Calvin Roffey - The Smoking Hearts - Interview Exclusive Print E-mail
Written by Gaz E   
Thursday, 09 December 2010 05:00




'Pride Of Nowhere', the debut full-length release from The Smoking Hearts, certainly shook a few foundations here at ÜRHQ upon its release way back in the formative months of 2010. Backing this truly great debut platter up with an incendiary liveshow, the band seemed to have the rock 'n' roll world at its feet. Then things started to go a little off-centre; the official album launch didn't happen and then, without warning, frontman Rod Lethal quit the band in somewhat bizarre circumstances.


I caught up with bassist Calvin Roffey recently and tried to get to the bottom of these nefarious anti-rock 'n' roll activities........ 



Let me begin by saying that it is great to have The Smoking Hearts back!

Thank you! It's great to be back. Getting back into our rehearsal room in George Street was an exciting moment for all of us.

'Pride Of Nowhere' is one of my favourite albums of 2010 and I was disappointed that you guys couldn't really exploit the obvious quality there - it must have been totally frustrating for you?

I'm glad you like it. We had a lot of fun writing and recording that album, and we had some great responses from the music press too. When we were recording the album, we'd browse through magazines and stuff (there can be a lot of time to kill when recording!) and we wondered if we'd even get listed in magazines for our record. Before we knew it, Rod's face was taking over an entire page of Rocksound. There's irony.

As for frustration. Gahhhh. Beyond frustrating. Having been no-ones slogging away for ages, trying to book our own shows, playing to five people and their dog wherever they'd have us, to suddenly having fifteen shows and a festival booked based upon positive feedback and decent live shows around the release of 'Pride Of Nowhere', and then to have it all snatched away smokingheartscdfrom us was heartbreaking. Two steps forward, one long road back, to quote our own lyrics. haha.

Even the planned album launch went totally wrong - explain exactly what happened......

Thanks for reminding me! April 8th 2010 was the day we were supposed to dazzle a gaggle of industry types at our album launch party at South Of The Border on Old Street, London. Everything was arranged, booking agents, music press, label reps... not to mention fans and friends that were heading down to catch us play. Even my parents were coming! We arrived at the venue, ready to load in, sometime around 5pm. Venue was having a power cut, as was half of Old Street. The power remained off until midnight. Gutted. So instead we phoned our friends in Aghast! (amazing death metal band) and went and got drunk at Big Red in Holloway. Ended up gcalvinint7etting thrown out of Aghast!'s house at 3am after our one man road crew Big T had thrown up over the washing up pile and passed out on the floor. Typical Smoking Hearts!

I saw the band live in Cardiff just prior to the album's release and, I have to say, it was a real eye-opener! A great night culminating in Nobba's headstock snapping off his guitar!
Yeah, that was my fault. Hahaha. Nobba leant backwards for his 'Thrash B4 Gash' solo, just as I leant forward. The guitar headstocks bashed, and let's just say mine won. That guitar has taken some bruising through the years. We got the wood glue out the next day and he played it the night after.

So, an excellent album released, a stormer of a live set......then vocalist Rod Lethal suddenly leaves the band - what exactly happened?

Well, that's the interesting thing. None of us really know. We'd done our initial album release shows, received great reviews and were all really excited to have more shows booked up. Even more so as we were booked for Boardmasters in Newquay. Then out of the blue we each received a text message that said "Alright lads, I'm quitting the band." No warning, no explanation, just that. And that was that. I tried phoning him, no answer. I tried calling his house, no answer. I text him back, no reply. We each went through this, and he never picked 1alivereviewup or got back to us. That was in June.

Have you really not heard from him since?

Nope. Not a word. We've been playing music together for six years, and been friends for years before that too. And now nothing.

What did you and the rest of the band do in the immediate aftermath of the split? Any serious thoughts of calling it a day?

Well. In the immediate aftermath, we tried desperately to not cancel shows. We tried firstly to find someone that would fill in for us. We asked Sean from The Ruined, but diary wouldn't permit as he was busy with The Ruined when we had shows. Our next plan was to play the shows as a four piece, with our guitarist Barker taking over vocal duties. This didn't work out great either, so we felt it best to cancel that to misrepresent ourselves.

As for calling it quits... I'd love to be confident and full of swagger and say that that thought never crossed our minds, but it simply wouldn't be true. There were some dark times. I remember talking to Nobba about it and neither of us knew what to do. It was like a break up with a girlfriend, but collectively. I got home from tour (I'd been away working as a bass technician for Bullet For My Valentine) and sat on my sofa, with Nobba and Sime (we live together). I remember we sat down together. At no point did we discuss splitticalvinint6ng up, but the thought was there. For me, it didn't make sense. We had a pile of new shirts, a pile of albums, and a bunch of new song ideas that I didn't want to see go to waste. What's more, we'd had such a positive response to 'Pride Of Nowhere' (an album that was written entirely by Nobba, Sime and myself, not Rod) that we just weren't ready to let go. We weren't ready to let one man ruin something that WE had created.

And now you have just announced the recruitment of a new vocalist, Ben Mills previously with Essex hardcore mob The Takeover - what drew you guys towards him and what will he bring to the band?

Ben's band The Takeover had opened for us at a show in London a couple of years previous. When we were going through people we knew or people we'd met trying to think of a possible replacement for Rod, we remembered that show. All I could really remember was that the first band on had a singer that was awesome. We couldn't remember the band name or what they'd sounded like. We had to go through our old show listings on Myspace to find out what the band was called. We trawled through until we found his band (do you know how many bands there are called The Takeover?!) and then sent him a message. We met up with him at the Sonisphere festival and hung out, and that was it pretty much. We didn't even audition him before giving him the job.



Things finally seem to be coming back together for The Smoking Hearts - new vocalist and also your live return later this month.....

Yes. We've been holed up in George Street rehearsing and writing together with Ben. I honestly feel like we haven't just replaced, but we've upgraded. The set is sounding great, a mixture of songs from 'Pride Of Nowhere', together with one or two new songs that we have written with Ben. Really excited to be advertising a show again too, nice that people are excited to see us play and that The Smoking Hearts are moving forward. Again!

What are the plans for the band's immediate future?

Well firstly, we want to reschedule all the shows we had to cancel in the summer, that is our number one priority. Secondly, we want to play shows everywhere else! We're gonna continue to work on our new songs and keep writing, with the aim of having an album out in the summer, but that is subject to soooooo much, as you can imagine. We really just want to get playing as much as we can through January and February, so if anyone wants to book us email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  and let's sort something out. We'll play in your bedroom, we really don't care!

You have to be excited about it all, right?!calvinint2

Its a future that I didn't think we'd have!

Before we tie this up, what's the story behind your apparent Faith No More obsession, fella?! A different FNM shirt in every pic and, if I'm not mistaken, a full sleeve based on the artwork for their 'King For A Day...Fool For A Lifetime' album.....

You are not mistaken. I'm not sure it's an obsession... maybe it is haha. I'm just a huge Faith No More fan. I remember hearing 'We Care A Lot' through my brother's bedroom wall at a very early age, and then when he showed me 1989's 'The Real Thing' it blew my very young mind. I was only 7 or 8 years old, but I remember just how awesome it was. I still feel that excitement when I hear it now, just fast, heavy music. It has melody and beauty with equal aggression. I don't know, I was hooked. I guess I never got unhooked. As FNM's career progressed, I think their song writing and delivery improved.

My King For A Day sleeve took 24 hours of tattooing time. I'd originally planned on getting a fairly small piece on my neck, but was talked around by my tattooist Jeff Ortega (Evil From The Needle) into making it bigger, and using my whole arm. I'm glad I listened to him because it has come out so good. I guess Faith No More was also one of my own personal reasons for not giving in with The Smoking Hearts. When Chuck Mosely parted ways with Faith No More, they went on to do their best work with Mike Patton. Who's to say The Smoking Hearts won't do the same with Ben Mills?! hahaha

Finally, question 13, the question to end all questions - Twisted Sister or Mr Mister?

Come on!!! Twisted Sister every time! You can't stop rock 'n' roll!!!

The Smoking Hearts will be making their live return on December 18th, at Club 85 in Hitchin.