Just in time for festival season, Hang The Bastard are getting back into the swing of things after taking an unplanned break following the release of their latest record Sex In The Seventh Circle. We caught up with them before their headline show at Birmingham’s Oobleck. Hang The Bastard are: Tomas Hubbard — Vocals (TH), Sam Rice — Guitar (SR), Joe Nally — Bass (JN), Simon Grubb — Drums (SG).
BL: So, you guys were at Hammerfest last weekend?
SR: Yeah man.
BL: How’d it go?
SR: Yeah, really good, it was cool.
JN: Much better than I think we expected to be honest. We kinda looked out to see how many people were standing there and there weren’t that many, but within that minute of checking and then going out on stage it had filled out.
SR: …and we got given a chalet for the night!
BL: So you managed to have a good time too, check out some of the other bands?
SR: Yeah we did. Orange Goblin, Candlemass, yeah it was good
BL: …and it went off for you guys? You were happy with reaction?
SR: Oh yeah man it was great, as I said the room filled out and we got a good response.
BL: The new line up is about a year old now?
SG: Bit longer maybe?
SR: Yeah maybe a bit longer, but we can sort of gauge it from the new record last September, which is the first thing we did as the new version of the band. It’s going fine, we’ve got a really good dynamic; we’ve been on tour for like 2 weeks now and we’re all just having a good laugh.
SG: No one’s killed each other yet!
BL: Always a bonus.
SR: [Laughs] There’s still a couple of days! But it’s all good.
BL: What do you think the biggest challenge was when you had to change the lineup of the band?
SR: It was all very organic really, but it was out of necessity. We recruited from within and swapped Tom from bass onto vocals and it all just happened, it was all cool, we knew what we wanted to do going in, we had a bit of a plan and we pulled it off.
TH: Yeah, it kinda went really weirdly. We were sort of dying down, then we got an offer for Download and we actually didn’t have a vocalist at the time. Then we were like “Oh shit! We better actually get a vocalist and get the ball rolling.” Then from that point on, everything sort of fell into place.
SG: Download was the sort of catalyst.
BL: The offer of Download will do that to a band right? [laughs]
JN: Yeah, and seeing as though Bastard weren’t doing a lot at the time we got a really good stage and a really good time slot.
SG: Just before Sword wasn’t it.
JN: Yeah just before the Sword, and I was brought in as Tom had taken the vocals from bass. It seemed really easy to just come on onboard, we knew each other before hand and it was really easy.
BL: So how does it work out between you guys now [Joe and Tom] with bass stuff like creating new riffs?
SR: Me and Joe have struck up a really good writing partnership, beforehand the song writing process was very much more secular, like we’d go away and write a riff and then we’d put it together. When we started writing Sex In The Seventh Circle we got a really good flow going, a really good dynamic. We’re looking forward to writing more stuff together, because with the new approach everything came so naturally, there weren’t any of those writers block moments or anything where you have to go away, we just steamed through it, it was really fluent.
JN: We found that if I didn’t have a riff then you’d have one [Sam] and vice versa or Simon would come in. It was really quite easy.
SR: Ultimately we all have a say in the direction that a song’s going, but we’ve all got our own instruments assigned to us.
SG: It was quite easy to write the eleven songs, they came quite easily. The first full practice that we had as the new lineup we wrote two songs that ended up on the album in like an hour.
TH: I think it’s the smoothest writing process to date actually.
JN: Where Tom really shines is when you get into the studio, he has a lot of ideas there. I would have liked to see how songs would have sounded if it was another singer, compared to like having all these chants, (or I would say ‘harmonies’) but either way Tom shouting and me shouting. Or then you’ve got Sam singing, because Sam has a really unique voice and Tom kind of gave him some ideas, Mist Of Albion is sort of Tom’s little project. Even though we jammed it, it was quite an easy song and then Tom had his way with it, and you won’t know what Tom has got in his mind until you get in the studio, and that’s interesting because it keeps it fresh.
SG: Which is both good and bad [laughs]
BL: I guess that could get expensive with studio time?
JN: [Laughs] Yeah, but we can trust him, we can leave it in his capable hands.
BL: There is definitely a very different vocal style from the earlier HTB stuff on the new record and I think the deeper vocals that Joe brings really works with Tom’s style.
SR: Thanks man.
BL: How did you find performing the older material live with, I don’t want to say new sound, but maybe a new feel from Tom’s vocals?
SG: I guess it is a new sound.
SR: Yeah it is.
TH: I think what we’ve done in my personal opinion, correct me if I’m wrong, what my vocals have brought to the table is allow us to be a lot heavier because where the vocals before were very shouty we wouldn’t necessarily be able to pull off how heavy some of these riffs are with shouty hardcore vocals. So in a way as we’ve got a bit bigger we’ve also got more extreme.
SR: When we were talking earlier about the whole Download thing that was a bit of a dark time, and we were like “right what are we going to do now” because losing the singer is obviously quite a big deal, and we were like right we’ll go a bit more subversive, we always had the sludge element to the band but was a bit more crossover and we thought we’d just go more down the sludge avenue but we couldn’t make a conscious effort to do that. So we got Tom in on vocals because he’d done some backing vocals on a previous record and he had this really high pitched, sonic sort of Iron Monkey, Johnny Morrow kind of vibe and we were expecting it to go a bit more kind of underground, but it picked up and we got the ball rolling again. Almost opposite to what we thought it would be.
JN: Tom also made a decision to have less vocals so that it brings out the music more, and I’m not sure that people totally get it.
SG: It’s not as much a generic frontman it’s like he’s layering over the top of the music, and if you strip back the vocals a bit there a lot more instrumental riffy parts which we all love to do.
BL: I was re-watching the video today for Sex In The Seventh Circle and it definitely comes across that it’s not just about a vocal with a backing track it’s about the music.
TH: That’s good because that’s deliberate, I’m an instrument, I’m not like “I am a frontman”.
BL: Is this the first headline tour for this lineup?
SG: No, we did a little headline run just before Download because we were like “Oh shit we’ve got a new singer and we better do a warm-up show!” I think we did the Birmingham Asylum venue with Burden Of The Noose.
SR: We’ve just come off the back of the Corrosion [Of Conformity] tour last week.
BL: How did that go off?
SR: Great, awesome man.
JN: Yeah, really good.
SR: This time last week we were doing the Electric Ballroom and it was packed out, it was awesome. It was really cool and they were great guys.
JN: As soon as we released the album we went out on tour with King 810, maybe not the perfect tour for us because I think they have a completely different fan base than ours, and then Tom picked up a really bad injury so we had to take a lot of downtime so I don’t think we did anything for about 5 months.
SG: Yeah since September time.
JN: We did one show about three weeks ago with Crowbar in Belgium as a sort of warm up and that was fantastic for us. The Corrosion tour was probably the perfect tour for us to get our name back out there and say we’re back.
BL: How have you found your stuff goes down in Europe?
JN: Ieperfest was really good for us.
SG: That was our first really big show for about two and a half years maybe? But definitely since the new lineup, it was great.
JN: We got another really good slot.
SR: …and the record came out on Century Media so we’ve got a good little following building up in Germany even without going over there.
BL: How are you finding your live sound at the moment, are you happy or still tweaking things?
SR: I think we’ve really tapped into a nice vein of form now. We started off and had a couple of little bumps but we ironed those out on the first night, since last Saturday the ball’s just been rolling and I’m well happy with how we’re playing. Yeah we’re feeling really confident going out on stage now and I’m personally a little more prepared than I was before [laughs]
JN: It’s always a good thing with headlining that you can take your time, you can leave your stuff up there and chill out, whereas if you’re not it’s the rush. With the Corrosion thing we were the only support so it’s the same sort of feeling, get out there, get everything sorted and then you can sort of relax.
SG: It helped because we could have a proper full sound check. We were asked a question in an interview the other day “What have you learned from the Corrosion tour?” and by watching them we saw how focused they are during sound check to get everything just right and we’ve picked up various guitar things, we’re using those to get our own things pinpointed.
JN: Even tonight, there was something not working and we had to step back and think what to drop out of the mix and it sounds great now but certainly with the Corrosion tour we could see them asking for various little bits and bobs and it’s good to always be learning. I’m really happy with where we are now.
BL: We mentioned about Download last year and Iperfest, what’s the rest of festival season looking like this year?
SG: Not bad actually, got Desert Fest coming up in London at the end of April and we’re headlining the stage which is good. It’s a great festival and we’ve been as punters in the past. Eyehategod are playing…
JN: Yeah Mike Williams is doing a spoken word thing on our stage earlier in the day, which should be cool. Orange Goblin are doing a whole album thing, The Big Black I think. There are some really cool bands this year.
SG: Then we’re doing a couple of shows in Germany at the end of May.
JN: …and one that in English basically means Green Hell [Der Ring – GrÃ¼ne HÃ¶lle Rock]
TH: That one’s mental it’s bands like KISS.
JN: Not sure what day we’re playing, I think it’s the same day as KISS and Judas Priest.
BL: That’s one for the CV?
SR: [laughs] Yeah absolutely!
JN: KISS isn’t a band I’ve seen actually so that should be good to catch their show.
SG: Can we announce..?
JN: No, not yet.
SG: There’s more in the pipeline [laughs]
BL: Always good to add that in there!
SG: There isn’t we’re just saying it! [laughs]
BL: You guys have overcome a fair amount in the recent past, what does the next stage look like? Is it just solidifying or maybe more new material…?
SR: We are looking forward to writing again, like we were saying earlier we’ve found this nice dynamic of writing and we’re looking to take that even further. We want to get more tours under our belts and really push the record a bit more as we had that bit of a set back. We do need to make up for a bit of lost time and get this out there a bit more.
JN: I don’t know if the other guys will agree, but I think we do really well at festivals, a lot of people seem to check us out and it feels like we cover a lot of ground when doing festivals.
BL: Do you see a spike in online activity after you’ve done a festival?
SR: Oh yeah definitely, when you put yourself out there with a tour or festival you see a spike, then it’ll settle down again. I think these days everything is so disposable you really have to put yourselves out there.
JN: Yeah so the festivals, then a tour at the end of the year but I don’t think that’ll be a headline, then the writing once the next couple of months are out of the way.
BL: Does it feel like it’s the initial stages of the tour cycle for this record seeing as though you had that minor set back?
JN: Yeah we had vinyl and CDs with us that went in the first week and it seems that people are still getting used to it or haven’t heard it before. I still think it’s very fresh to people.
SG: …and I think it will be for the rest of this year.
TH: That is what this year is about, just smashing out this record to everyone.
BL: Any more videos or single releases?
SG: Yeah we like videos!
SR: We like doing the band as an immersive kind of things and videos are a part of that. Artwork, themes, concepts, we love all that.
BL: Do you all take a personal hand in that, or does someone tend to drive it?
JN: Sam and Tom are quite artistic.
SR: Tom and I are sort of the creative arm of the band and the other guys…
TH: They are the looks!
SR: It’s kind of like a Venn diagram, we’ve all got our own little bits but they all overlap. Creatively we all like to work together and we’re all into the same sort of things.
BL: Are there any bands that would be top of your list to be main support for?
JN: We’ve just got off the Corrosion tour and there is a difference when you go out with a big band, there’s just so much more publicity and it brought out so many more people.
SG: It was good that we were the only support band and that meant we were on a bit later every night which meant that people could get into the venue and a lot of people watched us every night.
JN: I don’t know about the other guys but I’d love to tour with Down and Orange Goblin would be great.
SG: We’ve done two shows with Crowbar which were great and I know they’re coming back at the end of the year so that’d be cool.
JN: They were at that festival a couple of weeks ago and they were so good, they blew my mind.
BL: I think in terms of sound I can see Down and Orange Goblin working really well. I did think the last time I saw you when it was Astroid Boys, then you and then King 810 was a bit of an interesting lineup.
SR: Yeah pretty eclectic.
SG: I think the way we sound we could play more heavy rock type stuff, maybe like Kvelertak sort of thing, but also Southern Rock type of stuff, and Metal, and Sludge, so it does open up a lot of doors to possible bands we could tour with.
BL: I’ve seen that you guys just say that you’re a metal band, without any sort of sub-genre, is that something that you guys do consciously?
SG: We’ve never known what to call ourselves, back in the day we were sort of hardcore but we had all of the riffs and stuff.
SR: We’ve all just got such eclectic tastes in music it all kind of just funnels into what we are and then it leaves us available to tour with this band, that band, whoever really. It’s not really a conscious thing it’s just organic really.
TH: As Sam says, we are almost in every aspect weirdly organic. We just do what we do. I think organic is the perfect term for us.
JN: We’ve all grown up from playing different types of music or being fans of different genres and I think that does come out in our music. Me and Sam would never write the same riff, we’ve got very different styles but somehow they just work together.
SR: They’re compatible.
JN: Yeah, they somehow go hand in hand.
BL: To me that’s also the same as the two different vocal styles that you now use together on the new record.
JN: Definitely. Tom’s, what we call, Blackened Metal style vocals also open up that avenue for us and me and Tom don’t sound anything alike at all but it works, and if you heard Sam singing, it’s weird it’s like Danzig chewing tobacco or something! [laughs] It’s amazing. None of us set out like we’re going to do this, or we’re going to do that, it just comes together.
BL: Thanks a lot for giving us some time today.
Interview: Steve Kilmister
Photographs: Phil McDougal