Having grabbed the Northern Ireland scene by the scruff of the neck and given it a jolly good shaking over the past 12 months, Screaming Eagles now seem set to do the same to the rest of the British Isles – and beyond!
Last month, they travelled to Glasgow for the annual Highway To Hell competition – and, quite frankly, gave the opposition a thorough seeing to, as they came out on top of the pile… Now that the dust has settled, and the band get ready to reap the rewards with an appearance at Hard Rock Hell VII at the end of the month, PM pulled up a bar stool with guitarist Adrian McAleenan to delve into their rock ‘n’ roll soul…
First of all, massive congratulations on winning Highway To Hell: have you come down to earth yet?
“Thanks Mark! Yeah, we are back to normal now and gigging/plugging away again, but it was a brilliant experience for sure – one we won’t forget.”
Let’s take a step backwards for a moment… you emerged onto the Northern Ireland scene from seemingly nowhere around about this time last year: can you give us a bit of background to the band – who you are and how you came to play together?
“We have all been slogging it out on the local circuit for years in various bands. I was in Soundstone and Black Freeway, Kyle (Cruikshank – drums) was in the legendary Fermanagh punk band The Skinflints and then Soundstone, Ryan (Lilly – bass) was in Soundstone and Chris (Fry – vocals) was in a covers band called The Vanda Youngs.
“Myself, Ryan and Kyle had come to a crossroads in Soundstone and parted ways with our old singer. We knew we had some cracking music and the guts of a really good album but needed a proper rock singer to make it happen. We had known Chris for a long time as Ryan, myself and Chris are all from Banbridge. We got Chris down to the rehearsal room to jam with us a few times and his powerhouse of a voice totally blew us away, and even better, he turned out to be a brilliant lyricist as well. “Screaming Eagles were born…”
How did the band name come about?
“This was probably the hardest thing we have done so far – choosing the name! After about 500 terrible, terrible suggestions, I had been reading some Mötorhead lyrics and had come up with ‘Eagle Screams’. Chris thought this was rubbish and suggested Screaming Eagles: four heads nodded and the name was decided.
Most bands seem to start off by playing loads of gigs and then going into the studio and recording an EP or something in order to get more gigs (and earn a bit of dosh): but the first thing most people heard from Screaming Eagles was your, quite frankly stunning, debut album, ‘From The Flames’… why did you decide to go down that route?
“I had wanted to make a rock ‘n’ roll album for years, but things never quite seemed to work out. I had made EPs and demos, but the album still remained elusive. I knew that we could make a great album and that we needed to forget about gigging and concentrate on song writing and recording before we properly got going as a live band.
“I’ve always found that if you have no record to promote and get out there that a band can be a bit aimless and go round in circles without progressing. We definitely wanted to do it properly this time – record, gig, promote etc. As I said before, we had some great music and with Chris now onboard it was just a matter of knuckling down and then getting into the studio.”
Is there any significance to the album title?
“Yeah, it basically means that we came from the flames of other bands that hadn’t worked out and got together in Screaming Eagles.”
Going back to Highway To Hell, and looking forward to Hard Rock Hell, Northern Ireland bands have had a tremendous ‘hit rate’ in the former. I was looking back over the history of the competition, and out of the ten bands from here who have taken part over the past three years, half of them – Trucker Diablo and Sweet Taste in 2011, Ajenda last year, and yourselves and Sinocence this time around – have got something out of it: do you think this is a testament to the strength of the Northern Ireland scene?
“Definitively. I’ve known the guys in all those bands for years and I’m fully aware of the hard work they have all put into it. None of them have ever given up and they all have achieved success: that [hard work] combined with talent will always come through in the end and applies to all those bands you mentioned.
There’s also a pretty large NI contingent at Hard Rock Hell in a few weeks’ time: The Answer, Ricky Warwick, Stormzone, Pat McManus and Cross Eyed Mary are all going to be keeping you company over the weekend… that’s a pretty impressive amount of acts from one wee tiny corner of the rock ‘n’ roll universe, isn’t it?
“Absolutely, we rock over here, pure and simple!”
Bearing in mind this level of representation, if the organizers decided to let you curate a Northern Ireland day at HRH, who all else would you recommend be on the bill?
“There’s some cracking bands on our scene at the minute, [but] I’d have to say Maverick and Baleful Creed… two cracking bands!
Out of all the other acts appearing at HRH, who are you looking forward to seeing / meeting / sharing a beer with?
“For me it has to be Airbourne: they are one of my favourite bands on the planet. It’d be good to get a beer with The Answer and hear how their tour is going.”
Another part of your prize from HTH is an album deal with Off Yer Rocka Records: given ‘From The Flames’ is only out about a year, are you going to be in any hurry to follow this up, or is there a deadline inside which you have to deliver new product for the company?
“I can’t say too much at the minute as we are in talks with Off Yer Rocka about plans for the future, I’ll keep ya posted on that one!”
If you would like to hear more from Adrian and the Screaming Eagles – and I thoroughly recommend you do – then check out the track ‘Rock N Roll Soul’:
Screaming Eagles play a ‘Hard Rock Hell Send Off’ show at the Empire Music Hall (with support from Pay*ola, Sweet Taste and Dirty Diamonds) on Thursday November 21st: https://www.facebook.com/events/735924423085584/. They open the main HRH Heaven stage at Hard Rock Hell VII on Friday November 29th.
They also have been confirmed for the Giants Of Rock Big Weekend – alongside Uriah Heep, Hawkwind, Molly Hatchet, Big Country, Snakecharmer, The Jones Gang and many others – at Butlin’s Minehead from February 7th – 10th.