I've been a huge fan of Bolt Thrower ever since I picked up Warmaster back in 1991. I liked the previous album Honour, Valour, Pride quite a bit. The album featured former Benediction vocalist Dave Ingram but since then long-running vocalist Karl Willetts has rejoined the band and it didn't lower my expectations towards Those Once Loyal and it surely didn't disappoint. Some weeks ago I got the opportunity to talk to guitarist and founding member Gavin Ward about the new album as well as loads of other things. The guy proved to be talkative and not afraid of speaking his mind.

Gavin Ward interviewed by PSL

Those Once Loyal is your 8th studio album. Are you still as excited about getting an album out as you were, when In Battle There is No Law was released?
Yeah of course, of course. Every time if it's anything, then it's probably more frustrating for us as well as our fans, because it's going to take so long come, but we really don't want to release it unless we think it's right as well, but when we've worked on it for so long and when we do release it, you're so happy to get it out, but yeah of course. It's still a pleasure to play the music you love which is the most important thing after all.

Musically Bolt Thrower hasn't changed much during the years. Why haven't you like so many other bands given in and followed trends or what the label might have suggested?
Well the label doesn't get any suggestions with Bolt Thrower. They get what they are given. We make those decisions and following trends never really interested us. Most of them are here today and gone tomorrow, but we already found what we wanted to do so anything from that path didn't really bother us.

Where would you say the biggest difference is between Those Once Loyal and Honour, Valour, Pride?
Obviously a better vocalist for sure. We felt with Honour, Valour, Pride it was a bit draggy. The songs were too long, the album was too long and we would keep stuck in the guitars to a degree where we were crushing the drumkit and the bass-guitar so you couldn't hear it, so we pulled the guitars back to a more reasonable level, so the bass comes through and the kit as well, so it was just a bit of tweaking really. A different singer, but more of a shorter album, shorter songs.

Since the last album Karl Willetts have rejoined the band. How did this come around?
As soon as Dave left, he was the first person we asked. We asked him in the past, when we did Mercenary, if he would come back as we had a real good time with him, but at that time he was still at university doing his two degrees. It just wasn't the right time for him, so when Dave left, we automatically asked him first, before we asked anyone else and he said yes straight away and fully rejoined as a member.

Why did Dave Ingram leave the band?
I think Dave was having a lot of health problems. I don't know now whether it was that or just bullshit, but we were hearing he had health problems. Who knows!

Martin Van Drunen was in the band for some time. How come things didn't work out?
He was sacked. You do a 110% or you're removed from that band - quite simple. Martin Van Drunen he was not dedicated enough and we did also see him as a career singer. He had done so many other bands before he was in Bolt Thrower and I'm sure he will do others after it. Obviously not as good, but that's the way it goes.

You re-recorded the track "K-machine" with Karl. What was the purpose with that?
We did the whole album Honour, Valour, Pride again and it was a really good idea. Instead of Karl coming in and jumping on the new writing and onto the new album straight away it was a way of demoing Karl and having Honour, Valour, Pride done with Karl's vocals on it. We class it as a demo. We class it as root vocals. We just put "K-Machine" up now for the fans, because they like the stuff when unmixed with some of the guitars missing and that. First we wanted to have a look at Karl in the studio straight away, instead of recording with him two years later and I'm sure he wanted to hear if he still could do it. It turned out to be really positive and obviously people now want this as a release, but I doubt we'll release it, but maybe later on we'll re-record the vocals on Honour, Valour, Pride again and put it up for download or something like that.

The Crown did something similar so perhaps you may release it someday?
It won't be released! It won't be released as Bolt Thrower. We class that as a rip-off product and we don't like to do that. If it comes out it will be free and it will be downloadable. Or available to the gigs I just don't want it to be a product.

Over the years the lyrics appear to have taken a turn for the more realistic! The war games and fantasy stuff doesn't seem as apparent now! Did you get tired of that?
No. People think its war games or fantasy, but a lot of it is similar in a lot of ways, but sometimes it's not about war. Sometimes it's about everyday life. A lot of it is used as a metaphor. It's about the old values like honour, loyalty, camaraderie. Probably aspects of something negative. Bolt Thrower is positive, the band is positive.

The artwork is a little different this time around. What's the story behind this?
The artwork varies from album to album, because we pick what we want at the time. This we had seen on a photograph from a war memorial in London from a Hungarian photographer, but it was only a part of a plaque, so we got him to re-photograph the whole memorial again and it's a metal plaque on the side a stonewall memorial. By the end of World War I the artillery guns were melted down and melted into the plaque. It's also in the Imperial War Museum as a plaque. We thought the picture was really epic.

You've once again chosen to record with Andy Faulkner in Sable Rose Studio. Was he your first choice?
Yeah, I suppose. Now it's time and not the size of the studio. It's the amount of time we're actually going to spend in there. It's in the city where a few of our members live anyway. For us the album would have taken four months straight every day to record and we have probably done a month and a half in pre-production before that and maybe rehearsed two weeks in the studio, so we have probably done five and a half month altogether at that place. It's hard blocking out a studio for that amount of lent knowing that other bands can come in and out when we're in. Here everything is totally locked and left as it is, so it's convenient. With Andy we waited and recorded. He's got a good set of ears. Right now we think he's still on the early stages of production as we produced it with him, so you still expect to make mistakes. Whether we'll record there again I don't know. What feels right at the time we usually just go that way! We don't really have a plan where we're going to record it.

The production sound a bit different this time. An instrument like the bass appears to have been placed higher in the mix!
I wouldn't call it up front, but yeah it's higher in the mix, because that's were it was meant to be in the first place. Jo felt she was louder now the way you could hear it, but it's one of those things that was stuck in the wall of guitars and was really destroying our band sound and I think personally now that it sounds more like a band, but you're still going to make mistakes in production, because you're still on the early stages of it ourselves as well.

On Honour, Valour, Pride I thought the guitars sounded really thick and juicy.
Yeah, Yeah of course. They were thick on this one, but we just pulled the volume down. It's like anything you sort of try to get an overall band sound, but on Honour, Valour, Pride unfortunately the drumkit was a bit sunk and you couldn't hear the bass. You always get to hear the vocals if you know what I mean?

In hindsight which of your albums do you like the least and which songs do you think is the worst one you've made to date?
"Domination" would have been the worst song we've ever done, but it was on a live radio session, thank God [laughs]. Best or worst, I don't really think about it. Even though In Battle there's No Law may sound shitty, I can still remember the time when I recorded it and the feeling I had and you were doing the best you could at that time. I never really think about that. We still try to put out the best album we can. I don't know if we've wrote it already whether it's still to come or this one is it, I couldn't tell you, but as far as albums I prefer, they all felt good to me at the time, because that's when we recorded them and they must have felt good or we wouldn't have recorded them.

It sounds as if you kind of have used the same riff on "World Eater", "Cenotaph", "Embers" and "The Killchain". What's the story behind this?
It's not the same riff, it all links together that's why it's called "The Killchain". Obviously you're missing "Powder Burns" and "In Battle", because it goes from "In Battle" to "Worldeater" to "Cenotaph" to "Embers" to "Powder Burns" to "Killchain" and back to "In Battle" again. "Killchain" is the last of the chain and then we'll start the new chain from another song. A lot of people go wrong. 'You have used the "Cenotaph" riff in your new song' and we go 'yes, that's because it fits into it' and live we lock a few of them together. They all fit amongst each other in different combinations, when we decide to play them like that. We played them like that on the last tour and I think we linked "Worldeater" to "Cenotaph" to "Powder Burns" and just played them as three songs together without any gaps.

You're currently signed to Metal Blade and have been for some years. Before that you were on Earache. What the biggest difference between those two labels?
[Laughs] Earache is a piece of shit and Metal Blade has been pretty professional up to this point, but you still have problems now and again. Our ideology and the way our band works doesn't necessary fit within the music industry or record label ideals generally, but Dig who run Earache is the dumbest cunt I ever knew, do you know what I mean? Michael from Metal Blade is pretty smart. You can look at Earache right now as a label. They got no bands. Every band who left did better and they got no real good bands left. It's a shame because at one point they could have been a pretty decent sized label, but they make no smart moves and with Metal Blade the promotion is really good even though stuff is hit and miss here and there, but their promotion is always good and that was what we signed for. We were thinking in the early days we would really had struggled to get out of England on Earache, because all they got together was promotion in England. England is still a small island, but some record labels don't realize there's a world out there. For us it was important to get a part European, part American label, so we could get out of England to tour Europe pretty simple.

What kind of music do you listen to these days? I mean what inspires you musically?
Nothing, because it didn't in the old days. Even when we started we were coming out of a punk scene, where the music didn't really interest us anymore, but we like the aggression and the dirty sound of punk, but we liked the precision of metal. So at the start we were looking to play our own style, because there is no one out there doing what we were interested in. Now you don't take inspiration from it at all. That's why when we write all the guitar riffs we don't listen to music. You listen to some old punk bands and some early metal, but you don't listen to any modern music nowadays and I think that's what keeps us original as well, but for me personally we've just come out of the studio after five and a half month, so I'm on DVD's right now. But personally I listen to old shit. Black Sabbath, old Venom, Rammstein and whatever takes me fancy at the time. King Diamond, do you know what I mean? [laughs] It's stuff I would have listened to over the years anyway and there's still a trend-scene in England, so you really don't see a lot of what's going on. We'll be in Europe in January and we'll hear a lot of new bands that is coming up in Europe. In England I don't read the music press as it's a load of shit. It always was. It's a trend-scene. If something new comes everyone rolls with the trend the same with the magazines so we don't really follow it. You see bits on the internet here and there of course, but when we're in Europe in January you'll find out what is good and what is not at the time.

So you're going to tour extensively in support of Those Once Loyal?
Yeah, of course. It's been hit and miss over the years with the constant line-up shuffling and not being that solid at different points. Now it's probably the most solid, it's been for a while. The first 40 gigs are up on the website and the next 25 are coming. Obviously we're playing Scandinavia.

So you're playing in Denmark?
Yes, we're playing every country in Scandinavia. Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland. Definitely a few gigs in each. The promoters have already been contacted so the dates are already being worked out and will be added to the website. But definite, it's been too long.

I seem to recall that you were managing the band yourselves and booking of shows and stuff earlier on! Are you still running everything by yourselves?

Yeah and merchandise as well. Of course we print our own shirts with our own printing equipment of course. Yeah, yeah of course all, it's the only way where we are able to retain the essence of our band to the point where no one gets in and messes it up anywhere and no business organizations get to lock around it. We can still make whatever moves we want. We pick the bands that will go on the bill and at some gigs we pick the door prices. Of course sometime you get guarantied money so you can't pick the prize of what the promoter charges, but at most gigs we pick the door prices like we pick the merchandise price.

So you're in charge of everything yourselves?
Total. We wouldn't have it any other way. Someone would just get in our way or do something that we wouldn't like.

Are there any possibilities of a Bolt Thrower DVD soon?
We thought about it. Obviously we got loads of footage from so many tours and different gigs and it would be really easy to throw a quick package together as a DVD. The record label would love to. They would love to have another product from Bolt Thrower. If it's good enough or we think it's been played well enough at the gigs we'll go and release it, but at this point… I don't want to go away to a studio and re-record it all again and pretend it's live. We don't want to do that. If we play well enough at a gig or a few different shows we'll release a DVD like we would release a live album, but if it's not good enough we won't pretty simple.

It sounds like you're definitely not one of those bands who rip off their fans!
No. Let's face it after all the bullshit all there is, is the band and the fans. There's nothing else. If we can make sure they can get into the gig cheap, well that's fucking good, because they are our fans. We want them there. The record label would love to have lots of products. They would love to have the boxset and all the other parts. It's just that we try to limit it down to the record label to only release one release per time - no other shit really. They get a digipack in Germany of course. If anything else comes along we really like and think is good, we're ready to negotiate. Like the live album with Metal Blade, but they wouldn't put it out at the price we wanted. They wanted it to be in the mid-price or the full-price, so in the end it just didn't happen. So we still think that maybe in the future a lot more that stuff will gear on to our website and be downloadable from there and the fans get direct access to our stuff without anyone else getting in between and don't have to pay for it. It's free.

Anything you wish to add to conclude this interview?
Of course. To the Danish fans thanks for your support over the years we do appreciate it and we'll see you in April.

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