Interview with Ian Glasper
author of Contract In Blood
Tell us a bit about yourself! When did you get into Metal?
I got into punk in about 1980, when I was thirteen… bands like Adam And The Antz and Killing Joke quickly giving way to Discharge, Exploited and GBH, and from there I got into ever faster, heavier hardcore stuff. In about 1985 quite a few of the hardcore and punk bands I liked were starting to go more metallic – C.O.C., English Dogs, Agnostic Front, D.R.I., Amebix, Suicidal Tendencies, Antisect etc. And they eased me into liking Slayer and Metallica, the faster thrash metal stuff. So, to cut a long story short, I got into metal in the mid-Eighties, via punk, although even before then I had a soft spot for Motorhead and Iron Maiden.
I’ve been writing about music since about ’83 when I had my own fanzine for a while, and then I started writing for Record Collector and Terrorizer and Bass Guitar Magazine etc. And I’ve been playing bass in bands since 1982 as well, recording albums and touring all over the world, so not only do I write about punk, hardcore and thrash metal, I play it as well. I currently play bass for Warwound, and our album ‘Burning The Blindfold Of Bigots’ is about as nasty and metallic as punk can get.
Give us a brief synopsis of your previous four books about Punk Rock and your history as an author?
Well, my first book was called Burning Britain, and was a history of the UK punk scene from 1980 – 84, but I decided to split that scene into two, so the first book was the ‘chaos punk’ bands – for want of a better word – and then I did another book straight after, called The Day The Country Died, about the ‘peace punk’ bands. And that’s a bit of crap labelling, I know, but there was this divide back then between the ‘Crass camp’, with all the anarcho punk bands, and the ‘Exploited camp’, and all the ‘studs ’n’ leather’ bands. So I figured it was a convenient way to divide the scene up into two books, rather than have one HUGE book that no one could afford to buy, haha! I loved punk from both camps, mind you, so it was just a convenience thing for me – not a hard-edged definition that I buy into.
Anyway, then I did a book about the late Eighties UKHC scene, all those bands like Heresy and Ripcord and Napalm Death – that was called Trapped In A Scene – and then I did one about the Nineties punk scene in the UK, called Armed With Anger. After that I took a few years out from writing, before I sat down and did this latest UK thrash book.
What made you switch gears and decide to write about Thrash?
I just felt like I’d done the UK punk/hardcore thing to death, and needed a change of tack. I’ve loved UK thrash ever since I saw Onslaught when they were still a punk band starting to play more and more metallic riffs, and I was already into the UK punk/thrash bands who were crossing over between the scenes, like Sacrilege and English Dogs, so writing a book about UK thrash did almost feel like a natural progression from my first four books. A lot of the same musicians were drifting between those scenes – plus thrash metal was very underground, very noisy and anti-social, and built around grass-roots tape-trading and DIY fanzines and stuff, so the two scenes were very similar in many ways.
A guy I knew called Greg Moffitt was planning on writing this book about UK thrash, and I was pretty excited to see it, but for whatever reason – just daily life getting in the way, I guess – he put it on the backburner, and every year I was messaging him, asking when it was out, because I wanted to buy it etc. When he eventually said, ‘Look, I doubt it’s ever going to get done,’ I jumped into the breach.
Was it easy to secure publishing for a 700 page book about an admittedly semi-obscure topic?
No, not really. To be fair, I’ve built a decent relationship with Cherry Red; they know what I do, and I know what they do, and I work pretty well with some of the guys there. They like big comprehensive definitive books, and don’t want me to scrimp on the detail, and they love the obscure and lesser-known stuff, so they trusted me to deliver something worthwhile, and I trusted them to do all my hours of hard work some justice when it came to putting it all together as a decent package. I had to compile a list of bands, and give them a brief synopsis and a sample chapter, but they didn’t need much persuading when they realised there was a lot of tie-in with my other books, that have all done okay for them.
How long did the project take from inception to printing?
A little under two years, I think, probably doing about 20 – 25 hours a week?
Did you have a specific writing routine, early morning…or up late and lots of coffee and cigarettes? etc?
Well, I have a full-time ‘proper’ job as well, and a family, and play in Warwound, who are quite a busy band, so it was all done in my ‘spare’ time – as if I actually have any, haha! Lots of midnight oil got burnt… I would usually sit down about 10 pm, and be going until way past midnight, so yeah, plenty of coffee too.
How painful was it to choose the tracks for the box-set companion? It must have been a chore and a labour of love!
It wasn’t painful, ‘cos I love listening to this shit, but it was frustrating when you couldn’t get a particular track that you wanted, or an essential band couldn’t appear because of licensing nonsense (yes, that’s why there’s no Xentrix or Virus!), and then you have running times to contend with, and you’re trying to arrange the track-listing so it makes some kind of logical sense and relates to the book format… it was both a chore and a labour of love, but it was all worth it once we had the final product, and UK thrash fans had something that was worth the wait. This scene has been criminally overlooked for too long, and I really wanted to do it justice.
Were there any bands that could not or would not participate? In a related question, were there any bands that really bent over backwards to help make the project a success?
As with all the books, there were a few individuals and/or bands that I either couldn’t track down, or when I did get a hold of them, they either didn’t want to contribute or couldn’t be arsed. I’m not going to name names though, but let’s just say that if you look at who’s in it, and who hasn’t been interviewed, you can quickly figure out who those people are. I managed to get in touch with all the key members of all the main UK thrash bands – the ones that aren’t quoted in the book are the ones that didn’t want to take part. As regards the bands I COULDN’T get hold of… well, I dearly wanted to include Pariah, Deceptor, Deliverance, Xyster, Go Get Fucked (G.G.F.), Judgement, Aggressor, Energetic Krusher and Legion… there were a few more too, but you can’t wait forever – Cherry Red have distributors that work to deadlines and you have to set a date to hand the book over, come what may.
Thankfully there were plenty of people who took to the project with open arms and couldn’t do enough for me, like Nige from Onslaught, Tony from Venom, H and Pete from Acid Reign, Adie and Gizz from English Dogs,.. the list is endless, and I’m forever grateful… everyone said that the Slammer guys wouldn’t contribute, but they were some of the first and the most enthusiastic – we went out for a nice curry in Bradford and then went to watch their current band rehearse.
Why did you choose to call it Contract In Blood?
It’s just a cool name really, and all my books have ominous melodramatic titles, so that fit the bill nicely. Plus a lot of those bands got monumentally shafted by their record labels, and because they were young they had already signed their careers away – virtually sold their souls to the devil, if you regard huge corporate labels as less than savoury, so the title has that double meaning sat behind it too.
Were there any real surprise or revelations in your research, something that blew you away?
Yes, there was a couple of revelations and jaw-hits-the-floor moments, and quite a few ‘WTF?’ stories from some of the bands… most of them are in the book, so just pick yourself up a copy and read all about ‘em, haha! There were also a few that didn’t make the final cut, that I was forbidden to ever speak about again, under threat of legal action, which I can’t share here for obvious reasons.
What are your Top 3 under-rated UK thrash acts that people need to know about?
Everyone knows about the Big Four from back in the day – which would be whichever combination of Onslaught, Xentrix, Sabbat, Slammer, Deathwish and Acid Reign tickled your fancy… and more recent bands like Evile and Gama Bomb have had plenty of press. So I think I’m going to plug a few of my favourite UK thrash demos here, by State Of Confusion, Infernal Death and Zeitgeist. I also want to give a shout-out to Suicide Watch, whose first album ‘Global Warning’ from 2005 has been criminally overlooked – they were one of the first bands to spearhead a full-blooded thrash revival, and also the band that got Ed Repka out of retirement to paint covers again. I also played bass for them at the time, so I’m hardly impartial, haha!
How has initial response to the book been?
It’s been absolutely brilliant so far, touch wood. All I do with my books is write the book that I would want to see on my own book shelf – and hope that others feel the same way about them. And so far they have – or seem to have!
Are you working on any other projects right now?
Yes, I’m actually helping a Greek friend, Alex, edit his first book, all about the international crossover scene, so it’s full of bands like DRI, Excel, Cryptic Slaughter, Onslaught, RDP, Raw Power, Broken Bones, Beyond Possession, Dayglo Abortions, COC, Agoni etc. I absolutely love all that shit, so it’s been a pleasure to help him realise the project. That will be out through Cherry Red next May, entitled ‘Crossover The Edge’. After I’m done with that, I’ll probably bring my UK punk story fully up to date with a book on our post-millennial punk scene.
Infamous last words?
Thanks for the interview and support, much appreciated. Support your home-grown, grass roots, DIY underground music scenes. The world is in a vile state at the moment, so much hatred and division – music is a great unifier… don’t believe the lies. Be excellent to one another!