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Amped Up: Revisiting Marshall's Ultimate Band Contest

Thursday, 10 October 2013 Written by Anna Ghislena

So you think you’ve got what it takes to be the next big thing? Want to get noticed by the big guys at the top? Well, for mainstream contenders The X Factor is one way of over exposing yourself in the most vulnerable manner possible. But if you are a hard-working, ambitious rock band, hungry for a little leverage, then the Marshall Ultimate Band Contest offers a more dignified approach.

In a quest to discover new talent on the heavy rock scene and propel the deserving winners on to “fame, fortune and world domination”, the Marshall Ultimate Band Contest whittles hundreds of entries down to just 25 bands for the consideration of an influential panel of judges. Five finalists must then battle it out live, in front of the panel and an audience at the Marshall Theatre, located at their headquarters in Milton Keynes.

The 2013 edition of the competition is charging towards its conclusion, with the final five set to be revealed on October 11 and the live show itself slated for November 23. Not only are there prizes awarded for Best Guitarist, Best Bassist, Best Drummer and Best Front Person, but also on offer are a Marshall endorsement deal, magazine features and a coveted slot at Download Festival.

With time ticking down, Stereoboard caught up with the finalists from 2012 to find out why taking part was so important and what they’re up to now. The bands are Milton Keynes’ Frantic Alice, Australia’s Deligma, Stoke-on-Trent’s Obey, Brighton’s Nakedium and the winner, Scotland’s States Of Panic (formerly Peepshow).

What have you been doing since gearing up to compete in the final?

States Of Panic: Since we won the competition last year we have been pretty busy. We have been working on our new album, ‘No World Order’, which we are going to be releasing towards the end of this year/start of next year. We have also been playing some awesome gigs up and down the country, including Download and Bloodstock, Trashfest in Finland and Hard Rock Hell at the end of the year.

Obey: We've done a music video for our track It’s All In Your Head off our new album, ‘Doom Laden’.  We've just signed a distribution deal with Casket Records to get ‘Doom Laden’ around the world. That's underway at the moment.  We've also had HXC Wrestling use one of our songs, The Afterburn, as their theme tune so that was pretty hench.

Deligma: Upon our return from the UK we have been in our rehearsal room four to five times a week working hard on material for our upcoming debut full length album. We have done a few shows in between this but our main focus has been on writing and making the new songs the best they can be.

Nakedium: We have taken a step back from the public eye recently but will be returning soon with a new album we've been working extremely hard on. A lot of the songs are sounding bigger as we will be introducing a second guitarist to the mix. Sonically we've never been stronger.

Frantic Alice: We've spent the last year recording and releasing our debut EP, touring the UK and spreading the Frantic message.

How important are competitions like Marshall UBC?

States Of Panic: They are very important, they give bands like ourselves some massive opportunities and push the bands to really work hard to win. It can be difficult these days to push yourself above the crowd and competitions like this really help.

Obey: The Marshall comp was great for us, a great experience. It gave us more exposure and we met a lot of great people through it like Steve Hill (Marshall) and Justin Manning (Zakk Wylde's ex-guitar tech and member of Crowned by Fire) to name a couple. And I, (Steve Pickin – Best Guitarist) got a custom cab with our band logo on it. So not bad! 

Deligma: A competition such as this, with the prize being a spot at Download Festival is a huge thing for any band to be involved in. This is a real prize with real benefits. For any band playing at Download would be an incredible experience, whether you are the headliner or the first band of the festival. The exposure is priceless, especially for a band outside of the UK.

Nakedium: Incredibly important - exposure to the industry and fans. During the lead up to last year’s competition we saw a huge increase in views on our promo video for Set Me Free.

Frantic Alice: Before the Marshall UBC we'd never really considered competitions to be very important but UBC totally changed our viewpoint. We made loads of new fans, befriended some amazing bands and played some great shows because of it.

What advice would you give to this year’s Marshall UBC five finalists?

States Of Panic: Enjoy yourself. It was an amazing experience in itself, just to get to visit the Marshall HQ and be surrounded by the legendary amps, as well as play on the stage and be looked after so well by the staff. Don't get too over pressured with the thoughts of winning, we went down fully expecting not to win and just gave the show our all and enjoyed ourselves and look what happened there.

Obey: Give it some, turn it up and do a little two step if you want, whatever works.

Deligma: Good sound check, make sure your changeovers are quick and efficient, introduce yourself to the crew running the event - promoters, front of house, techs. Be specific if you have any special requirements like in-ears, left handed drum kit. Mainly, though, just remember why you do it and have a great time up there.

Nakedium: Same as every show - warm up, don't piss off technicians and always keep your eye out for press. Everyone needs exposure, so grab it.

Frantic Alice: Just have a laugh on the night! Last year’s final was an absolutely mental gig.

Social media seems to be swamped with new bands trying to get noticed.  What do you consider to be the hardest part about starting out in a band these days?

States Of Panic: There are so many hurdles put against you when trying to make it in a band these days. It is so easy to start a band and make music with all the software available and the social networks, so there are thousands of bands to try and separate yourself from to be noticed. Most people will see a band on Facebook and if the bands aren't featured in magazines or being supported by a record label they won't pay attention at all.

Obey: The hardest part for us was winning the Surface Festival in 2011, playing on stages like the O2 Academy in Birmingham and the Millennium Dome in London - feeling like you've really made it and then coming back to Stoke afterwards! I think relying on anyone else other than yourselves to get the job done can be a hard part in this industry, you’ve just got to work hard and keep trying.

Deligma: The hardest part, before the first note is struck, is finding the right members for the band. People that are committed and want to do it properly and for the right reasons, then probably keeping it together is the next challenge.

Nakedium: Looking professional without any budget behind you. We're all expected to be models to grace the pages of Kerrang. I (Howard Rickard, guitarist) happen to be a designer, so producing an image helped our professional image for no cost bar time spent. Do consider some professional help - expensive design and photography doesn't feel so bad when split between four or five.

Frantic Alice: It's true that because of social media the scene for up and coming bands is becoming over saturated. But at the end of the day that just pushes you to work harder and better yourselves, which can't be a bad thing.

Preference - playing live or recording?

States Of Panic: I used to prefer recording much more than playing live because recording is when I'm in my element but over the last year and a half I've started to love gigging more and more. It’s an amazing way to let go and just lose control.

Obey: We all love playing live the most because it’s the buzz you get, of people hearing and being moved by your music. But recording is also great because it’s when you come up with the music and put it down. I am constantly recording rough demos at home for the lads to listen to as I am constantly writing songs. I don't practice guitar in a way, I just write songs and that’s how I progress.

Deligma: Both are rewarding in their own right but we would have to say playing live. You can't beat the energy and adrenaline you feel when you are up there playing your own music to people.

Nakedium: Live just has an energy that no studio will ever replicate. I dream of compromising and doing a live album. Energy and record to keep.

Frantic Alice: We love both, but there's nothing like touring and playing every night.

What forthcoming gigs/tours do you have lined up?

States Of Panic: Hardrock Hell in November. We will be down to Milton Keynes for the UBC this year and we are currently sorting out some more UK dates at the moment.

Obey: Ruby Lounge, Manchester, October 26 and The Rigger, Newcastle, November 9.

Deligma: We are wholly concentrating on getting our debut album completed. Once it's out we will be touring extensively playing as many places as we can.

Nakedium: Nothing until the albums finished - I'll have to keep you posted for the launch party.

Frantic Alice: We've just finished our September UK tour and are taking the next month or two to write some new material, film a couple of music videos and plan our next single release, we'll back on the road in early December though.

Main image: Dom Bower Photography​





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