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Bolt Thrower

Interview by Sean Fitzgerald

Bolt Thrower celebrated twenty five years in action this year. They raised £12,411.80 for Teenage Cancer Trust from the ‘Boltfest’ birthday bash they had along with Autopsy, Discharge, Benediction & Vallenfyre. I talked to Jo Bench from the band just before ‘Boltfest’.

What have you been doing since the last recording. I read somewhere that some members of the band had started a label?

We’ve just been playing gigs. We did a couple of full European tours, which included playing shows in Spain, Italy, Norway etc. and Greece, for the very first time, and did a couple of gigs in the US, our first shows there since ’94, but lately we’ve scaled it down to just a handful of gigs and festivals here and there. It’s more about quality than quantity these days.

And no, we didn’t start a label, we’re still signed to Metal Blade, but it is something we all would love to do if the opportunity came up, so you never know what might happen in the future.

You have roots in the diy punk/hardcore scene with Gavin playing with The Varukers on a tour. Would you still have an interest in the underground diy punk scene, or have you caught any of the gigs by the reformed Discharge, Amebix or Antisect? what type of music / influence do you have these days, be it books, movies or music?

We all met when we were punks, when me and Gav were sharing a house with The Varukers. My taste in music hasn’t changed that much since those days, and the last gigs I went to were UK Subs, Discharge, The Specials & The Damned! It’s always a gamble to see these reunion bands though, I’ve been very disappointed but also pleasantly surprised, so I’m still a bit sceptical about it. I didn’t know that Antisect had reformed, never got to see them live back in the day as they didn’t turn up the night I went to see them, so they do owe me!

To be honest I don’t follow the newer scene that much, sometime someone will say ‘check these out’ and I’m sure I’m missing out on a lot of cool bands, but I think in my head I’m still that 15 year old punk girl listening to the same old records in my bedroom!

Do you think with roots in the diy underground scene it has influenced your business dealings as band with regard to contracts etc? How do you view the music industry these days?

Yes definitely, much to the annoyance of anyone in the business who has to deal with us! We’ve been managing ourselves for 20 years or so now, and maybe we haven’t always made the right decisions but it’s very satisfying knowing that we’ve always done things on our own terms.

The music industry has changed massively since we started out. It’s much more ‘disposable’ these days, which is a shame. I always liked having the vinyl in my hands and scrutinising the sleeve for days on end. But I also love the fact I can check out a band, download their music, or even find out what gigs are on in a matter of minutes. Pros and cons I guess.

Your sound is very much it’s own and has influenced so many bands. Was it a very conscious thing to play something different from when you started rather than thrash or grind?

We’ve never consciously thought about our music style at all. When we started we just wanted to make extreme music, but we just weren’t very good musicians so the result was this unidentifiable noise. I don’t think our music has changed that much over the years, we’ve just got better at it that’s all. It’s just been a natural progression. I guess the main change was that we lost the blast beats, but that’s just ‘cos we didn’t think it came across well live and we wanted the music to be more ‘controlled’. I still don’t think we fit in any category comfortably, it’s easier to say “we’re just Bolt Thrower”.

I notice Andy Faulkner has co-produced your last two albums. Was it a conscious decision to stick with him? How many songs do you have normally when going into the studio? Do you drop many, or do you go in knowing what will be the first track, the last track etc?

Yeah, Andy’s a friend of ours. We rehearse at his place and he also comes out on the road with us, so he’s obviously well aware of the sound we want. A lot of songs get dropped before we enter the studio, so we usually go in to record the 9 or 10 songs that will actually be on the album. But the writing process goes on well into the actual recording as we’re constantly changing and tweaking them, so the songs are only properly finished when the mix starts.

We usually have a rough idea of the song order, like opener, ending, etc. but that also is only 100% decided when the songs have all been recorded.

As a band you are supporters of the ‘Poppy Appeal’ to help disabled or bereaved Armed Forces families through inquest with free, independent legal advice and assistance. Do you think lyrically singing about war that it might influence peoples opinion? Do you reckon the next big war will by the Americans and Iran, as they have a lot of oil.

Yes, we’re supporters of the ‘Poppy Appeal’, and have been since we were all kids, when it was mainly helping out veterans and their families from WWI and WWII.

We’re a non-political band, and the lyrical theme of Bolt Thrower mainly focuses on the effects of war, mentally, physically, etc. We’re not here to influence people’s opinion about whether they should support a particular war or not. But wars have been around since the beginning of time and it would be very naive of us to think that they will ever stop. I don’t know what the ‘next big war’ will be, but yeah, I guess politics, oil and money play a much bigger part in wars today compared to those in the past.

What are your plans in the next while, are you working on any new recordings at present?

We’ve just confirmed a few festivals for 2012, and of course there is ‘Boltfest’, our birthday bash in London which we’re all really looking forward too. We’re not working on any new songs at the
moment, we’re just gonna go with the flow and see what happens, as always..

Cheers for the interview.

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