Currently on tour with ANNIHILATOR, for a series of dates across Europe, HARLOTT are living the dream and loving every minute if it. For any Australian metal band to break out of the local scene and get their music recognized, is a rather complicated challenge and one that HARLOTT have managed to pull off!
As Overdrive sits down with founding member Andrew, we are joined by bassist Thomas Richards who give us the full ‘behind the curtain’ on HARLOTT! Get stuck in…
OD – The debut album Origin, was a quality debut album, however nothing prepared us for the recently released, Proliferation which is just fucking brutal. How long was the writing process for that album?
ANDREW – The first album Origin was a bit of re-living old demos, but the second album has some old tunes on it as well. Three tracks from old demos are on the new album, technically, they much older songs that we spruced up a bit. All in all, Proliferation was put together in about six months of writing and re-arranging. We were kind of lazily putting songs together – there wasn’t a deadline or anything. We’re an Australian band doing it for fun.
THOMAS – We’re all Melbourne based. Andrew and I live in the South-eastern suburbs, so we’re pretty close to each other. Ryan (Butler, lead guitar), in the north, and Tim (Joyce, drums), in the west. Everything is close when you’re Australian, because an hour and a half drive is just standard. That’s what we do to see our drummer. It’s a 9-hour drive to play in the next main city in Australia.
ANDREW – It’s a 4 hour flight at least to fly from one side of the country to the other, but we’re all relatively close which is great! We all just jam frequently and catch up frequently, which is a great laugh. But going back to the writing of Proliferation, it was about 6 months of writing, re-hashing some old stuff, which was the same with first album. Once we got our arses into gear it all just came together and we started picking them off, one by one! It’s a process that just works for the band.
OD – There is such a solid production on that album, can you talk a little about the approach to the way you recorded it?
THOMAS – We used the same producer (Chris Themelco at Monolith Studios) and process as we did for Origin, we are a band of habits and that whole set up just really worked for us the first time around, so we figured that it was right for us to stick with that same process.
ANDREW – The only thing we did different this time around, was that we tracked the guitars first. Normally you do the drums first, but we did the guitars to the backing click and then you get two really solid rhythm tracks, so the drummer can go in there and he knows what all the guitars are gonna be doing, and he knows to put the fills in around that.
THOMAS – After guitars, bass slotted in. I feel that’s more of a norm these days. Back in the old times, the bass was done before the guitars, but yeah guitars first then bass.
ANDREW – Then we do the drums..
THOMAS – Yeah the drums fit in around the sole rhythm section, then the solos and vocal. It’s a couple of days of yelling, but it’s great when you get to this point, because you can really see the album coming together.
OD – Who came up with the video idea for Systematic Reduction and did you really have fuck all of a budget for it?
ANDREW – (Laughs) Oh yeah! $55.55c. That’s what it cost me to buy everyone Nando’s after the video shoot! Seriously, that is what it cost us! I just had a tremendously stupid idea that I’d always wanted to do and it just came together! I’d had a lot of childhood toys which got me thinking.
THOMAS – A lot of toy soldiers never to be used (laughs)!
ANDREW – There is a very dark part of my life, where I spent every night at 3am buying every variation Nerf gun that came out. I had to put them to use at some point (laughs)!
OD – How does a metal band from Melbourne, make it half way across the globe in a situation where your touring with Annihilator?
ANDREW – I emailed them and asked them nicely, if we could tour with them and they got back to me and were totally cool about it!
(OD) You serious??!
ANDREW – Yep! Manners will get you everywhere in this business but reach-arounds will get you even further (laughs)!
OD – The only other time I ever heard of that was with Mastodon. I know people that have emailed Mastodon directly and as a result they managed to get on some of the tour dates with the band. I guess that’s a good sign that your dealing with a solid band rather than record label bullshit!
THOMAS – We nearly fell out of the chair when we found out the news. We were like, “what, sending that email actually worked?”.
OD – Did you get that email from Jeff (Waters, Annihilator guitarist, writer, producer, engineer) that confirmed you were on the tour?
ANDREW – Yes, I just couldn’t believe it. I just emailed him and he got back to me and the next thing you know, we are getting ready to come to Europe and now we’re in Dublin and doing an interview in our dressing room! It’s kind of mind blowing, but just so cool and I’m beyond stoked that this has happened for the band.
OD – You have been on this tour for only a few days to date, have you settled in to the schedule as yet and how have you been getting on with Jeff and the other guys?
ANDREW – We’ve settled into the fact that the schedule is a lie. (Laughs). Sound check times and loading times are a very loose premise!
THOMAS – I think today (October 1st) has been the first day, or the second show including travel as well, its kinda the first time that we’ve started to settle into the whole thing. We had to fly from Australia to Frankfurt and then drive on a bus from Frankfurt to Birmingham. We had an overnight stay in Frankfurt and then a bus to Callais (France) and then a ferry at 2am or something like that, to cross to Dover and drive into Birmingham. It’s been exhausting, but it’s coming together. What I said about living in Australia and the travel distances between cities, is coming in handy now!
OD – It’s not secret that the music scene in Melbourne is second to none, with some killer bands breaking through into the international market such as you guys and the likes of KING PARROT. Is there a tight knit community in the Melbourne metal scene?
THOMAS – It’s really been in the last five years – there’s a real underground metal scene in Melbourne. I dunno, it just exploded.
ANDREW We did that (laughs)!!
THOMAS – It’s not comparable to Europe though. It’s a different world over here, there is just so much on offer. All kinds of sub-genres, venues, radio stations, festivals etc, you don’t know how lucky you bastards are! It’s great to be part of a scene and especially when you seen bands that you have played with and helped along the way, finally getting the recognition that they deserve.
ANDREW – Melbourne has a pretty tight-knit scene. There are a lot of dedicated fans, that keep it together and make sure that it’s a worthwhile movement.
THOMAS – Yea, there are a lot of really supportive people, who are great to have around and are helpful in keeping things going.
OD – Are there a good selection of venues for this kind of music in Melbourne?
ANDREW – There were some decent one’s, but a lot of them have closed down over the last few years, due to property development and stuff like that. The live music scene does not seem to be valued by these arseholes! All they want to do is rip it down and whack up a shit load of apartments, or houses! It’s such a shame really.
OD – A band that I recently picked up on from your neck of the woods is King Parrot, do you know those guys personally at all and has their career helped to keep a solid interest in more extreme and heavy bands, who are hoping to break out of Australia?
ANDREW – There’s this weird sensation that all eyes are on Australia over the last few years. They keep just grabbing random bands and chucking them overseas. I dunno if you know Ne Obliviscaris, a progressive/black/ death metal band and they’ve been on the touring metal circuit over the last couple of years. It’s them, King Parrot, just all these bands. Our mates Desecrated just toured Europe with Hyrax, which is awesome.
THOMAS – It’s just fueled this underground thing, especially in Melbourne, because that’s where we’re from. But it really has fueled this scene that’s really growing at the moment. Having King Parrot get noticed by Phil Anselmo (Pantera, Down, Superjoint Ritual), was a really big deal and has raised a little more awareness about heavy bands, from not only Melbourne, but from Australia also.
ANDREW – If a bunch of shit-cunts like that can do it, anyone can do it. Let’s face it (laughs)!
OD – When I was growing up, my first introduction to Australian thrash was Mortal Sin with Face of Despare – (1989), do you remember those guys and have you ever seen them live?
ANDREW – They opened for nearly every fucking band that ever toured Australia. Like, any time you went to see Exodus or Vader, the show was opened by Mortal Sin. They are like an institution of Australian metal.
THOMAS – They opened up for Metallica back in ’88.
ANDREW – Oh yeah? Two years before you existed (laughs)!
THOMAS – And you, ye smart fucker (laughs)!
ANDREW – I’m just saying’! (laughs) It was especially when Psychology of Death – (2011) came out and every show, they had the support of the Aussie metal heads. Mayhemic Destruction – (1986), is a fucking beast of an album. They’re fantastic. Rest in Peace!
OD – Would they be considered like, an institution in terms of Australian thrash?
ANDREW – As far as I’m concerned, it’s them and Hobbs Angel of Death, in the 1980’s who were just so fresh, in terms of style and sound. These bands never got to any level of recognition overseas, which is a real shame. But yeah, they’re like our premier fresh bands.
OD – Lets talk about the album cover artwork and how that came about. Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted it to look like, or was it something that the artist developed over a period of free-styling ideas?
ANDREW – Andrei Bouzikov, the guy who did Municipal Waste, Toxic Holocaust – (2012) Metal Blade put us on to him and I’ve been really wary about the cartoony, thrash-metal covers that you see on all of those bands from the 1980’s and more recently, but I though “fuck it!” , we’ve gotta give in to those stereotype eventually I suppose. So I said “here’s the theme for the album. I don’t know what the FUCK you’re gonna do with them, but just give it a red-hot go and he kinda came back with a cover, that was exactly what I wanted, before I knew that was what I wanted, if you know what I mean! That was his first design and it just hit the nail on the head. We all just loved it.
THOMAS – We changed a couple of little things, here and there, but basically that was the first design he gave us. We were pretty chuffed when we first saw it and I think it just looks sick!
OD – Speaking of album covers, what is your all time favourite album covers?
THOMAS – Metallica, Ride The Lightning – (1984) . I’ll regret that later (laughs)!
ANDREW – I regret that I haven’t an answer right now. Archer – Culling the Weak! That’s the best album cover I’ve ever seen. The guy who made Slayer’s album cover did that one – the guy who did Seasons in the Abyss, (laughs) *Archer band members have just entered the room and are now wondering what is going on!
OD – If there was any band that you could tour with, who would it be?
BOTH – KREATOR!
ANDREW – That would be a dream come true!
OD – What’s the most fucked up gig you have ever played to date, be it good or bad?
ANDREW – Well everything we do is so vanilla. Oh hang on! Do you know any Australian criminals? Other than Ned Kelly?
OD – Chopper Reed?
ANDREW – Yeah! He came to one of our shows! He had no fucking ears! He was wearing sunnies and he’s got no ears. I dunno what the fuck he was sticking them on!! He was wearing a trilby hat, and we said “Tom, go call him a faggot!” (laughs). He was standing at the back with his arms crossed, looking like a fucking psycho.
THOMAS – That show was crazy. That was the last show at a venue called the Tote Hotel. It was an iconic venue in Melbourne. It actually re-opened. That’s the venue that one of the King Parrot videos were filmed in.
ANDREW – You know the video where the guy at the end says “call an electrician – your door’s fucked!! (see below)
THOMAS – We headlined the Tote Hotel – we didn’t even mean to! We headlined that last show and that happened. There was also like 3000 people protesting for it not to be shut down at the intersection of the street and there were people hanging off the walls. It was pretty crazy. That was pretty much the wildest show we ever played.
ANDREW – Our fans weren’t able to get in for that gig. We didn’t have anyone coming, but if they tried to, they wouldn’t have been able to get in. The place was fucking packed outside!
THOMAS – I saw a Mini Cooper sail across the crowd at one stage. It was a riot but then, the venue shut down and all the musicians vandalized it because it was going to get turned into a pub. When they finally announced that it was reopening as a venue, the same musicians who trashed the place, rocked up and cleaned the venue again.
ANDREW – It was sold out, all that commotion was on, do you wanna guess how much money we made from that sold-out show in Melbourne?
OD – Probably…… enough to make the Systematic Reduction video?
ANDREW – Yeah about that. About twice as much as it cost to make that video. Actually, we just got told last night that we have to pay tax on merchandise sales in these ridiculous countries! But not in here. Not in this venue. Fuck yeah! Cheers Dublin!
OD – What is on the horizon for Harlott after you come off tour with Annihilator?
ANDREW – I’ve gotta write another album!
OD – Will there be any more touring in 2016?
THOMAS – Nothing yet. We’re planning something for after this Annihilator run, so keep your eyes peeled!
ANDREW – Yeah, really the focus will be on just writing the follow up to this record. I’m contractually obliged to write more music. No pressure! It’s got to be a fucking face melter, that’s for sure! Something to keep the pits busy!
Check out the review from HARLOTT show as support for Annihilator on this link.
HARLOTT – ‘PROLIFERATION’ IS OUT NOW VIA METAL BLADE RECORDS. FOR MORE INFORMATION ON VINYL / DIGITAL FORMATS, CLICK THE GRAPHIC BELOW.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON HARLOTT, CLICK THIS LINK.
Interview – Oran O’Beirne
Transcription – Shaun Martin
Photography – *Live Photography: Down The Barrel Photography / Stock Images © Metal Blade Records 2015
© OVERDRIVE 2015
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