Monster Truck was in town, so whenever you have a chance to meet up with Jeremy Widerman, Monster Truck’s lead guitar player, you do. Joost Wijdeven met Jeremy in Monster Truck’s dressing room next to the intimate theater stage of the Melkweg, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Monster Truck will play a sold out show later that evening.
Jon Harvey (lead singer and bassplayer of Monster Truck) and guitar player Jeremy Widerman thought about starting a really heavy riffing band like Grand Funk Railroad for a couple of years. It never happened because both Jon and Jeremy were involved in other bands at the time. Then one night, both attended a party when they got very drunk. Jon and Jeremy were laughing about drummer Steve’s very big van, called Monster Truck. Jeremy said ‘Monster Truck’ would be a great name for the band they envisioned. Jon and Jeremy asked Steve to be the drummer of the band and Monster Truck was born. Jeremy doubted that it would last being that drunk, but next Monday the band had their first rehearsal.
The name Monster Truck proved to be a great name for the band. People instantly get the idea about the type of music Monster Truck brings.
At first the band started as a bar band, playing a few gigs per month for free drinks, just having fun and getting drunk. The band came to a point at where they had to decide whether to continue like that, having great fun or try to take it worldwide. They chose the latter and now Monster Truck has grown into a serious business, complete with employees, schedules and bottom lines. Still Jeremy doesn’t regret the decision to pursue worldwide success. This was always his goal, but with his earlier bands he failed. “At the moment i stopped making it my goal it became reality though. This was a lesson in not trying too hard but focus on what you want to get out of the band. That translates in to other people in return. It also tells us not to worry too much about what other people think.”
Jeremy had lots of different jobs before Monster Truck really took off, ranging from making sandwiches to manual labour, to office work. “I went to the school for graphic design and the band takes pride in making the band’s artwork themselves. The band likes the idea that people opening the cd and see ‘Inlay and artwork by Monster Truck’.” Jeremy at least liked that when he grew up.
Monster Truck originates from Hamilton, Ontario, a real working class city near Toronto, Canada. When Jeremy grew up there was a lot of industry, but this has all gone out of business. Lately there has been a rejuvenation with arts, culture food and nightlife. “In a sense the city evolved with the band, the audience and the scene grew along with Monster Truck”, Jeremy explains, “The big advantage of Hamilton is that it is near Toronto, which allowed Monster Truck to launch themselves as a band of from Toronto without paying the big city bucks to live there. It’s like launching a band from New York city while living in New Jersey. The influence of being from Hamilton is very subtle and indirect. It forms you as a person, but you can’t say that’s why Monster Truck makes the music it makes.”
“Canada has more than its fair share of rock bands, but the scene in Canada is small, and very scattered. The country is so large, it is very hard to reach the audience”, he tells about the struggle for attention, “Most of the successful artists left Canada and many of the bands in the Canadian rock scene are unified by the struggle to make it outside of Canada.”
Monster Truck’s music is used in numerous movies and games. Jeremy is a big gamer himself. In fact the first score in a game was a result of Jeremy telling the record company to go after it. This was a hockey game which he played since he was 13. “Performing in games is great, because it gives you great exposure outside your own fanbase.” Recently they signed a deal with NASCAR to use Monster Truck’s songs in the NASCAR games in the US. The US has been a difficult market for the band so this helps enormously. There is also decent money in performing in games and movies. “It’s almost like doing work without the work”.
Monster Truck is a manifestation of rock ‘n roll, being a mix of modern and classic.
Monster Truck’s music can simply be described as rock ‘n roll. “A lot of bands say that they play rock ‘n roll, but only a few really know what rock ‘n roll is”, Jeremy said, “The band thinks everything from the Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, the Beatles, Grand Funk Railroad, Rage Against the Machine, Soundgarden and Black Sabbath is rock ‘n roll, we listen to it and it take it into account in their music.”
Lately Jeremy got inspired by Agnes Obel, really quiet ambient piano music. “The inspiration doesn’t directly influence my music, but more emotionally and spiritually.” Another big inspiration for Monster Truck was Grand Funk Railroad, especially Mark Farner’s guitar.
The band is proud of ‘Sittin’ Heavy’. Especially Jeremy is proud of the fact that they were able to keep all the good stuff that made the first album great and add some new stuff. “The first album was the result of the desire of getting one great album out. But as soon as that was done we started thinking of a second album”, he explaines, “After the recordings were completed, I really liked the new album, but from recording to the actual release is such a long time that one gets doubts: “Is it good enough?“ So it is a great relieve that the fans are so enthusiastic and that the band can tour and visit great places like Amsterdam.” Monster Truck already started working on a third album. “It’s about not letting the fans down.”
‘For the People’ is one of ‘Sittin’ Heavy’s’ most remarkable songs. It was the last song that was recorded for ‘Sittin’ Heavy’, Jeremy had written it, but the rest of the band had their doubts about the song, mainly about the slight country feeling. During the tour with NickelBack in Australia Jeremy worked on it for days to make it better. “Once the rest of the band got more comfortable with it, we recorded ‘For the People’ within a day. Now it is one of the most favorite songs on Monster Truck’s setlist.”
The first songs on ‘Sittin’ Heavy’ sound like the manifesto of the band with lines like ‘Rock ‘n roll might save your life’ and ‘Ain’t nobody gonna tell me how to live’. “These lines are true, however they are also a bit tongue-in-cheak and shouldn’t be taken too serious.” If Monster Truck could choose any person in music to work with, Jeremy would not hesitate for one second and pick Mutt Lange. “So he could ruin our lives for a year and we would make the best record ever. I think Mutt would even like our music. But I guess that will never happen.”
Monster Truck on tour
Monster Truck’s tour to support ‘Sittin’ Heavy’ just kicked off. The band played shows in Canada and Germany and the response from the fans was great. Monster Truck has a standard set list, allowing the band to be comfortable with the songs. The band is kind of rigid with playing their songs. “The songs are written in a specific order and are created purposeful. So the band plays the songs that way without too much jamming and altering during their live shows.” Jeremy refuses to let the recent terrorist threats in Europe to be a concern. He is more scared in the US than in Europe. “I think there is far more to be afraid of over there than there is here. Everybody has a fucking gun over there!” He expects to be more on edge on the coming US tour than during the current European tour.
This year’s touring schedule for Monster Truck is extremely extensive. Until the summer they tour the world to promote the new album and right after that Monster Truck will support Nickelback on their world tour. The band has never done such extensive touring, so they don’t know yet how to survive. Jeremy isn’t worried too much about the Nickelback tour. “On that tour we travel in a big bus, we can use Nickelback’s catering, they lend us their guitartechs. This all makes life much easier than touring in a small van and sleeping in shitty hotels. On this club tour we also travel in a big bus, costs us a lot of money, but we play better. The record company and the venues in Europe take good care of us, even when we arrive in the morning, there’s always fresh fruit, cheeses and coffee available. They don’t do that in the US and Canada.”, Jeremy compliments Europe.
Monster Truck has supported a number of very famous bands in heavy music, like Deep Purple, Alice in Chains and Slash. During these tours it has been really encouraging that established artists like that have been so grounded and supportive for upcoming artists. Alice in Chains for instance invited the band to join them on the golf course. Slash and Myles Kennedy turned out to be truly concerned for the wellbeing of the band. Monster Truck shared stage with Guns ‘n’ Roses, and the show in Quebec turned out to be their largest show ever, in front of 40 000 people, which in itself was mindblowing.
Especially the shows with Alice in Chains were sometimes pretty akward. Playing in a casino, half the room had free tickets, showed up late and had no interest in new music. Sometimes they were even not very excited to see Alice in Chains. “It’s the band’s job to make the audience care, it’s all part of the process for an upcoming band. In Europe the vibe is completely different, people tend to be interested in new music everywhere. That’s part of the reason that the band likes playing in Europe so much.”
The future of Monster Truck
2016 is a heavy touring year for Monster Truck. Plans for next year are still pretty vague. However, a European tour will be definitely on the agenda and possibly another new record. The band already started writing new songs, all recorded on phones during the current tour. With a lot of work done writing new songs on the road, the recording of a new album will take much less time than recording the last.
Monster Truck is both a recording and a live band. However, up to now the band sounds better alive, which is the safer position. Monster Truck will try to close that gap on the new album, recording most of the songs playing live as a band in the studio.
Right now there is not much life outside of Monster Truck. During the summer there is some time for barbequing and meeting up with family and friends. But other than that it is just hard work. Jeremy wants to be an outdoors person, however he seems to be unable to get off the couch. The other guys in the band are better at that.
Jeremy opts for a slow but steady growth of the band, taking it one step at the time. “The band has come so far, much further than they ever dreamt of when they started the band. With appearances at FortaRock in The Netherlands and Graspop in Belgium this summer the breakthrough in Western-Europa can come fast. Next tour might even lead to the Paradiso.”, Jeremy hopes for.