I feel like there’s a superhero element to anyone who goes under an assumed name to record. When David Jones, for example, turned into David Bowie and then turned into Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, and then the Thin White Duke, he wasn’t just putting on a show. He was showing us how to transcend the humdrum world of our quotidian lives if—how to be heroes, as the song goes, if just for today. Perhaps in the same vein, Joe Bickerton of Hampton, UK, has transformed himself into Asgard Raven, whose super-heroic adventurous nature is reflected in the cover art for his first two singles: a lone figure on a motorcycle on “Until Another Day” and a skydiver jumping from a plane on “Rollercoaster.” Who is the man behind the persona? I dropped him a line to find out…

The name Asgard Raven is incredibly evocative. I’m thinking about Norse mythology as well as the famous poem by Edgar Allen Poe. What does the name mean to you?

Spot on with Norse mythology! People used to talk about the fallen going to Valhalla when I was in the Army, and one of my best friends was killed in Afghanistan which was what my debut song was about, so Asgard Raven kinda came out of all that really.

I’m thinking, too, about other artists who have gone by stage names. David Bowie, of course, and Elvis Costello, for example. Or, to be a shade more contemporary, Lady Gaga. I’ve always wondered how artists who adopt stage names navigate between different identities. In your mind what’s the relationship between Asgard Raven and Joe Bickerton? How far apart are they in terms lifestyle and worldview?

We’re actually pretty much the same to be honest! I’m an adventurous person, but I also have roots in my influences, varied though they are. Both the name and the songs come from the heart. Besides, I wanted to have a name for the band not just me as a solo artist – I could never play these songs on my own!

To put it another way—and I promise this is the last question about your name—do you feel like you become someone else when you go from being Joe Bickerton to Asgard Raven?

Perhaps having the confidence to put myself out there in the public eye, laying my heart out for all to see and opening myself and my songs up for criticism and negativity is easier under a stage name. Luckily most feedback I’ve had so far is incredibly positive, so that builds confidence too.

Moving in the direction of your music, I’m curious about the cover art on your first two singles. Is that you riding the motorcycle and jumping out of the plane?

Yes, the cover art is actually me on my Harley and jumping from a plane, and there’s more like that to come!

How do those images speak to the themes in your music?

I think rock music in particular has had a long association with people who push the boundaries, ride bikes etc, which I can really identify with. Some of my songs are inspired by the things I do and the people I’ve met doing them (like Daz who I met through skydiving in the Army), so I decided to use images that mean something to me and relate to the songs rather than less connected pictures where possible.

I understand that you learned to play guitar while serving in the Army. Can you say a little bit about that?

That’s right, I was stationed abroad and there wasn’t much on the radio that I liked, so I thought “maybe I can do better?” I got a mate to teach me a few chords and then bought a cheap guitar and some song books and learned from there, and gradually started writing my own stuff. It’s only now I’ve started recording some of the tunes I’ve written!

I love the bluesy riff that undergirds “Until Another Day.” To me, it’s evocative of Morrissey’s “Glamorous Glue.” I’m also hearing strong overtones of Oasis on “Rollercoaster.” Who are some of you musical influences?

There’s no denying it, Oasis are one of my biggest influences, along with a number of other 90s rock bands. There’s also the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Embrace, Puddle of Mudd, blues music, lots of 60s and 70s stuff too! Anything with guitars in it to be honest.

Lyrically, “Until Another Day” walks a fine line between what might be considered an upbeat summer song about friends spending summer days together and the tragic twists and turns that life can take. What’s the story there?

Yeah the song certainly has its ups and downs, and centers on how things we take for granted can change so quickly. This song is about losing my friend, Daz Gardiner, who as I said earlier was killed in Afghan. We used to skydive on the same team hence the references to flying around the skies in those awesome summers, happy memories underscored by the tragic loss.

In “Rollercoaster,” I love the observation that there are “many reasons not to try” to live life to the fullest—within a song about living life to the fullest. Why mention the reasons not to try? And how does acknowledging those reasons fit into the larger point you’re making?

I guess what I’m getting at is that we all have goals and ambitions, things we’d love to do, but we often allow things to get in the way, excuses that stop us doing them. If we focus and work hard on the things we really want in life we can often achieve them, but this acknowledges that to succeed we have to overcome all of those reasons not to even try. Releasing music is a great example – there are plenty of reasons not to bother when there’s so much out there you’ll never get heard, and yet some people still try and some even succeed in being heard! It’s never too late!

I know that you’re currently working on an album. What has that process been like?

I’ve really enjoyed the creative process, taking songs from demo to finished product is incredibly satisfying. When I started out last year I had a couple of tunes and no real idea where I wanted to go with it, and that has developed into a full album’s worth of tracks – most written since I started recording. My producer Marc Burford has been instrumental in bringing my ideas to life, and also plays and sings on most of the records too – it’s been awesome working with him to realise a lifelong dream!

Any other plans for the future?

We’ve now got eight songs almost finished, two of which have been released, so getting the last few recorded is my primary focus – that and trying to promote the releases! The album may yet end up being more of a series of singles, as that approach may be more suitable for me until we build a bigger fan base.

Alongside that we’re looking at building the band up, and maybe doing some gigs later in the year, watch this space!

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!

Interview by Marc Schuster