‘I’d have my old Tone Master back!’ Lonely The Brave Guitarist Mark Trotter Interview
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year and a half, you’ll have heard of Lonely The Brave. Amidst Radio 1 A-list plays, storming festival sets and sold out tours, the Cambridge 5 piece have been solidifying their place in the halls of UK rock royalty.
Since 2009, slowly but surely, LTB have been working away, honing their song writing abilities and touring the wheels off a van across Europe and the UK. This led to their 2014 debut release entitled “The Day’s War”, a visceral yet achingly beautiful record that has delighted critics and fans alike.
Between frontman David Jakes’ lyrics and the band’s huge guitar sound “The Day’s War”, which reached 13 in the UK charts, earned comparisons to the likes of Bush –and Biffy Clyro, but blew those lazy comparisons out of the water upon release by unleashing one of the most distinctively different rock records we’ve heard in the past decade.
After garnering numerous award nominations and main stage spots at festivals all over the world, including a storming main stage performance at Reading Festival, the band are currently enjoying a headline UK and European tour with many gigs selling out on announcement – a testament to their hard work over the years.
People are taking notice of their huge guitar sound and music fans are stood to attention. We caught up with guitarist, all round double-denim lover and supreme guitar geek with a penchant for collecting gear Mark Trotter before his gig in Nottingham to talk about his go-to guitars, some of his favourite pieces of equipment and how he regrets selling his Fender Tonemaster.
You’re on tour now, how has the response been?
It’s been awesome, these are some of our biggest shows to date and it just seems to get better and better – everyone seems to be loving it and the shows are really busy. We’re very lucky to do what we do.
How has the European leg of the tour been? It seems you’re doing really well out there.
Europe is amazing! Some of our biggest shows are out there and we’re really happy to have found out we’ve just sold out Melkweg in Amsterdam (1500 capacity) so we can’t complain!
The band have been together since 2009, and you’ve gone from strength to strength. Do you feel like the hard work is starting to really pay off?
You’ll kind of lose sight of what’s happening if you don’t stop and think about what you’ve done, but we all make a conscious effort to appreciate the moment, the journey and the ride. The last 2 years has been insane for us, but if you blink you’ll miss it.
The biggest thing for us was playing Rock Werchte where 15000 people watched us, which was mind blowing, but a personal highlight for me was playing the mainstage at Reading. To look out and see people as far as the eye can see singing back your songs – it was in incredible feeling to stand on that stage where you’ve watched every band you’ve ever loved play. It was really special.
With the addition of a second guitarist in Ross, how has that affected the song writing?
It’s taken a little of the pressure off me! Ross is a phenomenal guitar player and completely unique in how he plays and how he writes. As a guitarist you sit there and watch him do what he does and he just comes from a really unique place so he really inspires me as a guitarist and to write a lot more than what I do.
You’re known to be quite a hoarder of gear, what’s the best thing you’ve ever owned? I’ve heard you let the Holy Grail of amps go?
There are so many things, but obviously my Fender Tonemaster. I think at the time I was a bit too stupid and didn’t really know how to use it properly. That was my problem with it. It was frustrating when the guy came down to buy it off me and started playing it and it sounded amazing, and I just wanted to reverse the deal there and then – it would have been awkward because he’d driven 4 hours to come and look at it!
What’s your live set up looking like these days?
Well currently I’m using a late 80’s 100watt plexi head which is the amp I use on every single track on that first record. I just love it, it does everything you need and it’s just so cool. I’m running that with an attenuator with a TV4x12. On the other side I use a Matchless DC-30 which on this tour I’m really just using it as a boost pedal – which makes it the most expensive boost pedal in the world! I’m kicking that in when I want some oomph.
As for guitars I’ve only got three out for this tour. I’ve got my trusty old white SG custom which I can’t leave home without – it’s my number one live. It’s weird though, as I never record with that guitar. It’s not the best sounding guitar I’ve got and it’s not the best playing guitar but I just can’t not have it with me.
Why is that SG so important to you?
Well the story is, when my grandad died he left my dad £600, and my old man split that between me and my sister. I’d just sold a car at the time and my dream guitar was a white SG custom – everyone’s got a Les Paul custom, so I wanted something different.
This one came up so I thought what better way to remember my grandad than to go and get my dream guitar. It’s called “Grandad”. It actually has a name – it’s a bit weird naming your guitars but it has a name. It goes everywhere with me and sleeps under my bed in hotel rooms.
So what’s the back-up rig looking like?
I’ve got my old faithful ‘91 cherry red SG standard out with me which I bought when I was really young. It’s a killer guitar and I’ve thrown some Shed PAF Daddy’s in which really bought it back to life and completely revived it. I’m using a 59 reissue 335 on one track because it’s nice and soulful – that thing is killer but not really one to thrash around.
Some guitars feel like they have more songs in them than others. What’s your go-to guitar when you need some inspiration?
Until recently it was my Goldtop Les Paul which I’ve just sold – which is pretty stupid! Everything used to start acoustic and pretty much everything on that first record did start on an acoustic. I write everything on my Martin acoustic but since my son arrived I can’t really write at night when he’s asleep so I start with a Les Paul or Telecaster.
Who inspired you as a guitarist?
Johnny Greenwood from Radiohead. I loved the fact that he was almost a guitar antihero, he used it as a weapon. He’s an incredible player. I also love Peter Buck from REM – I had my Rickenbacker moment years ago. The Manic’s (Manic Street Preachers) James Dean Bradfield is also a phenomenal player and songwriter – again a white Les Paul custom! I will own a Les Paul Custom!
Why are you so loyal to Gibson?
Well pretty much every band I grew up listening to was playing them. It’s just that sound man. I do have fenders as well, I love my fenders. It probably comes from being in a 4 piece band as the only guitarist. I just wanted to get the biggest sound that I possibly could. I always seem to find that with humbuckers.
I play SG’s live but I frigging love Les Pauls. The guys at Gibson have been really cool to me and hooked me up over the years, and it’s awesome that they do that for bands.
In today’s current musical climate with downloading etc. are you noticing that it’s getting harder for bands to make a living?
Oh god yeah. We’ve been really fortunate to have major labels involved and without that there’s no way that we would still be able to do what we were doing. People can’t really comprehend what it’s like in a band. They think “oh you’re in a band, you’re being played on the radio so you must be rich” and they have absolutely no idea that it’s next to impossible to earn.
I don’t know why but I was thinking about this last week in the van – if someone asked me how to do it, I’d say you just have to do it, you have to get through. We’re just about surviving. It’s very hard to make a living but you just keep going – you have to. It’s a very, very hard way to make a living. We’re not kids anymore and we’ve all got responsibilities and families so surviving is damn hard.
What would you say to kids who want to be in a band now?
Two things – it’s the old cliché but if you truly believe in what you’re doing and you truly believe in your music then don’t give up. Someone else will believe in you as well. If you believe in yourself someone else will believe in you. The other thing is just listen to yourself.
There are so many people out there who will want to stick their oar in and tell you what to do – you should at least listen to other people’s advice but if you don’t agree with it, then you don’t agree with it, just do what you think is right. They’re the only two things I try and live by. There are a lot of people out there who want to help you and want you to succeed but if you don’t agree with them do what you think is right.
What’s the next step for Lonely The Brave?
After the tour finishes we’re back in the studio in January to get this next record finished and then we start ramping up for that. We’re really keen to get that 2nd record out there and see what people make of it. Plenty of touring and festivals next year and just ploughing on man. It doesn’t stop – if you stop you’re dead. You do nothing but keep writing and touring. That’s the game plan.
You’ve been debuting a collection of new tracks live – could you share any titles with us?
“Radar”, “Boxes” and another track called “What If You Fall In” they’re the mainstay at the moment.
Is there talk of gigging in the States?
Yeah we’ve been asked loads to go over and play, but we want to make sure we have a solid base to work from here in the UK first. We could spend every penny that we’ve got to go over to the States as a band, but it’s better to wait and make sure the time is right and that you’ve got the support here in the UK first that you can rely on.
We’re getting there – it still blows my mind that people want to come to our shows and sing along, but as far as the States goes, not just yet.
Any teasers for new tracks being leaked?
All I’ll say is, if people wanted to watch our pages around New Years Eve that might be a good place to start…
Finally, if you could own any guitar and any amp what would they be?
Now you’re talking! I would have a 59 Les Paul. I’ve got a 59 Junior but I want a real Standard. Let’s go for one of Slash’s guitars – I’ll have one off him as he doesn’t need it! I’ve got a real 59 junior and it is just the most ridiculously violent instrument. Amp-wise I’d have my old Tone Master back! If that guy from Birmingham reads this, he can hook me up!
The debut album from Lonely The Brave “The Day’s War” is available now. For more information on the band and to keep track of how their second album is coming along visit www.lonelythebrave.com