Onslaught Speak of Violence - Nigel Rockett speaks out.
Bristol based thrasher's Onslaught have been around since the early 80's delivering mayhem since 1983, when guitarist Nige Rockett met drummer Steve Grice to form what is now Onslaught, based around the old school Punk movement something of which Punk played a big part in their influences. Nigel and Steve soon met up with Jase Pope and Paul Hill and soon their debut demo was soon recorded. 1983 saw the departure of Jase and Paul and were soon replaced by Roge Davies and Paul Davis to which their debut EP was recorded. Soon the and recorded their debut album 'Power from Hell' through Children of the Revolution Records and that was really the start of what is now. The band soon recorded 'The Force' with new singer Sy Seeler who replaced Paul. The band were soon signed to Metallica's former label 'Music for Nations' and well... the title of the album say's it all really. Sy left later on and was replaced by ex Grim Reaper singer Steve Grimmett and 'In Search of Sanity' was released in 89. Tings went wrong later on and the band broke only to return in 2004 and soon recorded 'Killing Peace' in 2007 through Candlelight records. Now the band are back and stronger than ever with their new album 'The Sound of Violence' released through AFM Records. I spoke to guitarist Nigel about the new album and as it has been 21 yrs since the last interview with the band I had pretty much a lot to talk about. So sit back crack open a beer and enjoy the sound of violence with Nigel speaks.
Ok Nigel let's start by asking you why the band broke up after the tour and release of the 'In search of Sanity' album?
"Well I think things started to go wrong the minute we signed to the label to be honest if you look back and be honest with yourself. The thing with Sy been fired and Steve Grimmett coming into the band and all the imagery which had been forced upon the band it was a sign that things were going to go wrong. The tour with Annihilator was reasonably successful and the album is still the biggest selling album we have done to date by a long way. I think it stripped the whole identity of the band and tried to changes into something that we really were not, commercialize us."
I guess you tried to stay true to your roots on that album the best you could right?
"Yeah we did actually. The demo's that we had recorded for the album were much more closer to 'The Force' album, and the songs were the same but with Sy singing on the demos instead of Steve and the overall production was heavier. It sounded so distant to the previous albums and with Steve singing on it just took it so far away from the original versions of the songs. I think it was a bit too much for our die hard fans to really take it all in and we had bring a lot of new fans listening too our music, but we alienated our true fans. We recorded the demos near Crystal Palace football ground & we were over the moon with the way they turned out. So we sent them out to major labels and we got a lot of interest from them & once London Records got involved which was a label that really didn't know much about metal music things just went wrong. Their distribution was fantastic but they knew nothing about how to promote metal bands."
Did you ever recorded the rawness of the original demos songs with Steve singing on them so you could compare the difference between Sy and Steve?
"Well no, all the album was recorded when Steve came in the band and we had also recorded all Sy's vocals too and it was all a big blur to us, the label would come along and say they wanted a certain style we wanted now. It all started when all the A&R guys turned up at the studio and listened to the rough mix of the album just before we had it mixed in New York and they said the vocal were no good & they told it was not what they were looking for. We all looked very confused, because they knew what the band were about before they signed us so why would they want to change us? Steve still gives us a lot of stick now because he didn't want to sign to London Records and he wanted to sign to A&M Records instead, who seemed more in touch with rock music and looking back at it now it would of been a better decision. When Steve Grimmett had come into the band we told him we wanted to give Sy another chance so we got both the guys into a studio in Bath (UK) just to re-record 1 track again and it just didn't happen. London Records told us they didn't want Sy and they wanted Steve to sing on the new album, we had no say in the matter and they told us we had to do what they say otherwise we wouldn't make another album for another 8 years. So we were pretty much fucked to say the least. The only way out of it I guess would of been to change our name."
What do you think of Steve's previous work with Grim Reaper?
"Steve is a great singer no doubt about that, he has a great voice, he is a fantastic guy too, a really gentleman and a laugh. We still get on now as really good friends & I think he would be the first to admit it that he wasn't the right choice for the band."
Why was Sy fired?
"I guess they weren't happy with his vocals it has nothing to do with drugs or alcohol."
After the tour and release of the 'In search of Sanity' album the band broke up? What did you do after the band broke up? Did you form another band?
"Well I did a couple of other projects and 1 was with Jeff Williams, who is also now in Onslaught. We did this band for about 18 months which was a punk/ metal type of band across between The Sex Pistols meets Metallica and we started to get a lot of interests from labels and we were looked after by a guy who worked with Iron Maiden & Sanctuary management. He went on his own & we almost got a deal with a major label in Japan and it fell through at last minute. Rod who manages Iron Maiden almost worked with us but again they fell through at last minute. In the end I just got so pissed off with everything with Onslaught & this band which were called 'The Power Junkies' I just had enough. In the end I started my own company doing construction which always me enough time off to tour and record with Onslaught. Most of us are self employed or in easy jobs"
I remember see in the band when you reformed at the Bloodstock indoor festival in 2006 I think, how exciting was it for you to be playing that with Sy once again?
"It was fantastic, we had a great response from the crowd, it was Jim's last gig I remember. He played bass on 'The Killing Peace' album, but he left the band before the album was release. He could not commit to touring and he has a very high powered job so he could not commit the time to touring."
I guess having Jim's on the album was kind of a waste of time when he could not commit to touring, you really could of had somebody else on the album who wanted to commit to touring really right?
"Yeah I guess so, Jim's is a great guy but we were kind of annoyed about that in a way because we knew Jeff was going to come into the band after the album and Jim said he wanted to go to Japan which we thought was unfair on Jeff but he did go and we should of really let Jeff go instead."
So the album 'Killing Peace' was released in 2007 through Candle Light Records, how did that deal come about? What went wrong with those guys in the end?
"Well they were the reason why we got back together really, it was Blackened Records who showed interest in the band, which is part of the same company & they put out the debut & 'The Force' albums out as reissues in 2002/3 and I think Steve our drummer had got in touch with them and found out we had sold a lot of albums which was a shock to us and they were re-mastered too. We found out they were doing a great job with the back catalogue we decided to make a new album with them and when we got to the office after Andy Sneap had mixed it we all sat down and the CD on the stereo & within a few minutes he turned it off and started chatting and really didn't show much interest. (Ed: Sounds like the same thing that happened to Anvil in their DVD). Yeah your right, we had the same experience. We had very little promotion for the album to be honest. When we recorded the title track it took only 2 rehearsals to put the whole song together & I had the ideas in my head before we jammed it and it just felt right, we knew it would be a killer song."
Did the album sell well for the band then?
"Yeah it did really well actually, it didn't sell as well as we expected but it got the band back on the road and people were now talking about us. As I said the promotion for the album was very weak and the distribution was left to be desired. As much a sI hate the legal downloading thing it has also helped the band a lot on that album as everywhere we go from South America to the Ukraine the whole crowd just love the music and the band and knew every word to every song."
I miss the days of tape trading don't you?
"Yes I do, it was how we got our name around and that is what impressed our 1st label and Music for Nations too. We were huge in Brazil just through tape trading ."
So lets talk about the new album 'The Sound of Violence', which is released through AFM Records, how did that deal come about?
"Well it all happened through a couple of ways really, I think a couple of years ago AFM were doing some kind of compilation album with bands by Slayer, Destruction, and they actually got in touch with Steve asking if we would like to have a track on it which we did & and they were great at paying us for that & they knew what they were doing, with promotion and they were very professional and honest. So we kept that contact and started looking for new labels we sent them some demos to 4 big labels, and 3 came back with interest and we had always liked the idea of been signed to a German label as it is the biggest market and Germany controls that region really. The German's are also very sufficient when it comes to business and so far it seems to be the right decision. We also looked at what AFM did with Fear Factory so I think we made the right choice."
I believe Jakob Hansen former Invocator now with Anubis Gate produced your album, tell me how that came about you hooking up with him?
"He is a fantastic producer, well we hooked up through our management company from Denmark called 'CBBM', and with the AFM connection Jakob does a lot of work with AFM bands with Destruction, and they put his name forward to us and so we checked out some of his work and the 1st time I heard some of his stuff it sounded amazing! He records albums with such a full sound and live sounding at the same time and I think it was 'The Wild Hearts' CD he did that stood out for me. He has a weird way of working I must say but he does work a 9-5 job and he is so fast and he knew what he is doing with every second, it was just amazing. Sy was so pleased with the way he handled his vocals in the studio. We flew to Denmark to record the album at his studio and I think Steve & Sy was out there for about a week doing drums and vocals, Jeff and myself went over for about 4-5 days and we came back and I had done all the mixing by internet with Jakob.".
Did Jakob play any guitar solos on this album? Did you ask him if he wanted to do an Invocator cover song?
(Laughing) "No Jakob did not play any guitar solo's on the album nor did we do any Invocator songs."
So who writes the lyrics in the band? Have you changed your writing skills as a band since we last did an interview back in 90?
"Well I write all the lyrics, Sy just does the vocals, and when I have all the lyrics wrote I sit down and go through it with Sy or show him were everything is going in a monotone kind of way and let him go with it and see what he comes up with."
Do you have your own studio like most artists do these days?
"Yes we do, we have our own studio in Swansea were Andy wrote all the material there, it was a brilliant way of doing things because we could tell when something is right or wrong as appose to doing the recording in a rehearsal room as you can't hear too clearly what everything sounds like. We fine tuned everything to the last drum beat."
Moving on, so why the title 'The Sound of Violence' for the album title? Did you have any other titles in mind?
"Well a lot of our ideas with song titles and things like that are just come up when were in the van and if I remember correctly we had the radio on in the van and Jeff is always messing about in the van and I think the song 'The sound of silence' by Simon & Garfunkel came on the radio and Jeff was just singing away and suddenly it got to the chorus and he just screamed out 'This is the sound of violence' taking the piss. I told him the title was awesome 'The sound of Violence' for the next album. We did have other titles in mind, we were originally going to call the album 'Hate Box' but he came up with this title and it just seemed right at the time with the imaginary of the band & music."
So what are the songs about briefly on the new album? Also which songs from the new album stand out for you and why?
"Well generally there about violence in general and it is not really a concept album really, but there is defiantly a theme throughout the album of all different forms of violence. There is violence every where we look, it's the way things are in to days modern society. In the past we had covered topics like anti religious stuff even though there is some on the new album but more of the songs on this album are reality based and a true story based on something. As far as the songs on the new album are concerned that I like is hard to say really. I have a different songs each day and I had been reading all the reviews that have been coming out and every 1 seems to pick a different song which is really good actually. The song 'Code Black' is 1 I like because it is really heavy and the song 'The Sound of Violence' is punk in a way (Ed: you have always been influenced by punk right?) Yeah I have. I also like 'Rest in Pieces', because it is a thrash based song but I think it is a varied album really."
Why did you decide to have 'Bomber' by Motorhead as a single? Also how did you hook up with Phil from Motorhead and Tom from Sodom for this song?
"Well Motorhead were one of our favourite bands, It was them and Discharge that influenced us the most. We toured with Motorhead in 86 and became good friends with them and we haven't done a cover version for a long time so we decided to do a Motorhead song. Steve suggested the song 'Bomber' as it was a song that not many bands cover, so we gave it ago and it turned out really well. It is a really blue based song so it was a challenge to make it into our own version. We managed to give it a thrash edge and we had known Phil for a long time so we gave him a call and asked if he wanted to appear on the song, and he said he would love to do the song. So he came down to Swansea for the day and recorded his parts for the song. It sounded amazing when it was finished. Tom was also up for it, as he also loves Motorhead and he has also supported them live."
Did you recorded a video for this song to be released soon?
"Well yes we recorded the whole song onto video, & I think having Phil and Tom with us was a great mixture of the 3 that worked out really well. The video was very cheap, no budget it all, just studio footage which is in black and white and it looks cool!"
I'm surprised you didn't do a Discharge song instead?
"We'll we may do that for the next album (laughing)'.
So what sort of album reviews have you been receiving so far?
"The reviews so for have been outstanding, mainly about 8/5 to 10/10 which is great for us, our profile is now been lifted."
So besides touring what other future plans do you have? Albums? DVD?
"Well we are now putting a tour together for April which will be mostly northern Europe, Scandinavia, the Baltic States, and we have lots of festival this summer coming up. We hope to make a new DVD soon, not sure where but we are playing a major festival so we could do it there."
Well Nigel, its been a pleasure speaking to you, let hope the next interview isn't another 20yrs lol!! Do you have anything to say before we finish the interview? Thanx for the call, take care and see you on tour soon.
"Yes thanx to our fans for their support, we hope you like the new album, check us out live if you can and keep supporting Friday 13th. Cheers Jase, good luck with the website"
Thanx to 'Metal' Mike Exley for setting the interview up, horns up Mike!!
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