are without-a-doubt one of the most promising young bands in thrash metal today. I’ve written about these Norwich thrashers several times before the band signed with Candlelight Records
last year and several times since – including an in depth piece that was posted just the other day.
Recently I sent the band a few questions regarding everything from the band’s beginnings; their debut album, The Virus Conspires
and their future plans as a band. Being the outstanding gentleman he is, Shrapnel
guitarist Chris Martin
was kind enough to take the time out of his schedule to answer my questions resulting in what might be one of the best interviews ever to be published on this blog. Enjoy!
GLOBAL THRASH ASSAULT: Hey guys, thanks for taking some time out to answer a few questions for me today. I know you’re probably extremely busy as of late especially since releasing The Virus Conspires just a few months back.
CHRIS MARTIN: No problem at all!
Before we talk about your most recent release lets go back to the beginning real quick. How did it all begin for Shrapnel? What made you guys decide to start this band?
It all came together pretty quickly through speaking to each other online and through friends etc. Norwich is a small place so we had either been around each others previous bands or known one another from school or through other people. We just got together to play some Kill ’em All style thrash for fun to begin with, nothing too serious.
Listening to your music I’m blown away by the sheer power of it. Every aspect of this band is uncompromisingly heavy. Clearly the music is rooted in thrash but it’s quite evident there is more influencing you guys than just thrash metal. What are some of your influences as a band and how do you go about tying them all together to create that brutal Shrapnel sound?
Thrash is definitely where it all starts and stems from but your music tastes are pretty varied. Nath and Jae are very much into their death metal and Jae also has a lot of black metal in his collection so different ideas pop up in the writing process and if it works it works.
Shrapnel released two EPs prior to The Virus Conspires – 2009’s No Saviours and 2010’s The Devastation to Come. Both albums are great and were well received by fans but there is clearly a difference in sound on these two releases. I know it was a while ago but can you talk a little about the writing/recording process for these two albums and how they may or may not have differed from each other?
The No Saviours EP was purely for fun, we got together and wrote a few tracks, played a couple of shows and thought it would be a fun weekend to get into a local studio. The reaction to it kind of took up by surprise to be honest. We got a show with Sepultura and into a competition to play Bloodstock which we won in 2010. We had to take a look at the second EP and decide how serious we were going to take it. We’re not really into doing things by half measures, it’s either full on or not at all so when we decided to do the Devastation EP we went as high as we could go. Luckily Russ Russell was on board to record it and with a bit of saving and taking a few risks we managed to swing the session and get it done. It was a big learning experience for us because we didn’t have a clue what we were doing before we went in with Russ, we were disorganised, material wasn’t written properly and we had never done anything with that level of professionalism before. It was one of the most invaluable weeks/decisions we’ve made so far.
Following the release of your two EPs, Shrapnel went on to play a good amount of shows all over the UK. Are there any shows from this time period that stand out? Are there any stories that you can share with us?
Playing with Sacred Reich and Death Angel within the space of a week was great. Being able to support Suicidal Tendencies at the Electric Ballroom was both amazing and terrifying as it was the first show with Simon on drums and we had not had much time to get him rehearsed haha. We just about scraped through that one.
Shifting gears to the present now, last year you guys signed a deal with Candlelight Records. How did this “marriage” come to be? Did you approach the label or did Candlelight come to you? Shrapnel were pretty successful as an unsigned band, keeping that in mind, what made you guys decide to sign with a label?
Dom Lawson helped us a lot with the deal, he passed the album on and they jumped at it. We wanted to play festivals and bigger shows and there’s a wall 99% of unsigned bands hit. It’s difficult to be taken seriously or get that certain recognition without a label which is a shame. We were doing some amazing shows but it was the tour packages and festival dates that were eluding us and getting the deal with Candlelight instantly opened more doors for us.
Let’s talk about Russ Russel. The man is a legend who has produced albums for bands like Evile and Napalm Death and so many more. He was behind the controls of The Devastation To Come EP and did one hell of a job. The man also produced your debut full length, The Virus Conspires. What was it like to work with such a legendary producer? What does he bring to the table and how did working with someone as experienced as Russell benefit Shrapnel’s sound?
We were in the studio recording the album for a month and it’s going to be a tough month to top haha. It was hard work getting everything done right but Russ is a machine, he works tirelessly from stupid o’clock in the morning until dickhead o’clock the next day. He knows what he’s after and we couldn’t be happier with the result.
Let’s talk about The Virus Conspires now. The album is Shrapnel’s first full length and is without doubt the band’s most powerful and blistering release yet. Talk a little about the writing process for this album. Did you approach writing this album any differently than you previous releases?
Only that we knew it had to be better than anything we had done before. We learnt a lot from Russ in the EP session and we put it all into practice on this one. Nath writes most of the music with myself and Jae writing the lyrics. Most of the songs would come into the rehearsal space in bits or as almost finished demos and then be trimmed, fixed and jammed out until it was ready to demo properly. When we went into the studio for the album 98% of it was finished and there were edits and changes we made as the recording went along. It was a lot easier than the EP in that respect.
The lyrics on The Virus Conspires deal with a lot of real world topics such as war, religion, politics and corruption. How have the times we live in impacted Shrapnel as a band? Do these crazy and sometimes dark times drive you to write heavier and more aggressive music?
It hard not to write songs about the financial crisis. It’s been one of the most prominent news stories of the last 5-10 years plus, so it just makes sense. We try to vary the topics as much as possible though. Nath is studying history and the Red Terror was something that he was studyding at the time that song was written. A lot of the material starts off with an idea I will scribble out when I’m pissed off. Kingdom Come and Braindead for instance were pen to paper rants about Westboro Baptist Church and reality TV show like ‘The Only Was Is Essex’ respectively.
2014 has been a big year for Shrapnel. The Virus Conspires was released in February and immediately following the album’s release you guys played several huge shows including an appearance at Hammerfest and Thrashasaures and you guys even supported Overkill and Xentrix on a short UK run. Have you guys taken a moment to let it all sink in yet? What’s 2014 been like for you guys?
We’ve had a bit of time to yeah. Nath and his partner had a son born in April so after the tour he was home with his family and we all got a little bit of rest, catch our breaths and plan for the rest of the year. It’s been a great year so far and we’re planning a lot for the end of the year and then have a really busy year next year.
The Virus Conspires is less than a year old and Shrapnel is a young and hungry band, so what’s next? Do you guys have any upcoming plans you can let us in on? Is it too soon to be talking about another Shrapnel album?
We started working with Factory Music as a booking agent in April and have been working with them to book up as much as we can for the foreseeable future. There’s a tour announcement coming next week I believe which we’re excited about and we also have a few others on the horizon that we’re awaiting confirmation for. When we’re not playing we’re going to be working on the next album.
What are you long term goals and aspirations as a band?
Play as much as we can, hopefully get out and see some of the world while we are at it.
I recently picked up the Metal Hammer thrash metal special issue. I was flipping though and I saw Shrapnel was a featured band. What was the band’s reaction when you were asked to be featured? It’s quite an issue.
It’s great! Being in the same list as some of those other new bands is insane for us. I’m a huge Vektor fan and to be they’re just miles ahead of us so yeah, to be in the same ‘ones to watch’ list is massive. To be included in a thrash special though was crazy.
I can’t let you guys go without asking you about the UK thrash metal scene. Shrapnel is a part of a scene that is, at least in my opinion, one of the best in the world today. What’s it like to be a part of such a vibrant thrash metal scene? How has coming from a scene like the one in the UK benefited Shrapnel? Are there any bands we should be listening to?
There are some amazing thrash bands here and some that deserve WAY more attention than they get. Local boys to us Killer Hurts and Kemakil should be on a list to check out for sure. Crypsis, Eradikator ahh there’s loads. It has helped us a lot, Full Thrash Assault was one of our first major outings in the UK and it gave us the drive to get out and cover more cities in the UK. Being from Norwich you’re kind of isolated to a lot of it. Not many bands come here so if you wanted to go see the underground bands you had to head out to Birmingham, London, Nottingham, Manchester etc. It wasn’t until FTA we got to go out and play with other bands and really get to see how thriving the thrash scene was here.
Guys, thanks so much for the killer interview. Congratulations on all your success and I know I’m not the only one out there who is looking forward to the future of Shrapnel. Is there anything you’d like to say before we part ways?
Cheers for the questions and for Global Thrash Assault! I’ve found a bunch of cool bands through the daily dose so keep em coming and thanks again for thinking of us!