Thrash Hits Verdict: There can be little doubt that the Midlands are the crucible that created heavy metal – forget the fact that it’s the birthplace of Black Sabbath – it’s where Napalm Death and a whole host of extreme and grind bands first played louder, faster, and noisier than anyone else in the UK. To this day, the region continues to throw up nasty little nuggets of noise for us – such as the short, sharp shocks served up by the old school ethos of Selfless. We caught up with band’s guitarist, Chris Selfless, for a little history lesson.
Describe your sound in 3 words
Angry, abrupt, grinding.
How did Selfless form?
Literally from the ashes of I Am Colossus, with the inept kidnap of Drunk from Fukpig. Colossus kind of fizzled out in 2009, I had a couple of months off, re adjusted, and with Tony who plays bass in Selfless, we decided to get a more hardcore style band going. Me and Tone go way back to the early 90’s Birmingham Hardcore scene – and we just wanted to do something – going back to our roots in a sense. This may sound contrived, but it’s completely true. A lot of hard work and money went into the whole Colossus machine, creating the bigger shows, the recording, the whole ethos being epic pummelling doom. Selfless was to be the exact opposite. Short and fast songs, hardcore ethos, old school imagery, and most of all, a realistic artistic and lyrical output. We literally started playing live shows after only a couple of months of rehearsing, Dunc joined us on vocals in June 2010, and it’s gone from strength to strength. Fortunately for us, Dunc at the time was kind of available, although he is still vocalist in Fukpig, and also plays bass for Anaal Nathrakh, and now manages a high profile darts team.
Watch Selfless perform ‘Torn Apart’ and ‘Operation Dictate’ live:
What made you want to start another band?
Music is my religion; it runs through my veins. Bands come and go, scenes develop and implode or fade way….every band or project I start or become involved in, I see as a chapter in my own creative life. The challenge itself was remarkably enjoyable, and I can honestly say, in 24 years of doing bands, I am mostly enjoying what we are creating with Selfless. As a unit, we are all older guys, we have very similar musical interests, and above all, the amount of experience between us greatly assists us in how we operate.
Where did the name come from?
From Godflesh, no apologies. I understand there is a band in the U.S. with the same name, there may be more….
Where did you grow up? How do you think it’s affected your music?
I grew up in Kings Norton, Birmingham. My road at one time was houses on one side, and then fields for miles on the other. It was great as a child. It’s completely different now. Kings Norton Green itself has not changed significantly. I think the only fair way to say the surroundings and circumstances of me growing up and finding music, will be factors such as having Mick Harris [Scorn / Napalm Death] as a neighbour. Seeing him around, and talking to him back in the late 80s was both exciting as a young metal fan, and also a huge push for me to look for these bands that he talked about, wore shirts and caps of, etc. Si [Forrest] from Cerebral Fix lived about half a mile away, some of the Bolt Thrower guys were not too far away, Jimmy Ripcord had a flat opposite my old secondary school….
The mid to late 80’s was exciting, both because I was reaching that funny age, discovering myself as a person, new interests – girls/music/cigarettes, and also, where I lived, there was always someone nearby who was also a metal or hardcore fan. You would have people you could hang with in different areas, different roads, and discuss bands, gigs, share ideas and experiences.
Napalm Death and Cerebral Fix excited me as a kid, I’d see Mick and some of the old guys loading up a crappy old van, you’d see them in the ripped jeans and caps, shirts with mad logos on of bands you had not yet heard of – then have to go and try and find out about them…Getting nito music I the 80’s was awesome- if I could just pop back there for a while…..
A lot of people have their own theory as to why Birmingham and the surrounding area has been such a crucible for extreme music – what’s your take on it?
I’m not sure. Geographically, the West Midlands is a vast area. So a band that just about come from West Midlands would be classed as a “Birmingham band”. Realistically, a shedload of bands happened all over, at all times, perhaps Birmingham was just lucky in a sense that some of it’s acts managed to get to that big step of releasing an actual album, and then progressing. The whole hardcore thing in the 80’s was a magic time, Napalm Death, Bolt Thrower, Cerebral Fix, Doom…it set a precedent in a way.
Birmingham for years had heaps of music venues, bars, clubs, recording and rehearsal studios, and perhaps the city’s occupants have embraced the music culture assisting its development and survival. I’ve always found that from places I have socialised in, there have always been people that are cool, artistic, eager to play/perform or be involved in the music scene somehow. Scruffy Murphy’s and The Asylum are the main places to chill, watch bands and hook up with friends – these places spawn bands like disease, but this is good, very good. Top extreme Birmingham bands (excluding the aforementioned) have been Benediction, Sally, and Mistress, there has always been a healthy punk scene too. Spend time in Birmingham, and you will bump into someone from a band, we all go out, drink, have the doss. It’s a good place.
What are your non-musical influences?
My personal influences I can only say are that of what I have experienced within my 37 years of life. I am interested in art, cultures, psychology, speaking with and meeting new people. From a young age, I have always had a strong sense of future planning which has assisted me in things like saving, buying property etc – perhaps this is something inherited from my parents as an influence? Alongside hair loss and moaning….
Day to day – I find myself intrigued by peoples fascination with gadgetry, media, envy, political and religious stances. I think one thing that kind of hits you as you get older, is that you become more aware of your surroundings, and of life itself, vulnerabilities, social elements, people – both positive and negative. What you feel and what you believe.
So far, what has been the best thing about being in a band?
The first big thing as a musician is the first time you release a proper album. That is something amazing. From the age of 12 or 13 it was “the dream”, then one day you finally get one released, then there’s the next goal, the next plan.
There have been many cool things. The first time someone wants to talk to you about the live set they just saw your band play, the first time someone asks if you could sign a flyer or a CD or something. As a band, we have a firm ethos that, if anyone for what ever reason shows an interest in what we are doing, then we return that interest, whether it be interviews, reviews, letters/emails. An enthusiast or fan of your art is the most important person surrounding you, and that should forever be respected.
With which band would your dream support slot/tour be?
We’d most definitely have differing opinions as a band, but for me personally, I would love to support (In the dream sense) a Paul Dianno fronted Iron Maiden, but it would have to be a zap back in time with them in 1980, imagine that? Or Black Flag. A realistic cool slot or tour as we are would be with the Napalm guys, or with Slayer.
What bands do you consider as part of your scene or as your peers?
I am inspired by my colleagues in Selfless, as for peers without wanting to suck ass, Mick Harris and Nic Bullen. The whole Napalm thing is a phenomenon that I have followed for years, but the stuff both Mick and Nic went onto do…Scorn for instance? Vae Solis is one of my favourite albums. Nic Bullen just seems to want to create create create, and works with intriguing musicians. The current act Nic is involved in is called Backwards. It’s insane.
What marks you out as different to other bands around at the moment?
Were not doing anything new, were not martyrs to what we create, we just play fast, simple heavy hardcore/grind, and were having fun doing it. The one thing we do emphasise on is the doss element. Come to our shows and have a doss. Life’s too short and rubbish enough as it is. Come and hear Dunc’s banter between songs, rock out to some blasting anthems, catch a gambol or two.
What have you got planned for the future?
Well, were working on material for the second album, hopefully we will be recording sometime March 2012. The new material is heavier, plus we have added a second guitarist, so things are doing okay. I have some plans for the next release, plus we have a couple of potential split 7” too. The next album may come out on Selfless’ own label pending talks over its distribution.
Tell us a joke.
Two flies on a toilet seat, one says to the other “How long you hanging around here for?”
The other fly say’s “Till I get pissed off…”