INTERVIEW: Brass Against (13/05/2019)

Combining rock and edgy hip hop, Brass Against have been gracing us with sensational brass band covers from the likes of Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave and Black Sabbath. The New York collective are standing up against the system through the power of protest music and are bringing their show to the UK with a string of headline shows and a huge slot support with Lenny Kravitz at the O2 Arena.

We caught up with Brass Against leader Brad Hammonds to talk about the band, the vocalists they have recorded with and the summer ahead.

DP!: Hi guys! Thanks for talking to Dead Press! So how did you come together and start playing brass band covers of Rage Against The Machine??
Brad: Thanks so much for having us! When Trump started gathering momentum I felt like we needed to do something with Rage- and really make a statement. I contacted our now Baritone Sax player/musical director, Andrew Gutauskas, and asked if he would try running the tunes with me to see if it might work with horns. We ran a bunch of Rage tunes and they all sounded really cool with bari. We called a bunch of close friends and did a video – and here we are.

DP!: Do we need protest music now more than ever?
Brad: We think so – so many countries have been advocating for isolation policies and we know how that turns out. People are frustrated and when we come together through a concert we can all inspire one another.

DP!: You’ve also delved into Tool, Black Sabbath and there’s a brand new video for Beastie Boys’ ‘Sabotage’ – how does a song get picked to be arranged by Brass Against?
Brad: I sit with a song for a long time and imagine if it would work with a horn section. We’ve found Tool really lends itself well. It’s always an experiment- we don’t rehearse the songs before we show up to the studio. Andrew is an amazing arranger and really brings it.

DP!: Why does the brass band style work so perfectly for this kind of music?
Brad: I think because the bass lines are really interesting and then we take liberties with the melodies. We also try and stay close to the original arrangements so people are familiar with the tunes enough to take a ride with us.

DP!: Have there ever been any songs where the arrangement hasn’t successfully translated to the brass band style and we’ve never seen the finished article?
Brad: Ha – that’s a great question. They’re all way too expensive to shelf- but I’ve definitely been worried about one or two translating while in the studio. It can be really stressful. We get to the studio and rehearse the song a few times for the first time, setup the cameras and have at it. We are on a set time to nail the tunes. Luckily all the musicians are amazing so it’s worked out so far.

DP!: You’ve worked with a variety of unbelievable singers including Sophia Urista, Samuel Hope and Amanda Brown – how do you choose your guest vocalists for specific tracks? Do you have someone in mind as soon as you start planning the arrangement?
Brad: We’ve been really lucky with the singers crushing these tunes. It really comes down to imagining how they might sound. I reached out to Sophia after hearing some things online and had a hunch she would crush the Rage stuff. Sophia knows Amanda and I could tell she could do Chris Cornell justice. I’ve been a fan of Sam’s for 10 years and we discussed Tool years ago. He’s such a great singer but I had no idea how well it would turn out. I’ve also been a fan of Maya Azucena for a long time and when we started this project had a goal of working together.

DP!: Is there anything specific you look for in a singer?
Brad: We’re lucky being in NYC and having so many amazing singers around us. So far, it’s been singers we know or have been huge fans of prior to working together. Since we’re doing heavy songs we want people who match the attitude of the songs.

DP!: You’re heading out on another monster European tour this summer – how does it feel to be taking this worldwide?
Brad: It’s insane. We did our first European tour in February and it was really special. So many people came out to the shows and we connected on so many levels with folks. We cannot wait to do it again!!

DP!: Did you ever think Brass Against would be playing with Lenny Kravitz at The O2 in London to 20,000 people?
Brad: No. It’s surreal.

DP!: How did the show come to fruition?
Brad: Our management and booking agent are pretty amazing. They reached out and somehow worked some magic. I think he likes the project as well.

DP!: What can we expect to hear and see from Brass Against in the future?
Brad: We’re all in writing mode and hoping to release an original EP before the end of the year. It has to stand up to the material we’re playing which is a huge feat. We also want to differentiate ourselves and so it’s going to be a process!

DP!: After his glowing endorsements, when will you be asking Tom Morello to join you for a jam in the studio?
Brad: We’re doing some festivals with Prophets of Rage so hopefully our paths will cross!

Brass Against are on tour on the following dates.

JUNE 1 – BIRMINGHAM, O2 Institute 2
JUNE 2 – CORNWALL, The Great Estate
JUNE 4 – MANCHESTER, Academy 3
JUNE 5 – BRIGHTON, The Haunt
JUNE 7 – CORK, Cyprus Avenue
JUNE 8 – DUBLIN, Voodoo Lounge
JUNE 9 – BELFAST, Empire Music Hall
JUNE 11 – LONDON, The O2 w/ Lenny Kravitz
AUGUST 9 – WINCHESTER, Boomtown Festival
AUGUST 24-26 – NORTHANTS, Greenbelt Festival

You can keep up-to-date with the band and what they’re up to online via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.