EVILE – I/II – Third Time For The Serpent’s Thrash Charm?
Growing up during the 80’s thrash explosion, I was aware of its decline in the 90’s as heavier underground styles took over like death and black metal. Over the past decade though, certain parts of the world have resurrected the movement, leading to newer bands willing to put out their own original albums and tour the globe to keep the pit moving mongers thriving.
Evile hail from the United Kingdom, and now with their third album "Five Serpent’s Teeth" hitting the streets they appear poised to ascend the ranks from mere thrash contender into certain headlining status act. Calling from his home country I spoke with guitarist Ol Drake about their discography and touring adventures through the years.
Your new album is Five Serpent’s Teeth. Can you tell us a little bit behind the recording of this third album, how long the songwriting took and if there were any songs that were more challenging than others in the writing or recording stages?
Right. The writing process started about two years ago, since we finished "Infected Nations". I have always been a believer of not having to be behind in this process. The more popular bands get, it will take sometimes 3 or 4 years between albums and I didn’t want the writing to take that long. So we are always writing riffs or ideas all the time. In the studio we were in there for about a month. The most challenging song was "In Memoriam" because it’s quite difficult with clean guitars and not just powering away like we are typically used to. We concentrated on all these different chords and it was so weird for us to track all these clean guitars. To capture a mood that is just totally different from speed, I think the meaning behind it was for Mike that we did it well.
"In Memoriam" is a fitting tribute to your late bass player Mike Alexander. What are your favorite memories of Mike through the years, and have the Evile followers welcomed Joel Graham with open arms?
There are so many great memories- we started the band in 1999 and we were with Mike for 10 years. The one that always stands out is when we played the Brixton Academy with Megadeth, and Mike had seen Dimebag Darrel there with Pantera. We had the same dressing room as Pantera had had there, and he remembers this because Dimebag had thrown some Jack Daniels out the window to him, so he was already acting like a school girl back then. My favorite moment was he was on Dimebag’s side of the stage and he was so happy about that. The other moments are stupid drunken nights where we are singing Cyprus Hill songs. Joel’s fit in real well. When everyone auditioned, he was the only one we felt comfortable with before he even played the bass. He’s from where we are, the same kind of guy with the same kind of humor and all the fans are really respectful. He’s very respectful of the material we did with Mike, he actually went to college with Mike and they knew each other.
How did you manage to hook up with comedian Brian Posehn who provides some backing vocals on the album?
I remember seeing a Tweet of his when we did "Enter The Grave" and he thought we were cool. And then we put out the second album and we sent him a copy and he said he liked it. He showed up at one of our shows in Hollywood where we were going to play, we were going to play "Creeping Death" and he was going to get up and do some background vocals but he never did. We would e-mail each other back and forth, and we were recording the new album so we asked he if wanted to do some background vocals on this one song "Cult". He sent us a few files of him shouting the word ‘cult’ for half an hour and we had loads to pick from. I think he snuck in a few other ‘c’ words that sound similar to cult as well (laughs).
What do you think you learned from writing and recording your first two albums that you were able to better apply to this album?
I think the third album is as it is because of the second album. We wrote most of the first album’s material before we were even signed, we had 80% of the album already written, so in a sense we didn’t have to write the album. When it came to the second album we had to sit back and actually write songs that are going to be on an album released worldwide, and that was a bit of pressure on us. We tried loads of new ideas and it didn’t sound much like the first album, we went a bit too far on the experimenting side of things, this nine minute pieces that are going all over the place. We learned what crowds do and don’t like- so the third one we are more comfortable with everyone and Joel had a lot of input as well. We aren’t experts, we are going along with it as it goes.
I have to admit that "Infected Nations" was a slight disappoint to me, not necessarily because of the change in direction as much as many of the mid-tempo or slower numbers like "Genocide" and "Metamorphosis" didn’t have the catchiness/hook factor that won me over immediately on your debut "Enter The Grave" effort. What are your thoughts on this album now in retrospect?
You just said it really. When we got around to playing a lot of these songs live, say "Genocide" we had a totally different reaction from the crowd. We asked ourselves, ‘why is that?’ and as we were playing it, we discovered that we have to have the hooks. And then we would play a song off "Enter The Grave" and everyone would go mental, so in retrospect we should have spent a lot more time on the songs. I think part of it was being rushed into the studio as we had to get the demos completed for the label, so we had to rush to get them into a completed form. We had to take the demo base into the studio, it was a rush job- I’m still proud of the album, but there are some things I would change.
In 2011, the metal music business model certainly is different than it was in a previous generation. How does Evile tackle the fiscal aspect and knowing where to balance and budget your money, especially with how much of a touring act you’ve been through the years?
That’s difficult to answer because a lot of the time when we tour all the money that we make is going into the petrol tank for gas and the van. Lots of our tours are if we can clear our costs, we’ll do the tour. It’s never a case of what profit is going where because there usually isn’t a profit. We did 5 months in America last year with about 6 days off, and we didn’t make any money from that, we did break even. That’s what we do- if we were doing it for profit we wouldn’t be doing it right now.
Is that why the merchandising aspect is so much more important for metal bands these days?
Yes it is. For a band like us merchandise money pays for the petrol to get to the next gig. I’m personally against downloading of albums- I don’t mind people checking out songs, but I’d like them to buy it. I wish people would support new bands more- not everyone is Megadeth. A lot of bands now are struggling and we get the support to get to each gigs. People often say we should be glad that people are hearing our music. I did make a decision to do this as my job- so basically you are stealing from my work. People can argue about this until the cows come home.
The UK thrash scene seems to have revived itself hand in hand with the American generation- did you ever follow the early years growing up with Onslaught, D.A.M., Xentrix, and Sabbat among others?
Well, I was born in 1984- so I wasn’t fully around for a lot of it. When I was 12 or 13 Matt found the Onslaught album "In Search Of Sanity" in a warehouse, and ever since then I love that album. Now we really support the band, but I didn’t follow them in the early days because I was in diapers (laughs).
What’s your favorite tour or festival you’ve done as Evile through the years? Are there any particular exotic places or particular bands you’d like to play in the near future?
It’s always a choice between the tour we did with Megadeth throughout Europe, two months with them and Exodus as well. We were sharing a bus with Exodus, and that was insane… a lot of alcohol was had. My favorite place I’ve been for a show was in Madrid, Spain. The first note we played, the stage ended up full of people, it was mental.
You’ve been embraced very well by the normally critical UK magazine circuit, receiving consistent great press in Kerrang, Metal Hammer, and Terrorizer among others. Do you believe the power of the printed word still carries decent value in your home country and abroad, even with social media and internet forums?
Yes I really think it does. A lot of people over here still buy Kerrang and Metal Hammer, they always include really cool stuff like CD’s. I know so many people who tell me they saw us in such and such issue of Metal Hammer, and we go ‘wow’. We walk into shops and they are fully stocked with magazine. It’s still relevant- I know you can duplicate articles and news items for social media and such. It’s important over here.
Could you describe the personalities of each member of the group and what unique qualities each brings to the table to make Evile special?
Wow that’s hard. I think Joel’s very classic rock orientated. He brings a lot of groove to it. Before Mike was more speed metal, he would just be like ‘that’s not fast enough’. Ben is a ferocious drummer. He’s very consistent in his ideas, and they translate well to the riffs we write and the things that we do. He always has ideas to add to, he’s very musical minded with bass and guitar. Matt is just… vocally orientated. He’s thinking about a Queen approach, what would Freddie Mercury to do for things. And I bring a lot of the harsh stuff, Obituary chords with the slower, evil, heavier stuff with big open chords mixed with the speed and Bay Area stuff.
What’s your greatest concern about the world live in today?
On a basic level that people have just stopped caring I think, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. You probably saw the riots in London over here- there was an argument that it was about some guy who got shot actually protesting and then it turned into a riot. In actual reality most of the people that were rioting were doing it because they were wanting to get free stuff. We had an Los Angeles police officer advise us in what to do.
What are the tour plans for Evile over the rest of 2011 and start of 2012? How will you decide the set list- and would you ever consider rotating songs in and out to pull off surprises for your fans?
For touring plans we have the UK tour booked in now- we literally want to get to as many places as possible, back into America and South America, as well as into Mexico, China, Japan, etc. It already is becoming hard picking songs from three albums. We are looking to learn the entire new album so we can rotate any song in and out of the set list. One thing I loved about the last time I saw Metallica is they played different songs from their back catalog every night and I really admired that, instead of doing the same set. So we are definitely talking about doing something similar to that.