Kurt Vile & the Violators
Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN - 5/12
Bring Me The HorizonPrevious Next
author AP date 11/02/11
For better or worse, Bring Me The Horizon is one of the hottest names in the British metal scene today. Marred by negative press, naysayers and controversy, the band has always divided the masses: you either love them, or you hate them. And while I must admit to belonging with the latter group at first, five live performances and two fantastic albums have reduced my skepticism to such an extent that now you'll often see me defending the band against those sickened by their image and commercial success. In any case, in order to set the record straight about stuff regarding the band's colorful history, I decided it would be a good idea to sit down with the band for an extensive interview chronicling their journey from humble beginnings to scene stardom. I hope you'll find it as informative and entertaining as I did.
Lee: I’m Lee. I play guitar.
Lee: You knew Oli and I knew the other guitarist (Curtis Ward, departed in 2009, ed.). We started talking and decided to start the band.
Lee: Playing shows and touring and stuff...
RF.net: You didn’t have a whole lot to tour with, there was just...
Matt: ...four songs! We toured on four songs.
RF.net: Were you able to do that when you were headlining; four song sets?
Lee: We probably shouldn’t have.
RF.net: That’s pretty impressive. So is it safe to assume that you guys began as a kind-of local act, playing gigs in shady local pubs and basements?
Matt: I wouldn’t say we were so much local, but we were that kind of band. We played heavy shit, y’know what I mean? But we weren’t really local, we like...
Lee: We’d play anywhere, because, we’d just started. But we’d go and play a 4-hour drive away to get our name out.
RF.net: Do you guys remember how your first show was?
Matt: Yeah, great.
Matt: We played in Rotherham, which is where Lee and I grew up, in the basement of a pub, and all our friends were there. We played, I think, 3 songs and then made one song up on the spot.
RF.net: Was that the famous “Metal Song”?
Matt: No, no. It were just like some slow song we’d practised a couple of times, but we didn’t really have a structure for a song. But we thought we’d just go with it... take it for a walk.
Lee: None of us had.
Matt: ...no. We didn’t know what we were doing. My drums were fucking shit, sounded like crap, the cymbals were rubbish... it were proper sketchy and that, but it were fun.
RF.net: RF: When that EP was released did you ever imagine that you would end up where you are today; one of the biggest contemporary metal bands in the UK?
Lee: We always say that we didn’t have any expectations. We weren’t out to get big.
Matt: Yeah, we got no aspirations... well, we had no aspirations for this band when we started. I think we were bored, y’know? We were going to these shows and had nothing else to do. I just wanted to be in a band. We’d go and see bands and see kids going mental and we’d just be like “I wanna do that”. So I guess that’s it; that’s what started it, ‘cause we were just bored and that’s all we had.
Lee: We wrote that CD a lot faster. We didn’t have much time to write it. When we wrote it, we were obviously into it, but when we look back at it now there’s so much that could have been better. ‘Spose we were seventeen years old and we were doing an album so we were doing whatever [we felt like, ed.].
Matt: Pretty sure we wrote three songs in two days because we had a deadline coming up for when we had to go into the studio, so we just had to get whatever out. I don’t know, it were pretty rushed and that, but, it’s alright. Some of it it still sounds good to me. I mean, some of it sounds a bit sketchy but I like some of it.
RF.net: So what made you decide to sign with Visible Noise? Was it just an opportunity that came up?
Matt: Yeah, it was just the first label that came up and we were like “wow”! They had bands like Lostprophets and Bullet for my Valentine.
Lee: We never thought we’d get signed, so like, the offer was quite good. I don’t think anyone else wanted us.
Lee: I think it’s because that genre of music was quite big in America at the time, and all the bands we were listening to were American, whereas in England it wasn’t big at all. So as we wrote it, kids started hearing all these American bands in England and we were doing that sort of sound in England, so I think it was the right place at the right time. We weren’t doing it because we thought it would be the next big thing.
Matt: It was what we were into. When we started playing shows, we’d stick out on bills because there weren’t a scene for that sort of thing. We were playing these shows with, like, straight-edge hardcore bands from Belgium, or something like that. It was just weird, we stuck out, y’know what I mean? That was all we could do, but then that whole metalcore thing just took off, didn’t it, and there was a scene. I think we were one of the first bands doing that sort of thing.
Matt: When it happened it were big.
Lee: The only way people know about it now is when interviewers bring it up [oops, ed.], so we’d rather like...
RF.net: No, I get it. Nonetheless, in Denmark at least, people view your band as quite a controversial band, not necessarily because of those rumours but also because of the stage shows.
Matt: I think a lot of people do. When we were coming up like, when we were in our early 20s, we were little shits. Y’know what I mean?
Lee: We were seventeen years old...
Matt: ...on the tour bus, drinking free beer...
Lee: ... going mental.
Matt: What seventeen / eighteen year old didn’t used to do it though; grab it with both hands and go “fucking yeah”, know what I mean? We were going mental.
Lee: Not to the scale that he [Oli, ed.] was accused of. That didn’t happen. But like, we were just doing what everyone else did. When people go out and do it on a weekend... we just had that every day. We were probably off the rails but we were seventeen years old...
Matt: ...on the tour bus with loads of our friends. We were taking our friends because we never had a crew. We just made our friends do everything. Some people just came along for fun. So we were taking our friends, getting paid, getting free beer and we were just like “fuck it”, know what I mean?
RF.net: Did that ever have an effect on your performance?
Matt: Yeah! We were going on stage hammered. Just getting pissed up and playing like shit.
Lee: Because I think, back then, we never thought we were actually going to be liked; it was just “do it while we can”. We didn’t have a care in the world. Then, when we kind of realised that it was getting serious, we stopped drinking before playing.
Matt: We’ve had the odd moments when we were gone to watch football or something in the day and got drunk before playing, but now we’re a professional band. Back then we were just some kids having a laugh but now it’s on a massive global scale.
RF.net: So did any of that negative press ever get to you?
Matt: You can’t let it get to you. If we’d let any of it get to us, we wouldn’t be a band.
Lee: We knew what were true. People can lie about us and say what they want, nobody can stop that.
Matt: At the end of the day, people believe what they want anyway.
Matt: I guess we’re perfectionists, we don’t wanna play shit.
Lee: We never settle, sort of thing.
Matt: There’s always bits where we’ll write it and then think... "hmm". We kind of write songs bit by bit. We go through a lot of: liking a part and writing another part and not liking that and scrapping that and then eventually coming back the next day and scrapping the whole song. It’s just hard: hard work, stressful, a hard time. It turned out good though.
Lee: It’s weird though, because we were all super stoked on it thinking “this is next level” compared to what we’d done, but you don’t know whether you’re just biased. So when people started saying it’s your best playing yet, we thought it’s actually pretty good.
RF.net: Obviously that sudden success made you one of the hottest bands in the UK and gave you a much bigger following and enabled you to play bigger venues and longer sets, so how did it feel to have grown into a band that had such a dedicated and huge following?
Lee: It wasn’t sudden though. We’d been touring for like three years straight, four years straight, before that, so we’d worked for it. We just needed to come out with that album and, when we did it, it kind of redefined us. It wasn’t like a sudden: like we did that and then everyone liked us.
RF.net: But, arguably, it got the attention of a different crowd.
Lee: Yeah, I suppose.
Matt: Well, we were just surrounded by negative attention and then we’d done something good. I think people were surprised. It definitely weren’t sudden though because, like you say, we’d pretty much been touring since our first show. We just played lots and lots. I don’t think it’s been sudden at all, we worked for it.
Lee: For a year or so.
Matt: He never wrote anything on a CD. I mean, Lee wrote pretty much all of “Suicide Season”. I think Curtis wrote like two riffs or something, didn’t he?
Matt: He just didn’t have any input. We’d go on tour and everyone would have days off and would make plans and stuff and would go out and have fun or whatever and he just didn’t seem like he were part of “us”, y’know what I mean?
Lee: Some people can tour and some people hate it, and he hated touring. When you’re on tour, the best part of the day is playing a show, and, to him, going out and playing a show was like “fucking hell, do I have to go play?”. You’re kind of in the wrong job if you hate playing.
Matt: He enjoyed the attention we were getting, from being in the band, in money. We weren’t making a lot of money but we were making enough to not have a normal job. So, in the end he got too comfortable and we started taking notice that him and Lee fell out a lot. Like, even on stage, they’d have arguments and stuff. It just got next level, didn’t it? Eventually, we all got drunk one night, and then shit hit the fan. We all had a big argument and, the next day, us all got together and had a talk and decided to kick him out. And the thing is he didn’t even cry; he just sat there and took it because he didn’t care. Like we were saying, he didn’t give a fuck, his heart weren’t in it so... I guess, in the end, we did him a favour. He wanted to go. He wanted to be with his girlfriend and just... “why don’t you just go and fucking do it, just do it, see ya later”.
Lee: We’d had a few [stand-ins, ed.] though, before that.
Matt: Our friend Kev filled in.
Lee: He did Japan, Australia...
Matt: Our friend Robbie played Canada and our friend Dean, who’s our guitar tech, filled in on everything else. Dean helped us out a lot. Jona only came about from, I guess, the demise of I Killed the Prom Queen.
Lee: He were like a perfect candidate sort of thing. He came about at the right time.
Matt: Yeah, I think he got in touch with Oli, and I think he said he weren’t having a good time in Bleeding Through and he wanted to leave and stuff. He said he was like a fill in so... we tried him out. We already knew he was a good guitar player and that he’s a right cool dude and stuff, so we got on great.
RF.net: He’s a full time member now, but before that, like you just said, he had a bit of a history of joining and quitting bands on very short notice. Did that ever worry you?
Lee: He was in Bleeding Through for two years, so like...
Matt: And he seemed stoked by our band. I don’t know how he were, but he seemed right into it, our ideas; he thought it were pretty cool.
Lee: We’d known him well for years. Our first ever bus tour, we toured with Prom Queen and shared a bus with him so he was like a good friend already. He wasn’t happy living in America. It was the same for him; there wasn’t any point in being in Bleeding Through if he wasn’t that into it. It’s not like he quit them for us. He’d quit and then he found out...
Matt: It was just circumstance.
Lee: I suppose, to him, it were an opportunity... too good to be missed.
Matt: He fits perfectly though.
RF.net: He’s settled in well in England? He’s from Australia right?
Lee: He, like, lives between Australia and England.
Matt: And Norway, because his girlfriend is from Norway, so most times he’s there. But if he’s in England he just crashes on sofas and stuff.
RF.net: So what effect did having a new member have on the writing process for this new album?
Matt: Brilliant, because we were writing with someone actually much more...
Lee: It were like a new energy. The old guitarist... there’s no way I could sit in a room with him and write. I’d just wanna punch him. It’s having someone there that you can bounce ideas off and stuff. Still, the majority of the album me and Oli wrote. But it was his first album with us, and he had really good ideas, like, structurally. He does a lot of other stuff. He gets a lot of merch designs, and does a lot of the bigger things.
Matt: He’s good at networking and all that shit.
Lee: It’s just weird having someone there who wants to be there.
Matt: There were three more songs without vocals on.
Lee: So he got really stressed about it; he felt like he’d not done his job or whatever. He eventually got it done and it turned out better.
Matt: It were good because we got to do a lot more stuff that we wouldn’t have got to do without the extra time: a little more production and so on. So yeah, it turned out good that we did delay it but, y’know, it were hard in the studio.
Lee: I live with a friend.
Matt: Yeah, Lee lives with another friend. So it’s cool; we’re always hanging out.
RF.net: You also have your rehearsal space there right?
Matt: No, that’s at Oli’s... Oli owns a clothing label [Drop Dead, ed.] and that’s there, but it’s literally a two minute walk.
RF.net: So how does living under one roof and hanging out with each other every day affect the band?
Matt: We’re all friends, y’know what I mean? Some bands are a band on tour but then they’ll come off tour and they’ll all live in separate cities.
RF.net: Like Metallica or something...
Matt: Yeah, like loads of bands but we’re just mates.
RF.net: It must also be nice to have a two minute walk to your rehearsal space so if you just come up with something...
Matt: There’s a good sandwich shop on the way as well!
Lee: We had that as something to build on. When we were writing Suicide Season, we totally wanted to start again, but this time we had our basic sound to build on, so I was easier in that way. We had a general sound going but we just thought “why can’t we go mental and have strings”.
Matt: What we didn’t want to do was write another Suicide Season. A lot of bands find a sound and then that’s it. We’re a band that want to progress. We want to grow as a band, musically, so that our song writing gets better and we want to be the best band we can be. Why shouldn’t we have stuff like that, mad strings. We just wanted to do something cool.
Lee: Like bands used to be. When you listen to Pink Floyd or even The Beatles and stuff, they’d write albums with a lot more instruments in than them four could use, but if it sounds better then why not?
Matt: If you do it live as well. We play to a metronome now so we can use the strings in our backing track. Why not?
RF.net: Did you ever consider having actual people playing those instruments on stage?
Lee: We’ve looked into it for the next UK tour but we don’t know how possible it would be financially.
Matt: I always say this CD is like the repercussions of everything we were singing about on our last CD. We were singing about getting pissed off and doing stupid shit. It had serious songs as well, but, this CD is a lot darker and Oli’s lyrics are a bit moodier and that. This album the repercussions of our lifestyle, just growing up and that.
RF.net: So what did you do differently when you were recording and what did you want to preserve from the old material?
Matt: I don’t know, I really don’t know.
Lee: Well we went back to the same producer because we loved how Suicide Season sounded.
RF.net: Frederick Nordström?
Lee: Yeah. We went straight back to work with him, so we were gonna have the same sound to start with. It’s simple stuff like the riffs: we do certain things that sound the same way. It’s things like that that give it our sound, and the way Oli shouts, and the way we don’t just have singing on choruses all the time.
Lee: You never think you’re gonna play Wembley Arena.
RF.net: Do you see yourselves headlining there someday?
Matt: I don’t know. It would be nice but...
Lee: Maybe in a few years...
Matt: Let’s just see what happens. But it would be cool.
RF.net: But at that concert, I mean, they pulled the plug on you right?
RF.net: I’m not completely sure why it was, but, again there were some rumours about it, and one of them was that it was too extreme and that kids were getting out of control...
Matt: That’s pretty much it, yeah. At the start of the tour we were told: “you can’t climb on anything, you can’t go near the crowd and you can’t tell the crowd to, like, mosh or, like, move”, and that’s like basically telling us you can’t play a good show. So basically, in London, they said “don’t do any of that shit” and we “alright, alright” and I think Oli was just getting ‘em riled up. We were into a mad show and they were all getting riled up and they sent in the fire chief. He said to us twice “stop it”, while we were playing. Then I get on the last song, and then...
Lee: Apparently it was because he did this with his hands [parting action, ed.], which means the crowd opened up.
Matt: And then they just pulled the plug. At first, they just turned the house lights on... and I could see everything, so I just thought “this is fucking cool”, and then he turned the sound off. These guys stopped playing but I carried on playing my drums. I was gonna carry on and finish the song but I lost it and thought “fuck it” and walked off and everyone just got angrier.
Lee: Apparently, it couldn’t have ended better. At first we were really pissed off, but at least it’s something to write about! It was maybe cooler. It kind of keeps up the thing that...
Matt: We’re a controversial band!
Lee: Even though we didn’t really do it ourselves.
RF.net: Do you think that some people might take that as a sign that maybe the mainstream isn’t ready for a band of your style?
Lee: I don't know, but it’s kind of cool...
Matt: I like that. I like being seen as a “dangerous” band. That’s cool!
RF.net: Kind of like The Chariot or something...
Matt: Yeah, it’s like NWA [Niggaz With Attitude, ed.] but metalcore.
Lee: And not as good?
Lee: We’ll play it again, it’s just at the moment we wanna play...
RF.net: It’s not like you’ve buried it or anything?
Matt: Yeah, it still exists!
RF.net: It’s just not “in the now”.
Matt: I actually can’t play you... I could play you one song off "Count Your Blessings".
RF.net: Which one?
Matt: "Pray for Plagues". The rest of them I could probably get away with but we haven’t played them for years.
Lee: It’s so different now from anything... How that CD was created was so different, like we said, seventeen/eighteen year old kids just going spastic on instruments.
Matt: I knew, like, three beats. It was: fast, slow and really slow. And that’s pretty much all I could play. I was getting away with murder. It was like [claps monotonously, ed.]. It was like that for ages and then [virtually the same clap again, ed.].
RF.net: So do you feel like you’ve matured now that you’ve done this album?
Lee: Yeah, you don’t have to go mental to be a good band, like you don’t have to playing like the fastest man alive, trying to sweep pick...
Matt: Just whatever complements the riff. We’re not trying to show off or anything, you know how some bands just go fucking wild because they can, know what I mean? It’s like “Look what I can do” [impersonates an arpeggio, ed.] and then whatever...
RF.net: And then they can’t do much on stage.
Matt: But we’re not like that at all, we just want to write good music. Just a fucking extended beat or whatever. You don’t have to go mental.
Lee: Trying to find the groove.
Matt: Yeah. But sometimes I think people, when they get too mental, just forget that we’re actually trying to write a song here, not a big pile of shit, because most of the time if it’s that mental it’s shit.
Lee: It’s like art in a way. If you did a painting, and you did a regular painting, people aren’t going to be more impressed if you painted it very fast.
Matt: Take your time and do a sick painting.
Lee: Shouldn't paint it fast with, like, your toes.
Matt: We all grew up listening to different stuff. I was brought up on classic rock and motown and stuff like that. But it’s not like they influenced Bring Me the Horizon at all. We don’t have any major influences. I guess just going to shows what I’ve been to and seeing what these bands are doing. We never really said that we wanna sound like this band or that.
Lee: It was more American bands when we first started. Bands like Norma Jean and...
Matt: Poison the Well...
Lee: That was an influence for us when we first started, but nowadays we are influenced by anything that’s not metal.
Matt: From pop to hip-hop...
Matt: ...electro. There’s is some metal influences still but they’re not, like, our heroes. We do like heavy music and that but I think we’re a lot more open-minded than we were.
RF.net: Were there any albums that kind of opened your eyes and made you say “hey, I want to be a musician” or “I want to be in a band”?
Lee: I always wanted to play guitar. I used to be in a Metallica tribute band when I was about fourteen so that band made me want to play guitar.
Matt: I never really had any drum influences. I mean, I liked drummers but then I liked guitarists as well. I honestly think I got a drum kit because my parents got divorced. I think my dad just wanted to annoy my mum and he said “do you want a drum kit” and I went “yeah” and so I got my drum kit. I got it to my mum’s house and about two hours later I took it back to my dad’s house because the neighbours weren’t happy, but I honestly think that’s why I’m a drummer: because my dad wanted to annoy my mum.
Matt: Yeah, I think we are doing something that...
Lee: Filling a gap sort of thing. But we’re not the most original band ever or anything like that. We’re just doing something and trying to add a bit more to it. We’ll probably be remembered as the most hated band!
Matt: I think we have our own sound though. I don’t think there’s anyone who sounds quite like us. I think we are kind of unique.
Lee: But hopefully... We’ll see what the next CD’s like.
RF.net: When’s that coming out then?
Matt: Not for a long time!
RF.net: Do you have any festival plans for the summer?
Matt: Yeah we’re gonna do a lot of the European festivals. I don’t know which ones yet but that’s the plan.
Lee: A month’s worth.
RF.net: I think you’ll be surprised just how little the scene here actually is!
Matt: What do people listen to here? Because we came here and saw Turboweekend and it was huge and there were a lot of people there.
RF.net: Well that kind of music is pretty popular here, local pop and indie bands, that kind of stuff. Rock and metal... usually you’d be lucky, not Bring Me the Horizon because you’ve been around a while, but, say a newer band comes here, they would play a venue which might fit fifty people and they wouldn’t even sell that out because there just isn’t enough press and there isn’t enough promotion.
Matt: That sucks.