January 2008 - SOLSTICE
Actually this band doesn't need an introduction, especially not for those who love Doom Metal as much as I do. SOLSTICE are an institution and there are only a very few bands around, who are able to hold a candle to this group. With every single release, the band celebrated their own powerful vision of epic majestically heaviness, and it makes them so exceedingly that they do not only repeat what other bands had done before them, but that SOLSTICE have been an inventive force, too. Last year the German label Cyclone Empire re-released almost the complete discography and this was only one of the motives for doing an interview with Rich Walker, founder and main songwriter of the group. He's also a member of PAGAN ALTAR now, what is just amazing. Aside from SOLSTICE he is also an active member of the UK-Hardcore Punk scene, and maybe some of you know that he was in SORE THROAT, WARTORN, WARFEAR and numerously other bands. We also talked about this new activities of his label The Miskatonic Foundations (Lovecraft would love him....), the world biggest cancer called religion, and the hypocrisy in the music buisness. So there have been enough topics to talk about and the result is this highly interesting interview I did with Rich....
Hello Rich! Since a few days 2007 is over, and I can imagine that it was a busy year for you. There have been new releases on your label The Miskatonic Foundation and you did organize the Doom Metal Inquisition festivals in England. Then all SOLSTICE recordings have been re-released by the German label Cyclone Empire. All this sounds like a lot of work, so how is your personal review of 2007?
My view is, that it would have been a lot better if Tony Blair was kicked to death by a gang of tramps, if My Dying bride had all drowned in a vat of donkey semen, and I had inherited a sum of 10 million GBP and a cruise missile targeted on Osama Bin laden
Do you still have enough time for your family and does your wife help you in your work?
That's a difficult question, I always seem to be behind in everything, whether it be label stuff, learning and practicing Pagan Altar songs, writing new music and lyrics of my own, booking gigs every so often and generally being an active member of the underground metal scene - I try to spend as much quality time with them as possible, and hopefully it will always outweigh the personal activities of my label etc because if it didn't, I would be a pretty fucking poor father. I know I don't spend as much time as I used to on "Scene" activities, and the least amount of time I spend out of everything is on my own musical output right now as I always seem to be helping someone else. Yes, my wife helps when each new release is out with the assembly and packaging of the die hards - without her, I would be even more behind than I already am.
Before we talk about your current activities, let's travel back in time. Before you formed SOLSTICE in the very early 90's, you have been a musical part of the UK-Hardcore Punk scene for a very long time. You played in a lot of different groups, but I guess the most well-known is definitely SORE THROAT. This band was known for its radical point of view as well as for its controversial music. You've taken the music to a point of extreme, which was very new and refreshing at this time. How do you remember this days, and what happened with the band?
Well, our objectives were simple, to piss as many people off as possible with pure raw noise and drink as much scrumpy as possible, there were no other intentions. When we started we purposely said "Lets see how far we can push it" and how much noise people can actually take. At this point, pretty much everyone was into ND, but we wanted to take the extremity even further and introduce zero melody into it. I mean, bands like DISORDER talked about noise, but really there were tunes there, tunes you could thrash like a maniac to, the same with ND (Which we did all the time).
No, we had already been taking notes listening to LARM and SEVEN MINUTES OF NAUSEA and the ultra incredible THUG, so we felt we had to take it one step further and really start a campaign for musical destruction. We actually formed at some point in the spring of 87, not a lot of people know this but the first line who were just going to record a demo of ultra fast noise was myself on Guitar, Nick on Drums, Mickey Harris (NAPALM DEATH) on vocals and Jim Whitely (NAPALM DEATH) on bass.
Nick knew ND really well and had been photographing loads of their gigs, and of course we were all making the regular weekly pilgrimage down to Birmingham for gigs at the mermaid and over to Adam & Eves in Leeds (Which had taken over from The Bierkeller in Leeds), so I think once we'd decided we wanted to do something, he persuaded Mick and Jim to join up (Without much arm twisting) but the night before we were due in the Studio Mick called Nick to say it was off because he's got something else coming up on the same day with ND. So, of course, that went down the tubes.
A few weeks later, we went down to Brum to see this new band Mick had joined on drums, a three piece basically playing in a similar style to ND, but maybe a little more metal, they were called DOOM. Of course, the other two members were John and Bri, so we got talking (Well Bri grunted a lot back then, and Jon wouldn't shut the fuck up) but we hit it off as mates, and decided at some point that Nick and myself, and Bri and Jon, would make up the new "improved" line up of SORE THROAT and just make a hellish noise
Some of the later SORE THROAT recordings became heavier and slower, and maybe this was one of your first musical links to the future. As a musician, when did you reach the point in your life when you found out, that you wanted to form a Doom Metal band?
Maybe 1989 when I bought my first Saint Vitus LP and had already been to see Candlemass live, three of Sore Throat were all huge Doom metal fans. I was already a fan of cult legends DREAM DEATH, and had heard bands like REVELATION, and PAGAN ALTAR through tape trading, but I just happened to buy the first SAINT VITUS album on my 21st Birthday from a second hand store, and it just seemed to make sense somehow, it was everything I needed, everything I was feeling at the point about the world, and in particular my own life. From then on, it became a quest to track down all the recordings of them, and bands like TROUBLE, WITCHFINDER GENERAL, SOLITUDE AETURNUS, PENANCE etc
In November 2006 Area Death Productions did release the SORE THROAT compilation 'Death To Capitalist Halmshaw', which includes all the old demo recordings and many more stuff that was never released before. Have you been involved in the release of this compilation?
Yes, it was totally official, I was approached by Filippo of Area Death about releasing as much of the very old demo's as I could find, and believe me there was a lot of it. I was extremely happy with the end result, as a couple of years earlier, TUMULT Records in the USA had wanted to do the same thing, but Andee just kind of got cold feet and lost touch, so I just forgot about it and got on with life until as I said Filippo got in touch with me and set the ball rolling. It was actually pretty hard work to choose the "best" stuff as there are so many SORE THROAT vinyl and CD bootlegs in existence that I thought maybe people were sick of it, but at the end of the day, I managed to put together 84 hard to find "songs" with much better packaging and sound than the bootlegs.
In the 80's the band played together with a lot of Hardcore Punk bands as for example Amebix, Deviated Instinct and many more. Are there any shows you still remember after all this years?
Mostly the gigs with bands like Amebix, Chaos UK or Disorder. In particular, we became very good friends with Chaos UK, who I still consider along with Discharge, the epitome of HC Punk, Chaos himself was one of the kindest and most generous people I've ever met - they stayed with me when they came to the North gigging numerous times and we went down to Bristol to stay with them and get mindlessly drunk on numerous occasions. Despite his outward obnoxious personality, he really fucking cared about more things people gave him credit for, and he never fucking sold out. Mower & Gabba as well were simply fucking great guys as well, People should check out Gabba's band FUK as it's simply some of the best thrash I ever heard, easily as intense as the early and mid period Chaos UK stuff. We also were close friends with bands like DISASTER, and knew a lot of the other bands like CONCRETE SOX, ENT, NAPALM DEATH, ELECTRO HIPPIES etc.
As for classic shows, Discharge and The Exploited in 81 on the Apocalypse Now Tour, ENT, Chaos UK, Ad Nauseum and Concrete Sox in Leeds in 1985, Broken Bones in Leeds 1984, Chaos Uk & Gauze in Bradford 1988, Sacrilege in Leeds, Antisect in Coventry, Amebix in Bradford, Leeds and Birmingham, Subhumans & Xtract in Huddersfield 1983, GBH and English Dogs in Leeds 1983, Anti Nowhere League and The Defects in Wakefield 1982. BROKEN BONES & THE SKEPTIX in London in 1985, Onslaught & Chaos UK Oldham in 83, Maus Maus in Leeds 1983/84 (One of the best live bands EVER!!), Napalm Death in Leeds 1986, and Toxic Reasons circa their UK tours 1984/5. There you go, plenty of great memories and shows there, but also gigs like NUCLEAR ASSAULT, NASTY SAVAGE, CANDLEMASS, DARK ANGEL etc left their mark on me.
I discovered Doom Metal with the help of heavy Hardcore Punk bands like Discharge, Amebix, Antisect, Sacrilege etc, before I bought the first Saint Vitus album in the early 80's.You're also a huge fan of bands like Discharge, Venom and Hellhammer and you've been also part of the English Punk sene during the 80's. What do you think is the reason, that some of the old Punks have become passionate fans of Doom Metal?
I have no idea, maybe like me they got sick of the clichÃ©d and authoritarian politics that began to run rife within the HC punk scene, for a scene that eschewed a 'No leaders' ethos, there were sure as hell a lot of self styled "Scene leaders" who wanted to dictate to everyone with their twisted middle class ideals and limp wristed liberalism. Simply for me, I had had enough of their bullshit, and sneering down their noses at everyone who didn't fit in to the rabbit food eating multi cultural utopian dream.
And the anti metal music bullshit was simply the last straw. I note with some degree of satisfaction (If it can be called that), that while 20 years later I am still the poor working class musician with a passion for underground music and independence, a lot these fucking halfwits are now the new middle class management working in local government jobs and driving BMW's, STILL trying to inflict their fucking politics on the working class. Nuke them all.
Let's talk about the re-release of the two SOLSTICE albums as well as the 'Halcyon' 10". When was the idea born to do this, and how did you get in contact with the German label Cyclone Empire?
I was initially contacted by Martin of Cyclone Empire with regards to writing some liner notes for COUNT RAVEN's reissue CD's, and he happened to mention he was interested in reissuing the SOLSTICE back catalogue. Having already begun working on compiling all the unreleased demo songs and rarities for a proposed future boxset, it really seemed like a good idea to work with Cyclone Empire as they came recommended by some of our close friends from Germany. And it this point, I was and still am, heartily sick of the bullshit that most labels are surrounded with in their working practices - so dealing with Cyclone Empire made a refreshing change...
Why didn't you take the original artworks of 'Lamentations' and 'Halcyon'?
HALCYON does have its original CD issue artwork, but I changed the colours into something more subtle and fitting to the material contained therein, as for LAMENTATIONS, the original artwork was long lost by the cretin who owned Candleshite records at the time. So, there you go, no attempt at trying to fool people, just trying to make things look as aesthetically pleasing to my eyes as possible. Of course, I was happy with the artwork for 'LAMENTATIONS' and 'NEW DARK AGE' at the time, but over a decade down the line, I felt they could be done better, and made more interesting visually for the listener.
In particular, I was unhappy with the booklet inner for 'NEW DARK AGE', and the original CD issue of 'HALCYON', also the fact that HAMMERHEART RECORDS made the second issue of 'HALCYON' on Digipack without our, or INVICTUS PRODUCTIONS permissions, and never paid us a cent in royalties makes it even worse - I still intend to track down the idiot of Hammerheart Records in the future and hold him to account. But I digress, the new designs are much finer I think, with a recurring theme and style running throughout all three, and they were designed by myself so at the end of day, if they look like shit, then there is only myself to blame. Ha ha.
I was really surprised, when I noticed that Karl Simon (The Gates Of Slumber) did the vocals on the Candlemass cover 'Solitude'. What is the story behind this recording?
It's an old 4 track demo we made circa 1997/8, and it was never finished, just the actual music, so when the idea came up, Karl bullied me into letting him do the vocals. I had no choice but to let him, even though such "greats" as Lee Dorian and Dani Filth were falling over themselves to do it, he threatened to send Jason McCash to live with me and my family for a week and lecture us on his American history and evolution theories.
Actually, I would like to make a real recording in the future, with Karl with some new music (Not SOLSTICE) but something a little different. There was some talk of doing a band in the vein of, yes, you guessed it, DISCHARGE with myself, Karl and maybe some friends from Germany. Maybe though we would do something similar to FALCO or a Break dancing tribute album. Karl's pretty big on Break Dancing, in the 80's he had a lead role in the film Electric Boogaloo, alongside Tom of WHILE HEAVEN WEPT (who also replaced the first guy in BONEY M).
We both share a huge love for Discharge, and it was an awesome idea that SOLSTICE did a cover of 'Protest & Survive' for the 'Knock 'Em Down to Size" compilation. I guess, it must've been pretty difficult to pick out only one song from Discharge, just because they have written so much ripping tunes. Why did you choose 'Protest & Survive'?
It was something we just used to jam and play for fun in the rehearsal room, along with numerous over covers like 'Solitude' by CANDLEMASS, 'Iron Dogs' by EXCITER, 'Dethroned Emperor' by CELTIC FROST and 'Glue' by SS DECONTROL. Three of SOLSTICE were in HC punk bands in the 80's, so that kind of dictated what we would cover. It was also unexpected of us, and that in itself was a good thing I thought. Music rarely gets heavier than Discharge, if at all. The apparent hatred of the song by certain purists in the metal scene only makes it even more valid and a reason to release it. I still like to piss people off, and as far as I'm concerned, if you don't like DISCHARGE, there's probably something wrong with you.
The band's last release was the 'Englander' 10", but this is now six years ago. What are the current activities of the group and when will you enter the studio again?
As soon as I have the damn time, currently I'm just writing and looking for some time to get the chance to make some demo's of new songs for Adrian to put his vocals on
Most people know, that you're also running your own label The Miskatonic Foundation. What are your plans for 2008?
PAGAN ALTAR (UK) - 'Mythical & Magical' Double LP
ARGUS (USA) - 'Sleeping Dogs' 10" EP
ORODRUIN (USA) - 'In Doom' 10" EP
THE LAMP OF THOTH (UK) - 'Omens, Portents & Doom' CD
SCARAB (UK) - New Full length CD From these NWOBHM legends
THE RIVER (UK) - New full length CD
DREAM DEATH (USA) - 'Back From the Dead' Demo's Double LP
COLD MOURNING (USA) - Demo's Double LP
THE LAMP OF THOTH (UK) - New 10" EP
That is what I have lined up for definite, I would like to try and get through all of these releases this year, and I will be trying my hardest to do so, and basically bring out the best possible metal for peoples hard earned money. Also, I have begun to work a little closer with CYCLONE EMPIRE, and they will reissue both WARNING albums, and are taking on the release of the DESOLATION ANGELS 'Feels like Thunder' 4 CD box set. There are other things in the works also, but nothing concrete now.
What do you think is worse in this age: religion or political correctness?
I think both are as great evils, both seek to suffocate and stifle free speech and the ability to defend yourself. Let's face it, at a grass roots level all Moslems are stupid, inbred racists equally as noxious as their Christian opposites, and the same with the fucking idiot Jews, yet, between the three religions, they dictate what happens in the world today. To me, I think free thinkers worldwide should burn all the Mosques to the ground, burn all the churches to the ground and burn all the synagogues to the ground, after which we should all piss on the smouldering ashes.
Of course the politically correct will no doubt cry their fucking eyes over my opinions, but fuck them. I still believe in blackboards and the three little pigs. (Both cases of political correctness gone mad, Blackboards are now renamed "Chalkboards" in schools for fear of offending ethnic minorities, whilst the story of the 3 little Pigs is to be banned in case it upsets our friends the moslamics). I ask you, what kind of slack jawed idiot spends their time (At the taxpayers expense) thinking up these ludicrous schemes to appease the cocksuckers in the EU human rights commissions?
Whenever a music style, which was born in the underground was discovered by the music industry it turns into a bloodless and soulless trend. Punk is the best example for it, but I can see the same tendencies within Doom Metal, although it will never become as big as Punk. The underground is still vital, but the mass of people just repeat what the mainstream press tell 'em. Why is it so difficult to find people with an honest opinion and what do you think about the music industry in general?
I honestly believe that alot of people involved in the underground are a set of false,posing self serving anal cavities who are no better than dogshit on the heel of my shoe. Why? Because they will buy what the glossy magazines tell them to, they will listen to what glossy magazines tell them to, and worst of all, they have no real interest in the continuation of an independent music scene free from record company manipulation.
Labels such as Peaceville, Century Media, Nuclear Blast etc buy peoples opinions and worst of all their souls with full colour adverts with scantily clad porno looking female fronted bands, or some turkey from Norway dressed as a reject from a Kiss convention shrieking about how evil they are (And I think Norway as a country is responsible for the worst shit ever musically in the metal scene from In The Woods to Ulver to Emperor, those techno loving cretins all deserve to drown in horsepiss).
I sometimes sit, and dwell on the stupidity of the kids involved in metal today, why the fuck do they want to do what the magazines tell them, listen to what is deemed hip? Dress in a curious and nauseating amalgamation of hip hop and Goth fetish clothes and think they look "different"? Twenty five years ago these idiots would have got they shit kicked out of them had they walked the streets with multi coloured hair, yet they think they are dangerous - ha ha, yeah, right.
They never had it so easy, they have no need to think at all, just sit back, buy the glossy magazines and buy into designer rebellion without even putting anything back into the underground except poison. Fucking downloading little shits raping bands for every cent they have, and only rushing out to buy this weeks "big name". At the end of it all, it's so difficult to find people with a real and honest opinion of their own, because it's just easier to be part of the scenery, and not the scene. Why think for yourself, when some dishonest fucker sat in an office will do it for you?
This year will be the amazing 'Hell's Pleasure' festival here in Germany, where PAGAN ALTAR are only one killer band of the line-up. As far as I remember, I've seen somewhere pictures where you played together with the band. Have you joined PAGAN ALTAR?
Yes, I was press ganged into joining PAGAN ALTAR back in July 2007, and it became kind of official in September 2007 and still no one really knew until November 2007, as we kept it quiet for the simple reason of making people guess who the new guy in the band was, and the fun we could have doing it. It was a dream come true for me, it's not every day you get asked to join your favourite band (And aside from DISCHARGE, which wasn't going to be on the cards at any time- It's as good as it gets). It's an absolute honour playing alongside Terry and Al, I couldn't ask for anything more, and also I like the real family feeling we have in the band, which is something you don't really get playing in bands when you are younger.
I ended up learning a 15 song set in around 2 weeks, and we rehearsed like mad to get everything tight, and really, after the previous guy left (Who was a total bullshitter from what I am told) I knew I had to do it, not for my own glory, but to make it a dream come true for all the people who wanted to see the band live, and most importantly, so Terry & Al could get to meet and play for the people who have supported them all these years. The only downside is, I can never stand in the crowd, singing with a beer along with the songs and fully enjoying the music as a fan. PAGAN ALTAR to me, is the epitome of what underground music is about, totally independent, successful on their own terms and the best part, the incredible songs.
Thanks a lot for answering my questions! Is there anything you would like to say at least?
Thanks for the interview Klaus, I would like to add a big FUCK OFF AND DIE to Zellmer the thief of Ritual Steal, Riemier of Gaythago Records, and Rat face of Metal Obsession zine in Germany, I will catch up with ALL of you ladies one day and break your fucking skulls open for spreading poisonous filth. Beware the iron fist of England!!