UK progressive rock act Temples On Mars are set to make an appearance later this January for their first-ever tour in South Africa. Temples on Mars will be supported on stage by some of South Africa’s finest heavy bands such as Savage Lucy, Lithium, Go The Rodeo, All We’ve Known, Deity’s Muse, Dirty Moonshine and Climate Control.
We get all the juicy deets from vocalist and guitarist James Donaldson about sharks, names and Primordial Records. The tour is set to start in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Pretoria and end in Johannesburg. Tickets are available via www.plankton.mobi.
Temples On Mars are coming to South Africa, but the band are no strangers to the country…
James Donaldson: I’ve never been and I’m really looking forward to it, but two of the other guys are from there and have told me all about it. I’ve got lots of other friends from there. Looking forward to checking out some bands from there, so yeah, I’m really looking forward to getting down there.
What stories have you heard about us crazy Saffas?
Donaldson: (Laughs) Basically a lot of talk about car-jackings . What else? Lots of sharks and other wild animals. But lots of good stuff – nice food, nice wine, nice weather.
Temples On Mars welcome “Gods & Kings” in this music video released last year.
What can we expect from the tour?
Donaldson: We just like getting out and playing our music on an international level. We’ve been playing around Europe and the UK all of last year, so this is a chance for us to expand our horizons and it’s also a chance for the other guys to go home and catch up with family and friends. A chance for them to show the rest of us their home country.
The name change has worked in your favour, but what was the reason for the move from Agent?
Donaldson: It’s been almost a year since we formally announced the name change and we’ve done two albums… we were getting lost. When you went on Spotify and searched “Agent,” there was so much stuff. If you Googled, it was impossible to stand out. We looked at bands with other names to work out what did and didn’t work. We needed a three-word name. One morning I was in the shower and was like, “Temples On Mars sounds kinda pretty good” and I went to the guys with it. It’s helped with the imagery and artwork on the album and we’re really happy with it.
Temples On Mars is a younger name and it brings more social media presence into your world. How important is digital marketing for you at the moment?
Donaldson: You can’t do without it in this day and age. You really have to be able to stand out. We put all our shows on the website, on Facebook, on Spotify depending on if the label is paying for it or not. We’re on Instagram, Twitter, everyone wants to see you out there and if you’re not doing that stuff, you almost don’t exist at this stage.
There was also a slight shift in the music with the name change…
Donaldson: A basic new lineup and everyone agreeing on a direction to head in. Previously with past members, we maybe weren’t unified in our direction. Now it’s no-nonsense, we know what music we want to do, what shows we want to do and we’ve also got to love it as well. It’s a lot more unified and we know where we’re going with the sound. We’re already demoing new tracks for the next album. It’s different again because we’re growing as people and musicians and we don’t want to bring out the same album twice. It’s still Temples On Mars but with a little shift.
You’re more into the prog scene; how has that been treating you?
Donaldson: Really well, we’ve played at probably two of the world’s biggest prog festivals in Germany and The Netherlands in October and that was really cool. We got some great music come off the back of those. It would be great to play ProgPower USA next year (2019), that would be the icing on the cake. The prog scene is huge in Australia too and friends played there. A lot of bands are talking about Australia at the moment.
Prog has changed a lot of the years, so how are you finding the change?
Donaldson: It’s evolving. You don’t want bands making the same albums again and again. You’ve got to try to find something fresh in there. As a genre, “prog” can mean so many things. Like ‘70s Pink Floyd and then obviously the definition has changed so modern prog tends to be heavier than it has been in the past. It’s exciting to be part of. We’re definitely not only prog; we’ve got some poppy and heavy metal elements, but again, that’s being part of prog, not being pigeonholed.
Your debut album did really well. What learning curves have there been putting this album together?
Donaldson: Oh yeah absolutely. Where do I begin? Song-wise, we knew what we were doing. Arrangement-wise, like putting the songs in different orders, that’s the curse of hindsight. Probably when we heard the first seven or eight songs, we realized there weren’t enough singles, so eventually, we wrote a few more to have the radio singles. One of those was “So In Love With Your Own Drug” and that’s become one of our more successful tracks. So next time around, we’ll probably write a few more singles towards the beginning of the process to be sure that we have something really solid, which is what we’re doing right now. We had a rehearsal this morning to thrash out some solid stuff.
From a label point of view as well, we pretty much didn’t have a guaranteed record deal when we wrote the record and we got it once we had the final record. Next time we’ll have that all in place before we start recording stuff (laughs). We took a big risk financially on ourselves and it paid off in the end, but it was a little bit touch and go. I probably wouldn’t stress myself out so much next time.
Temples on Mars are “So in Love with Your Own Drug” which was the first single released from their album last year.
You mentioned your label Primordial Records. How have they been treating you?
Donaldson: Really great. We’ve got an excellent relationship with Alex, who’s the head of Primordial. But they’re awesome, they’re not a huge label so they’re growing and evolving themselves. So the idea is to have a longer-term relationship – as we grow, they grow and vice versa.
And your fans? Where do they come from, how do you keep in contact?
Donaldson: Primarily on Facebook or email. We’ve got fans who are very active and let us know what they think. It’s mainly online but we have hardcore fans who come to the shows (that they’re able to). We’re not rock stars who think that we’re better than everyone or that fans are inferior to the band. We’re just a bunch of dudes, they’re a bunch of guys who like music, we have a beer and talk about it.
What is your relationship like with the other bands in the prog scene?
Donaldson: We’re friends with some of the bands and we tend to get on well. We do a few gigs with similar bands and UK shows. You try to find musicians you’re compatible with musically and you tend to be compatible on a social level, you know? It’s pretty cool.
When you’re touring, is there anything special that you do on stage or play?
Donaldson: If you’re talking about South African shows, we’ll be playing pretty much the whole record. I’m not the guy who takes care of the production… but decent sound production, decent light show. We do live takes of some of the tracks. What works on the record might not work so well live. We’re pretty happy with the live set at the moment.
Let’s take you back a few years for the video for “When Gods Collide.”
And any message for your South African fans?
Donaldson: So many things! I’m really excited that we’re coming down there. Please be gentle on us boys who’ve never been there. Hoping to have a great time! I’m looking forward to drinking some nice wine… and I want to try some real biltong! Maybe go cage-diving, I’m not sure though (laughs).
You’re here a month before The Cure, then it’s Judas Priest a month later.
Donaldson: That’s really awesome; I love a good Priest! A lot has changed and you guys are getting some really good bands down there. The guys in the band have had a lot of great feedback and we’re excited about our trip, not just to play but to explore and have a good time and see what all the fuss is about.
01/25 – Mercury Live – CPT (w/ Lithium, Last One Alive, Black Moscow)
01/26 – Pool City – PE (w/ All We’ve Known)
02/01 – Arcade Empire – PTA (w/ Savage Lucy, Go The Rodeo)
02/02 – Rumours Rock City – JHB (w/ Deity’s Muse, Dirty Moonshine, Climate Control)