June 2009 - SACRILEGE
First of all, for me this interview is like a dream come true, but I've to travel back in time to explain my enthusiasm. It was in the year 1983 when I was a young urban rebel with spikey hair, combat boots, wearing a leather jacket with rivets and a bullet belt. I was getting bored with all that old '77 punk rock bands and I was looking for something that was more heavy. Ok, I was already listening to Discharge and Amebix, but that wasn't enough for me. Fortunately, it was a period where a lot of hardcore punk groups integrated a strong metal influence to their sound and one of them was the English band SACRILEGE. After listening to a Japanese flexi 7" and the legendary 'We Won't Be Your Fucking Poor' 2LP compilation SACRILEGE caught my attention immediately. In 1985 the band came up with their debut album 'Behind the Realms of Madness', and that was like a revelation to me. I was overwhelmed by this unique combination of hardcore punk and doom metal. Great songs, all the massive, heavy riffs were there, and the powerful female vocals formed a cool contrast to that merciless, wrathful sonic assault. The pile-driving riffs combined with a bottom heavy sound, and an intense vocal delivery made SACRILEGE to an outstanding band in 1985. Meanwhile 'Realms' is a classic album that has influenced hundreds of bands, starting with Bolt Thrower right through to other heavy crust bands like After The Bombs, Limb From Limb, Morne, Sanctum and so on.
After that, SACRILEGE made changes to their sound and some of their old punk fans didn't like the new direction of the second album 'Within The Prophecy', released in 1987. The album requires more patience to appreciate than its predecessors and they sound like a more progressive and more metal version of the early days. The riff assault of 'Within The Prophecy' is absolutely crushing, strongly influenced by early Trouble and Candlemass, but it wasn't until the third record 'Turn Back Trilobite', that SACRILEGE fully unveiled their doom metal influence. That last album is a forgotten jewel of heavy progressive doom, and most warmly recommended for all doomsters out there. All this was reason enough to get in contact with ex-bassplayer and co-founder Tony May, who's 49 years. Currently he's celebrating the 25th anniversary of the band, but maybe you can imagine that there were more questions preying on my mind. So I've sent him a lot of questions, and here's the result of our virtual interchange. It's a great trip into the past, and even if you've never heard anything before of original SACRILEGE, maybe this interview could inspire your interest in discovering one of the most influential band that has emerged from the English anarcho hardcore punk scene of the 1980's.
Hello Tony, I must admit that it's a real honour for me to do an interview with you, because I'm still a huge fan of SACRILEGE. As far as I remember it was the song 'Blood Run' from the Anglican Scrape Attic 7" flexi that introduced me to the band. Apart from Discharge, you were one of the first English bands who connected hardcore punk with metal and the result was simply mind-blowing. Before we deepen our talk about SACRILEGE I would like to know how did to get into the hardcore punk scene and when did it happen? I can imagine that you were a pissed off young guy at the end of the 70's....
My parents were in the Royal Air Force, so as a child I had to conform, short back and sides haircut etc, so as soon as I left home in 1976 I rebelled, grew my hair long, had ears pierced, tattoos the works. I was a big rock fan in 76, but by 1977 Punk hit the U.K. and the excitement that generated, just blew me away, so off came the long hair, ha,ha.So too this day, I still love my rock/punk music and always will.
After all this years it's not easy to remember each detail, but I seem to remind that you joined The Varukers in the early 80's, where you met drummer Andy Baker and guitarist Damien Thompson who came from Warwound. After leaving The Varukers you formed SACRILEGE with Andy and Damien, but you also played together with Lynda 'Tam' Simpson in a band. Can you agree with me and if not please correct my memories and the course of time. When exactly was SACRILEGE founded?
Yes, Damian and Andy were in Warwound, (that was a good band by the way), I joined the Varukers in 1984 as they were looking for a new bassist, I met Rat the singer and Damian (guitarist) at a Broken Bones gig, if my memory serves me right. After a gruelling European tour me and Damian discussed forming a new band, which became Sacrilege, the year was still 84, Tam was added to vocals and Liam came in on drums. Previously Tam had sang in a band called Innocent Victims with me on bass.
In the punk scene of the early 80's metal was a much-hated style, and a lot of headbanger were disgusted from punk and the scene. I can remember that there was a lot of tension, but otherwise there were also people who loved both styles of music. Bands like Venom, Discharge, Motörhead or Hellhammer were something like the missing link between both scenes. Today this situation is almost unimaginable. How do you remember this times? Did you had any problems at the first shows of SACRILEGE?
That was an interesting time we were big fans of Discharge from the early days and went to see them playing their new album 'Grave New World' at that time, they went down really badly with the hardcore punx, but we had evolved with their music and liked their sound, although we could see where the hardcore punx were coming from. The first Sacrilege gig was in Nottingham U.K., Antisect had cancelled an all dayer, so we were asked to play, the reaction of the crowd was very encouraging, so thus making our debut a memorable one.
In 1984 and 1985 you recorded your first demos and while 'Blood Run' found its way on the aforementioned Japanese 7" flexi compilation, the second track 'Dig Your Own Grave' has been released by Mortarhate Records on the 'We Won't Be Your Fucking Poor' double vinyl compilation. How did you get together with both label? Did you had a good relationship to Conflict?
I think Dig contacted us about the flexi release, and we agreed too that, Colin from Conflict had chatted to Tam and Damian at a gig and offered to include a track on their compilation LP, and as we were big fans of Crass and Conflict we said, yes straight away.
Then finally SACRILEGE signed with Children of the Revolution Records, which released your groundbreaking masterpiece 'Behind the Realms of Madness' in 1985. Apart from the great songs, the overwhelming amount of super heavy-duty riffs which shreds everything, and the expressive vocal style of Tam, it was the powerful production of your debut that sets the benchmark for everything else. Please, Tony, give me an insight into the recording sessions of that album! How much time have you spent in the studio and how was that time?
Yes, 'Realms' was an exciting time in the band, we were getting good feedback about the first two demos 84/85, so this release was important to us. We scraped together £350 to record the album, which took around 5 days to record, having dropped alot of older songs, we only had enough material for a mini album, which was released in October 1985. Mike Ivory had done a great job on mixing the album, and we were very pleased with the finished record.
I think that the chemistry within the band was impeccable in the mid-80's. Can you agree and what was the reason for that?
We did seem to have a good chemistry at that time, Andy had joined us on drums for the 'Realms' album, and as me, Tam and Damian all shared a flat together, and we also had the same interests, it was ideal.
Did you play a lot of shows after the release of 'Behind the Realms of Madness'? As far as I remember you never played outside of the UK, what was really a shame. Why did it never happen?
Well, sadly no, the band only ever played 20 gigs in our short history and all in the U.K. playing abroad was a missed opportunity, as far as I'm concerned, no real reasons as to why, it just did not happen, I'm afraid.
Let's go further to the year 1986, when you recorded your third demo that marked a further change in your sound. While almost all hardcore punk influences vanished, you reinforced the thrash metal elements. At that time some of the old English hardcore punk bands like Discharge, Onslaught GBH, Amebix, The Exploited and English Dogs has turned their sound completely into a strong metal direction. What was the reason for that trend?
I cannot really speak for other bands, although the metal scene was having a big influence on these bands, us included, but we always followed our own path, rightly or wrongly, we never wanted to be an out and out thrash band, so we were happy combining our slower riffs and mixing it up for variety.
Your second album 'Within The Prophecy' has been released in 1987 from Under One Flag Records. How did you get in contact with them? Have you sent them any of the demos, that you've recorded between 1985 - 1987?
We did not send any demos, basically Rob Bruce from Rich Bitch Studios liked the band, so let us record the album for free, which took around 10 days this time, Rob then took the recording to London too Music for Nations Label, they struck a deal and we were put on Under One Flag Label, their sister label, we signed on April 16th 1987.
When you compare the recording sessions for 'Within The Prophecy' with 'Behind the Realms...' what was the biggest difference? I can image that you had more time and that the studio was more expensive.
'Realms' will always stand out for me, as the best album, although I loved 'Prophecy', we were never happy with the finished production, if you listen to the 'Prophecy' demos, the songs sound much rawer and more aggressive.
SACRILEGE was one of the very few bands that never made no secret of for their love of bands like Trouble and Candlemass. When did you discover your love for both bands and what are your favourite albums?
Well we were listening to Trouble and Candlemass around the time of 'Realms' in '85, we loved Trouble 'Psalm 9' and 'The Skull' albums, totally Sabbath influenced and later on I personally loved Troubles 4th album around 1990 produced by Rick Rubin, that was a really heavy album, as for Candlemass we loved their first release 'Epicus, Doomicus, Metallicus' and watching Sacrilege support Candlemass in 1988 was brilliant, I was actually a roadie for the band by then, but listening to Trouble really made us want to get as heavy as we could, a very big influence on us.
It's no secret that a lot of bands have been ripped off from their old record companies. How is your situation? Do you own the rights of the first two records or do you have the master recordings? I think it would be also very interesting to re-release the albums with additional bonus tracks and additional liner notes. What do you think about that idea?
Well, the old label does not exist anymore, I think Tam or Damian has the masters somewhere in a loft, but as it is our 25th anniversary this year, the 'Prophecy' album has been remastered and is out on May 25th '09. limited to 500 copies worldwide on Keltic Records. I have only heard one track so far and the vocals are excellent. Hopefully more things are in the pipeline.
Why did you leave the band after the second album and what do you think about 'Turn Back Trilobite'? Didn't you like the new musical direction or have there been any other problems with the band?
I had some problems in the studio with 'Prophecy', I only played on 5 tracks, the pressure in there was too much for me, so Damian took over, as I had decided, enough was enough, I always preferred to play live myself. Personally I did like the direction of 'Trilobite', but in general I think people did not like the drastic change in sound, this is where we can relate to Discharge and their different sounds throughout the years, even though now, Discharge have gone back to their roots soundwise.
What happened after you quit the band? Did you lose interest in playing bass or did you try to form a new outfit?
I almost joined Bolt Thrower on bass, but decided to give up completly instead, I just chilled out and went to see bands live.
I wonder what Damian Thompson, Lynda 'Tam' Simpson, Andy Baker and Liam Pickering are doing today. Are you in contact with them or do you know if they are playing in other bands?
As far as I know, none of the band members now play in any other bands, Tam has 2 teenage girls and still goes to gigs. Damian is a free spirit and travels around Folk Festivals etc, he does not play guitar anymore sadly. I am trying to get in contact with Liam our first drummer, and as for Andy the 2nd Sacrilege drummer, we do not talk.
Somewhere I've read that you're planning a SACRILEGE tribute album. If that's true, please tell me more about it?
Yes, I was thinking about it, very early stages yet, but as much as bands are interested, the difficulty, is getting them to actually record a track, hopefully it will surface sometime in the near future.
What are you doing today?
I am very busy, as it is the bands 25th anniversary, I still do interviews, run the Sacrilege myspace site, which was started by a great guy called Slanteyye, I make official Sacrilege merchandise which I sell on Ebay, go to gigs when I can, really looking forward to Rammsteins new '09 Tour, trying to do up my home, etc...
Tony, what is your personal summary after all this years? How do you remember the time in the band and are you proud of what you've achieved? Is there anything that you regret?
I am very proud of formed the band with Damian, and I am totally amazed at the interest this band generates to the present day, as long as people still enjoy the bands music, then we have acheived what we set out to do. Only regret not playing abroad. Many thanks to Klaus for sending me this interview, we got their in the end my friend,ha,ha, Hi Slanteyye, greetings, old and new followers, Germany is one of my favourite countries to visit, Auf Wiedersehen, Tschus.
I thank you for your time and interest in answering my questions and I wish you all the best for the future!!!! Ok, I guess I could've asked you a couple of questions more, but then our interview would be endless...