Damo Hughes, guitarist of quirky northern band Allusondrugs, who have captivated the minds and bewildered the eyes of audiences since day one, isn’t afraid to speak out about what it’s like to be a budding band in the UK right now, especially one as off-beat as themselves. We caught up to chat about the psychedelic grungers’ upcoming headline spot with Scuzz, their most recent EP and what they found out about the British festival circuit this summer…
1) You guys have been announced as one of the headliners for Scuzz’s UK Throwdown 2016 tour, how does it feel to be part of something so fresh and exciting?
We’re all buzzing about it, we all watched Scuzz growing up and found a lot of the music we’re into that way, so it’s really cool to be doing this. If we can help to inspire some young people to do something good the same way we were all inspired by the music we found through watching Scuzz that it will be a massive, massive, massive win!
2) You’ve shown your faces at several British festivals this year (Havoc, Hit the Deck, Warped Tour UK to name a few) – what is it like to be be part of this country’s ever-growing alternative scene?
We’re all so thankful and grateful to be a part of something so important and have the opportunity to share our music with so many people who might take something good from what we do and be inspired to do good things themselves.
3) Do you guys find smaller festivals and unique, one-off tours like these more of a help or a hindrance to the survival of British alternative music?
It is 100% a help. I’ve found that the smaller festivals like 2000 Trees, Y-Not and Arctangent are much more welcoming of more unique and outlandish bands that wish to make their own path and are doing their thing with pure intentions. It’s festivals like these and unique, one-off tours where you’re most likely to stumble across something that you’ve never experienced before that will leave a lasting impression on you and change the way you look at things. These are places where people can have really powerful experiences.
What is a hindrance to the music scene is the line-ups at the bigger festivals, it seems to be all the old dinosaur bands playing and headlining every year, not letting through much new talent. Another big hindrance is the lack of female artists on the festival line-ups. There are a lot of great female artists in the alternative music scene that aren’t given a fair hearing because the festivals are largely organised and controlled by men for the consumption of men. The music industry is still very much a boys club, and if the music scene is going to grow then this needs to change.
4) You also played some bigger festivals in 2015, Download Festival being one of them – how was that experience for Allusondrugs?
Download was an interesting experience. It started raining really heavily during our set which I imagine brought a good handful of people into the tent seeking shelter. We met Steve Harris from Iron Maiden behind the stage and Jason, being a massive Iron Maiden fan, got really, really nervous, it shook him up so much that he vomited all over the place about halfway into our first song. We got a really good response, people seemed to be really excited to see us, chanting “Yorkshire, Yorkshire!” and stuff. It was a lot of fun.
5) On the UK Throwdown tour you’ll be alternating headliners each night between yourselves, Press to Meco and Max Raptor, so it sounds like things could get messy – what can fans expect from these shows?
We’re especially excited because of the bands we’ll be touring with. We have already toured with Press To Meco, three beautiful young men whom we love to pieces and really enjoy listening to their music. We’ve played with Max Raptor in the past too. It’s going to be so good to see everyone again and share such an awesome experience with them. It’s going to be a reunion of epic proportions, so every gig is going to be a party for the bands and the audiences! It’s old friends getting back together to do something special, anything could happen – but whatever does happen, I bet it’s going to be awesome.
6) With bands like yourselves and the other bands you’re playing alongside on the tour, it would be fair to say that British alternative music is a pretty interesting place to be right now – from an insider perspective, how would you guys say the UK’s alternative scene is shaping up?
The thing with alternative scene is that there is always a few really excellent bands and artists that play really great, interesting, unique music and really inspire people and help people to feel connected with each other, and then a lot of bands and artists that don’t really have any interest in doing anything unique or special or particularly meaningful in any way, they just exist to fill the market for whatever the flavour of the month is and often times these are the bands that get pushed to the forefront of magazines and given all the exposure because it’s easy to sell. It does make it more difficult for people find the really good music, it’s like fishing out small nuggets of gold from a pile of stinking rubbish. But that good music is definitely always there and it will make your life good. Good music will always shine through in the end without any help from the hype machine.
7) You’re playing a home-town headline show in January – are you pumped about going home to perform, or more nervous about returning to where it all began?
We love come back to where we came from and play for all the people who were there at the very beginning! The vibe at the home-town gigs is always fantastic, there’s always a great feeling of unity and excitement and everyone always has a brilliant time. All bands must grow and try to spread their art to as people as far afield as possible, but it’s important to keep the home fires burning bright, the people that were there at the beginning will be there at the end if you treat them well.
8) Your EP Am I Weird? was released earlier this year and has been pretty well received ever since, how does it feel to know people are really getting on board with Allusondrugs?
It feels amazing to know that people are actually interested and enjoying what we do. We, like many other people, have grown up being downtrodden and that we’d never amount to anything because our set of ideals and morals didn’t match up with society’s rigid expectations of what we should be. When you’re told for so long that what you believe in is wrong and what you’re doing is worthless you often become consumed by self doubt. It can be very difficult to resist surrendering to the pressure that society puts on young people to conform to the social standards that it has set and live the life that is expected of you, but people need to know that it’s good to be different and that they should follow the path they want to go down in life. If you believe in something then you should pursue it.
9) You could say Am I Weird? has a coming-of-age theme to it, from the title being a question we all ask ourselves growing up, to tracks like ‘I Should Have Gone to Uni’ being a turning point in many young people’s lives. Was this your aim with the EP?
As a mentioned before, we are all people that have grown up as social outcasts and have felt the pressure from society to live a life that we don’t fit into, and that’s exactly what those two songs are about. Am I Weird? is about finding it difficult to relate to people and being singled out for being different, ‘I Should Have Gone To Uni’ is about a moment of severe self doubt in which I started second guessing my choice to not follow the path that the vast majority of my peers did. One of the messages that we try to put out in our music is that it’s okay to be yourself, there’s nothing wrong with you and you’re not alone.
10) Do you guys think making a record along these lines has helped you grow up or look at your own lives in a different way at all?
This whole year has been something of a period of self-reflection really. Everyone has changed so much in the past year, we’ve learned so much and grown so much as a band. In fact, as artists we are constantly going through self reflection and trying to take a closer look at the world around us, taking it apart and debunking it in order to make sense of it.
11) You’ve recently been named as some of this year’s hardest working musicians, what is it that motivates you guys to work so relentlessly?
Really, it doesn’t feel like work when you’re doing something that you love. Making music is something that we just do; the motivation to make music is to make music.
You can catch Allusondrugs on the Scuzz UK Throwdown tour with Press to Meco and Max Raptor in February and March. Find full details here.