Interview: Ferocious Dog

Friday 06 March 2015
reading time: min, words

Few Notts bands can say they’ve sold out Rescue Rooms and The Bodega, let alone boast a Glastonbury headliner (we’re talking Pyramid Stage too, not Jethro’s Lentil Yurt Stage). Ferocious Dog can. Hailing from Warsop, they released their debut album in 2013 and are set to release their second. We had a natter with fiddle player and co-songwriter, Dan Booth. 


You call yourself a folk band, but you definitely aren’t on the Mumford and Sons end of the folk spectrum. How would you describe your sound?
We're definitely folk-rooted but we’re high energy with hints of ska and punk thrown in. A German magazine recently called us ‘dissident folk’. We’d just call ourselves Ferocious Dog.

The band has been going in one form or another since the late eighties, yet you’ve become more active recently…
For years we played covers and then five years ago we decided to write our own songs and take things more seriously. Two years ago we released our debut album and we've never looked back.

Does Ken Bonsall (vocals/guitar) still work down the mine?
He left recently - the band has grown massively lately and it's a struggle to do tours and festivals while grafting down the pit on twelve hour shifts. Sometimes something's gotta give. We do feel part of the mining community, or what's left of it. It's our culture. We're proud of it and we're also proud to not be scabs. Although, this is all a long time ago.

You’re very autonomous - how do you find the balance between working and being in a popular touring band?
We’re super autonomous in the fact that we've paid for everything ourselves, from recording studio time to advertising. We've had no handouts from record labels and we're not rich so we've just pumped gig money back into the band to achieve goals. We'd never sign to a label so it suits us to do it this way. Work hard and achieve.

There are a couple of songs on your last album that deal with the suicide of a close family member. Were they tough songs to write?
The first song on the album is called The Glass and it was written for my brother, Ken’s son. Lee took his own life nearly three years ago. He'd been to Afghanistan with the army and as a consequence he suffered from PTSD. He was three weeks off his 25th birthday and I’d been his best man only seven months prior. It was horrific, but me and Ken (my stepdad) decided to write a song for Lee. We wrote it three months after his death.

Very few Notts bands can say that they’ve sold out both the Rescue Rooms and The Bodega, yet you’ve done both, and to very little fanfare…
We played Splendour in 2013 and I remember Mark Del from Nusic interviewing us before our set and quite rightly stating that we weren't quite hitting Nottingham just now. We went on to sell out the Rescue Rooms twice last year and then The Bodega this year in about twelve minutes. It's not about fanfare for us, we're just doing our thing and doing it quietly. The crowds are coming and the tickets are selling fast. People are obviously talking about us. We're just not spouting off about it.

Do you feel part of a particular scene - local or otherwise?
Yeah, we're part of a massive scene that’s just not talked about by modern media. But we're in it. People who know about it love it and it's national. You could class it as a folk scene but I'd hate for you to put Mumford and Sons in it with us. Look, ticket sales don't lie, you don't just sell out Rescue Rooms by accident, or The Bodega in twelve minutes by accident. We're playing Rock City on Saturday 28 November and we'll sell that out too. Come along and you'll see why we sell out venues.

Your music has a strong Celtic influence and you’ve played St Patrick Day shows. Are your fans generally people with a Celtic background or is your reach broader than that?
Our music has a lot of influences, not just Celtic. Me and Ken write the songs and we're influenced by bands such as The Levellers, New Model Army and The Pogues, but then we listen to Primal Scream and Bob Marley. I've just written a song for our second album and have added a score for an orchestra to finish it off - it’s epic. Like I said, we're Ferocious Dog. Our sound is unique and you'll recognise us a mile off, but we're not stuck in any genre.

Your gigs have been known to get quite rowdy…
They’re high energy, the crowd are always up for it. They know what they're there for, a good time. We don't worry about them, they're fine. They're moshing, not fighting. We always speak to venues and festivals and tell the security to leave them to it. It's about love, not violence. People who come to our gigs are like family to us. They call themselves ‘The Hell Hounds’. They have tattoos of our logo, they hug us at festivals and we all chat on Facebook and Twitter. If one of them is struggling to buy their kids presents at Christmas, we'll help them. Ferocious Dog isn't just a band, it's a family, a movement - and it’s growing.

Fruitbat from Carter USM is now a member of the band. How did that happen?
We did a few festivals that Carter USM did last year, it was their final year as a band and we were looking for a guitarist. One of our heroes said yes to joining us.

You are about to record your second album ready to be released in March. What can we expect from it and how different will it be to your first one?
It will be more polished and mature because we've learned a lot since the debut was released. It's also being produced by Matt Terry who did the first two albums by The Enemy, and the latest Ocean Colour Scene record. He's a top producer and we're really excited to work together. He knows us and we know him so the record will work.

How are the pre-orders for the album going and have you got enough to help fund the recording?
We've got a few thousand pre-orders via our website which is good because it's going to cost more than a few thousand to record. But it'll be worth every penny. We honestly believe it'll be one of the best albums released. The songs are ready. Matt is ready. We're off to his studio shortly to show you all.

Politics in some form or another are very important to the band. Will you be voting in May?
Yes. Any UKIP voters can stay away from our gigs. We love people, not skin colour haters.

Ferocious Dog play a sold-out gig at The Bodega on Saturday 7 March 2015. They headline Rock City on Saturday 28 November 2015 and will be releasing their second album in March that can be pre-ordered via the band’s website.

Ferocious Dog website

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