Aggressive metal quintet The Five Hundred have overcome adversities from struggling with tourettes, OCD, gambling and drug addiction, to perfect their art and prove that together they are a force of nature. The band have just released their debut record ‘Bleed Red’ and are beginning their album cycle of destruction.
We caught up with vocalist John Woods-Eley to talk about all things vocals, like what made him want to become a frontman in the first place, how he began practicing the craft, tips for beginners, avoiding and recovering from vocal damage, and more tips and tricks for all you vocalists out there.
I remember watching Live Aid when I was a kid and being amazed by Freddie Mercury’s flawless performance. The way he just fed off the crowd’s adulation and hung on their every reaction, that wicked smile on his face when he got that reaction from the thousands of people watching. He was god-like in his stage presence. From that moment, I said to myself “I’m going to be a vocalist”. Years later, growing up listening to albums like ‘Superunknown’, ‘Dirt’, ‘Bleach’, ‘King For A Day Fool For A Lifetime’ – those albums shaped my vocal style.
Mike Patton is the absolute god of vocalists. No one can come close to his range and style. Layne Stayley and Chris Cornell will always be personal heroes of mine, Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull, Keith Buckley, Chino Moreno… there’s loads more but you get the gist…
Long Branch have a pretty big roster of bands… all of which have great vocalists. Arnor Dan from Agent Fresco. The guy from CABAL sounds demonic. Phil Owen from Valis Ablaze. The list goes on and on… they are one of the most exciting labels around today.
GETTING INTO SINGING
I didn’t really “learn” how to sing, I just kind of started singing from childhood and never stopped. I guess the younger you start, the more naturally it comes to you. For aspiring vocalists I’d just say practice as much as you can, study different vocalists and play live lots. There is no better vocal school than the stage. You can sound polished as fuck on a studio recording, but if you can’t replicate that sound and maintain it during a live show, then what good is it to anyone?
Sing along to everything and anything, that’s pretty much what I do, even if I’m not a fan of the music that’s being played. I just practice to whatever I am listening to at the time, for example I spent a couple of hours the other day belting it out to Bryan Adams live at Slane Castle.
I’ve always been terrible at warming up… I guess I just I’m just lazy or impatient, and I just want to get stuck in. So, whilst driving to practice I’ll maybe spend some time scales whilst driving along, then a few more minutes in the car park. Before playing live I’ll do a good 45 minutes doing scales from an app on my phone along with covers. Justin Hill taught me the importance of a good warm up technique to get the best performance out of your throat box.
AVOIDING VOCAL DAMAGE
If singing or screaming hurts, STOP! It shouldn’t be causing you pain, and if it does, something is wrong. Research vocal techniques, and learn from the experts what to do and what not to do
To be honest, I never feel I have to recover from anything. There have been two or three occasions that stick out though… when we recorded the album and when we toured Eastern Europe and Russia with Carnifex. I was tired so my voice suffered a little but I never normally hurt or get sore after singing/screaming. They say you should give yourself a good rest and even avoid talking for awhile after a performance, but I literally do not know how to shut the fuck up, so that’s never gonna happen.
If you have just blown your voice out just don’t talk, sleep lots, rest lots, drink lots of fluids, and maybe some anti-inflammatory drugs. As long as your technique is good, and you follow advice on recovery, then you should be OK.
The best advice I can give is watch Melissa Cross’s ‘The Zen Of Screaming’. 80% of the breathing techniques I’ve learned are from her. My bass player Andy lent me ‘The Zen Of Screaming’. It’s awesome and there’s some weird stuff technique wise on there but it all works so it’s awesome for any vocalist to be watching, unfortunately I’ve not had any sessions with her.
I would also say try and find footage of Freddie Mercury warming up backstage on the ‘A Kind Of Magic’ tour, I think Roger Taylor is twatting around in the background during that video. It’s absolute class.
Work hard in silence. Be nice to everyone all the time. Don’t listen to people who talk shit.
The Five Hundred‘s debut album ‘Bleed Red’ is out and can be ordered via different platforms (here).
Are you in a band? Do you own a label or PR company? Are you a tour promoter? Do you run a festival? Want to share your experience and tips with others aspiring to do the same thing? Get in touch with our features editor, Mike Heath (email or Twitter), and we can share your tricks of the trade.