 12ish which saw me move to Scotland from England I persisted with the guitar more than ever.
XS ROCK: What image do you think your music conveys?
JAMES: I think it conveys us as a band who have dragged ourselves up out of nothing to try and make something of our passion through music. It’s an image of drive, persistence and never giving up which I think also comes across in some of the songs and lyrics on our debut album.
XS ROCK: What are your current music career goals?
JAMES: I think I speak for the whole band when I say this, but our goal is to go all the way. We want to be playing around the world to people who enjoy music from a band that writes its own music and is coming up from the bottom. Since building ourselves to this debut album the songs are only getting better so yeah we just want to give music and do anything we can to keep the rock community growing!
XS ROCK: Which do you prefer? Writing new songs and recording or playing for a live audience?
JAMES: Both as they’re so dependent on one another. It’s amazing to write songs but without the audience to perform them to it wouldn’t complete the reason music is made in the first place which is to bring people together and distract from whatever people have going on in their own lives.
XS ROCK: What are your songs’ lyrics about? (What specific themes do they cover?)
JAMES: All sorts of things! We have songs like ‘Broken Son’ which was all about the struggles families face, ‘Hold On’ which was about pushing through any difficulties you may face as well as ‘Against The Wall’ which represents the time we spent as a band which was most difficult for us. Many times a rock band feels their backs are against the wall with respect to many issues be it touring, recordings, paying bills, eating so it kind of became a mantra for this debut album.
Aside from the theme of struggle we also have songs like ‘Who We Are’ which is all about positivity and the power of staying together, working together. The album itself is a time stamp of our journey and what we have faced as a band which can hopefully transfer through to the listener who may also have went through difficult times but with some light at the end.
XS ROCK: What is the single most important thing to you as a musician?
JAMES: Seeing and hearing people enjoying the music. Granted all music is subjective but anyone who writes songs or at least many I think would agree we love to see the reaction to them. Knowing someone has either taken a special meaning to the music or if they just love to blast it in their cars and at gigs makes it really rewarding and worthwhile. It’s the sense that the music can do something for someone else in any way that I find really special.
XS ROCK: Do you have any outrageous tour stories from the road? If so, please fill us in.
JAMES: We went to France and Scott (vocalist) got hit by a firework backstage whilst half naked women and men were dancing on the stage! We all ended up very drunk that night and the following day we were abandoned in the middle of a countryside town in the South of France with all our gear gone with the driver too! Thankfully the guy who was driving our van just went back to the hotel to get something he had left but at the time we were absolutely freaking out thinking we had just been robbed of all of our belongings in the middle of a French country town! Haha you can imagine the stress! Our French trip was just amazing but we’d need a full interview on that experience to get it across!
XS ROCK: What’s the strangest request that you’ve ever received from one of your fans?
JAMES: I think Matthew the bassist was approached by a fan who wanted to gift one of their belongings to us so that she knew something she owned was now in the possession of the band but when she realised he was a bassist she changed her mind as she only wanted a guitarist to take it! Poor bassists! Ha Ha!
XS ROCK: Are your friends and family supportive of your choice to play in a rock band?
JAMES: Extremely, every member of the band has incredibly supportive family and friends for which without we would not be able to function. They’re like the unseen extra members of the band keeping us going.
XS ROCK: What advice do you have for new bands trying to get started?
JAMES: Focus on the songs first, if the songs are good then the rest will sort itself out. Aside from that I’d advise bands to look after the members because without loyal and hard-working members the songs and band won’t go anywhere.
XS ROCK: What are your favorite tracks to play live?
JAMES: I love playing ‘Find My Way’ because of the last riff! It turns so heavy and whilst we are a band with a mix of rock songs and the odd slow song we do love ourselves some heavy as well!
XS ROCK: Which band or artist inspired you to perform? Why?
JAMES: As a kid I was really inspired by Eddie Van Halen so when I eventually got a guitar aged 9 I became obsessed with all the giants like Aerosmith, Guns n roses, Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne etc. My family were very much into music especially the 80s metal so it naturally fell down onto me!
XS ROCK: If you could design a dream tour for your band, who would be on the bill?
JAMES: I think at the moment the guys would love to play with the likes of Foo fighters to get the chance to be on the amazing stages they put on! We’d also love to play with the likes of Shinedown and Alterbridge as we are big fans of them.
XS ROCK: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?
JAMES: The greatest accomplishment so far is releasing our debut album ‘Against The Wall’ during a global pandemic with no gigs at all and charting in the UK national albums chart at number 19! It also hit no1 on the UK official rock and metal album chart but I think I may have mentioned that already Against the wall and against all odds!
XS ROCK: If you weren’t performing in a band what kind of career do you think you would have?
JAMES: Honestly all I have ever done is lived and breathed music! so it’s very very hard to imagine anything else haha I think I’d have studied to work in the sound industry to produce/mix/master on other things like TV and Film.
XS ROCK: What type of equipment do you use for live shows?
JAMES: The most beautiful Gibson Les Paul you’ve ever seen! Trust me! The finish is called ‘Blueberry burst’ and it just superb craftsmanship. Aside from that I go through a BUDDA amp head,
XS ROCK: What do you think of the current music scene?
JAMES: Here in Scotland we have a wide range of music genres doing well. Biffy Clyro is from here as well as a band called GUN who did great for themselves in the 90s and onwards. We like so many bands from the USA so it seems like heavy music does well over there but rock and heavy music always seems to come with that question of “is rock dead?” We’d like to think no but we would also love to see the support for rock music continue to grow as there are so many lovers of rock music out there.
XS ROCK: For anyone that doesn’t know you, what would they be surprised to know about you?
JAMES: A lot of people say we have an American sound so they’re often surprised to find we are based in Glasgow. Obviously I am from England so my accent is perhaps not as strong but when the rest of the guys start chatting away with their Scottish accents anyone who doesn’t know find it to be a welcomed surprise!
XS ROCK: Is there anything that you’d like to promote or say to your fans out there?
JAMES: Just that we are so thankful people like yourselves taking the time to interview and take interest in us! All we want to do is give the best music as we possibly can so the support is so appreciated and drives us to continue. To anyone just checking us out now then I welcome aboard and we hope to see you at a show when this crazy world lets us get back out there. If anyone likes us they can join up on our website and we’ll send you out regular newsletters – www.masonhillofficial.com
XS ROCK: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us at XS ROCK!