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25/08/2009 – Interview with ONSLAUGHT

British Thrash band ONSLAUGHT (official website) have recently released their first live album, "Live Damnation - Live In Leeds" via Candlelight Records. Mixed by Andy Sneap it offers a powerful ear on ONSLAUGHT's live performances. A new album, as follow up to 2007's "Killing Peace" is in the making. Several weeks ago the band performed at the second edition of Alcatraz Metal Festival (8th of August) in Deinze, Belgium. You can read my report at this location. The show was obviouosly killer, just like back in 2007 at Meadow Fest in Wachtebeke, Belgium. I had an interview with Nige back then and had planned a new one at Alcatraz, too. Due to various circumstances it didn't go through, so I sent guitarist Nige a list of questions via e-mail. You can read about the new live album, the gigs in general, and other various issues below.

Onslaught logo

After all those years you finally have a live album in your discography. Whose idea was it? What was the main reason for this release, "Live Damnation"?

It was Steve's idea to record the live album. It's been a while since the release of "Killing Peace", so we needed to kick the profile a little and we thought it would be a cool idea. We have never released a "real" live album in our history, so why not now?

It's not a proper live album in that it's rather short. Do you plan to release a real, so to speak, live album later or will that be for the next live DVD?

So how long is a real album? "Reign In Blood" is 28 mins! What all the reviewers do not know, because they have only downloaded the album, is that there is also 28 minutes of video footage included on the disc: live songs, interviews, etc. etc. In total the "Live Damnation" cd is 1hr 8mins in running time.

Onslaught - NigeWhy Leeds? I mean, why not another gig, regardless of the album title?

Because we wanted to record a UK show, Damnation festival was next on our list and it had a cool story behind it, with "The Who" thing. The festival was sold out, so it was the obvious choice. It would have been impossible to record at some of the bigger festivals we played due to time restraints. So "Live In Leeds" it was.

Do you record each gig you play? (just audio or audio and video)

We used to, but nowadays there is always someone in the crowd filming or recording the show and we generally get it sent through to us or find it on YouTube. Sometimes it's cool, sometimes not, haha.

Most of the songs were picked from the "Killing Peace" album, which is logical. But why don't you ever play at least one song off the "In Search Of Sanity" album? No good memories from that period or doesn't Sy want to sing songs he didn't help write?

We've tried some of the "ISOS" songs out live, but they just don't seem to fit into the set comfortably, It's strange but it doesn't work. Sy actually was involved in writing all the songs on "ISOS" and recorded all the vocals for the album before he left, so he is real familiar with them. Maybe we'll try something again soon.

"Live Damnation" is only available as Dualdisc (CD/DVD on one disc) due to financial reasons, you told me. didn't Candlelight Records sponsor you?

Yeah, Candlelight sponsored the album, but we wanted to keep costs down so it could be sold as a low price album in the stores and online. If we included an extra disc it would have greatly increased the retail price. After all it is only a live album, so value for money for the fans was very important to us.

Onslaught - Live DamnationI noticed the cover art of "Live Damnation" doesn't feature the mascotte, the devil/demon. How come?

Good question. Ask Jeff, he did the artwork. :-) I think he should have been hiding there somewhere.

You've been touring your asses off the past few years. Is this more to get the name ONSLAUGHT back out again or are you taking your time with the new album and find it better to play gigs for the time being until the album is done so you can go and promote it?

Both. We need to keep building the ONSLAUGHT profile and the best way to do that is playing live. The rest of the time we are working on the new album. It's a fine balance, but both things are very important to our future growth.

Speaking of tours, in general then: it seems the economic crisis also had its impact on Metal, as there are - at least, that's my impression - less proper tours (3 bands together, for example) and more festival appearances. Or is it just a thought?

Yeah, maybe. Everyone is being real careful how they spend their money right now and I guess that has an effect on live music, but I think if the tour is strong enough the fans will come out. We just did a full UK tour with TESTAMENT and virtually every show was sold out and we sold tons of merch. It's all about value for money, there were 3 cool bands that people wanted to see and it was a great tour. Also the festivals are as busy as ever, so let's hope Metal rides the recession.

I mentioned the new album. How much is done? What can be expected compared to the previous releases?

5 tracks written so far and it's sounding very cool. It's gonna be much more aggressive than previous albums, it's coming up real angry and Sy is sounding better than ever.

Will you work again with Andy Sneap?

Hopefully, maybe. :-) I don't see any reason why not, depends if our schedules allow, I guess. We made a great team last time and Andy did an awesome job on the "Live Damnation" mix, so it would seem strange not to work together again.

And release the album via Candlelight Records? And any period in mind for the release?

Not sure who will release the album yet. Candlelight have said they want to talk about the new record, so we will sit down and see what they have to say, but it would also be stupid not to look at other options. This next album is very important for ONSLAUGHT's futures so we want to make sure everything is perfect.

Onslaught - SySpeaking about labels: SPV is in deep trouble, but it also surprises me no other big labels (Century Media, Nuclear Blast, Roadrunner Records, ...) are having such difficulties. What's your opinion on the matter and do you think others will follow? How's Candlelight doing, by the way?

I was very surprised by what happened to SPV. It also worried me deeply. If it could happen to them, it could happen to any label. Labels are obviously under greater pressure than ever before, so they have to be careful how they spend money and this could have real serious consequences for the future of Metal music. People need to realise that illegal downloading is killing the music they love and that they are also stealing from people they follow. Would they be happy if someone walked into their home and stole their mp3 player or their cellphone? I think not. Something must be done to stop it or there will be no music scene left to follow.

Two years ago, at Meadow Fest, I asked you about the demo material you guys made in the early days. You replied with "Candlelight and Black End got a lot of interest in releasing these demos. Obviously remastered, not re-recorded as a lot of people like this old feeling. That's in the pipeline. There's also talk of re-recording some of that material and add it to the album. Lots of work in the pipeline." The result was "The Shadow Of Death", which came out in 2008. But with only 10 tracks totalling a playtime of not even 20 minutes, the fun is over very soon. And that while you had made many more songs. Did this selection contain the best songs?

These were the "only" songs that ONSLAUGHT had recorded in the early days and because they were so short it didn't make for a long album, we didn't want to confuse people by putting any of the post "Power From Hell" era demos on the release, because technically it was a different band. Personally I would have chose not to release this album, but there are many people out there who wanted to get hold of this stuff and it's always our aim to keep our fans happy. So "The Shadow Of Death" was put out.

The album is dedicated to Dave Bateman, who produced your first demo. He passed away in 2007. What kind of guy was he? How close were you and did you maintain contact all those years?

Dave was a lovely guy, he had his problems which was sad, but we owed him a lot. Dave was my real inspiration to want to play guitar and actually gave me my first lessons. We lost touch for a while, but over the past 10 years we had got to know each other again, which was cool. He will be very badly missed. :(

ONSLAUGHT has been alive since the 1980s, yet never reached the glory and fame of big bands like TESTAMENT, MEGADETH, EXODUS, KREATOR, DESTRUCTION, and so on. And thus headline shows aren't legio on your curriculum. Does or did it bother you or are you satisfied with being the underdog/playing lower on the bill?

ONSLAUGHT did pretty good, not quite as good as some of the bands you mention, maybe, but we did some real good shit. We don't care where we play on a bill, we will always kick asses wherever we are. We're always striving to better ourselves and gain bigger profile, we are a very ambitious and hungry band. Just because we're not headliner doesn't mean to say that we don't wanna be the best.

And finally, one last live question: Alcatraz Metal Festival. Once again you thrashed the place. It was great to see you guys at work again. Did you prepare for this or did you just cross the North Sea to play a gig on Belgian soil?

Thanks, we had yet another awesome day in Belgium. :-) We always prepare as much as possible for every show we play, we owe it to the fans who pay their money to come along. Live performance is everything for ONSLAUGHT, there is no better feeling than a cool show with a great audience.

There were some problems during the soundcheck, again your side, just like at Meadow Fest. What was the problem and can you foresee it?

I found out it was some interference on the wireless system. Thankfully the problem was gone during the show.

That's it from me. Many thank for your time. I hope we'll speak again when the new studio album is ready and available. All the best to you and the band and see you on Alcatraz Metal Festival 2010. ;-) If there's anything you wish to add, fire away.

Thank you for the interview, with some difficult questions, haha. For sure, keep in touch for the progress reports, that would be nice. :-) We would like to thank, once again, all our wonderful fans in Belgium for their loyal support and awesome reactions at our shows. You are very special to ONSLAUGHT, now and always.

See you soon

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