EVILE’S OL DRAKE. METALSUCKS’ AXL ROSENBERG. THE BASEMENT KITCHEN OF THE NOKIA THEATRE. A METALSUCKS INTERVIEW.
Although at first glance at this photo makes it appear as though Ol Drake is stroking a massive hard-on, that’s actually a garbage bin just behind him. Alas, he was not that excited to be speaking with Axl Rosenberg.
Whatever the hell it is we’re calling Evile’s particular metallica subgenre these days – retro thrash, rethrash, nu thrash, or just plain old motherfucking thrash – they’re one of the better bands playing it right now. Like only a handful of their peers, they really seem to “get” the music – and so while their roots as a Metallica cover band might show, it doesn’t really matter ’cause, well, who can think about that shit while headbanging so damn hard?
It’s been a tumultuous time for the band as of late – founding bassist Mike Alexander passed away in October of last year – but they’ve managed to persevere, and now find themselves doing pretty much the best first North American tour any non-American (in this case, British) band could hope for: playing support for Kreator along with Voivod, Nachtmystium, and Lazarus A.D. And as if that wasn’t enough, almost immediately thereafter they hit the road with Overkill. Sheesh.
Following the band’s gig here in New York last weekend, I got to speak with guitarist Ol Drake, who, despite his almost Heavy Metal Muppet-ish appearance, is a very cordial, soft-spoken gentleman. After the jump, get Ol’s thoughts on playing the States for the first time, why it’s taken them so damn long to get here, new bassist Joel Graham, the status of the next Evile record, and more.
Is this actually your first time being in America? You were never here on vacation or something like that?
Me and Mike [Alexander] came here awhile ago to do a bit of press – interviews and stuff. I think we were actually on a podcast with one of the MetalSucks guys.
Oh, yeah, yeah, with Vince – for Noisecreep, right?
Yes, that’s it, Noisecreep, yeah. It was great.
The tour has been going well, obviously?
Yeah. We’re still settling in, because it’s a bit different than in Europe. In Europe, it’s like a one hour drive to somewhere and everything’s fine. Here, it’s like five bands and a rush in and out, on and off stage. But it’s going really well.
I heard that they moved your set time up two hours tonite, and you didn’t find out until you got here?
To be honest I just didn’t… [laughs]… for me, it’s like “Alright, you’re good then? Okay, cool.”
You just show up and play when they tell you to play. Got. Are you finding that there is a major difference between European audiences and American audiences?
Yeah, but not in a bad way. One thing about here is that people are very appreciative. I think it’s because we’re English, and we’ve come all this way. People seem to appreciate that a lot. Like in Europe, the further south you go away from England… they appreciate you traveling that far. So I think that’s it – we’ve come a long way, so people appreciate it. A lot of people came up to me and said “Thank you so much for finally getting over here.” So, that’s probably it.
I know you guys said onstage that you tried to get her before, and that there’d been some hiccups. Can you tell me a little bit about those?
I’ll say there’s been about four, maybe five tours that we were confirmed for… and then a few weeks before they were supposed to start, [we’d get a call saying] “Oh, you’re not on the tour, by the way.” That happened so many times. I think it’s because we’ve never been here before. It was basically, you had to have been here to be able to come here. It was like, “How are we going to…?”
It’s a catch-22.
Right. So American bands got to do the tours instead of us. But we finally got here!
And you’re here with Kreator, and then you’re coming back with Overkill. I mean, of all the bands to play support for for your first American tours…
It’s not too shabby. [laughs] We even might have one in September with another… I don’t want to say [which band] because the last time I did, it just fell through. But yeah, another great tour hopefully.
And how’s it working out? Obviously everybody knows that you had to persevere in the face of losing Mike…
It’s all good. We got Joel [Graham], he’s learning all the songs and still trying to get back into the groove of being in a band.
This isn’t his first tour with you guys though, right?
No. Our last European tour was his first with us. This is his second one. He’s doing really well. We get along with him really well, so that’s the most important thing. He just happens to be a good bassist as well.
How did you guys hook up with him?
We held auditions online. [We asked people to] e-mail in with a picture, videos and stuff. We picked a handful – like five or ten guys – and auditioned them, but even before he played a note, when we spoke to Joel we thought, “Yeah, that guy’s probably going to be the guy.” And he was.
So you found him online?
Yeah, he just e-mailed in. He lives in the town over the hill from. So he’s a northern English, like us. We just get on with him really well; it’s great.
Is there a difference in the dynamic now in terms of the way you guys play, or have you had to make any adjustments to kind of make the transition smoother?
Me, Matt [Drake, guitarist/vocalist and Ol’s brother] and Ben [Carter, drums] still play the exact same way. Joel is still trying to catch up. There are some songs off of the new album [Infected NationsI] that are really hard. He went from playing with his fingers – like slow, heavy rock – to thrash metal with a pick. And he hasn’t used a pick for years. So it’s just getting into the groove of it. But he’s doing really well. He’s great.
Does coming to America feel like starting over in any way? I imagine your European fan base is already pretty solid…
To be honest, I thought it would be like starting from scratch, like we did six or seven years ago in England. But we come to New York and play the Nokia Theatre, the room is full, people chanting “E-VILE! E-VILE!” I was expecting just fiften people going “Woo, I like ‘Thrasher’ and that’s it.” I don’t understand [how we already have such a fan base here], but it’s cool.
See, you didn’t have to come all the way over here and tour. You could have stayed home…
Yeah, and they would have loved us anyway. [laughs]
Let’s switch gears now and talk about the “Cemetery Gates” cover.
First of all, how did that come about?
I don’t fully know. We just got a call from our manager, Julie [Weir]. She just said, “Hey, Metal Hammer want you to cover Pantera.” “Oh, okay. Why?” “Because they’re doing a Dimebag special for the anniversary…” or something I can’t remember. “Do you want to cover a song?” “Yes.” “What song do you want to do?” “Uh, ‘Cemetery Gates.’” “Okay.” And it was as simple as that. Then we got into the studio and recorded it. We just released it on iTunes with a B-side, one of our songs [“Time No More”] with Matt singing in Japanese.
Does Matt speak Japanese?
No. I speak a bit, but one of my friends in Japan translated the lyrics. We’re on the phone going through the [says a few phrases in Japanese]. Going through all the pronunciations. It took awhile, but it was worth it.
That’s pretty cool. So you guys just put an album out last year obviously. Are you thinking ahead to the next one now that you have a new member? Or are you still basking in the glow of this one?
We’re still enjoying promoting this, but I’m writing all of the time and showing ideas to the band. “Oh that’s cool, but we’ll try that next time in the rehearsal room.” We’ve already basically got the title for the next album and a cover design.
You already have the cover design?
Yes. Not done, but the concept.
How did that happen so quickly?
It was just an idea me and Matt put together, and we thought “Wow, that would be cool.” That was it. I know Michael Whelan wants to work with us again – the Sepultura guy. We’re working with Russ [Russell] again because he’s just a great producer. Yes, it’s basically all falling together already.
That’s great. Anything to add before I let you get on with your evening?
Buy our album. [laughs]
Your brother said onstage that it’s okay to download it.
We have conflicting interests. [laughs] Just check us out. Infected Nations is out on Earache. If you don’t like it, don’t listen to it. If you do, come and see us and buy a shirt.