Tommy Concrete is a name that resonates within the metal and punk scene, both within his native Scotland and further afield. His resume is eclectic, from his time in legendary punks The Exploited to fronting Man of the Hour, playing with Jackal-Headed Guard of the Dead, publishing a horror novel based on extreme metal tape trading, and his own diverse solo work. It is in this last bracket that we turn our attention to, as his fifth album Unrelaxed is just around the corner – with a potent narrative driving it. Unrelaxed will be released via Howling Invocations, on digital platforms, and a run of 100 limited edition numbered digipack
XS ROCK: Tell me about the latest band news? Any new projects coming out, live shows or announcements?
Tommy: My latest album ‘Unrelaxed’ is due to be released through Howling Invocations on October 19th 2018. It is part one of a double album set. Part two will be out in early 2019. I am expecting the promotion of these two albums to totally dominate the next year or so. At the moment I am going to be getting new songs rehearsed ready for the live set, which is going to be equal parts exciting and nightmarish as the vocals and lead guitar on the new stuff is really demanding.
XS ROCK: How long has the band been together?
Tommy: I started releasing music as Tommy Concrete in 2002, but have been playing in bands since 1987. I made my solo work my main project in 2012 after leaving The Exploited, putting together Tommy Concrete and the Werewolves as a band to play my solo stuff.
XS ROCK: What was your main motivation for starting or being in a band?
Tommy: My brother played me Hawkwind’s double live extravaganza Space Ritual when I was about 5, it absolutely blew my mind and that night I had a fantastic and ultra realistic dream that I was in the band. Ever since then I have pursued that dream to play mind blowing music from the heart.
XS ROCK: What is your music background?
Tommy: Music is my life. I have released over sixty albums across fifteen bands since 1987. Covering punk, metal, progressive, psychedelic, industrial, doom, thrash and all sorts. The majority of which can be found at howlinginvocations.
XS ROCK: What image do you think your music conveys?
Tommy: Ramage, who produced ‘Unrelaxed’ said he felt my music conveyed the image of being spiked with acid at a metal night hosted in the Mos Isley cantina from Star Wars. Personally I think he hit the nail on the head with that one. We also had a discussion surrounding the idea that some of the arrangements were influenced by cubism, which again is I believe a very apt description.
XS ROCK: What are your immediate music career goals?
Tommy: Get the new songs rehearsed and take it out on the road. In three years time it will be my twenty year anniversary of going solo, so I would like to get something special sorted to celebrate that, but to be honest I would settle for just still being an artist, still going and still having never sold out.
XS ROCK: What are your long-term career goals?
Tommy: To be fair I don’t really see my music as a career, I am not money or business driven, it’s art, my music is an inevitable side effect of me being alive. There is no short, medium or long term business career style plan at work with me, definitely to my financial detriment I may add. I have been at this for over thirty years and seen the world through it, there are no plans greater than just keep on at it until I die.
XS ROCK: Which do you prefer? Writing new songs and recording or playing for a live audience?
Tommy: I absolutely love the creative process and being in the studio, I have played a fair few shit gigs in my time but have never had a shit day writing or recording. Saying that though, there is nothing better in life than a brilliant gig and I am fortunate enough to have played loads of them. It’s all part of the same process to me and don’t really see these things as separate. I hate rehearsing though.
XS ROCK: What are your songs about? (What specific themes do they cover?)
Tommy: The lyrics on Unrelaxed deal with the juxtaposition of dealing with my own recent diagnosis of high functioning autism whilst working in complex mental health services, which has included secure and semi secure settings. Almost all of the songs are about incidents which have profoundly affected me but I have been unable to discuss due to confidentially issues, so they get hidden in metaphor. I have suffered vicarious trauma and P.T.S.D. from four years of devastating incidents of arson, serial animal murder, suicide, overdose and being involved in countless incidents of violence.
XS ROCK: Do you have any outrageous tour stories from the road? If so, please fill us in.
Tommy: I have used all my nine lives and am lucky to be here to be honest. The paradox of answering this question truthfully would be to advocate things that would make people rightly think badly of me. I am not ashamed of anything I may have done in the past, but the thing is that this week hosts three separate anniversaries of friends who are dead because of drink / drug related incidents and today, out of respect to these guys I will politely decline to answer this one.
XS ROCK: What’s the strangest request that you’ve ever received from one of your fans?
Tommy: When I played for The Exploited, loads of weird shit happened. Strangest for me was whilst in the queue for food backstage at a festival I was standing behind Korn, and in respect for The Exploited they asked (via one of their minions) that I stand in front of them in the queue. Now I am not saying they were fans of me, but that was absolutely definitely maximum level strange.
XS ROCK: Were your parents supportive of your aspirations to play in a rock band?
Tommy: Not at first, but when they realized I was utterly serious about it they were.
XS ROCK: What are your favorite tracks to play live?
Tommy: I love playing Beyond the Secret Island from my album The Wizards Bones live, it’s probably one of my best songs that I have written. Lesbian Sexual Predator from This Can’t Get Any Worse by Tommy Concrete and the Werewolves is a huge rush as well and one of my favourite solos. Most favourite ever buzzes onstage was getting to play Fight Back and Was It Me when I was in The Exploited.
XS ROCK: Which band or artist inspired you to perform? Why?
Tommy: Hawkwind, Hendrix, Motorhead, Killing Joke….. because the greatest buzz was to listen to those guys and I was just utterly driven to find out what it would be like to wield music of such emotive power and drive.
XS ROCK: If you could design a dream tour for your band, who would be on the bill?
Tommy: Amorphis, Vuur, Killing Joke.
XS ROCK: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?
Tommy: My guitar solo on Covenant of the Gargoyle from the album Exaanum by Jackal Headed Guard of the Dead. That was my peak, I would love to top it and will strive to…. hopefully if someone asks me that question in a year I will be able to answer that my greatest accomplishment is Unrelaxed, but I am too close to it at the moment to be able to say.
XS ROCK: If you weren’t performing in a band what kind of career do you think you would have?
Tommy: The one I currently have.
XS ROCK: What type of equipment do you use for live shows?
Tommy: I don’t rely on specifics if I can help it. Too many bands are slaves to their equipment and I try to avoid that trap. However I do play George Corcoran guitars and am never seen or heard without an Ibanez turbo tube screamer. Tone is in the fingers.
XS ROCK: What do you think of the current music scene?
Tommy: What scene do you mean? Bit of a vague question to be fair. However, in terms of the Edinburgh metal scene, it’s absolutely brilliant. Currently we have King Witch utterly owning the doom metal front with Laura belting out some of the best vocals I have ever heard, we’ve got the insanely prolific and immense power violence act Endless Swarm ripping the cheeks off, Scumpulse delivering some fantastic crusty black metal, Dvne who just tore Psycho Las Vegas a new arsepiece and of course Ramage Inc are about to unleash their third album of superlative prog metal…. other bands to catch are Runemaster, Iron Altar, Dog Tired, Anaxor, Lucifers Corpus, Hair of the Dog and Black Talon, all of whom are high achieving bands currently out their dealing with it. Let’s also not forget the legendary Warrior Soul who are essentially an Edinburgh based band (with whom I share a drummer in the form of Michael Brannagh who is a solo artist in his own right) and last and definitely not least The Exploited…. there is also me! The Edinburgh scene is bloody fantastic.
XS ROCK: For anyone that doesn’t know you, what would they be surprised to know about you?
Tommy: I used to be a martial arts instructor and hold a 4th Dan black belt in Ju-jitsu.
XS ROCK: If someone had never heard you before, how would you describe your sound?
Tommy: Expressive, progressive metal. For fans of Amorphis, Killing Joke and Hawkwind.
XS ROCK: Is there anything that you’d like to promote or say to your fans out there?
Tommy: Please go to my Bandcamp at tommyconcrete.bandcamp.com
Support underground artists and live gigs
XS ROCK: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us at XS Rock!
Tommy: It’s been a pleasure guys