When the speed/thrash metal movement started out in the early 80’s bands were heavily influenced by the raw and brutal sounding hardcore and punk bands such Discharge and GBH. The members of Slayer, Metallica, Sepultura have citied GBH one of their early influences. GBH is one of the hardest working bands being on the road all the time. The band’s most recent album MOMENTUM is a piece of evidence of GBH’s rebellious and energic outburst. Metal-Rules.Com sat down with the frontman of the band Colin Abrahall to talk about the new album.
Interview and pics by Arto Lehtinen
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
You have been touring quite a lot, supporting this latest album, Momentum. I read somewhere that you’re doing over 100 gigs per year.
So you don’t rest a bit?
No, not at all. No, no. We have the occasion on Monday off, which is good.
So you recent tour was with The Casualties in U.S. How was that – What kind of respond did you get there ?
That was good. We’re friends with The Casualties. We’ve known them many years and the tour was great. Nearly every show was sold out. It was good atmosphere everywhere.
I have noticed that the European rock metal festival like Hellfest, Resurrection festival, have booked hardcore and punk bands more and more and you have played those festivals.Are you kind of surprised to see that you are playing at those kinds of festivals nowadays?
Yeah.It’s good to all be together, because everyone has something in common. Yeah. Everyone know its rock music.
What kind of respond have you got at Hellfest or Resurrection?
Good, really good. Yeah, yeah. Some like the old bikers used to be punks when they were younger. It’s so good.
When you started in the late ’70s and when you compare the audience to nowadays. What is the biggest difference?
Some of the big festivals they’re. You get on stage and the audience is 100 meters, which is crazy. Because we like playing clubs, where the audience is right next to you because we feed off the audience. I guess the audience feeds off our performance as well. So it’s good. But sometimes when it’s too far, where you’re hello. But we try to enjoy it as much as we can.
What about club things? Have you noticed that the audience have become a little bit older or have you reached more young generation as well?
Yeah. We get a whole mix from people bring their children, really small children. To people older than us. We’re in mid to late 50s and there are 60 year old people at gigs. So it’s great. It’s such a big family.
The metal audience have become more accepting hardcore and punk bands. Whereas it was quite closed back in the day
Yeah, yeah. I think that the internet has a lot to do with that. Because now anyone can listen to any song instantly and something people who maybe into more metal, see us for example as an influencer in some band. So they can listen to us just by pressing the buttons. Then maybe they like what they hear.
It’s easier to listen to your stuff thanks to Spotify, because the record stores are pretty much gone nowadays. Do you think that these kinds of tools, like Spotify, YouTube are helping you out to reach the new audience?
Yeah, I suppose. Because I guess the younger kids don’t know about record shops and cassette tapes and things like that. So that’s what they’re used to and it’s a question about listening to whatever they want to.
I guess it’s good that way. But I used to love going in record shops and just looking album after album. Trying to look for some little golden nuggets that you had been looking for, for a long time.
MOMENTUM- CONTINUAL MOVEMENT
Your latest album is called Momentum. Actually what does the name refer to?
Movement. Continual movement. Which I guess is what we’re.
How do you usually start writing new songs, for example this one? As you have a certain sound and certain legacy.
It’s all pretty simple. We have a rehearsal room. We go in there and we’ll just jam about and mess about as we sit. Eventually a little… Jock may have a guitar riff and he’ll go, “What do you think of this?” And he’ll play it. Then Scott the drummer will join in playing along with it and then the base player joins in. Then I have a book with lots of lyrics in. Sometimes it’s just the words, sometimes its sentence. I’ll look through and find something that fits the music that they’re playing. Then I’ll try and sing a little bit of it and then we stop and say, “Should we do this beat there and that beat there?” It just kind of grows through that.
Do you get some kind of inspiration somewhere in the middle of nothing and you write it down ?
Just as I’m going to bed sometime. I’ll turn all the lights off and I’ll walk up the stairs to bed and something will trigger something in your head.
But in my opinion GBH has that political band, even though you have some political message.
I think Punk is a left wing thing, a socialist thing, whatever you want to call it. It’s always been that way. So there is no need to keep preaching to the converted, if you know what I mean. So I think everyone knows that politics and we kind of know everyone else.
So basically the same. So I don’t worry about trying to change people’s minds or saying the working men and all this. It’s just make it more entertaining, make it an entertainment than a political rally. Because the politics are… everyone knows politics.
I talked to Karl Willets from Bolt Thrower. He told me that the era of the ’80s when Margaret Thatcher was dominating UK and It was kind of platform that influenced musicians and have that punk member in the first place. But do you think that your way when you started band that era influenced you more and more than nowaday ?
Yeah. I still love the music that made me want to… all the early…. the Sex Pistols, The Clash, the Damned, Vermont. So all the early bands. As soon as I heard them I felt, wow, this is the best thing I’ve ever heard. I wanted to be involved in the movement somehow and I cannot draw… I’m not talented in other fields, but I like writing lyrics and singing. So that’s what I’ll do.
Yeah. Yeah, I guess so. In little, not saying it blatantly. But just little snippets of information.
There was a seven year gap between this Momentum and Perfume and Piss album, but you didn’t rest on the laurels.
No, no. We just kept going. When we do write new songs, we tend to do it in… we’ll write two or three at a time and then just rehearse those and practice them and practice them. So you know them inside and out, back to front.
Then we’ll go on tour again and sometimes just to hear what it sounds like. We play them in sound checks. But it’s hard to write when you’re on the road, because it comes to move, traveling. You can’t sit in a bumpy van and try and write words.
And delayed flight.
And delayed flights. That would have been the perfect picture. We were sitting there, nothing to do and watch the board. But yeah. But a lot of the way it’s nice and relaxed and natural and organic.
It’s not like we sit down and think, we’ve got to write a fast song about motorbikes or whatever. Because then that would be too hard, it would be too many parameters. So we just anything and everything.
Tell about a song called Population Bomb
It’s about the war.I didn’t realize, but when we finished the album. I looked at the list of and I thought, “Three or four songs and they’re about war?” That is because we’re constantly bombarded with it. Even in Iran, Afghanistan, Syria. You turn on the TV everyday and so that’s just what sinks into my head I think
What about this No News ?
It’s about 24 hour news, where even if there is no news, there is no real news. They’ll invent something or they have to do a show for 24 hours a day. So they have to talk about something. The headline is very encrusted. Because if you don’t have it with the sound turned on, you can still get the information. Just by the ticker tape of the button.
SIGNED WITH HELLCAT RECORDS
You recorded a new album in your home town in Birmingham at the Muthers Studio. You had a very good team behind that – Michael Rosen – who has worked with different kinds of bands.
I’ve never met him.
Tim owns Hellcat Records and Ros, whenever we meet him. Because we’re all friends. He goes, I want to produce your next album. We’ll go, okay. But because well I was working and Ros was working, we couldn’t get it. So he was in the studio at the same time with us.
So we record it and then we do a mix, a rough mix of we want… the levels of guitar, the side drums, they side whatever. Then we send him an external hard drive by post. He takes it to Michael and then they were doing one song that time. They’d mix the song, email the mix to us and we’d listen to it and go, a bit more guitar or a bit more tone the guitar down or do this here or whatever.
Then they emailed the new mix of it and then we’d go, okay. Let’s do the next one. So let’s start another song. When you get to about seven or eight songs. They kind of know what we’re trying to say to them. So they can do a mix that will sound like the previous mixes, because they know what we like as well.
Do you miss the old school style when working on new songs?
Yeah. I like the analog, a big thick tape. Because Pro Tools and all that stuff is okay, but you feel you spend more of your time watching the screen instead of like using your ears to listen to what you’ve recorded. But its okay, it works.
Was it some kind of godspeed or relief for you to have to deal with Hellcat after all these other labels?
Yeah. Because we like all the bands that run and we’re good friends with Rancid and we want to… it’s like we wanted to be in that party. Then luckily, I gave Ross a demo tape of some of the songs and ended up on Perfume and Piss, and he gave it to Tim and then they signed us up.
How does their working method differ from other labels that you have been on like Clay?
Yeah. Epitaph was very good and very helpful. But my one complaint is they have too many departments. So if I want to ask someone a question I’ll ask and they’ll email me back and say, oh, that’s not my department. I’ll link to James to blah, blah, who’s in charge of that department.
Is that one reason why you were touring so much in North America, because of Epitaph / Hellcat Records?
No, no. We just do anyway or we would do anyway.
GBH as influence
The Sepultura, Metallica, Slayer guys have all mentioned that the early day punks bands like you have influenced them. Do you take that as a credit ?
Yeah. It’s very flattering and it’s humbling for, because I know what it’s like to say that. Because we went to The Damned and The Clash and Pistols. So when it starts passing the baton on, like in a relay. You receive something and then you pass it on and someone else takes it and changes it a little bit and passes it on.
When you heard the Slayer’s version of Sick Boy, were you kind of surprised?
Yeah. They only sing half of the chorus. But to be honest I’m not a big heavy metal fan.
Did you keep your nose on the ground, checking those bands back in the day?
Yeah. You checked anyone out. There used to be like a kind of newspaper called Sounds and NME. But it was more punkie, alternative. So if a band was mentioned in there. Someone said you should check this band out, then you’d go and check them out and sometimes you like them, sometimes you didn’t.
What kind of elements in new bands inspired you to check out?
Just word of mouth. I think if people are talking about a band or sometimes you hear something in a club or wherever and you like it, but you don’t know who it is. You’d ask someone, “Who is this band?” And they’d go, blah, blah and then check them out.
So what kind of music or bands do you listen nowadays?
Anything and everything. The one thing I love is the shuffle button. On my phone I’ve got 3,000 songs. If I went to the list, I’d start to play one song. But with the shuffle button everything comes in random order. So I like that about it.
One minute I’ll be listening to Johnny Cash song and then reggae song will come on and then ’70s rock song, and then the Sex Pistols and then Glance. It’s never ending. I like that.
I still like mix tapes. We on tour so much in America for example, the tour last three months. So before we went, everyone would do their own mix tape, and we’d listen to it in the van and there is the comedy tapes. Or it’s sometimes just the radio. The ’70s radio stations in America. If you click on some that you don’t like, you do another one.
All right. Thanks for your time. It was a pleasure to talk to you and have a nice gig.
Okay. Thank you very much.