Pete Agnew of Nazareth Q&A: On His Band’s Dark, Heavy New Album ‘Surviving the Law’ & Beyond

Michael MascioniCategories:Featured ArticlesFeatures

Rock Cellar Magazine

For diehard Nazareth fans and those that are new to the band, there’s plenty to savor on the group’s new album Surviving the Law, which will be released on April 15. 

Not only do they deliver vintage Nazareth fare on the album, but they expand their repertoire with tunes like the atmospheric “Psycho Skies” and the shuffling “You Made Me,” adventurous tunes that may help draw new audiences to the band.

Throughout the record, Nazareth’s characteristic badass vibe remains, and it’s perhaps one of the band’s heaviest albums to date — correlating more in some ways with the hard-rock zeitgeist.

Whatever misgivings some Nazareth fans may have about the integrity of the Nazareth “brand” after the departure of vocalist Dan McCafferty should melt away with the ascendance of Carl Sentance as a powerhouse presence in the band. His high flying vocals and dynamic stage presence in the band reinforce his position as a top-flight rock front man.

Nazareth has all corners covered on the new record, too. The band sums up the world’s primal urge to break out of the COVID lockdown doom and gloom on “Waiting for the World to End,” which brings together some of the most blazing riffs you’ll ever hear. “Love Break” combines Nazareth’s trademark dynamics with thunderous AC/DC-styled riffs.   

“Runaway” is perfectly titled, as it’s a runaway freight train with the hard-driving sound Nazareth etched into posterity with classics like “Bad Bad Boy” and “Razamanaz.”  “Mind Bomb” can best be described as bone-crunching metal rumbling in a dark alley.

A book called Loud ‘N’ Proud:  Fifty Years of Nazareth, by Martin Popoff was published last year, marking a milestone in the band’s long career. Bassist/founding member Pete Agnew, as well as other current and past band members, were interviewed for the book.

Agnew also spoke with Rock Cellar regarding the band’s longevity, the new record and more.

Click here to pre-order Surviving the Law on CD from our Rock Cellar Store

Rock Cellar: Surviving the Law seems imbued with more of the classic Nazareth sound than your previous album, Tattooed on My Brain.  Would that be fair to say?

Pete Agnew:  The album does have a bit more of the Nazareth sound. It’s more of a band effort, as the band was more settled. But we try to make each album different and keep things interesting. I think the album is a bit heavier than Tattooed on My Brain, and has a darker vibe overall.

But it’s every bit as melodic and will still please those fans who like a “tuneful Nazareth.”

Rock Cellar:  The new album seems to offer a wider variety of music. Were you intent on expanding the range of sounds on the record?

Pete Agnew: Well, all of us wrote material for the album, and we all have our own individual writing styles. Then we give the songs a Nazareth treatment. The material will always be diverse.  Although most people couldn’t tell who wrote each song, I could recognize right away who wrote a particular song based on the song’s style.

Rock Cellar: Carl Sentence has had an increasingly strong presence in the band. Do you think he’s better accepted now from Nazareth fans?

Pete Agnew:  You could replace just about anyone in a band, and it wouldn’t matter much — but replacing a lead singer is very difficult. We were very lucky to get Carl. We didn’t want a Dan soundalike. 

Carl is just a great singer, but he certainly doesn’t sound like Dan. He’s established himself as himself.

It’s worked out wonderfully for us, everyone is complimentary about Carl. He’s an excellent singer and has been a great addition to the band. He’s given us a new lease on life, and is a really good front man. Our fans took to him from the start.

Rock Cellar: What new audiences are you drawing, particularly those that are less familiar with Nazareth’s older material?

Pete Agnew: We do attract a lot of young people. Some of them learn about us through younger rock bands that said they were influenced by us. We also draw a mixture of people when we play festivals in Europe. 

But our primary audience is classic rock fans of a certain age. We still draw many people in the 30+ or 40+ age range. The people I see in the front rows at our concerts never change — they’re the same people we’ve seen for many years.

Rock Cellar: You’re due to play a number of concerts in Europe this year. Do you have any plans to play in the US in the next few years?

Pete Agnew:  I was just talking to an agent about that. It’s too late to play in the US this year, you have to plan shows at least a year ahead. So we won’t be playing in the US until next year.  

You have to keep in mind that things haven’t gotten back to normal here in the UK. We still have many regulations due to COVID. We should have been playing now in St. Petersburg, Kiev, and Kharkiv, and we were planning on going on a full Russian tour, but that was obviously cancelled due to the war in Ukraine and its effects.

We won’t start to tour properly in Europe until the summer.

Rock Cellar: Do you plan to collaborate with Dan McCafferty on any upcoming music?

Pete Agnew: Dan actually lives near me, he lives in the next village. I don’t think he’s able to record now due to health issues. He’s pretty much retired from recording. I did sing on his solo album back in 2019, though.

Rock Cellar:  I understand you provided a lot of material and background for Martin Popoff’s book on Nazareth called Loud n’ Proud: Fifty Years of Nazareth. How accurately did the book portray the band’s history?

Pete Agnew: It’s not a real biography of the band. It’s not an in-depth history of the band, and it’s not meant to be. It’s mainly about our albums. It covers the basics, and it’s OK.

We don’t intend to do an autobiography of the band. If we did, it would be bigger and more in-depth.

Click here to pre-order Surviving the Law on CD from our Rock Cellar Store


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