author GR date 10/02/10

British thrashers Evile, as I'm sure most of you will be aware, have had a tough time over the last few months. Releasing their highly anticipated second album "Infected Nations" in September last year, bassist and all-round nice bloke Mike Alexander tragically passed away whilst on tour in Sweden. Since then messages of condolence and support have flooded in from around the globe and the band held two memorial shows, along with a very metal raffle, to raise money for Mike's family and celebrate his life. Not wanting to waste what they and Mike had worked so hard at, the band decided to carry on and recently announced the addition of new bassist Joel Graham. With the UK leg of the 'Infecting Nations' tour in full swing, I caught up with vocalist/guitarist Matt Drake and new boy Joel before their performance in London. With this being my first interview for Rockfreaks.net, it was great to chat to a band I've seen live many times over the past few years - hope you enjoy!

RF.net: Hey guys, how's the tour going so far? You've had a fair few dates already.
Matt: Yeah, it's going really well. Attendance has been good, surprisingly good actually, more than I thought it would be. It's our first time doing this many shows in a row and I've never sung more than an hour a night, [doing it] like 30 times, it's ridiculous but it's going well. Everyone's a good laugh, the bands are nice, everyone gets on well, it's good.

RF.net: I've seen you quite a few times and the London shows are always pretty good. Have any of the other shows so far been particularly good, that London needs to live up to tonight?
Joel: Bristol last night. Bristol was really good, yeah. I dunno, for some reason you just have an impression of somewhere before you get there, by looking at the venue or things like that. But yeah, Bristol was really good. There haven't really been any bad shows, they've all been good.

Matt: Nottingham was quite surprising, it was a week night and Nottingham's usually quite quiet, whenever we've been there before there's not many people but I've enjoyed that the most so far I think. It's been really really good. But London's always the metal hub, it's always the most the most mental but as long as I don't get mic'd in the face I'm not bothered (laughs). But yeah, I can't wait.

RF.net: I read that all the bands [on the tour - Evile + Warbringer + The Fading] are sharing a bus, has that been fun so far?
Matt: Yeah, it's great. Everyone's getting on really well, there's no dickheads. Everyone's respected each other's space.

RF.net: Haven't had to lay down any rules then?

Matt: No, none of that at all. Everyone's just got together and watched a film or had a chat.

Joel: Potentially it could be a disaster, all you'd need is two conflicting people, y'know? But it's been great, the guys in Warbringer are great, the guys in The Fading are great. Yeah, perfect.

RF.net: After this you're going to Europe, then touring [America] with Kreator, then [Europe with] Overkill. Is it surreal that you're touring with your heroes?
Matt: Ever since we did the Megadeth tour... that was completely surreal. Watching Megadeth every night for free was really weird, then Dave Mustaine walking past the dressing room, just going "Alright"...(in a disbelieving voice)"Alright". Ever since that nothing has fazed me when it comes to big bands, because that's Megadeth.

RF.net: They say you shouldn't meet your heroes...

Matt: In some ways Dave Mustaine is someone you should meet because he's fucking brilliant. He was really nice, he was hilarious, really good. Exodus were good as well, really nice and helpful. But as far as Kreator and Overkill go... we've met Bobby Blitz [Overkill vocalist] before and he was ridiculously polite and nice to us; "Oh hello"..."Hi Bobby" (laughs). But I can't wait to finally get to America, we've been waiting so long to get there it's about time we actually got over.

RF.net: So just Anthrax, Slayer then Metallica and you'll have played with them all!

Matt: Yeah just those last few...and Girls Aloud!

RF.net: This is the first tour with the new line=up, how are you settling in, Joel?
Joel: [With Matt jokingly holding him at gun point with his fingers] Good thanks. It helps that the guys in the band are so cool - it is a big, big deal you know, for the band, everybody that surrounds the band and people like that and...err...I'll shut up (laughs). No, it's cool but it is always there in the back of my mind - what the situation is - but my role is just to keep this band going, to get in there and do the best I can every night, enjoy the band and keep everyone enjoying the band.

RF.net: Have you had a good reaction from the fans so far?

Joel: Great, yeah. Everyone has been really, really cool and supportive.

Matt: Everyone has been supportive and welcoming to Joel which is really good. The only kind of person who wouldn't be supportive of the situation must be the most miserable bastard on the planet because it's not like we've done it by choice, it's not like we've fired him [Mike] and got Joel instead. I can't imagine the kind of person who would say to Joel "Oh it's the not the same since Mike". I guess after a bit of time has passed, when the sensitivity has died down people might start coming out with shit like that...but everyone's been ace. Apart from one fuck who sent me an email and I want to punch out if I ever see him...

RF.net: I guess with the internet people say things they would never face-to-face.

Matt: Yeah, people forget and say things they shouldn't.

Joel: It's easy to hide behind a computer screen isn't it? I mean, I'd understand if anybody did that, if their favourite band has changed... but some things in life change. I can take it on the chin.

RF.net: From my point of view as a fan, it is going to be a bit weird seeing you guys play with a new member. I guess it's just something you're having to deal with day-to-day?
Matt: Pretty much - there's no choice as that's just the way it is. It was either give up - which would be stupid as we only knew Mike because of the band, so if we had given up it would have been giving up on our friendship really. He built this with us so why stop? It would have been a waste, so we've carried on.

RF.net: The response [to Mike's death] has probably been overwhelming [for you]. On a personal level has that helped you to deal with it?
Matt: Definitely. The amount of support we've had is tremendous. When it first happened, the amount of messages we got from people was ridiculous, there were so many people that shared their thoughts it was impossible to not be overwhelmed by it. It helped me personally to look back at what we'd done over the past so many years and feel really happy. Obviously cut up about what happened, but more than anything happy with what we achieved together. He was the kind of personality you can't forget as well and he was happy about everything we'd done. I consider myself getting past it... although you can't time how long you're supposed to take with these things, I'm looking forward to the future, to see what we can do with Joel. It wasn't a choice, just something we had to do and not every band goes through it so it's just really unlucky I guess. Everyone says that metal is like one big family and that did get through, with everyone being really supportive.

RF.net: I was here for the memorial gig, did those go well for you guys? Did you feel they were a fitting tribute to Mike?
Matt: Oh yes, completely, they were so well done. Ol [Drake, lead guitar] is the one to thank as he arranged most of it, put everything together and made it work. It was good because the funeral was with his family who are quite religious, but Mike wasn't, so they had a family celebration and the funeral so we wanted to do something how we knew him - which was just to be ridiculously metal, get some bands together, get everyone drinking, play some music and shake hands with everyone - that's what we did and it went perfect. The Leeds one was more personal because Mike's mum turned up and she got on stage and said a few words after the bands had played, as soon as she started speaking everyone was just tears everywhere. I think I was stood on stage smiling as she was talking because I was really happy she'd got up to say something, really happy she was doing it. Everyone was crying and I couldn't believe the amount of support being passed up to Mike's mum. The London one was slightly less personal, more of a fun kinda vibe. Well, you were there so you know, everyone just had a good time.

RF.net: Yeah, my memory of that night is a bit...hazy.

Matt: I think a lot of people's is (laughs). It was perfect.

RF.net: A lot of things have happened since the release of "Infected Nations". Have you had time to reflect on it and are you proud of what you did and happy with the way it turned out?
Matt: Completely proud. Well, personally there are two tracks that I wouldn't have put on the album, but it wasn't down to me it was a group choice, but I'm really proud.

RF.net: Do you end up having favourites tracks from the album?

Matt: I do, yeah. Mine is Metamorphosis, which I think is by far the best thing we've ever done, it's just an actual song that has a start, middle and finish and it flows so well. I think it's a good album, it's not "Enter The Grave" part 2, which is what we planned as we did not want to do the same album again - we never want to do the same album again, it's always going to be different. I think we came blasting out to show people we can think about what we do and do something that's not your typical "retro thrash".

RF.net: Have you been quite aware, then, of the whole 'thrash revival' thing?

Matt: Very aware.

RF.net: So before you'd even written any songs, did you say 'we're going to try to sound different to last time'?

Matt: Oh yes. We knew we were going to - we'd get bored shitless if we wrote the same album again and again. There'd be no point in doing it because we're not challenging ourselves, not challenging the people listening to it. We knew it'd split people when we were recording it. Ol reckoned he just knew the people who would be disappointed because they wanted "Enter The Grave" part 2 and the people that would listen to it and go "ahh this is different, they're trying new things, I see where they're going with it, they're trying this time". Perhaps some people that were not going to like it but it's grown on them a while and they go "I get this now"...that's happened a lot, it's grown on a lot of people. One guy came to me and said "I've got your new album and it's shit, really really shit" but two weeks later he came back and said "all I've done is listen to your album, it's amazing" and it had completely grown on him. A lot of people didn't know what to make of it at first but then went "yeah".

RF.net: he first album was compared to Slayer and "Infected Nations" has been compared to Sepultura quite a lot...
Matt: I don't get that - I think it's because my voice slips into a Cavalera thing maybe twice on "Infected Nations" and that's it. I get no Sepultura in it at all, I just don't really hear it to be honest with you, I think we've been quite successful in getting an Evile sound which sounds separate. It doesn't sound like Slayer, doesn't sound like Metallica or other bands. There are bits where you can say it sounds like Cavalera but that's my fault, I haven't quite figured out my own sound yet.

RF.net: I saw the video of you guys going the Dimebag tribute, on which you did some 'proper' singing. Is that something that you might try on the next album or in the future?

Matt: I don't know. If we did, it would have to be very carefully done because we'd just come across as cheesy bastards otherwise. That's why the "Cemetery Gates" thing is a perfect example of a band using their talents wisely. That song could've gone so wrong and come across as a complete cheese-fest but it was completely heartfelt and worked on so many levels. You cannot say it's a bad song because he 'sang like a poof' or anything, he sang perfect on that track. If we could maybe strike that balance - and I'm not sure we could as I don't think I'm that good - but I doubt it. I'd like to but I doubt it'd work. Not yet anyway, maybe 50 years down the line but for now I don't think it's quite us.

RF.net: Joel, you didn't have much time to learn the set...
Joel: No, barely any.

RF.net: Were you a fan of the guys beforehand?

Joel: Yeah, we come from roughly the same area so I've always been aware of what they've been up to, even prior to them getting signed, I'd caught a couple of shows. So I've always had a interest in them and I'm also a big fan of the band, so everything they did I've stood on the sides and watched it develop. As Matt was explaining about "Infected Nations" there, I was of the same feeling: When I heard "Enter The Grave" I thought they'd made a good album but personally not something I'd rush out and buy. But when I heard "infected Nations" I thought these guys have really jumped from here to here in such a short space of time and that really impressed me. The risk taking they do as well, that really appeals to me.

Matt: Do you mean that?

Joel: Yeah, you guys could have been comfortable where you were and just rely on that.

RF.net: I guess you were aware of offering something different to the myriad of thrash bands out there?

Matt: Yes. I think "Infected Nations" was a brave move as "Enter The Gave" is what we're known for and "Infected Nations" is nothing like "Enter The Grave".

RF.net: At this point do you have any long term vision, are you thinking towards another album? Do you write songs on tour?
Matt: The tour is the most important thing right now, getting Joel and us like that [meshes hands together], we're getting there. We're keeping it going, getting the songs locked in and playing the right bits. We don't really have the time while we're playing to write much as there are always things to do like interviews. I don't think we'd work well like that as me and Ol do the bulk of the writing and we work better just sat in a room at home, bouncing idea off each other and trying to push it. We work so slow that we just take our time with it. I'm looking forward to it though, we start writing in the summer, as soon as we get back from America. We already know what the album title is and we already know what the artwork is going to be. We've got it in our heads and know exactly what we want to do...but I'm not telling you (laughs), until at least next year. We know what we're aiming for loosely. We took from "Enter The Grave" what worked and what didn't work, got rid of that, put it in "Infected Nations" with bits we wanted to try new. I'm fully aware of what worked and what didn't on "Infected Nations", so we're gonna have to see what we want to do next time, with bits that worked from that and aim for progression. We plan quite far ahead with stuff like that.

RF.net: The lyrical matter and what the songs were about jumped from Rambo and Jaws to more serious stuff. Are you going to be continuing with the more serious style?
Matt: Definitely. I was so proud of some of the "'Nations" stuff.

RF.net: I particularly like the lyrics from "Genocide" and what you did with that.

Matt: That came about quite weird. Ol always wanted - I don't know why - to do a song called genocide. I said to him I don't want to write about genocide, I don't want to do it.

RF.net: Kinda clichéd for a metal band...

Matt: Yeah and it's a horrible subject. Why would you want to? There's nothing you can say about it that hasn't already been said by history and you can't go out and stop it with a song. It was just...difficult, so I thought, "OK I'll humour you, I'll have a go" and started doing some research. As I was looking into it, it was just so horrible I knew I didn't want to write about it, so decided I'll write down what I think about it. The more I read about it the more it felt like I was sinking in this horrible depth of information, so I wrote how it felt for me to be reading about all these things - that's how it came about. "Time No More" is a personal one, that's about me having ridiculously low confidence levels. "Metamorphosis", now - with what has happened over the last few months - rings very true to me as that's about a band changing and now we've completely changed so it's more relevant than ever. I want to learn how to do more vague, double meanings, more metaphorical lyrics as I really love that kind of stuff, and actual writing - not just war/death/kill/blood/sharks/yeah/woo! I want to do something you can actually think about and might come to you later on down the line - like, for years I didn't know "Master of Puppets" was about drugs, I never knew that until I thought about it. I want to make it interesting and worth reading. "'Nations" was a bit depressing though and I don't want to do anything like that again - "the country's in trouble, it's going shit" was the point of it really and I want to do other, more imaginative things.

RF.net: Any songs you're particularly looking forward to performing? Are there ones that transfer from record to live better for you guys, or ones that you know will get the best reaction?
Joel: For me everything's still that new, I have a different favourite song every night. As soon as I'm getting comfortable with this song, the next night is different. It's just about taking it all in and enjoying it all each night and so far so good. I love playing stuff from "Infected", there's some really nice big riffs there - when you see everybody calm down for that spilt-second and start grooving with it, then going fucking mental again, it's great.

Matt: I wish we could have played more, we had such a short time to put it together but we picked probably the most pleasing songs. No the easiest but the ones that will get a good reaction. I would have loved to play "Genocide" or "Metamorphosis" but we didn't have the time to put them together as a band, for all of us to get back into them so went for the ones we could remember easier. It's a good set though, they're all fun to play live, none that make me go "oh no not this one", apart from maybe...no I'll not go into that (laughs). I can't wait for further down the line to do the ones that mean more to us, personally. Probably sort that out for festivals.

RF.net: You're playing Wacken this year aren't you? I'll be there.

Matt: Yeah, I can't wait. I think we're on the W.E.T. stage

RF.net: That's the tent.

Matt: Quite a big fucking tent though!

Joel: At least a five man-er (laughs).

Matt: We've always wanted to do Wacken, it's about time. It's all happeing this year, all at once. It's a whirlwind - as Warbringer would say, we're 'living in a whirlwind'.

RF.net: OK, thanks for your time, any final message for our readers?
Matt: Actually yes, a serious one - just bear with us while we sort ourselves out, that's all I can say. We've had a setback or two but just stick with us while we get back into it and thanks to all the people who already have looked at it that way.

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