In early February 2023 Birmingham based Death Metal four-piece MEMORIAM will already release their fifth full length album “Rise To Power” via Reaper Entertainment. Considering that I’ve been a fan of these guys ever since their debut “For The Fallen” from 2017 already, it’s really a crying shame that it took me this long to finally give them the bigger feature they truly deserve. Guitarist Scott Fairfax kindly invested some of his precious time to answer a bunch of questions for the following interview…
Who of you guys was actually the driving force back in 2015 to form MEMORIAM and was it Frank, Karl, Andrew and yourself right from the beginning or have any members been replaced before you ended up with this line-up?
“Well, hello! The original idea was Karl wanted to create a cover band, doing Punk covers, just a bit of fun, with his mates, Andy and Frank. I’d just been on tour with Frank all around South America, playing guitar in BENEDICTION, and I’ve known Frank since I was about 16, and they thought it was a good idea to ask me if I was interested, seeing as I got on with Frank, which is bit of a mission to do for most people haha! So that was the first line-up.”
Did you all know each other already before you started to play music together? Are you all from the Birmingham area in the UK, do you go to the same pubs and all that? Would you say that the members of MEMORIAM are real friends?
“Well, as I’ve said, I’ve known Frank a hell of a long time. We frequently visited the same pubs in Birmingham, for many years. We even jammed together a few times, me being on drums sometimes. BENEDICTION and me have always been located in the same rehearsal spaces as we often shared lockup studios with my various bands. Karl I’ve met a handful of times over the years, but we didn’t know each other, I was more of a fan boy. Friends now? Yes, definitely! Well, I hope to think so! Haha, bunch of pricks when we get together to be honest!”
Which bands do you listen to when you’re all in the same room? Do you have any favorites that all of you enjoy in the same way?
“Well, they are from a period 10 years before me, but I guess you can’t go wrong with KILLING JOKE! Karl got me into them, I was more into ’90s Death Metal, from NAPALM DEATH to STRAPPING YOUNG LAD.”
Is the band name MEMORIAM related in any way to the death of Karl’s old BOLT THROWER bandmate Martin “Kiddie” Kearns, who unfortunately had passed away shortly before?
“A quick answer to this is yes! This is well documented.”
Before you got signed, you released a series of demo songs on three 7″ vinyl EPs, that got entitled “The Hellfire Demos”, “The Hellfire Demos II” and “The Hellfire Demos III”… As far as I know the name comes from the studio where you recorded the songs, but did you record them all in the same session or during different time periods?
“Yeah, the first demos we did of the songs that formed MEMORIAM from a cover band to a fully fledged band with original songs! They were all recorded at the same time at the same studio, just to see what we actually sounded like. The first two were released by Cosmic Key Records and the third was a Nuclear Blast release.”
One of your demo songs, ‘Surrounded By Death’, also ended up on a flexi disc, which was included in the November issue of Decibel Magazine… how did you get that opportunity? I mean, if I’m not completely mistaken, you were still an unknown, unsigned band with no album out yet, so did it maybe help that each of you guys already had a name on his own in the scene?
“I’m pretty sure we were fully signed to Nuclear Blast before they had even heard a single note. I think with everyone’s past history of being in some of the most influential bands in the Death Metal scene, that kinda helped. You’ve gotta remember, between us all at the time we had all been been in bands at some point including, NAPALM DEATH, BENEDICTION, BOLT THROWER, CEREBRAL FIX, SACRILEGE, amongst others, so that definitely helped us get the Flexi disc out.”
Was it Frank’s idea to record ‘The Captive’, a song from his old band SACRILEGE, for “The Hellfire Demos III” and are you all satisfied how your version turned out?
“That was actually Karl’s idea. He was a big fan of them and that’s the band if I remember rightly that gave him inspiration to be in a band in the first place. I think it was Frank’s idea to get Tam back to duet on the track, she actually doesn’t live too far from where we recorded it. To be honest, I hadn’t heard the song before they got the idea to cover it, not something I would have listened to, a bit before my time, but I did my take on things, and I think it came out pretty well.”
How did you get together with Nuclear Blast Records for the release of your debut full length “For The Fallen” in 2017? Did they get to hear any of those demo EPs or was name dropping a big part of it?
“Not really, just name dropping. A big part of it is between us all, there are many years of being in the music scene, be it in different bands on different levels. So, knowing the buisness side of things and the contacts you develop over the years. More a case of knowing who you know.”
Except for ‘Drone Strike’, all demo songs from those EPs ended up on your first album, re-recorded… Why did you wait with ‘Drone Strike’ until the follow-up release “The Silent Vigil” in 2018 and why was the title slightly altered to ‘Drone Strike V3’? Or is it a completely different song?
“There are many versions of this song, and still there isn’t one I’m entirely happy with. We recorded it for the album, but we didn’t use a click track at all for “For The Fallen”. That version came out really slow, I wasn’t even there for the tracking of the drums, and in my eyes it just didn’t have the flow, it’s not the most complex song as it is, so we decided to leave it off the album. We had another crack at it for “The Silent Vigil”, and to me that was hampered with production, both the unreleased version and the actual Riff Central demo might be coming out at some point, and we might get round to actually doing a version I am proud of, but I guess with any music you release you have to give it out to the world and not worry too much.”
Was the songwriting more difficult for the second album, since you didn’t have any old demo material left anymore that you could rely on?
“I don’t know where you got that idea from? (just a guess – Frank) I have about four hard drives packed with ideas, spanning ten or more years of writing music for my own enjoyment, while I wasn’t in a band. Most of the tracks on “For The Fallen” were actually going to be a band between me and Chris McGrath, who once filled in for a gig with MEMORIAM, and now is in my other band, AS THE WORLD DIES, we are very old friends and have been in bands since we were kids together. I’m constantly writing tracks, be it for MEMORIAM, AS THE WORLD DIES or H DRIVE PROJECT, which is another project between me and Karl Willetts, which is an outlet for my love of synths mixed with Metal, and massive soundscapes and film score type music.”
Since you are the guitar player in the band, are you the main songwriter in MEMORIAM or do the other members also write music in one way or another?
“I write 99.99% of it, musically at least. I give them the foundation to start from, they all add their own bits when we record. I don’t get involved with the lyrics at all really. Sometimes a riff needs the vocals to go along with it, so I suggest that, but I leave the expert to that most of the time.”
Why did ‘Prisoners Of War’ become just a secret bonus track on “The Silent Vigil” instead of a regular album song?
“I wanted a hidden track on the album. We actually just made that up in the studio in about five minutes. Just a cheeky little Punk number, in and out no messing about. I’ve already mentioned to start playing that live.”
Album number three,”Requiem For Mankind” (from 2019) was your last release on Nuclear Blast Records… What happened? Weren’t you selling enough copies for a big label like Nuclear Blast or was the contract for three albums only right from the start anyway?
“The contract was for three albums. And I don’t know if you know, but there was a big change there. It was bought out by another company. A lot of the bands who have been on that label jumped ship, I don’t really pay much attention though, we are much happier on Reaper, and still work with Flori Milz, so nothing has changed for us, and now with Atomic Fire being part of it all too has made full circle.”
Why did your drummer Andrew Whale leave MEMORIAN around that time and did you have Spike T. Smith (ex – ENGLISH DOGS / ex – SACRILEGE) in mind right from the beginning, since Frank was playing with him in SACRILEGE and knew him very well already?
“Best to ask him that question, I’m not going to delve into answers which might not be correct. As for Spike, we were looking around for drummers, and Frank had totally forgot to ask him! When we did, he jumped at the chance, and I think we became a much better band for it.”
How did you end up with your current label Reaper Entertainment for the release of your fourth full length “To The End”? As far as I know it was a totally unknown company at the time, so wasn’t it a bit risky?
“As I’ve said earlier, Reaper is a new company yes, but it’s a lot of the same people that were at Nuclear Blast, so it doesn’t really feel like anything different. If anything, we are more focused on now rather that being pushed to the bottom of the pile to release other records.”
How active is MEMORIAM as a live band? All of you have been playing extreme music for quite some time already, so do you realize that getting older more and more becomes a problem for each one of you?
“We are quite active, we play a lot of weekend shows. We do not want to tour, that just isn’t in us, having families, kids, pets… I’d rather fly in and fly out and get home to my pets. Getting older sucks, but as you get older, things change. We just love going out, and the whole experience from the queue’s in airports to the travel, it’s all one big journey. Ups and downs and tired old men sometimes, but it’s all good fun in the end.”
You have just released a video for ‘All Is Lost’, a song from your upcoming new album “Rise To Power”… could you tell us a bit more about its origin?
“Ah, this track is what Flori at Reaper chose as the first single. We always let them pick which songs to release as singles. Being the artist you get too close and get personal favorites. We had fun two days recording the video down in London, a really fun time as it’s another tick off the bucket list, I think we’ve got to do another at some point.”
What can we expect from “Rise To Power”? Will it be a typical MEMORIAM album or will there be any musical differences this time, compared to your previous records?
“With every release we try to do something different. To me it’s one big constant writing process from album to album, so I don’t see the changes so much. I guess we have gone more melodic, and the twists and turns that we like to do, I wouldn’t want to write the same album again and again, that works for some bands, but not for us. Also we like to put stuff in that none of us have released before. If you don’t try new things, you lose out.”
All MEMORIAM albums are graced with the amazing cover art by Dan Seagrave. Is he the favorite artist for all of you or do you also have other artists in mind, that you would like to work with in the future maybe?
“It was my only request when agreeing to join the band that Dan did the art, as my favorite Death Metal art is SUFFOCATION’s “Effigy Of The Forgotten”, so to have five album covers done by him is glorious. I don’t think we could work with anyone else now, it would become a bit of a let down in continuity. Let’s hope he agrees to do album 6 (already 90% written in demo stage) and album 7, 8 and 9.”
Ok Scott, that’s all. Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. I wish you guys all the best and hope to hear lots of new music from MEMORIAM in the years to come. Here comes the final question: isn’t it totally annoying for a musician, who has already released five full length albums with MEMORIAM in early 2023, that people still compare your songs with what Karl did in BOLT THROWER? I mean, it’s two completely different bands, so does it make any sense to you?
“Of course it makes sense. Karl was in BOLT THROWER all that time, and what a band!! You can’t make someone change what they are good at. He does what he does. I don’t really get it when people say, that sounds like BOLT THROWER all the time though. It seems to me that any band who has double bass, heavy guitars and death grunts, the connection will always be there. And if anyone can do it we can! There are bands out there that sound like a tribute because it is, and they don’t get called out for sounding like BOLT THROWER. We started out as a band with a virtually unknown Metal guitarist from Birmingham, with a bass player, vocalist and drummer from famous bands. It just happens that that guitarist also has other ideas. Thank you to all the fans. Please also check out my other bands AS THE WORLD DIES and H DRIVE PROJECT.”
Live pics: Sabine Thiele (2-4, 7-10), Ray K Media (5)
Interview: Frank Stöver