Having graced the scene with all manner of guitar-driven projects over the last 25 years, it’s always worth taking notice when the latest instalment of Harry Armstrong’s musical career arrives. After honing his riff-crafting talents in the likes of Lord Of Putrefaction, Decomposed, Hangnail, Firebird and, more recently, jazz-rock eccentrics The Earls Of Mars, Armstrong’s latest project takes a step towards metal’s origins in blues.
His original vision for the group saw a piano-led project, but the call of weighty, hazy guitars proved too strong to ignore, and Noisepicker began to take form as a heavier affair, birthing a dirgy concoction of doom, punk and blues, epitomised in the candidly named doom/punk/blues EP, which saw the light of day in late December 2016. Now ready to move onto to the next stage of their evolution, Armstrong and drummer Kieran Murphy are set to record their full-length debut this month. We met up with the frontman to get the lowdown.
You have played in a number of projects over the years, how did this all lead to Noisepicker?
Fate has a sick, perverted sense of humour, that’s how! I’ve always loved the creative side of music – just making a noise in a room with friends. Without it, I would go out of my mind. It’s a kind of a meditation to me. Making music calms the inner rage, y’know… gets it out of me! I guess because of this I find it very difficult to say “no” when someone says “hey – wanna jam?” and over the years I’ve found it hard to replace band members when someone quits, as they inevitably do. The vibe always changes, and the magic is rarely the same, so I tend to just look for something else. In fact, I deliberately set up Noisepicker to be a two-piece band as it cuts down the probability of someone pissing off! I’m unlikely to quit on myself!
A number of your bands have eccentric or unique styles, is doing something new musically something you strive for?
Definitely. I have a wide taste in music and intend on exploring as much of it as possible before I pop my clogs. Something always drags me back to the sound of a distorted guitar though. There’s something liberating about the way it’s played that no other instrument can compare to – the portability of it. Just pick it up and hit it anywhere, anytime. I guess that’s why it’s the mainstay of so many bands.
The original vision for the project differed from the end product, how did Noisepicker develop into the band it is today?
Yeah, it was originally intended to be a piano-led blues project! That’s how most of the songs started out in life. It was only whilst working on a mix of ‘He Knew It Would All End In Tears’ that I felt something was missing. It needed to be gnarlier, so I laid some really nasty fuzzed-out guitar chords over it, and it just sounded awesome to me. Then I went back to every song and did the same. Everything suddenly sounded huge! I guess my love of the heavy runs too deep to move away from.
Who/what inspires Noisepicker’s music?
I listen to a lot of old blues and gospel music. There’s so much heaviness in the feel of those songs. Add a bit of distortion and they become killer rock songs instantly. I may have even stolen a riff or two, but keep that to yourself!
You describe yourself as a blues outfit but you often share the stage with bands from the doom subgenre, do you think this shows the unique nature of your music, as well as the accepting nature of the doom scene?
The way I see it, Sabbath and Zeppelin were blues bands, and I’ve yet to meet a doom band that isn’t influenced by at least one of them. It’s an evolutionary thing. Heavy is a mood – just add your preferred level of gain.
Blending the slower speeds of doom with the more adrenaline-fuelled approach of punk would, on paper, seem a recipe for disaster, how do you go about this in a way that keeps the music coherent?
I guess it’s the schizophrenia in me. I love it when a song turns. When depression turns to anger. When misery turns to violence. When you’re backed up to the wall and something flicks that switch within you, and all hell breaks loose. Like I say, this is like therapy to me. Without it, I’d be in a lot more trouble!
Despite their sonic differences, punk and the modern UK doom scene share a proclivity for a more DIY approach to making music, is this something’s that’s important to you?
Yeah, absolutely. I spend a lot of time at punk gigs. Partly because they’re a lot cheaper than mainstream rock shows, and I’m broke, but most of all because of the energy, and the “can-do” attitude. It’s infectious as hell. Having nothing is a great incentive to create.
What can we expect from the upcoming full-length? What things will be the same and what will change, if anything?
We’re just beginning to fine tune our sound, and this album will be the next step on that journey. We begin recording in early January, and we’re going down the DIY path, recording, mixing and producing it ourselves. The songs are untamed at the moment, so it’s hard to say what’s going to end up on the album. I think we’ll re-do one or two from the EP, as we’ve tweaked them a little as the band has grown, but there’ll be around ten tracks of miserable noise. I’m irritated by the world we live in, and I need to vent!
What can we expect from Noisepicker in the future?
Gigs, I hope! The album should be out in the spring, and we’ll be hassling the fuck out of every venue and promoter to let us come and play in their hometown. I love all the madness that surrounds a touring band. Not just the gig itself, but the people you meet and the places you see. These experiences can’t be bought, and can only be found in the darkest, sweatiest corners of the planet. Hope to see you there!
Words: George Parr