The British legendary thrash metal five piece Onslaught reunited five years ago. The band did plenty of gigs all around. As a result of the reunion, the triumphant KILLING PEACE saw the light of day. The band’s newest opus SOUNDS OF VIOLENCE takes their brand of thrash metal to into a more extreme phase, presenting the pure true and violent thrash metal to the bone. Onslaught hasn’t given up an inch. The British thrashers will soon be embarking on gigs and festivals. It is a huge pleasure to have a chat with one of the founding members of Onslaught, Nige Rockett. He tells more about why the band chose to work with Jacob Hansen and why the band signed a deal with AFM. Time now for METAL FORCESSS.
Interview and pics by Arto Lehtinen
What’s up in the Onslaught camp right now, I guess it is freezing cold in The UK ?
Hey Arto, all is good here and yeah its fucking cold man, but the temperatures are not as low as Finland I hear… That’s some seriously cold shit going on there….!!!
FOUR YEARS SINCE KILLING PEACE
The new Onslaught album Sounds Of Violence will be released any time soon. But there is almost 4 years since the comeback album titled KILLING PEACE came out. How come it took such a long time to unleash another piece of art of thrash ?
Well there are 2 main reasons why we have taken so long to release this next album ‘SOUNDS OF VIOLENCE‘.. Firstly, the demand for touring has been unbelievable, we toured real heavily for the first 3 years following the release of the Killing Peace, I think we played more shows in this time than in the whole of our career before… This band just loves to play live, its what we are all about, so we always find it real hard to turn down a good show offer haha… At the start of 2010 we just had to draw a line and we all agreed to keep shows to a minimum and to get this record finally finished.
Then of course there was the writing itself.. This new album is a hugely important one for Onslaught, although it’s the 5th studio album, strangely its once again become our ‘second’ album if you know where I’m coming from, so it had to be exactly right.. We didn’t want to rush things just to get it out there, we had to make the very best album we could and try to break some new ground along the way..
How much did these line-up change effect the writing and composing process of the new material and in general the function of the band?
The 2 line up changes were forced because of personal / commitment issues and yeah they were temporarily a little disruptive, but I believe the changes turned out to be extremely beneficial to Onslaughts future in every possible way… Jeff Williams (Bass) and Andy Rosser-Davies (Guitar) have brought so much creativity and extra energy to the band since their arrival and it has been a major boost on all fronts.. Basically in terms of writing, Myself and Andy have composed all the tracks for the new album between us in our own studio, where we also carried out all the pre-production.. Its been a real pleasure writing and recording SOUNDS OF VIOLENCE, we took a completely different / experimental approach and I really think its paid off.. As a live unit the band is functioning better than ever, Jeff really is an asset on stage and really knows how to work the crowd, this line up is 100% best Onslaught ever for studio and stage..!!
Did these departure of two members happen in good terms or were there some disagreements resulting their dismiss from Onslaught?
No disagreements or dismissals… As I said previously, it was purely down to personal issues and commitment. Jim Hinder and Al Jordan simply could not commit to the level of touring which was being demanded of us, it was either a case of Onslaught ‘do not tour’ or Jim & Al had step aside which is what they chose to do. They’re both great guys and it was a shame to see them go but these things happen for a reason and for Onslaught its been a positive step forward..
Killing Peace featured both Allan Jordan on the guitar and James Hinder on the bass, how much did they bring the input of their own into the writing of KILLING PEACE?
They both played their part in the writing of Killing Peace, Al contributed more on the musical side of things, while Jim gave me some assistance lyrically and also acted as the bands ‘Quality Control Officer’ hahaha, he would come in and say “ Hey Rockett, that riff needs more Thrash or this riff needs more dirt, he wasn’t great at writing but he really knew how good Thrash should sound.
Was it an easy choice to recruite Andy Rosser and Jeff Williams ? Apparently they must have played in other heavy bands before teaming up with you ?
Neither of the guys were actually playing in a band at the time, which made things real smooth. Jeff was an easy recruitment for us because I had played with him in a band before, so I knew where he was at and how good he actually was. Then Jeff discovered Andy. Jeff works in a music store when we’re not touring so he gets to see and hear about any good musicians that are around the region… Turned out there was an awesome guitarist called Andy living in Swansea who was well into Onslaught and Old School Thrash Metal. We gave him a call got him to rehearsal and the rest was history as they say..
How has been the touring and gigging with Andy and Jeff ?
It’s a pleasure touring and working in general with them both, Jeffs my drinking buddy when we’re on the road so I guess that says a lot about how we get on and Andy is the calming influence after the storms hahaha…. All 5 of us are kinda different when we’re away, which helps to keep things interesting and enjoyable
VIOLENCE AND KILLING
The Sounds Of Violence was carried out in Denmark from the beginning to the end at the Hansen studio and Jacob Hansen played an important role after all. Why did you want him to work on the sixth Onslaught output ?
We wanted Jacob Hansen to make this album very simply because his productions are huge, very dynamic and so full of live energy.. And he did exactly that for Onslaught..!!
Unusually, we actually recorded the guitar tracks first, at our own studio in the UK… everything else was done with Jacob in Denmark. We made a different approach to recording this album, we wanted to capture as much aggression and energy as we possibly could during recording and this would carry over to the final mixes. We tracked the guitars at the maximum performance tempo using really aggressive drum programs to play along to, this way the guitars were absolutely ferocious, extremely tight and full of adrenaline, when Steve came to lay down his drum tracks he had to raise his game and match the Brutality of the rhythm guitars, it worked perfectly for us…!!!!
Previously you have worked with Andy Sneap, can you estimate what was the biggest and major difference in the working methods of Andy Sneap and Jacob Hansen that I paid attention to ?
Jacob was very relaxed and worked set hours each day which we found a little strange at first, but looking back, I can now see how fresh he was every morning and how focused he would be throughout the day.. He works very fast without breaks, so things are still very productive.. With Andy the working days were quite long and tiring but again very productive which is the main objective, of course. Both guys are extremely good producers and in some ways are quite similar in their approach apart from the daily working schedules.. Neither way is right or wrong, we were fine with either route as long as we could get a beer at the end of the session hahaha..
Did Jacob Hansen give any kind of advice if some song needed a little bit re-composing or if some parts didn’t fit and sound that well in his ears?
We gave Jacob free licence to make any suggestions he felt necessary to improve the tracks in any possible way, But it honestly never came to that situation… Me and Andy had spent so much time on the song arrangements and layers during writing that Jacob did not want to change anything within the structures.
Of course, when it came to recording the vocals and the final production / mixing this is where Jacob really came to the front. He got some amazing vocal performances from Sy and his skill of where to track the vocals with different voices was really inspiring, especially to Mr Keeler.. Then there was the work to make this record sound so aggressive and heavy but so clear at the same time, it was truly genius from Jacob, we really cant praise him enough…
Jacob Hansen has the roots in the 80’s thrash as he played in Invocator, how much were you aware of his past in the thrash and above all his works with for example Heaven Shall Burn ? Did he already know how the next Onslaught album will be sounding ?
We knew Jacob was into ‘old school thrash’ and that he was a big ‘Onslaught’ fan too, which made things even better for us because we knew he would want to make this record as perfect as possible… we didn’t dig too deep into Jacobs past because it was his most recent work that really impressed and that was most relevant to what we wanted to achieve with SOUNDS OF VIOLENCE. I had some brief discussions with Jacob about the overall sound of the album before it was mixed, but I did not want to influence his starting point too much, after all he was ‘the producer‘.. Once he got the mixes rolling then we started to discuss things in a little more depth just to fine tune things.. He knew exactly how Onslaught had to sound in 2011 and really delivered the goods….
Are there particular songs popping up and have already become your personal fave ones and why ?
It keeps changing every time I listen.. Depends what mood I’m in really… There are a couple of tracks like ‘The Sound of Violence’ and ‘Born for War’ that just hit you like a ton of bricks right from the start and then of course along come the grower tracks.. There is so much variation on the record its hard to have a particular favourite, especially as they are all real angry sounding.. I love brutal music and there is plenty of brutality going on here, but it still has all the trade marks of classic Thrash Metal music with the catchy riffs and cool vocal hooks.. And I still cant really tell you which is my fave song… hahaha ‘Rest in Pieces’ has to be right up there tho…
Did you feel when writing the new material for the sixth output the stuff will be heavier and brutal blowing the previous material way easily ? Was the creation process of the new material somehow mellow and relaxed without having any nasty pressure put by die hard thrash/death metal fans ?
We knew the new material was feeling real good as we were writing it and we feel its stronger than KP, but its not our opinion that really counts here, its so important for us that the Fans and the Press really dig the record because that’s the only way it can be successful… There was pressure to make this a strong album, but it was presssure from ourselves, the actual writing process was very relaxed but we knew we had to try and better Killing Peace, I think it would be suicide for the band not to try and make our best album with every release..
Did you write the stuff equally on your own and then gathered together to a rehearsal place to thrash it up ?
We (me and andy) wrote everything in our studio and demo recorded every song before we hit the rehearsal room, this way there was no fucking about trying to rework arrangements etc, everybody knew their parts and we just had to nail it down tight before we entered the studio with Jacob…
The album has the cover song of Motorhead’s Bomber with Phil Campbell and Tom Angelripper as guests. I assume why Campbell has been invited, but Angelripper. Anyway tell how they ended up doing the Motorhead song ?
We’d been jamming the Bomber track in rehearsal and it was sounding pretty cool but not ‘quite’ there, it was missing that little spark, it had all the Onslaught Thrash attitude but missing the Motorhead vibe and we really wanted to do this justice.. So I sugggested we give Phil Campbell a call to see if he was up for putting down some guitars on our version, he really loved the idea.. As soon Phil came into the studio and laid down that awesome riff everything fell into place, however much we played that tune we could not make it sound the way Phil did, it really gives it a ‘MotorSlaught’ blend….
In regards to Tom Angelripper, we have become good friends with the Sodom guys after playing many festivals with them over the past 4 years and I thought Tom would sound great sharing the vocals with Sy. I knew Sodom were in the studio making their new record so we gave him a call and Tom said ‘get me the backing tracks over right now, “I wanna to do this” and there it was made…. it was real fun doing this Bomber version and I’m pretty sure fans of all 3 bands will find it cool…
As far as The Bomber cover tune is concerned. How was this song chosen for a cover one even though Motorhead has tons of great great songs ?
Our relationship with Motorhead goes back a very long way to when we toured with guys throughout Europe in 1986, it was a great tour for us and really helped break the band to the next level… They were always a big influence on Onslaught and when we decided it was time for us to do a cover song, we thought ‘Why not a Motorhead track..?’ I think it was Steve who suggested ‘Bomber’ its not necessarily the obvious one to cover, most people would have expected Ace of spades / Iron Fist or Overkill, but its a classic all the same and it was a real challenge to give it a Thrashy / Onslaught feel…. We’re real stoked with the way it turned out.
Did Angelripper record his parts in Germany ?
Yeah, he recorded them whilst making the new Sodom album ‘In War and Pieces’ …. we mailed over the backing tracks Tom did the rest, he recorded the whole song so we could use what parts we liked..
LYRICS OF REALITY AND DARK
As for the lyrics they have dealt with insulting the Christianity, death and destruction, Where do you get the main inspiration for the lyrics after all?
My one and only lyrical inspiration for SOUNDS OF VIOLENCE was true life.. This world has always been a potentially violent place to live and it always will be.. There is always gonna be some fucking psychopaths or megalomaniacs out there that wants to cause death and destruction to the others, that’s been the way of the world throughout history and to me religion is the root of most evil… The lyrics on Sounds of Violence are all 100% true stories, there is no fiction whatsoever, it’s all real heavy shit….. I’ll give you a fast breakdown of the album track by track…. BORN FOR WAR about child soldiers…. ‘THE SOUND OF VIOLENCE’ – Onslaught gets first hand reports from combat soldiers we are linked to that are fighting in Afghanistan, I used this for the songs lyrical inspiration ……. ‘GODHEAD’ – about an American religious cult which still exists and spreads its filth today.. ‘REST IN PIECES’ – depicts the actions of a very famous mass murderer… ‘CODE BLACK’ – the rise of an extreme & violent superpower… ‘ANTITHEIST ‘- is a very read, the lyrics play a very important part in painting an extremely dark and brutal picture for the albums backdrop…
Onslaught has always dealt with the darker side and a little bit occultism. Are you basically into or have studied the occultism or mysticism or where does this interest toward such things come from ?
I actually got into the Darker side of things way back in 83, one of our crew was very heavily into Satanism / occultism etc at the time and let me borrow all his books on the subjects. It was a real interesting philosophy for me and obviously had a massive influence lyrically on our early albums Power From Hell & The Force…. Its not something that I wanna incorporate into our songs nowadays as I feel it would be treading very old ground for Onslaught, but the interest is always there in the background..
“Spitting in the face of god”.. does that line describe your way of thinking of the British fundamental religious groups and their belief and in general the institutional status that the church and those religious groups have in the society ?
It’s a very general statement aimed at ‘any’ organised religion… I don’t want to have other peoples beliefs constantly rammed down my throat, if these people wanna follow some god or have a faith to believe in then fine, but they should keep it to themselves cos I don’t wanna hear about it. Life’s too good to be a fucking angel, ‘Do what thou will’ is my philosophy and then think of the consequences after the event…!!!! hahahaha
Have the lyrics become more cynical and more well penned and thought, lets say improved, on the last two albums compared to the previous ones released in the 80’s ?
Yeah, 100% for sure…!! The first 2 albums in particular were lyrically raw if you like, I was very much on a learning curve as far as songwriting goes, that’s not to say I am unhappy with the way they are, i wouldn’t want to change anything about them.. My aim is to improve on the lyrics with every record we make, the lastest recordings have much more reality based themes and things that everyone can relate to in one way or another so it gives me a lot more scope to keep things fresh and interesting…
NEW LABEL AND NEW ALBUM
Killing Peace came out on Candlelight and now you are on AFM. Did Candlelight offer a deal to continue the co-operation with Onslaught ? Why didn’t you want to extend the deal with them..? Did you check out other labels willing to sign Onslaught and how did you end up signing with AFM, what made their offer so special and unique after all ?
Our original deal with Candlelight Records was for 1 album with an option both ways for a 2nd release. Candlelight offered the new contract but we chose not to accept the deal as there were some serious mistakes made during the Killing Peace release …We had already sent out demos to 4 other labels, 3 of which were very interested in signing the band and It was AFM who impressed us most. We particularly liked the idea of being signed to a German label, it’s a huge market and the label know how to work Europe real well, we seen the great work they had done on the recent Fear Factory album and that really helped to make our decision final. Since we’ve been with AFM things are going from strength to strength, we make a really good team right now and long may it continue…
Well taking another perspective as back in the heyday of the 80’s Onslaught had been signed by three different label : Children of the Revolution, MFN/Under One Flag and then London. I can’t help asking if you were more free agents checking out labels or willing to get a new label behind guaranteeing more investment and attention to promote Onslaught and new output back then or why did you go thru three different labels ?
That’s a very good question and the honest answer is that we changed label 3 times to become part of bigger and better organisations and to try and build a stronger future for the band.. But this did not necessarily work for the best…
We were signed to COR Records for the 1st Onslaught album ‘Power from Hell’, this was a label run by 1 guy in a very small office on a government new business help scheme. COR did an amazing job with the release and it really brought the band a great deal of Worldwide attention. Due to the huge success of the PFH album, ‘Music For Nations Records’ then made contact about signing Onslaught for the next release…The 2 labels did a deal and we signed to MFN and all parties involved were real happy….Our second album ‘THE FORCE was then released via MFN & Combat records and the bands popularity continued very much upwards..
At the time of THE FORCE release ‘Thrash Metal’ was at its peak all across the world and every major label wanted a Thrash band on their Artist Roster, we had 4 major labels wanting to sign the band all with big promises of huge promotion and amazing deals etc etc.. So once again the 2 labels did a deal and Onslaught signed to London / Polygram Records for our 3rd album ‘In Search of Sanity’…BIG MISTAKE..!!!! Yes, we got all the promotion and big deals but we were turned into major label Puppets, we were not allowed to think for ourselves or have any creative input at all, the label demanded full control of everything from band members to how the record had to sound.. We sold a vast amount of copies of ‘ISOS‘, but the fun had been taken away from us and our hardcore fans didn’t like what was happening with the band… This was the beginning of the end…
As far as I know one of the reasons for why Onslaught returned back to the metal world because of a huge amount of different bootleg albums released within these years and you were not able to control them at all, is that correct ? But controlling those bootleg releases is quite impossible however ?
No, that’s not strictly true. We had learned the first 2 albums PFH /THE FORCE had been re-released by Blackened Records, so obviously we did some research to see what was going on… We found out the label was actually selling serious amounts of Onslaught cd’s all across the world, which was cool to know and told us that there was still big interest in Onslaughts music… Steve started to search much deeper on the web and it became clear that a whole new bunch of fans were discovering the band, there was lots of Onslaught talk going on on forums everywhere… This was when Steve called a meeting to explain to everyone what he had found and ask the question..? Who wants to go back and finish the business we left undone ??
Do you however have the rights to the back catalogue of Onslaught Power From Hell, Force and In Search Of Sanity ?
Yes we do, we licenced them back to Blackened Records in a deal back in 2005, but this will expire sometime soon, so we will possibly be looking at new labels to keep the back catalogue available for the foreseeable future…
WHEN THE BAND REUNITED
When getting into the rehearsal room for the first time with Steve and Sy how did it feel when playing the old classic ones, did you feel and think it will kick ass or were you more like “lets see now what happens” ?
It did ‘not’ kick ass that’s for sure hahaha, it had been 12 years since I’d touched my guitar, I’d forgotten what the fucking thing looked like, let alone remembering how to play ‘Let There Be Death’ … It definately was a case of lets see what happens… It was cool jamming the songs again and after a few rehearsals the wrist pain started to go away and things started to sound pretty cool…
After the first rehearsals and reunion touring. Do you view that rebirth of Onslaught was nothing, but an excellent choice and were you utterly amazed to see how well Onslaught were still remembered after the demise in the early 90’s ?
For sure a right decision, even though I was quite against it at the beginning, but once rehearsals began and things started to happen again we all realised that the band was still relevant and extremely well remembered in 2005. It was a great feeling and all the pain of previous years had disappeared
You have been crisscrossing the planet from the south to the west and from the north to the south and been at several festivals. Did you know to expect to receive so massive and overwhelming responds all around where having played or has the respond been beyond the highest and wildest expectation anyway ?
Yeah, we’ve actually done more shows and festivals in the past 5 years than we did in our whole career previously, which is totally awesome. To be perfectly honest, NO, we did not know what to expect to start with, but as soon as we hit the stage it just seemed like we had never been away.. The responses and support at live shows have been incredible everywhere we go, its just such a huge inspiration for us…
Onslaught used to flag wave for the British thrash along with Sabbat, which both were definitely considered as two greatest thrash bands coming out of England even though there were a plenty of bands such as Slammer, Acid Reign, Reanimator etc in the 80’s. Did you ever ponder or were worried about when getting back together if the reunion may damage the legacy and the cult status of Onslaught ?
Yeah, of course it was something we thought very long and hard about but we have a lot of anger to burn and a lot of wrongs from the past to put right. We sure weren‘t gonna return in any way that could possibly be described as lame, we had a lot to prove, especially to ourselves… Once we had written the first track for the Killing Peace album any small doubts disappeared and we knew we had made the correct decision, things had not felt this good for a long long time…
Though new thrash bands have started emerging more or more, but it seems like the older bands still keep the flags up, I assume Onslaught will keep the flag up for a long time, right, or how does the future look when you have made a deal with ICS/Wacken ?
Yeah the originals are still the best man without doubt, you only have to look at the bands still out there making great albums and playing big shows to realise who is flying the flag for Thrash.. We never look too far ahead, but we have some great deals in place and we have a fantastic team working for us right now, so the future for Onslaught looks very bright, but we are well aware none of this is possible without our crazy fans… We owe them everything..!!!
All right, thanks for the interview and your time to do the interview, thrash the last words out to conclude the interview… I for one thank you for the interview.
Thank you Arto, its been a pleasure…. SOUNDS OF VIOLENCE has been a long time in the making and we really hope you all massively enjoy this new slab of violence.. We’ll be Seeing you on the road very very soon… Love and Metal – Nige & Onslaught m/ …!!!!!
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