The great Death Metal band from England has always remained the same, and as long as the music is both good and original I myself see no reason to complain. Apparently Bolt Thrower are planing to record a new album later this year so we got in touch with Jo Bench to find out more about it and see what people think of the traditional sound of Bolt Thrower!

Interview by Whodan


A common comment I've heard about the last album "Mercenary" is that it's good that you don't change much and that you know what to get, but that it also becomes boring and predictable in the long run with albums quite similar to each other. Can you understand such comments?



Yes, I can understand the comments about being predictable, etc. but these are probably the same people who would criticise us if we suddenly did change our style. We couldn't win either way! We originally made a conscious decision when the band was formed not to change our style. The bands we have been into in the past had done exactly that and we lost a lot of respect for them for doing that. At the end of the day - if you want to hear Bolt Thrower you can buy any of our 6 albums and you will hear Bolt Thrower, if you want to hear another style of music buy another band's album!!


What if you write some material that perhaps doesn't fit in, do you just throw it way then?
Yes! We have done this with every album. Sometimes Baz will come up with a riff that's killer but a bit too advanced. So we'll tell him it's good but not Bolt Thrower, so it gets scrapped. It may sound extreme but it's just how we've always worked. We try not to 'disappear up our own arses', which means to go all experimental and lose the plot. A lot of bands (Swedish bands included) have tried out other music styles, lost a lot of fans and respect because of it and then try to go back to their roots, but it's too late by then the damage has been done. That is one thing Bolt Thrower could never be accused of and we're very proud of that.

You still stay true, wheter people like it or not, to your tradition when it comes to the lyrics as well. But how do you manage to develop this subject with each new release?
Wars have been going on for thousands of years, and Bolt Thrower have only been going for 14. So there will always be something to write about.

Will we ever see Bolt Thrower singing about another subject than war?
No! Why would we change now? The war theme is as much a part of Bolt Thrower as is the heavy music. For the first time now Karl will no longer be co-writing the lyrics. It will be Dave and Gavin now, so there will be a slight difference in the style of writing, but we will try to tie it all in as best we can. We don't want the lyrics to change just because we have a new singer.


Why is war such a fascinating subject to write about really?

I think it became a fascination long before the band was formed. Gavin was brought up in quite a military background, always obsessed with war films and strategy. So in the beginning it was obvious that war was going to play a main part in Bolt Thrower. With this style of music we could never sing about something trivial or 'nice' it had to be dark and heavy. And we were never really into Satan that much, so war seemed to fit perfectly!



Despite you have a very great sound, always sounding very much Bolt Thrower, you has in a way always been out of the fashion. Has it never been tempting to jump on any current trend, be the next Cannibal Corpse or something, to gain a larger following?
No, not for us. I think Karl and Whale became a little frustrated that we would never make the step to become slightly more commercial or whatever. But myself, Gavin and Baz were always perfectly happy to remain a 'cult' band, the band that was never 'flavour of the month' but we always stuck to our guns, and most importantly never compromised. We never wanted to be in all the magazines, playing arenas etc. and I know sometimes the record labels find that hard to understand, but we are perfectly happy to play to full smaller clubs and write music that we enjoy listening to as much as we enjoy playing it.

You've been to Metal Blade for a while now. What are the biggest differences in how they work for you compared to to how Earache did?
The main difference is that Metal Blade are a record label. Earache were just pretty much a money lender, someone who just lends us the money to record an album, then release it and move onto the next band. Whereas Metal Blade help as much as they can to promote and push the band into new areas. With Earache we were always at the bottom of the pile beneath Morbid Angel, Napalm Death, etc. and pretty much an after-thought, but now we are a main priority, which of course makes a real difference.

Obviously you signed a long-term contract with them. But how many albums did you really signed for?
I can't really remember, I think it's 4 or 5.

You didn't exactly become overly happy when Earache released a Bolt Thrower compilation, to say the least really. But why was that really? I never heard an explanation of that.
The most annoying thing about it was the Earache had never done anything for us ever, and then they jumped on the back of all the work Metal Blade had done to promote 'Mercenary' to release a bunch of old material. Also, it didn't help the fact that Earache hadn't paid us any royalties for the last 6 years - which they still haven't, but we are in the process of sorting out!! We also hated the stuff that was written in the CD booklet about us, it was written by someone that we hadn't even met - he didn't know us! So, really there were a lot of reasons why we were unhappy, also why wasn't it sold really cheaply, it is old material after all. It was just another money making exercise by Earache, it really makes us mad. So please everyone don't buy it!!

As far as I know you haven't done much touring here in Scandinavia. Why is that?
Well, we used to tour Scandinavia all the time, but on the last 2 or 3 tours we haven't. We've had a lot of shit with promoters, venues, expenses, etc and in the end we decided there were too many problems to make it worthwhile. It's not that we don't want to tour there, and if there's anyone out there that wants to book Bolt Thrower to play Scandinavia let us know. As long as it's a reasonable offer and it works out around the time we are touring (probably Jan 2001) it will be seriously considered. But at the same point we don't want to play to empty venues either, so it has to be worthwhile. If enough people want to see us, we'll come over!!

It is not often you hear about Bolt Thrower performing on any of these Metal festivals really, despite you surely have had many offers. Isn't it of a good promotional value to play on such?
That's another thing in the Bolt Thrower 'rule book'. We don't want to be a festival band! It's something that really annoys Metal Blade, which I can understand, but so far we have only played one big festival and that was 'Full Force' in Germany. We decided to play that one because the promoters are really decent people and big BoltThrower fans, and we did it as a favour for them. It was really great and we will play it again this summer. But we don't want to play some other festivals where we'd be given a shit position on the bill and play amongst some bands which we really have no respect for. We also don't really agree with the high prices to get in, on our own tours we set them up ourselves so we can keep the door prices low and as we print our own t-shirts we can keep the prices of them down too. But we see a lot of bands playing every festival going, which I think is a bit crap. I prefer to play to our own fans, not someone elses. It may sound madness to a lot of people, and of course it would be great promotion, but we want to do everything on our own terms, it comes back to the 'no compromise' thing again!!

Please give some details to the readers concerning the album which is supposed to be out early winter this year!
Well I can't really give too much away at the moment. It will still be Bolt Thrower, so don't buy it if you want some radical progression!! It should be out in the winter, but you never know with us, we just release it when we're entirely happy with it. But we'll let you know more about it nearer to the release...

Apart from composing new material, what has Bolt Thrower really been up to since the release of "Mercenary"?


Well we did a big European tour after the release of 'Mercenary', which was our most successful yet, and after that we took a bit of time out. We were planning on going to the US, but weren't offered the best deal ever, so that never happened. Baz had a baby, we had drummer problem (what is it with drummers??), so that put things on hold for a while and then we got back into writing. We may not be the most hard working band in the world, but at our age we don't have to be!!

Old Bolt Thrower line-up


We see more and more bands remixing some of their songs into a mixture of Death Metal and Techno. Could this also be something for Bolt Thrower?
No, never!!!!

You've had a very long career with Bolt Thrower. So at last I was wondering which has been the best versus the worst moments you've had during this time?
We've had plenty of bad times, the worst was when our roadie Spike, was killed in a road accident on tour in 1992. I don't think you can get much worse than a death on the road. As far as best times, there have been plenty too. I really love touring, so personally the last tour was one of my highest moments, some of the venues were sold out, we went down really well, Dave was great and it can only get better. So now i'm looking forward to the new album and the next tour, see you there??!