So here we are with another multiple of 10 milestone article! To mark this momentous occasion that I’m making it out to be, let’s look and listen to one of the most nationally known and popular acts to come out of Burton-on-Trent in recent memory. British cousin of Ego, it’s Max Raptor!
Wil ‘Ray’ Raybould (vocals), Ben Winnington (guitar), Matt Stevenson (bass) and Pete Reisner (drums) form this hard rock quartet who have been one of the bigger national success stories to come out of Brewtown.
Their alt-punk style mixed with their widespread reputation has landed them massive support slots alongside the likes of Billy Talent and The Stranglers believe it or not!
Not to spoil too much right away of course, since there’s a lot to cover here! Let’s start off with the origin of the band, which stems back to 2006 from a humble academy in Barton-under-Needwood called John Taylor High School. Ray and Stevenson were friends at JT along with another gentleman called Tom Garrett (brother of Sam Garrett).
Stevenson phoned up Ray one day whilst being at uni and asked him if he’d like to have a jam. They all agreed to it along with Garrett and an old friend of Stevenson called JB Wilcox was brought in to play guitar along with Ray on vocals, Garrett on bass and the current bass Stevenson on drums.
John Taylor, along with three of the original members of MR and Reisner, has a decent alumni of future Brewtown staples such as Roz Bruce, Sam Garrett and Christian Taylor of Get Cubs just to name a few.
Although they formed in 2006, they sent music to each other over the Internet to prepare until March 2007 when they had their first official gig at the Victoria Inn in Derby. Ah, what a history that place has! Little did those people watching know that they witnessed the first time one of the biggest Brewtown bands performed live. Their first ever gig was apparently at a Christian Farmer’s BBQ which isn’t quite as spectacular!
Spreading the word over social media such as Myspace (yep, THIS was 2007!), they performed not just locally, but all around the country including a gig at the Joiners Arms in Southampton where the likes of Oasis, Muse and Enter Shikari have played amongst many other now mainstream acts.
Through these humble yet promising set of gigs in their first year, they started off 2008 with MR sending a rough EP over to Kerrang! Radio which, surprise surprise, was given a slot on their unsigned show for six weeks! This would not be the last time that MR had anything to do with Kerrang though!
Birmingham Festibull 2008 backed by Kerrang! Apologies for the audio, people still recorded with potatoes back then!
As well as Festibull, they performed at Cockermouth (admit it, you snickered!), a much smaller YNot and Heartfest in Barton, their old stomping ground. Other highlights alongside the festivals in 2008 included supporting Johnny Panic at The Old Bell and being set to record a new EP with Sam Bell who has worked with the likes of Snow Patrol, Bloc Party, Editors and REM!
With this amount of backing behind them, MR could only go from strength to strength. From playing Club NME and HMV showcases with the likes of Mystery Jets, Hot Club de Paris, Black Sabbath‘s Tony Iommi and Biffy Clyro, how could they not?!
But it was in June 2009 that the Raptors had their biggest break and fangasm from how it all went down! Their ‘GREAT AND THE GOOD’ tour saw them supporting not just Calvin Harris and The Zutons, but also their idols and main inspiration. Canadian punk rockers Billy Talent!
The dates of 9th-10th June will live on in Raptor memory as they opened for Billy Talent (who discovered MR through their Myspace and invited them to open for them) to very appreciative crowds at the Newcastle o2 Academy and the Camden Underworld. It didn’t hurt that they returned to YNot as headliners and the Cock Rock Festival too (what is their obsession with cocks?….sorry).
At this point, with their profile given a massive boost through their tour and their dates with BT, they had four record labels approaching to sign them which had to have been flattering. But after much deliberation, they signed with Salisbury-based Naim Label who they have remained with to this day.
2010 saw more great things happen for the Raptors which saw single releases from Naim, another opportunity to tour with another established punk act and to perform at one of the biggest festivals in the country! Or at least, the first of quite a few big festival slots for them!
Download? Oh, how passé!
I’ll tell you what’s not passé though. Playing 23 tour dates with The god damn Stranglers! From February to March, the Raptors toured all round the country opening for the veteran British punk act. The biggest date for them came on 19th March when they played at the Hammersmith Apollo of all places, a venue they always wanted to play at.
Whilst they were performing with The Stranglers, they gave the public a pre-emptive stream of their first single The Great And The Good which was released as a single download from iTunes, Amazon etc. on April 26th under the Naim label.
They started off the year with a supporting tour, so why not have their own headline tour? From 20th-31st July, they went on a UK headlining tour starting at the Flapper and Firkin in Birmingham and finishing up at a pretty familiar place, YNot Festival 2010.
As said earlier and shown through the video above, they were also on the card of the 2010 Download Festival performing on the Red Bull Bedroom Jam stage on the 13th June where Enemo J also played that same day.
Do you believe in Deja vu? They announced a second headline UK tour for September to promote their second single release of the year Ghosts which started at The Well in Leeds on 11th September and finished at The Wig & Pen in Truro on 9th October.
After a slot at the London Freeze Festival towards the end of October, MR made a big step towards the release of their first album being guided and produced by former SixTh guitarist Dan Weller.
To harken in 2011 and to prepare for the release of their first album, they put out an EP featuring songs like Sparks, The Great and the Good, Ghosts and Conversations with Death along with an announcement that the album would be called Portraits.
They would also have a support slot with American hardcore band Attack Attack! in Wales in March to further promote Portraits and later in the month, they put it up for pre-order on Amazon.
Portraits was released for all the public to buy on April 11th which was met with great reception from both fans and critics. The critics in particular drew comparisons to The Clash and King of Blues and Kerrang magazine gave them an impressive 4K rating (out of 5 of course).
To further promote Portraits, they went on an another tour of the UK from May 3rd-21st which started at the Camden Barfly in London and ended at the Moho (now the Northern Quarter) in Manchester.
The band added another famous act to their CV by supporting The Darkness for three gigs in June to start off a massive Summer campaign which included Leopallooza in Cornwall, Boardmasters Festival in Newquay, Hevy Festival in Folkestone and another return to YNot.
Just after these tour dates, they released their first music video on Youtube (The Alarm was just footage from Nosferatu so it doesn’t count) for their first post-album release single The King is Dead that racked up over 1500 views in the first three days. It also has it’s own ‘making of’ video that was released a month after and was played on TV on channels like MTV, Kerrang and Scuzz!
Post-punk hard rockers in tons of make-up…seems legit!
Quite a heart-warming story rounded off the year for the Raptors as James Halstead of The Metal Hammer Podcast’s Gill and Beez show spearheaded a Facebook campaign to get Max Raptor to perform in the bedroom of a fan called Barney Hall who had written into Kerrang! magazine to state that his new favourite album was MR’s Portraits.
Sure enough, after some involvement from Kerrang! and Rock Sound, the campaign got so many likes and had spread so wide over the Internet (spawning the meme ‘We Are All Barney Hall’) that MR did a live stream of their performance in Hall’s bedroom on 18th December, an early Christmas present if there ever was one! (Listen to the audio here)
With 2012 came a major line-up change with Wilcox and Garrett departing (Wilcox had a child and Garrett pursued other music) to former Blakfish and SOS member Reisner on drums and Chris Gilbert on guitar! Even more widespread appeal came and some of it didn’t come from a single gig/festival! In February, to coincide with the release of their second post-album single release Carolina, they went on…you guessed it…another UK tour!
Towards the end of the tour (the Portland Arms gig date on the 19th to be exact), they released their second official music video for Carolina directed by well-known music portrait photographer Tom Barnes who also directed the video for The King is Dead. The video soon received TV airplay on Scuzz much like their previous effort.
In between working on a second album in Bristol this time, they were nominated for Best Punk for the American Independent Music Awards! That was nice of them! They didn’t win the judge’s award, but they did win the Vox Populi (voice of the people) award which was the award based on the fan’s choice. The people have spoken!
Not only that, but they got more national attention when video game developers Codemasters decided to not only feature The King is Dead in the soundtrack of their game DiRT Showdown, but also had the song play over the official international trailer for the game!
It’s not Forza, but it’ll have to do!
And yet they still missed the scent of home! After festivals in Brighton on the same card as Maximo Park, they returned to Burton-on-Trent to be a part of Burtfest, playing to a moshin’ main stage crowd on June 16th! Bet you never thought you’d hear that festival’s name again did you? MUAHAHA!!!
After performing twice at the 2000 Trees Festival in July and ANOTHER YNot, they had massive news to deliver. Said news was that they would be playing at the appropriately massive Reading and Leeds Festival in August!
Not only were they playing at the festival, they also played on the BBC Introducing stage (them again!) in a set that brought a whole festival’s load of new fans with them and were the subject of a ‘cock-rockumentary’ filmed and edited by Stalbridge-based photographer Marianne Harris.
Towards the end of August, they released their third single Patron Saint of Nothing which was also the last single from Portraits they released in order to give that last hurrah to the first album before moving onto new material which they would play at gigs for the rest of the year.
Onwards to 2013 as MR were right at work developing the sound for their second album and announcing the year’s tour dates on social media which would include Hit the Deck in Bristol, Takedown in Southampton, TRUCK in Oxford (the Uni’s brilliant minds at work!) and a SIXTH SUCCESSIVE YNOT! They are to YNot what Arcade Fire are to…every festival!
In between these festivals, they released their first single Breakers from their then upcoming second album which was played on Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 show in June as well as having a music video.
Your visual aneurysm for the day!
Also in between the festival performances, they would gain two support slots with well-known punk acts (Of course!) with one being a 14 date tour with DINOSAUR PILE-UP and the other being with Alkaline Trio at the Islington O2 Academy.
September saw the second single release England Breathes on the 2nd and a free digital download of Grace and Favours on the 29th before the album itself Mother’s Ruin was brought out on the 30th to some damn good reception from fans and critics again!
This was just in time for another line-up change in October which saw Gilbert replaced by Winnington which was described by the Burton Mail as a ‘Doctor Who-like regeneration’!
With a memorable performance at the UK Vans Warped Tour in London and having Radio 1 airplay once again in November (Must Work Harder was played), they announced two co-headliner tours with one in December with Attention Thieves and We Are Fiction and the other in January 2014 with Fort Hope.
Speaking of, with 2014 having rolled right around and with the festival announcements of Camden Rocks and goddamn Sonisphere being on MR’s minds along with new material, only time will tell how much more will come their way!
NOW! After all that, the gigs all over the country with many well-established acts and a whole nation of fans accrued, I bet you’re wondering how Brewtown Music thinks the music itself holds up? Well…………..
Property of Orion Studios and Warner Bros. Standard copyright procedure, sorry!
Alright, alright! I think that these four lads (seven if you count all members past and present) have made for some damn exciting press for the Brewtown scene and rightly so! With a band name inspired by the Guatemalan god of drinking and smoking and a dinosaur, you think they’d make a big impression wouldn’t you?
With crashing chords and thunderous vocals, Max Raptor have a hard rock/punk sound that is all their own and doesn’t come across at all whiny or petulant unlike some other bands who try to pull this style off. Each song has the potential to stick with you and have you screaming and chanting along with them, though there are some softer songs thrown in to calm you down (Heavy Hearts).
The lyrics of their song paint vivid pictures whether they be of domestic violence and broken families (Carolina) to painting a pretty cynical view of life in Britain (a good chunk of their discography)! If I were to choose two of these to check out, I’d go with The King is Dead and England Breathes.
The first of these selected tracks The King is Dead is a great primer for those who want to get into MR’s sound as it gives you a raw, visceral and blaring sound that is sure to give you the impetus to want to punch the guy moshing next to you in the face! (Seriously though, don’t do that. Use the nearest wall instead)
Ray gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect vocally with guttural conviction to what he’s singing and can lead you in unison to chant along the chorus of a song which gives you a taste of that Max Raptor brand cynicism and anger. The backing harmonies for the bridge only egg you on to join in further!
It paints, or should I say hammers on the canvas, a picture of a successful man’s life falling apart with the video above helping that image along (yay bondage!). Towards the end of the song, anger management is attempted with cool calm winter seas being the calming image in place which does no good in this scenario as we get right back to the anger. Definitely one for those down on their luck and wanting an empathetic release!
When the horse jumps it’s jump and it falls at the fence
You’re the first man to know.
What a joke that it is, there’s a time and a place
For this hole in the floor…
THE KING IS DEAD! THE KING IS DEAD!
Second out of the two, England Breathes sounds like a pretty patriotic number, but if you know the irony that permeates through punk music, you’ll know it’s got quite a sarcastic and biting side to it. The heavy guitar work, rumbling bass, pounding drums and passionate vocals are all there but it’s the lyrics that make it stand out.
The chorus in particular sums up a sincerely straight-forward attitude that is displayed by many English people who just want to get on with things and live their lives. It’s personal pride, not patriotic pride.
That’s not saying it as a local music fanboy, that’s the overall music fan in me wanting to scream “England breathes as it does, in and out and get over it!” because it gives me something to feel at least happy or content with the country I live in that it takes a Midlands band to produce a response like this! Still though, check it out for yourself. Don’t just take my word for it!
Whew! In closing, it’s been a long and epic journey for Max Raptor who have served as one of the biggest examples of Brewtown’s scene hitting the big time and leaving a massive dent in it! I can’t do their work justice, even with this massive post dedicated to them, so do yourself a favour and experience their stuff! It’s the 20 Brewtown brew, come on!! Either way, this has been Brewtown Music, serving you a big helping of Midlands tunes!
Max Raptor’s stuff
Official Website: http://maxraptor.co.uk/
Naim Label page: http://www.naimlabel.com/artist-max-raptor.aspx