UK’s warmachine BOLT THROWER hopefully needs no further introduction to anyone reading this. This devastating fivepiece has been releasing high quality Death Metal for a long, long time by now and their newest full length "Honour – Valour – Pride" is no exception to the rule. Reasons enough for us to give the band a bigger feature again after all those years. This time it was bassplayer Jo, who was nice enough to answer our questions. Here’s the result…
Greetings Jo, I hope you’re doin’ fine overthere and you’re in a good mood to do an interview today?!
"Hello Frank! Yeah, I’m fine (thanks for asking). I’m always in a good mood to talk about the band!!"
For an established band like BOLT THROWER it wouldn’t really be necessary to answer interviews this way, but you’re doing them anyway. So, what motivates you in this department?
"It’s really all or nothing with us. We either decide to do no interviews, or do the whole lot! A small fanzine is just as important to us (sometimes more important), than a big glossy metal magazine. As long as the interviewer has done their homework and can think of interesting questions, then we’re only too happy too oblige!"
When you started out with the band, the internet wasn’t really existing yet, so what would you say, from your own experiences – has it become easier nowadays to promote a band through a website or has the effort basically stayed the same (or even become more) due to the big amount of bands that are around these days?
"I think the internet has definitely made life a lot easier for us. I know I do the majority of the bands correspondence via email, so I’m very much in favour of it. I think it’s a great platform for bands of all sizes. There are a hell of a lot of killer bands that no-one gets to hear because a label says they’re not ‘commercially viable’ or their style is not ‘in’ at the moment, so it’s good everyone has an equal chance to promote themselves via the internet."
By the way, Is there an official BOLT THROWER website on the net? Has anyone of you in the band created it? How much time do you personally spend on updates etc.?
"No, there isn’t. And we keep kicking ourselves for not creating one! There are a lot of really professional looking fansites around, and we’d have to make sure our’s looked better than theirs! We will set one up, we’re just doing so many other things we haven’t had the time to actually get started on one. We’ll try not to keep you waiting too long…"
You have just finished your new record "Honour – Valour – Pride", which will be out by the end of November. Could you tell us a bit more about the origin of it, like when and where you recorded it, who produced it and so on?!
"Well we started recording it in June and we finished mixing it in the middle of September. It was done at Sable Rose studio in Coventry, and Andy Faulkner co-produced. It was the longest we had spent in the studio – we wrote a few riffs and vocals in there, so we made full use of our time in there! It was the second time we had total control over the production and we are still learning, but overall we’re pretty pleased with how it came out."
It is the first album to feature your new vocalist Dave Ingram, who already helped you out on a couple of live shows previously. I unfortunately never found out the reason, why Karl decided not to continue on anymore, so could you sum that up in a few words maybe?
"Karl just decided he couldn’t commit himself to the band 100% like in the past, so we all thought it was best if we found someone who could…"
Was Dave your number one choice or did you also have other people in mind / for audition? How’s the general reaction from your fans on Dave so far?
"Dave was the only choice. We’ve obviously known him for a long time and always thought he was a great vocalist/frontman, and when he helped us out at the "WFF" festival we realised how well he fitted in Bolt Thrower. The general reaction has been positive – obviously Karl was a hard person to replace, he was part of the band for 10 years, at first it was hard for us too, but we are happy to have a strong line-up again, and now it feels like Dave has always been there."
"Honour – Valour – Pride" comes up with a brilliant cover art, which I actually consider the best you had ever since "The IVth Crusade" album. So, please tell us who responsible for that and how big your personal input was when it comes to all the little BOLT THROWER related bits and pieces.
"Thanks very much. It was done by Jan Meininghaus. He did the chaos eye design on ‘Mercenary’ and we liked it so much we asked him if he wanted to do the new one for ‘HVP’. He said yes, and that he would like to have a try at doing the cover, we told him what concept we were looking for, and he got back with a really good sketch. There was a lot of ideas going backwards and forwards (thanks again to the internet!) and finally we agreed on the final cover. We always want to be involved in as much as we can in every aspect of the band, so we were 100% involved in all the booklet designs. Gav did the symbols on the lyric pages, and the whole layout was a joint effort between Jan and the band."
Why did it take you so long to return to the scene with a new album? What have you all done in between "Mercenary" and "Honour – Valour – Pride"?
"Well we did a few dates around Europe, and we played the ‘Full Force’ festival, but most of the time we spent writing the songs. We probably could release an album every year, but they wouldn’t be up to the standard of the last 7 albums. We write and re-write the songs over and over again until we’re happy with them, sometimes we throw away whole songs because we don’t think they’re good enough to go on the album. So I’m sorry, but everyone will have to wait a while in between albums, but hopefully it will be worth the wait!" (it certainly is! – Frank)
Lyrically BOLT THROWER songs always dealt with war related topics and "Honour – Valour – Pride" didn’t seem to differ. Usually it’s the vocalist who writes the lyrics, but as Karl is no longer in the band, I was wondering if Dave already contributed or if someone else of you is taking care of this job anyway?
"In the past Karl and Gavin wrote the lyrics, so now Gavin writes them with Dave. Obviously the theme is the same (and always will be), and once we had got the whole concept behind ‘HVP’ the lyrics seemed to come pretty easily."
How does it feel to come up with those type of lyrics and such a concept when soldiers of your own country are attacking Afghanistan these days?
"Well Bolt Thrower have always written about war, so it’s not like we were trying to cash in on the whole situation! And British soldiers have never stopped being involved in military action, the Falklands, the Gulf, also in Northern Ireland and we have peacekeeping troops all around the world, so it’s nothing new to see our soldiers again fighting someone else’s war. But our lyrics never promote war, we cover all sides positive and negative."
Ever since the "Mercenary" album you’re working with Metal Blade Records instead of Earache. How would you compare both companies when it comes to your own experiences? I suppose you weren’t satisfied with Earache any longer, but is there anything you recall that they maybe did more satisfying than Metal Blade?
"I can’t really remember anything positive that Earache did for us really! I don’t think we’ll ever be entirely happy with any record label – at the end of the day, they are there to sell records and make money, which is not really a high priority for us. I think it frustrates them that we’re not out doing every festival and trying to market ourselves, we’re happy doing our own thing without compromising. We do get good promotion from Metal Blade, I will say that, but ideally we would like to have our own record label."
For your "Realm Of Chaos" album you agreed on a co-operation with Games Workshop, who supplied you with the incredible cover art, if I’m not completely mistaken. What was this deal all about and was it planned for one album exclusively right from the start or didn’t you fullfill their expectations in one way or another (or vice versa)?
"Games Workshop approached us after the boss had heard one of our ‘Peel Sessions’ – they originally wanted to release ‘Realm..’ on their own label, but we felt the distribution would be a lot better through Earache, so we ended up just using their artwork. We had to pay a lot of money to use their artwork, and there were a lot of rules over copyright and territories where it was used, but we ended up with a killer logo and a great cover, so we don’t regret it at all. I’m not sure what they thought they’d get out of it – I think ‘Realm..’ was the least commercial of our albums, so if they thought we were going to be selling millions, they were very wrong!"
"Honour – Valour – Pride" not only features a new vocalist, it also marks the return of your old drummer Martin Kearns. What happened to Alex Thomas who played with you previously? Why did you split up with him?
"Alex just wasn’t into the band 100%, he was into a lot of different music styles and I think he found being in Bolt Thrower a lot harder than he imagined. We can’t have anyone in the band that isn’t totally committed, so in the end we decided he had to leave. I phoned Martin one day and asked if he wanted to re-join, and he said yes, so now the line-up is totally solid again and hopefully we won’t be losing any more members."
A couple of years ago Earache released a "compilation" of your EP material entitled "Who Dares Wins". What’s your opinion on that and did they contact you to discuss the details of that release?
"It wasn’t a big surprise – we had an album coming out ("Mercenary"), and the only thing Earache had was old material, so we were expecting a ‘best of..’ type album to come out. No, they didn’t contact us and it was particularly annnoying because they hadn’t paid us any royalties for previous albums for about 7 years. They are a sad label that have no good bands anymore, so they try to make money by releasing old material from bands that left the label years ago. I would advise people not to buy it!"
Unlike many other bands BOLT THROWER still seems to have a kinda Punk related attitude. You’re taking care of your own management & booking and you try to keep ticket and merchandise prices rather low. Your fans certainly appreciate this, but is it really possible (from an economical point of view) to survive with an attitude like this in our expensive times?
"Well, we all come from a punk background and we still have the same mentality. We know what it’s like to be a fan – you don’t want to pay high prices for tickets and merchandise, and why should you? We have proved it can be done, and it would be good to see other bands following our example. We are the musicians / managers / bookers / merchandisers / roadcrew etc. and it is a lot of work, but it is nice to know the fans appreciate what we do. We probably could make a lot more money doing it the same as other bands, but it’s not all about the money."
Your next tour is already booked for January / February 2002, and I noticed that you’re not really into day offs, are you? So, how do you manage to "survive" such an exhausting tour?
"Well when we’re on tour we like to keep rolling, to have a day off you have to switch off and it’s always harder to switch on again. Also, the tour costs a certain amount of money per day – if we have a day off we still have to pay for the bus, etc. so it’s obviously better financially to play every day. It’s sometimes hard keeping everyone healthy on a winter tour, but luckily so far we haven’t had to cancel a show because of illness."
What can people expect from you? "Just" a typical BOLT THROWER show or are there any new suprises to watch out for?
"The door prices will be low, the merchandise prices will be low, and obviously we will be playing a whole new set. This time we plan to play tracks of ‘HVP’ as well as older stuff we haven’t played for a while, but we won’t be having pyrotechics, or women dancers dressed as nuns on stage (sorry), just over an hour of pure Bolt Thrower. Surely that’s enough??!!"
Have you already decided on any support acts yet? Do you actually still follow the underground scene yourselves? Any new bands you admire?
"At the moment the support bands are not confirmed. To be honest it’s hard to follow the underground scene living in England, as there isn’t one over here!"
Ok Jo, that’s about it for now. I hope you enjoyed this interview at least a little bit. If there’s anything else you’d like to mention, feel free to do so now. All the best.
"Thanks a lot for the interview, it was painless! I’d just like to thank all the Bolt Thrower fans for their support, we hope to see you all in January on tour. Cheers!"