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01/09/2007 – Interview with ONSLAUGHT

British Thrash band ONSLAUGHT (official website) have earlier this released their fourth full album, "Killing Peace" via Candlelight Records. Produced by Andy Sneap (MACHINE HEAD, ARCH ENEMY, EXODUS, NEVERMORE, ...) the result is more than qualitative and the material itself shows Sy, Nige, Alan, Jeff and Steve haven't lost the will and drive to Thrash. The band is back after a long absence and hopefully they'll stay around for more than one album. In addition, their back catalogue has been re-released, so if you haven't got an ONSLAUGHT album yet or want to complete your collection, the time to act is now.

The 1st of September, the band headlined the second edition of Meadow Fest in Wachtebeke, Belgium. The interview I did there with Michele from TOURETTES has been posted some time ago. The talk with Sy and Nige took double as long and due to various reasons it also took me much (too much, to be honest) longer to typ it out. Having outside noises (e.g. power generator, other people in the tent, ...) interfering doesn't really help and so you have to listen several times before you can make something of what was said. But it was great fun and the guys talked about the old days, their comeback and more. So yes, "Killing Peace" is just a new start.

Onslaught logo

Some time ago your back catalogue was re-released and apparently you didn't know and didn't see any money from it. Was this sort of the driving force behind your reunion?

Sy: No, that wasn't the main inspiration to do it. It did bring us back together, to talk about it. But we said "If we do this, we'll have to write a new album.". We can't just come back and do a Best Of ONSLAUGHT and get out on the road. That wouldn't be feasible at all. It wouldn't work. We took the best part of the year and started writing the album and we were still writing when we started gigging. By the end of 2005 we had probably written 3/4 of the album and by that stage we started to gig. We did a couple of European shows and went back to writing. The main inspiration was to have fun, to come to places like this (Meadow Fest in Wachtebeke) and enjoy.

Nige: What it did do was letting us know there's still an interest in the band and made us realize the albums sold really well.

After the split you joined two other bands: FRANKENSTEIN and POWER JUNKIES. What were those bands like, what kind of Metal did they play, and why did you continue with them instead of ONSLAUGHT?

Nige: We had so many problems in the last couple of years, it just killed everybody. We just couldn't take it any further. With being involved with music for so long, I didn't wanna go out and try something else. It went to a bigger FRANKENSTEIN project, we did a tour in the UK with SAXON. A year later, Steve decided he was gonna go out of music completely, so I joined that (POWER JUNKIES) with Allan, our guitarist, and Jeff, our bassplayer. It was like an Old School Punk meets Metal typ of band, like the SEX PISTOLS meets METALLICA. We got a lot of interest in that band, but it never got to signing a record deal.

Onslaught - NigeNow that you're together again, there's probably less stress to write a new album, to do gigs and stuff like before, when you were in your early ages as a band?

Sy: It's as high as it's ever been. Things like MySpace and the internet helps to pass them out. The demand for live shows since then is unbelievable. We've had to turn down so many shows, since they're difficult to do. We don't necessarily want to go and headline. Going out and playing a headline tour is not something we're interested in, we'd rather support other bands. That's even less stressful then. When writing "Killing Peace" we had deadlines we wanted to meet, so that threw a bit of pressure into the mix and that helped. We did the best we could possible do at that time.

Since you all have daytime jobs, how easy was it to take some time off and get back doing ONSLAUGHT?

Sy: Pretty easy, although we have our own dayjobs - Nige and Steve have their own businesses, they're their own bosses. I work part-time, so that helps. ..Alan and Jeff, who were in full-time employment. Jeff works in a music store, so they're pretty relaxed. I guess if you work in a music store, they expect you to be in a band anyway. It's been good. Our partners have been great, it's all worked out very well.

When the split was done, did the others (Nige continued in two other bands - Tim) keep their instrumental or you your vocal skills intact? Or was it "Music is done, focus on other things" and then there was the reunion?

Sy: You touched on Nige's continuing in the music business for a few years. I too formed a band after ONSLAUGHT. We had interest, but never signed any deals. That all faded out and I joined Nige's band. It was all very incestuous. ;-) But it was difficult finding decent musicians. Ultimately I gave up as well. For about 10-11 years I haven't been doing anything.

I've read that, when getting back together and doing some jams, it was a mess.

Sy/Nige: Yes. It was terrible.

Speaking of having new members: how do you deal with that? When you read a news message about the guitarist (or anyone else) leaving the band, there always the news that the replacement will soon be announced, as if the member-to-be is already contacted shortly before the other one leaves. What was the case with ONSLAUGHT?

Sy: We wanted to have as many original members as possible or as many originals as we felt comfortable with. There's been many in the band, so that felt good. Originally we had four: Nige, Steve, myself and Jim, who played bass on "In Search Of Sanity". First choice for the guitarist was Alan. He did a band with me, he did a band with Nige, so he deserved a bit of recognition as well. He is and always has been a great guitarist. Unfortunately Jim was the only one who couldn't continue for a long time, as his job was holding him back. His replacement came from Jeff, who had been in a band with Nige anyway. So it's still people we knew, they fitted in well and there's no pressure in the band. We get on pretty well.

Nige: Jim is actually still part of the band as well. He's gonna be writing the new album with us, but he just hasn't been able to tour with us. He's still involved in the song writing process ...

Sy: Jeff obviously also helped the band with some great artwork; he did all the inside of the artwork of "Killing Peace".

Speaking about the albums: back in the '80s the production was decent, but right for that time. Now, with "Killing Sneap", you hit the lot with Andy Sneap. What was it like working with him? ("Fucking terrible. He got us wasted." - Drummer Steve popping up after the bench. Lots of laughter ofcourse :-)) You weren't there all the time, in the studio, compared to the previous albums.

Nige: Three days. I took two days to make, I was there three days. Andy didn't have a great deal of production to do, just set the guitars, solos... Everything else was more or less the same, also getting the mix right. I knew he could be trusted to do that. It's the way he works. It's nice to let go of it a little bit.

Did he give you hints, like "You should use that riff there, a solo here, ..."?

Nige: I recorded the guitars back in Bristol. He helped out on the solos a lot, with Alan, 'cause Alan needed a bit of direction.

Sy: As far as the production goes, everything has been gone through and anything we weren't satisfied with was binned or changed. The pre-production was done by ourselves just to get the best out of me and Alan. The vocals are nothing without great songs to sing over and his and Nige's are some amazing songs, with great ideas.

Did you have any other producers in mind?

Nige: No, not really. We knew Andy from the past, we knew he could deliver what we wanted, which was an Old School Thrash album with a modern sound to appeal to new fans as well.

So next time you'll work with Andy again?

Sy: I think so, yeah.

Nige: We've spoken about it already, so...

Did you relisten to the earlier albums when you were writing "Killing Peace"? Like "We did that there, we can use that again" or "Never do that again, because it won't work."?

Nige: Definitely, that's totally how we've done it. I don't listen to much modern Metal anyway. Obviously we wanted to catch that Old School vibe. Going back to the old stuff, seeing how things were arranged was part of how we worked.

Sy: We wanted the album to be the natural progression from "Power From Hell" and "The Force". "Sanity" was rare on a limb when compared to the first two albums. So we wanted something as a natural progression AND incorporate elements from the first two albums.

Onslaught - SyHow would you compare the four albums, with the positive and negative sides?

Nige: With "Power From Hell" the production is a little bit, but that was then and people liked the album for how it sounded. Maybe it wasn't wrong, but we were still learning, we were just kids learning the powerriffs and so it's a bit rough-and-ready in that way. It's the album that got us off the ground. "The Force": everything came good on that album. The songs, the production is a lot better. The playing improved, although it still wasn't perfect. It was a step up on towards... "In Search Of Sanity" was just horrid, polished, lacked progression. The original demos for the songs were great, but the production was heavy and packed. It sounded great all stripped-out on the original recordings. "Killing Peace" is "Killing Peace". ;-)

Are there still things than can be improved, regarding "Killing Peace"? It's your best sounding album to date, but are there things you'd liked to have done differently?

Nige: You'll always have such things. Right now I'd give that album 8/10, to be fair. We can improve on our next album and if all goes well it can get 9 or 10/10.

You're signed to Candlelight Records. For how many albums?

Nige: One album. We're happy with them, they're happy with us. If we wanna go elsewhere, we'll go elsewhere.

In this age of downloading, iTunes and sites like MySpace, how important are labels to you? They give you a budget, they have a big distribution network, .... Despite the criticism, you can't avoid working with them, can you?

Sy: Budgets have fallen dramatically and sales have fallen tenfold. When you get in the business and hear what the last MACHINE HEAD album sold, it's incredible. That is so few. Budgets have dropped dramatically as well. For example, "In Search Of Sanity" costs 6 figures to record and "Killing Peace" was 5 figures. It costs 1/10 to record. Record companies are actually still important.

Nige: The guys you saw today... If nobody's gonna sign them. How are they gonna get anywhere? You've got MySpace and stuff like that, but at the end of the day you need to get your product out in the shops. The only people to do that are the record companies.

Sy: It's a vicious circle. Record companies have to make money to put that into the bands, to sign new bands. So, the more you download, it becomes harder to survive and young bands aren't gonna get the chance to get signed.

How would you compare the deal with Candlelight with the deals you had in the past?

Sy: We have far more control with every aspect. Artwork to marketing, everything really. If we're not happy with something, we'll approach someone and address it.

Nige: It's very similar to the deal we had with Music For Nations at the time of "The Force". The "In Search Of Sanity" period was just silly money doing it. Signed with a major label, Polygram, who bought our control. We turned into a business machine. We were controlled by them, basically, they made every decision for us. All that was taken away from us. So it's nice to have it back again.

And the rights for the re-releases?

Sy: That actually ran out, we gained the rights back.

Nige: That's when we licensed our music back to Candlelight. We own the rights to our music.

Onslaught - Killing PeaceAbout the cover art: "Killing Peace" was done internally. How important is cover art for you, in connection with the songs or just in general?

Sy: Extremely important, even more so with this album. There's a strong connection with every piece of artwork, with the lyrics. The imagery of this is just fantastic. It's a pity that it's on a small CD sleeve, because some of the details..if you look at them on a PC, just wow.

Nige: The front cover artwork was very important as well, because we've been away for so long and we wanted people to know it was ONSLAUGHT when they looked at it. So we changed the logo to keep it Old School. The demon from "Power From Hell" is on there. How that came about? There was a guy in America who made a 3D clay model of the "Power From Hell" sleeve. We photographed it and took out what we needed. It's exactly the same as the "Power From Hell" sleeve.

You recently released a DVD, "Live Polish Assault 2007". Was it your decision to record it or did Candlelight have something to do with it or ...?

Sy: We were approached by a company in Poland, by Metal Mind, who asked us to come over, because they wanted to record us for a DVD. Simple as that, so yes, ofcourse. Again we had control over it, all the content, apart from the shooting of the concert itself. All the other content was already in our control. They approached us, although we wanted to do a DVD at some point, but we didn't really think it would be so soon.

It seems that nowadays, with CD sales going down, you must have a DVD in your discography. Otherwise it's like a big miss.

Sy: "Live Polish Assault 2007" will hopefully be the first of many DVDs to come.

MANOWAR-style? *laughs*

Sy: Mnnoooo. ;-)

Or perhaps as frequently as them?

Sy: I don't know, but we're talking about doing one in the nearish future. Candlelight wants to relaunch the CD "Killing Peace" next year. There's a new tour coming up as from November and to push the album again, with more advertising and a bonus DVD. There will probably also be a couple of bonus tracks.

Isn't that ripping the fans off, those who already have the CD?

Sy: It won't be any more expensive. CDs aren't cheap. I don't think it's ripping the fans off.

Nige: What we're trying is an extra marking on the Old School fans again, the ones who supported us this far, but also get out to other people as well. Especially those who haven't bought an ONSLAUGHT album before. Perhaps we'll make all the extras available through download on the website.

I saw on you had quite a lot of demos back in the '80s. Are there plans to re-record some of that material or put it as bonus tracks on future releases?

Nige: 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.

No dates for that yet?

Nige: No, we haven't got time for that as there are still many gigs planned, another tour and afterwards it's working on the new album. Later perhaps, when we've got some spare time.

Were there any leftovers from "Killing Peace"?

Nige: No. We never write extra tracks. If it's not good enough to make it onto the album, we throw it away.

So you don't keep those things for future releases, or use some portions of it later?

Nige: No, if it's crap, we just don't use it.

Isn't that like wasting much time? You have certain material that you can use, change, ...

Nige: If the riffs aren't good enough, we throw it away and start over again. We never write a whole song and say "That's not good enough." All killer, no filler. If the main riff is not strong enough, I just throw it away.

Sy: There's so much lying in the bin.

Sy, did you ever had any vocal problems?

Sy: Vocal problems? I don't get to sing enough. ;-) No, no problems. I love singing, but we don't rehearse enough. In November/December we're gonna tour, constantly, night after night. So I'll get my way.

How do you relax after a heavy night?

Sy: A couple of beers, chill out, soak up the atmosphere.

Sy, you kept an eye on what was coming out between the split and the reunion.

Sy: I'm a huge music fan. I love Dance, real Dance music, not pop chart stuff. Also Ambient stuff. I just looove music. I buy Metal Hammer every month and Terrorizer. There used to be a good magazine, Kerrang!, but that's not good enough anymore. So yeah, I kept up what was going on.

The Nu-Metal vague, the Metalcore stuff?

Sy: Nu-Metal? Yeah, it's grand sailing.


Sy: I went to see LIMP BIZKIT a couple of years ago and fell asleep. That wasn't very good. But I still love Old School, especially with being back in the band, going to festivals, and everybody loves Old School, wants to play Old School and hear Old School.

Concerning the reviews, since you mentioned Metal Hammer and Terrorizer: if you get a certain criticism, do you use it when writing new songs or do you follow your own ideas?

Nige: You gotta listen to what people say, that's why I deal with the MySpace for the band. I talk to fans al the time, every day. If there's one criticism that pops up time and time again, you've got to take a look at it, take a step back and evaluate it. There might be a review from someone who hates Thrash Metal, as a start, so you have to take that into consideration. But we honestly haven't read one really bad review. The worst we've had was an averge 5 or 6/10. There's a lot of positives to take when we're writing the new album.

That was it. Thank you very much. Any final words?

Sy/Nige: Thank you very much, thank you very very much.

Tyr and me

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