I’m new to this whole malarkey, so I’ll just get right into the thick of things…
DIAG: When did you start you start to get seriously interested in music? Have you always been interested in the rock end of the musical spectrum, or have you also tried your hand at other styles with such abandon.
James: I’ve always been into music, but I would say that I started taking it “seriously” when I was about 15 or so. I think I have always been interested in rock/metal but not exclusively. I have always been, and still am a fan of some “mainstream” type music too. I have tried (and still am) writing songs in many different styles that I enjoy. I hope to release more songs/EPs/albums with many more projects/bands in various styles in the future.
DIAG: It’s not often that I hear of a metal outfit from Scotland, even rarer a one-man outfit displaying such outstanding knowledge of the metal scene past and present with talent to boot. How is the scene? (“Scene. what scene?” to quote Lawnmower Deth) in Aberdeen – hope I got the city right. Is there much opportunity for success in such a small market? Or am I wildly off base here? I understand the Northern end of England has a huge scene what with the emergence of Grindcore, the Earache label and all. Have you felt that you’ve had to ‘peddle your wares’ elsewhere (the internet obviously helps) in the past in order to get more recognition and exposure.
While I’m on the subject can you suggest any impressive acts from Scotland that you feel deserve more attention and respect?
James: There’s actually quite a few good metal bands in Scotland; Scumpulse, NNGNN, Boak, Vuil, Ashenspire, Disposable, Tommy Concrete… that’s just a few off the top of my head.
However, in Aberdeen the scene has decreased drastically over the past year with the demise of ‘Downstairs’ which was THE venue for all types of music but especially metal and punk. I’m relatively new to the scene having just got involved halfway through 2015 so I can’t comment or compare to anything before that but in 2015 there was quite a prominent punk scene. We’ve found a “new” venue in ‘Musical Vision’, a small practice space so that the scene stays alive and it does seem to be picking up again which is nice however, it is primarily doom metal bands that seem to be forming (nothing wrong with that at all, but we need more fast bands!). It is quite hard to “grow” in Aberdeen as it’s more-or-less the same people at every show, but the people are great so it’s more often than not a fun night.
I can’t really offer any significant insight or further details but I do know that Leeds at least is brimming with grindcore bands. We (my other band ‘Rats of Reality’) went on tour in the UK last year with some Leeds-based pals in ‘Coproach’ which was fun and you should definitely check them out.
A link for your listening pleasure
Hellripper has only played 5/6 shows so far, I think and all except 1 were in Aberdeen. The internet has been the most important factor by far in reaching an audience with Hellripper.
DIAG: I detect several influences in your newest release (the infectiously addictive, neck snappin – Coagulating Darkness) and I’ve noted many in my review. I’m interested to discover are there any specific bands, albums or tracks that you feel have impacted your style, in this album, the most.
James: Haha, well without even reading the review, I am going to take a wild guess and assume Metallica is mentioned? (*Whoops, not to my knowledge – Cult) Metallica is one of my all-time favourite bands but believe it or not they were not a direct influence when writing the album. Many people have pointed out the similarity between “Bastard of Hades” and “Hit the Lights” and have suggested that I either consciously “ripped them off” or that I was paying tribute. Neither is true in fact, and I didn’t even notice until a friend pointed it out after the song was recorded. I do acknowledge the similarity of course but I think it is different enough to be considered its own beast. “Bastard of Hades” was actually written with a Motorhead vibe in mind.
So… the direct influences for the album include:
Venom (First 3 albums), Midnight, Enforcer, Sabbat [JPN] (First 3 albums), ‘Peace Sells…’ by Megadeth, TANK, Bathory (First album only), Toxic Holocaust (“Bitch” and “666” were 2 of the songs that inspired me to make the first EP), Cruel Force, Ranger, Destroyer 666, Warbringer, Ketzer, Steelwing, Speedwolf, Mercyful Fate.
Is that list a bit overkill? Haha. Again, just rattling off names that come to me.
DIAG: After the smallest amount of research, I’ve learnt that you utilize several musicians to help in live performances. Do you believe this format better supports the Hellripper sound and visualization of what you had in mind or is this somewhat difficult to pull off effectively bearing in mind that you’re the sole creator and composer.
James: ‘Coagulating Darkness’ is exactly what I had in my mind in terms of sound and production quality etc. for Hellripper when I first started so I am very happy with how that turned out. You are correct, my friends Calum, Mark, Clarkie and Peter have all helped out when it comes to live shows. My goal is to make “fun” music, so it is important that when playing live, the same effect is created. From the shows that we have played so far, I am very pleased with how the band sounds in a live context.
DIAG: Do you have immediate plans to tour in support of Coagulating Darkness? Are there any acts you would ideally like to tour with? Be they past, present active or not.
With that in mind do you frequent many concerts, do you even get a chance to on account of your insane release output? Who has been your favourite live act? Personally, I’ve seen a few who aren’t my favourite act but whose live show blew me away (Paradise Lost, Stuck Mojo and Brutal Juice come to mind).
James: Well there are no plans to tour so far in 2017 but we are playing a show in Romania (Old Grave Fest) later in the year with bands such as Wolfbrigade and Necrophobic which is an honour and very exciting for me personally since Necrophobic and Blackevil (another band on the line-up) are among my favourites. We also have a show in Newcastle, UK (Byker Grave Fest) later in the year which should be good.
There are plans to do a UK tour or 2 next year and possibly head to Europe for a while. I won’t say much more yet as these plans are still in their very early stages.
I attend local shows regularly and I occasionally travel to Glasgow or Edinburgh to check out “bigger” bands. Just a couple of weeks ago, I went to see ‘Ranger’ which was amazing. The best live show I have seen I believe would be when I saw ‘The Twilight Sad’ and ‘Editors’ in Glasgow a couple of years back.
DIAG: What can we expect to see/hear in the immediate future of Hellripper or for that matter any of your other projects? Or is it too early to ask? Any collaborative pieces in the works? Or plans to explore other genres?
James: No rest for the wicked. With Hellripper, I have a number of songs written for planned splits in the near future. So hopefully that will be 2 or 3 splits released between the end of 2017 and 2018. An album will be released in late 2018 earliest but more likely 2019. We are also looking to play shows in this time.
Regarding other projects, Lock Howl (my goth/post-punk band) is in the writing stage for the 2nd album. Lord Rot (death metal) will release 3 new songs as part of a split with ‘VHS’ later in the year and the debut album should be released in 2018. My crust band ‘Rats of Reality’ is quiet for now.
Lord Rot Bandcamp
Lock Howl Bandcamp
I have many other things planned that will be released eventually including a doom project, a project in the vein of ‘Agalloch’ and a progressive black metal project.
Rats of Reality Bandcamp
I get distracted way too easily with other projects which is why things take so long for me to finish haha.
DIAG: Alright, let’s address the elephant in the room. Do you enjoy haggis or play the bagpipes on a frequent basis? Feel free to tell me to bugger off, I’m merely attempting to dispel a popular myth here. In my case, it’s that I like tea and crumpets or that I have a penchant for swinging a mallet, playing croquet, with the Queen and her many cohorts.
James: Fair question haha, but I actually do not like haggis and have never played the bagpipes. I do however love Irn-Bru, Buckfast and deep-fried mars bars. 🙂
DIAG: Thanks for your time Sir, and although I have no idea what Buckfast is, all the best in your future endeavours. I’ll be keeping both ears to the ground, I’m especially interested in the VHS split as I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing their earlier output on another site.
Well there you have it, my first foray into the interviewing scene, in this instance showcasing the talents and insane work ethic of James McBain. Persons like James keep the scene thriving. Kudos Sir! I cannot thank you enough. I will be foraging through Bandcamp later this eve in order to tickle my ear canals with the old -school stylings of Lord Rot (that shirt deserves a place in my closet).