Interview: Evile at Gibson Guitar Studio, 23rd June 2011

Evile. Hang on a second…isn’t it supposed to be without an ‘E’ on the end? Actually, if we’re getting pedantic, the legend has it Yorkshire’s noisiest quartet were originally to be called ‘Exile’…the trouble was, that name was taken by the thousands. So, switch the ‘X’ for a ‘V’, and presto! ‘Evile’ was born. But we’re not here for a spelling lesson. We’re here because Evile, however they may or may not live up to their name in bad behaviour, are set to shred the house down at an exclusive press gig tonight, showing off 2011’s fierce new baby, ‘Five Serpent’s Teeth’, at the Gibson Guitar Studio. And I’m here to chat to the boys, mid-afternoon, for EspyRock.com – if we can drag them back by the hair from their trip to Forbidden Planet, that is…

Evile have been carving a phenomenally steep ascent for themselves since 2007. Collaboration with metal-fosterers Earache Records has proved nothing short of golden; three studio albums, two demos, a handful of no-messing-about festivals and cult-friendly exposure to their name, and Huddersfield’s answer to the ‘Big 4’ are climbing the hill to horn-household name. Just don’t ask them about keeping the ‘thrash’ genre alive…

“Um…I remember when we first read that, I think Kerrang! said something like we’re ‘carrying the genre on our shoulders’ ”, guitarist Ol Drake (OD) tells me, “and…cool, it’s a good compliment and everything, but we’re just doing it…when we started, there were no thrash bands around, so we thought: ‘Oh, let’s play some thrash!’, and we did that; got signed, and we’re just still doing that, I guess. We’ve just got a label and everything now. It’s an honour to have that said, but we aren’t purposely trying to keep thrash alive…but, why not?”

Rhiannon Marley (RM): Let’s talk a bit about your new album. Have the personal circumstances that were suffered by the group, both professionally and individually (I’m referring to the tragic passing of former bassist, Mike Alexander, in 2009), had an effect on the work within ‘Five Serpent’s Teeth’?

Evile Interview - Ol DrakeOD: “Err…yeah. I think in a lot of ways as well, because we’ve got a new member now…and we had to, like, ‘re-know’ someone; like, ‘re-get-to-know’ a bass-player. The writing is different; we approach things differently. When Mike passed away, we had to take a step back and think what we were doing, and it just made us, I think, take things a bit more seriously instead of just ‘f-ing’ around all the time. Just: ‘So let’s go for it!’, y’know. I think there’s a feel of not messing around on this; it was just straight to the point: metal, riffs, and that’s it. It’s quite angry though as well, obviously…”

Interview is paused at this point, as I’m told we’re due to be joined by the other three members; as you might remember, they’re trekking back from Forbidden Planet in Covent Garden as we speak. First to appear is drummer, Ben Carter

RM: You’ve previously fared very well critically, even through such large metal media centres as Classic Rock and Terrorizer magazines. What would be the best and the worst thing a critic could say about Evile’s work?

Ben Carter (BC): “The worst thing would be ‘pack it in, and don’t bother playing anymore!’ ” (Laughs) “The best thing would be…”

OD: “Carry on!” (Laughs) “I think people too often compare us to the old thrash, saying: ‘Oh, it was better in the 80s’…but it’s not about that. We grew up on the same music as that, so we’re just influenced by it. You don’t have to have been there to be allowed to play; you can’t ‘not listen’ to classical because you weren’t there 400 years ago! It’s just music. That’s one of the bad things, I think: people say: ‘Oh, old thrash’…”

BC: “There’s a lot of ‘elitism’, I think, in thrash. If you’re not around from that era that’s already gone and done it before you, then it’s not valid doing what you’re doing today. But I think it is, y’know, ’cause everything’s gotta go full-cycle eventually, and it makes sense. It’s like a continuation of their legacy, so surely they should be happy about it – not contradictory and derogatory?”

OD: “The thing is, a lot of the bands I like do like it; when we toured with Megadeth, Dave was saying that he likes us as a band; Exodus – Gary was saying he loves us. So we get praise from a lot of the bands we were influenced by, which is great. But I think one of the good things to hear from press or feedback is people who were in the old era, saying: ‘It makes me feel like I’m 15 again’: it’s like, perfect. We must be doing something right, then.”

Halfway through Ben and Ol’s response, we are joined by rhythm-guitarist and vocalist, Matt Drake

RM: To chart a different angle of your success, it’s well-documented that your song ‘Thrasher’ is featured on the game ‘Rock Band’, and also that another of your tracks, ‘Bathe in Blood’, was featured on the soundtrack to the movie Ondine, starring Colin Farrell. How did you respond to such commercial exposure for the work of Evile?

Matt Drake (MD): “The ‘Rock Band’ thing was awesome, ’cause all we do is play computer games!” (Laughs) “To be part of one is just…safe! We’re not really used to commercial exposure, I guess…’cause we can never see ourselves from the outside, so we don’t know what the effect can be. I don’t think we see it as well as other people do.”

OD: “Music’s just great, being in a game!”

BC: “It’s weird to be thought of as a ‘commercial product’, ’cause we all grew up in like, y’know, the ‘underground’ scene: going out, doing gigs in a pub or a club, or whatever, and then going to work, going to college/school, whatever. And then you see yourselves in a feature-film…it’s a little bit odd. Well, not see yourselves, but hear yourselves…it’s a little bit strange. Same thing with ‘Rock Band’; Ol’s picture came up on one of the Xbox flashes, on the menu screen!”

Evile Interview - Matt, Ol and BenOD: “Yeah, the Xbox Live! Logged on, and there was just me: my ugly mug, just there! I was like: ‘Oh God! I’m Ol!’ I got so many messages from guys going: ‘Oh, you’re gay!’ ” (Laughs)

BC: “So many levels of the business that you’d never think, as a kid, that you’d aspire to get to, or you’d never ‘achieve’ to get to…and when you get to one level, you see the next one, and you just think: ‘Wow! That’s just around the corner maybe…or maybe not…’ It pushes you to do more, though.”

RM: Let’s touch back on a point you raised earlier, Ol, about receiving praise from acts whom you yourselves are inspired by. You’ve supported some notable names, and now you’ve distinguished yourselves as rising talents in the metal world. Based on your experience, do you think there are staple factors involved in the ascent to success of a band in the metal sphere, or that it varies from group to group?

MD: “I think it differs for every band…”

BC: “I think the metal industry’s very much like pop, in the respect that every band has its own ‘schtick’ that they pull out; you can almost think of them like boy-bands, in a way: everyone’s got their own little gimmick that gets them to where they are.”

OD: “I think ours is just songs; like, we’ve never relied on showing-off live, or some kind of gimmick: we have nothing to ‘sell’, I guess, other than just music.”

MD: “I was gonna say ourselves, but that sounded like prostitution!” (Laughs) “Yeah, we’ve nothing to like, ‘give away’, nothing like the Slipknot-mask thing…”

OD: “Yeah, let’s do that!” (Laughs)

MD: “Just four Huddersfield people, playing metal: that’s all there is, or which it was: that in itself is a gimmick. I think sometimes…like say, ‘Bring Me The Horizon’, bands like that: these bands that just suddenly come out of nowhere, and they’re HUGE, and they might be huge for, I don’t know, two years, three years, but…will they last 20? Who knows? Wait and see, I guess…but I think we’ve been quite slow and steady; I think we’ve just been rising a little tiny bit each time, and keep going and going and going, so we might last 50 years, you never know; we might last 3…you never know. We’re very ‘steady-away’: we’re very Yorkshire-like.”

We’re joined midway through once more by final member: bassist, Joel Graham

RM: I want to ask you about your first two albums: there are a lot of similarities between them, in terms of aggression, passion and intensity in the music. But do you feel there has been an ‘evolution’ in your sound between your works? If so, in what sense?

BC: “To start with, we were really, really naïve and, kind of…I don’t know…on the crest of a wave, just being signed and everything, and the first album’s really…adolescent, and shows our youth and our naivety coming through in the music, whereas the second album, we had a lot of time to think about it…”

MD: “I think we over-thought the second one…I think…slightly…”

OD: “The material on the first one was pretty much written before we were even signed…’cause when we got signed, we thought: ‘Oh, let’s release an album! Right, we’ve got nearly all the songs for it’…so…in a way, we didn’t write for the first release; it was just already there. Then when we did the second album, it was our first attempt at writing an album for a label to release, worldwide…and I think we…we love it, it’s just I think we over-thought it, and put too much, like, ‘Oh, let’s try this, try this, try this’, and we went all over the place. It works for what it was, but…”

Evile Interview - Ben CarterMD: “I think we needed to get it out of our systems, in a way. Someone at the record label did actually say it was like we’d written album 3 before album 2, and that makes sense now that we’ve done album 3, because we’ve had to take a step backwards and maybe make the songs a little bit simpler; the structures a bit simpler; bigger riffs; catchy choruses; and stripped it back a little bit, so yeah, that does make sense now.”

OD: “I think we couldn’t have done this new one without having done the second one, because from all the mistakes from the second one, we thought: ‘Oh well, let’s not do that this time; just go straight for it on this one’.”

BC: “I think we lost the fun on the second one; ‘Nations’ was very, just, purposefully ‘straight’, and…I don’t wanna say ‘flat’; flat’s the wrong word; but it was not as dynamic as ‘Grave’…the third one’s just got both of those elements just smashed together.”

MD: “I think this is a very pessimistic album, really.”

RM: I’ve got two last questions for you all. If you could collectively choose 5 personalities from the music world, past or present, to take to dinner, who would they be?

Joel Graham (JG): “John Lennon, I think, would be on there.”

MD: “Freddy Mercury.”

BC: “Lars Ulrich…just for controversy!” (Laughs)

OD: “Beethoven, plus a translator…” (Laughs) “Does that count for five?”

RM: And my last question, gentlemen – you could do this one individually – Desert-Island Disc: If you could each take three albums with you onto a desert island, what would they be?

OD: “Metallica: ‘Master of Puppets’; Sepultura: ‘Beneath the Remains’; and a Yes album, from the 70s.”

MD: “I’d go…Creedence Clearwater: ‘Willy and the Poor Boys’; Beatles: ‘Rubber Soul’; and ‘Queen II’.”

BC: “Metallica: ‘And Justice for All’; Michael Jackson: ‘Bad’, just for something different; and Heart: ‘Brigade’…definitely.”

JG: “Queen; ‘A Night at the Opera’, definitely; Black Sabbath: ‘Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath’; and an album by a band called Jellyfish called ‘Spilt Milk’…”

OD: “I’ve heard of ‘had jellyfish’…”

Evile Interview band and Rhiannon

A mosaic of incidents has shaped the rise of Evile: in person; in profession; in principle. Yet despite their growing success, they seem level-headed; bound within their own passions enough to keep them from levitating on the balloon of rock-star-attitude…for now. No mean feat at a time when it’s so tempting to take the words of Eddie Izzard in pretentious cult-trash flick Velvet Goldmine literally: “The secret to becoming a star is knowing how to behave like one”. Evile love what they do: it’s as simple as that. They’re tackling innovation through resurrection of classic style…and doing very well out of it. Looking forward to checking them out onstage later tonight – but the boys and I can certainly agree on one thing: it’s high time to get a drink (or 35) in beforehand…



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