DATE OF INTERVIEW: 29th April 2020
Retro rock crew Collateral are more than mere copyists. Although musical mimicry is rife within their compositional M.O., their plethora of 80s rock influences has been shaped into an authentic and convincing whole. I might've declared their music akin to "Spinal Jovi" in my review of their 2018 debut EP, '4 Shots!', with its Jon Bon worship fused with a David St Hubbins & co sentiment, but their first full-lengther, released earlier this year, has a much more refined and mature pastiche of their nostalgic underpinnings. They boldly declare themselves to be, in their bio, "a band that look and sound like a stadium rock band"... but only time will tell if they've merely jumped on the retro rock bandwagon for an ephemeral ride or, in fact, they're driving it all the way to Wembley. Frontman Angelo Tristan answered a few questions on Collateral’s eponymously titled debut album and his ambitions for the band...
METAL DISCOVERY: So, a fantastic debut album to follow the ‘Four Shots!’ taster EP from 2018. To my ears, everything’s a step above what you achieved on the EP, but were you working to any kind of deadline to get an album out there, or did you afford yourselves the luxury of time; to release something when you felt you had a series of tunes worthy of exposing to the world?
(Angelo Tristan on his boundless ambitions for Collateral)
"...I'm aiming for the big time and there are steps you have to take...but one tour with one stadium band is all we need."
Interview by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2019 Rob Blackham - www.blackhamimages.com
Thanks to Peter Noble for offering and for arranging the interview
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ANGELO: It was always going to be as long as it takes, really. We didn’t want to put a time limit on it and I think that's the way we will work throughout our whole career in anything that we release. I will always want to make sure that our message is brought forward in the right way. Also, sometimes the more you work on an album, the more you start to ruin the natural energy and also the innocence ingrained in the album.
MD: Was there any particular reason behind self-titling the album? Is that a statement of intent, perhaps? Kind of like, “This is us, we’re here”? Were any other potential album titles bandied around?
ANGELO: Yeah, we kind of wanted to draw line for the beginning of this band. We wanted to keep it simple. I let the music do the real talking. We’ll get creative with the second album though, we promise! Aha.
MD: From the four tracks on the EP, what was it about ‘Midnight Queen’ that you thought deserved its place on the album track list?
ANGELO: ‘Midnight Queen’ was the first song we ever released as a band so it had that place on the album. It's affected so many people that we felt it deserved another chance to get out there. It's kind of our national anthem.
MD: ‘Lullaby’ kind of ventures into metal territory, with its heavier, palm-muted riffage on the verses and a very niftily shredded solo. One of the heaviest tracks on the album, so was the title supposed to be ironic? I was anticipating something more gentle, like the whole rock band mid-album ballad cliché.
ANGELO: It actually happened completely naturally. It wasn't until we actually finished the song until we realised the irony, aha. It did make us realise how we can market certain things and how to create an element of surprise, which is pretty cool.
MD: There’s an evident penchant for country music within certain tracks, but it seems you’ve put the reins on it thus far, so to speak, as it’s more an integral part of a wider sound, so you’ve yet to go “full country”. But is your inner cowboy itching to be unleashed? Do you envisage Collateral going full-on country for some future songs?
ANGELO: Haha. I don't think the band would let me. But you're right, I'm from a very heavy country background and, in all honesty, I wouldn't want Collateral to go full-out country... I'm just as a big rock fan myself and the amount of country I'm allowed to put in at the moment, I'm extremely happy with. But that will probably be the most in any album that we do. Until we get into a 70s and then we'll just go really folky like Bruce Springsteen, aha.
MD: I wrote in my review: “Collateral are admirably flying the flag for rock of yore in the best and most convincing of ways, such is the authenticity of their retro rendering and the conviction of its delivery.” Does it feel like you’re flying the flag for retro rock; keeping its spirit alive in the twenty first century?
ANGELO: It's a strange one because you don't ever think it yourself. You hear everybody else talking about it, but when you're having so much fun in a band that sort of stuff tends to fly over your head. We absolutely love it though, and we appreciate the recognition more than anyone could realise. I remember that review and thank you from the bottom of my heart for your words . Keep saying it! Aha.
MD: During the past few years, it seems there’s perpetual talk within the rock and metal scenes that when the current crop of arena and stadium bands finally cease to be, will there be anyone to follow in their footsteps. Do you envisage Collateral as one of those bands? Are you aiming big?
ANGELO: I want to be the first band to play on the moon... without a spacesuit let alone a stadium, aha. But yeah, I'm aiming very big. I always told myself that there will be no point going for this if you weren't going for the big time. We have our fans to thank for starting us off on such a strong foot.
MD: To me, it seems the nostalgic underpinnings of your music is more about retro reverence than mere retro mimicry. Does that respect for classic rock come natural in what you do, or do you have to work hard to try and ensure that you’re not just regurgitating the music you evidently love?
ANGELO: You know, you have to be careful in this sort of genre because it is very easy to become the copycat band but, at the same time, you have to play and write what makes you happy. In this case, Collateral is made up of 4 completely different influences, which hopefully means we'll always have something different to give. We’ll always try to remain as natural as we can.
MD: Do you always write music with the live performance in mind? It seems to me that all tracks on the album, across the range of tempos, styles and arrangements, are ready-made for the live stage, and undoubtedly have longevity potential within your sets, for years to come.
ANGELO: Thank you so much. To me, that's one of the best compliments anyone can pay to a band. Seeing a band to people is about seeing the songs they love with thousands of other people all loving the same thing. When you're writing the song, you can't miss that part. It's more fun for us to.
MD: Back in 2018, I ended my review of the ‘Four Shots!’ EP by labelling it a “compact slab of Spinal Jovi”, in reference to the Bon Jovi vibe throughout the tracks, and also ‘Going with the Wind’ echoing the Spinal Tap flatulence classic, ‘Break Like the Wind’. Would you say that was a fair summary? Do you try to maintain a kind of Spinal Tap mirthfulness to what you do?
ANGELO: Not at all, aha. Don't get me wrong, we love the film.
MD: Any amusing Spinal Tap style incidents in the history of Collateral, thus far? Getting lost backstage? Has your drummer had any bizarre gardening accidents?
ANGELO: Our drummer forgot his drum kit at his first ever gig. How do you do that?
MD: Looking at your 2020 tour itinerary, it seems that you’ve managed to land some very tasty support slots, with Jared James Nichols, Phil X & The Drills, Skid Row and H.E.A.T. And some festival dates, too. Is you booking agent working overtime?!
ANGELO: Haha... yeah, our booking agent is amazing. He's keeping us busy and we're keeping him busy and that's how it should be. Obviously, now 2020 is a write off and everything will be kicking off again in 2021 with some even bigger announcements.
MD: Would you say Collateral are still at the stage where support slots are vital to getting your name and music out there to audiences of other bands? Is it all part of the masterplan for transitioning to headline act at some point in the near future?
ANGELO: Yes, definitely. Like I said, I'm aiming for the big time and there are steps you have to take. It's so much harder than it used to be in terms of the magnitude of opportunities that you could get. Bon Jovi toured with the Scorpions in arenas with their debut album but, nowadays, it seems new bands aren't given the same opportunities of that magnitude. You're seeing huge stadium bands with another huge stadium band as a special guest with another huge stadium band as the support band. Maybe it's the record labels or booking agents trying to get as much out of these bands as possible before they retire? We don't know... but one tour with one stadium band is all we need.
MD: Considering your evident love of Bon Jovi, which shines through on ‘Get Back to You’ and ‘Midnight Queen’ in particular, how exciting was it when you actually got to perform on the ‘Runaway to Paradise’ cruise? Did it feel like you were in paradise?
ANGELO: It was the best time of my life. That's it. Aha.
MD: Finally, then, seeing as you’re based in Ramsgate, which is obviously just down the road from Margate, have you ever considered covering the Chas & Dave seaside classic, ‘Margate’? A song surely destined for the Collateral treatment! Do you share their sentiment, as immortalised in lyrics for the song: “Down to Margate, you can keep the Costa Brava, I'm telling ya mate, I'd rather have a day down Margate with all me family”?
ANGELO: Haha... maybe one day.