Raging Speedhorn Speak To SonicAbuse; Interview & Gig Review

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One of the best extreme bands currently treading the boards, the reformed and revitalized Raging Speedhorn are a multi-headed beast of fearsome potential. With Vocalists Frank and John up front, the band seem supercharged (as recent single ‘halfway to hell’ attests) and to see the band power through the likes of ‘fuck the voodooman’ and ‘the gush’ once more is truly inspiring.

Playing the small, but always reliable, downstairs bar at Nottingham Rock City, the place is comfortably full before Speedhorn (supporting Will Haven) even take the stage and when they do, amidst a wail of ear-scraping feedback that seems to drone on forever, it is to a palpable sense of excitement. True, the pits may not be as fierce as in the days of yore (although this has more to do with the average age of the assembled throng), but seeing Raging Speedhorn in the flesh is no less intense now than it was back in the late nineties, and with a set list to die for, the band set about simply crushing the venue. Tracks like ‘Superscud’ ad ‘halfway to hell’ are smashed out early, ‘spitting blood’ and ‘the gush’ drawing ever-more inhuman effort from band and crowd alike, whilst tracks like ‘fuck the voodoo man’ and ‘the hate song’ have never lost the ridiculously malevolent vibe they give off. Then, of course, you have the fact that Frank and John work the crowd as a brutal tag team, a steely glare from either one enough to make you headbang in self-defence, whilst the band whip up the sort of ferocious sonic storm that sends punters staggering from the venues, dazed, exhilarated and exhausted in equal measure, aware only that they’ve been aurally battered by the very masters of sonic violence.

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Operating in the same frenzied, super-paranoid, death-trip nu metal realm as the Deftones, Will Haven also had a period of absence whilst members went off to chase individual dreams and family life, but their return also proved to be a welcome one with post reunion material ‘the hierophant’ and ‘Voir Dire’ both proving to be respectable additions to the band’s catalogue. The band also boast Chris Fehn (of Slipknot fame) on bass and, like Slipknot, the band present a suitably intense live experience that gels well with Speedhorn’s rabid, metal mess. Tracks like ‘soul leach’, ‘the comet’ and ‘ego’s game’ are delivered with a bristling, white-hot fury that sees the crowd beaten into submission by the discordant noise, overwhelming levels of distortion and scarifying screams emanating from the small stage. Songs that once formed the backdrop of MTV 2 (back when MTV actually, you know, played music) like ‘Carpe diem’ are saved till late in the day, and they do a good job of reviving flagging spirits, whilst seeing Jeff Irvin (guitar) taking to the bar to deliver his molten riffs is endlessly entertaining. In short Will Haven deliver a vital, brutal set that did a good job of pleasing the fans whilst encouraging newcomers to go check out their impressive back catalogue.

Any time you hear (or voice) concerns that live music is dying, take just a minute to look around and check out the smaller gigs taking place on a nightly basis. Seeing Will Haven and Raging Speedhorn on such a small stage with such a passionate audience does much to revive faith in modern metal crowds and both bands deliver stunning, sonically-destructive performances that leave most stadium efforts gasping for air. This is what metal shows should be like, red in tooth and claw, and it is fair to say that no one left disappointed after the sonic battering handed down to them by two awesome bands.

Happily, after the show we were able to catch up with Speedhorn members James Palmer (guitar) and Dave Thompson (bass) for a chat about the reunion, the new album and more. Read on to find out more about the blistering return of Speedhorn….

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For a band as uncompromising as you are, your initial success was meteoric, how did that impact upon the way the band developed.

Dave: Well, to be honest, with that, I don’t think the band ever thought about it as a big thing. You know, we played with the big bands back in the day but it never became a big thing, we always stayed streetwise. We had a good time, and it was good playing with those bands to get the exposure.

James) the benefit could be seen in a bad way or a good way. The benefit was the huge amount of publicity and press you get with shows like that. I mean I wasn’t in the band then, but because they stuck to their way of doing things, they got labelled as ‘bad boys’ (laughs) and that carried on and that press and coverage, and them being everywhere, helped the band to carry on out of that… because that never lasts unless you’re writing chart hits…

Dave: It’s good to be there but at the same time it’s not good to be there. It’s good exposure but it’s surreal for a band like us. We’re comfortable in doing what we do, but great opportunities and we can’t complain.

You started in a time very different to now, the internet was there but very basic, and yet you did expand very quickly…

Dave: It was selling tapes to start with – old school ways – I think the internet’s killed that off and I miss that in some ways. You know, hardcore scene wise you wouldn’t know who was coming over unless there was… unless you got a flyer at a hardcore show you’d know who was coming over and you’d get to know your way around…

James: People talked. People didn’t stay at home and look at a computer screen and decide nt to go out without it or whatever.

Dave: The internet’s great but I miss all that shit.

It was always good to get people taping things for you, back in the early 90s…

Dave: Tapes are coming back

James: Vinyl’s fucking huge…. So it’s not dead yet…

Dave: just like me!

I really liked ‘before the sea was built’, but it looked and felt very different compared to what had come before…

Dave: Well we listened to it the other day didn’t we when we were hung over to fuck at my house. The things had changed in the Speedhorn camp, by that point, and I think we just wanted to write the record for ourselves and it didn’t matter about the name of… it sounds bad that way… but it didn’t matter about the name of speedhorn, we just wanted to do a record which we wanted to do. In a way, we knew that that was going to be the last record that we recorded together and it turned out like that and I’m… like I said… proud of that record. It’s a good record for what it is, obviously speedhorn fans… I think people were like “what the fuck?” It was totally different to all our other stuff. But bands have to progress and… then again, saying that, we’ve gone back to the old school now. But at that time, where everyone was, I think it was a wicked record and I love it.

It’s a really interesting record, but it’s very different…

James: I think if you listen to it, there is old speedhorn on it.

Dave: there’s definitely old speedhorn in there. It wasn’t like ‘forget the old stuff, let’s just do whatever’ there is some old speedhorn there, because it was speedhorn. I think at the time we were all listening to different styles of music because have done, that’s not a new thing, we’ve always listened to… acid jazz(!) that’s just the record that came out. We didn’t set out to make a different record, it’s just how it came out. And it’s a good record.

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Was it difficult to walk away from Speedhorn?

Dave: No! At that time, I think things had run its course in what we were doing and we were lucky to do what we’d done and we’d had a good time, but I think everyone knew it was time for it to come to an end. Again, I think everyone thought after we’d done ‘before the sea…’ because everyone was so chuffed with the record, because it was so different, I think everyone was like… it’s really bad saying it… but it’s not a Speedhorn record… well it is a speedhorn record but it wasn’t the record that Speedhorn fans wanted to hear In a way, because it was too weird for them. I think everyone knew that it was going to come to an end, and it did, but it was pretty easy to walk away from it, to be honest, because we’d done what we’d done.

James: Some had washed their hands of it as well… Gaz

Dave: Yeah, Gaz had washed his hands of it I think Gaz was real happy we’d done that record and that was his closure. Which was cool because, he’s a great guy and it had run its course in the way that it should and we were happy with it, so I think it was easier… it was never a thing of like… I don’t think if we broke up now there’d be people saying “oh my god, we’ve broken up, oh shit…” I think it’d be like…” yeah! Alright! Sweet!

Do you think because you walked having done a really interesting record, rather than let it drag on, that helped with reforming? Because people were really excited when you got back together…

James: It certainly helped with Frank, the original singer being back. Because even though we’re all agreed that ‘before the sea was built’ is a great album, generally speaking, most speedhorn fans see it as John and Frank. It could be anyone else on stage, but it has to be John and Frank, and I think when it was announced, it was kind of like… that was kinda forgotten… it’s almost starting out again, and I think that’s why the writing’s gone the way it has, because Frank gets very much involved in that because he plays guitar and he plays drums too, so he jams along when we write stuff, and that’s why it’s kind of… I mean ‘halfway to hell’, for me, could be off any of the first three albums really… and… I’ve forgotten what the question was, sorry!

I’m old now, I just go on, I’ll be telling you about what I had for tea in a minute…

Dave: What Jim was saying…

James: Valium… they’ve got Valium here???

Dave:… I wish… I think the things… what we’d done before with ‘sea…’ was closure for Speedhorn but it’s hard to say… It’s not like we set out to do a different record, it’s just what happened. But now we’re back together with Frank and John, obviously Frank’s got a bit of influence… well, a lot of influence… but we didn’t stop listening to the stuff which we grew up with and stuff. It’s just the time was right for what we were doing and the time, now, is right for what we’re doing now. Hence, ‘halfway to hell sounds like it does’

[James disappears at this point]

One of the big changes in the record industry is that you’re doing everything for yourself rather than relying on a label – does that open up more opportunities for you to do whatever the hell you want to do?

Dave: In a way, I think with what we’re doing now, we’re doing it for the people who are pledging for it and I think, going back again, it’s weird to talk about it. It feels like two chapters of Speedhorn. I think the people who are pledging want to hear a Speedhorn record like they heard ten years ago. So, intentionally not writing the record like that, but we’re doing what comes and there will be some weird shit on the record and stuff and everything’s going great with that… it’s just how it works… I shouldn’t be doing this anymore, I’m old!

You’ve got some crazy pledges on there – you’re offering to play someone’s house…

The house thing would be the best thing on there, someone should do that. So everyone who reads this, get us in your house! I know it’s a lot of money, but it’ll be the best night of your life. We did this before we broke up, we did some basement shows and stuff and they were the best shows. Two hundred people, in a basement, in Bradford. The squat things and stuff like that. So, get us in your house, game over! No more house!

What else is on there? Guitar lessons I think?

Dave: There’s a guitar lesson on there – we, the guitarist Jay and I, used to teach guitar in a shop so, we’ll whack out some riffs, we’ll even learn a new song… I don’t know it… but Jay knows….

Originally it seemed you were just going to do a handful of dates but there wasn’t really a plan, is that right?

We got Sonisphere first which, obviously, we were like ‘alright!’, then Damnation came along. But we’ve known the guuys from Damnation for a long long time. They put on Speedhorn… I think we’ve done it three or four times over the years. The first one they ever did, Speedhorn played the first ever damnation, in a shed… or wherever they did it. They approached us because they knew we were getting back together and offered us a slot so we said ‘yes of course!’ They’ve always looked out for us, the Damnation guys – hands up to them, because they’ve always been good about doing everything for bands. They’ll look after you for life, which is great. And that came after Sonisphere, so we booked a tour, just set up a tour and didn’t know how it would go, but it went really well, hence we’re still here.

I can’t believe we’re doing another record… It’s madness!

We saw you on that December tour – it was like you’d never been away.

Dave: It’s weird because I’ve been in both eras of Speedhorn and it’s like… it’s kind of like no one ever goes away. It’s not like ‘see ya later’ – it’s just someone coming back and it’s never gone away, so… I think Damnation was the most emotional show for some people. There were tears before we played and stuff… Damnation’s a big deal and we never thought that people would be bothered with Speedhorn again. But seeing that… you walk out to that… Fuck, it was… good for everyone. Doing that… it’s bought us, well we’re close anyway but we’ve all gone off and done our own stuff, but it’s good, it’s a good vibe at the minute. Which is great.

The first gig you did was Corby wasn’t it?

Dave: Yep, it was a hometown show and I think that was more nerve-wracking again because we did that, literally, the day before we went to Sonisphere and I think that was more nerve-wracking than Sonisphere to be honest. We did a secret show at Sonisphere as well for the press people, so we got there on Thursday and then did that on the Saturday and then the headline show on the Sunday. But yeah, I think people… a few headaches ‘cause we’d been there all weekend, so a walk in the park… but with a sore head.

I think there’s about thirty days left of the crowdfunding to go and then the record’s going to kick off I guess – what would be your ideal for the record?

Dave: I think for us it’s just about doing it for the people who have pledged money and have given a shit about seeing Speedhorn and hearing Speedhorn again. Like I said, we’re writing the record for us again. We’d never be like “gotta sound like…” but we’re doing the record for ourselves and for the people who are pledging because, Like I said, we never thought that we’d be in the position that we are now to actually do another record, so it’s for them really. And they’ll get a good record because it’s going alright so, we’ve got a few songs and more to come…

Last question: The music scene’s changed massively, do you actively still follow music or do you look back to past influences?

Dave: All of us are massively into different styles of music. It’s from here to here… It’s from, I can say it, from Taylor Swift to the most extreme… but People always think that Speedhorn’s been a band that just listen to Black Sabbath or fucking Pentagram, but it’s never been the case and we’ve always been massively into different styles of music. It’s always been there and, a lot of bands say it (well, hopefully they should say that), but we’ve been in this too long and you don’t want to just listen to metal all the time, as great as it is. The new stuff, for me, is just bizarre. It’s a different thing to what we’re doing, but like I said, we’ve got massive influence from Taylor Swift to…

[At this point half the band walk through]we’re off to bed, Dave!”

That sounds like an invitation….

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