Download Festival is going to be here sooner than you think, and it looks like it’s going to be the most epic year yet. To celebrate we are going to bring you Download 2020 content every week until the big weekend comes around. We call this ‘The Road To Download 2020’.
Kicking this off is a band that rose from the ashes of British legends The Little Angels and GUN. Now a classic band in their own right, Wayward Sons have been confirmed as playing DL20. We caught up with frontman and Britrock icon Toby Jepson to talk about playing Download as well as clowns, the importance of videos, and the music industry in 2020.
Firstly, are you sick of people asking you if your name is from the song by Kansas?
Toby: Haha! Good opening! It’s no problem, really, it’s to be expected and not easy to hide from – not that I’m trying to! I regard that song – certainly the phrase and the narrative idea of the lyric as pivotal in my life, it inspired and informed me in so many ways when I was starting out that it became a touchstone really, and certainly helped solidify the reasons why I wanted to be in a band. This is the power of music in action. I partially paraphrased the title/lyric in the Little Angels tune ‘Kicking Up Dust’ and it was the only name I considered when I was putting this band together – it’s been a constant companion so it seemed exactly right. Thank you, Kansas.
Your past four videos are connected to a four-part arc, do you feel the visual part of rock music is still important?
Toby: Very much so. With the advent of YouTube and video content via social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, etc, it’s become fundamental – it’s almost like the new ‘golden age’ of music video making, just less budget driven – not like it was when I started making them back in the ’80s. You do have to get creative though, and I’m bored of the same old ideas, plus I have always loved film making so it led onto wanting to create something fun and narrative that kept those interested involved in the developing story of the record.
What was the thought process behind this series of videos? Do you hate clowns?
Toby: Nah, I just wish they were funny again! It’s a commentary on the crazy place we find the world is currently, to me it feels like the lunatics have taken over the asylum and we’re now being governed by blatant liars, cheats, and fools – with huge swathes of people around the world accepting it and actually seemingly wanting it – it beggars belief I think, and I’m sure many don’t agree but fuck it, I’m not in the business of keeping quiet and I NEEDED to stand up and in my own small way push back against the wall of hate, prejudice, and apathy that seems to be engulfing us all. Maybe it’s always been that way, but it feels far more obvious now. Clowns are an easy metaphor and I felt it would be fun to build a world around the idea. It’s supposed to be thought-provoking and I don’t think the point is lost on anyone… it’s also just stupid, fun and irreverent. Enjoy it any way you wish…
These videos carry the hashtag ‘rockaintdead’, do you believe rock n roll still has a lot of fight left in it?
Toby: The death of guitar rock has been pronounced so many times in my life. It’s bollocks, there are so many young people making music based on the exact same principles that I followed as a kid, but we do need to be concentrating on being as unique as possible and creating music with something original to say. There are a million ways of speaking your truth, so I say find a way to make it as potent as possible. It’s certainly not easy. It is, as ever, all about the songwriting first and foremost, which is getting lost or certainly playing second fiddle to modern-day production techniques. I’ve got news for all young bands: The sound of your drums/guitars doesn’t actually really matter, it’s the stuff you’re saying that will have the biggest impact. Apart from other musicians, nobody will be discussing that load of bollocks anyway so find a point and make it in the most vivid manner you can muster, it’s your only chance to change the world or at the very least inspire somebody. The feeling our art form generates and the community it builds won’t ever die, it’s actually at its best when under pressure and it may go underground for periods of time but I don’t think that’s a bad thing actually, it galvanizes the audience.
As a lot of you have spent a lot of years in the music industry, what have you learned along the way?
Toby: How long you got? Here’s are a few, but I’m scratching the surface…
1. Trust your instincts; if it feels too good to be true, it is and somebody is probably shafting you.
2. The world doesn’t NEED your music until it DOES, so be serious about what it is you want to do and say, even in the face of absolute derision; Some of the greatest era-defining artists have often started out as outsiders, so don’t be afraid to be a maverick.
3. Don’t give up even when the idea of carrying on feels like walking through mud with lead weights attached to your bollocks. Being good enough means fighting for the vision. That SHOULD feel like a quest so if it doesn’t you’ve got no chance.
4. People will always mock, so don’t listen, one mans meat is another man’s murder, etc. Time will tell who is right, so don’t obsess, feel the joy above all else.
5. LOVE the art, don’t confuse it with business, they are poles apart. One thing is certain: the music will survive without the business, not the other way around… But perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned over the 30 years I’ve been in this game, is that nobody really knows anything for certain. Really. No matter how experienced, no matter what their history, the moment you believe the hype, surrender your principles and give in to pressure usually brought by charlatans and pretenders it is over. It takes a singular, uncompromising attitude to carve a long term life in music, and different is GOOD, familiar is boring. MUSIC isn’t a science it’s a feeling and an attitude, so believe in it no matter what. If it doesn’t work, then at least you were honest and authentic. I could go on…
Are you excited to play Download?
Toby: Always. This will be my eighth appearance and the second with Wayward Sons. It’s a unique experience and probably the greatest festival of its kind on the planet. It’s an honour and one we take very seriously. ‘Chomping at the bit’ covers how we feel I think.
Which bands are you going to make sure you watch?
Toby: As many as possible.
Finally, what’s next for Wayward Sons?
Toby: To continue to grow and improve, certainly make more music and sooner than later. I’m hungry again as are the guys in the band, we all feel really happy to have found each other and love the racket we make together. It’s rare and certainly, for me, I didn’t expect it to happen twice in my lifetime, so I cherish it. There is so much to do, and so much is unknown, but it’s the journey that is the most important bit – a tad cliche I’ll admit, but never the less true. I’ve always had one goal and that’s to make music with a point that can entertain, and I hope to be able to continue to do that for the foreseeable future.
See Wayward Sons play live on the Friday of Download. Download Festival takes place on June 12-14th 2020 at Donington Park. Tickets are on sale now.