Interview with Nige Rockett of Onslaught

Interview with Nige Rockett of Onslaught

by Helias

Burst speed precision guitarist and founder of percussive thrash metal innovators Onslaught, Nige Rockett gave us his views on metal, art, an in-depth analysis of his 30 year thrash metal journey, the impetus behind Onslaught, today’s music industry, and how to stay steady on the death metal path in a time of confusion.

Onslaught band1 Hello Nige! I am very happy for this interview and greetings from Greece! First of all, how are you doing? And where are you checking in from today?

Hi Buddy, that’s cool.. I’m doing good thanks and yourself.?

I’m sat at home in a cold, wet place in the UK called ‘Bath’, it’s a beautiful Georgian city but the weather really sucks..! You are in UK folk! Hehehe! Well to start off, when you started Onslaught, could you have possibly imagined that 30 years later you’d still be together?

No, not in a million years, if somebody had told me that back then I would have laughed in their face.. the thing is we are enjoying it now more than ever and we feel we are making the best music of our career. How did you come up with the band name?

Straight out of the dictionary, hahaha… I remember sitting down very late one night and flicking through the dictionary starting at A looking for suitable words to match the music I was writing. It took a fuck long time to hit the letter O, but as soon as I seen the word ‘Onslaught’ with its meaning ‘Furious Attack’ I knew it was the perfect name for us.. A lot of bands are more respected in other countries than their homeland. How is Onslaught received in UK? I’m just asking as UK is not a country where thrash metal grew up.

The UK has been pretty good for us in all honesty, in the 80’s the Thrash scene in terms of fan base was incredible, not so many great bands but a lot of Thrash fans. Luckily for us in 2014 we’re still pulling decent crowds and selling a good amount of records here too, so no complaints from us..!

Onslaught-promo-666 Onslaught has been playing almost for the past 30 years. I’m sure you had many difficulties throughout this time… What makes you always keep pushing forward? 

Yeah things can sometimes be real tough, but when you get to play to so many amazing fans in such amazing countries, that really makes everything worthwhile and is massively inspiring for the band to move onwards and upwards. There’s still a lot of energy in the Onslaught tank and the hunger for success and the fire for making new music is still burning strong..!! Can you tell me a little more about the lyrics that you usually write. What’s the thing that inspires you?

On the first 2 albums my lyrics were in a kind of fictional, mythical based style, but when we made the 3rd record ‘In Search of Sanity’ I decided to take a fresh approach and write words with a more fact based vibe and Its something I have continued through on the 3 most recent albums. All the releases from ‘Killing Peace’ onwards have some very dark political undertones based around true historical events and there are a lot of lyrics that are personal to me also, particularly those that involve religion.. Every song I write now tells a true story and none of them are pretty..!! haha How important is it to you that people pay attention to your lyrics apart from listening to your music? 

Very important to me personally.. I probably spend more time writing lyrics than I do writing the music, they have to truly compliment and reflect the darkness of the song on every level.. I think, What’s the point in writing aggressive, insane music and then adding a load of cheesy and thoughtless words. guys have been playing the album THE FORCE in its entirety as a special set since the last two years to celebrate this landmark (25 years of the release). When you put this album out, did you have any idea how much this album could be so influential on thrash/death metal music?

No not at all…! To us It was just our second album, a big improvement from our debut ‘Power From Hell’ we thought, but we never dreamt it would become such an influential release.. Of course were real proud of the way the album has been received over the years and that’s why it still plays a huge part in our live setlist, it has a very dark energy. You have release your latest album, VI, Why did you decide to give that album title?

To be perfectly honest, none of the song titles contained within the album actually felt right as the man title for the new record, this is our sixth studio release so we decided on the simplicity of ‘VI’ considering its quite a relevant number in our history… But theres a little more thought to it than first meets the eye.. The 3 skulls on the sleeve all bare the number 6, subliminally reading 666 across the front cover..! So it kinda keeps everything nicely in line with the bands history without being too overtly satanic.

Onslaught cvoer Nige, why have you quit playing all of solos?

2 very good reasons..! One reason was that we had a long lay off for 14 years and for the last 10 of those years I never ever picked up a guitar.. So, when we came back in 2005 the priority was to get my rhythm playing back to where it was in 91, that was the most important and enjoyable aspect of being a guitarist for me.. I think I would have needed at least another year of very hard practice to become a proficient lead player once again and we just didn’t have that time. The other reason was that I never actually liked playing lead guitar live..!!! I was always tied to this big pedal board when all I wanted to do was thrash out with no worries and headbang away..!

Onslaght- Nige Rockett I am surely sure that you have a great feedback on the release of VI. Please tell us some words about its production.

The feed back has been amazing from press and fans alike so were really stoked about that of course, its probably the best response to any ‘Onslaught’ album we have made. It was actually a real easy album for us to make, myself and Andy did all the writing and pre-production in our own studio, where we also recorded all the final guitar and bass parts. We recorded the Drums and Vocals at small local studios with some real good engineers, before heading to Sweden to mix the record with ‘Thomas Plec Johansson’. This was where the real magic began, we obviously had a vision For ‘VI’ during the writing sessions but to actually hear ‘Plec’ bring all these ideas to life in the exact way we heard them was incredible.. He was an amazing guy to work with. What’s new does Onslaught bring by this upcoming release regarding the previous album? What’s the new thing on it?

We have turned up the aggression by several notches that’s for sure, I think the addition of drummer Michael Hourihan has made a huge difference to the overall Onslaught sound on ‘VI’. Having Mic in the band has allowed us to write much more intricate material than ever before.. We kept the music kinda old school in places but complimented it with very modern technical drumming, so Things are now constantly moving and building on the overall dynamics of the song every 4 to 8 bars, it keeps it very interesting What are the plans for the future after the release of VI?

Tour tour tour..! that’s what we always do after a new album release, we will take this tour all round the world and around again of the fans want it, haha..! Of course we also need to start thinking about the follow up record to ‘VI’ even at this early stage, its gonna be a tough album to follow but I’m real confident we can do it.. How did you get into playing music?

After leaving school, Me and the other founder member of Onslaught ‘Paul Hill’ used to follow our favourite bands all over the Uk to watch their shows.. It was such a buzz seeing all these awesome bands play live we asked ourselves the question ‘why aren’t we doing this ourselves..?’ so that’s what we did.. What’s your opinion on other kinds of music?

I love so many different kinds of music from Metal to Punk to Funk, as long as it has attitude then it works for me..

I really try hard not to listen to metal all the time especially when we are writing, as I don’t want to take in too many subliminal influences..

There are of course certain kinds of music I really can’t deal with such as Electronica, EMO and all this Pop Idol bullshit, that really gets to me..  Do you know any Greek metal acts? Is there any Greek metal bands that you really like or want to share the stage?

We’ve been longtime friends with Suicidal Angels who are a good band and great guys too, we’ve played a couple of recent festivals with Rotting Christ who seem to be doing well for themselves and of course we know Bio Cancer.. Greece has some very cool extreme bands indeed and definitely one of the best countries to come and play live shows..!

Onslaught2012 And now I would like to discuss about some deplorable events. We are in the end of 2013 and three big metal personas have passed away… Ronnie James Dio, Peter Steele and Paul Grey (SLIPKNOT) and finaly Jeff Hanneman (SLAYER) . Are the last 4 years the most depressing years of heavy metal?

Of course it’s a sad day when any person passes on, but even more so when its someone so influential and with so many creative years ahead of them.. The loss of Jeff Hanneman was particularly tragic and also personally upsetting, we were of a similar age, with similar attitudes and outlook and I happen to dig Slayer.. you think ‘fuck that could easily be me’ and it really makes you take a long hard look at your life and you realize how quickly it can all be taken away.. Slayer will never be the same without Jeff but I hope there is some of his material that can be used on the next album as a cool kind of tribute. Unfortunately these terrible passings are gonna become more frequent as the years go by. What do you think of today’s music industry in general?

Its in a pretty bad way I believe.. until people realize that its wrong to take an artists music and pay nothing for it then things are just going to get worse until the industry hits rock bottom.

Labels are no longer investing in band development like they did in the past and this means we will never see the likes of Metallica, AC/DC, Iron Maiden ever again, its sad because its virtually impossible for new young bands to make a breakthrough in this day and age. Is technology part of your life or are you still a “romantic”?

Yeah of course, we cannot afford to ignore technology in 2014.. With cd sales at an all time low for every band in the world right now, we need to be able to make great sounding records in the fastest time possible and that means utilizing every tool at our disposal..

I believe recording the way we do now allows us to truly capture the spontaneity of the moment, whereas that magic can sometimes be lost when you have to play a part a dozen times over on to old school tape.. I have beholden that heavy metal changes through the decades. Heavy and Thrash metal dominated over in 80’s, Death, Black and Power metal in 90’s and Metalcore and Nu Metal in the 00’s in general. 2010 was the beginning sign of the new decade. What do you see for the future?

I hate all the different genre bullshit, good metal is cool metal regardless and I think the festivals are beginning to break down the walls a little by really mixing up the line ups. Fans are kinda forced into listening to a variety of metal bands at festivals and we get so many people coming up after shows saying ‘I don’t like Thrash, but you guys were awesome’….. So the more bands that can get that reaction the barriers will slowly come down. I see this decade as a very crucial one for metal in general, I don’t see any middle ground, its either gonna grow and grow and its gonna implode completely.

Onslaught band If you could pick only one musician to work with, who would that be and why?

Hmmmn that’s a really tough question.. Johnny Rotten (Lydon) he has such a unique voice and his lyrics for the Sex Pistols were so full of anger and sarcasm, it would be so cool to hear him in an aggressive metal band..  Could you respond to the following terms in just one word or sentence:

Thrash metal:Rules..!!

Greece: Crazy, awesome people with amazing food..!! (writer’s note: pretty cool answer!!!)

Politics:Why do all governments get it so badly wrong..!

Black Sabbath:War Pigs Nige, thank you for this interview and for taking your time and accepting our request. I wish you and the rest guys of Onslaught all the best!!!

Its been a pleasure my friend and thank you so much for the interview, it’s very much appreciated.