2011. június 7., kedd

Onslaught interview with Nige Rockett

1986 was the best year for metal, a lot of classic, influential masterpieces were released this year, such as Eternal Devastation (Destruction), Pleasure To Kill (Kreator), Reign In Blood (Slayer), Darkness Descends (Dark Angel), Doomsday For The Deceiver (Flotsam & Jetsam) to name a few. Although the British bands didn't belong to the top of thrash metal, Onslaught were a very good act, their masterpiece The Force came out in 1986 too. The record celebrates its 25th jubilee, so I got in touch with guitarist Nige Rockett to speak about this classic record.

So Nige, since The Force album celebrates its 25th anniversary, I want to talk with you about it, all right?
Hi My friend, yeah that’s cool, it would be a pleasure…!
Do you still remember at which point did you start writing the material for the record? How did the song composing go as a whole?
I remember it very well.. We used to rehearse in a local youth club, we wrote all the material for THE FORCE during these sessions over a period of about 6 months.. I would work on music and lyric ideas at home and bring them to rehearsal where the band would develop them into full songs..
Some changes happened compared to the first album; first you left COR (Children Of Revolution) Records and you were signed by Under One Flag/MFN, how did that happen? Was it a good decision, in terms of promotion, label support etc.?
Yeah COR records was a very small label run by a friend on a government scheme, he did a fantastic job with the release even though he had very limited resources, the record was a real big seller worldwide for a debut album and really brought great attention to the name of Onslaught… so much so that we were contacted by MFN records who were interested in releasing the bands second album.. We had no contract with COR and they were very happy to see us move to such a big label as MFN.. It was a real big deal for Onslaught, as MFN had bands such as Metallica and Anthrax on their roster, so yeah it was a very very good decision for us.. The label were awesome and the support and promo really was excellent, which really helped us take the next step up the ladder..
Was only Under One Flag that showed an interest in signing the band by the way?
They wasted no time in asking to sign the band after the immediate success of Power From Hell, and they were the only label that we wanted to work with, so any other label never existed as far as we were concerned…..
Former vocalist Paul Mahoney took over the bass duties, while former bass player Jase Stallard switched to rhythm guitar and a new singer Sy Keeler joined the band, can you tell us more about it?
It was in our rehearsal room where we met Sy Keeler.. He came along to a rehearsal one night with a crew member just to watch and by the end of the session he was part of the band hahaha.. We heard he was a good singer so we asked him to have a blast with one of the new songs, he sounded so cool we offered him the job there and then…
We had been thinking about adding a second guitarist for sometime and when Sy appeared it really finalized our decision. Paul Mahoney was also a bassist and Jase Stallard could play guitar so it was an east transition to make. We just reshuffled the personnel and gave the band a totally different sound…
What can you tell us about Sy’s musical background? Did you perhaps audition other singers too besides him or was he the first choice being the singer of the band?
Sy Keeler had never been in a band previous to Onslaught, as I said earlier it was just spontaneous decision to have him join the band, we weren’t even looking for a new vocalist..
Did Sy have a big hand in the songwriting or was the material ready and written, when he joined?
All the material was already written for The Force album when Sy joined, he just added some of his own vocal melodies and obviously delivered the songs in his very own style..
During January/February 1986 you entered the Martix Studios with Dave „Death” Pine, what about the recording sessions? Were you more prepared than with the previous album? Did you have a decent budget to record the album?
Yeah were pretty well prepared we had rehearsed hard before entering the studio and got everything as precise as possible, we are definitely not a band to write in the studio... We had 2 weeks to make the recording, which was cool and yeah the budget was fairly decent, Matrix was a decent studio, the Sex Pistols recorded ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’ there which we thought was awesome to make our record in the same place as them….
The Force shows a great development compared to Power From Hell, was it a natural progression or did you work extremely hard on it?
It was a natural development, but we also worked very hard at it… the progression was purely down to an improvement in our musical skills, lots and lots of practice enabled us to have the ability to write and perform better songs…
Most of the songs on here are quite long, going into the 6 minute range, but without becoming overlong, what do you think about it?
Yeah, we just let things follow a natural course, I think there are maybe a few parts we could have cut back and made shorter in retrospect, but there are no unnecessary sections to the songs, every part is crucial to the overall picture of The Force album… we liked using lots of tempo and rhythm changes to make it an interesting album, Power From Hell was quite one dimensional by comparison..
Would you say, that newer musical influences happened to you/were hit by you? I mean, your musical range of interests became wider and in my opinion, The Force is very similar to the Bay Area scene…
No I don’t think so… our influences never changed and are still the same today, the changes were purely down to an improvement in our musicianship, nothing more really…
How do you explain, that the songs had been more matured than on the debut, but the songs didn’t lose any brutality, heaviness or speed and on the contrary, songs like the rhythmic opener „Let There Be Death”, the mid tempo hammer „Metal Forces” or the speed massacre „Thrash Till the Death” with its great break are the best or at least, one of the best examples of 80s thrash metal?
Thank you, real kind of you to say…. We were just learning to become better song writers at the time, the heaviness was always gonna be there, but we had now learned to refine the brutality and channel it in a more mature kind of way..
Is it correct, that „Metal Forces” was dedicated to Bernard Doe’s magazine, because he was very supportive of you?
Yes, of course.. Bernard Doe was very instrumental in helping Onslaught climb the ladder so quickly. He ran a great magazine and was so supportive of the band in the early days, I believe he also recommended that ‘Music for Nations Records’ should sign the band, which they did and that’s exactly why we are here talking right now :)
The Force is an excellent album from beginning to end, all killer no filler, right? What are your favourite tracks from the record?
That’s our intention with every record we make, we try our best to have no fillers at all.. My favourite track is probably ‘Let There be Death’ It still sounds so cool to play live, I love all the changes in the song, its just real fast and heavy with lots of hooks…..
Do you agree with, that you tightened up your sound, with a much sharper-sounding riff assault that is pure thrash metal and The Force sounded better than the debut? Was it an even stronger effort?
Definitely a stronger album than ‘Power From Hell’ no question.. PFH was very raw and basic but The Force is much more refined…
What kind of reviews did you get back in the day? How much like the Onslaught fans the record?
All the reviews were amazing, I never actually seen one poor review for ‘The Force’ which was very cool. The press and the fans really loved the record and still do in 2011, which cannot be bad…
The Force came out in 1986, in the year, when influential classics, such as Master Of Puppets (Metallica), Doomsday For The Deceiver (Flotsam And Jetsam), Reign In Blood (Slayer), Darkness Descends (Dark Angel), Pleasure To Kill (Kreator), Eternal Devastation (Destruction) etc. were released, were you familiar with these outfits and albums? In your opinion, did thrash metal reach its peak at this point?
Yeah of course we knew these bands, I think 86 / 87 Thrash really hit a peak, there were so many great bands and great album releases around this time, the scene was intense and very cool….
What were the show sin support of the record? Can you tell us more about your gigs?
We played so many shows around this time in Europe, it was total insanity every time.. We loved all the stage diving and actively encouraged fans to join us on stage, there were some very violent crowd reactions back then… quite a few venues got torn up and literally destroyed.
I have a bootleg in my collection titled Hell in Copenhagen 28.03.87, are you aware of this release? Does it really represent/capture Onslaught’s live brutality?
I am aware of the bootleg but I have never actually listened to it….
Did Onslaught leave its mark with The Force on the thrash scene? Do you name it an influential, classic thrash record? Is The Force the best thrash record, that came from England/Britain?
Yes definitely, it's not a perfect release but it has been hailed as a classic Thrash metal album and that’s a very big honor for Onslaught…. Haha no, ‘Sounds of Violence’ is now the best thrash album to come from the UK… ;)
Although some thrash bands appeared in Britain (England) during the middle of the ’80s, such as Virus, Deathwish, Xentrix, Sabbath, D. A. M. etc., would you say, that thrash metal hadn’t such a strong background, like in Germany for example? I mean, the British thrash metal bands didn’t manage to breakthrough…
In terms of bands the UK has never been that strong for producing real good ones, its strange because there are many many many Thrash fans here.. But we never had a good band scene, there just were not the amount of musicians that there were in the US or Germany…
After the release of the record began a new chapter/history in the career of the band (I’m thinking of the line up changes and the change of your music), how could you sum up that period? I mean, ’til the release of the In Search Of Sanity album?
The ‘In Search of Sanity’ period was not a good one for us to remember, too many negative things happened in this time and it would eventually lead to the band breaking up. There was just too much outside influence for us to deal with.. But now we are back and very very strong once again just like the old days, lots of fire and more brutality than ever before….!!!!
Thank you for the interview my friend, see you soon

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