A Closer Look: Green River Project

A little while ago, antiMusic introduced you to Mick Priestley, founder, frontman, and songwriter for Green River Project, a hell raising, boot thumping, arse tearing rock band from the UK. Not too long after that, they went on hiatus, Priestley siting a much-needed break from the transient nature of holding a rock band together, (a.k.a revolving musicians syndrome.) For over a year, Priestley stepped aside from his own project to fulfill other desires-- going back to school, playing session work, even dabbling in the theatre.

Oh, and smoked a ton of the green stuff. And he could totally join the circus and be comfortable. Or double as an astronomy professor. But more on that later.

He also launched his new online guitar lesson website for budding thrashers, bangers, bluesers, rockers, and everyone in- between. And you don't even have to cross the pond for feedback. Unless of course, you are seeking a one-on-one of any kind. Music lesson, that is.

To our happy ears, we've come to learn Priestley has returned to the indie circuit, with a clearer perspective, a tighter band, and a new found passion to bring you the best he's got. And, having weathered the tempestuous nature of indie rock, he's got a lot.

Green River Project promises the same raucous, balls-to-the-wall rock their fans have come to love, and adds a pinch of refinement to their sound.

antiMusic caught up with Priestley for a recap of the past year, and to chat about the return of Green River Project. Not to mention he's got a great handle on the business of the music business. Fortunately for us, he felt generous enough to dole out some advice.

antiMusic: You recently came out of being on hiatus for quite a while.What lead you to taking a break?

Priestley: To be honest, after spending my whole life playing the guitar and in bands and whatnot I suddenly felt like we hit a bit of a rut. We had all sorts of problems with lineups and stuff - finding the right guys for the band was always an issue...and the guys that we do have live a bit of a distance apart, everything was a bit of a headache - and it`s supposed to be fun! We had some cool stuff going on with the band and whatever, ended up with ZP singing but at the end of the day it just felt like a bit of a chore. I didn`t play guitar for about a year after that. I figured it was a good idea to have other things going on in life too rather than just be one of those guys that does nothing other than play in a band.

antiMusic: What did you do during the interim? Did you use that time creatively?

Priestley: In a sense, I guess so. Not so much in a musical sense. I decided to go back to university and get a degree in business management. Set myself up teaching guitar lessons, got a few classical tracks recorded ... been setting up a separate business with a good friend of mine too.

antiMusic: Did you play in any side projects?

Priestley: I was playing guitar for Steevi from Tigertailz for a couple of dates and was in his video. Did a couple of session projects, was working in the theatre briefly too, which is something I`d definitely like to do more of. Didn`t set up any new bands personally though - If I'm going to play full-time in a band I really want to feel like I`m 100% committed and have it be as good as it can be, and I found it somewhat difficult to get myself into that frame of mind for a while. Being in a band is cool, but unless you`re a HUGE band you want to have more things going on in your life.

antiMusic: What were you looking for when you set out to find new musicians to play with?

Priestley: People who are cool guys to hang out with, kick ass at what they do and are motivated. There`s no point jamming with a guy JUST because he plays a cool bass, if he turns out to be an idiot or a timewaster.

antiMusic: Talk about The Green River Project's new EP.

Priestley: Well, it`s `new` in a sense that is has new material on it and we only got it finished recently, while at the same time, for those who haven`t heard us before, there`s a few older tunes on there too. There`s actually a pile of stuff that ended up on the cutting-room floor so to speak and didn`t make it onto the EP. It`s a seven-track, and I guess what I wanted to do with it was make an EP that, in my mind, was nothing but killer from start to finish. For what my opinion`s worth, it`s seven tracks of non-stop heavy metal mayhem with a nice fat dose of guitar insanity..

antiMusic: You worked with Cradle Of Filth drummer Adrian Erlandsson and Dragonforce's ZP Theart. Can you talk about how they came to contribute on the new project? How did you know the guys? What were the circumstances around you asking them to be on the album?

Priestley: Well, I`ve known Adrian for ages, and he`s a really cool guy. He was kind enough to lay the drums down on a couple of tracks and they ended up sounding IMMENSE - our most popular track has always been `Dig Your Grave` and I`m very sure that that`s in no small part due to Adrian just tearing you a new ass on the rhythm track. He just kinda did what he does best and ended up with the track sounding not only a bit different to how I envisioned it but a lot better too. ZP joined us for a bit after he left Dragonforce, we were jamming some new tunes in the rehearsal room and came up with `Out Of The Dark Below`. I already had the music written, but he stuck the melodies together and we sorta did half the lyrics each. It turned out pretty cool!

antiMusic: What direction do you see yourself taking your music?

Priestley: Well, we've got some new stuff getting recorded at the minute and it`s really cool - I feel like there`s a slightly tweaked sorta sound to it too - some bits are a bit heavier than we've done before, and with regards to the solos and whatnot there`s more variety in there - there`s a load of tap-licks and a bit of whammy bar abuse, which I`d never really bothered incorporating into my playing so much before now. It`s nice - it gives it a fresh sorta vibe. I`m also recording a classical guitar album, and I`d be up for suggestions to work with other musicians on totally different stuff too - had some hiphop/grime guy the other day talking about writing the music for an album he's putting together...people sneer at stuff like that but I think it`s cool to keep your ears fresh with entirely different musical styles. I do like a challenge from time to time.

antiMusic: What new projects appearances do you have for the band?

Priestley: You mean guest musicians? I'd like to get Herman and Sam to stick a solo down. Maybe some guitar duel. That would be killer...I`ll have to ask them about it! There`s a whole pile of musicians I`d like to have a jam with but whether or not it`ll happen, I`m not so sure. To be honest, what with the new guys in the band (Conor O'Keefe on bass, Cagri Tozluoglu on keyboards), the whole standard of musicianship has kinda been `upped` a bit. We could get some guest appearances on there but I think we're fortunate enough to not really need to do that only to make the tracks sound better, if you see what I mean. Having said that, if I could get Yngwie Malmsteen on the record I`d be a very happy boy.

antiMusic: How is this different from where you were a year or two ago?

Priestley: Well a year or two ago I was largely doing business studies, smoking my bodyweight in weed on a daily basis and listening to sixties' records. I guess having `time off` like that, if you want to look it like that, can be a good thing. It gives you time to smell the roses, take the pressure off and check out some entirely new stuff. I think the stuff we have going on now is different to how it might have sounded had that not have happened ... as it gave me a chance to check out a load of music I might not have bothered with otherwise.

antiMusic: What kind of similarities to your old stuff would die-hard fans recognize in your current work?

Priestley: If you like the stuff before, I certainly don`t think you`re going to be disappointed. Everything's in the same sorta vein as to what it was before, but I feel like it`s progressed. There are more influences in there now, the standard of musicianship is higher but there`s no way we sound like anything other than The Green River project. I think people are gonna love what we've done with the new stuff. We're definitely not wimping-out on you.

antiMusic: What kind of expectations do you have now?

Priestley: I think while there are an endless number of bands about, even ones who are `in` at a certain time inevitably disappear when the novelty wears off and people realise they`re not anything special after all. I think we have a totally different sound and vibe to any other band...certainly in relation to any other `on the scene` bands. I guess the expectations are merely to build a fanbase, get the `buzz` back if you will and get out there and do what we're supposed to do. Every time I get an email off some kid saying he loves the band, it makes it all worthwhile - whether that`s one email or a million.

antiMusic: What drives you? Why do you do what you do?

Priestley: I remember when I was fourteen, sitting with my friend Paul in the front room of my parents' house, and finding `Blizzard Of Ozz` in my Dad`s old vinyl collection. As soon as I heard that, I knew I had to play the guitar. Any sort of academic career immediately went out the window and all I could ever have wanted to do was play in a band. At business school they`d refer to missing out an academic career to play the guitar as an `opportunity cost`, which is financial terms in this instance was probably enormous. But realistically, when I`m 95 years old, I`ll still be wailing out some guitar solo and covering myself in tattoos. And my hair will probably be trailing along behind me. For whatever reason, it`s like it`s burned into every part of me. I think pretty much any dude you interview will tell you the same.

antiMusic: Talk about your songwriting. Who is writing your music, your lyrics these days? Are you collaborating? Are you performing new songs or songs you`ve had in your pocket for a while?

Priestley: I tend to write all the words and music. Not like it`s some big ego trip, but I`ve got a recording studio in the house and it`s easier to jam stuff into that when I`m sitting around playing the guitar than doing it all in a rehearsal room. If it sounds cool on the machine, I know we`ll make it kick ass live! The new stuff we've got going on at the moment is a bit of a mix...finishing off some stuff that`s been lying around for a while waiting for inspiration and coming up with a load of cool new stuff from scratch.

antiMusic: The songs you are currently performing, what experiences are you drawing from? Recent? Past?

Priestley: I think there`s an entirely lifetime's-worth of bizarre experiences to draw from! Sometime I might write a song about something that happened, or is in reference to something, but it`s probably only noticeable to me. Sometime it`s just an influence from something I heard, thought was cool, and wanted to emulate in my own strange sort of way.

antiMusic: What are your feelings on the way music is being delivered today - the whole iTunes generation?

Priestley: People like to complain every time something new comes along, but they did the same thing when the gramophone was replaced, or when CDs came for the first time. I think it makes music more accessible to a wider amount of people, and it`s certainly easier to get out there from a band`s point of view. I tend to take hideous care of my CDs so it`s nice knowing that an MP3 is not going to get scratched up and die on me. It`s 2012 - that`s just the way the times move.

antiMusic: Do you support the idea that bands are giving away their music for free and making their money back on tour? Do you think the numbers match?

Priestley: I think if you want to make money, you should go into real estate. Or get a job as an investment broker in the square mile. If you`re in a band, I think it should be about getting enjoyment from making music that you love and other people can enjoy too. Realistically, unless you`re in a HUGE band anyway you`re not making enough money to justify turning down your city job financially. If you can support yourself doing it, then cool - but I think it`s great that people just want others to enjoy their music. I`d rather have a million people hear and enjoy it for free than have 5 people pay me.

antiMusic: You recently launched a website - www.mickpriestley.net - where you are giving away guitar lessons. What made you want to start giving lessons through this medium?

Priestley: I think there`s an endless amount of guitar stuff online where you can learn to play whatever, but most of them are crap, or bog you down in endless musical theory. I think people who do these are less interested in your playing and more interested in making themselves look clever. People just wanna jam cool guitar - and you can do that without learning endless musical theory. I want to show people that, and show people that playing guitar is cool, and not as difficult to master as you think it is. Even your guitar heroes probably actually understand less of the technical side of things than you think they do.

antiMusic: What`s the number one mistake beginner guitar players make?

Priestley: Convincing themselves that you it`s mega-hard and you `have to be born with it`. That`s nonsense -the first day Jimi Hendrix picked up a guitar, he sounded like crap too. You just need to have the desire to actually put the effort in, and be determined to do it. If you practice like Jimi did, you`ll be as good as he was, too.

antiMusic: What pattern do you see in guitar players - do they all come in wanting to sound like Keith Richards?

Priestley: People tend to have a wide variety of ambitions, but certain styles seem to appeal more to certain age ranges - Bob Dylan-style is popular among older dudes, Green Day more popular among kids. The Keith Richards/Beatles/Kinks classic-rock n roll style will always be cool, always be relevant and always be popular. Contrary to popular belief, only a small percentage of people want to play like Steve Vai, or even like I do on my records. I think as a teacher you have to respect that and understand the appeal of a wide variety of music. I`m perfectly happy teaching anything from Cannibal Corpse to Lady Gaga - both of which I`ve done. It`s not about how flash your playing is - it`s about what turns you on as a musician, what your goals are and how much enjoyment you get from it.

antiMusic: How do you monitor progress? Can I get a private lesson from you?

Priestley: You can, if you're prepared to get to central London for it! You can see a person`s guitar playing improving week-to-week. When you can see then getting their fingers around something that seemed absolutely unachievable a few weeks ago, it`s a great feeling as a teacher, and obviously a great feeling a student, too.

antiMusic: So I could, in theory, take lessons from you even though I`m in the States?

Priestley: Yes you could - i`m gonna start doing them through Skype fairly soon. Just wait for me to move out of my place and back to good old Camden Town. I`ll get that whole side of things set up when I`m back there.

antiMusic: What`s your favourite guitar and why?

Priestley: My Peavey Wolfgang EVH. It just kills. Any style on it will sound fantastic, and it`s such an easy guitar to play. I did upgrade the pickups in it though, which definitely helps!

antiMusic: Matching a guitar to its counterpart amp is like selecting the perfect varietal for a fine wine. What`s your favourite pairing? (I`m a fan of Gretsch - Orange).

Priestley: When we're in the studio it`s the EVH into a 5150. I never actually use the Jackson for recording. We played London show and were loaned a Diezel VH4 and it just absolutely ripped u a new one on every channel - though it was about seven thousand dollars' worth of amplifier. I like Randall amps in particular too - you don`t see so many dudes using them but I`m yet to play one I didn`t like.

antiMusic: Tell us something we probably wouldn`t guess about you.

Priestley: I can ride a unicycle...and years ago did a couple of gigs as a circus clown. I`m a major astronomy nerd too - anything to do with space and/or landing on the moon is definitely my sort of thing! I actually have a tattoo on Apollo 8 on my left arm. Above any musician, Jim Lovell is my all-time hero.

A Closer Look: Green River Project

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