Hot on the heels of their recently released new record, Tarnation, which is the dogs bollocks by the way. I present to you an interview, I recently conducted with all round top geezer and BOTS front man, Matt Richardson. So without further ado. Check out my interview below. Its a bloody good one! So Enjoy and see you next time. Cheers Aaron
Hey Matt, How are you? I appreciate you taking the time to talk to talk to us, here at the Sludgelord.
No problem, I’m good thanks! We really appreciate the support!
Q) Where are you guys at the moment and what are you doing in terms of the band at the present? You’re preparing to release your new record, Tarnation? This must be an exciting time for the band?
A) Yep we’ve just been sent our copies of the new album. More than anything it’s a relief to have it all finished and the release in sight. It’s been a long time coming! The artwork and digipak have come out really well and Sean Schock did a really great job on the cover. We’re also gearing up for a few gigs and starting to think about a short tour towards the end of the year. Also we’ve been busy working on some new stuff and have quite a few songs, in various stages, written for the new album.
Q). I can’t speak for everyone here at the Sludgelord, however I have been following the progress of the band for awhile now, since your 2nd record Ichor! Ichor! and think you’re great. For those people who are not familiar with your music, could you tell us a little about the history of the band and some of the bands you've played with? Where you’re from? When Bastard of the Skies first formed? Current band members?
A) We’re from the area around Blackburn, Lancs, and formed in 2005. I’ve been mates with Rob (Beesley, guitar) since high school but we’d never played in a band together before this one. The band I was in at the time was slowly coming to an end so we decided to get something else going. At that point Rob played bass and we started jamming with another friend, Andy, on drums with the intention of just being heavy and weird! We wrote quite a bit and recorded some demos but didn’t do any gigging.
Andy left and I was given the number of a local drummer (Craig Hetherington), we started jamming and within a few weeks started booking stuff. We gigged for about a year and then recorded what became our first album. We got quite a bit of good feedback from the tracks we sent out and it quickly became apparent that Craig wasn’t gonna be up for much travelling and there’s only so many times you can play in Accrington. So new drummer time again.
At this point we were approached by a couple of labels, one, Meltdown, to put out the stuff we’d already recorded and the other, Mother Should Know, to release the next album. I asked another friend who I’d played in bands with in the past (Nick Cleeve) to join, he did and we toured and gigged quite a bit and wrote and recorded Ichor! Ichor! Around the time this was being finished Nick decided horrible sludge wasn’t for him and left. Also at the same time Rob was pretty ill so it just seemed like the easiest thing to get a new bass player along with a drummer and carry on like that. Rob’s a guitarist anyway so it was easy for him to move over to second guitar when he came back and at the same time add some extra heft. Matt (Aldred, drums) and Claire (Horrocks, bass) joined around the same time in 2009. I knew Matt’s brother and Claire was a friend of a friend. Since then we’ve again gigged quite a bit a recorded the Split and the new album.
Q). Is Bastard of the Skies a full time project?
A) It’s full time in the sense that it’s the only band any of us are in. It’s pretty far from being a job though! Everyone works. We try not to lose too much money though…
Q) What made you start the band? Did you all know each other before you formed?
A) Me and original drummer Andy were pissed one night and decided the best thing we could possibly do was form a band and rip off the Melvins. A good reason to start a band. Of the current line up I only knew Rob beforehand, the other two we’ve had to “bastify”.
Q). You might already answered this, but you strengthened the line up the introduction of a second guitarist? What the reasoning behind that?
A) Yep as I said it was kind of forced on us through circumstance. But it helped things become a lot heavier and more solid live. On record there’s a billion guitar tracks anyhow. But live it’s a lot thicker sounding and not as obvious when we fuck up! There’s a bit less of a difference between the recorded versions and the live versions now.
Q) Probably a stupid question, but are you or would you like to be full time musicians?
A) In a perfect world I’d like the band to earn enough to be able to gig in a bit more comfort and release what we want and then split it time wise with being busy in the studio. Running a studio does mean I get to be around making music most days though.
Q) Are you big fans of rock/metal, if so what are you listening too at the moment? Any recommendations?
A) Yes! Listening to the new Slomatics and Axis: Bold as Love while I type this. Personally I’ve been listening to loads of 90’s noisy stuff recently – Unsane, Jesus Lizard, Fugazi, Girls Against Boys, Sonic Youth, Today is the Day, the U Men, Killdozer, Tad...and also some newer stuff along the same lines like Pigs, Prize Hog, Black Elk, Twin Stumps and Rabbits.
Some personal all time favourites are Melvins, Harvey Milk, High on Fire, Faith No More (I love the stuff with Chuck too), Jucifer, Karp, Hey Colossus, Kyuss, Nirvana. There’s loads more too but those are always in constant rotation.
Q) When you started BOTS, what were your hopes for the band?
A) Really it was to get out of Blackburn, play with some excellent bands and to get an album or two released. Thankfully we’ve managed it!
Q) If someone was unfamiliar with your band, how would you describe your sound? Has it evolved?
A) Yeah, it’s definitely evolved over the course of our releases. The first album was more straight ahead, riffy, stoner metal. Whereas through Ichor, the split and now Tarnation we’ve been kind of putting our own stamp on things and incorporating more elements, like some discordant melody, within the heaviness. There’s definitely more going on in the songs now, and probably some stuff that’ll become apparent over repeated listens.
There’s elements of sludge and doom, which is a big influence, but I wouldn’t say we were strictly a sludge or doom band. It’s important to us to have our own sound, but without repeating ourselves and churning the same things out over and over.
Q) Who would you say are your influences both musically and artistically in terms of the bands sound?
A) Definitely bands like Melvins, Harvey Milk, Faith No More, High on Fire and going back Neil Young and maybe The Velvet Underground, because they’ve all given themselves the freedom to do whatever they want without being restricted by genre or any kind of rules as to what they can and can’t do yet sound like themselves. Then there’s stuff like early Sabbath and loads of the noisy 90’s bands I mentioned above…there’s a lot. The author Harry Crews is a massive influence lyrically too.
Q) Why did you choose the name, BOTS?
A) Complete accident! Andy our original drummer misheard me say a Karp song title, Bastard of Disguise. We thought it sounded ridiculous so it stuck! We really should make something more interesting up about that.
Q) What is the scene like in your hometown?
A) In and around Blackburn there really isn’t a scene as such and not that much in the way of venues or even an audience. It’s defiantly got worse recently and we’ve not played in or around Blackburn for about three years. The nearest to home we play is Bolton and Manchester. There’s a couple of newish bands doing some interesting stuff, so I guess there’s hope!
Q) At the moment, I feel that there is an outstanding underground metal scene coming out of the UK at moment. What are your thoughts? Where do you think BOTS fits within that? Any bands we should be keeping an eye out for?
A) Yeah it’s really strong bandwise at the moment…Black Sun, Undersmile, Grimpen Mire, Lazarus Blackstar, Hey Colossus, Art of Burning Water, Alunah, Conan, Volition, Arkham Witch, Black Magician, Jacknife Holiday, Arke, Wizard’s Beard, Witchsorrow, Human Condition…the list goes on!
It’s really good that there’s so many great bands, especially given that if you’re playing original heavy stuff you really are doing it for the music – there’s very little reward.
I honestly don’t know where we fit in. I think we’re pretty difficult to pigeonhole. Or at least I hope we are.
Q) What are your views of blogs such as the Sludgelord reviewing your records, as opposed to mainstream music magazines? Has your music reached the mainstream mags, at home or around the world?
A) I think it’s great. I’ve always liked zines and things and always held them in high regard. The whole landscape of the (for want of a better phrase) music industry has changed and there’s a lot more emphasis on zine’s and D.I.Y. I get almost all of my music info from the internet. I hardly pick up a mainstream magazine these days and when I do I don’t really know who most of the band’s in them are. We’ve had the odd mention in magazines. We did get a really good quote from Rocksound a few years back saying we were “the soundtrack to drowning in a swamp full of your own shite”. That’s a good thing apparently.
Q) I have been fortunate enough to have listened to Tarnation, which I feel is an exceptional record. To me it seems to encompass everything you have done to date and yet takes your sound to the next level. What are your thoughts about the record now it is finished?
A) Relief…it’s been a long time coming! I’m really happy that it’s finally all come together. I think you’re probably right it kind of takes elements of everything we’ve done previously and I think it puts it all together in a way that creates something new. It’s taken ideas we kind of sketched out in the past and fleshed them out more and push them further. We’re really proud of it. Personally I think it’s come out about as closely as possible to how I originally envisioned it, including artwork, which is probably an achievement in itself!
Q) Does it surprise you when people buy your music and merch?
A) In a way it does. I guess the reason we make it is to sell it, but we’re always grateful when people do! Especially given the amount of choice people have to buy stuff. Also I’m surprised when we get orders from places like South America. That’s pretty mind blowing.
Q) You have previously released 2 full length records, an EP and a Split, what are some of your highlights so far? What are your aspirations for the future?
A) The highlights have to be actually getting the chance to release albums, tour and play with some bands I’ve been a massive fan of for years, and are part of the reason I do this. As for aspirations it’s just to keep on going and getting better at what we do. We’re already well into writing the next album and I think it’ll be a continuation of, and progression on, what we’ve done before. I think all our releases so far sound different from each other and hopefully the next one will as well.
Q) Do you have any interesting stories from your tours, favourite places you’ve toured and bands you’ve toured with?
A) Nothing too wild although when we played in Belgium on tour with Jucifer there was some fun with sleep deprivation and the wrong side of the road…oh and a woman who dropped her pants and pissed in front of us in the street. To her credit she shuffled toward, but sadly not behind, a bush. Also it’s fun travelling 2000 miles without a handbrake, especially when all the venues are on a hill.
Touring with Jucifer was amazing. Firstly because they’re simply an awesome band, and such nice people, but also because you learn so much just seeing how they handle stuff on the road. They’re probably an extreme example because touring is their life, totally nomadic. But you pick stuff up.
Also playing with Harvey Milk was amazing. They’re one of my all time favourite bands and when Creston Spiers say you’re “heavy as shit”, that’s as good as it gets, haha!
Q) Did you have an agenda or a game plan in terms of what you wanted to write for Tarnation? Does everyone contribute song ideas?
A) I had a pretty strong, yet vague, idea, and amazingly I think we got there, or at least very close, which is pretty good.
As far as writing goes I generally come up with an initial idea but then it gets it’s own spin put on it by everyone. The last track on Tarnation, “What Are You Looking at Dicknose?”, came from an idea Claire came up with so that was good. No song idea ever really comes out how I originally thought, and it’s pretty much always different in a way that improves it.
Q) You recorded Tarnation yourselves and you seem very hands on, in terms of the production. Is that because you that no one knows what you want better than yourselves? Any thoughts?
A) Having the studio and being able to record our stuff is a blessing and a curse. On one hand yeah it’d be very difficult to explain what I really wanted to achieve to another engineer or producer but on the other someone else’s spin on it would help bring things that would benefit the songs that we wouldn’t think of. I doubt we could have got nearer to how we originally envisioned the album turning out though. Also we can work over a fairly long period which helps to develop the sound and things end up going in directions they wouldn’t have gone if it’d been recorded quickly. On the flip side it drives me fucking mad and I seriously end up questioning everything!
Also there’s the fact that if it wasn’t for the studio we’d probably not be able to afford to record anything decently as we’re bad at being quick.
We’re also super happy with the other people who’ve contributed to the album. Kevin and Russell from Black Sun did some vocals on the last track (and Graeme did some harmonica) which are amazing. James Plotkin nailed the mastering, and Sean Schock’s artwork is the icing on the cake. He managed to somehow make sense of my vague ideas and terrible sketches and came up with something that really suits, and sums up, the music. Having so much control over most of the recording can make it really scary getting other people to do stuff. It’s all fucking great though!
Q) Stepping away from BOTS for a moment, you are also a respected producer/recorder and also have your own studio, Full Stack Studios, is that something that happened naturally? Is it difficult to be objective given that you’re the vocalist and guitarist too?
A) Yeah, from starting to play in bands at being 13, 14 I wanted to record what we did. From ghetto blasters, to four tracks, to a sixteen track and then the studio. I’m totally self taught though and probably have a billion bad habits!
It’s not hard to be objective recording other people at all, just with us and especially me! With us there’s a degree of perfection (or even imperfection) that’s impossible to achieve.
I always learn a lot by recording our stuff – by the time we finish one of our albums I’d probably approach the whole thing differently. The other bands get the benefit though!
Q) You recorded the new Black Magician record too, how was that experience and can you tell us about some of the other bands you’ve worked with? What do you look for in a band? Your input creates a massive sound BTW.
A) Thanks! I like that big kind of sound, as long as it fits the project. Recording Black Magician was great – it was also very quick. They knew exactly what they wanted and hopefully we got there, or close. Also Kyle recorded some overdubs etc at home and sent them back to me. I think it came out great. Also Tony Reed, who recorded the last Saint Vitus album, did a fantastic job mastering it.
It’s always good when a band is well rehearsed and knows what they want. Also as much as I like recording heavy stuff it’s nice to mix it up, I’ve just recorded a blues band from Durham called Moist which was great. It’s great to mix it up, keeps things fresh.
I’ve also done Arkham Witch (their debut and their new album out in November), The Lamp of Thoth, The Human Condition, Berserkowitz, plus tons of more local bands and singers etc.
Q) I have heard you have been working with Jacknife Holiday? What can we expect from their record?
A) That’s ongoing at the moment – we’ve still got some overdubs and vocals to do. I think it’s going to be heavy, nasty and angry with bits of filthy blues and plenty of groove! We’ve played with them plenty of times so I know them pretty well. This was the first time I’ve heard them with the new line up though, outside of some rough demos, I think they’ve gone from strength to strength.
Q) Back to BOTS, you guys obviously have a sense of humour given songs titles like Michael Fucking Dudikoff and Can You Fly Bobby (from Robocop). Is that actor and movie a particular favourite of yours or were you just having fun with names of songs? Hahaha
A) Haha! Robocop’s ace (although I’m sure I‘ll be ignoring the remake), and Clarence Boddicker is an evil bastard! Michael Dudikoff’s in the so bad he’s amazing category. Although I did love American Ninja and Avenging Force when I was younger!
The titles generally bare no relation to the lyrics, just having some fun with it, or it’s working titles that stick. It’s usually just stuff I find funny, or grew up with, and I like it when these things take on a different meaning given a different context. Also it’s cool if people know the song titles and then hear them in films or something and realise where they came from.
Q) Future Noise is releasing your upcoming record, who have also supported some great bands, including the recent release by Undersmile. Can you tell us a little about them and what it means to be signed to label who have championed great UK bands?
A) They’ve been great and supportive from day one, along with Lee and the Sleeping Shaman. They gave us one of our first gigs years back with the Truckfighters and Volition. Their support has been invaluable during the long recording process and during the massive periods of self doubt! They just make it very easy with no outside pressure. There’s a very collective family feel to it. They’ve also helped with gigs and booked the stuff with Jucifer. And it’s all done out of a genuine love for music too.
Release wise their back catalogue speaks for itself…Undersmile, Black Sun, Charger, Lazarus Blackstar, Ramesses/ Unearthly Trance, Sontaran Experiemnt/ Paul Catten, Rise to Thunder…to be amongst them is awesome.
Q) What are your plans for the rest of the year and any chance you're doing a full UK tour?
A) Just to get the album out and play some good gigs. We’ve got a few things booked and hopefully have something in the pipeline for a few dates with someone really good. If that doesn’t come off I’m sure we’ll manage to get around the UK. It’d also be great to get out to Europe for a few more gigs. We’ll be supporting the album well into next year, and hopefully making a start on the next one while we do.
Q) Thanks for answering my questions, but one final question, you got anything you like to say to your fans?
A) Just thanks! All support is very much appreciated! Thanks Matt!!!
Well a massive thank you to Matt for the awesome interview. All round top fella and a pleasure to talk too. Do yourselves a favour and check our review of their new record, Tarnation here and then go buy it here. It is a must have record.