Producer and guitarist of Hell and Sabbat
Andy Sneap’s name appears on albums by Kreator, Exodus, Testament, Megadeth etc and the list continues. He has produced a number of awesome and memorable albums which have been spinning on players of metalheads around the world. Besides working with bands, his first band Sabbat has reached cult status amongst many thrash fans. The Sabbat albums are still as relevant and awesome as back then when they saw the light of day. Sneap’s current band Hell has gained massive interest as the debut album called HUMAN REMAINS is an outstanding release for sure. Therefore it is an utter pleasure to have a chance to talk to Andy Sneap about Hell, Sabbat and of course his long career as a producer.
Interview and pictures by Arto Lehtinen
You are in England right now?
I’m just home, I’ve just finished doing, well not finished the Testament thing just yet, because I do have another weeks worth of recording to do on it and I’m probably going back to The States to do that in a couple of weeks and then get it mixed , then Accept after that.
CLASSIC AND THRASH METAL TO THE BONE
So the new Testament album is going to sound really good!
I hope so. I’m enjoying it, It’s the first time I’ve actually worked with all of them. I’ve done all of the recording with them this time, on THE GATHRING I just did the mix and same with FIRST STRIKE STILL DEADLY. They tracked that themselves. FORMATION I did the drums and Rhythms, This is actually the first time I’ve tracked Chuck and Alex which has been fun. It’s got Gene Hoglan’s drumming on it and he’s done a great job. It’s pretty fired up actually. It is somewhere between the last album and THE GATHERING musically, so a good mixture.
So it’s basically your dream job to do the Testament album as when we talked the last time at Tuska and you told you were already a huge Testament fan?
I was a Testament fan since they were called Legacy and I kind of followed them throughout their careers. I kind of went off them a little bit when they went more commercial, it was THE RITUAL and SOULS OF BLACK, I kind of lost a little bit of interest there. But after DEMONIC and THE GATHERING when they started to get heavy and focused again, I kind of got back into them and obviously I’ve been working with them since then. And so it’s good, I know how this should sound and I know what people expect to hear from them and that’s part of the thing with all these other bands. I was a fan of the music back in the days so I can relate to it from a fan point of a view as well and where the music should be coming from as well and what I want to hear as a fan.
I was just wondering when you saw Exodus and Slayer for the first time on the TV something like in ’85 when they showed this Studio 54…
Well, let me tell you, the first time I saw that was the day we were doing the Sabbat demo FRAGMENTS OF A FAITH FORGOTTEN and I was in my parents’ living room and Frazer had the VHS of it. I remember seeing Slayer and Exodus on that and said to the rest of the guys “this is what we should be doing, this is how I want Sabbat to start sounding” and Frazer was really into it as well. Both me and him were into Mercyful Fate, Slayer, Exodus and all these bands as well. That would have been ’85 you’re right. Its all gone full circle for me to be producing them.
But besides Exodus and Testament but I guess Mercyful Fate especially King Diamond has had a really big influence on Sabbat and you because they had the more theatrical thing and of course it had a huge impact on me as well back in the days.
I still think the Mercyful Fate albums, the first two Fate albums, really still stand up now. I still listen to them. I actually have both of them in the car at the moment just because it is such good music. It really did raise the bar as far as music was concerned for me. As far as heavy music it took everything by Iron Maiden and Priest and just took in that one step further. Same really with Slayer and Exodus , they have these Maiden type harmonies going on and the two guitar thing going off. Even Metallica as well, you listen to the mid-sections and it’s totally Maiden with the harmonies and they have just taken it one step further. It was just good, classic heavy metal really at the end of the day.
Yes exactly. I was always wondering back in the day because when they talk about thrash metal it was always about North America, especially Bay Area and then the German one, but even England has some killer bands like Sabbat, Onslaught, well I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say killer bands when we’re talking about Slammer?
I liked Slammer, I thought they were okay, they were good lads. They weren’t really breaking any new barriers and the same with Xentrix. They were doing the Metallica thing, but they were doing it well and they had a UK and a little bit of a European fan base going. And you’ve got to give the guys credit, they were all trying to going out there and gig hard and were really into it. I still see some of those old guys around like Kristian, who was in Xentrix, he directed the Hell video for us. Some of those guys have stayed within the music business in some form or another. Maybe they weren’t classic bands, I wouldn’t even put Sabbat under the classic bands type. There are obviously a lot of people who hold us in quite high esteem. We did what we thought was right at that time and Sabbat didnt do the Metallica influence. I think we had a little bit more of that Slayer thing going on with the dark imagery, but we were fortunate that we had Martin in the band really. Martin is very imaginative and creative lyrically and concept-wise which I think set Sabbat apart. Without Martin we wouldn’t have had anywhere near the interest that we had.
ABOUT SABBAT AND RECORD INDUSTRY
Sabbat was basically more into paganism…
Yeah Martin and Frazer were, I wasn’t really into any of that. I was more about the music and the business and trying to play the guitar and being in a thrash band, where Martin was more into the image and the lyrics and trying to create something different.
Do you think the image thing was important for Sabbat?
We obviously grew up watching Hell and it was a big influence on me, it was also a big influence on Martin and so I think it was very important to Sabbat because it gave us a slightly different angle.That is why we kind of went with Noise Records then because Celtic Frost were on there. I think definitely, the image helped Sabbat, It gave us an edge over a lot of these other bands like what we were saying, Slammer, Xentrix and Onslaught even, they were just doing a really mainstream thing and asides from that, people couldn’t really pigeon-hole us quite as easily as these other bands, I think kids dug it. When we did shows we always got good turn-outs in the UK because people saw in us something different and a bit of a show.
As for this Noise Records, the last time we talked about that you signed a deal with them was one big mistake after all but otherwise when you picked up the bands which were on Noise you’ve got the great and valuable music…
Big mistake is probably the wrong word. We should have had more advice, we didn’t even have a lawyer look into the contracts properly when we originally signed them. We went with the Musicians Union in the UK who did absolutely nothing for us. So we ended having to renegotiate and had bad management, but really there was no one back then. We were just a bunch of 18 year old kids and there was no one there to guide us and show us the way which is kind of nice with the Hell thing now because I’m so experienced down the line and I’m so used to dealing with record companies. I understand how things work and I understand the music business now after 20 years and I’ve been able to look after the guys’ interests and make sure no one’s getting ripped off, the deals are good and I’m fighting for the band’s cause and I know how far you can push record labels and I know now how to deal with agents, how to deal with promoters – pretty much everything really. I’m managing it pretty much on a day to day basis. But we didn’t have anyone with Sabbat like that, we didn’t have anyone we could turn to for advice so we just made a lot of very rash wrong business decisions, really. And I wouldn’t say we were ripped off but I would say that we could have been advised better.
But however the first two albums are concerned classic thrash metal albums and I still have the first Sabbat albums…
So do I.
Do you think the whole metal industry and scene has become one big industry compared to the late ‘80’s?
Well it has obviously changed isn’t it? I did a conference in Calgary, Canada last year and one of the guys there said there was 4300 metal releases last year. When you’ve got that many releases on so many small independent labels and you’ve got bands doing their own things, you’ve got Facebook, MySpace and different download medias , it’s very difficult for anyone to get any idea of quality these days. That was why it was quite important that we did end up with a decent label like Nuclear Blast with Hell. You need a certain stamp of quality on something and Nuclear Blast does that. And it’s the same like what you said about Noise back in the day, even if the deal wasn’t good, that wasn’t really anything to do with the fans, at least you knew you were getting a good band when you bought an album. All these bands that were on Noise had a certain level of professionality to them and it was important for us to go with a label that would portray that. But yes I do, I do agree with you that its become so saturated and there’s so many independent releases now that it’s so difficult for an average fan to find quality now and there’s so many bands sounding the same and there are so many bands now…
But what are you going to do? I don’t know if the music business will reinvent itself eventually, but I think you will need a record label behind you to be able to tour and to get the press and to get to a certain level. There will always be the underground and there will always be that next sort of professional level. And I think the smaller labels will die off because there isn’t the money there to keep financing these smaller labels all the time. Even the bigger labels are having problems these days. So I don’t know how it’s going to go but I think it’s about peaked with the amount of bands it can hold.
Well does that mean that you will have no job in the future if the record labels are dying?
Yeah probably, but you know, I’m growing vegetables here, I can survive! (Laughter)
Juan Garcia from Agent Steel said that the punk scene is alive and well, they are still selling a lot of albums and that’s amazing he told me. But metal scene is completely different because I think the metal scene and the metal fans are more technologically advanced.
Yes, but when you say in the punk scene is selling a lot of albums, how many is a lot of albums in the punk scene? Is it 10,000 or is it 5,000? I’m certainly sure that the punk scene isn’t selling like 100,000 albums or something, it’s more of an underground scene. But still if you’re doing it properly you can make money on the smallest amount of sales, but you’ve got to do that real DIY-type thing and doing the Do-it-yourself type of label. A lot of these bands that say they’re going to do the DIY thing and record it and release them themselves. They don’t realize you’ve got to have an accountant in the band, you’ve got to have a publicist, you’ve got to have a lawyer. There’s so many assets to having a record label behind you to get the job done properly. I’m not one of these guys who’s going to sit there and slag record labels off because I actually do think that there’s a valuable place for them.
MOURNING HAS BROKEN
I once asked you that what kind of a relationship do you have in the Sabbat that it’s like a love-hate relationship and you told me it’s a hate…
No it’s not hate. What do you mean? (Laughter) No it’s weird, it’s weird because it’s both hot and cold with me and Martin. We’d go a couple of years without talking to each other and then we’ll bump into each other and get on fine. I think hate is too strong a word to use… It’s tough when you are working with someone and obviously I was writing the music, Martin was writing the lyrics and if you are not seeing eye to eye there’s going to be a real conflict, there’s going to be a real clashing of heads and I think we always saw Sabbat coming from a slightly different angle and where we meet in the middle is actually quite a good place, it’s quite a good compromise on both halves really. We’ve both got quite different ideas on business and the way things work and it’s a struggle. I think the best thing at the moment is if we both do our own things and he can do the Clan Destined and I’ll do Hell and the world will be a lot happier place. We did the reunion thing since the end of 2006 and we did a few festivals and got out there a little bit and it was fun. It was fun while we did it, but it was getting to be a little bit of a struggle and I kind of wanted to put my time into doing Hell so that’s where it has gone now.
Do you think the other Sabbat guys are somehow bitter to you because Hell is doing actually really good now?
They are not bitter at all, I know Simon, the drummer, he loves it. He keeps emailing me saying how much he likes it and he keeps coming to the gigs. Frazer turned up at one of the last shows, I’ve not seen him for a long time and he was absolutely loving every bit of it so that was great. I spoke to Simon Jones, the guitar player, on Saturday and he’s got his old band Holosade back together again. So he’s enjoying playing still. And Gizz who was playing bass for us at the end, he’s out playing with Crass so everyone else is out there playing. So I don’t think there’s any bitterness at all – all things good.
Have you met these guys playing on the MOURNING HAS BROKEN album, do you still keep in contact with them ?
I know Wayne, the bass player, who I actually see quite a lot. He’s now playing bass for Robin Gibb believe it or not.
Have you seen Rich Desmond then?
I don’t know where the hell Rich has gone to, I heard he was a cheff now and Neil(Watson) the lead guitar player, a milkman.
Who is this Richard Scott ?
Richard Scott, I actually still speak to him, he’s been back in touch. I hadnt spoken to him for about 20 years and he got in touch with Facebook the other week. He was just a stand in guy on rhythm guitar with some live shows between when we were in four piece and getting Simon Jones in. But he’s still around, he’s got his little band going and doing a bit of home recording.
So Hell is nowadays your main band and you work as a producer, but Sabbat is basically on hold. I guess even though someone or some festival would send an offer to you I guess you won’t accept it?
Well I said this to you when I saw you at Tuska, theres no point trying to get Sabbat together to do one gig as it’s quite a big commitment because we haven’t rehearsed the songs. The other guys don’t play, so they’re not doing the amount of playing that I do. We’d have to get everyone together rehearsing for a month over the weekends or when some people could make it. Everyone lives quite far apart, me and Martin live in this area, but Simon Jones lives three hours away, Gizz lives two hours away. So it’s not easy for us to do it. I don’t know if we really want to do it to be honest, it has to be something really special to have to do it again .
What made you do festivals like Wacken and Keep It True? Did you get a good offer or was it more like “okay let’s do Sabbat one more thing”?
I think it was just nice to do it when we haven’t spoken for so long and I think we were all kind of, “Oh come on let’s do it, let’s get out there we might not have the chance to do this again”. Once you are a musician you’ve always got that little fire in your belly, you will always want to go out and do it and just get the chance to go out and do some gigs in front of decent-sized crowds, it was a nice thing to do.
What about this Return of the Sabbat I guess it wasn’t correct from Martin and other guys who formed the band even though you weren’t in the band. How did you react when they got together under the Return of the Sabbat ?
Well this is the funny thing, originally we were kind of talking about doing it and then Martin came around and told me I was too busy to do it and I was like “okay fine”. And they were thinking of getting another guitar player to do it and I was like, if you want to do it guys, you can do it, but remember you quit so think of another name for Sabbat as you don’t actually own it. So they went on and did it and it didn’t survive, was it five or six gigs ?. I actually saw them at the Earache xmas party playing. I watched them do it and I didn’t even recognize the songs. They just didn’t seem like Sabbat songs without the whole band up there. So it was what it was and it didn’t really amount to much so what are you going to do, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.
WORKING IN THE STUDIO
What about your producer career as you started 20 years ago and started doing with Sabbat and then you did some British bands, but how did you get interested in the first place to start producing bands ?
Well I obviously did three albums with Sabbat, where I was looking over the producer’s shoulder and I’ve always been really interested in recording ever since we first started, even just doing demos and seeing the whole big picture come together and piecing the music together. And so when Sabbat split up I had a little bit of money left over, a couple of thousand pounds .I was working at a music store at that time so I did a good deal on some recording equipment. I had a little reel to reel tape machine and a little desk that I set up at the rehearsal room, which was the old Sabbat studio which later turned into Backstage studios. And I just started to demo myself and recorded local bands and figure out how things work. Then Adats came out and I was able to do smaller album type projects for people. I then started doing live work, front of house work. I was doing a lot of the stuff at Rock City in Nottingham and I ended up working on The Cult’s European tour in 1994 doing the support band Mother Tongue. I managed to get work at a bigger 24-track studio in Nottingham and started working with Colin Richardson as the house engineer. By then Colin was coming through producing bands like Fear Factory, Napalm Death Carcass etc. When Colin went out to San Francisco to do the second Machine Head album, THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, his wife called me up and said, can you go out and assist Colin out here on this job and so I did it. I spent two months out in San Francisco and L.A. and by the end of ’96 I’d met guys from Roadrunner and Bori from Century Media who now runs Blabbermouth. I’d made a lot of good contacts and friends out there. Century Media was just at the point where they were signing new bands like Stuck Mojo and SkinLab and they needed an engineer to start working on these bands. I kept putting a lot of hard work into my work and 100 percent dedication and I think it has paid off. People have seen now I do the work, I deliver on time and they get value for their money and it works out. I think if you go with that sort of work ethic, people will always come back to you.
What kind of process was to set-up your own studio, Backstage Studio, in the beautiful English countryside?
I had a lot of the gear already because I had the place in Ripley which was the old studio. It was in an industrial block about 10 miles away from here. So when I bought this place in 2001 the actual studio was terrible. It was the old pig stable of all things. So I spent a year and a half with the builders on site, building walls back in, putting windows in, a new floor in, doors , roof and then we just moved the gear in really. I didn’t really think much about it, I have acoustic treatment in the back of the control room and just adjusted as it needed it. I kept putting gear in and it’s been an on-going process and it still is really.
So it’s easy for the band to work there because there’s no bar in your place ?
There’s no bar ??? Well it’s not that far away actually. It’s about a mile up the road. Nevermore managed to find it quite easily. (Laughter)
I remember having read Mille’s interview where we complained there’s no bar so you have to work there all the time.
Yeah well that’s the idea there. You obviously work when you’re here. (Laughter)
Taking out your list of which bands you have worked with – Correct me if I’m wrong but I guess you are more into the old school metal bands like Exodus, Testament and also new school bands or even those you have worked with like As I Lay Dying – But what’s your point of view that, do you like working with different kinds of bands?
Yeah I think you’ve got to spread it out a little bit. I do prefer the older bands out of all of them to be honest, but even the newer kids that are coming out like say Trivium, As I Lay Dying , Unearth and Killswitch Engage, they’ve all got something to offer. It’s probably not the kind of thing I’d generally listen to, but they’re all good players and nice guys. So it’s not difficult to work with them. Usually with the newer bands, even though I don’t quite like what they’re doing, there is something with it that I do like. Trivium for instance, the riffs are good and heavy and I can relate to how the music should sound. And I actually really like Killswitch. I think they’ve done some great stuff and its always fun with Adam.
But do you follow what the people are saying – thinking and saying about your works because there are people saying that there is the Andy Sneap sound, but what’s your point of view on that?
I obviously mix things and produce things the way I think they should sound and I can’t mix them to how anyone else should think they should sound. If people have got a problem with it, what can I do about it ? I just mix it how I think it should sound. I don’t use the same sounds all the time, I don’t use the same guitar rigs all the time, there are plenty of producers out there that do. A lot of times I go with what the band gives me and mix that. They come to me, because they want that certain sound. All I do is try and get things clear, punchy and get some clarity in it. If a band wants a different sound they should go to someone else, it’s as simple as that. I can’t mix from someone else’s point of view, you can’t do that so you have to put your own stamp on it and do your own thing. Now obviously I’ve done a lot of work in the last 10 years, which is why I think people get a little bit critical saying everything sounds the same, it doesn’t when you compare it back to back, but as I said I do put a certain stamp on it. If I’m doing a lot of work and people are hearing my work a lot and I think there’s a lot of people out there that have kind of copied my style a little bit as well. I hear things and I’m kind of “hhmm”, that sounds a little suspect, you know.
So I don’t know if I’ve done the current trend and people are getting bored with that, if so, so be it- I don’t care. I’m just going to keep going and keep doing my thing and see where it ends up really.
You have been around personally for 20 years or something like that but I guess you may have a back-up plan to do something else in the future if you lost interest in doing that job ?
Yeah I must admit thats kind of the whole Hell thing, for me its such a refreshing change. Probably after I’ve done this next album by the end of this year I kind of feel I want to take a bit of a backseat on producing a little bit and concentrate on playing more again, because I’m just enjoying it so much being in a band with a group of guys where we all get on so well and we all want to do it. It would be nice if we can actually get out there and do a good six months of touring really. Whether we can or not I don’t know, but we’ve got plans to take it further and we’ve got to start looking on working on the next album at the start of next year, start piecing that together so that should be fun as well.
So my plan really is from now on, do two to three albums a year, sort of a decent-sized albums if I can and try to keep the Hell thing rolling because that’s really where my heart is.
THE PROCESS OF THE RE-RECORDING OF THE HELL SONGS
So you’re basically enjoying being a recording artist…
I’m 17 years old again, I’ve never grown up. (Laughter). Well It kinds of takes me back to when we were doing Sabbat really, because I used to enjoy getting creative in the studio and putting music together and that’s why I became a producer in a way because I was still doing that, but I never had the satisfaction of being up on stage playing my music and performing and doing the whole thing. Once the album was done, Id wave it goodbye and move on to the next one so just being part of the whole Hell thing now and putting so much hard work into that first album and seeing the great reviews for it , getting out there and getting a good response for the live shows there’s just been so – so much satisfaction doing it. And there’s been so much satisfaction seeing the other guys doing it as well ,the three original guys and Dave. They never thought they’d get the chance to do this and I’ve been able to give it to them, it’s been brilliant. So it kind of means more to me at the moment than producing.
But doing and re-recording all those tracks of Hell, I guess, was one hell of a process after all, am I right ?
Yeah, we sort of split it over three years, when I first met Kev again, three and a half years ago now, he’d not even picked a guitar up in 20 years, so he had to re-learn it and Tim, the drummer, hadnt played for probably 15 years. So you got a case of these old guys re-learning their craft again and it was really rough to start off with, but we pieced it together. We kind of did the songs three at a time in the studio so we’d pick three songs and get the drums down and get the basic guitars on them and then move on and do the next three songs. So I’m surprised at how consistent the album sounds when it’s all back to back. I think you can’t even tell that they were done in different stages. But it was a lot of work, We kept going back to it tweak a bit and obviously we re-did the vocals with Dave as well so that was another whole thing to get sorted out. But I’m pleased with it, I actually listen to it again the other day and I was very happy with the final outcome.
What is your favorite track on the album, mine is “Plague and Fyre”?
I’m glad you said that, I think we’re doing a video for that, probably “Blasphemy And the Master” is my favorite. It’s a good one to play though.
Wasn’t the original idea just to remix the demo and put them out as some kind of demo CD ?
No.. I think Kev originally said this before I met him again, someone wanted to release the demos and press them on vinyl or something. As soon as I met Kev I put a stop to that because I realized we could do something better with this. And we can also make money back for Dave Halliday’s family as well if we released them properly and also make the guys some money. That was the whole point of doing the album with the bonus discs, with the demos,it give the old school fans a chance to get the best version of those demos that they were going to get their hands on. So it was really a case of quality control and making sure we did the best thing. I mean those demos aren’t good quality but we wanted the best versions out there.
Yes because those demo songs are on Youtube and you can listen to them there anyway.
And we’re chasing those, we kept trying to get them off every time we see them. (Laughter)
FINDING A VOCALIST FOR HELL
Martin Walkyrier was supposed to be a singer for Hell in the first place, but I guess he recorded all the album parts but he got replaced. I think the Hell material would have sounded more like Sabbat with Martin on the vocals?
That was the problem, we did the album with Martin and he did a good job. He came in and did his thing which in my mind he does it well, but it doesn’t sound like Hell, it sounds more like Sabbat and we wanted this to be true to Hell and the more we listened to it the more the other guys weren’t happy with it. When David came to do a voice over, it was so apparent to me, because he started singing and started doing some backing vocals and we had a guy here who could do that higher Geddy Lee register which was where Dave Halliday was in the vocal range. He had the theatrics as well being a trained actor, he was just the perfect guy with the job, it was in my producer eye that I realized the qualities of what David could bring to the table and Kev was not quite realizing it at first, having grown up with David. You don’t realize it sometimes, when you’re so close to home. But having seen the way it has worked on stage, I don’t think we could have found anyone better to be honest.
Were you kind of surprised that Kev’s brother David has so wide range to sing?
I didn’t even know Kev had a brother! I didn’t know that Dave existed, I kept hearing about this actor guy and then he turned up and he’s the funniest guy, so down to the earth and we just got on like a house on fire. We were just talking about music and I didn’t realize that he used to help Hell out back in the day, even though I did as well I doubt that we have been introduced to each other. He knew Dave Halliday really well as well and he used to drive him around to all the gigs and helped the guys out back then. So obviously he has seen the band as many times as I’ve seen them. So he kind of knew what it needed. So he was just the perfect fit, it couldn’t have been any better.
But he didn’t have any problem with the Hell image which is kind of satanic if I can say that ?
No not at all, I mean he’s theatrical…
He brings more theatrical aspect to the live songs as I saw at Tuska.
Yes exactly. He totally knows what he needs to be, I mean, he is just off the wall just like the rest of us so it works great.
David Halliday used to be the original signer of Hell but now Kev’s brothers are doing that – Was what the kind of problem for him to take the place of Halliday’s place ?
We didn’t have a choice really, did we?
No, but I mean on the psychological level.
I mean, it was difficult for all of us really to begin with, there has been pretty heavy moments.We all got on with Dave so well and he was such a good friend to all of us. So it has been difficult thinking about things and the fact that he hasn’t been here and we all wished he was. On the other hand it’s been nice to go out there and play his music as well because it’s got him recognized a little bit. It has put his name in the press and its got people talking about him which is good because it got him some recognition which I think was long deserved. So yes it has been a little difficult, but we’ve just got on with it really, we haven’t worried about it and you know it’s been a long time. It was 1987 when Dave died so there are a lot of years there though emotions have been a little raw at times. But it’s not been something that’s has stopped us from doing anything and it’s all for the right reasons and we’ve made sure his family have been looked after. So it’s kind of there for the right reasons .
The death of David Halliday split up the whole Hell then and I guess the guys went separate ways back in the day.
Yeah, we all did. I didn’t see Kev for 20 years. When something like that happens it does that sort of thing where people move on. I did with Sabbat, I got focused on music and stuck my head in the sand and focused on working hard with music and it definitely affected me. It definitely changed the course of my life when it happened. Kev downed tools and didn’t play guitar again and I think the other guys were just was so disheartened by it because they put so much effort into the band, it was just a really cruel way for everything to end.
But you and Kev told me that you are both working on that new Hell album. I wondered how it is possible to work on the new Hell album because I thought you used most of the old tracks?
Well we’ve still got some.Theres still “Land of the Living Dead”and “Deathsquad” that we want to do and there is still “The Disposer Supreme”and “Deliver us From Evil”; there’s also another three or four songs” Intense is the Sense of Doom”,” Where Angels fear To Tread” – I mean there is a whole load of stuff. Plus Kev’s got another half an album of new material written and he was 50 percent the main songwriter in Hell anyway so it’s not going to be difficult. I’ve been known to write one or two songs in my time as well, so I think the band is just going to kind of move forward in a natural manner really. We’ve got so many ideas , I was talking to Kev about it the other day, we’ve got pretty much the next album totally mapped out on what we want to do. So we’re not going to be suffering from a second album syndrome, we’ve really got the ideas together for it so it is going to be good and I think the third album will definitely see the band taking a natural course really so we’ll see. It might be the third album that’s the difficult one.
I think the rest of the band is really motivated to give more “souls” to Hell ?
Yes everyone’s just loving it to be honest I mean they’re so enthusiastic I’ve got each one of them on the phone 30 minutes everyday just asking me what’s going on, any more gigs booked?, any news from the labels? so everyone’s just really into it because they never thought they would have the chance to do this. So it’s living the dream…
When I did an interview with Kev via email, he told you had a serious conversation on how you are able to do Hell – because the guys have a job and family things and stuff like that but I guess the problems have been sorted out?
Yeah and the other guys really didn’t know how serious this was going to become– they didn’t know whether they would just be doing little gigs here and there. As soon as they started realizing we were going to be booked at European festivals, Donington and Bloodstock and some decent tours in Germany – they have started to take it more seriously as well and it’s not that difficult. At the end of the day even if you’ve got a full time job and you want to make it work you can do it, you just have to take some unpaid leave if you have to. there’s ways around it. So although it’s not a perfect scenario , its possible.
How many job offers have you had to turn down because of commitments to Hell?
Well probably the Megadeth album. But again that was because we had a string of shows in May and they needed to have their album finished I think by the end of July and I just couldn’t make that work. So I think it worked out ok in the end, I did two albums for them, I think it was important for them to do something fresh with someone else so it’s not like there’s been any falling out or anything. I don’t mind, I’d rather be happy doing what I want to do and the whole Hell thing is probably the last chance if any of going out there and playing live again and doing something where I could be seen as a guitarist again which is what I really want to do so I’m not going to pass on it.
Do you think the whole heavy metal has become playground of the middle aged men nowadays…
Playground of the middle aged man (laughter).
When you check out those line-up of the several festivals you can see that most of the bands are from the 80’s, there are hardly new bands.
Does that tell you something about the quality of metal from the 80’s?
To me that’s when people were actually writing songs, to me the problem with metal now is it’s well played and well produced, but there’s no songs there anymore. That was blatantly apparent to me when I was working with the Accept guys. You’ve got Peter and Wolf there who are such good songwriters, who know how to put music together and how to make songs build, they understand the dynamics of song writing and I think that’s an art that’s getting lost now. You know you can still listen to those 80’s metal albums and even if they are not well produced you still enjoy them because the songs were that good.
But when you look at the old posters in the 80’s like Donington; Iron Maiden, Accept, Kiss and so on and you take a look at for example Swedenrock is basically the same.
Yeah, I love it! I could go watch Whitesnake everyday of the week. (Laughter)
This maybe a stupid question but anyway: Is Hell more like a local cult band for example I asked Nige Rocket from Onslaught what the hell is this Hell from Nottingham and Nige was, “I have no idea”.
Well Nige is more of that punk background anyway isn’t he? I mean when you look at Onslaught they were more of the punk thing. It was really more of the cult local thing, they never got to a national sort of recognition so I could imagine that from Nige being from the punk background and being from Bristol which is a little bit closed off anyway. The Bristol guys are sort of little scene going on down there anyway. I don’t think Nige would have been really following what was going on up here. It was more the Nottingham Derby area really. They were big around here, they were pulling 300 to 400 people every time they played around here. So it’s a cult sort of midland thing really.
THE HELLISH STAGESHOW
And the whole image is important to the whole Hell, you have the costume and you have the Bible blowing up and stuff like that, I guess it’s important for the whole Hell concept.
Oh we’re going even further at it now.
Oh really like what?
We’ve got some more good stuff going out, I can’t tell you about it but we’ve been planning that this week actually so we’re going to try it out in the Irish next Friday. So we’ll see how that goes now.
But you didn’t have that much things at the Tuska festival ?
No we can’t, when we are doing fly in festivals, we can’t use pyro because you can’t without permission from these festivals and we can’t fly with the pyro obviously so it’s got to be scaled down. Doing these shows we’ve got two guitars each and a carry on-bag and that’s it. And when we did Tuska we had all the stage props going missing, they didn’t turn up until five o’ clock the next morning so we had to actually go out that morning and buy new leather trousers and boots for Dave because we didn’t have any stage gear for him. So we were a little bit screwed on that one.
In another way you were like Venom back in the days with all these pyro things.
I think the similarities stop there really.
And you used to have the pyros back in the days and you are bringing your own pyro things…
I think Hell’s a little more up on the playing side than Venom , from the technical point of view and I think the Hell album stands out musically – well I shouldn’t say that, I don’t want to sound like I’m knocking Venom because they had their own thing going. Venom did have their own thing and their own vibe which was cool, and I think if more bands had their own vibe now, it would be a far more interesting music scene. So I’m not knocking Venom on their playing abilities, but I think Hell has got a more technical side to it, its different , we’ve got more of that classic metal feel going while Venom were a little bit more punky and a bit rawer if you know what I mean.
Hell is the new wave of British heavy metal from the early 80’s and late 70’s?
Well a little bit but it’s got a little more of the classic metal about it as well.
WHERE THE HELL TO SEE HELL?
You are touring with Hell – going back to Hell a little bit more before concluding this interview, so you are doing this Dublin and you are doing this Christmas tour.
We’re doing the Sweden Rock Cruise as well and Athens the same weekend and we’re doing this Darkness Over Christmas tour, which is happening starting on Christmas day actually in Leipzig. Apparently Christmas day in Germany is on the 24th we didn’t know that.
But there’s this Sweden Rock Cruise so I think you are trying to get Swedish rock as well ?
I don’t know, I know Martin from Sweden Rock, we’ve been speaking to the Sweden rock guys a little bit because a lot of those guys like Hell. And I know Martin from when Sabbat did the Sweden Rock Cruise , I also saw him at Tuska and he said, “What’s happening with this, can we make this work?” We managed to make it work, it’s going to be some hectic flying that weekend. And obviously we would like to do Sweden Rock as we’ve got a good relationship there.
Actually you’ve got to be careful there because you will drink a lot of beer and booze anyway you might lose your control like you did in Helsinki.
Like I did in Helsinki…
You had a really good time in Helsinki.
I don’t remember…….
I heard there was one hell of a party going on there in a local bar and.
It was good for us actually, it was a great start. It was me and Craig from Forbidden who were actually tearing it up but it was great. (Laughter)
But anyway thank you for the time to do the interview once again and I hope we can talk for once sometime again.
Great, alright mate, thanks, Cheers.