As we find a semi-quiet place to sit down with vocalist Simon Hall and guitarist Scott Taylor and shoot the shit about the bands forthcoming new album Reflections, the current state of the music business and how the internet is killing the physical product, it becomes evident that not only are BEHOLDER some of the nicest guys you could ever meet, but they just might be sitting on one of the most ferocious and thought provoking UK metal albums of 2016! Let’s get stuck in, shall we?
OD – Let’s talk about the new album for starters, how is it all coming along and where are you currently at with things?
SIMON – The new album is coming along great! The tracking is pretty much done and the mixing is going over to a guy called Arvid Tjelta in Norway. How’s it all coming along? Well, really it’s been two years in the making and without a shadow of a doubt, the best thing we have every done. We approached it very differently to our previous ventures with recording. Scott (guitars) and Chris (Bentley, Drums) had gone off and written the music and come back and said ‘these are composite pieces of music, put a lyric to it and then we’ll dissect it and play with it’.
In the past, we wrote as a collective, kind of like the Borg. Nine times out of ten, that resulted in us standing in a rehearsal studio, looking at each other thinking ‘ok, what do we do now’, so it’s been so much better in that regard.
SCOTT – Yea, it’s been so much more relaxing, as we had that really productive time away from the rehearsal studio and methodically thought about what we really wanted to do and the direction of the songs and everything just began to naturally happen. It also created a really nice consistency with the overall sound and musical direction.
SIMON – The fact of the matter is that everybody in the band have their own influences, ranging from doom through to thrash and everything in between. The whole concept and the feel of this album is just really just exactly what we wanted to make collectively. If you look at the first album The Awakening (2009), it was written in six weeks and there is a power metal type song on there, also a thrash style song, there was another track on that album that was a bit laid back and on the back beat. It was basically everybody’s input and don’t get me wrong, it’s a great album, but the ambiance seems just not right, when I listen back to it.
Then with the second album The Order of Chaos (2013), this was Scott’s first album with us and again, we just seemed to not hit the ambiance on that album as much as we had liked to. It just wasn’t one composite piece. When thinking about the new album, I really feel like we have hit the nail on the head and we have one composite piece. From beginning to end, we are just so happy with it. There is so much melody on this record and it’s just such a great collection of Beholder material that we are really proud of.
OD – How many tracks are on the album?
SIMON – There are ten tracks on there. We actually had eleven, but decided to cut one just recently.
SCOTT – We actually entered the studio with fifteen songs, with the premise of chopping them away if things are not working. We have always entered the studio with just enough for what we wanted to do, but felt that it was always too close to the bone, if you know what I mean. So we are more confident than we have ever been, as we know we are about to release a really great album and there is no filler on there at all.
Some of the material on our previous albums has me reaching for the skip button if truth be told, but this time around there was not one track on the album that we didn’t want to take on the road. We want to play every one of these songs on the new album in a live setting.
SIMON – We have planned to play the entirety of this new album live and have no doubts about it. We fucking set that stall out already! That’s how pleased we are with this album and we’ve never had that feeling about our material before! There is a thing with Beholder that you have to understand, we write the songs, we record the songs and then we take them out on the road and they begin to change in a live setting that was better than the recorded version. With the new material, it’s all just 100% smack, wallop and we’re totally happy with how it’s sounding and the arrangements from the guitar tone to the vocals.
SCOTT – We have in a way, already gone through that process that Simon was talking about, almost ten times already with this album. We have had time to let the material breath over the past two years and we have made changes here and there and by the time we were set to record, we had everything ironed out and sounding like a beast! The process for this album has just worked so well for us all this time around and I think that looking into the future, we wont’ upset the balance of how we put this album together and can definitely see us taking the same approach to the writing and recording of the next album.
SIMON – Also, you have to bear in mind, on a logistical basis. Beholder are a four piece band with a debt and we’re like any band. If you live in each others pockets and stare at each other trying to come up with quality material, it’s just not going to happen. The fact is, Scott, Chris and Si are musicians. There is no point in me having and input in this part of the process, as it doesn’t mean shit, but only when I’m dropping in the lyrics. I might make a suggestion here and there which is an opportunity for the music and lyrics to work together and embellish the components of the music.
OD – Do you have a release date set in mind for Reflections?
SIMON – We have set a release date for sometime around April. We could put the foot down and have it mastered and finished, with a product on the table in the next month and half, but then if we then have a three month promo lead up during Christmas, then it’s just pointless, as hard copy magazines and the rest of the music press, don’t really give a shit about anything that happens until after Christmas.
SCOTT – It’s actually put us in a really great position, time wise, as the album is so close to being finished and we have a lot of things in the pipe line between now and April. The promo on this album is going to be really good as things just worked out in our favor.
OD – We understand that you have been trying out some new material on this tour, how has the new stuff been taken by the crowds?
SIMON – That’s exactly why we decided to get away from the studio for a while, so we can debut four new tracks from the album and see how they go down in a live setting. We played in Belfast last night (September 24th) and the reaction to the new material was actually more positive than that of the older material.
SCOTT – Yea, I couldn’t get over it. It was really humbling with regards to people who may know who we are and they might like the old stuff, but they were just really getting into the new stuff which can be dangerous at times and to see the enthusiasm from the crowd was just fantastic!
OD – When you were writing this album, where did most of the influence come from?
SIMON – Actually, there was a conversation we had in a band meeting just after we had completed The Order of Chaos. If you listen to the lyrics on that album, they are all spitting vitriol about the state of the earth and too be honest, it was all a bit too fucking heavy. It was all about talking about these subject matters but with no solution, no positive message in there! We had the conversation about where I was going lyrically and although there are songs about pollution, gun crime, female education inspired by Malala Yousafzai etc. These are all very important subjects to me, that have influenced me in my life, as I continue to grow and learn to be a good person, in this fucked up world. There is a whole bunch of stuff that I wanted to write and sing about, but I also wanted to deliver these lyrics with huge melodic choruses, with the message of ‘we can do something about this mess” you know what I mean?
There is a call to arms with a more positive outlook about things. Yes, we acknowledge the problems, but the message is, don’t just sit there, get up and do something about it and let’s all do it together! The album title is called Reflections and it’s just one of those words that has a double meaning. It’s about reflecting on what’s been happening in the world around us and if we can do anything to change it for the better. I’m not going to buzz about the album too much, but I just can’t fucking wait for people to hear it!
SCOTT – For me the influence that came when writing this album, were more from certain band influences that I’m very much interested in. There was no particular piece of music that I was influenced by, but more a collection of stuff that I listen to. I really love Mastodon, but I am more influenced by the bands previous albums, rather than their latest release, Once More Around The Sun. I’m into a lot of more slower doom style stuff, with big chords that can breath.
When we were writing the album, we didn’t just want it to be a metal album, because Beholder in present day, are more than just another metal band. Without being negative about what we have done in the past. We really wanted to progress on this album and started to adapt a more melodic approach to the material we were writing. Also, we wanted to be in a position where we were more comfortable with what we were doing as a band. We’ve pushed ourselves as a band in more ways than one, as we set out to create music that we could adjust and make more grand in sound and epic in presence.
There were influences from bands that we really respect and listen to for sure. As I mentioned, there elements of Mastodon, Gojira and some prog stuff from the Opeth end of the prog spectrum, but you have to know that we never set out to recreate these styles. It was more of an isolated sense of influence in the fact that we didn’t listen to a piece of music and say ‘let’ write something like this’. In fact, for a very long period of time, we didn’t really listen to anything else, but the stuff we were writing and after a while, we began to notice that there was a bit of a theme developing and we decided that we should carry on ,as we had seemed to hit upon a very rich vein in terms of creativity. There are really heavy influences on this album, which I’m sure will resemble other bands to some people, but truth be told, we never set out to emulate or copy anything.
SIMON – I think a fact to consider as well would be that we were really honest with ourselves after the last album and realised that at times, we were trying to hard to be heavy and angry and the result was leaving me with no room to let the vocals breath. I didn’t get to do what I do best, which is just open up and let the strength of my vocals work in tandem with the almighty crushing sound of the rest of the band.
SCOTT – One of the things that I see going forward with what we are doing now, is that things are a little slower, with a huge influx of melody. Things don’t have to be fast to be heavy, to me the definition of heavy is slow, crunching low end. The heaviest bands in my opinion, are the ones who take a step back and think about the impact of everything. We wrote this album with Simon’s vocals in mind and knowing what he can do with his range and personality in the vocals, we knew it was going to be fantastic. We want people to go away from the shows singing the melodies. Don’t get me wrong, I love riff’s and pounding drums, but generally what I latch onto when I’m sitting in my car, are the vocals. We just wanted to create music with light and shade, that has room to breath and is still immensely heavy.
OD – Will you be releasing any singles / videos from the album and if so can you give me some titles?
SIMON – I think we might be doing a couple of lyric videos. We have done videos in the past and to be honest, I don’t think any of us have walked away and though “well that was good!”. The truth is that we have walked away and said “that was fucking awkward”. We just don’t like doing those performance videos. The lyric video is so much more appealing to us at this point in time.
OD – From your perspective, how difficult do you think things are for metal band in this current time within the industry and what would you like to see change, had you the chance to do make it happen?
SCOTT – I would create a time machine and go back to 1994 (laughs)!
SIMON – Obviously, I can banter on about labels and their total non-entity as a force anymore, or a guiding influence or help, they are more of a hindrance, than anything else at this point. I would say that bands need to be more confident in their ability as a DIY band, as a self-signed band. This whole “unsigned’ thing is a fucking misnomer.
OD – Do you think that getting signed or trying to get signed to a label is worth it these days, with the likes of kick-starter and other independent campaigns around, it seems that it can totally be done independently?
SCOTT – Basically, it’s a means of distribution and that’s it. As a band you do need that, you need the your music to get out and about, but what you don’t need is a situation where your relying on someone to give you monetary advance. I know bands that are nastier, heaver and more brutal and less accessible than we are, who exist primarily in the underground scenes and they are making a living out of what they are doing without any assistance from record labels, because they have a huge amount of confidence in going out and doing what they do. Yes, it’s a risk, but so is signing an advance for a shit load of money to a label, who will be looking for a return.
If you start getting too scared about taking a confident risk in doing things yourself, there will be nothing left. Bands need to start rallying together and helping each other out more by representing for each others bands and helping with live shows and promotion etc. It’s got to start somewhere and when and if it becomes a natural thing to do, it will give us a great deal of power as individual bands, rather than chasing the record labels golden carrot.
SIMON – There’s a lot to be said for helping each other out and it’s a very easy idea. It just needs to be implemented.
SI – People can very bitchy about their genres, but the at the end of the day, it’s about live music and for that to work, people need to just look a the big picture and stop with the drama.
OD – Once the album is released, what will be on the cards for Beholder, can we expect to see any Summer festivals as part of the album campaign?
SIMON – I afraid I can’t divulge! ha ha Seriously, there are plans to hopefully get out to Europe and most certainly all over the UK.
OD – People are talking about the future of metal as were at a very interesting time with a lot of the iconic pioneering bands due to hang up their boots in the next decade or so. Are you confident that there will be a future as rich as we have been spoilt with in the past?
SIMON – I don’t think there needs to be. With regards festival, you can have your eighty to one hundred thousand capacity festivals, but do we really, really need that? Or do you need more quality?
SCOTT – Personally, I don’t know where the future of headlining festivals will go. It takes guts for promoters to put on bands at events of this magnitude, in the hope that they have hit the nail on the head with the mass flavor of the month.
SIMON – I agree totally. You have to take your hat off to Andy Copping (Download Festival) who put on Avenged Sevenfold a few years back and they are not everybody’s taste, but they are filling stadiums regardless. They put on a monster show at Download and fair fuck’s to them. Mind you, I missed them as I was watching Opeth at the time (laughs).
SCOTT – For me the Opeth’s and the Mastodon’s of this world, they have been around for a long time and they deserve to be headliners in their own right. Eventually, as we were saying Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and bands of that caliber are coming to the end of their time, due to age and the next ten years within the heavy metal genre will be quite sad, just as much as it’s going to be exciting as it opens up possibilities for new bands.
OD – The bands of yesterday reached huge levels of fame from selling bucket loads of records and today the way we consume music has vastly changed. Do you think this will factor into the metal / rock genre that are hoping for the same success and longevity as bands like Metallica, AC/DC and Iron Maiden?
SIMON – It depends what they are in it for. If they are in it for that garage feeling of creating music and having the comadre of four or five band members together, then that’s fine. However, if they are in it to make loads of money, they wont last five fucking minutes! The fact is, bands have to adapt to survive in this day and age. It’s for us as bands, promoters, agents and band management, all to make a mindset change on who we produce, market and distribute product, because at the end of the day, kids have changed and music is now a disposable thing in their eyes.
We were only talking about this the other day, regarding the track listing for the new album. We were talking about the possibility of placing all of our strongest tracks at the beginning of the album, in the fear that people don’t often listen to the end of a album, or do we scatter them throughout? This is an example of just how you have to think carefully and adapt to the ever changing environment of this industry. You can’t get down about things, you have to just keep on going and be proud of the fact that you actually created something. You have still contributed to what we call “the music scene” however small that project might be, you still created something and you should take pride in knowing that!
SCOTT – I think that there are people who are involved in music and do it because they really truly love what they do. They feed off the energy of playing live and creating music. Whether this brings them to the lofty heights of the rock star towers, where your burning money and flying around the world in private jets, is neither here or there. For me, being in a band and playing in front of ten punters, or one hundred punters, is still good and makes me feel like I’m doing something that I enjoy and really care about. I don’t know if that will ever change, but for other people, their mentality of this industry and why they want to be part of it needs to change. If your in it to become a “rock star”, then your in for a huge let-down. Don’t expect more than what is on offer, shoot for having a good time and enjoy your self.
SIMON – I would love to see the fanzines and floppy discs return like back in the 80’s, because if music does die to a degree and becomes less obtainable, then it’s like supply and demand. They will need to crave something then and will revert back to understanding just how important those things really are. The blood, sweat and tears that are sunk into creating music and producing an album, should warrant a level of respect from the music loving public and not just a huge influx of everything all the time, when ever they want it. You can thank the internet for that!
SCOTT– I would actually like to see the internet disappear! We survived without it in the past and I’m sure we can live without it now. I know this is just fantasy, but when you think about life before the influence of the internet within music, people believed in the product back then, with tape trading happening all over the world, fanzines and a level of loyalty between fans and bands that has changed dramatically over the last decade especially. I like to think that things will come full circle again and hope that the younger generation, figure out just how important a commodity music really is in terms of all of our lives and the memories that it brings and creates!
BEHOLDER – ‘REFLECTIONS’ IS DUE TO BE RELEASED IN APRIL OF 2016.
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