Who’d have thought that BOLT THROWER would have appeared in the metal scene after a four year silence? Their latest album «Mercenary» has made it clear for everyone that one of the best death metal bands in the history of the European extreme metal scene is back! Bolt throwers stuck to their guns and delivered a breakneck death with their usual coolness and mercilessness. Well, it is not the year of 1991 when the band was considered to be one of the most successful brutal bands in the UK, but «Mercenary» still has all the brutality you are looking for from a BOLT THROWER album... Five records within the period of 1988-1994 followed by the four year silence - many of us have already abandoned hope to see them again. In the early 1998 the European Metal Blade office suddenly announced that it was going to sign a contract with BOLT THROWER. The release date of «Mercenary» was delayed... four times! The Metal Blade employees would lose temper when we would mention the name of the band. As it turned out, the musicians wanted to do everything themselves, including mastering and cover. Finally, «Mercenary» has been released and the waiting was over! And if the idea of the self-made cover is still questionable - at least for me, - the quality of music dispels any doubts: masters of war are back to unleash their mercenaries for another crusade. The guitarist Gavin Ward is on-line...
First of all let me congratulate you with the release of your album after four year silence! Thank you! Why did you decide to do everything yourself: cover, mastering and stuff?
Because we were lucky to do it that way. You see, loss of control means we don’t get the things how we want them. Pretty basically.
Are you unsatisfied with the work people do for you?
Sometimes we are. But not always one hundred percent.
Is there any concept behind the cover featuring the album?
Not really. It describes the first signal that comes across the radio when you spot the enemy.
The picture describes the events that took place during the World War the II, does it?
So, what is it then?
Are you pretty much into it?
No, no. It was just a concept to the idea, we used an artist that does military artwork for the military.
Did Metal Blade like the cover made by the musicians themselves?
They didn’t mind. With Metal Blade the same as with Earache we have got full control over how we do stuff. We can do whatever covers we want.
What have you been doing over the four years?
Well, to start with... we basically toured Europe twice, quite a few countries in Europe. And then it took a while to get off the Earache. At that time we were still on Earache. In the end we basically had to wait to be dropped. So, amongst the four years we toured a bit, gone off the Earache, signed on and started writing «Mercenary».
You were not satisfied with Earache, weren’t you?
Are you satisfied with Metal Blade, the label you signed a deal with?
Oh yes, of course. At this point everything is being good. Who knows how it will go in the future, but at this point everything is going really good with them. They have obviously put a lot more promotion than Earache would have done. The band is a lot more priority than in Earache.
How did you manage to sign a contract with Metal Blade?
Basically through Michael. He runs the European office of Metal Blade. He was a friend of ours, he used to come to the gigs. So, we’ve known him over a long period of time. We talked to him about signing to Metal Blade, we basically kept it quiet until everything was really clear with Earache.
You delayed the release date of the album four times. What made you play on the nerves of your fans for such a long time?
We had to. Well, we hadn’t got the cover done, we hadn’t got the booklet artwork done. We were waiting for the graphics being done. So, we did delays a couple of times. And we also did the mastering three times. We didn’t like the sound. The third mastering wasn’t probably too bad, but we decided in the end to make the mastering in England. We mastered all the year around.
It seems to me you were working really hard this time! After a four year silence you had to show everybody «who was who», hadn’t you?
Oh yeah. Probably, even more this time. ‘Cos we got a lot more hands on the recording, putting the sound, producing it.
I suppose Metal Blade was really pissed off with your delaying the release of «Mercenary».
Oh, of course. They were, probably, promising the release dates... But first - Earache, then we were signing to Metal Blade, and we were making sure the album was right.
Did you argue a lot at that point with Metal Blade?
No! They were very supportive. And we used to walk at our own pace. We obviously made sure it was right before it gets released. It is important for us to have full control.
Dave, your new vocalist after Martin, has left BENEDICTION for BOLT THROWER. Yet he presently lives in Denmark. How do you keep in touch with each other?
Well, we have computers and faxes, no problems. Plus Martin lived in Holland when we lived in England. It is just the same.
Rumor has it that Dave moved to Denmark because of a woman who lives in the country...
Oh, I don’t know the stories of David’s leaving BENEDICTION. But he definitely got married after moving to Denmark. But it’s another story, I don’t really know.
The image of war has always been the distinctive feature of BOLT THROWER. Are you really that fascinated by war?
I had an interest to war basically since I was a kid. My brother is in the army, my father was in the army, my uncle... from that sort of background anyway. And I have always been interested with reading history books. So, it was my concept for BOLT THROWER doing that, and the members were also interested. So, it’s a natural thing to do.
And what do you think about war in general? You sing about it so much.
Hmm, hard question. I’d probably need a few hours to even think of the answer, ha ha! You know what I mean?
I can wait!
You’ll have to!
Joe Bench - female bass player in BOLT THROWER. Is it complicated to play with a woman in the death metal band?
No, it is easy. For us it really didn’t matter - male, female. She is certainly involved in this sort of music. She is obviously hundred percent into it. She is probably was one of the original members. But she is probably closer to the five-piece. So, she’s being in, probably, for ten or eleven years at this point. She’s totally dedicated to it. That’s why we had to swap people around, it’s not something we like to do. But we do expect one hundred percent loyalty. And hundred percent dedication to us and the band. And if we don’t get that we used to get rid of them.
What could you say about the reaction of fans and mass media on the latest album?
Oh, the reaction’s being very good at this point. But we never thought about it. When you record an album, when you release it, you never know if anyone buys it or likes it. But everything is being good, feedback is being very good.
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you recollect the early ‘90s in the UK?
At that point there was not a real scene, or no real audience for the bands like CARCASS, NAPALM DEATH, BOLT THROWER. There was obviously a lot of English bands, not American or European. At that point there was no crowd. There was just bands that started to play that sort of music.
Do you think death metal was popular in the UK back then?
Probably was. But I’d say the UK has probably more of a trend scene. I have seen in Europe the fans are more dedicated. That’s why we don’t play in England. We stopped playing there about five years ago. We could easily, we are offered gigs, but we don’t play. BOLT THROWER is a lot smaller band for England, in the other countries we are a lot bigger. So, we go to where we want.
Is there anything going on in the death metal scene nowadays in England?
Probably. Black metal has got a lot bigger. In England it’s not so big. In England we don’t read all those magazines, we don’t read that crap. It’s just mainstream. Kerrang! is probably more mainstream, Metal Hammer is not very good in England. There’s big difference between German Metal Hammer and the English one.
It seems to me, you are very selective, very picky about the places you play gigs in.
Yes. We pick where we play. Simply we haven’t got management, we manage the band ourselves. So, we make the right decisions. We vote, and if one person doesn’t wanna do it, it doesn’t happen. We wanna play pretty reasonable gigs, in big venues. They must be where we wanna play.
Well, and finally, Gavin, I would like to make sure your fans won’t be waiting for your next album for so long!
Oh! They won’t wait that long!