Previously known under the name of The Cock Rockers, this month’s Band of the Month are known for their energetic and entertaining live shows. Cockpit first caught our ears and eyes (with that unapologetically cocky name) back in 2010 with their performance at Singapore’s alternative music festival Baybeats. 5 years on, the band finally releases their debut album, Four Horsemen Riding in the Sky (Behind Got Sun), tongue-in-cheek yet not lacking in the musicality department at all. We catch up with the band after half a decade, to find out what’s up.
Hi Cockpit! It’s been a while since we last spoke with you, and the band has now released its debut full-length album. How has it been received so far, and how did the album release party go?
Indeed it has! The launch party was a blast, truly blessed by the Gods. We were very glad to see the support we received. As for the album, we’ve been hearing good things from friends and fans alike (least of all, from your good selves!), so you could say that it has been well received. It’s a tremendous relief to know that we won’t be smited by the Gods for letting Them down.
The album release party showcased a typical Cockpit show – light-hearted, humorous but with high quality heavy metal music. How does the band prepare for your live shows?
Through days of whisky and nights of prayer, the Gods of Metal grant us the vigour and fortitude to bear the mighty weight of Their Message. Besides following Their divine Direction, if something makes us laugh during the rehearsals, it’ll like go into the show.
Of course, one of the highlights that fans ask for during your live shows is the Tuning Song. How did this idea come about, and why take such an approach towards the band’s music and live shows?
One of the fundamental tenants of the Laws of Guitars declares that “Thou shalt always keep thy Instrument in tune.” Yet, it has also been said in the Book of the Empty Auditorium, “So it shall be that he who does boring shit on stage shall be cast into the eternal dark, where there will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Tuning Song was our way of fulfilling both.
The band’s debut album is entitled Four Horsemen Riding in the Sky (Behind Got Sun). The Four Horsemen here obviously refers to the band members. Why the “Four Horsemen”, and why the band running away from the sun behind?
If you can find meaning in the album title, we’d like to have some of what you’re smoking. The album title actually came about as a result of the artwork. We were trying to come up with an appropriate cover and we thought it’d be funny if we had a picture of the four of us riding horses in the sky with the sun shining out behind us for dramatic effect. Inevitably, things got out of hand and we ended up naming the album (literally) after the album. The “Behind Got Sun” part, though, is a nod towards our Singaporean heritage and identity. We are proudly Singaporean, and “Behind Got Sun” is something that feels distinctly so, but in a slightly subtle way.
The album features a nice variety of musical styles, from the heavy Gods of Metal, to the ballad First Time Too and that Volbeat-ish Evilution. Songs such as Crystal Ball, we have already heard since the band’s performance at Baybeats 5 years ago. What was the songwriting process like, and who are the band’s influences when it comes to the songwriting?
Cockpit’s songs are birthed in different ways, as the Gods grant Their Inspiration. Usually, we start with a theme (such as Speed Kills, or The Seaman’s Son) and perhaps a riff or chord progression, then spin together some lyrics and go from there, with each of us contributing in all areas of the song (lyrics, riffing, arrangement, etc).
The band is (obviously) very heavily influenced by classic rock and metal bands such as Iron Maiden, Dio and X Japan. You can hear an embarrassing amount of “influence” in the album.
The 3-part song The Seaman’s Son steals the limelight of the album. What was it that inspired the band to write such an epic track, and was it more difficult writing this track compared to the others?
It sounds kinda clichéd, but much of the song almost wrote itself. We had a whisky fuelled afternoon joking about seamen (hur hur) and we thought it’d be funny to sing about seamen on stage. Psyence Fyktion came up with the opening thematic melody and riff and before we knew it, we had a song about seamen. The strange thing was, after writing the first Seaman’s Son (which was meant to be just another stand alone song), we found that the ideas didn’t seem to want to stop coming (hur hur). Each section’s end lead on to another section and soon we had almost 20 minutes of material.
Due to the length of the song, writing it was definitely more involved than most of the other songs, and recording it was a nightmare.
While all the tracks have “heavy metal”-related themes to them, First Time Too stood out not only musically but also lyrically. How did this song come about?
We got together one day and thought “we need a ballad”. We wanted the sort of song you could imagine Poison singing to screaming groupies. In keeping with the appropriate message of Rock, though, a straight up love song would have been a little too cheesy. So we threw together some clichés, drenched it with inappropriate innuendo, and ended up with First Time Too.
My favourite tracks on the album are Death on the Airways for its catchiness and First Time Too, with the emotion that the band has put into the writing and playing. Which is the band’s favourite track to play live, and why?
JD: I think it’ll be Death on the Airways for me. I like the speed and energy of the song. Also, the twin solo is always a crowd pleaser.
PF: I’ll say Crystal Ball. Everyone loves it, plus for me it’s like a big full stop at the end of a set, since it almost always is the last song. Since by that time anyone in the band could break a string / drum skin or fuck up another way or act stupid and don’t give a shit even about tuning, all our available energy can be used to giving the audience a good time.
S: Yeah, Crystal Ball here too. I get to make ball actions. What’s not to love?
TCOU: That’ll be Seaman’s Son III for me. I love the drive, lyrics and the change in time signatures and tempo. It’s a tough song to play for me – a little more technical and requires a lot more energy – but I absolutely enjoy every bit of it.
The album was recorded by yourselves at Shaun’s home. What are the pros and cons of self-recording, and what advice do you have for bands who are about to record their first release?
The biggest benefit of recording the album ourselves was that we were not bound or pressured by studio time. This meant that we could really work each song until we were happy with the results. 10 takes of a single guitar line to get it just right? No problem, since we weren’t paying for time. We also had the freedom to work the album around our own schedules (all of us being full-time working minions).
The downside to that freedom, though, is that we had to more or less learn everything ourselves. How to work the fancy new multi-channel digital mixer, troubleshooting the DAW software, mic placements (drum miking is truly hell on earth), all this had to be learnt through either books and websites, or simple trial and error. On top of that, we ended up having either buy pro-audio gear, or MacGyver up our own (our vocal pop filter is a women’s stocking on a $2 Daiso embroidery hoop).
Our advice for bands looking to record on your own would probably be to be aware of the Triangle of Project Management (good, fast, cheap, pick two). Studios are expensive, yes, but you’ll likely get a more polished sound in a shorter time. Home recording might be a little cheaper, but it’s going to take time and effort to get it to an acceptable level of quality. Ultimately, you’ll need to set your budget, timeline and expectations as a band before you start throwing your resources into it.
The album, apart from the usual CD and digital release, was also done on a USB drive. Were there any particular reasons for a USB release as well?
When we were passing around pre-production copies of the album to get feedback from friends, we discovered that a lot of people no longer own CD players. We still wanted a CD (‘cos we’re ol’ skool that way), but realised the need for a more usable form of media. USB flash drives are everywhere nowadays, so we felt that the USB drive would be a good bridge between the CD and the digital download. (Plus, if you don’t like the album, you can just format it and get a nice 2GB flash drive.)
The band has a dedicated fan base, as could be seen from your live shows. Who are the listeners of Cockpit, and why should more people listen to Cockpit?
The ranks of the Faithful have indeed grown over the years. It makes us all warm and tingly inside whenever we gaze upon their fervent faces. Our fans tend to be people who grew up on a staple of Rock, those who miss the days of hearing guitar solos in music and on the radio. We would like to see those days return, and the only way is for Rock to become popular again.
Finally, are there any messages that the Gods of Metal wish to pass on to metalheads?
Stay true to Gospel of Rock, follow the paths of Metal, and always drink more beer than is sensible!