Friday 4 November 2022

Prepare For Battle: An Interview With BATTALIONS

UK Sludge/Stoner Metal Heavyweights BATTALIONS have just released their new album King Of A Dead World and it's receiving rave reviews across the mainstream press and underground scene. With the band taking a heavier, filthier and progressive approach with their music, it seems the band are fully hitting their creative stride.

I was asked to interview the band and with myself being a fan of Battalions, this was a no-brainer for me. So here's my interview with the band where discuss the making of the new album, evolution of the and possible future tour plans.

Read on for a great interview.

Hi guys. How’s it going? Thanks for doing the interview.

Thanks for speaking to us! We are very well thank you, it's a great time to be in Battalions!

For folks not in the know, can you give a brief history of the band and where it is today.

Phil - We started in 2010 from the ashes of several local bands. We just wanted to start a band that had huge riffs and horrible vocals, something we have stuck to ever since. Over the years we have undergone a few line up changes and switching about of personnel - at one point we had no guitars and 2 bassists, that was a strange period of the band ha ha! Once we settle on our first stable line up, we wrote and recorded the first album, and it's been non-stop since then, bigger riffs, bigger gigs and bigger noises!

How would you describe your music in your own words?

Matt - big riffs, big grooves, very heavy yet with a hint of fun! We don't take ourselves TOO seriously. We enjoy ourselves too. It has to be fun as well. We still use the phrase "Pure Humber Sludge" which was someone else's description of our music, it fitted us perfectly! 

I remember a Nottingham gig once we're a punter said we were like Raging Speedhorn crossed with Rage Against The Machine! I totally go with that. Tho the best one I got was an American guy in Camden who said "you guys are like ZZ-Top with death metal vocals man!" Ha. That to me was ace. 

We do get a lot of "oh your music's real good but I can't do with the vocals" - Phil sets us apart, it wouldn't be Battalions without Phil's throat. I know Phil always says his style is the late/great Johnny Morrow of Iron Monkey, I absolutely think he hits that and goes further. So to sum up we are BIG RIFFS, BIG GROOVES, WITH SCREAMING FOX VOCALS (as one recent review stated!).

Why did you call the band - Battalions. Any specific meaning.

Phil - It was a very simple thing, our original drummer suggested Battalions to convey the sound we wanted to make, a low rumble of battalions of men marching over the hills. Other than that, we knew of no other bands with the name, and sometimes that's half the battle ha ha.

We’re here to talk about your brilliant new album King Of A Dead World. What can people expect for this album?

Phil - A continuation of where we have been all along, but also going back to that dirtier and heavier sound we originally started the band to make. The usual hallmarks are there, big riffs and tempo changes, horrible vocals and deep lyrics, but this time we changed up the studio and went with a brand new producer for this album who we just knew would get the sound we wanted - especially after hearing what he had done with our local mates in Mastiff's last album, we knew it was the right choice to switch up studio. So to sum up, HUGE riffs, massive distortion and me screaming my lungs out over the top of it :D 

What is King Of A Dead World all about and why did you call the album that?

Matt - it was from an article I was reading about world leaders ruining things for normal people - war, the rich getting richer, poor people struggling, profit over life, criminal activity in power, corrupt politics, the plundering of Earth's resources.... The article ended with who wants to be the king of a dead world?!? It immediately struck me as a great title! 

Yes it's a well used subject but it's even more relevant these days I think - I don't trust people in suits, shirts & ties and shiny shoes - mostly crooks. I put it to the guys ref: an album title and they all agreed it works. So from early on we had the title sorted. It was very easy, sometimes that issue can be a hard one to solve!

It seems you went for a more Hardcore/Groove Metal approach with the album. Well that's the feeling I got from the album. Was that the plan to go for a heavier and different kind of sound compared to your last album.

Phil - We recently recruited our new drummer Simon Harrison just as we started writing this album. The writing process is very organic, and we just feel stuff out in the practice room. It wasn't an intention right from the off to go for a more hardcore sound, but the more we wrote and jammed together, it started moving along that way. Me personally, I've always wanted to get back to this harder sound, so I guess subconsciously for me the intent to get more of a hardcore sound into the album has always been there.

What were the recording sessions like for the new album? Was this a hard album to write and record for?

Matt - we had started writing this album with the old drummer who we had to drop, that put a stumbling block in the road. We had some tracks down and other bits and pieces to use but we didn't have a full album at all. A local guy sat in and assisted us to carry on writing for a few months, Jonny Harper, which was a big help, we got quite a few riffs and sections written with his co-operation. 

We then demoed the tracks at our rehearsal room using another friend/studio staff guy to play basic drums to the stuff. After that amazingly we got Simon in the ranks, he saved our bacon! We pulled him back into the drumming world and he took it to a whole new level - the first jam he ended up with bloodied blistered palms! He learnt around 10 tracks in something like three jams, it was ridiculous. 

We absolutely fell on our feet there. We were then back up and running. Phil had looked at No Studio with Joe Clayton, the stuff I heard sounded immense so we all agreed and booked the sessions there. It took five days to put it all down and it was a joy to do. Hotel, gym, recording, it was ace. Joe was fantastic. Great to work with and absolutely knows his stuff. He has been a big part of making this album as good as it is. 

Of course all of this was going during the COVID lockdowns too, which really ballsed things up for a long time. The other three albums were recorded at Skyhammer with Conan's Chris Fielding - which were all fantastic experiences - we just decided we needed a fresh set of ears and a new surrounding for this one, it felt right to branch out a bit. It was obviously a great choice. I do hope we use him again in the future.

Did you do anything different when recording this album compared to your previous releases?

Matt - we booked a 5 day slot at No Studio, which is basically what we used to do at Skyhammer, and day one was for Simon to lay his drum tracks down. He then went back home due to work and family stuff and we built it up from there - guitars took two days, bass was done in around 6 hours I think, then vocals by Phil. We then left Joe to mix it before it was sent for mastering. 

To us the process was very similar to what we would do at Skyhammer with Chris. A big difference this time was no partying, just work. We really made an effort to concentrate on creating a solid album. The sessions were like lunchtime to 10/11pm, we would grab some food, go back to the hotel, watch TV then get a good sleep before the gym in the hotel morning then back to the studio. It was brilliant, we had a great time. I think the end result definitely shows that we had a different attitude this time. Yes it's great to party and get drunk and mess about but we had a serious job to do so we were on the ball with this one.

What is the creative process or setup within the band? Do you all write the music together or do certain people within the band do that?

Matt - generally it will be a riff from myself or mainly Pete (he seems fart riffs every minute!) and we jam things out at the rehearsal room then see where it goes. We all add ideas and chop and change things if needed. Rarely one of us may have a full song, but it's more a jam thing for us. Phil might sit and film us, that's great as it's easy to forget something you play off the cuff! Do that again, er I don't really what I did! Ha. So we can go back a week later and watch the video then continue the track after reviewing it. Lyric wise it's myself and Phil. 

I take sets of lyrics and hand them to Phil saying use any of these if you like them. I like to write things about films and also real life events. Phil may edit them and add to them as he builds his vocals to a new track. It's a free for all really. Anyone can jump in and say what they think is best for a song, Simon too, to us it's a democracy. Were over-complicated writers, were not Tool, we like big riffs and big grooves. 

If it gets us moving and grooving and makes us smile then we know it's good! Some tracks are as short as 2 and a half minutes, if that's all it needs then fine, next track let's go! I'm a massive believer of no fat/no gristle - no muddy waters, keep things clear and on track. It seems we are good at that too. Write and play to your skills!

Who and what influenced you all for the new album?

Matt - I am simply a metal head thru and thru, I guess we all are, I can't write anything else but heavy. I play hard and heavy. I listen to heavy music so much that it's ingrained in my brain - as my wife Sharon says "riffs and gigs - your heads full of em". That's my influence. I can't get way from it. Rock and metal rules my life. The other guys influence me too - Pete Phil and Simon, when we're together grinding out our noise it's a massive trip, it's something very special and I want that to continue as long as possible! 

All these amazing reviews coming are also a massive influence as it shows were doing it right and were fucking good at it! Other bands on the scene are a big influence too, we play with some superb bands that contain even better musicians, if we are seen as being as good as some of these other bands then that's amazing to me. Something as simple as seeing faces in a crowd pulling that stinkface while nodding along when you hit a big riff is one of THE biggest compliments to me. That pushes me along to keep this going at all costs.

Who designed the excellent artwork for the new album?

Phil - When our longtime collaborator Craig aka Daggers for Teeth wasn't available to work with us on this album, I contacted an old friend who lives locally to commission him to make some artwork for this album. James Fenwick already has quite a name for himself in the graphic design/illustrator circles, and I wanted to tap into his immense talent. We gave him the most basic of our ideas and the name of the album and just let him run with it. From the initial sketches we knew we'd made the right choice, he is a phenomenal artist.

APF Records are once again releasing the album. How did you hook-up with that great label?

We've been friends with The Boss aka Fieldy for many years, before we were signed to APF. We self released our first 2 albums, and he was never happy that he let us slip by for those, so signed us for FMB and subsequently re-released our first 2 albums as Pure Humber Sludge. It was a no-brainer to carry on working with Andy, he is the best of humans and an amazing person to work with professionally.

Did you have any other offers from other labels. Or was APF Records the only ones you decided upon? 

No, as above, APF was always going to be the one for us. We didn't even think to offer the album round to other labels, we are very happy with APF and all the work we do together.

The album has received some stunning reviews already. Are you pleased of how the record has been received. And how the Sludge/Stoner Metal Underground scene in general has reacted to Battalions as well.

Matt - I can safely say we have been blown away by the feedback up to now! Sometimes when you're so closely wrapped up in a band it's hard to be objective and doubts can creep in - are we still relevant? Are we a one trick pony? Does anyone care? Etc etc. When we were recording this almost a year ago we hoped it would turn out as good as our previous works but it can be tough. 

We were going to carry on writing at one point but I am a big believer in no filler - I love classic rock albums with 8 tracks, no bullshit, no messing, bang. I wanted that. Strong tracks with lots of punch, so getting these reviews in that seem to totally agree and vindicate our plan is simply amazing! To read so many reviews stating this is the best album yet is very humbling indeed. 

We have lots of friends and peers in the scene and to get massively positive feedback is really mind-blowing. We are three guys from Hull (and one from near York) who make lots of noise for our own enjoyment mainly, so to be praised by so many just makes all the hard work worthwhile.

How did you get involved with music? Was it a particular album, group or artist that made you want to write and play your own music?

Phil - I started getting into music, especially the heavier stuff, around the age of 14. For me, it was seeing Raging Speedhorn & Johnny Truant play at Hull Uni back in the day. I saw that and thought 'fuck, that's all I ever want to do'. Since then I've been screaming in bands, a few short lived, a few highly acclaimed, one on the official list of banned music in Germany ha ha, and then finally Battalions. We had no idea it would last as long as it has, but I'm highly grateful that we still are, and the best we've ever been.

Will you be going on this tour for the album in the near future at home or abroad?

We will, there are no firm plans at the moment, but talks are ongoing and we will be touring the UK and hopefully getting across to Europe too next year. 2023 is going to be a busy one, fingers crossed!

With 2022 drawing upto a close soon. What have been your favourite albums you've listened to this year regardless of genres. 

Phil - 2022 has been a HUGE year for music. For me, the AOTY is White Ward's latest album. A Ukrainian avant-black metal band that in my eyes can do no wrong. The latest Psychonaut release has just absolutely upped the game. And, as they are a massive influence on us, the latest Clutch album - they're just the gods of rock n roll.

Thanks for doing this interview. Before you go, do you have anything to say to your fans currently out there?

Two words, THANK YOU. The support we have been shown over the years and since the release of KOADW has been phenomenal. We appreciate every kind word, listen and purchase of our music from this little old band from Hull.

Words by Steve Howe and BATTALIONS

Thanks to Simon from For The Lost PR for arranging this interview and BATTALIONS for doing this fantastic in-depth interview.

King Of A Dead World is available to buy on CD/DD/Vinyl via APF Records now.


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