Million Dollar Reload

The 'meat and potatoes' metal band diss AU magazine, cosy up to Guns 'n' Roses and make a pilgrimage to metal Mecca Castle Donington

If Million Dollar Reload were called 'Ten Cent Shimmer' and played a florid brand of indie rock you would have heard of them by now. But this meat-and-potatoes metal band are relatively unknown outside hard rock circles, despite one of the most impressive CVs in Northern Irish music.

The County Tyrone five-piece have played at the Download festival, toured America, had their debut album released by a UK label and were hand-picked to support Alice Cooper. Yet lead singer Phil Conalane feels that the Northern Irish media has consistently ignored them in favour of artists with a fraction of their success.

‘Northern Ireland is definitely more interested in indie music. You just have to look at AU magazine. They told us they didn’t feel we were conducive to their readers, hence they have never written a single thing about us – even though we have outsold, toured more and achieved more than the indie bands they continue to waffle on about. It seems that anyone who owns a Telecaster, doesn’t shave for a few weeks, wears a cardigan and mumbles some incoherent lyrics will get coverage in the local press.’

The frontman is fighting his corner after a triumphant summer that saw Million Dollar Reload perform at Download, in heavy metal’s spiritual home of Castle Donington. The Dungannon-based quintet – featuring drummer Davy Cassa, bassist Kie McMurray and guitarists Andy Mack and Bam – shared the bill with Def Leppard, Whitesnake, ZZ Top and Journey.

‘It was probably the most surreal experience we’ve had,’ laughs Conalane. ‘It’s only when you play something of that magnitude that you appreciate the fans. The first 10 rows seemed to know every lyric, which was totally crazy.

'Hanging out backstage with Buckcherry and Papa Roach was really great. Andy and Bam watched Steel Panther’s set from side-stage. We have a great manager, an English guy who used to work with Metallica and Bon Jovi, who dealt with getting us on the Download bill.’

Since forming in 2005, Million Dollar Reload have also opened for Thin Lizzy, Black Label Society, the Wildhearts, Terrorvision, Tyketto, Blaze Bayley and Warrior Soul. They even appeared as the backing band for original Guns 'n’ Roses drummer Steven Adler when he performed in Belfast and Dublin.

‘That was a chaotic, crazy, unpredictable experience,’ recalls Conalane. ‘Steven is a really sweet guy but he gets a lot of bad press. Of course, he told us a few stories from his Guns 'n’ Roses days, which was great, but the gigs themselves were unreal.’

Anthems of a DegenerationThe Guns 'n’ Roses connection continued in 2008 with a rumour that Conalane was in the frame to replace Scott Weiland in Velvet Revolver, the supergroup formed by ex-G'n’R members Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum.

Classic Rock magazine said they had a source, but it was just a rumour,’ says Conalane, who earlier in his career had been an Axl Rose impersonator in a tribute band. ‘It was a story that took on a life of its own on the internet, and I was as surprised as anyone to hear about it – flattered, but surprised.’

Vocally, Conalane says he is inspired by Bon Scott and the aforementioned Mr Rose, while the band take their cues from Aerosmith, Skid Row and AC/DC.

What Million Dollar Reload may lack in originality (AC/DC beat them to the song-title ‘Fire Your Guns’, for instance), they make up for in attitude, energy and power. Their debut album, Anthems of a Degeneration – recorded at Manor Park in Moneyglass for a few thousand quid and released on independent label Lime Records – is easily as strong as DC's Black Ice or Guns 'n' Roses' Chinese Democracy.

Still, they’ve had plenty of time to practice their chops. With most of the members well into their 20s – and a couple in their 30s – they are more grounded than many of the fledgling musicians they run into on the road. ‘If we were younger, we might not have been able to appreciate or deal with some of the stuff that has happened to us recently,’ comments Conalane. ‘When you’re in your early 20s, you really don’t care about anything except alcohol and girls, and the music always suffers because of it.’

As for the future, the hard-working rockers intend to keep on keeping on. ‘Music is music,’ says Conalane. ‘If you get what we’re doing, that’s cool. If you don’t, that’s OK too. We just happen to play rock ‘n’ roll and that’s our passion. It also happens to be a passion for millions around the world.’

Despite the high-profile gigs in far-flung locales, the vocalist promises that Million Dollar Reload won’t forget their roots: ‘Playing the likes of Lavery’s, the Empire or the Pavilion is something we love to do and will always do – no matter what.’

Andrew Johnston

Million Dollar Reload perform at the Diamond Bar, Ahoghill, on September 12. Visit their MySpace page for more information.