George, welcome to Lords Of Metal. You are of course son of Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris, so we can assume that the heavy metal virus affected you since birth. Before we start talking about your band The Raven Age though I (obviously) would like to ask you a few things about this. For starters: how was it like growing up in the family of one of the living legends of heavy metal? I guess you didn’t see much of dad because he was either recording or touring most of the time?
It was great, although it was all normal to me because I didn't know any different. He was away on tour a lot, but I don't have any bad memories of that, I only really remember going out to visit him in different countries and travelling around a lot which was great fun!
Having a father who is living and breathing metal does not necessarily mean the son automatically shares the same addiction. I know a lot of dads that are fanatical metal fans but who have children that are not in the least interested in the noise that daddy likes to play. At what age did you discover you yourself liked metal a lot, and what bands where a live-changer in that respect?
From quite a young age I knew that I liked rock music, because I used to just sit in front of the TV and watch the Kerrang channel all day. Although when I was younger I was into softer more rocky stuff like Foo Fighters, Blink 182 and Green Day. From then on it just got heavier and heavier. I went to see Funeral For A Friend at the Cambridge Corn Exchange with Bullet For My Valentine supporting them. That was a huge show for me in discovering metal. From then on I was convinced!
You are a full-time musician now. Was this a logical path to follow, or did you had quite some other personal ambitions earlier in life?
I was always sporty at school, so naturally I assumed I'd end up doing something to do with sport. I wanted to be a professional footballer for years, it was actually football that brought me to music really. I was in Norway trying out for a few teams when I was about sixteen and I had so much time on my hands in-between training that I'd just sit in my room messing around on the guitar and I started writing music and found that I really loved it.
Every musician at some point is his life decided to pick up an instrument. You are a guitarist yourself, so there must have been some guitarists out there that inspired you to master the six-string. Who were those guys, and what was so special about ‘m?
I remember really looking up to the guys from Killswitch Engage. When I first heard them I instantly loved their sound, it was so heavy but full of melody and twin guitar harmonies. I was on the Ozzfest tour with my Dad in 2005 and I saw them live. I then saw that they won an award for 'best guitarists on the tour' or something like that and I just thought they were really cool.
Was there any kind of pressure and/or encouragement from the old man to follow in his footsteps, or did he not mind what kind of career you would pursue, as long as it made you happy?
There was no pressure from him at all. I totally got into writing music by myself. He never pushed me towards anything, he obviously encouraged me once I got going and he found that he was into the music I was creating but it was my own decision.
From the outside the music industry can seem a very attractive world, especially for the successful bands and artists. On the other hand it can be quite cold, and even cruel sometimes, for those who aren’t so lucky as the happy few. Through the ages bands have been underpaid, ripped off, cheated on and so on and so forth, and lots of times even successful bands implode due to drug abuse, alcohol and/or ego problems. Did your father warn you of these things when it became clear you would pursue a career in rock, or did you already have a healthy perspective of things because you kinda grew up in it?
I think when you're young and forming a band, these are probably the last things you think of. You're just excited about making music and enjoying playing with your mates. Being a successful musician is the coolest job in the world when you're starting out and you have all these big ideas. You come across some of these things along the way when touring etc. When things are getting shit the key is to remember to have fun because that's why you started doing it in the first place.
In 2009 together with Dan Wright (also guitar) you started The Raven Age. Judging by the available information I have this is your first band. How did meet Dan, and what made it click between the two of you that you guys wanted to make music together?
I've actually been in a couple of bands before The Raven Age, but never really been involved in the writing process. I met Dan and we discovered we both played guitar and were into similar music. We decided to set up a jam session and we just clicked. The ideas were flowing and we were feeding off of each other. I think we're really lucky to have found likeminded musicians who get on as well as we do.
Not much later you were joined by Matt Cox (bass), Michael Burrough (vocals) and Jai Patel (drums) and the band was complete. I wonder, wasn’t it intimidating for the other guys to work with someone who’s dad co-shaped metal as we know it?
I don't think so. At the end of the day we're just a group of guys playing music, we weren't the ones who shaped metal as we know it so it doesn't really apply to us. We just do what we do and we enjoy it.
It took you guys a couple of years of writing and rehearsing, but in 2014 your first debut EP ‘The Raven Age’ was released. To my surprise it was a self-release. I would have thought lots of labels would have lined-up to sign the band. Or was this done deliberately?
There weren't any labels interested back then really. We had this music and wanted to get it out into the world so we just released it independently. To our surprise it actually did quite well with no promotion. It reached no.1 in the Amazon 'Hot New Releases' Chart and 'Angel In Disgrace' reached no.3 in the Australian iTunes chart for rock & metal.
About the name by the way, it sounds like some cool phrase straight out ‘Game Of Thrones’. Does it any specific deeper meaning? A historical one perhaps? Or was it just a cool name to use?.
The Raven Age is derived from the ravens of the Tower Of London. Historically they were drawn to the tower because of all of the blood and carrion. The ravens became guardians of the tower and would dwell within the grounds at all times. Legend has it that if the ravens ever leave or fly away, the tower and monarchy of Britain will fall.
Normally bands put our debut records to show the world what they got, hoping to get noticed in the sea of releases put out every month. Getting reviewed, interviewed maybe, and when very lucky even a shot at more gigs and eventually a record deal. How did it work out for you guys?
Well we released our EP first to kind of do this. Just to give everyone a snippet of what we were about and try and gain some interest. We also planned on releasing the album independently and it was due to come out in December but BMG came along just before and said they'd like to get involved, so obviously we accepted and here we are. Exciting times!
In 2016 you got a break of immense proportions when you got on tour with your father’s band. An honour of course to share with your sister Lauren, and also Bruce Dickinson’s boy Austin, who both with their bands supported Iron Maiden on earlier tours. Your music though sounds a lot more modern than your father’s. Now I know from personal experience that Iron Maiden fans are quite conservative when it comes to music, so how did the react on The Raven Age?
We also had that in mind before we started the tour, so I was expecting a lot of shit from the audience. But we were totally overwhelmed by how positive the reactions were everywhere. I guess people seemed to like it. You obviously get the odd guy in the crowd with his fingers up the whole time but there's always one dickhead. Never understood why people do that.
Some people might say the only reason you got the support slot because you are the son. Others might point out that in this very competitive rock world you must use all the help you can get. How do you cope with this? Does it annoy you when people call it nepotism when influential dads are giving their kids a boost?
I just ignore it. It's the best way, I really don't care what people think. Everyone's got their own opinion on it and we'd be fools to turn an opportunity like that down. The reactions we got from the tour proved to us that we were worthy of being there and we're very grateful for the opportunity given to us.
Now it always helps to have influential musicians in the family to kickstart your own career, but in the ned you have to work hard yourself to profit from the help. In your case your music was convincing enough to get a deal with the BMG label. How did this deal come about, and how may records are we talking about?
Our album was sent to BMG to see what they thought and they loved it. We were set on doing it ourselves and we didn't want to give up any creative rights or have anyone telling us to change our music or artwork. This isn't the case with BMG, they were happy with how we were running our band and the product has stayed 100% how we wanted it.
The first record put out through BMG is your full-length debut ‘The Darkness Will Rise’. Well, that’s kind of a creepy title. Is this in some way a personal reflection on the state of the world as it is today?
It's related to our band name. Darkness represents the ravens of the tower of London and the rise is the ravens taking over. They have the hold on the British empire in their presence. It's like a metaphor for us as a band rising into the first steps of our career.
A dark album title suggests dark lyrics, and judging by the song titles I am not far from the truth here. Is this a theme that fits your music best, or are you just a bunch of pessimists?
We're just a bunch of pessimists haha!
Like I said earlies your music is nothing like your dad’s. If I had to describe it I would say it is metal that fits 2017. Modern heavy metal, with influences from both the good old eighties metal as well as zeros nu metal and a hint of emo here and there. Of course this is all in the eye of this beholder. But how would you describe the music on ‘The Darkness Will Rise’ to a random metalhead with an open mind who have not yet heard your band?
You're not far of there. We stamp ourselves as Melodic Metal. I think we cross a few genres really, there's definitely a metalcore influence in our sound. But there's a handful of influences on the album. We wanted to keep the vocals clean to make us a bit different to most modern metal bands. We also enjoy filmscore and epic soundtracks which I think is portrayed in our music. Especially when you look at the length of the tracks!
Recently the video for the single ‘Salem’s Fate’ was released. The witch hunt in Salem is quite famous, and this theme has been used quite a lot in art, music and literature through the ages. What makes it so fascinating to write your own piece about it?
I just find it fascinating that it actually happened! How scary must have that been to be a part of. I think there's definitely a message in there about power and manipulation as well, that drew me to the subject as well as the obvious mysteriousness of it!
All serious musicians have serious career plans. Or their managers have. But any way you slice it, most bands strive for a lasting career. So what are your goals in terms of success with ‘The Darkness Will Rise’. A number of sales? So much success with supporting other bands that you can go out on tours of your own?
This is our first LP and first time being with a label, so we really don't know what we should be expecting in terms of sales. We're just happy that it's getting the exposure we've always hoped it would. The rest is down to the strength of the songs and how they go down with metal fans. But yeah, a few headline shows would be fucking amazing! We're yet to take that leap and it's going to be a nerve racking experience but you need that to keep you on your toes!
Speaking of touring, when this interview will be published you just finished a tour with another living legend from the eighties: Anthrax. Now with Iron Maiden you played the stadiums, but with Anthrax it’s a different setting and it’s back to the medium sized indoor venues. How was it, playing those sweaty joints again? And did you enjoy the old-timers playing their ancient stuff once again?
Haha yeah we did. To be totally honest, I hadn't heard much Anthrax stuff before touring with them, which is probably criminal but I guess I'm part of the next generation and looked up to younger bands. But touring with them has been great fun and listening to their songs every night has made me a fan. Also watching how much energy and presence they have on stage at their age (no offence) is an inspiration. I love playing these sized venues as well, they're packed out and a bit more intimate which is cool. Also, there were people turning up in our shirts and singing every word back to us which was amazing!
On this tour Anthrax of course played their most successful album ever, ‘Among The Living’ in full, and most fans came out to see just that. How did the crowds respond to your music?
Crowds are different in every city! They all respond totally differently to us, we're starting to get used to which countries and cities are watchers and head nodders which crowds go nuts. But overall the response and feedback has been great, can't complain at all!
How was touring with the guys from Anthrax anyway? Those are a bunch of dudes that are touring the globe since 1983, I guess you can learn much from them. Or at least hear some amazing crazy tales from the road, right?
It's been a learning curve for us as every tour always is. They're really cool, easy going guys. They come in our dressing room and give us tips about touring in general and how to keep yourself healthy and how to keep enjoying touring in general even when you're feeling shit. Great bunch of blokes!
So what’s next for The Raven Age? The festival season is almost upon us, can you already give us some names where we can expect the band to perform this summer?
Yes we're going to be hitting Festival season pretty hard I believe. So far we've been announced for Graspop and CopenHell but there're a few more really cool ones in the pipe line which I can't say about just yet. Bring on summer touring, winter touring is cold!
Well, this it from my side. I wish you guys good luck in the near future, and I’m sure we’ll talk again when another opportunity arises. The last words are for you, so if you have anything to add to the conversation or just want say something to the fans, the space below is yours….
Thanks for the chat! If you haven't already, you can check out our debut album 'Darkness Will Rise' which is out now and see what you think. If you're into vinyl and cool artwork we have those too. Hopefully we'll catch you at a festival this summer m/.