SATAN – Serving A Second Sentence
The silliness of youth creeps up from time to time- when you think you have to abandon what you love for something more, something different. In the case of metal during its infancy, styles would change and become faster, heavier, and more aggressive as the youth wanted to express their creativity in their own way. Traditional metal gave way to thrash, then death, then black metal- and cross pollination took place once every style that could be created was put in place.
I never give up on my roots though- and that would be the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Acts like Angel Witch, Raven, Saxon, Def Leppard, Blitzkrieg, Tygers Of Pan Tang, etc. established an indelible mark on my development. Satan also comes up in the conversation, thanks to their album "Court in the Act". So it came as a surprise that this original lineup would reunite not only for a series of shows at major traditional/ old school festivals in Europe, but finally unleashes a new studio album this year with "Life Sentence".
Answering these questions is guitarist Steve Ramsey- and hopefully if this act remains a mystery to your ears, they will no longer. Classic metal lives eternally.
"Life Sentence" is the new album, and you are one of the few NWOBHM bands that can assemble all 5 members from those impactful days back together. As Satan, did you have a particular game plan when it came to the writing and recording of this material? It truly does sound like an accurate follow up to "Court In The Act" with back to basics production values and tones…
It was very important to us that if we were going to record a new album that it would need to sound like a follow up to CITA otherwise the point of making it would be lost. It is all new material, nothing used from the past, and we had to lay down a few ground rules in the writing of the music and lyrics for it to be authentic to the time back then. We still use the overall theme of injustice in the lyrics which the devil as the judge represents in the artwork. Musically we are all better and more experienced musicians but had to transport ourselves back in time to the early eighties and write what we thought we would have written then. For instance we wouldn’t have used a lot of odd time signatures in the music or drop tuning of the guitars.
I’m sure you had many offers on the table as far as labels willing to put out this record, why did the band decide to go with Listenable Records above anyone else? It does seem like the label has a roster of acts in a number of different genres, which allows your record to establish another sound that normally is not on display…
We didn’t really think about what else was on the label as that didn’t concern us. We have been mislabeled ourselves so many times that we didn’t think that would make a difference. Laurent, the guy who owns and runs the label, wanted to meet us, and he did after a show in Belgium last year. His vision of what he had planned and what we wanted were the same and we decided there and then that we were going to have him handle the album. They have done such a great job so far, we couldn’t be more happy. It was Laurent who put us in touch with Eliran Kantor the artist who created the album sleeve and we think he has done a fantastic job.
What would you say are some of the lyrical topics the band focused on more with this album?
We try to write about topics that suit the style of music we play. Injustice is the overall theme, then we have covered such themes as Biblical Retribution, Atonement and Third World Politics under that umbrella.
Tell us about the reunion shows you’ve played, starting with the Wacken Open Air gig in 2004, and the reunion of the "Court In The Act" lineup for Keep It True in 2011. How does it make you feel that the work of Satan has made this much of an impact not only on the older generation, but now infecting a second generation of metal heads?
We got back together for Wacken in 2004 basically because they asked us to. At the time Sean our drummer had suffered leg injuries in a car accident that meant he was unable to play the material on CITA. We hired the drummer from Blitzkrieg to do that show. That was a one off show and we had no other plans to do more until Oliver from Keep it True relentlessly pursued us to do his festival. This only came about when Sean said he was able to play again. Oliver had told us that there were a lot of fans out there that wanted to see us back together and seeing was believing. We were amazed at the new younger fans at the show and that’s what has spurred us on to do more shows and eventually make the album. It’s great to finally get the recognition we think we deserved for what we were doing back then.
What are your early memories of music like around the house growing up? What were some of the early albums and bands that got your interest and made you want to play heavy metal?
Elvis and rock n’ roll was the main stuff at home when I was growing up. My first album that I got for Christmas from my grandma was Queen – A Night at the Opera. I loved Brian Mays’ guitar work and then got into more rock music, punk and then eventually metal. I got into Rainbow – Long Live Rock N Roll (we used to play a cover of Kill The King in the early days of the band), Motorhead – Overkill, then every Black Sabbath album. We molded the band on early Judas Priest and learned the whole of the Unleashed In The East live album playing a lot of those songs in early shows.
How would you compare Satan live in the 1980’s versus Satan in a live environment now? Can you also tell us some of your best fan encounter stories through the years?
We were a pretty good tight band in the eighties. Again we’re better musicians and have more live experience now and equipment is a lot better too. But it’s not about that, it’s about whether we can create the same intensity and frenetic vibe that we could back then. We’ve been told we can!
Fan encounters… I remember a show in Holland where the audiences were pretty crazy back then. A guy came up to us at the bar after the show and said "we in the Netherlands set fire to our hair!" Then he took out a lighter and guess what happened next. All gone.
Did you ever run into trouble with promoters or the press regarding the band name ‘Satan’ back in the day?
Not promoters or press but we had Christians turning up at shows to try to stop us playing and once the Mayor of a small town in Germany tried that too. We were forever explaining that we weren’t occultists and trying to preach Satanism.
Do you see any major differences in terms of metal promotion and audience in 2013 compared to Satan’s development through the underground with tape trading and fanzines/ underground radio during the late 70’s and early 80’s?
Yes indeed. It was hard work back then trying to find bands and types of music you wanted to listen to. You would sometimes have to buy an album to find out that it was shit in the end. It was also harder trying to get your name about as a band, especially if you were a bit different to the rest. The internet has opened up all of that now and fans can find exactly what they want and decide themselves what to listen to instead of being force fed by magazines and radio stations who in turn rely on the advertising revenue from the major record labels. That’s exactly how we have come to reform, due to the fans wanting us to via the internet.
Where are you most comfortable: in the studio or on the stage? What do you see as the major difference when it comes to both environments?
I love both. I love the creative side of studio work and the atmosphere generated and the energy from playing live. The major difference apart from what I’ve already said is that I sit down to play in the studio and stand when I’m on stage!!
If someone needed a primer on the 5 best New Wave Of British Heavy Metal albums to purchase, what would your choices be and defend these choices?
Motorhead – Overkill
Iron Maiden – Iron Maiden
Angel Witch – Angel Witch
Judas Priest – Unleashed in the East
Diamond Head – Lightning to the Nations
All of these bands had a unique style of their own under the term of Heavy Metal. These were the albums that all of us in the band were into at the time when we were forging our own style. These are the albums which would inspire all the bands in the future too. I could have included Court in the Act of course but didn’t want to appear arrogant doing so!! Judas Priest were around earlier in the seventies but I had to include that album as I think the songs on it inspired the other four band members too.
How do you re-fuel your creative batteries outside of music in your off time? Any special hobbies, interests, or sports that you pursue?
I used to do a lot of sport but that’s a thing of the past now due to my old weary bones ha ha! To relax away from music, which takes up all of my time as I also work as a music teacher now too, I like to go to comedy clubs and have a good laugh at a bit of Stand Up.
What do the next 12-18 months look like for Satan? Have you already started the beginning stages of writing riffs and forming ideas for a follow up studio album?
It’s all in the lap of the gods. We have a few festivals booked already but it will depend on what happens after the release of the album. We will endeavor to play a lot more shows and visit all of the countries like we are this year in Sweden and Canada that we didn’t get to play in past. So far all of the reviews have been extremely positive. If the fans show us that they want another album then we’ll get to work.