Arising from the hazy, dope filled smoke rings of errr Rotherham come Berserkowitz, a gruelling 4 piece who embrace the now legendary sludge sound that was forged by the likes of Eyehategod & Bongzilla and encapsulate it into a world of disused coal mines and filthy slag heaps of South Yorkshire, so read on to see what their skin basher Steve had to say when I fired a few questions over to him…
Hey Steve, hope your keeping well over t’other side of the Pennines, so firstly, can you give us a brief introduction to the band?
How do? The band is me on drums, Tom playing guitar, Rob on bass and Fletch doing the vocal business. We’re all really good friends and have been for many years, so when Tom picked up the guitar we thought it right to start jamming, that and we wanted something to do while inhaling copious amounts of marijuana. We began tentatively with bad covers of Electric Wizard and the like before having a crack at song writing. It took a while but we got something sounding the way we wanted and needed some other members. We coaxed Fletch into giving it a go and it worked a treat, so we started gigging sans bass player. Rob is a great guitar player and we wanted him on bass for a long time. Finally the promise of making a huge racket while doing very little was enough to sway him, and the Berserkowitz you know today was born!
Describe your music using only 3 words?
Groovy Antagonistic Sludge
Your name Berserkowitz, am I right in thinking it’s a play on words taken from the ‘Son of Sam’ aka serial killer David Berkowitz or am I completely barking up the wrong tree?
You are quite correct! After he was imprisoned, he shanked somebody and later found Jesus. He was generally as whacky as a serial killer needs to be to take guidance from his dog and slaughter couples, so some genius in the prison give him the nickname of ‘Berserkowitz’.
Being from the coal mining town of Rotherham, South Yorkshire, would you say your surrounding environment has played a major influence, on not only the music of Berserkowitz, but also the lifestyle you lead?
I suppose it must have in many small ways, but none truly noticeable. Most people living in Rotherham will tell you outright it’s a shit hole, and I guess that has forged a sense of chirpy pessimism that we all possess.
And did that job shite TV Chef Jamie Oliver improve your eating habits after calling everyone from Rotherham ‘scrubbers’ and making god knows how much money by filming his latest waste of space TV series there?
Haha, he basically latched on to the story a few years ago about a school in the Rotherham village of Rawmarsh, where mothers were bringing their children chip butties at lunch break because they were pretty much being forced to eat healthily. He is a money-grubbing opportunist really, with the most slappable face known to man. He may be right in some sense; Rotherham has more than its fair share of fatties, but the local paper reported that he missed out pretty much all of the positive notes in the story, as expected.
Back to music, does your home town also reflect your lyrics in any way as your vocalist Fletch when playing live, can often drift into his eccentric outburst of life ‘darn pit’ in his native Yorkshire tongue?
Fletch in particular does feel very strongly about the Miners’ Strike and the resulting fallout to the community, and I suppose he uses being on stage to vent this frustration or as a call for people to not give in on a matter they believe in. To my knowledge, only the track ‘Bow Street Bastard’ has any influence from our surroundings, and coal mining, the song being about the battle of Orgreave.
Let’s talk about your demo ‘Gritfram’, has the feedback/reviews for the 4 tracks on offer been encouraging and if anyone wants a copy, how much is it and where can people get it from?
‘Gritfarm’ can be purchased at www.myspace.com/berserkowitz for £2 mainlaind or £3 international, or if you’re fortunate enough to see us live it will cost you a measly, credit-crunch beating £1! We haven’t had many ‘proper’ reviews as yet, although the ones out there have been very promising, especially for a first recording. We have neither heard a bad word against it from the buying public, which again is encouraging. Don’t know yet, people should buy it and make up their own minds!
You also recorded it at Full Stack Studios which is owned and run by Matt from Bastard Of The Skies, so firstly, what was it like working with Matt and are you overall, happy with the end result?
Matt is fantastic to work with, a thoroughly nice fellow and really knows his gear. Full Stack is in the middle of a quiet industrial estate in a nothing town, so it suited us because it seemed like we’d never left home. All of us are happy with how ‘Gritfarm’ turned out, especially as it was, for some, their first ever recording. This is not say we’re going to be completely satisfied with these songs or the recording as well. We’ve got a lot left to offer and the best is yet to come.
As Adam said in the review of your demo that if you were based in the US, in particular New Orleans there would be a bigger ‘buzz’ around your swamp fuelled sludge, what are your thoughts when you hear comments like this and is it something you agree with?
Well, we’re not American and we don’t want anyone to mistake us as so. Not that we hate Americans, but there are far too many bands around that want to ape American bands, even in their personality, which is insane to me. Obviously, some, if not most, influence in our music is rooted in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean we have to run around with Confederate flags. There are plenty of good British bands that don’t get the recognition they deserve, because they’re not American and don’t have that ‘coolness’ factor that U.S. bands seem to have. That was not the case some years ago, so I’m wondering what’s changed.
Since the release of your demo, have you had any label interest? You’re also talking about doing a split release with as yet an unnamed band; can you shed any further light on this?
No other label has approached us apart from a label who was meant to be releasing ‘Gritfarm’ some time ago, but we’d obviously like to hear from some. As for a split, we’re still getting round to writing some new material, it’s been difficult to get that done recently. We’re hoping to record in the New Year and at the same time find another band and a label that are interested.
You’re also a band not to shy away from playing live, so is it important to Berserkowitz to get out there and gig as much as possible?
Not at all. As with many bands of our type just getting out of the blocks, if we play to the wrong crowd we go down like a burlap sack of shit. We feel like our time has been wasted, which is why we no longer play in Rotherham. We’re now pretty selective, and time’s a big factor, but when we get some good time we like to get a good run of gigs under our belt. Case in point, we went out on a run of gigs with Bastard of the Skies in August and because we had time to get it together properly, most of the gigs were great including the Retro Bar gig in Manchester. Saying this, we all love playing, and always go balls out to get the biggest sound we can. We love damaging peoples hearing!
You’ll also playing the much anticipated Rottingham early next year, a gig you must obviously be looking forward to, but how did you hook up with the people over at Notts Noise and more importantly get Berserkowitz on the bill?
Very excited about playing Rottingham, the addition of Sourvein on the Sunday is quite beautiful. It sounds weird, but all I did was ask and they said yes. It turns out that at a previous all-dayer we played at the Old Angel, with Lazarus Blackstar and Charger headlining, the Notts Noise guys had seen us play and liked us. I was chatting with them later that day about getting gigs in Nottingham, but I was also pretty fucking drunk, so can’t remember a lot of it!
And what other gigs have you got planned as I know your penned in to play with the mighty Blood Island Raiders next year?
The next gig we’re playing is the ninehertz.co.uk 4th birthday celebration on 29th November (Red House, Sheffield), which is going to be one hell of a night! The line up is Chickenhawk, Agent of the Morai (GREAT band), Breaking Colts, The Death of Her Money and us. We’re playing bottom of the bill on this occasion, which is fantastic frankly as it’s in our favourite venue that has a massive late license (Shaman Lee: Due to my slackness at getting this interview live, this gig has now been and gone so I hope it went well!). Then we’ve got a gap over Christmas before the gig with BIR, Zangief and Crawe (their last gig), which I’m putting on in Sheffield, and we’re hoping to sort out a few gigs with Zangief to fit in to a nice mini-tour.
Let’s draw this interview to a close by asking what the future holds for Berserkowitz?
Hopefully more of the same, but on a more impressive scale. It’s seriously ace being in this band and we all want to go from strength to strength, including getting maybe a split and another EP out there next year and lots more gigging, then we’ll see what happens from there.
Thanks for answering my questions Steve, and please use this space for any final words…
Just to thank you Lee for the interview, most excellent. People, if you like sludge, you won’t be disappointed by ‘Gritfarm’, if not, fuck it buy it anyway!
More info on Berserkowitz at: www.myspace.com/berserkowitz
Interviewed by: Lee Edwards