Huddersfield. The home of Rugby League, One of the most successful football teams of the 1930’s. The birthplace of Harold Wilson, twice the prime minister of the country. After that though, you start to struggle. But it’s a town that I love, that I studied in, worked in and lived in. And yes, it has that stench of dark satanic mills about it (it’s not just Hull) but it also has rolling countryside (if you look hard enough) and picturesque villages. And it has Evile.
Evile have been quality purveyors of thrash metal for approaching ten years now. Signed to iconic Earache records, they have recently released their fourth album, Skull. The band was formed in the town by school friends Matt Drake and Ben Carter, who quickly drafted in Matt’s brother Oli on lead guitar and the line-up was completed by London-born Mike Alexander on Bass. But there have been ups and downs for the band, touring the world and supporting some of the biggest names in metal, but the tragic death of Alexander whilst on tour in Sweden still raw for the remaining members.
Alexander was replaced by fellow Yorkshireman and former Rise to Addiction bassist Joel Graham, and we spoke to him about Skull, Metal and (ahem) life in a northern town.
BM: You’ve just released your fourth album, Skull – does it feel like you’ve come a long way since you started out, nearly ten years ago?
JG: The band feels it’s come a very long way since inception, both musically and experience wise. From the early days the band just were having fun with playing gigs where possible, and now we are getting to play all over the world, at a really humbling experience to be able to do it.
Thinking back to those beginning days, was it difficult playing the sort of music you do in a provincial town like Huddersfield, in terms of getting gigs and things like that?
It’s always difficult for bands starting out wherever they are based to get shows, no matter what type of music, there is always the battle of promoters saying you must bring ‘X’ amount of people to a show if you are to play, but when (you’re) still building a fan base that can be very difficult. Usually it’s about bringing as many friends and family as possible to the early shows…and later ones. But shows here in the north prove over and over that people get into it more, we are not as spoilt for bands as central London for example is, so you don’t get the ‘arms folded, seen it before, impress me brigade’ as much, you get the ‘I rarely see this, so I’m gonna bloody enjoy it’ attitude.
But maybe that dark industrial landscape sort of inspired you?
It’s Yorkshire, the land that almost every politician since Harold Wilson forgot. Of course it’s bleak, but yet we are surrounded by the best countryside in the whole of the UK. But when you look at bands such as Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, (who are actually from Dewsbury where I currently live, which is way more bleak and less prosperous than how we see the mighty Huddersfield) they project a great visual via audio depression, especially in their early works, those guys sum up the physical landscape of these parts much better than us, we sound way more optimistic in comparison.
Was there a particular album or group that made you think, I want to play that music?
Loads of them, collectively speaking Queen is common ground for all our early ears within the band, Queen were the first band I personally ever saw live when I was 7 years od age, that moment the decision to play music was made. Then more obviously Metallica, Megadeth, Sepultura and Slayer all inspired us amongst many others.
And you’re on one of the iconic metal labels in Earache – how did that come about?
Earache saw the band play the unsigned stage at Bloodstock festival, and they were impressed by what they saw. Earache were obviously wanting to start a ‘Thrash revival’ of sorts, and Evile fit that plan perfectly and were signed to the label not so soon after.
Does being on that label add any pressure to you?
No, it’s just and extra group of people to work with, honesty and being able to say no, and yes to things you do and don’t want to do is the best policy. Not many bands are working via labels anymore, so it’s about utilising what extra resources you do have when working with a label to benefit the actual band.
So the new record – was it an easy record to make, in terms of writing and recording?
It was very quick, we finished the tour cycle for the previous album Five Serpents’ Teeth, and felt just cracking on with the next album was the most logical move for us. Writing was predominantly completed via demo’s at home and sending them between each other to comment on / add / change etc, then it was into the studio before we knew it. Nothing was over-analysed for Skull, just that’s the feel, that works, let’s get it down.
So did you write specifically for the new album, or has writing gone on in the intervening period?
Writing occurs all the time, if you have an idea, and the means to record it, it’s done there and then. Never about finding time to write, because those ideas that come spontaneously are gone and forgotten by then.
Our favourite song on the album, although it changes, is Words of the Dead – any story behind that?
Yeah, we wanted a very death-metal influenced song, but done the Evile way, and the lyrics are pretty obvious what they are about, no beating around the bush on that one, just a fun more metal than most metal type of song. Dan from Earache actually said to us when he visited the studio that it was the most metal song he’d ever heard, ha!
And you’ve been pleased with the reaction? It certainly seems to me that it’s possibly your strongest collection of songs as a whole – would you agree with that?
It’s always hard to tell until you start playing them live, people’s reaction in a room counts more than words on a forum or a social network site, so that’s always the testing point for any newer material.
Any specific track or tracks you’re particularly pleased with on the record, and for what reason?
A number, The Naked Sun is a personal favourite, it’s just a good hooky song, filled with Evile characteristics, also Tomb was a challenge, and I always like a challenge.
What comes first when you’re writing – the music or the lyrics? How do you go about putting them together?
Music first always, we always get the full track down, then Matt likes to use that bonus time to refine any lyrical and melody ideas. Thing is, it’s the very rare we get to hear much until he is ready to record his vocals, so always a nice surprise to the rest of us when he starts his process.
And you’re out on the road in September – looking forward to it? Are you big fans of playing live?
We love playing live, it’s where it all makes sense, in room or field, loud with people responding.
And you’ve just done the roundhouse with Suicidal Tendencies – how was that?
Was great, another London show, another support, I’m sure people of the UK are getting sick os us opening for these legendary bands here there and everywhere, but we played a good gig that night, converted some of the cynical too that night.
Any more plans recording and touring wise for the rest of the year?
A few dates are penned in, we head to Taiwan in a couple of days, then we have a France festival, one in Greece, things all over….
And finally, the best record we’ve heard this year is…
Personally for me the New Trouble album, The Distortion Field, that and the Ghost album is getting a lot of spins, oh and the new Daft Punk….
You can keep in touch with Evile via?
Search Evile on Facebook etc, you’ll find us. But also through http://www.evile.co.uk
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter whether they’re from Huddersfield or Hong Kong. It’s the quality of the music that shines through. And for this new wave of thrash that continues to sweep through metal, Evile shine very brightly indeed.