ANDY SNEAP (PRODUCER, HELL), October 2017
** Did you just get done in the recording studio with Judas Priest today?
I'm actually doing Saxon today believe it or not. I'm juggling Saxon and Priest at the same time.Priest is just about done, we've just got a couple of days maybe just one day tweaks left on it, a few things that Glenn will probably want sorted out, running orders and things so that's as good as done. Same with Saxon as well really. They're both aiming to have their albums out by next year so we got this deadline of the middle of October looming. Priest I think is probably a month later. Saxon is out first then Priest afterwards and then we'll see what happens then.
** Is it public knowledge then that Saxon is coming out with an album?
Yes, it's all out there. We've been doing Saxon for quite a while actually because they've been coming in and doing bits and pieces, and even at the end of last year we'd started work on that. Then I had to jump onto the Priest album while Saxon were out in America touring. So I've kind of been going between the two. I've been spinning my plates with both albums really, but it's worked out fine.
** Do we know the name of Saxon's album yet?
Yes, that's out there, it's Thunderbolt.
** Are we allowed to know the name of the Priest album yet? Any artwork made out yet?
They have a name and artwork but it hasn't been released, although I think it's going to be released in the next day or two.
** So, I was traveling through the metal universe and I saw Hell. It could have been a metal site, a webzine, a label site but I saw it and it just grabbed my attention. I looked it up and saw your name and I had heard your name mentioned somewhere before so I listen to the music and it's amazing. Dave Halliday started the band right?
It's all four guys really. Dave was in a band called Race Against Time, Kev was in a band called Paralex with Tony Speakman, the bass player. Tim was in a band called Overdrive, and they were all sort of local bands in the early eighties that were gigging around this area in the Nottingham, Derby area of the UK, so they all knew each other. So they got together and formed Hell. Dave's band Race Against Time had just split up and Kev really wanted to be in a band with Dave so that's how they formed. That was really around the time that I met Dave Halliday. I was only twelve and desperate to play guitar. I'd had a guitar for Christmas from my mum and dad. It was a cheap electric. When I say cheap , I looked it up, and today it's worth about nine hundred pounds but I haven't got it any more lol
** What happened to it?
I exchanged it for a Marshall years and years ago and it wouldn't be a guitar for me these days. It was a real old sixties type guitar. I got introduced to Dave by a friend of mine at school who I used to see walking around school with a guitar and that's how I met the guys from Hell. I got playing, had lessons from Dave for five years and followed the band and just took it all on board. I formed Sabbat when I was fifteen and we were signed by the time I was eighteen so that's kind of the way it went.
** Describe the friendship you had with Dave back then.
Dave was a very big influence on me as a teenager. I was very in awe of this band. Out of all the local bands they treated things very professionally. It made an impression on me on how to organize and how things should be done. Looking back now they weren't professional and didn't have the experience like I've had now but it was a good starting point and a good example to set really.
** How many times a day did he have you practicing with him?
Well, to be honest I was playing all the time as a kid. That's what you do, you're like a sponge whatever you're into when you're at that age. You're so focused on it, so I just sat in my bedroom for hours playing guitar when I was a kid and maybe I should do that now haha
** Do you give guitar lessons now?
For awhile when I was in my early twenties. When I first left home and I needed to make some money I taught a few people guitar. I did alright. I don't mind doing that, but I don't need to do it now.
** Was Hell formed yet when you were Dave's student?
Yes, they were formed in 1981
** Dave committed suicide. How did that affect you? Did it happen because he was upset at the way things were going with the band?
The band had actually split up six months before that happened. It was personal things in Dave's life and a lot of other contributing factors to it. It wasn't all based around the band at all. I'm not going to go into it. It really was an awful time. I was seventeen years old when that happened so it made a very big impression on me. It made me look to music as a way out of that whole thing. I really just focused myself on music and really pushed Sabbat. I just stuck my head in the sand , focused on the band and really got into making Sabbat work which is why I think I drove it so hard in those early days.
** Dave left all his songs to you. What were your thoughts when you found out he had left you his music. What did you do when you received it?
It was only a written thing he had put in his will. He left his guitars and amps to me as well. I'd always envisioned hearing the Hell songs, how I'd seen them live , the power of seeing it live and all I had was these cassettes that were recorded in the rehearsal room. I'd listened to his music for years and years and years and I got this idea to record Dave's songs and to do it properly and to try and get his songs out there because of everything that happened. It had always been hanging over me to do this , so when I got reintroduced to Kev, we had this way of doing this and it seemed the logical thing to do.** That could have been him saying "Get my music out there!"I'd like to think so. It's a nice idea. It's a tempting thought isn't it that you 've had things passed on to you to do, but I don't believe anything like that. I'm a total non believer in any of that, but I do believe in positive thinking and striving to put one's self in a position mentally, because you convince all the people around you that you're the guy for the job. If you're in a bar, and you're the guy whos having a good time, you see people attracted to you and drawn towards you. You have that vibe. Also, in a work environment, if you're positive and you go at it with a good approach and a good mental attitude you'll get good results out of people. I think if you've got that thought that you're doing this because of what happened , it drives you. It puts you in a certain positive mental attitude. I don't believe in any of this "someone's looking down and pushing the buttons", but I do think if you have a certain thing in the back of your mind saying you have to do this "because", and it's forcing you to do certain things in a certain way, it does affect the whole situation around you.** I think it's amazing that he made that connection with you when you were so young and he must have thought really highly of you and must have really made a connection with you to leave you his songs , his guitars, all his stuff.I didn't really think about it at the time, but when I look back now, yes he must have seen a spark there in a seventeen year old kid who was driven to play music. I didn't go to school a great deal in my last year or so. I used to get dropped off at the school gates and just walk to Dave's house and go and play guitar all day. It paid off! haha
** Haha! I love that! What made you choose music over going to college and getting some training?
I didn't have a good time at school at all so especially in my last few years I was in a lot of trouble. It's the typical story of the kid dropping out of school and wanting to be a guitarist. I left school and I didn't have a job but by the time I was eighteen, I was in Germany recording my first album so it worked out thankfully. I wouldn't encourage any kids to do that. I know if I had kids now I'd be like my parents who were pulling their hair out, but it's all I wanted to do. I haven't got any other skills. I'm so into music, that's all I've ever focused on.** So how did you end up reconnecting with Kev Bower and the rest of the original members of Hell and resurrect Halliday's music and reform the band?I was working in Florida and it was around 2006 I believe , or was it 2005? Somewhere around then, and I was on instant messenger and this message popped up and it was from a guy called Tom Bower who was Kev's son who I'd never met. Tom was into all kinds of metal like Nevermore, Trivium, a lot of these newer bands. He'd been showing Kev some of the albums because he knew obviously his dad was into metal. He was showing him some of the albums I'd produced and Kev saw my name on some of the album covers. I'm sure he thought to himself there can't be many Andy Sneaps out there that are into metal , its got to be the same guy that used to come and see us back in the day, so Kev was saying I know this guy. So Tom used his internet powers , popped up on my messenger and said my dad says he knows you and I told him to put his Dad in touch. So we got back to the UK and we met up. He hadn't played guitar for twenty years hadn't done any tours. I think he was selling road sweepers at the time, so we reconnected there. I gave him a guitar when he came down to the studio, put it in his hands and said let's hear some of those old riffs again. So it was great. It was great to hear some of these riffs that I only had on cassette. To hear some of these riffs clearly, the potential in some of these songs , it made me want to re record them. So we got the original drummer Tim and Tony the bass player. I don't think Tim had been playing much but Tony had been in some bands around the area so he was still pretty switched on. It was like rock school 101 , all sitting together and playing again. "no, no you play it like this " and Tony would guide Kev through it a little bit. We spent three years going through some of the older songs that were our favorites, putting them together and recording them properly.We'd do them in blocks of three, and sort them out weekends, then we'd have a good solid week at it and then a few hours here, a few hours there so it took a while. Then we did a voice over on Plague and Fyre and we got Dave Bower, Kev's brother down to do it because he does a lot theatrical work and a lot of radio voice overs. So he came down and did the spoken part and in the middle of that he started singing along because he knew all the songs. He'd seen Hell back in the day, because he used to hang out with Dave also, so it was all these weird little connections how we all knew each other. I'd never met Dave Bower back in the day. He started singing the songs and he was perfect for it. He's got that higher register, that Geddy Lee sort of register that Dave Halliday had. Dave Bower is very theatrical because he had been in the theatre , he was doing west end plays and stuff. He can add that extra element to the performance. We realized right there and then we'd found the missing piece of the puzzle and it's worked out great.** I think the whole thing is just really neat. I like that old element of having the tapes, its just so classic and vintage. Hell is amazing. I love the band. I really like the Curse and Chapter album. The whole album is perfect. I found it to be more solid and stronger than Human Remains. Did you produce any of the Hell albums?Yes. It makes total sense that I do the production. I've got the studio here and I've got the equipment to do it. It's all my doing really. I play guitar on them as well. More so on the second album actually , more so on Curse and Chapter than the first one. that was really me trying to get the guys playing again and then with Curse and Chapter, I played a lot more rhythms and solos as I was more in on the band then. That's probably why it's more solid and also the band had been playing for a couple of years.** The witchy voices were perfect in the song MacBeth. Who was doing those voices?That's Kev, Dave Halliday and Tony Speakman. That was an intro they made for the song back in the eighties. They just did a four track recording in the rehearsal room . I just added some sound effects to it, cleaned it up a bit and dehissed it, got it so it was usable on the album because we wanted to try to get as much of Dave Halliday on the first album as we could. There's a few little bits on the start of Plague and Fyre. The "bring out your dead", that was Dave from a live show that I managed to lift off. We managed to get him on the album, and he's on the front cover as well if you look closely.** When can we expect the next Hell album?We're sort of writing bits and pieces. We've got six or seven ideas now, maybe eight , but we're not really in a rush to do it. We wont put anything out until we feel it does justice to the last two records. If its another year, if its another five years, we're not in a desperate race to put it out, we're just seeing how it goes really. Hell isnt a full-time thing. You have to appreciate I'm doing production pretty much all the time and I'm away a lot and the other guys have other lives. They're all in their early fifties to late fifties. It's not like we're all a bunch of seventeen year old kids living at mum and dads house where we can spend two months on the road. It's not like that. We've all got our lives and families. It's a professional hobby is the best way I can describe it haha** You guys don't have the endless energy like you used to!No. It's not like that. We are pretty energetic on stage for how we are. We're quite lively. We do rehearse a lot of the moves and choreography and stuff up on stage as well. We don't like to be boring and just be five guys up there not doing anything.. We put a lot of thought into the show. The drive isn't quite as ambitious as it would have been with a bunch of seventeen year old kids is what I'm saying.
** I watched one of the shows and it would be really cool to see you guys out there playing again. So any tour/shows coming up? I know you guys have a festival coming up right?
We've got one in Malta not this weekend but the next weekend. We've got three shows a couple weeks later, one in Belgium , two in Holland with Destruction. We've got that lined up. I've said to the guys that this year should have been spent writing more than going out and doing gigs., that we really need to focus on doing another record before we start going out and doing live shows again. So that's kind of the situation we're in. Hopefully everything is going to get a bit more focused towards writing and recording soon.
** Is Save Us Hell's only musical work from the original line-up?
The songs on the first two albums, most of those were written from back in the day, but Save Us is the only actual official release that they did. They did a couple of demos that got pressed into vinyl by bootleggers since, but Save Us and Death Squad , the double A side single was the only vinyl they put out back then.
** I just cant quit wrapping this around my head that your sort of carrying the torch here. I don't think there are very many things like this that go on. It's like your carrying on the torch for Dave, like you're carrying on his legacy,
There definitely is a strong background story to this whole thing isnt there. I think its really interesting. Someone suggested making a film about that. We've always wanted to see the band moving forward tho rather than being seen as a retro new wave of British heavy metal band. There's a lot of bands trying to be more eighties now. We're trying to move the band forward and keep Dave's name in there somehow. We've helped his family out also by sorting his royalty share out, which wasn't easy. Obviously we've passed all that down the line to his sister. It's been nice to do.
** I think that's a great idea. A Hell documentary. I'm sure you have people you can contact to do that. You probably have so many connections out there it's insane.
When we did the first album we tried to tell the story on the packaging and put a lot of the old pictures in there. We have sort of put it out there and told the story quite well I think.
** Hell has a website people can go to.
** Let's talk about producing. How did you get into that? How long have you been doing that?
I got into It when Sabbat split up in the early nineties. I was living in Nottingham by the time the band had split up and I spent a couple of years just selling guitars at a local music store. In that time I was building my own little studio inside the rehearsal room where Sabbat used to rehearse. I put a little eight track recorder in there and I was demoing my own material and recording a lot of local bands as well. Little punk bands and stuff, doing singles and demos for them.
By the end of 1994, I'd progressed to working at a bigger twenty four track studio in Nottingham. I did some live sounds at the local club in Nottingham, Rock City. I was doing the in house engineering there and by that stage I'd met Colin Richardson who was doing Machine Head, Fear Factory, and Napalm Death. I was engineering with him on a couple of projects and then at the end of 1996 I ended up in San Francisco with Colin doing the second Machine Head record. Then we went down to L.A. and met people from Metal Blade, Century Media, and Roadrunner Records so I made a lot of good contacts.
Then the following year I was doing bands like Skinlab and Stuck Mojo. I can't remember all the bands I was doing back then but they were the first bands I was doing for Century Media. I did Earth Crisis for Road Runner. That one trip to America in 96 really got my foot in the door, there wasn't that many engineers back then that were doing metal stuff. There were a few of us, but not like there is now. There's a lot of up and coming kids because of the way recording has gone, everyone has their own recording set ups now. It was a good place to be. I was in the right place at the right time when all of these labels were looking for a new guy coming up. I sort of managed to get in there. I haven't looked back, and the work has been pretty solid since then. You do a good job, you get an album in on time and within budget, and people start noticing that. So they keep coming back to you.
** So can you say that back then you kind of just fell into it?
It's just one of those things you just do, you didn't plan it.I always wanted to do it. I always enjoyed doing the studio side of things, being creative, and putting the big picture together. It was always part of being in the band to me, so even though I wasn't in a band, I felt like I was part of something because I was making records and being creative. The thing I liked about it and still like about it , is that you're not fixed to any one band. If you're in a band, you're always going as fast as the slowest member of that band, and you're relying on four other guys to pull their weight within the band. If they're not doing that, and I've been in those situations in the past, it's very frustrating when you're the only one trying to drive it forward. For me, to be my own destiny, in my own hands really, being on my own in production, I really enjoyed it because I was making my own path, not having to rely on anyone else.
** Let's talk about where the magic happens. Backstage Studios is your studio where you produce everything right? It's a converted three hundred year old dairy farm in England which sounds beautiful! And its not a dairy farm anymore right? Lol
No its not been a dairy farm a long time. The guy that had it before me had it for twelve years and I've had it for seventeen now so its been nearly thirty years. The live room that comes out of the building, that was the old pig stables so it was all derelict when I moved in this part, you could literally drive a car through it, so its got a new roof and new foundations, the walls are all sandblasted back. It really was quite a big operation putting a big studio in. It took a year and a half to do a whole new renovation and put accommodation in as well. It was a lot of work but its paid off. It cost a lot but it's paid itself off so it's been worth it.
** Are you going to stay there? Is it possible to upgrade it even more?
I know if I was going to do it again now, I wouldn't build it to this size actually. I'm lucky Ive got a place this size because Ive got so much equipment I need to store, but really if I was going to build another studio, I could build it in half the size with the studio technology now. I probably will be here the rest of my life to be honest. I could see myself living in other places as well. I don't feel the need to stay here but I'd use it as a base.
** You've done a lot of production for a lot of big bands. Judas Priest, Exodus, Napalm Death, Machine Head, Testament, Kreator, Arch Enemy, Megadeth, Devil Driver , Onslaught, Accept, the list goes on....
It keeps going doesn't it that list haha. Ive done two Megadeth records. I did United Abominations and Endgame with Dave. On the last one we spent five months in San Diego when he had his place down there so that was quite a long haul to be away from home but it came out pretty good. It got a very good reception and people thought it got back to a bit more of their thrashier roots. San Diego was a nice place, warm compared to England.
** Accept, is that the new Accept or the old Accept guys?
It's the last four albums I've done with Accept so the new guys with Mark.
** What are you so fascinated with when it comes to producing?
You're putting the big picture together. I'm working with very talented guys in this genre who are creative as well so there's a good vibe. When we get together and work towards putting these records together it's a great time. It's a fun job and I enjoy doing it.
** I can definitely see that. Have you ever produced any non metal albums?
No, not really. People say why don't you do something outside the metal world, but I don't really understand it if I'm honest. I've listened to metal and rock all my life, so it's my thing.
** Exactly. I cant do it either. Besides it being the best music in the Universe in my opinion, I support metal music because I feel it gets the short end of the stick in the music industry. It kind of has to stay in the background.
I can appreciate other music, its not that I don't like it but I wouldn't really choose to listen to something that's not metal. I always tend to lean towards the stuff I listened to when I was growing up like Priest, AC DC, Maiden, and Sabbath. I think you always do. You have a sort of period in your life music takes you back to. They say when you're in those early years you're in the most influential time of your life, you're just taking everything in. That older classic metal to me, some of that old Thin Lizzy stuff, is brilliant. I always put that on in the car as opposed to some of the new stuff that's out now. It's always old Lizzy and Deep Purple, Sabbath etc
** I think that's when metal was real. I don't think nowadays its real like it was back then.
Is that just because we remember it from back then? It was a certain time. Theres a lot of kids I meet now who think it's the most amazing thing ever but theyre hearing it now for what it is. Even Led Zeppelin to me seems the generation before I got into metal. I got into metal in the early eighties, the whole Zeppelin thing had been and gone almost. I find it crazy when I talk to kids now who werent even born when the Metallica Black album came out lol but there in to what's going on now which is great. It's moved on but they're seeing that excitement in the bands that are coming up now. Maybe it's just the age that we're at now and how it made an influence in our lives. But I do feel that the songwriting had a more classic feel to it back in the eighties. It was more thought out, more around the vocal and more around the melody as opposed to the heaviness, and that to me is proper songwriting and that's what I get when I listen back to this stuff.
** Who would have thought that you would be producing Judas Priest's new album. You listened to all their music when you were young and now you're face to face with them!
I never would have thought it when I was fifteen. This year I've done Accept, Saxon, and Judas Priest. I've got the best seat in the house now havent I? lol It's a bit crazy but Ive listened to this type of music so much I think I'm probably the right guy for the job on this occasion.
** You are currently producing Judas Priest's new album, which is really neat. We want to know things!
I will point out its been a co-production with me and Tom Allom, who did British Steel and Screaming for Vengance. Me and Tom have been working side by side on this. So its been quite fun actually. Tom did the first three Sabbath albums, did the Priest records, he did Y & T so its been quite good working with one of the old guys. Tom is in his early seventies now so there's a few years difference between me and him but we see things very much on the same level and its been quite surprising on how much we've agreed on everything. A lot of little things on the early Priest albums are Tom's influence so its been quite interesting seeing that.
** It's neat how he's as old as they are. You said Glenn was seventy.
Yes, at the end of October.
** Naturally we want to know if they have a name for their album yet and when do they expect to be done recording?
Yes, the name and artwork are sorted. We're pretty much good to go on it. I cant tell you anything because I'm sworn to secrecy but yes its come out great. The recording is all done. The mixing is just about done, there's one or two days left on that.** Do you think they'll go on a tour with this new album?Yes, they've got dates that have been booked for next year. Their management has it all in line. It never happens easy and there's a lot of planning that goes into it.** I think its really amazing how they manage to keep doing this at their age. Glenn is going to be seventy and he's still out there recording albums and touring.Yea like he said to me the other day he still has a lot to say musically. He's very determined. Rob was having quite severe back problems a couple of years ago, and I think he had an operation so he's back on form now, he's full of life again. Rob is singing great, his back seems sorted.** Rob is 65 and his voice is still so strong!Yes hes great. Richie has added fresh life to the band as well. Richie is 36/37 and an absolutely killer guitar player so he's lit things up again. KK was obviously a great part of the band as well. Judas Priest have always delivered. They've done a few odd swerves musically, Turbo wasn't to everyones liking, a few weird turns but they've always found their feet. I've always liked Priest. They've always been the definition of heavy metal. It's Judas Priest really.** Yes, they are. They're my favorite all time band. For me, it used to be tied between Maiden and Priest but I go with Priest. I've always found them more raw. No offense to Maiden because they're amazing too but I feel Priest is just f*****g raw metal.I go with Priest as well. I like Maiden too, but Ive always felt Priest had more of a harder edge to them.** Tell us what a typical day with Priest in the studio is like.We'd start probably about ten o clock, depends on what we're doing. If we're doing guitars we'd work through until one ish. We'd always have a tea break around one, two o clock. We'd have Scotch eggs supplied by Mr Allom, Victoria sponge cake with cream from the local shop and a cup of coffee haha, then we'd work through until seven o clock with a couple of short breaks so it wasn't too stressful. We'd probably do guitars for another couple of hours after the sponge break and Rob starts singing about three o clock in the afternoon. We'd get about three, three and a half hours out of Rob. At the end of the day me and Tom will be putting the vocals together. It was pretty good, we got a bit of a routine going. Once we got the drums down, we got a bit more focused on the guitars. It was sort of guitars in the morning, vocals in the afternoon until we break for something to eat and then a meal somewhere else in a pub near Glenn's. We did all the recording at Glenn's studio, at his house.
** I think its neat they have a coffee break with sponge cake, that's cool! They're these big metal guys and now they're going to go eat some sponge cake on their coffee break, I love that haha
Lol, yea the most un rock and roll thing ever, a cup of coffee and a slice of cake with the Metal God haha
** In a Loudwire article , you explained that Glenn wanted to use demo material to make new tracks for this album but youre making them play as a band.
He wasn't wanting to use the actual material for the track , what he was suggesting was to use the demos as a template to play to and I didn't want to do that because a lot of the times when you've done demos you tend to record a riff to a click and go with it because that's what you're used to. You havent had the drummer play to it and you havent had the band play to it, its just you putting a riff down on how youre feeling it on the day. You don't have an idea on the whole groove. When a band is locked down into something that whole tempo can change by two or three bpm .
Once you start playing it with other musicians you start understanding the riff and the way it turns round, the feel of it and the whole swing of it. You don't get that when you play to demos. That's why I was really keen on them learning the songs that were written. Obviously demoing is a great idea but youre taking songs that we got as demos and actually playing them live to get the proper feel of the songs and getting used to them. When you get a group of musicians playing together all of a sudden something will happen and it will be like oh I'll try that a little bit or the way that goes into that lets try to move that in a little bit and lets put a little twist on this bit. You don't get that if you play to a demo you lose all those qualities that bands have when they play together as a band so I was really keen on trying to get some of that in because you can hear it all over the early Priest albums.
Actually, KK said it to me a couple of years ago. He said that they didn't have any way of recording the songs back in the day so they had to rehearse them so they knew them. No one had phones, or a tape recorder they could record them on. They actually had to learn them so they remembered them. Playing together like that is what gives a band a certain feel, everyone is pushing or pulling a little bit. Everyone is putting their effort in and feel on the riff. And when there's one guy doing a demo you lose all that.
I think we can hear that a lot in metal these days, I call it laptop metal. Its where people will write a whole album on a laptop and its so square and rigid, it doesn't have any feel. I think people pick up on that. I think when people go on about the digital sounds of todays metal theyre talking more about that than the actual sonic qualities, theyre mistaking that for the live vibe of a band playing together a lot of the time.
** I was thinking about Richie and I was thinking how he must feel. Hes taking the place of of a guitar god basically, a metal god. It must be overwhelming!
Yes, they 're huge shoes to fill arent they? Richie has done a great job, he's grabbed the bull by the horns and gone with it so fair play to him. I think he's the perfect replacement as he's bringing a bit of his own vibe to the table too.
** What are the most important Priest albums and why?
For me, my favorites are Stained Class and Screaming For Vengeance. I guess it's different for every Priest fan. As with music, it always takes you back to when you first heard it, or a certain period in your life, and those were the two albums that really got me into them. I've got friends who are a couple of years younger than me and they are all about Defenders of the Faith, so I'd say every one of these classic albums are relevant to the bands success.
** Which Priest album or albums has got the right sound to your ear?
That's a bit of a pointless question. We've all got used to how the records sound, and its really about what equipment was available and the style of production that was "in" at the time etc. Stained Class wouldn't seem right with Painkillers production and Sad Wing's wouldnt sound right with Turbo's production. Again, why would you want a set sound on everything anyway. I think it's interesting when band's mix things up a bit. Certainly, Priest have always taken onboard what is current, and its probably added to the longevity of the band whether you like all their albums or not.
** What do you think of Screaming for Vengeance?
I love it. I had a listen to the multitracks whilst doing the new album. It's great to hear bits isolated, really interesting when you've heard it so many times as is. What surprised me was how live alot of the tracking was. Another Thing Coming was everyone together and Glenn added a thickener guitar track down the middle. On Bloodstone for instance, the main verse vocal went down live with the drums, you can hear the bleed on the mic. There was also a six month gap while the band sorted management issues out so the album was recorded in two halves.
** How relevant is "Unleashed in the East" still today? What about "British Steel"?
I think it's a classic part of the bands history, there's no denying that. I think Unleashed really set things up for British Steel.
** What do you think of Analogic recordings, and no compression, best sounds?
Alot of people that get into this debate don't really understand it. I don't miss the days of tape AT ALL. A lot of times you had to settle for second best and I remember wearing tape out, the top end going, cleaning the heads constantly, bad batches of tape, re aligning the machine.... people that hark on about it I think are talking about the approach and feel that tape forced you to adopt because there was no other option.
When people talk about Digital, alot of the time they are referring to how tight and clinical you can make things now and not the actual sonic quality. For me, I actually prefer hearing things coming back exactly how we are laying them down rather than less top end, more low mid etc that tape gives you. All those harmonics tape gives you are cool, but if I want that, I'll use something to give me that, theres plenty of tape simulations out there that are really good.
Analogue had compression, all the sharp transients that you don't lose with digital were gently squashed with tape so...... Its a balancing act. Modern day recordings should be loud but not totally slammed, I find limiting adds a glue to your mix which it needs and it is similar as to what tape used to give us, but alot of those old analogue albums don't really stand the test of time, it's the fact the songs are so good we still enjoy them and we've got used to hearing them a certain way. Production changes with time, trends and technology , the same as music.
GUITAR TALK** What is your favorite or most often used brand of guitar? Also, favorite strings, amps, and pickups.ESP is who Im endorsed with. I use a ESP Edwards most of the time, theyre made in japan. If you look at the guitars I'm playing they look very similar to the Gibsons with the rounded shape headstock and the very typical Gibson shape. I don't think they can sell them over here because of copyright reasons but you can get away with it in japan so all the ones ive got ive gotten either through the old rep or off ebay just because I like them so much. I use the ESP Edwards a lot of the time. Ive got normal ESPs that I use as well . Ive got about thirty or forty guitars in storage but theres probably twenty of them scattered around the studio hanging up in certain places just to pick up and play .As for strings, Im endorsed with Dadarrio . They've been good to me. They seem pretty reliable they don't snap too much, they keep the tone well.I use Kemper amps. It's a profiling amp. You can basically profile any amp you use. I use the Fender 5150 quite a lot when im in the studio and the Marshall JVM is pretty good as well so Im going between those two quite a lot at the moment.As for pickups I use Fishman Fluence. It's the acoustic pick up company Fishman. They went into the electric market probably three years ago with these pickups. You've got people like Devon Townsend and a few other guys using them. Wolf from Accept uses them as well. They've got some good stuff going.** Do you ever have to do stuff for the companies youre endorsed with like promotional things etc?A little bit. With ESP I get seen playing the guitars, I get pictures taken with them. I always say complimentary things because the gear is so good. And youre in catalogs. I don't do any demo stuff. I don't go out and play at Namm or anything for these guys. Im not really confident enough to do that with my guitar playing. I tend to do more promo with the software companies with recording.
** Youre not confident enough to go play at Namm?
No, I liken it to the best man speech at a wedding lol Its not like you've got a band there to back you up. If its just you there and you are on your own its terrifying haha Im not really good in those situations. I get these universities wanting me to go and do speeches about recording and Im like no! Things like these interviews are fine but when it's a crowd of people and its just you I absolutely hate it. I really don't like that situation at all. I try to avoid it as much as possible.** Have you ever broken a string while on stage playing?Plenty of times yes. I ve got a backup guitar ready. Ive said you always have to be prepared.** Is oiling a fret board necessary?If its dry yes, I wouldn't do it everytime but if I have a Rosewood fretboard that needed treatment I'd oil it.** Any good tips on what would make restringing a guitar easier?Pay for a guitar roadie.** How would you recommend fixing abnormally high frets?Stone them. Proper fret dress. You take the strings off , you level the neck and get it as straight as possible. Get a proper flat leveler , stone the frets backwards and forwards and crown them the other way with a fret file. Take the rough edges off the corner of the frets and then dress the frets. Give them a rub down with wire wool, the proper grade paper to shine them up and then you should be good.** What do you mean by crown them?Once you've levelled the frets you've got a very flat fret. you need to put the curve back on the edges. So you've got a fret file that you run along the top of the fret that shapes the fret.
** What would you recommend as a good effect for a solo boost?
Just a line gain in your effects loop. When Im using a head I'll just have something like a dunlop/ mxr line driver after the pre amp, it has to be after the pre amp. I'll probably have an analog delay in there also. And just kick the effects loop in for solos . It will actually boost the level as opposed to just drive the pre amp harder.
** That's so amazing how all these things go into playing the guitar, it really is. In this modern age, you ever just play with amps no pedals like in the old days?
You can now. Things like the 5150, the Engls and Mesa Boogies are high gain, and if your playing is good you can just plug in and go with these amps. Back in the eighties if you were using like a JCM 800 you'd probably be using a tube screamer , a graphic or super overdrive in front of that to give it a bit more gain because they werent as high gain . So yea you can now, but back in the eighties youd be relying on pedals a tad more to get the tone.** Have you played any other instruments besides the guitar?No. I play a bit of bass. If Im doing demos I play bass on there but it's the same thing really. Its easy. If you're playing guitar you can play bass. Im a demon drum programmer. If I'm writing songs I'll just program the drums because I know how it needs to sound. I cant play drums. I can sort of play a four four beat but I've never said I was a drummer but I can program them pretty well.** What's a favorite country that you've toured in?Some of the Spanish crowds are very receptive. Germany has always been good for metal. Even in the nineties when metal was struggling a bit the German crowd held it together, had metal's back. Manowar were still massive in the nineties in Germany. Sweden is great. I wouldn't say Germany is my favorite country to go to, but to play in its always pretty good. For some reason Hell has been really popular in Belgium. Every time we go there we get a great reception** Have you guys played Wacken before?Ive played Wacken a couple of times with Sabbat and Hell. Sabbat played Wacken in 2006 or 2007** Ive always wondered how bands got to play in Wacken, how that worked. Do they just contact you?The bands are chasing to get on there. There's usually a side stage if you don't get on the main stage. When Hell played, I was talking to Thomas who runs Wacken, because he was managing Saxon at the time so theres a link there. Usually there's an agent pushing to get you on these gigs, who will get you on there. Its usually through an agency.** Any favorite books, foods or tv shows?I like anything hot really like Indian food, Thai food. Nothing with meat in it though, I don't eat meat. Im not vegan but Im a vegetarian. Its actually quite difficult if you're out on the road. In some of these places like in Italy for instance, you'll get something that's meant to be vegetarian and you can guarantee there's bits of ham in it lol , They don't quite grasp the concept of it in parts of Europe so it can be quite tough sometimes. That's why sometimes I do keep fish on the menu so I'm not dying of hunger. I could only imagine what its like to be vegan and on the road. If youre in a bigger band that has catering you can make it work for you but if youre in one of these bands like we are, youre at the mercy of the local promoter. You've got pizzas turning up at eleven o clock to feed you, youre going to be screwed on all fronts there.** That's just weird for me. Caterers should have everything there for the band, right there on time.At these smaller gigs and smaller festivals theres no catering there. You've got a plate of food there in the dressing room that's all mixed up, a few bags of crisps, its not great. It is what it is.** I don't like that. If you know a band is going to be coming to your venue to play, you should accommodate them.I agree with you actually. I think if a band flies a couple of thousand miles you'd think you'd at least feed them properly.** I manage a band and theyre in Europe right now and one night they had to sleep in the bartenders apartment! Ive seen it first hand! I really think sometimes promoters arent accommodating to the bands. That's just bullshit to me. Get the bands their food, have them a place to sleep!Its not right is it haha! We did a show the other month and we turned up there and it couldn't have even been a one star hotel, four of us to a room, one can of beer in the bar, no food at all in the hotel and we were in the middle of an industrial estate. We traveled all day to get there , arriving at eleven o clock at night and there is nothing to eat. You want us to do a gig tomorrow in good spirits? Me and four other crew guys ended up going out and finding Indian food in the middle of the town we were in. There was no food laid out for the band or anything! It makes you sit there and think why am I bothering to even do this? Lol** I really don't think we treat bands as they should be treated. All the hours and hours of driving , they get somewhere and there's nothing. Promoters need to be more friendly and treat the bands better. That's one thing the industry can do. All the promoters, all the caterers, all the tour managers need to make sure your bands are taken care of! You want them to come play for you take care of them!Yep. No moet no showy as we say. No chandon on no band on!** Do you have any hobbies? Do you have time for hobbies?No not really. Im just focused on music all the time. The band is my hobby. I've been doing Hell in my downtime. And its fun, so its good.** That's so great! An amazing band but it's just a hobby no big deal lol. If you did have some downtime what do you think you would be doing?I did some scuba diving a couple of times out in Cyprus and that was great fun! I do quite a bit of cycling. I havent done any recently because ive been so busy but I used to go out and cycle quite a lot. I actually did the Heavy Metal Truants bike ride. We'd go from London to Donington, Download festival. I did that with Rod Smallwood Iron Maidens manager a few years ago so that was good.** That's for cancer isnt it?MacMillans Trust, teenage cancer.** Cyclings good, it kind of clears your head a little bit. Its very therapeutic.Yes especially around here where Im at. Im out here in the hills and in the countryside so just getting out for an hour, mentally it's a good thing to do.** What are your musical influences past or present?All that stuff I was listening to when I was younger. I was really into Mercyful Fate when I was growing up. Michael Denner and Hank Sherman were guitar players I was really into. I listened to Accept when I was growing up, I was really into what Wolf was doing. Obviously the Priest guys, the Maiden guys. The first gig I ever went to was Iron Maiden's Beast on the Road tour. March 10,1982. My mum took me to that gig when I was twelve years old. Blew my mind! Haha** What was it like?Actually do you remember the band The Rods, a Canadian band? They were supporting. It was the first tour with Bruce because it was the Number of the Beast tour, It was amazing, I loved it!** What are you listening to now?Judas Priest and Saxon oddly enough lol.** To close things up , Id like to talk about Sabbat a band you started at 17? You had three albums, four demos, and two singles. Can you buy any of those anywhere?Well, I was fifteen when we started that band. They did a reissue of the first two albums back in2007 I think, so you can find them. You can get them online. There's History of a Time to Come and Dreamweaver. You'll see it on ebay if you go looking.** I liked what I heard when I listened to it. Its like classic thrash music. It's kind of like a Slayer type speed of music.It's more thrashier than the Hell stuff because of Martins vocals on it , it's a bit riffier and a bit more aggressive than what Hells doing. Its got a Mercyful Fate sort of vibe to it musically actually, not vocally. With the time changes, its quite complex with the rhythms that were going on. Its what we were into at the the time.** I know you guys split up at one point but in 2006 you guys decided to reunite and play some shows but you didn't make any new albums. Why didn't you release any new material?The old problems were always there. We didn't really get on and we never even got to the point to talk about new material. It was actually Dani from Cradle of Filth who got us back together again because they were doing a UK tour and they wanted us to go out and support them. They were big Sabbat fans. That's kind of why we got back together, to do that. Then we did a few festivals the next year. We did four shows in America and then a run of UK shows. And then after that is when we realized it wasn't going to go any further so we just let it lie. The beef is really between me and Martin the singer. We've got our differences. When youre in a band with people its tough. When you're on the road you're living out of each others pockets and if you don't get on, things really start to get to you. I don't want to say anything bad I just think its best we both just do our own things rather than sit in the same room as each other lol. Its best he does his thing and I do mine and we don't argue about it.** Sabbat used to be called Hydra. Why did you change the name?It was Hydra when Martin and Frasier and two other guys were in the band, and I met them when they were in that band. Then I joined and that's when we changed the name. It wasn't really Hydra, they were both in a band called Hydra before Sabbat.** When Sabbat was formed was Hell in existence? Did Dave Halliday work with you or mentor you while you were in Sabbat? Did he ever offer you any advice?Yes, Hell was in existence. He didn't really offer any advice on the band. I knew Dave , he was doing his thing with Hell , the version that was around then, Kev had left by that point.** Why did Kevin leave?I don't really know the full story. There was a little bit of falling out at the time and frustration because they werent getting where they wanted to be. He just upped and went and they got another guitarist Sean Kelley and that kind of changed the dynamic of the band. That was really the last year of the band. Dave and I did one show together with Hell and Sabbat. That was one of the last shows Hell did because they were almost done as it was coming to an end for them.Done in collaboration with Jari Asell