It’d be something of an understatement to suggest that Yorkshire thrashers, Evile, have a had a shitty last couple of months. Hugh Platt caught up with the band to see how they’re coping.
The last time we spoke to Evile, we were slouched in the Cro Bar with guitarist Ol Drake, drinking whiskey and shooting the shit just prior to the release of the band’s second album, Infected Nations. Since then though, events have taken a turn for the worst for the young Yorkshire thrasher. While touring Sweden last October in support of Amon Amarth, the band’s bassist,Mike Alexander, the band’s bass player, died following a pulmonary embolism. The UK’s – nay, the world’s metal scene – promptly rallied around the band, who chose to celebrate Mike’s life and raised money for his grieving family with a pair of benefit events.
With a new four-stringer, Joel Graham, whom recruited late last year, the band returned to London last month for their first show in the capital since Mike Alexander’s death. We caught up with frontman, Matt Drake, backstage before the gig to find out how Evile are coping in 2010.
Were you surprised at the huge response you received from metal fans following Mike’s death?
“Yes, and no….I think I was….overwhelmed by the stuff that all the bands gave us, Iron Maiden and Metallica giving us stuff to auction off. It was a terrible that something like [Mike’s death] had to happen for [the response] to happen. To get to speak to these bands, and have some kind of contact with them…it’s a really bad way for it to have come about. I was overwhelmed by the number of people that came to the shows, and the amount of donations – we raised so much for his family. When I say I wasn’t surprised – everyone always says that metal is a community, a second family if you will, and that was proven with the tribute shows. Everyone was there together, and they knew what they were there for.
“It felt really good to give him a good old metal send off. His parents are quite religious, and [Mike] wasn’t – he was dead against religion. His funeral was his family’s choice, so we wanted our choice to be the Metal way, something Mike would’ve done. Although knowing Mike, even the tribute shows he might’ve not been arsed with them been [adopts even-stronger Yorkshire accent] “oh fuck this, I’m going off t’pub”. It was really good to see how many people came along to help us out.”
So how do you go about selecting a replacement?
“We made sure that we chose the person rather than the player. Playing is only ten percent of being in a band – a touring band, anyway. You’ve got to be with that person 24 hours a day, and we didn’t want to pick a complete tosser and then hope for the best. We wanted to find someone who would fit in with us; someone who’s slack, that comes from Yorkshire and doesn’t mind doing nothing, and being a bum.”
So what qualities do you look for in a ‘non-tosser’?
“Someone that’s really easy going, down to earth, no illusions of grandeur, understands that being in Evile isn’t very well paid [laughs] – someone like us who’s really, really slack. We’re just bums, we never get too excited by anything. Someone that likes South Park and The Simpsons. It was a big requisite – liking South Park. We’ve done alright with Joel. It is weird though – looking to my left and not seeing a big black guy, that’s….hard. But the more we go on, the easier it gets.
The last time Thrash Hits talked with you guys it was before the album came out. It got a fairly mixed reaction – were you surprised there wasn’t a consensus among fans or critics?
“Actually No! When we were writing it, we knew it wasn’t Enter The Grave part 2. People aren’t instantly going to go “yay! It’s easy and accessible and I can get into it dead easy! Great!” We knew it wasn’t going to be that as soon as we started writing it. We wanted to do something different. We wanted to distance ourselves from the ‘retro’ thing – it’s obviously still a thrash album, so it’s always going to have some retro feel in there, but we just tried different things.
“As soon as we did, we knew people were either going to fall into two camps: people who want Enter The Grave part 2 and be disappointed and just go “oh, this isn’t very good, it isn’t very fast and retro, and don’t like it”; or they’ll be people who go “oh, they’re trying to do something different. I see what they’re doing; I’ll give it a go”. But yeah, it split people. On the other hand, it’s a grower as well. I remember one guy I spoke to who said “I’ve got your new album. I think it’s shit. It’s really, really shit!”, to which I was a bit “oh [bemused smile]…err..thanks”. Then three weeks later he came back and said “Right, I’ve tried it again, I’ve listened to it for another week and I fucking love it!” A lot of people have given it a few extra spins and come to love it. But you’re right; it has split people.”
A lot of people took umbrage with our review….
“People don’t always seem to ‘get’ the idea that a review is just one person’s opinion. I don’t give a toss. People can say what they want about [Infected Nations]. That’s what it’s there for. If we were afraid of what people might say, then we wouldn’t be doing it.
You mentioned distancing yourselves from ‘the retro thing’ – were you concerned that you’d be written off as just a bunch of rehashers?
“We were a part of it – there’s no way we couldn’t have been, really. We had the same notion around the same time other bands did. [chuckling to himself] We ignorantly thought we were the only band doing it when we started – “No-one’s ever thought of this before! Great!” and then we got out there and gigged and realised there were other people doing it, guys like Headless Cross and Pitiful Reign and bands like that. Obviously we got picked up, and some people started to hate us as we’d got signed, but hey.” [laughs]
Watch Ol Drake busting out the solos on ‘Word Salad’ by Annihilator
Let’s talk about your little brother – Ol’s building quite the guitar rep, isn’t he?
If he does that, then he fully deserves it. He’s put a lot of time into his playing. I’d played guitar for years before he had, and he picked it up probably because of my Dad and me playing Metallica songs and thinking “I’ll have a go at that”. He never actually got a job or anything like that so he’d just get up in the morning at 11am or something – being a bum [laughs] – and he’d sit down in front of his computer and go “right, I’m having this!” and just learn his theory, all these weird scales, everything. He is really guitar-minded; he’s one of those guys that just has it, and he just needed to get it out and use it. He’d sit down for 10 hours a day – maybe even longer, past midnight – and he would not get off that chair. He’d go to bed, then repeat. For literally four years he was like that.
A bit like Skwisgaar Skwigelf playing guitar in the bath?
“Yeah! And it’s fully paid off. And the good thing is, as he earns his reputation, then there’s a good reason for it, as he doesn’t play conventionally at all. He’s not one of those doodle-doodle-dee-dee [miming guitar wank gestures] sweeping, generic, look-at-me-I’m-dead-fast, complete fret-wanker. He’s not one off those. He plays the weirdest things, things that every guitarists will tell you not to play. He plays weird bizarre scales and notes that shouldn’t go with anything, but he get’s away with it and makes it sound really good. He just got this bizarre mind. So if he does something with it, then he’s fully earned it.”
Evile are on tour throughout Europe for the rest of February, and afterwards will be touring North America with Kreator and then Overkill until the start of May. Infected Nations is out now on Earache Records.