Scottish modern-rock outfit Anchor Lane released their debut album ‘Casino’ to great critical acclaim early last year. Unable to tour the album, because of you-know-what, the band have spent the subsequent time in lockdown honing their songwriting prowess in readiness for album number two. We spoke to Anchor Lane guitarist Lawrence O’Brien about ‘Casino’, the merits of a Fender Tele, as well as his own personal musical upbringing and memories. Check out the chat below and don’t forget to book your tickets for the upcoming online show ‘Anchor Lane Live At The Dreadnought’ which airs Saturday 1st May.
First off, what age were you when you first picked up the guitar?
I started when I was 6, on a £17 half-size classical guitar from Argos. It’s up the loft now, but what a beauty!
Did you take lessons, or were you self-taught?
My Dad is a guitar teacher so it’s all down to him. He started me off with stuff like the ‘Day Tripper’ riff and the chords to ‘Knocking On Heavens Door’. It wasn’t my own inclination initially – I had a real bad habit of biting my nails when I was young, so it would hurt, and I would only pretend to go upstairs and practice! However, we persevered, and by the time I was 12-14 years old I had got right into the rock and metal stuff and found myself practicing for hours on most days simply because I wanted to! Dad then said something to the effect of “You should go with your own flow now, but if you need help with it just let me know.”
How did you feel performing your first gig? And how was it?!
Well if we’re really going back then it was in Canmore Primary School’s staff room in front of Mrs. Taylor and my class when I was 9. I played “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” amongst a few others and remember cheesing unstoppably through the entire thing. That is my first vivid memory of getting that performance thrill that I still live for.
Live, you seem to favour a Fender Tele, what is it about a Tele that appeals to you the most?
How do I answer this without providing an essay? They’re remarkably diverse – whatever you fancy playing, any feeling of Rock, any feeling of Metal, or some Jazz, Funk, Blues, you name it and the Tele moulds itself to that sound. It’s so different from itself within the flicking of the pickup selector and the turning of the tone control as well. They’re also remarkably simple, so nothing ever really goes wrong! Beyond that, it simply always feels right for me, that’s why I haven’t bought another guitar since I got my Tele in 2015 – I haven’t found anything better!
You’re very prolific on social media with videos of you tackling famous guitar solos, what has been the hardest one so far, and is there one that you wouldn’t attempt? Hell, you tackled ‘Eruption’ so that makes you fearless!
Thank you! ‘Thunder & Lighting’ by Thin Lizzy (John Sykes) is unbelievably hard, his hands must just work in a different way! Also, the ‘Follow The Signs’ solo by Born Of Osiris is riiiidiculous, anyone who knows Jason Richardson will agree, that man is on another level! I learned ‘Neon’ by John Mayer to go over with a student and although I get the general gist, I can never nail it exactly how it should sound!
For you personally, what makes a great guitar solo?
One that is added to a great song with a stand-out melody and brilliant chord choice, and is there to serve the song, not just be there for the sake of itself. A great song will inspire a lead guitarist to come up with an emotional and creative addition without even trying too hard.
You briefly mention teaching and your students, how much enjoyment do you get from teaching guitar? It must be a buzz when a student nails it?!
Being a guitar teacher is awesome. It’s nice to spend time with people and see them enjoy it and get more and more confident as they go along. I do a lot of my lessons through learning songs and there’s a particular happiness people seem to have when they can fly through one of their favourites. I’m proud to say I’ve just passed my 100th lesson with my longest attending student, and there are a few others that aren’t far behind!
This is always a controversial question and can open up a real can of worms: most people can instantly name their favourite guitarist, but, is there a famous guitarist that you just don’t get? If it helps, in the past, this question has thrown up answers such as Brian May and John Frusciante!
Sure thing! I don’t really get Eric Clapton. He’s collaborated on a few good songs but I think a lot of his music is tearfully boring. What baffles me is that Jimi Hendrix was space ages ahead of him (and everyone else) and yet people still consider Eric Clapton as a viable contender? Preferring Eric over Jimi is like choosing a digestive biscuit over a Magnum. Same with Michael Angelo Batio, he’s fast but his technique is actually quite noisy and sloppy, why choose him when you’ve got players like Nuno Bettencourt or Paul Gilbert? Besides, he looks like a witch.
Nice! Now, over the years you have gained great live experience with your own band, Attica Rage, and now Anchor Lane; what particular memory sticks out the most for you?
I had a great time with Lawrence O’Brien Band, Attica Rage, and Anchor Lane so it’s quite hard to pin down an ultimate highlight but singing “Surrender” on stage with Cheap Trick after Anchor Lane supported them was hilarious yet terrifying. They asked us to join them just before they went on, and in case you missed it, we didn’t know the song besides the chorus! For the rest, we just jumped about and threw guitar picks then went back to the dressing room saying “What the hell just happened!”. Personally, I can’t believe it was the most people I’ve ever stood in front of and I didn’t even have my Telecaster to protect me.
‘Casino’, the debut Anchor Lane album, was released early 2020, have you revisited the album since? And is there anything that you would change about it now?
That’s right, my goodness, more than a year ago now! I wouldn’t change anything, that’s what we came up with at the time and I’m proud of it. However, we have changed as a band – in our music tastes and subsequently the sounds we want to make. Everything we are writing for Album 2 at the moment is an expansion upon Casino’s more modern rock side. Every song we write sounds different from the last and we’re just trying everything and seeing what comes out best. The main difference is we’ve been through the cycle before, so we know how it works for us and we know how to use our time a lot better than before.
How much of a help was it having Toby Jepson produce ‘Casino’?
Massively. Toby helped hone our sound. Despite being an ultimate fan of classic rock, he helped us become more of a modern rock band. He was a great outside source to come in and say “that’s good, that’s less good” and be straightforward about it but always be constructive as well. We still use some of his terminologies, and his approach has taught us a lot for writing again this time around.
What goes through your head in the run-up to releasing new music, especially a debut album? Are you excited? Nervous? – Both?!
It’s funny, because the music’s always written with the intention of it being heard as much as possible, but through the writing, the recording, and the pre-release period it’s the band’s little secret. So when it’s actually on the brink of release it’s like…holy crap people are actually going to hear this!
Anchor Lane have opened for some incredible bands; Tremonti, Eagles of Death Metal, Cheap Trick, but which band out there would you personally love Anchor Lane to open for?
It’s been a lot of fun. I think we’d all love a Queens Of The Stone Age slot, Nothing But Thieves, Foo Fighters, Rage Against The Machine, Highly Suspect. Tours with our friends in Wayward Sons and Black Star Riders would be awesome as well.
What can punters that tune in to the online gig from The Dreadnought expect?
They can expect to sing and clap along behind their computers, they can expect us to jump about simply because we’re on a stage again and they can expect to see our new drummer Graeme Newbury and think “Wow, he’s class!”.
On the subject of gigs, what was the last gig that you attended as a fan?
I went to see Lucia at King Tuts last March just before the first lockdown. The band rehearse a couple of doors along from Anchor Lane, so me and my girlfriend Laura went along to see them and they were fab! It was on a Thursday, and by Monday the country was in complete panic and the pandemic was in full flow.
What album do you have in your collection/Spotify playlist that would surprise most people?
I listen to lots of 90’s/00’s pop. It’s mainly singles but stuff like Girls Aloud, Gwen Stefani, Spice Girls, Ricky Martin, Sugababes, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake. All brilliantly crafted songs!
Although 2020 was a year to forget, there was some great music released; what would be your album of 2020?
It is undoubtedly ‘Post Human: Survival Horror’ by Bring Me The Horizon. I’ve never liked the band before this, but I’ve been listening to that album obsessively for the last 4 or 5 months. It just hits a sweet spot for me, using the intensity of metal, but combining it with melody, real lyrics, and a whole bunch of other fantastic sounds in a sonic collective that I’ve never heard the likes of before. They just got this one right!
Good choice! What are your plans for 2021 should COVID ever disappear?!
Gig like it’s going out of fashion and go to the shops without a mask.
How active are you on social media and where can people connect with you?
The online show ‘Anchor Lane Live At The Dreadnought’ will broadcast from 7pm BST on Saturday 1st May 2021! Filmed completely live in The Dreadnought venue in Bathgate, Scotland. Tickets will also allow ticket holders to watch the show as often as they like and in all global territories from the time of broadcast until 11pm BST on Sunday 9th May. Tickets, priced at £5, are available here.
Connect with Anchor Lane, here.