Interview: Thom Denson of Kerouac on Holy Roar

By Ollie Connors

As the ever-influential Holy Roar Records reaches its tenth anniversary, we are delving into their history with a series of interviews and features. In this installment we chat to Thom Denson, formerly of Kerouac, about his experience with the label.

Hey Thom! First of all, tell us a bit about yourself; what you did and what you do now.

I used to play in the band Kerouac, providing vocals. Since then I’ve worked as a music publicist for the last 3 years.

Whilst Kerouac weren’t necessarily a part of Holy Roar’s “stable”, loads of stuff you did interlocked with the label. What impression did you have of HRR and has that changed at all since you started doing what you do now?

Well, to begin with, we were a Tangled Talk band, but when Alex caught wind of this he wanted to co-release our first record with Andrej (Presern, owner of Tangled Talk Records). We’d played a lot with Alex’s band Pariso so it made perfect sense to us and after being fans of the label for some time, we were honoured.

As with any time you become friendly with a person you were originally a fan of, it becomes hard to think objectively towards them and their work. Saying that, despite not always being the biggest fan of some of the records they put out, Holy Roar remain an immensely important imprint and one sure to thrive for years to come.

Kerouac were a big part of the “#UKSWELL” scene which involved a lot of Holy Roar bands and associates. Tell us a little bit more about that time.

I think too much gets attributed to that name – it was a joke and then a t-shirt and then a joke again – but the people involved were very good friends of ours, regardless of bands, we’d hang out often and we continue to do so. The name continues to be the butt of a lot of jokes.

Not only were you a key part of the “scene” but you also headlined its funeral, your last gig at the Old Blue Last. Tell us a bit more about your feelings of that day.

It’s hard to think about that day as I was in such a daze, the band was something we put so much into and knowing it was about to end left me feeling extremely disoriented. I could only watch a song or two of each band before having to leave due to the impending arrival of nerves.

When we played it was beautiful to be surrounded by so many friends. I had Mazz of Pariso and Alex Pennie of Goodtime Boys up there on stage with me as my personal techs as well as some of my best friends singing along in the crowd. We were very lucky.

Before you were in Kerouac, were you into Holy Roar stuff? How did you discover the label?

Yeah, being an underground music fan I was hip to all HRR’s stuff but perhaps surprisingly the releases that got me into the label to begin with were those of Cutting Pink With Knives and Rolo Tomassi. Very different to us and very different to who we played with but it goes to show HRR’s eclecticism is something that truly marks the label out.

2015 has been a stellar year for Holy Roar Records, as it has been for Brace Yourself [the PR company Thom works for]. How have you seen the past year and the progress you’ve made?

It’s been a heavy year but one I’m immensely proud of. I get to work with some of my heroes and have a personal connection with musicians I grew up idolising so it’s been an extremely humbling year.

Brace Yourself work mainly with bands on the “lighter” side of things, but do you still keep a check on Holy Roar’s stuff? If so, what have you enjoyed that they’ve released of late?

I think Svalbard are the most interesting and talented heavy band in the country. Power to them.

We’ve heard whispers on the grapevine that you might still be involved in musical projects – can you tell us any more?

There’s not much to say but yeah, we’ve all been making music again and we’ve got a couple of tracks recorded for a potential 7″ later on in the year. There’s no name as yet and not much to say but I’m really happy with the songs.

What would you say to someone who’d never heard of Holy Roar Records before, to sum the label up?

There’s no better place to start when looking for forward-thinking and progressive heavy music in the UK. Period.

Finally, is there any message you’d like to send to HRR on the big anniversary?

It’s probably not suitable for this forum.

Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]