BY GARETH ENDEAN
Interviewed by: Naomi Jeremiah & David Lydiard
Photo Credits: Morag Farley Photography ©
Rock is dead. Grunge killed it. Or perhaps punk. Or perhaps it died way back when the Beatles split up or even when Elvis joined the army. Whatever, it’s definitely dead, Gene Simmons says so. And when Myles Kennedy said last year that the era of the rockstar was over there were few dissenting voices. It just seems that no one told Aaron Buchanan...
"I had this thing inside me that every musician has, ‘I wanna play arenas, I wanna go and be a rock star!’" It's a laudable ambition and if anyone can do it, then Aaron Buchanan can. A whirlwind of energy both on and off stage, his enthusiasm is almost as infectious as his music. And while he might not be playing arenas just yet his performance at this year’s Winters End Festival proved he and his band have got what it takes to play any stage, anywhere, any time.
“Chaotic. Very, very chaotic,” is how he describes the show. It was the Cult Classics’ first gig since December.
“We hadn’t rehearsed because Paulo is out on tour with Alestorm and we are all doing other bits and bobs to make this band work, so earning money and investing money in the right places. So, there had been no rehearsals, we’ve not had any warm up shows and that is the result, so it was absolute chaos.”
Any difficulties the band were having onstage, didn’t translate to the crowd, the chaos is all part of what makes the band such an exhilarating live act.
“For a lot of bands that was an absolute nightmare and for a lot of bands they would just walk off but I find it a bit endearing, that the other guys find it really funny and fun. One thing that I think a lot of bands have lost at the moment is the fun aspect and that's the thing we do bring to the stage. It’s never going to be a perfect show, that isn’t what we do. I definitely think we have a different style about us to what a lot of other bands have got. It’s never perfect but that’s kind of what I like and that’s coming from a perfectionist point of view. Tonight was definitely not perfect but it was fun.”
You get the feeling that the onstage anarchy is a reflection of the frontman’s nature, no question is met with a simple answer, his mind wheels away on tangents and down so many divergent paths you often forget what was asked in the first place. It is never less than entertaining though.
Down The Front’s, Naomi reminds him of the time at a previous gig when he accidentally booted her in the head: “Oh yes!” He exclaims almost sheepishly. “The amount of people that I actually meet where I do boot someone.” And then he’s reminded of another story and he’s off again, “like once in ‘Fields of Mayhem’ I was, hey lads my proper outfit is like fucking Ray Brown and was expensive and I’ve got to wear it, so I was going to bugger off as I have like 1 minute and 10 seconds in ‘Fields of Mayhem’ and I was like can I do it and they are like, not so sure Aaron. And Paulo was like...well it would be pretty good if you did. So I was like fucking in there and if I don’t do it then I will come and do the next song just in pants as a forfeit. So I didn’t have time for this, so I get a dart off the stage and I’m ripping these clothes off and then I managed to get my trousers on and I’m pretty good here, I’ve got 45 secs and then, my fingers! Like when you get adrenaline, I can’t feel my hands properly and I’m trying to do these buttons up and this is supposed to be done up and I still haven’t done it up! but yeah the buttons were the things that fucked me up. Next song comes on and my braces are all over the place and I didn’t have any shoes on. And then in the next song I had to sort it out. You can’t play a show with no shoes, it’s just weird unless you are into foot fetish...”
And just like that the boot to the head is forgotten and we’re drawn into the crazy world of Aaron Buchanan. In amongst the chaos, however, is a plan: “I have a 10 year thing in my head that I want to do, in those 10 years I’m going to do 4 albums and there may be a 5th, if I’m really feeling wild.”
If those albums can build on their debut ‘The Man With Stars on his Knees’ then we could be in for a very exciting 10 years, however the frontman does offer a caveat to the plan: “[David Bowie] said he did not write music unless he had something to write about, so if there is two years where there isn’t an album it’s because there is nothing there. That being said I lead a fuckingly tragic, chaotic life and a quote from Russell Brand, shall we say, literally sums up my life, ‘my life is a series of embarrassing events strung together by telling people about those events’” he laughs, “and to put this into perspective we just crashed the fucking car! I’m not kidding you! We were reversing and just crashed the car, so literally we could not be more of a ridiculous band. We are basically just Spinal Tap right now.”
Anchoring the manic energy of the singer is his sister - and Cult Classics guitarist - Laurie Buchanan. Having had a previous taste of the rock n roll lifestyle with highly rated rockers Heaven’s Basement he credits his sister in focusing his energy into his new project.
“I think I missed the mark a little bit and I think that I am now definitely twice the person I was when I was with Heavens Basement. I think I needed to kick myself up the arse and having my sister in the band, she is a harsh bitch! She is savage and for all the shit I give her, she pretty much holds my life together, so yeah, professionalism is probably more Laurie and I’m more of the fun guy.”
While Aaron Buchanan is obviously enjoying himself it is clear that there is a drive and ambition within him to succeed, he has the charisma, the confidence and the music to get there but there is also a self-awareness that keeps him grounded.
“We are a privileged band, we all come from middle class families, you know, my dad has a couple of cars and we have an alright house, nothing special or fancy but all of us have kind of had support through the years. You get people who fall by the wayside because some guys can’t afford it, some guys have kids, some guys get girlfriends and all that, we are all a bunch of arseholes and didn’t do any of that. I have a very good friends base back home but one of the things I wanted to build up with this band, it had nothing to do with class, it had nothing to do with anything like that, but it was the right personalities and people who come from a background where you do have to lose people along the way to find people that have a similar vision to what you have.
“And again when I was younger, I want to play arenas, I wanted to play stadiums, I wanted to play Brixton Academy – No. You start from the bottom and you work your way up and I did that with Basement and it took a long time. It took 4 years to get Basement to do a thousand tickets a night and it was great when we got there.”
As good as it was with Heaven’s Basement though it’s his time with The Cult Classics that really excites him:
“We have a good time and we’re all a really good bunch. I didn’t have that with Basement, we spent so much time in a room together I’m sure if we would have met each other in a pub we would have got down and would have been mates, we spent too much time together.
“With this band I was like I need to find people I can be with a lot, and people that don’t mind going off for 2 months and someone else fill their spot. There’s going to be a day when I’m dead and it will be Laurie who’s carrying the Cult Classics with the other guys. We all have different little things we do and we, you know, I’ve always said to the guys if it comes up and they offer you 2 grand to go do the gig - go and do the fucking gig! You don’t have any exclusivity to me whatsoever, I appreciate them so much as musicians and I hope they feel that because they definitely have a mutual appreciation of me as well - it’s like - even with Laurie, if she turned around tomorrow and said you know Alice Cooper wants to take me out for 3 gigs I’d be like yeah go and do it! It has to be like that, as open minded as possible.”
He is obviously very proud of his band and the freedom it allows him, his music sweeps through every style of hard rock you can imagine, from classic Queen to sleaze to grunge. Unsurprising then that Aaron lists his influences as “Freddie, Chris Cornell, Eddie Vedder, Layne Staley,” as well as more eclectic choices such as Skunk Anansie, Imogen Heap and Alanis Morrissette.
“That’s maybe a thing that I didn’t get appreciated for in Basement was that I am an eccentric asshole and not everybody gets it and I was with 3 guys who just didn’t get it, where as now I can be a fucking queen and it’s fine.”
Ultimately Aaron Buchanan is as much a fan as he is a rock star and that gives a hint to his most endearing quality, his enthusiasm for his music. Success to him is not necessarily selling out arenas or album sales or even critical acclaim, it’s gauged by his primal desire to entertain;
“I don’t just think you can just go and be a rock star, it doesn’t work like that and I know it’s very easy to be like 19 years old - in fact when I was 17-18 years old I was like I’ll never be a rock star and then I got into Heavens Basement and I’m a rock star. But I left and so I would not say that I’m a rock star, but I would certainly say I have some rock star stories - you know - partied with some bad ass mother fuckers!”
He is a man fuelled by pleasure, whether his own or his audience’s but most often both together.
“I mean I love success,” he says, “but if I can just be happy to just keep mooching along just doing this little thing and giving people a laugh, if I can go to my grave and there’s people that are like ‘Ahh that's pretty funny’ then I’d be happy.”
That may well be true, but if Aaron Buchanan and the Cult Classics carry on the way they’re going he’s going to have to upgrade his ambition pretty sharpish, because it won’t be long before Aaron Buchanan proves that both rock music and the rock star are still very much alive and kicking.
Aaron Buchanan – Vocals
Laurie Buchanan – Guitar
Paul White – Drums
Tom McCarthy – Guitar
Mart Trail – Bass
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