Interview by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
The final of the Bloodstock Ireland Metal 2 The Masses competition was held in Fibber Magee’s in Dublin last month. The overall winners were Animator, a four-piece thrash band based in Wexford whose influences include bands like Annihilator, Testament and Pantera. They are vocalist James Doughty, guitarist Ryan Treanor, bassist Barry Ryan and drummer Darren Bradley. We caught up with them for a chat and some photos before they headlined the Dublin Thrash Fest in Fibber’s last Saturday…
Alan: Congratulations on winning the Bloodstock Ireland Metal 2 The Masses competition. In one sentence, describe to me how the final went for you guys?
James: An unbelievable experience!
Darren: A strange journey, but awesome! It was crazy!
Alan: What was the highlight of the night for you?
Barry: When Simon Hall announced the results, I suppose.
James: The whole night was great.
Darren: When we heard that there would be two bands from Ireland going to Bloodstock. It showed what they thought of the Irish scene; that was awesome. I was thinking about that in the weeks coming up to the final. I knew how good all the bands were, and I was wondering how he was going to pick just one band. I’m delighted that he didn’t!
Alan: Well, you guys were the overall winners and have scored that slot on the New Blood stage, but it’s great that Snowblind will get to play on the Jagermeister stage as well. So, what did you do afterwards? How did you celebrate?
Darren: What did you do Ryan?
Ryan: I went to bed!
Darren: We went down to the after-party in Sin E, but it was after 3am by the time we got there, and there wasn’t much happening.
James: Yeah, it was a bit quiet at that stage.
Darren: We had to pack up all of our gear. I was still in disbelief.
Alan: Did the opportunity to headline tonight’s Dublin Thrash Fest only arise since then?
Darren: We were actually asked to play that night, but we didn’t know if we could do it, so we had to turn it down. But a couple of weeks ago we found out that we could, and he said “Cool, do you want to headline?”.
James: It all kinda fell into place.
Alan: If you were to describe the sound of Animator to someone who has never heard music of any kind, how would you do so?
James: That’s a tough one… Groovy. Energetic. Power. Strength. We like to play hard and fast, but we do like to have groove in there so we can move about ourselves.
Darren: And lyrically, hopefully, thought-provoking.
James: Yeah, definitely. We like to tell stories and to open people’s minds to different ideas.
Alan: That leads nicely into my next question which was about the inspirations for your lyrics…
James: A lot of issues like global power, the wars going on, and to a degree, conspiracy theories. I’m interested in all those things. Open views and looking at things from outside the box. I like to hear and read about stories from the people who are going through these things. Like people in Iraq or Afghanistan. To know what it would be like for them being under siege from the Americans or whatever. I always like to take a look at what it would be like from other people’s perspective.
Barry: Our song ‘Ultra-53’ is from the point of view of somebody who is being experimented on, and how that affected them.
Ryan: It’s based on MKUltra [the CIA’s mind control program].
James: The CIA abducted people and subjected them to experiments, gave them loads of drugs, kept them awake for weeks so they couldn’t sleep. Just to see what would happen to them. They broke people down and rebuilt them.
Ryan: And the first reports of that were in the fifties; around 1953, so that’s where the name ‘Ultra-53’ comes from.
Barry: I wonder if people are confused by the name of that song? Nobody has ever asked what it means!
Alan: Well, they’ll know now if they read this! So the impression I’m getting is that James is the main lyric writer in the band?
James: I guess so. The lads do chip in with ideas and [Darren] Bradley does help with lyrics a lot if I’m stuck on a few lines. If he has better ideas, he does tend to chip in.
Darren: Mostly the topics come from James though.
Alan: And the other way around? Do you contribute to the music itself?
James: Sometimes. I have a tendency to disassemble songs and re-arrange them, which the lads don’t like at all.
Darren: …Three months after it’s written.
Ryan: When the song has been written by us, we know it’s going to be written another two or three times before it’s actually finished!
Darren: And it’s going to be a different song.
Alan: Back to Bloodstock. I’d like each of you to tell me what you’re most looking forward to about the festival.
James: Having a fucking deadly laugh. Being with all the other bands and hopefully kicking ass, and giving a good showcase of ourselves.
Barry: I’m looking forward to playing the very last note of the gig, and knowing that was pretty awesome, and finally being able to relax.
Ryan: For me it’ll have to be standing on that stage just looking out at the crowd and seeing hopefully a sea of faces. I can’t really imagine what that will feel like at the moment, but I just can’t wait for that.
Darren: I’m looking forward to being able to get our name out there. Being able to get in touch with people in the industry over there, and getting our foot in the door. And possibly being able to play more festivals from that.
Alan: Do you know what day you’ll be playing yet?
Alan: So you won’t really be able to relax until that night then.
Darren: It’ll give us loads of time to promote though.
James: That’s the main thing. We plan to do a lot of promotion over there.
Alan: I presume you’ve been talking to Psykosis who won the M2TM competition last year. They did a lot of promotion before their Sunday slot.
Darren: Yeah. We can’t give out free beer again though.
Alan: What’s the biggest crowd you have played to so far?
James: Definitely Mooncoin Bike Rally.
Darren: That was years ago. It was a bike rally in Kilkenny with about 2000 people at it.
Barry: But it wasn’t like a “gig” gig. It was a massive indoor place, but there was pockets of people doing different things. So while there was about 2000 people there in total, it wouldn’t be anything like Bloodstock where there will be 2000 people, or whatever, just looking at you.
Alan: Let’s see if you can agree on these: Which of you is most likely to be “the responsible one” at the festival, making sure everything is going according to plan?
James: Darren. It’d more than likely be him.
Darren: Probably out of necessity rather than wanting to do it.
Alan: Ok. Which of you is most likely to be found passed out in a portaloo?
Darren: I’m going to say Ryan.
James: Definitely a few years ago. Definitely Ryan.
Alan: What about waking up in a strange tent with a strange girl?
Barry: I’ll take that.
Alan: What about who is most likely to spend more on band merchandise than food?
Ryan: That would actually be James.
James: I spend a lot of money on t-shirts. I have to bring back t-shirts from every gig.
Alan: That evens out pretty nicely. One each. What about your number one metal festival survival tip?
Darren: I’ve never been to one. So I won’t be any help there!
James: Bring lots of beer.
Barry: I went to Ozzfest about fifteen years ago, but I couldn’t tell you how to survive it. I can’t remember. I survived, but I don’t know how.
Alan: Maybe you’ve seen Iron Maiden sold “Trooper” beer. Megadeth sold “Blood of Heroes” wine. Fleshgod Apocalypse even sold their own Pasta. If you guys could put the Animator brand on any food or beverage, what would it be?
Darren: I have one: “Breadweb” [all laugh]. A sliced pan. We have a song called ‘Dreadweb’, but we’ll call it “Breadweb”.
Barry: We should go to Bloodstock with a load of sliced pans. We can throw out ham sandwiches.
James: Nobody at our gig will be hungry.
Alan: Another “What if” question: If you could travel to any place in space and time, where, when and why?
Barry: I would have loved to have been at the Moscow gig in 1991 when Pantera and Metallica played at Tushino Airfield [incidentally, listed as the 5th largest concert ever according to Wikipedia]. I could imagine being there with the crazy shit going on with the soldiers, the huge crowd, Metallica and then Pantera who were relatively unknown I suppose at the time. That would have been fucking insane.
James: Yeah, I would have loved to have gone to a Pantera gig. They’re my favourite band and I never got to see them.
Alan: Alright. Tell us a story about life in Animator. Something funny that happened in or with the band, that you don’t mind the internet knowing about.
Ryan: Rescuing a dude from the river maybe?
James: We were practising in my garage…
Darren: It was the second last practice before the competition final…
James: Yeah, and either side of my house there are blocks of flats, and we’re right on the river edge. We got a bang on the door, and it was one of the guys from next door, and his friend was after jumping into the river for a dare. It’s not a river where you really want to be jumping into.
Ryan: And he was pissed as well.
Barry: And he was a big heavy chap. It was about a four metre drop down to where he was.
James: It was a good forty minutes of us running around trying to figure out ways to get him out. We were throwing over ropes, and he was climbing up the wall.
Ryan: The whole lot of us were pulling on the rope and then he’d slip off the rope and we’d just hear a splash, and he’d be back in the water.
Barry: And there were bricks from the wall falling down on him.
James: I don’t know how he survived.
Darren: And because of all that, we couldn’t practice. He ruined our practice session. I don’t know how we won. I would have blamed him forever if we didn’t.
Alan: We’re glad he survived and you won the competition without that particular practice session anyway! So tell us how you plan to encourage people to come to see you perform at Bloodstock?
Ryan: Well the thing about playing on Sunday is that it will give us a lot of time to promote ourselves over there, and to tell people that we’re playing.
James: We haven’t really thought too much about encouraging people from Ireland to come over. We do have a few of our friends and family members coming over.
Darren: For the most part, over there, we’ll just be dragging people to the tent.
James: Yeah, we’ve had a few ideas, like giving out merch or wrist bands.
Barry: Also, I think now is the right time to see us. Even if you’ve seen us before, it seems like in the last year, we have really started to hit a really positive, really good run of form live.
James: We’ve been working on our live performances a lot more, and it seems to be paying off for us.
Barry: Musically, we were always concentrating on being really tight and being really together on stage, but we just really started to develop. And now we’re trying to put on a show rather than just trying to be tight. For a live show, now is the time to see us.
James: And we’re going to put more work into it as well.
Darren: I also had an idea to have a guest performer to come up and play a song with us. It may not happen yet, but that might be a good way to promote our show as well.
Alan: Cool. Well, we look forward to seeing you on the New Bloods Stage on Sunday August 9th!