Onslaught – Nige Rockett

INTERVIEW WITH NIGE ROCKETT OF ONSLAUGHT

The British thrash metal icon Onslaught finally released the seventh long waited album called GENERATION ANTICHRIST. The seven-year gap between albums is a long era, but the British thrashers have been touring but also undergone changes in the line-up. GENERATION ANTICHRIST is one hell of a thrashing output with brutal and catchy songs and also welcomes a new singer David Garnett who does an amazing job on the album. Onslaught’s guitarist Nige Rockett sat down to talk about the new album and his metal and punk passion.  

Interview and live pics by Arto Lehtinen 


There was a seven-year gap between the VI and GENERATION ANTICHRIST  albums. You toured a lot and had THE FORCE anniversary touring which took a lot of time. Seven years is however a big gap between albums.

The VI came out in 2013. Then we toured the album for over two years, which took us into 2016 as you said, with the 30th Anniversary of THE FORCE. There was fantastic demand for us to go out and play that album in its entirety, so we did. You know Onslaught, we love to tour. Any excuse to go out on the road is great. That one-year anniversary tour went on for two years. There were two years. We didn’t finish it until September, 2018. That was a long time and we don’t tend to write music while we’re on the road. Its two different headspaces for me. I can’t really concentrate on it. We didn’t start writing until we got back, which we did straight away pretty much immediately after that tour. I guess a year of writing the album, nine months to a year. Then we have to record – It was fairly quick writing the record and recording. Obviously it was the touring that just made the delays.

Onslaught is not a band that releases an album every second year. SOUNDS OF VIOLENCE came out 2011, VI in 2013 and KILLING PEACE  came out in 2007 or ‘6…

Seven.

I think it’s more quality than heaps of albums in a short time.

I think seven years is excessive by anybody’s standards. I think we won’t let that happen again, but I think that was a unique set of circumstances why that happened. We’ve already begun work on the follow-up to GENERATION ANTICHRIST, even though it’s not released yet. I don’t think it’s going to be seven years, but we’ve got so much time on our hands at the moment. We may as well make use of that time and start getting ideas for new songs together, so we don’t get a seven-year gap ever again.

As you said you have done the album very quickly. If I remember right, you did the previous album in the same way. It came pretty quickly as well. Do you usually write the songs spontaneously or is it coming by natural?

Yeah. SOUNDS OF VIOLENCE and VI. I co-wrote all the music with Andy Rosser-Davies, obviously Andy’s not in the band any longer. It was kind of dying for myself pretty much. Wayne Dorman made some great contributions to the album, but I did the majority of the writing myself, which was nice. It was a lot of pressure, because I haven’t really done that since the KILLING PEACE album. I did enjoy it. We discussed the direction we were going to go before we started writing. I wanted a picture clear of where we needed to be with this song. Wayne made some great ideas in there which made it made things easier for me as well. It was quick and it was cool. I did enjoy it, once I got into it on my own, because there was nobody to bite back off of. When I and Andy were writing, we were in the same room together. We were feeding each other with ideas and it was cool. There was always somebody to tell you that it was crap, shit, or if it was good. I didn’t have that this time. It was a little bit of pressure.

Didn’t other guys bring input into the writing or was it only you who was responsible for the writing?

I guess myself. 85% of the album was written by me. Mostly all the lyrics and the vocal parts were written by me. Wayne made some contributions and what I would do when I had ideas for the songs, I’d put some parts together. I sent them out to the other guys, to see if they wanted to add anything or whether they liked it or whether they thought it was great. Everybody was happy with the way it worked. James changed a lot of things drum wise, when he went into the studio to record his parts, which was very cool. That was the input we have, but James did more of his stuff in the studio, rather than when we were writing the songs. Obviously with David our new vocalist, we got a specialist producer to do the vocals on this.

Pete Hinton.

Yeah, that’s right. Pete did the first two Saxon albums. Pete was amazing. He did a great job for us because he’s such a calming influence. As you can understand, David was really quite nervous doing this, because he had only three weeks to learn the songs. He was joining one of his favourite bands at a very quick notice. You can imagine. He was a little bit nervous about it, but Pete was amazing. He really calmed everything down and really helped David massively to put in some great performances.

So Pete Hinton was a mentor for David by helping him out in vocals and making him comfortable in Onslaught.

Yeah, that’s it. I’ve been with Pete for many, many years and he’s really lovely guy. He’s so calm and as soon as David was in the studio for two hours, he was relaxed and giving some great performances and Pete was really… It was so cool to have him on board. I don’t think we’d have got the performance of David without Pete. I think he just did such a fantastic job. I think we’re going to obviously work together again in the future because it worked well. We’ve got a great team working with us on this album and everything went so smoothly. I think it’d be nice to keep everybody together for the next record.

David had a very short time to learn all the lyrics for the album. Was he asked to join the band quite in a short time that he didn’t have that much time to make himself feel comfortable with the material, songs and lyrics?

No, not at all. Not really. We played at House Of Metal festival in Sweden. I think it was February when Sy was unavailable.

In Umea?

Yeah, that’s correct. David stood in for Sy on that festival in two weeks. Two week’s notice to do the show, which he did an incredible job. We knew the situation, what was happening with Sy by then. It was clear that we were both going to go our separate ways. It was obvious that we were going to approach David by doing the vocals on the new album and joined Onslaught full time. Which he did. After the performance in Sweden was incredible. We asked him to demo a couple of tracks off the new album, which he did, sounded great. That was it. Then he had three weeks to learn the material before he was here in the studio to record everything. He did an incredible job in such a short space of time, with the live show and then the album recording.

Did you record the album in different studios? 

I recorded my guitars in Bristol. James recorded his guitars in a place called Ipswich in the East of England with Scott Atkins. David recorded his guitars studio outside London, obviously with Pete Hinton doing the production on that. We recorded all different studios and obviously mixed in Sweden with Daniel Bergstrand.

THE SOUND OF AGGRESSION 

You have always worked with the top producers such as Andy Sneap, Jacob Hansen and now you’ve got Daniel Bergstrand. How did he get involved?

I think it’s important though. The final mixes on any album are “do or die”. If the album is mixed badly, then it’s not going to be great. Yeah, of course. We’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the best guys in the business and they’re all Onslaught fans, which really massively helps. I’ve liked Daniel’s work for many, many years now, even though he’s not been involved as far as I know with any thrash bands. I love what he’s done with the bands he’s worked with. We didn’t want this album to sound like SOUNDS OF VIOLENCE or VI. We’d go to a different producer, to make sure that every record has it same unique identity, and basically we just let Daniel run with it. He said, “What kind of mixed you want on? What do you want from me?” The thing we gave him was that we want this to be one of the most aggressive sounds on a thrash record as be. He said, “No problem. I can bring that for you.” He did it. We’re just blown away with the mix he’s given us. It’s so aggressive, but so very, very clear at the same time. You can hear every little thing that’s going on, which is very important.

As I told you in an email that there are elements from death metal. I think it was a purpose to have extreme elements in the sound on the album.

Yeah, of course. The very cool thing that Onslaught for us is kind of unique. There aren’t many bands who can do this. We can go and play a black metal festival with 10 black metal bands. We can go and play a death metal festival with 10 death metal bands, and Onslaught will still go down amazingly well at the show. We’re very fortunate to be able to come cross-genre. I don’t know why, but it’s great that we can do that. I think it’s necessary to bring in other influences. I think we’ve got a lot of old school thrash influence in there, but it’s important to keep your sound evolving. Even though I say for this album we’ve taken two steps backwards, to maybe go six steps forwards. We do things we did in the old days, but then we’re bringing new elements in as well, like death stuff and black stuff. It just makes it more interesting. I think little influences here and there, but it just brings something extra to the music.

The Onslaught stuff has always been very aggressive, very brutal, even can I say barbaric in away. You have never ever slowed down. IN SEARCH OF SANITY was slower, melodic and different kind of stuff.  Since you reunited in 2005, every album has been very brutal and aggressive. I guess that’s the name of the game nowadays that you have to sound quite brutal to have the extreme metal audience.

Yeah. As I said, we went to cross over to these other genres as well. I want us to be one of the most extreme thrash bands. Everything’s dark that we do with it. There’s no humour for us. I don’t like humour and music. I love my music dark and I’d like it nasty. Every album we write, we strive to make a nasty or dirty record. I think this one is we’ve actually achieved that full on this time. It’s very dark. It’s very dirty.

Is it coming from your punk background?

I think so. This was an intentional thing. I and Jeff discussed the direction of the album before we started. We said, “Let’s…” – Because SOUNDS OF VIOLENCE and VI were probably the most technical records of Onslaught- busy riffs, tricky riffs, lots of layers in the production. We decided let’s look at the roots, go back to where the band came from. That was obviously Discharge and Motorhead. Let’s look at what we did on before sound, in terms of everything. The outlook on the floors, the way we approached it. Of course coming back off THE FORCE Anniversary tour, right before starting to write GENERATION ANTICHRIST was a big help. I think it got us in that mindset of what was good about Onslaught back in those days, and we combined the two. We’ve gone back and obviously if you listened to “A Perfect Day To Die”, which is the first track released – Obviously it’s a Motorhead and you can hear that clearly.

Definitely.

That’s exactly what we were trying to achieve. Let’s go back to our roots and strip the songs back to basic layers, shorter songs, more roll energetic tracks. It’s worked and people are picking up on that, which is very cool.

The first song that you released was “Religiousuicide”. That was totally “In-your-face”.

That was the first mix that we got through from Daniel and I was just blown away. They threw me off my seat in it, because obviously the track fades up at the beginning and then it just hits. I was like, “Wow.” When it first hit and I heard the first mix it was just, “Wow, this is amazing.” It’s just short, sharp shock basically. It was incredible. The fans have really, really loved that track. They really see what we’re doing or what we’re trying to achieve with this record. YouTube and Facebook banned it from any kind of promotion. We weren’t allowed to promote any of that. Obviously it was on there, but we weren’t allowed to make any promotions on it, because of the nature of the track. The amount of views and listens have still been incredible.

When you released the “Bow Down To The Clowns” video, that was a little bit more typical Onslaught stuff. Your style can be recognized.

Yeah, yeah. You’ve obviously heard the album, so you know the first tracks on the record. We felt that we wanted to put back one of the more extreme tracks, just to get people talking and let people know that Onslaught were back with some really seriously aggressive music and it worked. It worked amazingly well since.

INTEREST IN THE DARKER SIDE 

GENERATION ANTICHRIST – what’s it all about? Is it your personal dislike against religion and Christianity? What is this Antichrist thing after all?

It’s my personal feelings on Christianity. I was brought up as a young kid from a fairly religious family. I was made to go to church. I was made to sing hymns. I was made to read the Bible, which I don’t think it’s very cool. It poisoned me against religion. You’re made to do that every weekend, from like four years old to nine or 10 years old and it’s not good. It’s just a manipulation. I look at my kids now. I obviously don’t force my kids to go to church that’s for sure. They have no interest in religion. They probably never even picked up a Bible. They certainly haven’t sung any hymns and them and their friends, they just have no interest. There is not anything to them at all. It doesn’t mean anything. I look at these and these for me are the generation of Anti-Christians. That’s basically where I stemmed from and the reasons are asked, or questions in the track GENERATION ANTICHRIST. If you read the verse, there’s a series of contradictory questions, asking the listener or explaining to the listener, “Do you believe in religion?” This is why or why not. “Religiousuicide” for example is a track about the religion, being the creator. It’s I’m thankful. You read the story through there and it’s all lies and manipulation and just bullshit. I hate religion and everything it stands for. These tracks are typical just metal band being anti-religious. They actually mean something personally to me. I did get quite a lot a bit of a flack for the “Religiousuicide” track. People didn’t read into the lyrics. Those who didn’t read into the lyrics were religious people. I was getting bombarded with some very strange emails and messages, but everybody has their own opinion. I don’t stop these people doing what they do. They’re quite welcome to follow religion and then do whatever. I didn’t put any pressure on them, so just leave me alone, but it’s my opinion.

Since the first album until now, you have always had influences and symbols of satanism and occultism in your image and lyrics. Have you always been interested in the darker side, occultism and the left-hand path ideology? 

I think obviously if you look at POWER FROM HELL and THE FORCE. They were a little bit more mystical or a little bit more storytelling of the dark side, but more so now since KILLING PEACE onwards everything’s been more reality-based in terms of religion or anti-religion. Telling the stories of what is going on around the world and the more true side of things. I think it was one of our old roadies back in the day, got me interested in and all that stuff. He was massively into Aleister Crowley and things like that. He lent me a load of books, which I find very interesting, and that did inspire a lot of stuff on the first two records. As I obviously got older and looked at the world in different ways, that’s when I decided to take it more of a realistic view.

As for the front cover of GENERATION ANTICHRIST. Are there some marks of the Freemason?

I guess there is. Is there? I’m not sure. The artwork is done by Jeff and obviously the “All-Seeing Eye” is related to a few other tracks on the album. The actual track “All Seeing Eye” is obviously the eye we feel is watching every move we make, from our governments or these mysterious people that allegedly exists, maybe Illuminati type things. It’s all very dark, but tied into some of the themes that are going on within the record.

The eye is watching you and the text says “No Masters – No Gods” and the bullets around the circle.

Jeff’s interpretation on the bullets was the representation of war that is caused by… Obviously the eye and the thing is related to the all seeing eye, which is watching our every move ; Your mobile phones. Your Google. Little things that you have in your house. They’re really scary sometimes? You can be just talking away and then light up. I’m sure these things are recording what we’re saying. You know that happens on your mobile phones for sure. I could be having a discussion with you right now, and something that come through on my phone later is related to what we’re discussing. It’s like, “How do you know this?” This is beyond freaking and shouldn’t be happening, but we’re being watched from everywhere. That’s the thing. Especially everybody’s got these theories now about the virus and what’s going on with the 5G and stuff and it’s just mad. It’s all linked in the album cover. That’s not really my area of the band. That’s more Jeff’s thing, but as far as I know, it’s all linked to the GENERATION ANTICHRIST and The Band-Aid Conspiracy.

There is a video that you released about “Down To The Clowns” some time ago. What is the song all about, because you have the clown make up on the video?

We just really wanted to have a point about the song. The clowns basically are the British government for me. What’s been going on in the last two years in the UK has been incredible, with the whole Brexit situation and now with the virus situation, which is even worse. What is going on here is just complete madness. The lies and the inflation that we receive every day through the media is just incredible. Basically this song is about the governments. They are the clowns. You read into the situation, into the lyrics. It’s about how we’re being controlled. It’s all about them making control of the population. Hence, the midsections, obey, control, divide, and defeat. That’s what they’re doing. They’re dividing the nations. They’re making people turn against each other and to get us under control. That’s what it’s all about. Obviously you have to understand that this video was made in lockdown as well. It was difficult, but we want to do something that people were going to take notice and listen to. What do we do? Let’s make a video that’s very un-thrash like, if you like. You don’t see many bands doing that within the thrash genre. We wanted to just make people talk, make people sit up and think, I listened to the lyrics and see, realize what’s going on with these governments.

Is it basically your personal statement against your prime minister, Boris Johnson?

The bizarre thing is he’s a clown, but he’s also a puppet. There is somebody else controlling him. He has this advisor who’s controlling him. It’s just this madness? At the end of the day the population of the puppets, but he’s also a puppet to this other guy. It’s madness. If you looked into it, it’s insane how this other guy is pulling the strings of our prime minister. It’s just unbelievable. It really is that the things that are going on here, they even lie about their own facts. It’s all recorded on TV, but they still lie and deny the facts when it’s clear evidence. I just can’t see, they’re allowed to get away with what they’re doing. It’s criminal. It really is.

When you started the band in the early ‘80s  at that time Margaret Thatcher was in the power in England.  She was so dominating there that the young kids wanted to protest against her. Do you have the same kind of feeling nowadays as you had 40 years ago?

Yeah. We’ve never been too political with our lyrics in the past, not since the early days anyway. Now that’s changing and I just feel the need to write about what’s going on, because I’m getting really angry about it as you said. I think I am even angrier than I was back when I was a kid, because when you’re a kid and you see what was going back on by there. You didn’t really know. You didn’t have a political head-on at the time or you knew it was shit and let’s fight back. Now I can see what’s going on as an adult.I’ve been through all these things before. You can see exactly what they’re doing to the people now. If there was ever a time for a revolution is now. It’s insane. I would be the first one in line for a revolution right now. I really would. “Empires Fall”, again the track on the album hits home at that as well. Something’s going to go badly wrong sometime.

LINE-UP CHANGES 

Do you feel it’s a little bit challenging for you to write the songs and to work with Onslaught, when members come and go? You’ve got young guys in the band now.  But you have been running the band from the early days. Is it challenging for you to keep the band together?

It can get frustrating sometimes. It’s a thing I’d say constantly. Thrash metal is a weird genre for lineup changes. I don’t know why. If you look at ourselves, we’ve got lots of lineup changes. If you look at Exodus, Testament, Megadeath and Artillery. If you put these bands together, they’ve got over 120 different members over the years. That’s really strange for a genre though. I don’t know why it happens. I really don’t know why. As I said it can be frustrating. If it does happen, a lineup change has to be made.  The thing I put it down to myself is working hard and touring. You really have to be a special person, who’s going to tour the world round and round. We’ll always find if a lineup change comes for Onslaught, it’s either right before the tour or at the end of a tour. That tells me when somebody has been on the road for two, three years. It’s just not for them. They have to make their decision and leave. In the same aspect, we’ve had a couple of members quit right on the start of a tour, because they obviously know what’s coming. When it arrives, they can’t handle it. That’s why I put it down to mainly is the amount of touring within it, then people just can’t that. Every time that happens, we make it positive. There’s no disrespect to anybody who’s been in the band previously, because we’ve got some amazing musicians in Onslaught. We always try to find a musician of the next level when we have to make a change. There’s the point taking a step backwards in a drummer or guitarists. We make it positive and bring new fresh energy and fresh ideas into the band. We’ve been lucky enough to do that every single time. We got a fantastic drummer, James Perry now, absolutely incredible. He was actually going to join the band in 2011, but he had a serious illness that he had to fight. He’s won that battle and he’s all 100% health now, and he was constantly asking me, “Nige, if there’s ever a place for me, I really want to want to come back.” We’ve obviously got there now, which is great. Wayne Dorman, great, fantastic lead guitarist. We’ve really set up a level again I think. It’s good shift, until it’s a big tour, you never know.

As for David Garnett, I read somewhere that you have known each other for years. Was it basically obvious choice or a logical choice for you to ask him to replace Sy Keeler because it’s not easy to replace Keeler after all?

No. It was worrying, I must admit, because Sy was the face of Onslaught. He was the voice of Onslaught for many, many years and obviously being on all the albums, since we reformed of course THE FORCE album. We were nervous about it, but we were also confident that we made the right choice with David, because we had done the show as we’ve said in Sweden, which was incredible. There was a lot of old school thrashers there and they were completely blown away with what David did. That was the first step. The second step was to get the recordings right. “Religiousuicide” was incredible to do that. Everybody loved what he did. To be honest it’s been a very smooth transition between Sy and David. We haven’t had any complaints from fans whatsoever. They’re going to miss Sy of course, but they’re welcoming David with open arms, which is amazing. They’ve accepted that. It could have been dangerous for Onslaught. I think David’s done such an incredible job and people are loving the new music. We’ve turned it around and it’s working in our favor.

When IN SEARCH OF SANITY came out, at that time the whole thing started changing as death metal became bigger with Morbid Angel, Entombed etc. When Steve Grimmett left the band, replaced by Tony O’Hora, but basically you were having a swansong for Onslaught at that time. The era is totally different nowadays if you compare to 30 years ago.

When Grimmett left and Tony came in, I think we were just clutching at straws maybe. I think we knew that the band that was nearing the end of its cycle, that if we were honest, all the fan have been taken away from it by the things that happened with Polygram Records and Grimmett himself. I was never a massive fan of the album as much as I loved the songs. I think the songs are great. We re-recorded “In Search of Sanity” track, when we were in the studio this time. You can imagine that track with the production on the new album and David singing and his sound’s incredible. If that had come out in 1989 it would have been immense, because it sounds so good. I’m sure you will hear it very soon.

 I’m looking forward to.

It sounds good. I’ve fallen in love with the songs again, because I know what they’re going to sound like and that track sounds amazing. It’s still exactly the same track, but it just got the sign and the aggression and the energy, and the anger that it should have had originally. That was the problem. Polygram took all that away from us. They stripped it down into more commercial. They wanted Onslaught to be the kind of UK version of Metallica and that was never going to happen and it destroyed the band really.

When did you start seeing the first signs of Keeler struggling on tours and soon or later something will happen with him?

We sensed it for some time. Sy wasn’t enjoying touring a lot. You could tell he wasn’t happy. Obviously once he gets home he’s back in the home environment and the tour is gone. He’s fully behind the banner. Then the discussion started touring after the album release and he got a new job, which he really enjoyed doing. It was very limited into the amount of time he could take away for touring, very, very limiting by himself, because he didn’t really want to offer long periods. We have to have the discussion. It was unfair that one person would limit the other four people, to the tour and opportunity and to what this album’s going to bring, because we all want tour. We all love touring, but Sy didn’t want to do it. We were really left with no choice, but to go our own separate ways. Sy wouldn’t commit long time and we need to tour. There was only one scenario that was going to play out. I was really sad because we’re great friends with Sy and still are. It was all very, very amicable with how it went, but it just wasn’t going to work that way any longer. Here we are now and we carry on. I think obviously with COVID-19 it’s cruelly stopped us from touring at the moment, which is obviously not good. I’m sure as soon as the virus is gone enough to let us back out, we’re going to be out on the road playing as many shows as we can.

As for touring and playing live, have you ever thought of doing this live streaming thing like other bands are doing?

Possibly. We’ve been asked by our record label in Mexico to make a live stream thing, which we are going to look into. I’m not sure. I’m slightly concerned by that, because thrash metal is all about the interaction between the fans and the band for me. You’re really not going to get that obviously on a live stream. I don’t know if it’s going to project the right image or the right way we want to be perceived by doing that. I’ve watched a few live streams of bands and I’m not really convinced. If there’s a way we can do it. That is cool and it’s going to capture the energy. We’ll think about maybe. We’re just waiting back to see what as I said, our Mexican label they’re saying and what ideas they want to put forward. I guess we’ll go from there.

CONTRACT (IN BLOOD) AND LABELS

Speaking of labels, you’re on AFM right now. The first comeback album came out on Candlelight Records then. As for the older albums, do you have rights to have these albums in your hands, or are the rights gone by now then?

The rights for the first three albums, we have ourselves.

The POWER FROM HELL album as well?

Yes. We can release rerelease these albums as in when and where, but obviously all the AFM stuff, SOUNDS OF VIOLENCE, VI, and obviously the new album belong to them. All the rest of the catalogue actually belongs to Onslaught, which is very good. We can do what we will with it.

What about this KILLING PEACE album that came out on Candlelight –  Do you have rights for it or Candlelight has?

I have the rights. We’ve re-licensed it back to the company that was Candlelight. Candlelight sold up to one of the major labels I think. We got the rights back for KILLING PEACE and we’ve re-licensed it with the Dissonance Records, which was Candlelight. It does belong to Onslaught, but as I said it’s licensed back to us.

When Onslaught was on hiatus or split up for 15 years. At that time I saw a huge amount of different versions of your first and second album in festivals, like early 2000 Wacken was a really special festival for the underground freaks at that time.  Wacken used to have a lot of underground bands and there were wholesalers, who used to sell a lot of albums there. I noticed that there was a different version of POWER FROM HELL and THE FORCE. When did you discover different versions of your first albums – Did you have any clue there were so many different versions of these albums available in the market?

No. That is basically how we got back together. How we reformed. I don’t know about 2000. I have no idea where they came from and what labels they were on. I’m really not sure, but I know that apart from having THE FORCE released on Blackend Records in 2002. We didn’t really discover that until around 2004, because obviously Onslaught was long laid to rest by then, and really didn’t pay any attention to what was going on online or anything. It wasn’t until Steve Grice started checking on the internet and find out that there was lots of talk of Onslaught again. Then you come across these two albums have been released two or three years before. Then you start doing research and then finding out who the label was. Again, it was basically Blackend Records who were the early version of Candlelight I think. Then they put the albums out and they got the thousands for it and put them out. Obviously we approached them and in all fairness they paid all the royalties that were due. The records had sold incredible amounts of records. This is when we started to think there’s life for Onslaught again maybe. That’s all we did. We signed for Candlelight, after they paid us up what we were owed in Blackend Records and released KILLING PEACE. That was how we got back off the ground, really even for them actually rereleasing those two records.

Are you surprised that the younger generation, who were not even born when those albums came out, are saying those albums are fantastic and they have the POWER FROM HELL t-shirts and patches?

I know it’s mad, isn’t it? Especially when we’ve been away I guess for… At that time we’d been away for 11 years. The band were just completely asleep. Then to find out you’ve sold all these records. How did it happen? I just don’t know what happened. It was serious millions of albums have been sold. Where did it all come from? We never find where the renaissance has come from. I don’t understand. I’m not complaining. It’s amazing because we wouldn’t be talking now, if that didn’t happen. It’s incredible. At the moment because of what’s going on with the new album and the singles, we’re checking our profile on Spotify every day. Helsinki is still number two after Mexico city, which is incredible for me.

That’s odd.

Yeah, I know. It’s really bizarre. I’ll send you a picture of it, but its number two in cities of the whole world. After Mexico city, Helsinki is number two.

 You released quite a few demos before the first album. Have you ever been thinking about doing some Onslaught box, having old demos there?

The SHADOW OF DEATH album got released in 2008 on the ‘Back on Black’ label with all the old demo tracks on. I don’t know. It’s not something I’m that keen on. If somebody comes up with a great idea and a great package, we might take a look at it, but it’s not something I’m planning on doing right now. I’m quite happy leaving that where it is for the time being.

BRITISH PUNK THRASH AND GRIND CORE 

How did a punk guy become a metal guy? Which bands basically influenced you to become a metal fan? I know you’re a big fan of GBH and Exploited and Discharge and other UK hardcore bands. Was it Slayer or Metallica, Motorhead, Venom?

Motorhead of course. We were into Motorhead and at the same with Discharge. The early Motorhead stuff was coming out in the late ’70s. The first stuff they were putting out. That was where Discharge were influenced. That was where we were influenced from Discharge and Motorhead. It was just progressive for me. Discharge influenced so many bands over the years like Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, ourselves. Obviously Motorhead influenced as well. For me as a new learning guitarist. I can play the Discharge stuff quite easily, once I got a certain level. The next thing was getting to the metal thing then. I remember I learned the whole of the ACE OF SPADES album and the whole of No Sleep ’til Hammersmith. That was my mission as a young budding guitarist. Once I learned that and started to put the Discharge stuff with the Motorhead stuff. It gave you a bigger picture of what we could do. That’s where it all came from really. The better musician I got, the more I wanted to play more intricate guitar stuff. Then I started to listen to Sabbath and Priest, and then the first Metallica album and the direction was always going to follow that I think, but with always that Discharge influence lying in the back as it still does.

Did you follow other hardcore bands from the other countries at that time or were you influenced by Discharge and other UK bands?

I’m going to say that the UK scene for me was the best scene. I wasn’t ever very much into the American hardcore punk scene. I didn’t find it as dirty and as dark, as what we had over here. I was very, very, very snobby about my bands. For me outside of Discharge, GBH and Exploited. There wasn’t a lot that could match that. I was very just stuck on those bands. They were just so outrageously good. I found it difficult to look pass that. Maybe that was a little bit ignorant, but that’s just the way I felt. They were just such incredible bands at the time and it just had this insane energy. I just listened to it all the time. I still listened to and I still go to see Discharge, GBH whenever I can, which is quite a lot over the last few years. Unfortunately, I missed out on a few shows because of this virus thing, but I’m very, very snobby about my punk bands.

When speaking about the UK thrash metal. To be honest British thrash metal didn’t get that much recognition in the ’80s, like Germans  Kreator, Destruction etc and other bands like Coroner and Celtic Frost from Switzerland.  Have you ever thought about why British bands didn’t get that much recognition?  You had a lot of bands, Acid Reign, Re-Animator, Toranaga, Deathwish, you and Sabbat…

If I’m brutally honest, I don’t think there was a lot of originality. If you look at the thing, most successful bands that came out of UK was us and Sabbat, and then we were a bit different to the rest. The rest seemed to be a lot more Bay Area influenced. Obviously not Acid Reign, but I think a majority of the other bands seem to be heavily influenced by the Bay Area scene. The Bay Area bands were the best at what they were doing. I don’t think Britain really got a look into much on them on the thrash metal scene. There was a massive audience for it. Huge, huge thousands and thousands of fans, but we just didn’t have the bands, which was bizarre. Then another thing I put it down to was a lot of these American guys were coming out of guitar institutes and stuff. Whereas there was nothing like that in the UK. There were no schools for specialist music and particularly guitarist. A lot of people were just being self-taught and I don’t think we had the level. Things changed after mid, late ’80s. That was another reason. We just didn’t have the high standard of musicianship that was coming out of America also. As said the German bands did great and I guess the same applied to them, but their style was quite a lot different to the UK scene.

I remember one band a friend of mine taped for me, it was Virus.

We played with Virus many times. I love the guys, really cool guys, but it was never my personal favourite style, but they were a little bit different. I like their attitude, but I was never a big fan overall of the music. I think it’s some kind of incarnations of Virus going there.

I guess more old thrash bands have reunited like Acid Reign with the different lineup I guess.

Yeah, yeah. It’s just H. The Acid Reign stuff sounded really good, what I’ve heard. I heard some of the Virus stuff, which was by Kev the guitarist, his version. That sounded really good too.

I remember having seen Sabbat once at Wacken 2007. 

All right, okay. I don’t think there’s any chance of the guys getting back together. We tried that. We were going to try and put together a tour for Onslaught and Sabbat, which would have been amazing, but it’s never going to happen ever. We managed to get one festival in Germany together. Then I think things went wrong again, so there is no chance.

Instead the British extreme metal like Grindcore bands, Napalm Death, Carcass. That genre became really huge in the late ’80s. Everyone was trying to copy Carcass.  That was a unique thing, one kind of stuff coming out of  England at that time.

Yeah, it was a great scene. The bands are still going, which is a credit to them. Napalm Death has the great stuff. Which is cool to see. Not too clued up about Carcass very much, but I know that their last album was very highly rated. It’s great to see some British bands getting international recognition as well.

It is said Covid-19 is getting over. If it is getting over now, but I think this year is anyway gone now by. If the virus thing is over by next year  you’re going out to tour and promote the new album.

We decided to put this album out during the virus period. A lot of bands have postponed their albums and we didn’t see that as a very good idea personally. We discussed the situation and we looked at Testament and Lamb Of God, were put in their records. There’s obviously a lot of thought gone into that. We come up with the theory that as there’s no shows or no festivals this year. A lot of bands have postponed their records. Let’s put the record out. It’s been seven years. We didn’t want to wait any longer. Let’s put out. Fans want new music. Hopefully, Onslaught are going to gain a lot of extra attention. There’s less competition in the market. There’s no shows. Let’s get out of there. What that does mean is that we can start booking shows for next year on the back of this record, which is then hopefully fans are going to like it and really grow into want to hear this stuff live. Whereas all the other bands you have delayed, they’re going to be putting their albums out at the same time. There’s going to be a mass influx of new records. They’re all going to be trying to book shows to do this, but we’re one step ahead. We’ve booking shows for the next year now. The album’s out in two weeks. Hopefully, we’re on the march already. Whereas everybody else is waiting. Hopefully the plan will go right and once the virus is out, we’ll have lots of work next year. Obviously we go on festivals. All of them have been reconfirmed for 2021, which is fantastic. We just got to keep our fingers crossed that they go ahead and everything works out for next year.

I guess you are allowed to play some small shows in England right now?

I don’t think we’ve had any shows in the UK yet. They said from August, but what that means I don’t know. When? The government just do not tell you anything. They make all these crazy ideas, but then there’s no thinking or logic behind what they do. It’s like tomorrow a new rule comes in the UK, that you must wear face masks when you go into a store.

It’s mandatory now there?

As from tomorrow. You don’t have to wear a face mask when you go into a bar or restaurant. What sense does that make? Nobody has a clue what’s going on. The same again with the shows restart in August. Nobody knows what it means. We have to wait and see, very unclear.

There are some festivals going to happen in August in Finland, but they’re really small ones. Instead of having the gigs in small clubs, it’s quite impossible, because you are supposed to have chairs there.  They should have a social distancing in clubs. How is it going to happen in the metal gigs in a club? It’s not going to work there.

No. I don’t think so. I’ve been discussing this also. The fact that to be able to safely social distance at a gig or a festival, you’re going to have to have a venue to get 500 people in. Maybe you’re going to have to have a 2000 capacity venue. The cost of doing that are very high, with a very small amount of ticket sales. I just don’t see how it’s going to work. There’s going to be a lot of compromises made by everyone, which tour budgets and stuff aren’t going to work on that basis. Home tours and maybe local stages of bands, maybe in Germany, if you’re a German band or British band in the UK. For a European band to go to America or American band to come here is not going to work at that moment. I don’t think.

The European Union has set some limitation for USA and bands are not able to get to Europe at all. That’s why this year is basically over as far as the concerts and festivals are concerned.

Yeah, I think so. We still have one festival that’s not being cancelled in the UK in October, November, Damnationfestival. We’re booked to play that, but we still have no idea whether it’s going ahead or what the restrictions would be. It’d be great if it does go ahead of course. We need to get into some rehearsal, because we’re going to need that a little, because of rehearsal rooms that aren’t open as yet in the UK. I think that’s until next week. We obviously haven’t played together as a band since February. It’s going to be a lot of hard work.

All right Nige. I thank you all for the time, one hour.

That’s okay. Always good to talk to you. Take care of yourself.

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