Therapy?: “A New Lease on Life, Really”

Off the back of their biggest album and European tour in years, Northern Irish legends Therapy? take on a five-date Irish tour in March, including the brand-new Cyprus Avenue on March 23rd. MIKE MCGRATH-BRYAN talks with frontman and guitarist ANDY CAIRNS about the band’s new album ‘Cleave’, and the tensions that brought it about.

Millions of units shifted, thousands of road miles on the clock and fifteen albums deep into a wide and varied discography, Ballyclare/Larne-originating trio Therapy? have, over the course of nearly thirty years, gone from noisy upstarts, to mainstream superstars, to gatekeepers of the Irish underground, approaching touring and recording with the same grit and gristle as they always have. A few days removed from a month of UK and European touring, though, and it’s a relaxed yet chipper Andy Cairns at the other end of the phone, audibly happy with how things have gone. “We did two-and-half weeks in Europe and two-and-a-half weeks in the UK, both of them were sensational. We’re really buzzing at the minute. A lot of the gigs in Europe, the venues were moved up, and were bigger than we’ve played in years, and in the UK, if we didn’t sell the venue out then attendances and tickets were better than they’ve been in years, so it was all really positive. We’re playing really well as a band, y’know. We’re all really fit, we’re all up for it, and we’re getting a good mix in the crowds. It’s a good night out and it’s given us a new lease on life, really.”

This upturn in fortunes comes off the back of the release of the band’s newest long-player ‘Cleave’, the band’s biggest mainstream success in years. Greeted with critical acclaim and an enthusiastic response from the band’s fanbase, ‘Cleave’ is the band’s highest-charting LP in years on both sides of the Atlantic, and has done well across the continent. “The first thing we’ve noticed is the punters love it, a lot more than any other album recently. I felt they liked ‘Disquiet’ a lot, and I felt they liked ‘A Brief Crack of Light’ a lot, but the punters seem to like this more than any album we’ve done in years. Something about it, I don’t know if it’s the sound, or if it’s the attitude, or whether some of the songwriting adheres to those classic Therapy? tropes, there’s something about the whole package that seems to resonate with people this time around.”

The record is Therapy? in prime alt-rock form, a handful of serrated shards of distortion and volume, bookended by melody and refrains the likes of which will be instantly familiar to lapsed fans revisiting the band after their major-label years. No surprise, then, that they were joined behind the desk by a longtime collaborator in Chris Sheldon, producer for some of the band’s most immediate and impactful records, including 1994 Mercury Prize nominee ‘Troublegum’. “Chris, we’ve known on and off since 1992, and even when we weren’t working with him on a regular basis we would still see him occasionally, socially. And he kind-of knows, because he was there near the start, when we were making records in the ‘Troublegum’ mode, he knows what makes us tick. He’s really, really good as a producer in that he’s bulls**t-free. He doesn’t hide behind anything. He won’t waste five hours using a Chinese gong on a track just to placate the drummer. He will literally say, if the song’s not ready, ‘guys, this isn’t ready, go back and finish it.’ If the song’s too long, he’ll say ‘this needs cutting out’. And we’ll argue the course with him, and we’ll get some middle ground, and it’ll all work for the record, but he’s about making sure the record is really, really good. The other thing, too, is with the amount of time we’ve been around, working with someone you respect and get on with means an awful lot, because it means the whole recording process and creative process goes a lot more smoothly.”

A constant in the band’s discography has been adhering to loose concepts across an album, a creative trait that has allowed them to explore social alienation, political divisions, mental health/illness, and philosophy with consistency while the band’s sound has morphed across line-ups. No time like the present, unfortunately, then, to examine the fears and anxieties of modern life, than the current hellscape of reactionary politics and resultant social issues. “I can pinpoint exactly where the album lyrics came from. Nine times out of ten, when Therapy? writes an album, we’ll write the music first, and I will concurrently write the vocal melody. But lyrics aren’t normally done until we get an idea of what it’ll be all about. We have certain themes running through all our records, but we hadn’t had a theme for this one yet, we had all the vocal melodies, the music was finished, but I was having trouble finding something to hang a theme around the album with. We were having dinner with some friends one night, a classic middle-class English dinner-party. Someone mentioned Brexit, someone brought it up, and I said, ‘y’know, as someone that’s lived in a divided Ireland all my life, as someone that’s seen sectarianism, I really don’t see what benefit we can have from separating ourselves from our European cousins.’ At which point a middle-class Englishman turned around to me and said, without any irony, ‘if you don’t like it, you can always go home’ (laughs). And I said ‘I beg your pardon? Do you want me to go home two doors up the road?’ He said ‘no, you can always go back to Ireland’. So, this is what it’s done to people, and that’s when I started writing about division. And I tried to write from the point of division, I didn’t want to write a specifically ‘Brexit’ record, I used that comment from that pretentious buffoon to jump off and write about division within ourselves, within our countries, and the emotions we give and take from each other. At no stage on our fifteenth album did I want to write a Rage Against the Machine or Stiff Little Fingers agitprop album, because I wouldn’t be very good at it.”

Leadoff single ‘Callow’ is possibly the most immediate example of where the band is at in 2018, addressing the burgeoning issue of prescription medication abuse in a knockabout, almost poppy fashion. While the song was approaching completion, the passing occurred of rapper Lil’ Peep, sadly taken at 21 years of age by an accidental overdose of anti-anxiety medication prescribed for mental-health issues. The reaction of Cairns’ son to Peep’s death spurred on the song’s lyrical content. “Unfortunately it tends to happen, whether it’s Jim Morrison dying, or the suicide of Kurt Cobain, a glorification of the use of Xanax came in the wake of Lil’ Peep’s death, certainly some of my son’s circle of friends were buying Xanax online, and people were nodding off and passing out at parties, seventeen-, eighteen-year-old kids. The whole Soundcloud rap thing, face tattoos, emo crossed with hip-hop, Xanax went hand-in-hand with that. It was all over the press, all over the Internet. But also, whenever you find out that loads of Xanax is being bought online, it’s being prescribed, to kids, which is quite horrifying. One thing I do want to clarify, though, I’m not anti-antidepressants, I think some people see that as the only course that will work for them, and certainly my father had a horrendous breakdown about twenty-five years ago and Prozac was what saved his life. But for certain people it can be like putting a Band-Aid over an enormous scar, and I think talking to people works better.”

Following the band’s touring success on the continent, it’s time for the boys in black to take it home, with a five-date tour in March playing the country’s non-capital cities for a change, including their first all-electric gig in Limerick in nearly two decades. The band’s Leeside stop takes in their customary gig at Cyprus Avenue, playing the newly-constructed ‘new’ room in the venue complex, but also a flying visit around the city. “We’ve been badgering away for a year now to get fully electric shows in Ireland, and it’s never been the right time. And obviously, we’ll have to come back and do Dublin and Belfast at some point, and there’s a few more places we’d like to play, like Kilkenny and Waterford. But, y’know, we’re very, very excited to be coming back. Cork is one of our very favourite cities, and favourite venues, on the entire planet. We always manage, quite rightly, to turn the gig at Cyprus Avenue into a weekender. We normally get over the day before the gig, get out to the gig, go out with friends, and then spend half the next day there getting dinner. So, in March, we’ll have a big star on all our calendars. We’re going back to Derry to play an electric show, Galway, in the Roisín Dubh, which we love, Dolan’s is always a brilliant gig and I love Limerick as a city, and of course we’ve been to Dundalk numerous times but it’ll be good to come back with a full electric show.”

Therapy? play the new Cyprus Avenue on March 23rd, 2019. Tickets are on sale now from cyprusavenue.ie and The Old Oak. The band’s new album ‘Cleave’, is available now on CD and vinyl from Golden Discs on Patrick Street, and across all digital services via Marshall Records.

Palm Reader: “We’re All Carrying Injuries”

Slightly contrary to the implications of the band’s name, UK hardcore/metal outfit Palm Reader’s new album and extensive touring is the result of years of hard work. Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with drummer Dan Olds.

Investing UK hardcore with the jarring precision of technical metal and mathy, melodic asides, Palm Reader emerged from Nottingham in 2011, fertile ground for progressive music thanks to the efforts of bands like Alright the Captain and others, with a place in metal history granted to it by the endeavours of former metal behemoth Earache Records. Catching the attention of specialist labels and hitting the road in short order, the band’s journey to current album ‘Braille’ has taken in both road miles and creative jumps, alongside a similarly-minded community of bands around the United Kingdom. For drummer Dan Olds, the acclaim with which the band’s third full-length has been greeted is part of the wave. “The reaction has been amazing! There has also been a resurgence of talent in the UK scene, so people are starting to pay attention and listen to smaller bands again. The UK scene was awash with cut-and-paste bands when our previous albums came out and people had started to lose interest; but thanks to the likes of bands like Black Peaks, Loathe, Employed to Serve and many others the pendulum is swinging the right way again. I believe ‘Braille’ is our strongest work to date, and a lot more people are connecting with it. We recently played our biggest headline tour, and the shows were far-better attended than they’ve been previously. We saw a better reaction than ever, with people singing the words back to us, and a fair few crowdsurfers. It’s almost like starting again, and it feels like a very exciting time to be in this band.”

‘Braille’ is every inch the modern metal record, marrying uncompromising songs and structures with polished, almost slick production that represents most effectively the aforementioned leap forward for the band. Before the production process, however, the record was assembled in time-tested fashion, according to Olds. “The process for writing an album always starts with Andy (guitar) and I, bouncing ideas off each other and coming up with the bones of a riff, or in some cases a whole song. We then put these ideas to the rest of the guys to put their thoughts, ideas and riffs on it. Sometimes it comes naturally, and sometimes it takes a long old time with much discussion. We have both the former and latter on ‘Braille’. The basic structure for ‘Swarm’ came together within an afternoon with all five of us locked in a room together, jamming. The final version of ‘Like A Wave’ took just over two years to finish. We’ve been to The Ranch in Southampton to record all three albums, and each has been recorded by the musical mastermind Lewis Johns. He knows how we operate, and it’s got to a point where he’s almost the sixth member of the band. It’s always good to have an outside ear on your music, because you live in a bubble when you’re creating a record; it’s refreshing to have someone you trust to feel the same way you do about a song, or be able to critique it properly.”

The band’s previous long-player was released by UK hardcore/punk stable In at the Deep End, infamous for breaking major-label signees and former music media darlings Gallows to the world, while ‘Braille’ has come out via London label Silent Cult. What brought the change about and how has it been to deal with a new label? “In At The Deep End, they were so supportive, put everything they had into the album, and we can’t speak highly enough of the team. We wanted to change it up for album three, with a new team of people behind us. When the offer came in from Silent Cult we were all on board. From the off, Silent Cult has been incredible to work with. They are genuinely passionate about our music and their other bands. We always see them at shows and championing us wherever they can. They have been hands down the best team to work within our three-album deep career.”

This attention to the band’s progress has allowed them to plough further into an already-hectic touring schedule, combining strategic support slots with the build into headlining status at venues across the UK and the continent. In highlighting their live journey, Olds again highlights the collective effort that’s seen it happen, and the experience of hitting the road. “Yeah, we recently finished our tour with The Contortionist in the UK and Europe. We can’t thank them enough for the opportunity they gave us, taking us out on that tour. Although we’ve toured Europe before, we played to more people than we’ve previously had a chance to, and their fans were very accepting of the very different styles between us. We were able to play in places we’d never played before, and revisit cities that we’ve had people ask us to come back to. We love being out in mainland Europe, the scenery and drives are so much more interesting than they are at home. Whereas it takes about three hours from Birmingham to Manchester, and all you see is motorway and grey, on the mainland we took a scenic route through the incredible Austrian mountains to get to Budapest. Plenty of moments where we were glued to the windows, as it was glorious. We’re really looking forward to seeing the Irish scenery and towns we’re playing!”

Palm Reader shows are about as intense as the music is, which begs the further question of the wear-and-tear that a tour already places on bodies and minds throughout extended legs of gigs? The lads have certainly sacrificed for their art, and while adrenaline can take away aches and pains in the moment, it’s certainly a consideration for the band in the van and back home. “We’re all carrying different injuries either sustained from touring or day to day life. For example, Josh, Andy and I all have different stages of sciatica, so sometimes it’s quite a hindrance in day to day life but we don’t let us affect us too much when we play. We always stretch and warm up our limbs and vocal chords before we play as it’s not healthy or wise to go from sitting in a van or venue all day to throwing your body about on stage. There has to be a warm-up period beforehand, or the next morning you will definitely feel it. We’ve been doing this a long enough time to know what our bodies can handle when we go on stage, but one I’m quite interested in is that I’ve recently started to lose my hearing in one ear, so I guess we’ll wait with that one. The joys of being a drummer.”

The bands is heading to Ireland for a run of dates as part of summer touring in August, including Cork’s Poor Relation venue, where they’re supported by some of the cream of Cork’s metal/hardcore crossover, including rising stars Bailer as well as relatively new arrivals Worn Out and Selkies. Olds collects his thoughts heading into the fray. “Honestly cannot wait, it’s been a long time coming. We played in Dublin and Belfast a few years ago, when we supported (Canadian prog-metallers) Protest The Hero, but it somehow felt a bit rushed when we were there, so we didn’t get to experience the country as we usually would when on tour. So we’re excited to explore and take it all in, as well as play some shows with the excellent Bailer as support. We’ve never been to Cork, or know if anyone has heard of our band there, but we’re really looking forward to it.”

The band’s onward march continues apace once the Irish run is done, too, as the band hit the festival circuit before steeling themselves to do it all again. “After Ireland, we’re playing a few one-off shows back on home soil, like Macmillanfest in our adopted hometown of Nottingham, and CASTLEFEST in Luton in September, as well as a UK and European tour with the legends in Will Haven in late October, early November. We’re planning a couple more things that we can’t say about yet, but keep an eye on our socials in the coming weeks. We’ll also be starting a whole new writing process very soon for a new album, so it’s a very busy time in Camp Palm Reader.”

Mammothfest in Ireland: “We Wanted to Trim the Fat”

The rundown to a Corkonian addition to Brighton’s Mammothfest metal extravaganza is almost over, and on the 26th at The Poor Relation, four bands compete for the Irish Best Band crown. Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with promoter/organiser Danny Fitzgerald ahead of a fatal four-way of Irish heft.

“Rock and metal” is a nebulous designation for heavy promoters and festivals at the best of times, especially with full consideration for the nuances and subtleties between bands and subgenres. With that being said, though, as loud, noisy music deals with venue restrictions and changes in demographic all over the continent, festivals have become ever more important as a musical and social forum for devotees of distortion. In the UK, Brighton’s Mammothfest has been an upcoming presence on the annual calendar, providing an all-indoor billing of emerging metal from around the world across the stages of the city, linking in with the promoters’ network of media and event contacts to establish themselves as a destination for riff purveyors and connoisseurs alike. Eventually, the hype was going to spread.

Cork has been a quietly resurgent outpost for metal in the country in recent years, with this past Saturday alone offering no less than four gigs of interest to heavier palates. It makes sense, then, that a festival like Mammothfest would choose Cork as the Irish outpost for a Best Band competition, with the winner taking a prized festival slot this October. Promoter and local affiliate Danny Fitzgerald explains how he came to be involved. “I really wanted to put on a battle-of-the-bands show in Cork that appealed to metal bands and a metal audience, as all the battles-of-the-bands I’d seen and been part of were all up in Dublin. The way the voting works sometimes, it can be a bit of a home-field advantage for Dublin bands, so when a Cork band goes up to play, they’ve already lost on the crowd vote. I just wanted to create something different, something fairer, so that the best band gets through, not just the band with the crowd. I looked up a few festivals that didn’t have a battle-of-the-bands, but that had exposure and would give us exposure in turn. I saw Mammothfest and saw previous lineups, messaged them to ask if they had a stage for new bands. They sent me a mail directing me to apply, I went into further detail to explain that I was looking to set up a competition. That’s when I found out that the guy replying (and handling socials) was the boss of the whole thing and not just someone working for them. And we just went from there.”

Heaviosity in Ireland is in as rude health as it’s ever been, with Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway all boasting distinct scenes with venues and promoters underpinning each, while cities like Waterford have slowly been rebuilding after the toll of the bad years was taken. In the first year of Best Band’s Irish excursions, however, and even with a very selective process of entry, the uptake on qualifying slots has played on an old rivalry. “So, it was essentially a split between Dublin and Cork. There wasn’t a whole lot from anywhere else except for The Crawling (death-metallers from Belfast who were booked for the festival itself after applying). They’re well able for it. As far as I know with others, it’s first-come first-serve, but with this, we wanted to trim the fat and get down to the best band going through. So, we wanted a competition where every band that entered the first round had the potential to win. No unfair heats. Bands were to send in EPKs, we looked on all of that, and made decisions based on quality.”

The established Irish music industry in general, much less metal, is based squarely in Dublin, and has often been accused of operating in that bubble, for better or worse. As touched upon earlier, basing a big promotion and recruitment mechanism like the Best Band contest for a big festival like Mammothfest in Cork could be seen as something of a transgression in itself, much-needed as it has long been. Fitzgerald’s shop-talk pace of conversation slows somewhat when quizzed on the matter. “To be honest, I’ve only received good stuff from all the other promoters. Robbie McCabe in Dublin has been very helpful, has offered a hand with promoting up there. He has a good thing going up there (with Bloodstock Festival’s Metal 2 The Masses contest). We’re not competition, we’re the same cause. It was rough at the start, alright, but more down to gig clashes in town than anything else. You can never judge it, but we’re confident, especially with Bailer headlining the final, they’ve never had a gig that wasn’t insane. We want Mammothfest to see the best of what we have to offer, and see that it can be sustainable after year one.”

The format of a metal battle-of-the-bands sprawling across multiple dates and venues potentially provides excitement, anticipation, and for the dedicated, an opportunity to compare and contrast bands, engaging in fantasy matchmaking and following their favourites over the course of it. It’s a format that gig-goers have been quick to pick up on here in Cork after years of indirect exposure via Dublin promoters’ ties to big UK fests. But there has been trial and error like every other music start-up. “It’s definitely a lesson we’ve learned, that spacing out gigs is important rather than promoting weekly, people’s lives are just too busy. It’s the way things have fallen: we didn’t have a whole bunch of time and we had ten other Battles around the UK to organise in correlation with. We had to schedule the Final for a certain night so the Mammothfest crew could attend. There wasn’t a whole lot of wiggle room this year with dates. Next year: I would like them more spaced-out and running deeper into the summer.”

The running has been tight, and the quality has been competitive with anything the country has offered in the last two decades. And the hard graft of everyone involved has produced a top-quality line-up for the final, happening on Saturday 26th at the Poor Relation. Post-metal youngsters God Alone are maturing and improving at a rate best described as frightening, sludgers Coroza have quietly solidified a presence in local metal, no-wave-inflected weirdos The Magnapinna bring an obtuse angle to proceedings, and Dublin’s Jenova have impressed in the heats. In combination with local heroes Bailer in the headline slot, it’s shaping up to be a monumental evening for metal in the city. Fitzgerald relays his personal thoughts heading up to it. “I think it’s going quite well. Some nights have been rough, but that happens, mostly Fridays (laughs). It’s not been about making money, but it’s about finding a band that is ready to go to Mammothfest. The commitment is there among gig-goers, more so among older heads, but hopefully younger metallers in time… the atmosphere will pull you in.”

Amanaka: “Perfect Osmosis”

Christophe Erpelding made an impact on the Leeside music scene during his time here throughout the 2000s and 2010s, as part of metal juggernauts [r]evolution of a sun and Bisect. He returns next week with new band Amanaka for an Irish tour that includes two Cork dates. Mike McGrath-Bryan gets into it with a local figurehead for heavy music.

His is the gravelly, mid-ranged roar that underpinned hardcore in Cork throughout the 2000s, as one of multiple vocalists over the lifetime of Leeside monolith [r]evolution of a sun, infamous for once delivering broadsides in studio so intense that, by bandleader Noel Lynch’s description, objects in the nearby vicinity budged under the pressure. As one-half of the vocal team in crossover hardcore band Bisect, he also helped set in stone that band’s foundation as proponents of thrashy, straight-ahead agitprop. And yet, for all that his name entails, Christophe Erpelding, a teacher by trade, is a warm and chatty figure offstage. Ahead of coming back over the water to brave stages with his ex-bandmates in Bisect as part of new band Amanaka, Christophe is effusive in discussing how his new parish came together.

“Well, interestingly enough, Stéphane (guitarist), Myka (drummer) and I started a band a few months before my landing in Cork. The lads carried on, got a bass player, Goof, and a singer, Greg. The band was called Fok’npekwet. They toured Ireland in 2004 and we played with them with [r]ev in the LV and Fredz. The lads love Ireland. Stéphane used to visit me in Cork every year for a few years. They were dreaming about getting to tour Ireland again. They then became Amanaka, but performed as an instrumental band from 2009 to 2012, and they disbanded for a while. However, with Myka and me back in town, Stéphane suggested that we reform the band in June 2015. We got Goof on board, that was it: Amanaka revival. I have been with friends with Myka since I was sixteen. We had our first band together. RIFF – ‘Right In Your F**kin’ Face’ (laughs). We were actually great fun. Same when it comes to Stéphane. We have been friends for more than twenty years. We jammed a good few times together, but with my departure to Cork, we never got to finalize any musical projects. Like all the bands I have been part of, all the songs are original creations. Their influences are varied, going from Meshuggah, Black Dahlia Murder, with some hardcore bits, to atmospheric themes à la Tool or Russian Circles. This is what I like about Amanaka: that no songs sound the same. We did a good few gigs in France, and released a five-track EP “Delirium Elephantiasis Circus” last summer, and now the Irish Tour. We are so excited about it! We know it’s going to be an intense and amazing musical and human experience. I have actually ordered a new liver for when I get back (laughs).”

Erpelding would very well draw a crowd from among the city’s metal veterans for his contributions to the city’s scene over the years, eager to see what happens next. It’s not far from his mind regarding the band’s Irish excursion, either, as he reflects on what the city has meant to him. “[r]evolution of a sun was a big part of my life, and will always be. It was the first band where the music was perfectly echoing with what I have always wanted to do in music. Fast aggressive riffs with massive build ups. Perfect osmosis. And… I got to make friends. True friends. Noel, Pat, Kenny, Jer… I first met Pat in Fredz, and he said to me that [r]ev was looking for a singer. I said “Cool, I’m a singer”. I met Noel in The Wolfhound, drinking his famous Watoo. We had a chat and we found a common interest about Breach. The thing about Breach is like Marmite: you love it or you hate it. We went jamming in Nancy Spain’s. And that’s how it started. We met Kenny who was initially a drummer, and who… loved Breach as well. In fairness, these years with [r]ev, the lads, the intensity and integrity of the music, jamming in “cans”, playing Fredz and the Quad, playing all over Ireland, touring France. getting around 200 people moshing on ‘Fugitive’ during the Filth Fest is simply one of the most intoxicating experiences of my life. Those years with [r]evolution of sun were amongst the best ones in my life!”

Erpelding’s time with Bisect has also gone on to inform his contributions to his new band, and next week’s Irish excursion takes on gigs around the country with the Leeside crossover four-piece. The experience of creating the band’s first album, ‘We Are the Migrants’, has stuck with him. “We recorded ‘We Are the Migrants’ at (the late) Lawrence White’s studio in Bantry. May he rest in peace, ‘cause he was a legend. With Bisect, Fabrizio, Grzegorz and Macjec were mainly writing the riffs. When it came to writing the lyrics, it was either collective or individual. It depended. For instance, we wrote ‘TV Madness’ and ‘We Are the Migrants’ together. The recording of ‘We Are the Migrants’ was great, an amazing experience altogether! Lawrence recorded the guitar, the drum and the bass live in his living room, as we wanted a natural sound, not a processed one. We then did the vocals. We stayed at Lawrence’s for the week. Lawrence had this amazing ability to become another member of the band. We ate, drank, laughed and recorded altogether in his conservatory, with the view on the countryside.”

With all this history in mind, and with a few dates in the can, Erpelding is understandably excited for the trip, for the success his ex-bandmates have encountered since his leaving Cork a few years ago. “It’s gonna be great to see Bisect live again, and maybe do a bit of vocals with them. We are still in contact, and I know that things are going well for them. They made a very good new album, and did well to play the Siege. Regarding the overall atmosphere, Eddie from (Dublin punx) the Nilz sent me a Messenger post a few days ago with all the bands that will play with us in Dublin on the 6th in Thomas House. And judging by the vibe of this post it’s gonna be mighty, chaotic and great craic! Only in Ireland. We are very happy to be playing Ballina with Sh*thatt. I discovered them a few months ago, and I am sincerely looking forward to see them live. Headlining the Mammothfest Battle of the Bands is going to be a great experience too.”

The heavy scene in the city has been growing and getting stronger in recent years after a long lull – what does Christophe think of the growth in Cork metal and the bands that are here now? “Well, I think the Cork has always been strong. I mean, I am living in France now, and it is just not the same vibes when it comes to music. Being aware of both worlds, for me Irish people are natural musician,s I think. It is in your blood. Think about how prolific it is, gigs, the trad, the dancing. It is legitimate to make music in Ireland. Unfortunately, to be honest, I have been slightly disconnected from the Cork Irish scene for the past three years. I got to listen to Bailer a lot. I think they are incredibly impressive. I am delighted to see they are doing well. Onkalo released a very good album, too.”

The band is back in its hometown after getting back from Ireland next month, and the road doesn’t stop there. But in getting back on the horse, Erpelding has found a new lease on musical life with some lifelong friends. “We have a gig in Longwy, our hometown, on the 5th of May. Our first one there since Halloween 2016. It is going to be good to play there, because loads of people who know us have never seen us before. It will be fun to play in front of our friends, and have a ball like when we did when we were teenagers, besides the fact that we are all in our forties now (laughs). We have a few gigs lined up in different cities in France. Metz, Thionville… we want to tour as much as we can, to get exposure. That’s why, this summer we are going to have a look at festivals happening in France and in other countries. What is great is that we are at the borders of three countries: Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany. Belgium has a good few venues and DIY places to perform, and so has Germany. We will be probably be recording our new material at the end of the year. But (before all that), let the music and the craic begin!”

Ilenkus: “All the Work We Got to Do Felt Particularly Rewarding”

Ahead of touring this week with Swedish mathcore outfit God Mother, Mike McGrath-Bryan chats with Ilenkus frontman Josh Guyett.

2017 was a quietly busy year for Galway mathcore/sludge five-piece Ilenkus, one that saw the much-feted physical release of most recent E.P. ‘Hunger’, and consistent live activity across the country in its wake. Guitarist/vocalist Josh Guyett surveys his feelings on the year that was. “It was a good year for us but also a tough one. We did a couple of tours in support of ‘Hunger’, despite the fact that it was a pretty demanding year for us personally, so all the work we got to do with the band felt particularly rewarding.”

‘Hunger’ came in for high praise from genre blogs and listeners alike, while the attendant touring worked out well numbers-wise for the band. Guyett goes into the record’s gestation process, and how it was met. “It was a really smooth process to be honest. We wrote the whole EP as one piece over the course of a couple of months at our rehearsal space in Galway. After figuring out where how we wanted to split the tracks up, we did a bit of pre-production and headed to the studio with our buddy Aidan Cunningham from Murdock. The tracking of the instruments was done quickly and with very few overdubs, which seemed to focus the sound. We were really happy with how it turned out and the response it got from the public.”

The physical release came about via a split with a series of labels around the world: WOOOARGH, Smithsfoodgroup, and others, including the band-affiliated Feast promotion house. How did these come together and how did it work out in the end? “Basically, after pitching ‘Hunger’ to some bigger labels without much luck we decided to try to fund it by getting a bunch of labels to all collaborate together. This works out great for smaller labels because the bulk of the costs are shared. It also benefited us by widening our exposure across their locations and networks. Overall I’d say it turned out well, all the labels are very supportive and the records came out looking and sounding great.”

Some of the labels also helped out with touring internationally to support the record, a process only given pause by the aforementioned break for attendance to personal matters. “To be perfectly honest that was the plan, but with 2017 being such a tumultuous year, we didn’t get to do as much touring as we’d have liked. We got picked up by a new booking agent earlier in the year; a mad bastard called John from a deadly band called Vasa – go check them out – so working with him has been fun!”

It’s been a healthy 2017 for heavy music in Ireland, also, and Guyett is effusive about the metal scene over the past twelve months. “Destriers are great, so are Bailer, who just put out a raging new track. Horse, Unyielding Love, Partholon, Soothsayer, Coscradh, Zh0ra, Ten Ton Slug. Our pals Bitch Falcon have been doing brilliant lately, Jenova impressed me when they played in Galway, and there’s a cool sounding new band called God Alone.”

Guyett has also had a busy year as a promoter with Galway-based gig house Feast, alongside Galwegian culture impresario Shane Malone and Tribal-resident Limrocker Steve Hunt, with some massive names in during the year and their domestic duties with Ilenkus’ release. “It’s been crazy and really cool. The highlight for me was getting to put on Melt Banana and Zu in the same week. Such great bands, and it was a privilege to bring them to Galway. We also have a distro set up at all the shows these days, and have been working away on a website for the label. It’s great to see Feast progressing and I honestly don’t know where we’re going right now, but we’re going!”

The band is on tour with God Mother for the rest of this month, a tie-in with the band that supported influencers Dillinger Escape Plan’s final gig. “I had first heard God Mother a few years ago when they released a split with Artemis, a UK band that we’d toured with, so last year I reached out to them on behalf of Feast. I asked whether they had any interest in coming to Ireland and when they said they did, we figured the best way to do it would be to tour with Ilenkus. We’re really excited for these gigs, it’s their first time in Ireland and a while since we’ve done an Irish run, so we are psyched for some great shows.”

The inevitable “what next” question is met with a holding close to the chest of cards, understandable considering the aforementioned revision of plans mid last-year. “We’ll be working on new material for sure, as well as touring. Beyond that I can’t say too much right now, but keep your eyes peeled.”

God Mother: “You’re Making Music for Yourself”

Ahead of their tour of Ireland later this month, Mike McGrath-Bryan sits down with God Mother drummer Michael Dahlström to reflect on a year of milestones for the metal quintet.

Swedish five-piece God Mother are a veritable onslaught of sound and fury, not only in the immediate sonic sense, but in the array of musical reference points that come the listener’s way over the course of new album ‘Vilseledd’, out now via Party Smasher Inc. Math, grind, and hardcore inflections all make themselves blisteringly apparent amid a satisfyingly substantial mix.

Drummer Michael Dahlström gives us some insight into the band’s creative and recording processes for this LP. “Writing songs for ‘Vilseledd’ was a fairly simple process. We all had the same idea of where we were going with the album, and we wrote almost all of the songs together in the rehearsal room, which made things pretty easy arrangement-wise. We did all the recording of the album ourselves with some help of our friends: Staffan Birkedal, who helped record the drums, and Ove Noring who helped with the bass recording at Studio Ovett. Magnus Lindberg from Cult Of Luna later did the mixing and mastering.”

How did the process differ, if at all, this time around, compared to self-released recordings? “Even though we recorded it ourselves, we rented a really nice studio called Soundtrade Studios in Stockholm to record it in. That really made a huge difference to the drum sound. The drums sound huge, and great without any samples or digital reverb thanks to that really big-sounding live room. All the previous releases have been mixed by me as well, but this time we decided to have Magnus mix it, both because he is a great producer, and also to relieve ourselves from some stress.”

‘Vilseledd’ has been in the can for a few months now, and the band are fully satisfied with the result, having taken the time to live with the record over the past while. “We are really happy with how it turned out. We really gave it all we had, and think it came out pretty solid. This is probably the first time I am really 100% happy with something I´ve done creatively. We had a plan for everything from the cover art, to the songwriting, to the sequencing and production.”

The album was released via Party Smasher, Inc., the label run by the now-former members of mathcore pioneers The Dillinger Escape Plan. Dahlström outlines how the opportunity to work with heavy music’s foremost innovators of the last two decades came to them. “Party Smasher actually first came into the picture after the whole album was already recorded and mastered. We didn’t have a record label when we started recording it, so after we finished, we emailed some labels that we liked and would like to work with. PSI was one of the first that replied. They said they really liked the album, but did not have time to release it just then. They were supposed to play in Stockholm a couple of weeks later, and we saw that they did not have a support band booked for the show, so we asked if we could play. To our surprise we got both the Stockholm and Gothenburg show. After the second show, Ben Weinman came to us backstage, said he was really impressed with our live show and that they wanted to sign us to Party Smasher. We were of course a bit surprised, but very happy and our collaboration have led to many amazing things: getting to do a full European tour with The Dillinger Escape Plan, as well as playing on their final show at Terminal 5 in New York together with Mike Patton.

With TDEP disbanding after twenty years, and doing so accompanied onstage by a living legend of leftfield music in Mike Patton, he of Faith No More and many others, the bar had to have been skyhigh for the young band heading into the latter experience. “It was a bit unreal, and totally amazing. I was very jetlagged due to the fact that we just landed the day before from Sweden, and tried to fix that by drinking a great deal of caffeine, which just increased my heartbeat so the whole thing kind of felt like a weird dream, albeit a very sweet one. Getting the opportunity to play our first New York show together with Dillinger and Mike Patton at Terminal 5 in front of 3000 people was pretty great.”

There’s been a lot of positive critical reception for the album since, specifically from specialist press such as MetalInjection and the like – is it hard to shut out those external voices when it comes to the creative or the day-to-day of the band? “Not really, I mean of course you read some of the reviews and it´s nice that people like the album, but in the end you’re making music for yourself and for the band, not for anyone else. But with that said, it also feels great to have your music being heard and appreciated by people, and all those metal blogs of course help with the PR, and making more folks aware of our existence.”

The band is on tour in Ireland this month, and Dahlström collects his thoughts heading into a fairly full-on clutch of dates, with five gigs on the agenda in little over a week. “We are super excited to play in Ireland! I personally have never been to Ireland before, but always hear good things about it, and we love to explore and play at new places. Also, getting to to it with Ilenkus and some other great Irish bands make it even more fun.” The tour serves as a warm-up for what looks to be a banner year for the band. “We are still planning a lot of the year but already have a couple of shows confirmed, we will play at Complexity Fest in Amsterdam in February, and Obscene Extreme Festival in July. We have a lot of other tours planned, but more about that soon, stay tuned to our social media for updates.”