Easily one of the UK’s most important underground bands, Malefice are immensely talented, hard-working, refreshingly honest and endlessly entertaining. A number of SonicAbuse writers have caught up with the band’s intense, effervescent live appearances and all of them have come back impressed, and so we were pleased to finally get the opportunity to speak to the band on their recent jaunt across the UK with American legends Unearth. Hooking up at Leicester’s Lock 42 we spoke with vocalist Dale and guitarist Ben about the UK scene, the challenges of being in a metal band and the possibility of a new album. If you’ve not checked out the band’s latest disc yet, ‘awaken the tides’ is a masterpiece of thrashing riffs and guttural vocals and comes highly recommended (check the video for the title track at the base of this interview) but in the meantime read on and enter the twisted world of Malefice for yourself…
You’ve released ‘awaken the tides’, your fourth album, last year and I felt it was probably your most powerful record – to what extent did you realise you were on to something quite special when you were recording it?
Dale: I think very early on in the writing it felt a lot different and we felt like we’d kind of come of age almost. We weren’t kids anymore and we knew we had to write a mature record and that set us up mentally to write one. We were always like the underdogs and the young kids in the industry and we were all of a sudden 25 – we haven’t got that tag any more, people aren’t going to be as understanding if we don’t write great songs so we had to pull something out of the bag and we did. We’ve still not completed our musical journey and we’re still moving in another direction. Not a completely different direction but we’re still expanding our ideas at the moment so don’t expect another ‘awaken the tides’ is basically what I’m saying.
Ben: I think that the first few albums that we released, a) we were really young and b) writing songs was kind of a new thing – writing a lot of songs in a short space of time is a new experience for anyone and I think that whole process and those first few albums was a learning curve of how to write songs and thinking about what we actually wanted to sound like and that’s why the first two sound so different from one another. The first one was full of all these extra sounds and synths and strings and then the second one we basically said ‘forget all that, let’s just do ten songs with no messing about,’ and now we’ve decided to go totally in the other direction and add as many layers as possible and just went to town on the synths and we just want to try and expand on that even more.
Dale: Also the further we’ve got down our career, the more complete this band has been with regards to members. ‘Awaken the tides’ was our drummer Chris’ first record and the drumming on it is head and shoulders above anything that Craig ever put down and I think that allowed us to write differently because we had a guy with a different set of influences and abilities and now we’ve got Andy Wilson on lead guitar and, again, that’s opened another load of doors for us to explore. And of course, fresh ideas into the pot – it’s not all about ability either – it’s all about your perception of music and the genre and because we’ve got fresh ideas in this band now you’re going to get fresher sounds.
Ben: It’s far more about writing for the song now – I think before we were being quite indulgent in that we thought “we want to do sections like this because we like them,” instead of focusing on what comprises a good actual song and I think we’ve really focused on having good, solid structures and all-round songs which is something quite important.
When I listened to the record I felt that there was a lot of variety as well – how much does that come from each of you having different influences and how do you write together – do you go into the studio and jam it out or do you each go off and do your thing and then bring it together in the studio?
Dale: It’s kind of, well especially now, me, Ben and Andy’s brain child and we’ll sit down and thrash ideas out between us. Everyone has their say on the finished product and we’ll chuck ideas out and get people’s opinions on them and work on it that way rather than have five people all trying to write a song together which is just a nightmare.
Ben: In the practice room we don’t know what sounds good. Thankfully technology now allows us to make things sound half decent in a very short amount of time, so generally either Andy and I will write thirty seconds of a song, which will be like an intro and a verse, or just a chorus that we think we like, and we’ll send that out to the guys and see if they like it and if everyone does then we’ll work on it from that. So we just get a massive pot of ideas and expand those… call them all funny names…
The artwork on ‘Awaken…’ is awesome as well – I was wondering how much as a band do you have an input into the aesthetic side of things?
Dale: Quite a lot actually. It’s done by a guy called Colin Marks who did the artwork for ‘dawn of reprisal’ as well…I think the scope for that album art was “it’s called ‘awaken the tides’, here’s the song, here’s the lyrics… do something based on that,” and he just came back with that and we were…
Ben: …what can you say to that?
Dale: …alright, done, perfect! I wanted it to be a kind of biblical… kind of parting of the red sea kind of thing. Pushing all of life’s obstacles out of the way so you can get to where you want to be. That’s kind of what the whole album’s about and the whole concept’s about and I think that image is just perfect for it.
Ben: We want something that’s equally as striking visually as it is audibly which is important. If you’re looking in a CD shop then you’re going to say “fucking hell – what’s that?”
Dale: some shit!
Ben: Some shit!
The perception is that it’s more difficult for a British band to get attention from the British press than an overseas band – how much of a challenge is it to get yourselves out there?
Dale: Well, the good thing about us is we have quite a bolshie attitude and we’re always very press worthy because we don’t keep our mouths shut – we tell people what we think of them and that’s kind of where we built our empire from – just being the honest, British lad. Not pretending to be an American band that are like “yeah dude!” – You know, British bands have never been about that – we’ve always had more of a punk rock attitude that’s been like “fuck everyone else, we’ll do our own kind of thing,” and we’ve got respect for that. No one can take that away from us ever. You can like our music or not, but all we’ve ever done is look after the British scene, look after our band and try and help younger bands through with us. That’s the way it always used to be and it isn’t anymore, but that’s an ethos we stick by wholeheartedly.
It was noticeable on the ‘United Kingdom of Heavy Metal’ tour where you were there supporting British metal and you were the one British band on that bill which was quite inspiring. Another thing you’re doing is bring local bands out on this tour right?
Dale: Yeah man, it’s fucking important. Everyone always moans about there not being any breakthrough British bands, or the scenes in their towns are dying. I mean how many people are in Leicester – I’m sure there are people who are saying “this place used to have a great local scene – nothing ever comes through this town anymore…” It’s because people can’t be fucked anymore and they don’t want to go to shows. When you’ve got the opportunity to bring out some local bands at each show – we want to make sure that they’re local .We don’t want them to be, if they’re playing Leicester, from Nottingham or Birmingham coming out. We want some Leicester based bands. We want them to bring their friends and start building scenes in all these places all over the UK again because that’s the only way it’s ever going to survive and it’s the only way we’re ever going to start getting more bands coming back over here again, because if there’s no scene and the promoters aren’t making any money, there’s no way they’re going to risk thousands of pounds on booking a band if they’re not getting anyone at their other shows. Does that make any sense? So they’re like… It’s all a part of keeping our country alive musically and it’s overlooked a shit-ton and I think it’s really important that people start doing it.
Dale: And again to look at that Arch Enemy tour, it was a UK tour and we were the only British band on it which is fucking disgusting. If you’re going to put a band on… I’ve been to see tours before and it’s four American bands; I hadn’t heard of two of them and I’m not even going to name them… I don’t know who they were… and no one gave a fuck. Why not give that opportunity to someone who might actually do something in their scene rather than a band that’s from 6000 miles away that no one’s fucking heard of. It fucks me off.
Every time I look you guys seem to be going out on tour again – you must be on e of the hardest working bands in Britain – how far do you have to balance commitments of work with the band – is it a full-time concern?
Dale: Yeah – it’s always a juggle
Ben: A worry I might not get holiday off for the next gigs…
Dale: If you worry about where your rents coming from next – there’s always something to worry about. But when we’re out on the road we just have to deal with each show as it comes. There’s no point in worrying about what’s happening with the next tour or whatever… and when you’re at home we’re normally so fucking bored because we’re used to being out a lot, we welcome our manager ringing up and telling us that we’re going out for three weeks in a couple of week’s time – we just get on with it. Band’s that don’t tour are bands that don’t do fuck all anyway. We don’t earn money from record sales anymore – no band does – we earn our money on the road and from merch so we want to earn as much money as possible from playing music so that’s what we’re going to do. Just get in our van and we go anywhere.
How did you end up on Metal Blade?
Dale: Um… I think they just signed us…
Ben: Yeah – they saw us play at Download and the head came and watched us and then they signed us a few weeks later. We already had the album ready to go as well so it was pretty easy for them.
Obviously you’ve played with some of the legends of metal – Arch Enemy, Grand Magus, Anthrax – it seems like you’ve developed the sort of career that most metallers would kill for…
Dale: We’ve always been kind of the odd ball band on every bill. We never really fit in wherever we go. We are a strange genre. We’re a very heavy band but we also have quite a lot of fun.
Ben: Like, a lot of bands take themselves too seriously and they want to be really angry on stage…
Dale: … and we’re just on the stage jumping around or whatever. It’s fun – we’re playing in front of 3000 people and they’re kicking the living fuck out of each other… of course I’m going to have fun!
You had the last album out not that long ago – are you already thinking about the next record?
Dale: Yeah we’re going in the studio in August
Is that largely complete or is that something you’re going to work on in the studio?
Ben: It’s done
Dale: Yeah we’re done… bored of listening to it now. All the demos are down, sick to death of the songs so we know we’re ready to record it. Yeah – so you’ll hear some of that towards the end of the year I imagine.
And what ambitions are there left for Malefice?
Dale: Survive… get a sick car… maybe a new van… a Mercedes.
Any final words for your fans?
Dale: Just thank you man. As gay as it sounds, it is a shit job but it’s a dream come true and we’re having so much fun and one day it will be over… we’re 26 now so we’re no spring chickens any more so enjoy it while it lasts because we fucking are…