I recently had the opportunity to interview Phil Campbell of The Temperance Movement for Montreal Rampage, and I’m sharing the article here.
Phil Campbell’s Scottish accent comes in loud and clear over the phone. The band has just arrived in Canada in preparation for their cross country tour with Monster Truck, a band they’ve befriended on a previous trip. “We have dipped into Canada a couple of times,” he recalls. “We toured in America last year, and while over there we came up to Toronto. We played a place called Rivoli and that’s where we met Monster Truck. They came to see us and brought some of their musician friends with them. It was lovely: we were welcomed into the musician community there, it was a nice time.”
Originally from Glasgow, Scotland, Campbell lived in London for 15 years. Around 2008, he met guitarist Luke Potashnick: “I had seen him play guitar at a gig I was playing too. We kind of hooked up and talked about getting a band together but it didn’t happen immediately, and I left London and moved back to Glasgow.” But faith would intervene and a few years later, the pair picked up the idea again and added guitarist Paul Sayer to the equation. “As a threesome we started writing some songs. And then we thought, well let’s get a bass player, let’s get a drummer: let’s make it a band.”
At Campbell’s suggestion, the band named itself The Temperance Movement. “It was a big name, like a big pair of shoes to fill,” he explains. “It was a name of weight, and it took us some time to really fill that out, but being a little bit older and wiser than teenagers, it gave us a bit of an indication of what we were trying to do. We just loved The Band, The Faces and the Stones, and we loved Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Lemonheads and REM from all our time growing up. Mix that together with the sixties and seventies music that we love, that’s what the Temperance Movement is.”
With an entire touring cycle for their debut album behind them, the band gelled better than ever, and with a growing fan base proving there is an audience for their music, the sophomore album “White Bear” came rather easily.
“I’m sure some of the other guys will disagree,” says Phil, “but I didn’t really feel that it was a harder thing to put this one together. The only pressure was to get it done in a set amount of time. We had been touring Europe and the UK and at the end of 2014 we did a deal with Live Nation. We were going to go to America, so we had to finish the record. We started writing on tour, and sound check, and then once we came back from tour we jammed some things out.”
But as the band wanted to mix in newer influences for their second album, they were aware that their retro style had connected with people. “There is an older generation of people that are into our music, and it was a pressure because you know, we wanted to move away slightly from that quite basic rocking format that we had set out or stolen. “
Having lived on road together for two years, the band was also more confident in the studio. “There was no producer or anything,” he explains. “We worked with an engineer, a guy called Sam Miller who earns the title of Producer as well, but you know nobody’s cracking a whip, we have to do it ourselves, or it’s not going to get done. So I was very proud of us for doing that and it was very much a learning process in terms of who we were, because not all of the things that we recorded ended up on the record.”
As they grew more confident together, the band was also not afraid of reworking songs until they felt they were as good as they could be. “There’s a track on it called “Oh Lorraine”, and when we first came up with that tune, it sounded like the Doobie Brothers or something. It sounded like Americana, there was lots of layered harmonies, it sounded almost bluegrass.”
“We came up with “Pleasant Peace I Feel”; Luke liked it and he had kind of worked with it and said look, let’s try it differently, so we tried a different demo of it and it became what it is now, and that’s the difference really, with the first album and the second album. On the first album, we didn’t take a song and kind of rework it or try and stylize it or anything.”
During those two long years on the road promoting their debut, the band had the unique opportunity of opening for the Rolling Stones, an amazing event for lifelong Stones fans and Campbell sounds like a kid at Christmas when talking about it. “Paul had been trying to work this out with the management and with somebody that he knew that had gotten our music to Mick (Jagger), but I never believed in a million years it was ever going to happen. In 2010-11, I was working in a coffee shop in Glasgow; I would close up every night and I would listen to ‘Sticky Fingers’, or ‘Exile on Main Street’. These are albums I have listened to all my life. ‘Sticky Fingers’ was what I constantly listened to and ‘Ooh La La’ by The Faces as well, and then they were actually playing tracks from ‘Sticky Fingers’, it was an incredible thing.”
Campbell recalls in details how it felt to walk onto that stage. “I remember exactly what it felt like. It felt like nobody was going to move until I moved. The stage manager said, “There you go guys, it’s your stage.” And I remember walking out and taking steps forward like I was just about to walk off a fucking bridge, you know, there was fifty thousand people all gathered there. There was a sea of people, and there’s a hundred yards between you and the first row. It doesn’t feel like any gig I have ever played. You have to rely on the screens that are up, because that’s how people are going to see you. Mick’s constantly moving in order to try and communicate with people and trying to sort of feel as if he’s actually there. The music itself reverberates around the entire stadium and comes back at you and it feels very weird, because you can’t really hear what you sound like because it all gets lost. It’s all so big and sort of booming and, you know, reverby.”
But opening a pair of shows for the biggest stadium rock band in the world wasn’t even the most extraordinary thing in the singer’s life at that time. “I was opening up for the Rolling Stones, but then I was flying back immediately because my wife was having a baby. So between the first and second Stones show in Europe, we had a baby girl. You know that’s an extreme thing to do, to have a baby, but it’s an extreme thing to do to open for the Rolling Stones. You’re not going to get any bigger than that ever in terms of Rock n Roll.”
“There’s people who play to the same amount of people,” he continues, “like Adele or Katy Perry that play to thousands and thousands of people in stadiums like they do, but I don’t care about them, you know. The Rolling Stones mean something to me, because The Rolling Stones basically took American R&B music and made it popular in Britain and if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t exist.”
Their path would cross another of their idols when none other than Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page showed up at one of their shows. “We had been at the Classic Rock Awards (where they won Best New Band),” recalls Campbell, “and we befriended somebody who knew him and said, let’s try and get him to come to the show we were playing at KOKO in London. And Page came to see us and we met him afterwards. I was terrified of meeting him because Jimmy Page, you know there’s a lot of folklore that goes on with him, you know, you think he’s this big devil worshipping wild man, but he was the sweetest guy you’ve ever met in your life. He was drinking non alcoholic beers and, he was talking and I said ‘I just love your fucking music man, I just fucking love your fucking music man, I don’t know what else to say to you. Thank you for, thank you for coming to see us and thank you for playing the guitar, it’s amazing.'”
The band also got the chance to pay musical homage to Led Zeppelin, whose sound is all over their new album “White Bear”, by recording a song for a Mojo magazine tribute CD. “Led Zeppelin are a huge influence and certainly for Damon Wilson, the drummer, he’s a huge fan of Zeppelin. I can’t sing as high as Robert Plant can, so I can’t sing all of their songs but “Houses of the Holy” I can sing, and it was one of the few that was available at that time for us to sing, and yeah a lot of people like it. We’ve never played it, it was never really intended to be played.”
Having enjoyed the album very much since its release, I asked Campbell what to expect from their live performance when they roll into town. “Well you know, you really need to come and see us play. As good as the album is and as proud of it as I am, it doesn’t really matter to me as much as a live gig. Come and see the shows and see the songs in context and see these songs that are pretty much like a caged beast on the record and they’re free on the stage. We’re a different formation now, Luke left and we have a new guitar player now, who just from being a different guy, has brought in a different guy’s perspective and that has changed the dynamics of the band. Paul has moved over to the other side of the stage and the sort of whole creative dynamic between us personally has changed. We’re in a place where we are having a huge amount of fun together, which was not always the case with Temperance Movement, it almost became pretty serious and hard working and everything was a bit of a chore for a moment. If you come and see us you will see a band having a good time and feeling fairly successful after a UK tour, where we sold out most of the venues we were playing. It’s a good time to come and see us now.”
“Come and see us before all the divorce settlements happen and everybody starts suing each other,” he says, laughing. “Come and see us now while it’s good, you know. See you soon, love to Montreal.”
The Temperance Movement will play the Corona Theater on March 9th 2016 opening for Monster Truck. Their second album “White Bear” is out now.
He's also a regular contributor at the very rad site Montreal Rampage