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31/07/2011 – Interview with ONSLAUGHT

My 3rd interview with Nige Rockett from ONSLAUGHT (official website). This British Thrash formation released its fifth studio album, "Sounds Of Violence", the follow-up of "Killing Peace" from 2007. For that the band signed a new label deal, this time with the German label AFM Records. In between there has been the live release "Live Damnation - Live In Leeds" (2009). It seems the new album was/is so good - it is, as you can read in the review I wrote (see here) - that the poor lad got covered by hundreds of demands (by manner of speech) for an interview. I sent my questions back in March and after a good 4 months, mr. Rockett finally could send his answers back to me. As the band also toured and played seperate gigs in between, I can understand the delay.

Onslaught logo

Let's cut to the chase. :-) You've got a new album out, "Sounds Of Violence". Tell me, where does this new energy come from? Because "SOV" sounds massive and very powerful, even if Jacob Hansen played with the buttons and all.

We've really found out where ONSLAUGHT needs to be as a band right now, we're very focused and have a very clear direction in terms of our music and overall image. Everyone in this band is real hungry to take ONSLAUGHT to the next level and everyone has totally raised their game in terms of live and studio performance. Jacob was amazing to work and I really can't wait to work with him again, we knew exactly what we wanted the "SOV" album to sound like and so did Jacob, we really had the same passionate vision for this record.

Did you and Andy focus on solos during the writing/composing process? I have the impression, judging by the end result, a lot of time went into that aspect.

Oh, yeah for sure... the solos are totally planned and deeply thought out, we spent many hours between us painstakingly constructing every single note. For us the solos are a song within a song and a very integral part of the overall song.

Onslaught - band 2011Also, did you feed Steve with special spices or something? As you know, I was very positive in my review about his drumming on the new album. How could this positive change be explained?

Haha, I'll be very honest about this in light of recent events. Myself and Andy wrote all of the drum patterns on the "SOV" album, Steve really was not interested in assisting in the writing process, so we took it on ourselves to do his work for him. We wanted the drum tracks to have a much more modern and aggressive approach in comparison with the last album "Killing Peace". We really wanted the drums to become a focal point on the album and to be as interesting as possible for the listener whilst still keeping focus on Steves style of playing. It was real hard work for him to deliver when the actual recording came around, but Jacob really pushed him to the max and ultimately achieved what we wanted for the record. Brutal drum tracks!!!!

When were the songs written? Because you guys have played many gigs the past few years. And are all tracks brand new?

Yeah, we were so busy playing live after the release of "Killing Peace", we kinda forgot we had to write another record, haha. But when we settled into the groove of writing it became a very fast and enjoyable process. Most of the album was written in the year before release and I would guess it took around 5 months in total from start to finish. For sure all the tracks are totally new!!

Did most input come from you or did your new axeman Andy (ok, he's been in the band since 2008, but this is his first ONSLAUGHT album) come up with lots of ideas as well? Or maybe Jeff?

I wrote all the lyrics for the album but when it came to the music it was me and Andy straight down the middle 50/50.. Every riff and note was written when we were together in our studio, we were bouncing ideas off each other all the time and that's what made it so easy, it was a great piece of teamwork and definitely the way we will work on the next release.

A classic question then: what are the songs about and can the album be considered as a concept one?

I guess there is a definite concept within the album and its violence all the way. All the tracks are based on real events throughout history, modern and past, there are no fictional stories on "SOV". I'll give you a brief outline of the subject matter:

"Born For War" - Child soldiers, we've seen the images on tv so many times, kids as young as 6 years old carrying and killing with automatic weapons.
"The Sound Of Violence" - war through the eyes of a frontline soldier
"Code Black" - the rise of an extremely violent and brutal superpower
"Rest In Pieces" - The story of an infamous doctor / surgeon and his brutal human experimentation
"Godhead" - there is a religious cult in the USA called The Children of God, this track is based around their ideology.
"Hatebox" - Is all about a typical ONSLAUGHT show, it's how I see and feel the vibe in the hall when we are playing a very cool and intense gig.
"Antitheist" - is a personal story about my experiences with family and religion when I was a young kid.
"Suicideology" - I have had 3 close friends commit suicide over the years and it always makes me wonder what was going through their minds when they finally gave up their lives. I am convinced there has to be 2 voices in their heads, one saying 'do it' and one saying 'stop', "Suicideology" is about how I can see the battle of the mind in someone who takes their own life.

Onslaught - band 2011The album's got a bonus track, the MOTÖRHEAD cover "Bomber". You even have Phil Campbell playing on the album. Whose idea was it to cover that song?

I think it was Jeff's idea to do "Bomber", we'd discussed doing a new cover for sometime and when he mentioned it, it just seemed the right thing to do.. It was also kinda cool as its not the typical MOTÖRHEAD track to cover, most people expected "Ace Of Spades" or "Overkill" or something like that..

And was there any convincing necessary for Phil?

No, none at all, it was an immediate YES, we go a long way back with Phil, we've been friends since we toured Europe with MOTÖRHEAD 1987. He really enjoyed the whole thing and had a real blast.

In the video there's Tom Angelripper from SODOM doing vocals. Because his throat was fitting for this song?

Again we're good friends with Tom and I really thought his voice would sound great alongside Sy's... We knew SODOM were in the studio making their new record so the timing was perfect. We called him up and he loved the idea, so we sent the backing tracks over right away and Tom let rip with some very cool lines.

I mentioned Jacob's name. In the end, no Andy Sneap, despite your being content with his work on "Killing Peace" and "Live Damnation". What made you choose Jacob Hansen then? Was he on your list if Andy couldn't reserve time for you?

We knew Andy was unavailable to work on this album for sometime, so we were constantly looking for a new producer to work on "SOV" over a period of months. Our label AFM suggested that we listen to some of Jacob's work and talk to him about his ideas. It turned out that Jacob was a huge ONSLAUGHT fan and loves old school Thrash, so that was a perfect start. We then listened to some of his recent work and it was truly stunning, it was so powerful, clear and amazingly full of life and energy, which was exactly what we were looking for. I can't see us working with anyone else for the next album either, I can't praise him highly enough.

I take it, judging by that promo video, you guys had a lot of fun in Denmark. Did everything go as smooth as desired?

Yeah, it went like a dream making this record.. Everything was so relaxed and easy going, Jacob has a very unusual method of working, but it was great for getting amazing results in a very short concentrated period of time. We were out in the countryside with no distractions so our focus was 1000%.

Did you learn any specific things from Jacob (in terms of sound, playing, composing, ...)?

Hmmnn, no not really. All the songs were already fully written and all the pre-production was done by me and Andy, we just let Jacob do his thing without interfering too much. I don't like to stick my nose into things that others can do better and Jacob's expertise was getting great performance and of course his mixing skills. I don't think there are many better in this world than him right now.

And obviously this question also pops up: what are the main differences between Jacob and Andy?

Totally different ways of working. With Andy we would work very long days as with most producers, but Jacob worked strictly 9 - 5 and no longer, we found it real weird at first but understood why after a few days... you can become burnt out very quickly in the studio and things can sometimes take twice as long as normal through tiredness and stress, but the way Jacob works everyone was always really fresh and inspired every day so we would get so much work done in a short space of time.

Onslaught - Sounds Of ViolenceCover art: no demon this time, but the eagle and pentagram. Did he misbehave or was it better to leave him out or perhaps put him elsewhere (in the booklet)?

No, he's still with us in spirit though. We felt we needed a change this time around and didn't think the Demoniac would fit in with the overall theme of the album, but fear not he'll still be making regular appearances with us in years to come.

It's always interesting to know how this or that song came to existence, what the idea behind it was, etc... in short, liner notes. What's your opinion on this and would you ever add them to an ONSLAUGHT album?

That's a good question and yeah; I think I'm gonna do that for the next album release,, thanks for the great idea, Tim, haha.. We're actually re-releasing "PFH" and "The Force" albums later this year through AFM and we have added some sleeve notes to "The Force" sleeve as it's the 25th anniversary in 2011.

Last time you told me you would sit together with Candlelight for the release of the follow-up of "Killing Peace". It seems that didn't work out and so AFM Records got into the picture. How did that happen? And what made them the better label? (I personally think they can indeed help ONSLAUGHT better than Candlelight)

Yeah, things didn't go quite to plan with Candlelight. There were a few issues that we were very unhappy about and some things could have been dealt with in a much better way, so when it was time to look at the "SOV" release we decided to look around and see what was on offer from other labels. We ended up with 3 out of 4 labels wanting to sign us and AFM really pressed all the right buttons for us. We had worked with them on a compilation album a few years before and liked the way they dealt with things and also they are German based, which we felt was very important. We definitely made the right decision as things are going so good right now.

Speaking of aforementioned gigs (see question 4): you played in South America, Asia, Europe (incl. the UK, obviously). Was the world suddenly aware of ONSLAUGHT? Maybe more than back in the day?

Not really, ONSLAUGHT has always had a huge fan base in South America and Asia. It's just that nowadays communication and travel is much easier, so that we are able to make the shows in places that were unreachable first time around... Europe has always been good to us, but it's amazing to be able to reach out and visit your fans in such far off lands.

You already played some gigs where you presented the new songs. How was it? And do the new songs come out great (of course, but one never knows) on stage?

Totally awesome.. we can't believe how well the new songs are going down live even though the album is so recent.. They fit into the set like they've been there forever and are actually getting some of the best reactions at shows. It's so cool because it lets us know that we have done the right thing with "SOV".

Onslaught - band 2011You recently went out on tour with SUIDAKRA and DEBAUCHERY. How was this package set up? And how was it..?

It was real good for ONSLAUGHT, we had a few promoter problems in Scandinavia, but once we got over that it was a great tour for us. We played some very cool new places and made a lot of new friends. I'm not sure if the balance of SUIDAKRA and ONSLAUGHT was right 100%, I think the 2 styles were a little too far apart, but we had a great time with the guys anyway. We're now looking into booking the 2nd leg of the European tour for early 2012.

Did/do you prepare for this in a special way? Mentally? Or compile a list of things to pack, next to the obvious like clothes and hygiene stuff?

Just the same as for every show that we play away from home. It's always passport, phone, phone charger, cash card, laptop, then all the usual hygiene stuff + very little clothes, we try to pick them up on the road and then lose them again when they're dirty, haha.

Are there plans for an ONSLAUGHT book?

I have thought about it as there really is a lot to tell, but we really don't have the time right now, I would definitely like to think about it for the future, but who knows... I have a very bad memory of the early days as it was a crazy drunken blur most of the time.

You and Andy are endorsed by Dean guitars. Finally the rewarding you deserve after all those years? ;-)

Yeah, Dean are surely the most Metal guitars on the planet and we're very happy to be involved with these guys. It's a 2-way thing, they are working hard for us and we are working hard for them. And of course they are beautiful to play.

And I almost forgot, you guys shot a video for the song "Sound Of Violence". Where did you set up your gear for this? And how was this experience?

We filmed the video in a warehouse just outside Hamburg in Germany, it was minus 6 degrees and brutally cold. It was a very painful experience even though the video came out great. We were filming for about 9 hours in total and come the end we could just not film anymore, we felt like we were gonna die from exposure.

I'll stop here or you might not answer at all, with this shortlist of questions. :-) In any case, many thanks for taking the time to do this interview. Good luck with the tour, the album and more. Take care and see you around. The last unholy words are yours to add.

Thanks Tim, its been a pleasure as always. And its great you enjoyed the new record. We're looking forward to seeing all our friends old and new when we hit Europe over the next 2 years to promote this motherfucker of an album.

Thanks everyone for your love and support and see you all real soon

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