The long time British death metal squad Benediction have travelled a long road since the early days of the catacombs of the underground and enjoyed success in the heyday of death metal in the early 90’s. Surviving through some rough years and member changes, Benediction have been able to stay loyal to the roots of what Benediction is known for. The latest output KILLING MUSIC once again presents the true classic Benediction style with skullbreaking death metal riffs. It was about time to have an interview with bassist Frank Healy telling more about the new album and touring life as well.
How’s it going there and what’s up in the Benediction camp at the moment?
We are all fine thank you. Just gearing up to get the next album started, then a tour of the Balkans in April and then a few select festivals.
LIFE ON THE ROAD
Benediction recently toured with the legendary Holy Moses, mainly crisscrossing Central Europe. Is Central Europe the strongest area for a band like Benediction or did you find it more a logistically cheaper and even wiser to tour in Central Europe, not trying more unknown and uncertain places seen from the side of Benediction ?
We will play anywhere in the world ! It was a tour that was offered us and problems like visas were not needed to be addressed for the European tour. It seems to take forever to gain a visa to certain countries in the world when all we are is a bunch of musicians just wanting to play our music. You would not believe the information and money the countries want just to gain admittance for a concert. Fuckers !!!
Where is the strongest support for Benediction in Europe ?!
I suppose what was the old eastern Europe. Bulgaria seems to be quite fanatical about us which is cool. We get massive audiences there every time. We seem to do well all over the world really.
Frankly I haven’t seen the name of Benediction that much or often in line-ups of several European metal festivals which are arranged in every village nowadays. Hmm do you basically select which festivals fit to Benediction and which other bands have been booked there, or how do you usually pick up these festival gigs ?
We do pick what festivals we play nowadays as logistically and financially some of the festivals offered to us would put us massively out of pocket and as much as we like to reach everyone with our music we do not feel we should have to pay to play !!
Do you however prefer playing in small clubs in front of insane raging audience ?
We will play to any size audience, be it 5 people or 5000.it makes no odds to us. If one person pays then they are entitled to see a full Benediction show which we have always delivered on over the years.
I can’t help asking as you also toured with Death, about ten years ago. What kind of memories do you still have from that tour !? You were long time friends with Chuck Schuldiner ?!
We get asked this question a lot ! the problem being is the answer is pretty boring !!!.Chuck was a living legend of the scene when he was around and that did not sit comfortably with him at all. All he wanted to do was make music and entertain the fans. He was extremely shy in public as well. Some people and magazines construed this as arrogence but all he was fucking shy. We treated him like we treated our own, No special privileges or pussy footing around him. We stormed on to the tour bus, demanded he tell us where the cd player was, threw some 80’s metal on and started headbanging. He loved the Benediction attitude and we just all became mates. that is why he asked us to go out with Death a second time because we all had so much fun together on the first tour. A good friend and still missed by us all.
Which other tours have been the great ones ?!
You would have to ask a fan that not us. Every tour we have done has been great for us from a gig point of view. the “Transcend The Rubicon” tour was a bit of a highlight though as was the “Nuclear Blast festivals” tour in 1995 but as a rule all the tours we have ever done have had highs and lows.
"HOME TAPING IS KILLING MUSIC"
The new Benediction album is the eighth one in a row. Are you kind of flattered as well as surprised that you are still around kicking ass as brutal and tight as almost 20 years ago ? Did you believe back in the day when doing the first tapes in a cellar that Benediction would release the eighth album in 2008 ?
7th actually but never mind !!! (7 albums and 2 ep’s).and yes we are surprised !!!.We never really thought about how long we would last. It is still fun to us to get out there and make music but 20 years ? Never thought we would still be of interest to anyone this far down the line. We are still passionate about what we do which is usually the reason a band packs it in, When the fire goes out so to speak. We are glad to still be doing it and also thankful to everybody enabling us to still do it.
There is pretty long break between ORGANIZED CHAOS and KILLING MUSIC, I can’t help asking what the basic reasons for having such a long break ?
Five years of touring, one and a half years of festivals and writing and recording killing music. Went quickly !!!! We never even noticed the gap really until everybody started pointing it out. We only do things when we feel like doing them. We have no timescale to anything we do and do not put the pressure of that sort of thing upon ourselves.
Did you however work on these new songs for KILLING MUSIC during these sabbatical years or did you instead start writing and putting ideas together for example a year before in your rehearsal room before entering to record the material ?!
We all have home recording studios that we have been writing and composing on over the years. We got together and went through all of what we had, chopped, changed and joined things and ended up with 40 odds songs !!!! We recorded 22 of them and KILLING MUSIC is what came from those remaining songs. Not much rehearsing was done for the album as we wanted a rough and live feel to them. we recorded it in 10 days, mixed it in 7 and then had it delivered to our label before the month was out !!!!.
As for the title of the album, obviously this has been asked before, but however where did you come up that idea and does it have some kind of connection to your music ??!
The nucleus of the title came from the back of a Venom album (BLACK METAL) where there was a quote “Home taping is killing music, so are Venom !!!”. I also got to thinking about when we all used to trade tapes in the early days and the record industry was saying that home taping was killing music yet here we all are still killing music 20 years down the line and music still seems as strong as ever !!! The music business just wants your money !!!
What’s was the point of having so many guests on the album ?! And How did you manage to get them like Karl Willets (BOLT THROWER), Kelly Shaefer (ATHEIST), Billy Gould (ex-FAITH NO MORE), The Fog (FROST), Markus Staiger (Nuclear Blast Records owner) and Thorsten Zahn from Metal Hammer Germany ?
What was the point ? There was no point ? At the end of every album we do we have a jam and relax and get a few friends in on the act just to have some fun and see what comes from it. It is not a marketing thing with us, it is just meeting up and having a bit of a blast with some friends. I also think it is a point of interest to the fan to hear a different voice on a Benediction album. How did we manage to get them ? We phoned them up and that was it. You phone up friends and invite them around to your place yes ? Well that’s all we did really, but there were guitars and microphones involved as well.
Benediction have always sounded uncompromising, but brutal and raw thru these years as the soundworld what Benediction stands for is kind of easy to recognize. Obviously the soundworld of Benediction has these identifiable elements combined together from extreme/death metal and punk stuff ?
We just do what we do.a bit of a cop out answer but we do not think too much about what style to write in. We wear our influences on our sleeves and since most of us grew up around the punk and metal scene those influences are going to seep into our writing. Every body else seems to point all these things out but we just write songs that come out with the Benediction style whatever.
BEING ON NUCLEAR SINCE THE BEGINNING
Benediction have been on Nuclear Blast since 1990 when the mighty debut album saw the light of day. Well let’s the time capsule to return back in time, how did you after all land on Nuclear Blast back then ?
Back then Mick Harris (Napalm Death drummer) was a good friend of the band and liked what he heard. Benediction went and recorded a demo with Mick at the desk and recorded the 4 track demo “THE DREAMS YOU DREAD” Mick then sent it to Markus Staiger of Nuclear Blast and here we are 20 years later !!!
Is the bond between you and Nuclear Blast as strong as in the early 90’s/late 80’s or has it ever crossed your mind to pull out and get to another label ?
No. We are still as strong a team as we have ever been. neither side has had any reason to part from the other. We started together and we will see out the end of our days with Nuclear Blast. They have been incredibly supportive of us from day one and have always treated Benediction very well. We are a family.
Are you kind of surprised to see how huge Nuclear Blast has become during the last two decades when they started out as a small underground extreme mainly death metal label almost 20 years ago ?!
Not really. We have known Markus from the very beginning and if you knew how hard he worked to get the label to where it is today you would not be surprised either. He is still as passionate about music today as when he was a one man operation in his parents attic. Every penny he has made has been worked hard for.
Is there some bands on Blast that you might like ?!
Lots. Too many to mention.
FLASH TO THE PAST AND BACK
As far as I know, if I am not totally mistaken you Frank and the former drummer Paul Brookes were involved in Sacrilege. Well the whole decade has had a plenty of all kinds of reunions and comebacks. Have you ever speculated about putting Sacrilege back together for a few selected gigs ?
There will not be a Sacrilege reunion. It was loosely talked about but due to private matters I cannot really see the band reforming. A lot of people want it but I just do not see it happening. We were never a prolific band when we were together so it would be a bit of a nightmare to do it all again this late in our years. !!!! So from a personal point of view, No.
As for drummer Neil Hutton, he departed the band for a while and now returned back to the fold. Did he simply pull out of the band activity to charge his batteries or what were the basic reasons for his absence ?
Neil just wanted to do a different style of music back then. He joined Stampin’ Ground but now he is back where he belongs !!!
Thru these years you have undergone at least a few line-up changes, some of them has been more dramatical and some of them less dramatical, how have you been able to cope with those changes ?! Have you ever considered quitting the band ?!
All of us have felt like quitting at some time. This is like a marriage. You go through highs and lows, but if you are strong enough you will pull through. There have been absences at times but the five of us here and now seem to do best when we are all together. any other line up changes that have not resulted in the 5 people here now has not affected us !!!
I have noticed that Nick Barker seems to pop up in several interviews, are you kind of fed up with questions dealing Barker’s link to Benediction, cos it is commonly misunderstood… Hmm could you explain this confusion ?!
Fed up ? Not at all. Nick is a close friend of the band. The situation was that he joined Benediction and we started writing together and did a few gigs. He then got a call from Testament asking if he could help out on a few shows. He asked us first what we thought and we told him to go for it. Testament are one of nicks favourite bands, what a dream gig that was for him. Then a few shows turned into a lot of shows and a lot of shows turned into a world tour and we could not wait anymore so we said to Nick that we would need to progress without him. It was all amicable and Nick has joined us onstage on countless occasions since to play some songs. Who knows, we might write together in the future, but until then Neil is behind the kit.
Dave Hunt fronts Anaal Nathrakh as well, how does he coordinate the time and schedule between two bands ?!
Easily !!! Both parties make sure nothing clashes, Anaal Nathrakh do not play live very much anyway.
AND THE FINAL THOUGHS
Meanwhile Benediction have kept the silent period what comes to putting new albums out every second year, but however the metal market has changed a lot. Do you see the current death metal market seen from your point of view ?!
Its looking quite healthy again. A lot of new young extreme bands coming through (as it should be). But Benediction do not pay too much attention to the passing fads. We have our niche and are quite happy in it. There is room for everybody in music and it will always evolve and change and our views mean nothing here as we do not own or police the scene !!
I recently read Healy’s interview where he pointed out not having an interest to listen to Death Metal at home, as playing in Benediction is quite enough, but do you however keep your nose on the ground checking bands booked to be opening for you ?
What you need to know about the meaning behind that comment I made is simple. I play in a death metal band, I rehearse death metal, I go out on tour with death metal bands, most of the clubs and bars I go to play death metal so sometimes you just want to go home and listen to something different to death metal !!!. Of course I am always checking the talent out there and if you see us on tour you will always see us at the side of the stage checking the new bands out.
You announced about entering a studio in January 2009, pretty damn quickly. I assume the next album will be follow the same path as the previous ones, the recognizable Benediction sounds with the raw and brutal grip and attitude !?
I hope so. Who knows until we start recording what will happen. We are aiming to be in the studio throughout February but with a short tour coming up around that time we might make it March. Who knows. We have the songs and are just sorting out which ones to go for now.
Then the 20th anniversary year is coming up, any plans for that ?!
More of the same !!! Its just another year to us now. We will probably do a few select festivals and maybe bring some songs back in that have not been played for decades along with a few brand new songs. Lets see what is offered in as far as a celebration is concerned.
All right thanks for your time and doing the interview and the famous and mandatory last words are yours ?!
Thanks for the support and lets hope we can stay alive long enough to visit you all again on tour !!!!.
The official video of "Killing Music"