Interviewed by Alan Daly
Pics: © Olga Kuzmenko Photography
Nige and Jeff tell us about work on the follow up to their 2013 album VI, an upcoming EP release, and tentative plans to play in Australia.
Alan: It’s a pleasure to meet you. Welcome back to Bloodstock. You’ve been here a few times now.
Nige: This is our fourth time here. We did the indoor one in 2007, and then in 2010 and 2015.
Alan: So you’ve seen the festival grow over the years. How would you compare Bloodstock to other European festivals?
Jeff: It’s kinda got a different vibe. It’s got a small festival vibe but a big festival setup if that makes any sense. It’s one of the more friendly festivals.
Nige: Many people seem to know each other.
Jeff: It’s like a community, and it’s great because of that, and I don’t think anywhere else is quite like it. Some of the smaller indoor tented festivals in Europe can be similar but it looks like it’s bigger than it is, but it feels smaller.
Nige: It’s great. The festival is just growing and growing. It seems to get better every year.
Jeff: But It seems to have maintained its core identity. It hasn’t gone overly corporate.
Alan: You’ve got two new members in your line-up since your last visit. Is this your first time playing live with Wayne [Dorman, guitar] and James [Perry, drums]?
Nige: Yes. We’ve only gotten in about seven or eight rehearsals in that time. We played a new song today which we’ve only actually rehearsed once with Sy singing it.
Alan: ‘A Perfect Day to Die’? How do you feel it went down with the crowd?
Nige: We couldn’t have been happier with the response. It was great. It played our way. Obviously living with the song for the last month or so, tweaking it here and there. All of my family are listening to it, and they’re all saying it’s one of the best songs we’ve done. And you kind of don’t know until you get out. Because it’s a little bit different. It’s kind of a little tribute to Motörhead. You’re never sure. Especially when people don’t know the song and they’ve never heard it before, and you play it, and you’re thinking “how’s it going to go?”. We couldn’t have asked for a better reception.
Jeff: It was nice because it was like people were waiting for it. I think if we had of gone into the other song we’re working on on the album, a smooth jazz ballad, I don’t think it would have had the same sort of reaction [laughs].
Alan: Do you have much material written for a new album?
Nige: Yeah, yeah. A lot of it’s in place. We’re probably working on the fourth song out of eight, so we’re getting close to halfway through. But it’s great the input the new guys are having, which is kind of novel for the band to have a lot of extra input. It’s nice and it’s reflecting well on the songs. Everybody’s chipping in.
Alan: I presume you’ve just been at the writing stage and haven’t done any actual recording yet?
Nige: No not yet. We’re going to do ‘A Perfect Day to Die’ as a single, pre-release for the album.
Jeff: The plan is to get that out this year as a 3-track on vinyl.
Alan: With some live tracks?
Nige: We’re trying to think of what else to put on it.
Jeff: We’re going to put something a little bit unusual on there. Something that you wouldn’t really expect. It’s not going to be smooth jazz. It’s still going to be obviously in keeping, but something a bit different.
Alan: So what else is in your diaries for the next few months?
Nige: It’s just writing obviously. I didn’t even realize it’s been so long since the last album. It’s five years now, which is kind of scary because it still seems fairly new to me. The label is like “Where’s the record?”, and obviously, with the new guys coming in, we just need to get it out. So we’re writing madly. But this is our first show for eight or nine months now, and we want to get back out on the road because that’s what we do. We just tour, tour, tour. So it’s been kind of tough for the last nine months not playing any shows.
Alan: Wayne, are you excited to be a part of this experience?
Wayne: Definitely. It’s a massive opportunity for me. It’s really pushed me to my extremes musically, but the guys have been really good to me and welcoming, and it seems like the fans have too. To be honest it really is quite a dream come true for me. I couldn’t be happier.
Alan: Could you possibly have imagined doing all this when you started Onslaught in 1982?
Nige: Nah. Things like this didn’t even exist in the UK at that time. It’s incredible. We were just kids when we started.
Alan: You’ve been back since 2005.
Nige: We’ve been back now far longer than we originally were.
Alan: Do you think thrash metal is as relevant now as it was in the eighties?
Nige: Definitely. I think so. All the bands are still there. You’ve got the so-called big four, but you’ve got Testament, Exodus, Kreator…
Jeff: And I think you find with thrash and the more extreme old-school versions of metal, it’s become really prevalent in other areas in the world. South America. We recently played in Lebanon. There were lots of people came from all sorts of different countries for that one. I think other than other forms of rock music, it just has a certain resonance with people because of the aggression, and because it has a community about it, like this festival.
Alan: Is it more important to keep that old-school eighties feel in thrash? Or to try to modernize it?
Nige: We have modernized it a little on the last two albums, don’t you?
Jeff: Oh yeah, definitely. You need to keep a core. Because that’s what defines the genre, of course. But you certainly need to move on and grow it.
Nige: The new track ‘A Perfect Day to Die’ is kind of old-school. It’s probably one of the most old-school songs we’ve written in a long time. Probably since Kill in Peace, I think.
Alan: Did it come together naturally?
Nige: Yeah, it did actually. I had some of it written and Wayne came in and we crafted the song between us. But yeah, it was a fairly painless process.
Alan: Have you got any other details, themes or titles just yet?
Nige: Yeah, I’ve got titles for every song, and the album title, which I don’t want to disclose at the moment, but yeah, I like to work that way. Get the song title, so it paints a picture of what the song is about, and then move from there.
Alan: Have you got any underlying theme running through the songs?
Nige: Ish. There are a few seriously anti-religious songs on there. Maybe more over the top than usual. We’re kinda going down the propaganda/conspiracy things on a few tracks as well.
Jeff: It’s raging against what society has turned into.
Nige: Things have changed a lot since we released VI. The conspiracy theories, and the propaganda shit, especially the last year have spiraled.
Jeff: And society has moved. Everything is very much a nanny-state now. An uber-nanny-state. And I think it’s a bit of a rage against that, just to try to be a bit more free-thinking, you know?
Alan: How do you think the Brexit situation is going to affect touring bands?
Nige: Yes, I think it’s going to affect it. I’m not sure how much it will. I can remember back in the old days when you entered Belgium or France with a list of every single piece of equipment that went down to the last lead or plectrum. Then they had to check it all. The chaos it’s going to cause if they have a hard customs border is going to be insane.
Alan: Of course it’s going to affect British bands like yourself, who want to tour abroad, and international bands who want to come to Britain. Which might work out well for us, as we’re based in Ireland, so we’re still part of Europe.
Nige: We’ve looked into all sorts of things like that. Are we related at all?
Alan: Maybe. Let’s see if we can get you Irish passports! Moving on, Wacken festival was last weekend and there was a news story about two elderly gentlemen who escaped from a nursing home and were found at 3 am at the festival before being brought back. It later turned out that the story had been misreported…
Jeff: Was it just two members of Saxon?
Alan: Haha. I don’t think so, but when I first heard the story I thought it was an interesting thought that these two old guys wanted to go to one last metal festival so badly that they escaped from their nursing home to go there. What’s on your bucket list? What would you break out of a nursing home to do?
Nige: That’s a tough question. We’ve been so lucky as a band to go to so many corners of the world. Australia is pretty high on my list. We’ve never been that far. We’ve been to China and South America, but not Australia, so it’s somewhere I’d really like to go and play. We’re in early discussions about it at the moment, so fingers crossed it will happen.
Alan: James just joined the conversation. How was it for you to join Onslaught?
James: It’s fucking awesome. Really really good. I played with these guys on a South America tour a few years ago. I filled in. It was awesome to be asked to do that. I got asked again and I signed up.
Alan: You’ve been involved in the writing process for the new material?
James: Yeah, definitely. I’ve been fixing little drum beats here and there.
Alan: Your set today was fantastic, but there were some technical issues at the start. We couldn’t hear Sy at all at the start.
Nige: Yeah, my missus said that. She couldn’t hear him at all. Everything was patched wrong on the desk, and he was like pushing things up and nothing was coming out.
Wayne: There was no monitoring at all for the majority of the set. Oh Well. It was still a laugh.
Nige: Shit happens at festivals. Everybody understands what’s going on.
James: I could hear my snare drum. [everyone laughs]
Alan: Will you get a chance to spend some time here today and see some bands? Who do you want to see?
Wayne: Of course. Emperor. Kamelot.
Alan: Well we’re out of time, so next time you’re touring, make sure you come over to Dublin again!
Jeff: Oh yeah. For sure.