Nottingham’s Hordes of Satan are currently making heads crumble at a thousand paces with their monstrously heavy, slow and primitive take on Doom. Their debut LP on Germany’s Streak Records has already nearly sold out and with obvious comparisons being made to Godflesh & early Pitchshifter, which isn’t surprising as this 2 piece features guitarist/programmer S.E. Toolin, who was one of Pitchshifters founder members, I caught up with their Bassist/Vocalist Stumpy to see what he had to say about the despondent world of Hordes Of Satan.
Hi Stumpy, hope everything is gloomy in the world that is Hordes of Satan, as with all my interviews, lets start at the beginning by giving us a brief history of the band, your current line up and releases to date?
Gloomy? I couldn’t be happier, I’ve just had the decorating finished, looks alright too, hope the wife likes it when she gets back from L.A. or times will be gloomy!!! Oh yeah, band stuff… Me and Toolin had been involved in loads of different bands for many years, but really HOS all kicked off the beginning of 2005. I was asked to join Taken by Wolves (www.takenbywolves.com) on vocals about 18 months earlier, which comprised of S.E. Toolin and Steve Watson (ex-Cerebral Fix, Iron Monkey). We got the demo out to some critical acclaim and did a one off show with Insision from Sweden, it was never really going to be a live band, just studio work and putting out what we could. We wanted to re-visit the early days of Black Metal, trying to hold onto our youth I suppose! So the corpse paint came out, the cloaks were dusted off and we had a really good time with it, just trying to find a drummer that could play at that speed was completely fruitless!! So really that was left on the shelf for a time, maybe we’ll do something with it again in the future, who knows! All I know is we had this rabid woman in Budapest, Hungary who wanted to kill us when she heard that we’d split!!! Black Metal fans are a bit weird like that! We got such a slating from the UKBM underground, mainly to do with the fact that we got ‘Demo of the Month’ in UK’s Metal Hammer magazine and a guy I knew who did special effects on the Batman and Harry Potter movies did the promo video for us, so obviously we’d sold out before we even started!!! You can’t win!!!
We’d both been listening to a lot of early industrial/metal/doom music for years and shared a lot of common ground with each other, so decided to get this thing going together, a lot easier when there’s just the two of you! 50/50 all the way. This was also the first time I had picked up a bass in 8 years after I decided to concentrate on vocals way back, so I enjoyed the challenge of combining the two in a new project. We started jamming in the studio around February 2005, I was getting used to playing bass and singing again and realising that I was in a band with someone that I had admired as a musician for years, so this was pretty cool for me from the outset. Toolin came in with the ever faithful BOSS drum machine and that classic riffage and monotone which he is renowned for and soon realised that the jams were turning into some pretty good soundscapes, the monotony became hypnotising and so both decided we were onto something which we both enjoyed playing, as well as listening to. We demo’d a few tracks and got the name around the world on Podcasts and the local scene, played far too many local shows, then the debut album came out! So yeah!
And how would you describe the industrial doom you play and where do you draw your influences from?
Like I said, we’d both been listening to a lot of early industrial/doom music for years and I guess this is where the sound comes from. Toolin is a SWANS freak and turned me onto them in a big way, also SLAB! and HEAD OF DAVID. What everyone will and does compare us to is GODFLESH. Obvious, 2 guys, drum machine! We’ve had that a lot, but there’s a lot more to it than just going down that same road again. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a huge GODFLESH fan since the late eighties, but we didn’t set out to be clones of that genre, we wanted to put a much more heavy sound to our music, almost psychedelic in nature. Music that you can stand there and have your ears and ribcage battered, but with an underlying ambience that takes your mind off somewhere else, albeit rather a dark and terrifying place.
Lets get onto the lyrics, who writes them, where the ideas come from and what subjects you cover?
I write all lyrics after the music has been completed. I was in a very happy place at the time we wrote the album as I‘d just got married, so looking on the dark side of thing’s became quite difficult! Without sounding clichéd, looking at the paranoid state of the world, the war mongers, the peace lovers and the whole point of existence. ‘Joseph’ became the story of an abandoned child, left alone to fend for itself in the wasteland of humanity, the bleak monotony of this track speaks for itself within the music, with the lyric just being a stand point. The lyrics to all our songs are very minimalist, the listener can create a story for themselves from the title itself. Such as ‘Pray to Lie’ which is quite an oxymoron. I’m married to a non practising Catholic and had the pleasure of attending mass in a huge ‘cathedral’ in L.A. with her family. The words that I heard coming from the mouth of the priest were nothing but lies, built on 2000 years of guess work and propaganda. It made no sense to me.
As you’ve outlined in the 1st question, your only a 2 piece yet still manage to create a devastating wall of noise so why did you opt for a drum machine, rather than a 3rd member bashing the skins?
Historically, we’ve both played with bands where drum machines had been used extensively in the music and both enjoy the sound they create. Obviously once you use a drum machine in this genre, people always label you as ‘Industrial’, which can sometimes be a set back, especially with some of the bands we’ve been on the same bill as! There is no room for mistake with a drum machine, you can’t nod to it and tell it to play another bar because you came in at the wrong time and fucked up the intro!! We enjoy this rigidity and feel it adds to the sound which we create. Also 50/50 is a lot easier that 33.3333333 when sorting out who owes what!!! They also drink a lot less and don’t hit on your wife!!!
Who does all the programming, is it a joint effort between yourself and SE Toolin or does 1 of you just take responsibility?
Toolin has been a programming master for years. I’ll leave the programming aspect to him. As long as I only have to plug in and play, I’m happy!!! Selfish, but happy!
And what process do you use for writing new material, do you come up with the riffs/lyrics first, then fit the programming in at a later stage?
We both usually have an idea in our heads of new riffs when we get into the studio. Putting the drum pattern around the riff is a lot easier as it gives you more to work with when coming up with the pattern. A lot of the album tracks were written just through jamming and then you find the riff which works. A lot of our songs are purely based on that single riff, usually for nearly 20 minutes, so it has to be quite special! We have started changing it up a bit, so counting 128 bars before a riff change can be quite un-nerving when playing a new track live for the first time, especially with the rigidity which we control ourselves by.
You released your debut LP on Germany’s Streak Records so can you tell us how this release came about and what kind of feedback/reviews have you had so far?
We had a lot of independent labels interested from the demo and the amount of podcasts which we’d been involved in the year preceding the album release. Matze at Streaks Records (www.streaksrecords.de) has been a total crusader for underground music in Germany and Europe as a whole. His energy and passion for underground music is like no other person I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Matze approached us about a year ago interested in releasing the album as a vinyl only release through his new found label. We’ve always been great fans of vinyl and think this also adds to our sound. His first release was a sludge-core band from Finland called LOINEN. After seeing the amazing work he had done with them we had to get on board. I came up with the artwork for the cover and inlay and sent them over to him and within a matter of weeks the first shipment of the album was in our hands. To be honest, I haven’t seen a bad review yet, which is promising, so we must be doing something good! The album is practically sold out, with distributors from all over the world taking it. We’ve been getting some great reviews, especially from the USA. Guys getting their friends round lighting up huge joints and going to some scary places in their heads and they’re thanking us for it!!
And did you have any problems finding the right studio/engineer who could grasp/capture the sound you were ultimately looking for?
We knew from day one who we wanted to do the album. Ian Boult at ‘Stuck On A Name’ Studios in Nottingham, UK (www.myspace.com/stuckonaname). Ian knows the kind of music we play and understands the sound and feel which this kind of music needs. We recorded the album in 2 days in December 2006. Though mixing 59 minutes of drum patterns in a day still gives the poor guy nightmares! The final mix captures everything we wanted from this band.
Will it ever be released on CD or is it a strictly vinyl release only?
Good question! We’ve had a few offers to release this on CD but I think we’ll leave this as it was meant to be. We get so many people asking us this question as they got rid of their record player long ago, or the kids that have never even had a record player! CD’s are even getting old now as we’ve also been asked to get it onto itunes! The new material will more than likely be available as a CD release, commercially it makes more sense and I’m sure we’d sell more at the shows and have less complaints!
Guitarist SE Toolin was also a founder member of seminal Industrial band Pitchshifter, so is this the reason you play an awesome version of their classic track ‘Landfill’ on your LP and as part of your live set?
Yeah, Toolin formed Pitchshifter way back when, it was his sister that wrote the lyrics to Landfill! I was a big fan before they went all techno and weird! Those first 2 albums were colossal! Funnily enough it was those that Toolin played on! I never knew the guy until we hooked up together in Taken By Wolves, so it was a chance meeting at that. The first album ‘Industrial’ is still one of my favourite albums to this day. We spoke about doing a Pitchshifter cover from the outset and Landfill stood out as the one to do. We slowed it right down to 42bpm to give it the sound which fitted into what we were doing with this band and changed the arrangement around to let it flow more. I guess that early Pitchshifter sound can be heard a lot in our music still due to Toolin’s unique style of playing those monotone sounds, in tracks like ‘Pacifist’ especially.
Have any other members of Pitchshifter heard it and what was there response like?
I don’t know, and don’t really care. They’re a band that seem to have forgotten their roots and have nothing to do with this genre of music anymore. I’m all for progression but to reform again and again and farewell tour after farewell tour seems a bit pointless to me.
You’ve also managed to support the likes of High on Fire, Orange Goblin, Church of Misery & Sourvein, so do you find it quite easy to get these gigs or was it a case of being in the right place at the right time?
It’s a small dose of right place, right time, along with a huge amount of being a cheeky little fucker with a big mouth and willing to whore yourself every opportunity you get!!! No one else will do it for you! We’ve been the local support for a lot of really great bands over the past year or two. I think it was our 3rd ever gig supporting Ramesses and Sourvein which was really great for us and gave us a lot to build on from the beginning. Sourvein’s trip to the UK the year after with Church of Misery, we were asked to support again, a real honour for us to be playing with COM, surely one of the genres finest. The guys at Future Noise in Manchester heard our music and put us on with High on Fire. Our sound tech is good friends with Matt from High On Fire, he did their first European tour over 7 years ago, so that was a rather drunken reunion in Manchester last month!! It always helps to get a good support gig, hopefully this is where you build your fan base from. Then when you have local gigs with local bands, people are more willing to check you out because you were that support, that is not always the case though!
And what has the response been like to your live set?
It’s been great, the only way to hear the true essence of this music is to feel it live. Chris has given us the best live sound we could ever ask for, he’s one of the best sound guys we’ve ever worked with and try to take him everywhere with us, as long as the promise of several pints of Guinness is in the equation!! We just hope he’s not on tour whenever we play as he’s usually off around Europe somewhere. He’s worked with Paradise Lost, Opeth, Anthrax, Monster Magnet, even Pitchshifter, in the past so he knows his way around a sound board like no other! We play very loud and to get this sound right at that level takes a lot of talent and we can’t thank him enough. The label tell us sales usually increase on the website after one of the bigger gigs, so the live set is doing its job in one way or another. People usually tell us that various parts of their anatomy were shaking or loosening, which is nice!
You live in Nottingham, so can us a brief insight as to what the scene is like for gigs, support, turnout etc?
Nottingham has always had a very rich local music scene across all forms of music. You’re never more than a few hundred yards from a decent music venue in town, depending on your taste. The local underground scene is thriving, with a lot of local bands having a great support behind them. Local gig collectives are getting together and starting their own fanzines and the obligatory myspace pages, such as The Sheriffs of Nottingham www.myspace.com/thesherifffsofnottingham and Notts Noise. www.myspace.com/nottsnoise – You still get the apathetic mid-week gig where it’s you, the sound guy and the bar staff, but I guess every city is the same. The thing is there are still people that want to make something of the music scene in this city and are willing to do something about it, even if they lose out, the passion is still there and long may it reign.
And what are the future plans for Hordes of Satan for the remainder of 2007 and into 2008?
We’re currently writing new stuff for the next release and it’s sounding even more bleak than the tracks on the album! I think we clocked the new track at around 28 minutes, we’re approaching Sunn o))) territory on that one! We should be demo-ing the new material around the end of November and we’ll get that out to anyone who wants to check it out. We’ve just been asked to play support to BLOOD ISLAND RAIDERS by Ben from ORANGE GOBLIN, which was a nice thought, so looking very much forward to that next month. Also our friends from Cape Fear, North Carolina, SOURVEIN are back over in December and we’ll be playing the Nottingham show with them for the 3rd time running which is an absolute honour, a great bunch of guys! A headlining gig at Leeds Rio’s, then it’s off for me back to the USA early next year to live with my wife, so if all goes well Hordes of Satan are lining up some gigs on the West Coast around September of next year, a long shot, but it might just work! Now where have I heard that before!
What question would you have liked to have been ask?
Have you ever been caught wanking to Countdown as Carol does the numbers round? Just me then?
And finally, please use this space for any final thoughts…
I just can’t get Carol Vorderman out of my head!
Check out all the latest goings on with Hordes Of Satan at: www.myspace.com/hordesofsatan
Interviewed by: Lee Edwards