Shrapnel interview (11/2020)
|Conducted by:||omne metallum (e-mail)|
2020 has been a year to regret and forget for most, serving only as an annus horribilis for those who have lived through it. Things haven't been bad for everyone, though, for East Anglia thrashers Shrapnel saw the release of their much-anticipated new album from their new lineup, Palace For The Insane. I was lucky enough to chat with guitarist and cofounder Nath Sadd about the record and how the year has been for the band.
omne metallum: How are things? I hope all is well and you are all keeping safe in these unusual times.
Nath Sadd: We're all great, comparatively! How are you guys? It's been a weird summer hasn't it? One of us got COVID, but we're all good now!
You have been keeping yourselves busy during this enforced downtime, regularly streaming and chatting with other bands (thrash fans should tune in to hear chats with Exhumer and Heathen); is this something you plan to keep on doing when live shows can return?
The streams have been really good fun! We've built up a few contacts over the years, and we're always super interested in talking about metal, our favourite albums, and what other bands are up to, so it seemed like a good way to keep in contact with people.
I definitely think Chris M and I will keep doing it moving into next year. We've had some great conversations with some people we really look up to. We spoke to Mem [von Stein] from Exumer this week, and it was just really easy and interesting. He's a really knowledgeable guys, and it was great hearing about what they're up to. We've also learnt a bunch from doing it too, so its helpful on a more practical level for us too. Kragen [Lum] from Heathen was really helpful and offered us a lot of advice, for example. We get a good amount of interaction from the chats, so we'll definitely keep going. We're thinking about turning it into a full podcast, and we have some great guests in the pipeline!
You create various Spotify playlists (hammersmashednath), which are highly recommended for fans of metal. Do you often find yourself inspired by what you hear when putting these together?
Definitely! I'm (Nath) currently doing my PhD, so my life revolves around reading, writing, and listening to music. All day, every day. At the start of the COVID lockdown, I figured I'd try to grow the main playlist I curate (Face-Melting Thrash) as large as I can. It has a decent following now, and has been a great way to reach new fans for Shrapnel, but also to turn attention to smaller bands that I love.
It's something I really enjoy. Back when we were getting into a lot of the music we listen to now, my friends would exchange compilations of new stuff we'd found, so I guess it's an extension of that. I've found dozens of more obscure thrash records I had never heard, and it has put me in contact with similar bands as ours all over the world. It keeps my attention on a genre that I love, and definitely gives me inspiration for new Shrapnel stuff.
If you think there's some thrash (or any genre) I need to hear, get on the Shrapnel social media pages, throw them at me, and I'll add them to the lists! We usually have some good discussions about it.
You do various play-throughs online (drum and guitar play-throughs); do you have any plans to do any full-band live streams?
It's something we need to do more of for sure. Chris W has been doing some great drum play-throughs of the Palace For The Insane stuff. We've had people ask us to do guitar play-throughs, but we've been most busy writing for some new songs and the next record. Once we've finished an album, we tend to immediately think about what we're doing next, so we find it difficult to look back on the stuff we've just completed sometimes. But yeah, there will be more!
As for a live stream, we'd love to. We do have a venue in mind, but there's a few logistical things we need to sort out related to the current crisis. Another problem is that we're fully focused on getting a bunch of new stuff written while we are all relatively free. We're planning on getting the next record out a lot quicker, so we want to nail that stuff down ASAP.
Watch this space though! We were recently asked about doing a limited live show in a venue with recording capacity, so it will likely happen fairly soon!
You've played with many bands over the years, from Bay Area titans like Exodus to new breeds of bands like Evile; which band has been the most memorable to play with and why?
Definitely the couple of times we played with Exodus. The first time was in Islington, London, and we were relatively new to the scene. It was our biggest show at that point, and it was just awesome. Having the Exodus guys watch our sound check was surreal. They are our ultimate heroes, and just chilling out with them all day was pretty inspiring. The 2nd time was at the small Underworld venue in London. It looked like something straight out of the 80s Bay Area days. People flipping onto the stage, roof tiles being kicked through, sweat dripping from the ceiling, and thrashers just going crazy. Both times left a massive impression on us in terms of how to write aggressive music.
Suicidal Tendencies was also pretty mad. It was shortly after the London Riots in 2011, and the place felt pretty electric. Their set was just incredible. Our old bassist and I were heading from the backstage area to the back of stage, and this guy just came bursting horizontally through these double stage doors. He looked pretty beat and bloodied. He'd obviously been going mad in the pit, gotten himself on stage, and quickly booted off and out by security. He didn't care. We were just laughing at how mad it was. The show was chaos. All of those kinds of show where we've played with Death Angel, Sepultura, Sacred Reich etc have been great. Meeting your heroes and getting to see and talk to them before and after that 90 minutes they're on stage is pretty cool.
More recently we played in Sweden at the House Of Metal Festival for the first time. It was awesome. We got to hang around with Carcass and the I Am Morbid guys. The crowd was killer, and it was our first big show for the new album. The whole thing was just a crazy experience, and we can't wait to back at some point.
You dedicate "Begin Again" to Dave Ingram, Jr., of Vindicator, Hellbastard, and Nefasturris; what was your relationship with David like?
We wouldn't claim any more of a special relationship with him than the rest of the UK thrash scene. He was loved by a lot of people. For us specifically, he was one of our biggest supporters right from the beginning. He invited us up North to play the Full Thrash Assault (FTA) festival a bunch of times, and we always had the best time. FTA feels like it is part of the Shrapnel's DNA now. We have such great memories of it, and of Dave. He always expected big things from us and really encouraged us, so there is a pressure there to try to do something good and leave a mark.
I was fortunate to have a 3-4 hour phone conversation with Dave around the Christmas before he passed, and it was great. He and I would often take the piss out of each other online, and trade music and band-related news. But that night he wasn't doing so good, so we just chatted about life, family, music, plans, and everything. We talked yet again about doing a side project. It left a massive mark on me in light of what happened, and I miss him a lot. We were re-recording some old songs for our anniversary EP the last time I spoke with him, and I wish I could have shown him the final thing.
"Begin Again" was a nice way to process a few things, and to say thanks to him. He'd probably think it was slow and lame haha!
To continue with "Begin Again", it features a guest spot by ex-vocalist Jae Hadley; how was it working with him again?
It was great! We try to stay in touch as much as possible, and still regard him as a really close friend. Although I miss seeing him more often. We thought it'd be a cool way to keep him linked to Shrapnel in some way, because he was such a huge part of our journey. By the time he left, Jae had developed into a total professional in the studio, so it was good to have him involved in the process again. He also did all the layout and design of the album booklet, so he was still involved in that capacity too.
I'm supposed to be sorting out some songs for us to record together at some point. We wanted to put together a really aggressive death/thrash project, but life stuff keeps getting in the way. I'm sure it will happen as soon as I pull my thumb out and get on with it!
You have recently had a line-up shuffle seeing the departure of your singer, bass player, and drummer last year; have you found the influx of new blood in the band to help spur your creativity?
It's been a big change! Our drummer Chris W was originally with us for our first two EPs back in 2009-2011, so when he returned to record our anniversary EP (Decade Of Decimation) in 2018 it was great. He and I had been jamming together for a few years prior to his return, so we had already rekindled our writing chemistry for another project. It's been great though. He came back into the band at 100%, and has really been a key motivator throughout the new album.
Losing Jae and Cai definitely sucked. It was a big blow to us, and definitely could have ended the band. We realised we wanted to push forward though. We'd been touring with Aarran as a stand in for a while, so we knew we got along with him and we knew he had the charisma to be really great front man. We kept nagging at him to pick up the bass and take over both roles, and he finally accepted after a few trips to the pub.
It has been awesome. It totally reinvigorated us, and both Aarran and Chris W jumped in with both feet. We got to work on the Palace For The Insane stuff pretty much straightway last summer, and the record was so much fun to make. It really felt like we were making our first album all over again.
How did you find recording as a four-piece instead of a five-piece?
We had a lot of fun haha. For the most part it was business as usual for us. The fourpiece set up obviously means there's one less person to coordinate, but recording is always a fairly stressful process. You always try to push yourself to make an album as good as you possibly can, but this one was definitely way more fun than the last record Raised On Decay.
Rather than going into the studio for 2-4 weeks, we recorded this one in phases which was new for us. We went up to our producer's place, Ritual Studios in Darlington, to track drums and some guitars. But for the most part, our producer Sam (Turbitt) was travelling to us every other weekend to finish everything off. It was cool though. We had this cabin at one of our family's places that we practically took over for a few months. It became Shrapnel HQ and a makeshift studio for summer 2019. It was nice having everyone there altogether as we produced the album. It turned into a really great collaborative thing where we were all throwing in ideas, while listening to our favourite albums, and drinking too much beer.
Aarran hadn't recorded vocals for a long time, but he was great. He jumped straight in and we'd all spend hours throwing vocal ideas around as a group. We'd wrap up work then just spend all night drinking beer, listening to records, and having a laugh. Moving to a new studio and producer definitely made us nervous, but we're really happy with the results. I think you can hear that we had a good time making Palace.
Your lyrics are often drawn from a wide variety of topics ("Echoes Of Emptiness" recalls the story of Erich Zann by H.P. Lovecraft and "Might Of Cygnus" is drawn from Greek mythology, for example); what inspires you write about such diverse topics?
We've always drawn lyric ideas from all over the place. I think the last few years have been particularly fertile for finding ideas, considering how mad the world seems to be. It has been great having Aarran join because he's been a new source of ideas in the lyric department. He's more into fantasy and sci-fi stuff, but we've always pulled inspiration from different places. Mostly we draw from whatever is attracting our interest at that moment.
"Echoes" came from a time when Chris M was reading a lot of Lovecraft. Some stuff has come from the historical and political stuff that I study. We have a song called "Red Terror" which is about Russia in the 1920s. "Violent, Now Forever" from the new album is about our propensity for genocide through time. We have a song called "Carved From Above" which came about during the outbreak of violence in Syria etc etc. Then we just have old school fun stuff like "Brain Dead," or "The Mace" from the new album that are inspired by a lot of the old-school records that we love, like Bonded By Blood. We try to balance more 'serious' stuff with some old-school tongue-in-cheek.
At the same time, we like to have a really loose theme underlying each album. It usually helps us get started at the beginning of the album process. For Palace, we wanted to have a theme of mental health underlying things. About how the craziness of the world can really play on your mental wellbeing. It's something we've all been personally affected by in one way or another, so that theme is bubbling away under a lot of the new stuff.
So many of the tracks seem perfect for getting live crowds moving, which tracks are you most looking forward to playing in a live environment?
That's good to hear haha! We definitely wanted to make an album where we could play any of the songs live. I think we've learned a bunch about what kind of songs get the best reaction over time, so we can tailor things in that direction a bit.
We got to play a few of the new songs live just before lockdown. We opened a show with the intro tape and "Cygnus" which was awesome. It feels like the best opener we've ever written, so we're looking forward to doing that again. We're looking forward to playing "Vultures Circle" especially. That was pretty much designed as a kind of "Toxic Waltz" crowd song. Some of the faster stuff like "Bury Me Alive" and the title track should be pretty rowdy too.
I think one we're all really looking forward to is "Turn Off The Lights." It's a little different for us. It's really upbeat and Megadeth-y. A lot of people have been pointing to it as their favourite, so that will certainly be in the set moving forward.
Do you have any final words for our readers?
Thanks for checking us out! Palace For The Insane has been great for reaching way more people, and it has been awesome to interact with so many people who are hearing us for the first time. Cheers to you guys at Metal Storm for giving us a platform too, we really appreciate it. Cheers to everyone for picking up merch, albums, and for streaming the new stuff so much - it has been a huge help! Please keep letting people know about us!
Keep blasting thrash!
||Posted on 07.11.2020 by Just because I don't care doesn't mean I'm not listening.|
Comments: 3 Visited by: 47 users
Hits total: 1423 | This month: 39