CLOVEN HOOF (Eng.)

– Thank you so much for answering our interview. How is the band currently doing with the release of your new album?

Hi Paco it is a pleasure to do the interview with you my friend, our fans in Spain mean a great deal to us. We played Metal Bats festival in Valencia a few years back and they were an incredible audience. They are real die hard true metal fans, we must try and play in Spain next year if we can because Cloven Hoof loves playing there. I personally enjoy every minute of being in this band these days because we have stood the test of time and I love hanging out with the best musicians and people Cloven Hoof have ever had. Joe, Chris, Jake and new boy Luke Hatton are dedicated, professional and very enthusiastic, so that makes for a fantastic band spirit. I hope this line up will be together forever because the chemistry is perfect. A stable line up is very important to sustain momentum and we have suffered in the past through this. It is all about getting the right people who are all fantastic at what they do and are team players. I feel very lucky and honoured to have such a great line up at long last.

– This new album is entitled “Resist or Serve”. Tell us a little bit how have the recording sessions been and the reason behind both its title and cover artwork.

We did all the pre production recording at Jailhouse Rocks! a studio in our home town of Wolverhampton. We sent the files to be mixed, mastered and produced by the greatest metal producer of them all… Patrick Engel. I don’t know where to begin to praise him highly enough. Patrick has such amazing ears and his attention to detail is phenomenal. He is the real deal and a great authority on all things metal. He really did us justice and got the very best out of our performances. The playing is without doubt the best we have ever produced. I gave the concept to Alexander von Wieding which comprised of the notion of an Evil Angel making the damned kneel before him before passing judgement. The damned would serve him in evil or resist and risk being cast down into flames of torment. There are chains illustrated on the sleeve that are broken denoting some resisted and were successful. The sword illustration of the Evil Angel signifies his dominion over the damned. It is very in keeping with the debut album too, back to our roots. Alex really kicked ass on the cover of ‘Resist or Serve’. I think his artwork is off the scale and he has got to do all our record sleeves from now on!

 

– You have been 8 years without releasing any new material. How has this wait affected the band? Have there been any important changes on the line-up?

8 years is a very long time so fans expectations will be sky high. You do feel pressure to live up to meet their standards and so a lot of songs have been written in that period. ‘Resist or Serve’ could have been a double album but we made it a single for release because double albums are generally not so successful. Good news for Cloven Hoof fans because the follow up album is all ready to go to be recorded hopefully next year. Things always turn out for the best as they say as now the line up is the strongest ever with the best players in the band’s history. This would be a good time to introduce the new personnel… Joe is above all things a born star! He has talent in abundance. He sings and plays guitar like a virtuoso, not only this but he writes great songs and has the image of an Adonis. The girls love him with all the muscles and stuff. He has opened up a huge new female fan base for the band. That can’t be bad can it? It is great seeing more girls at our shows. On the flip side of this Joe is very humble, loyal and a down to earth family man. Chris is a perfectionist blessed with an upbeat ‘can do’ attitude. He is the type of person who never makes mistakes, even at rehearsals because he practices relentlessly. Intelligent and articulate Chris is very calm and level headed. Mr Coss is a keep fit fanatic and enjoys rock climbing, wind surfing and mountain biking. Chris plays mean lead guitar on occasions too. Mr Coss is the cool surfer dude of the band with a strong sense of style and inner calm. At 18 years of age, Jake is somewhat of a musical prodigy. His incredible technique was refined by playing in orchestras and jazz bands for 10 years. His love is for hard rock and Jakes phenomenal double bass drums can be heard to devastating effect on the latest material. His jazz experience helps him pick up on complex time changes instantly and the band benefit enormously from this. Mature beyond his years Mr Oseland is totally dedicated to his art and is the quiet member of the group. Jake will undoubtedly become one of the finest rock drummers in the world, I have no doubt about it. We have a new boy in our ranks Luke Hatton. Like Chris, Luke was highly recommended to us by Simon Lees ex Budgie. Luke is a guitar virtuoso who has built up his relentless skills through years of practice and gigging. In contrast to his intense musical conquests, he’s a very laid back guy who’s always up for a good laugh and you’ll never see him without a cup of tea near by. (…the guys in Saxon are the same, Biff drinks tea by the bucket load. Did you know he started off as a bass player? He told me that once when we supported them, not a lot of people know that! lol)

 

– Going back to the new album, listening to it I see it’s an album that steps back from the old sound of the band but at the same time, it doesn’t lose that “classical” essence. Are you pleased with the final outcome?

You have hit the nail right on the head Paco, that is a perfect encapsulation of the album. It does indeed step back from the old sound of the band but at the same time, it doesn’t lose that “classical” essence. I think it is my favourite Cloven Hoof album without doubt. Patrick Engel is a genius and his production and mastering are incredible. I remember being addicted to listening to the various mixes he sent me and I was blown away with the final result. The guitars roar at you for the first time ever and he captures the aggressive raw energy the band delivers live. I would say if you only buy one Cloven Hoof album… then get Resist or Serve. Each song has its own unique identity and the subject matter has such strength and depth. The more you listen, the more you will like it and that is the mark of a great album. ‘Call of the Dark Ones’ is an homage to Lovecraftian horror. It is a sub-genre of horror fiction that emphasises the cosmic horror of the unknown. ‘North Wind to Valhalla’ is based on the Viking myths and legends. ‘Deliverance’ is an observation on how religion is not always a good thing. It asks to be taken on blind faith with promises of an after life, when no one really knows if there is one. It is the main cause of war and suffering in the world, manipulating the vulnerable and the ignorant. Brimstone and Fire and Cycle of Hate expands on this subject by addressing the atrocities done in the name of religion by terrorists. Hell Diver is one of our favourites because it is short, heavy and relentless. A little like Nightstalker that was on the debut album. It is sure to become a crowd favourite when we play it live in June. ‘Mutilator’ and ‘Anti Matter Man’ are classic sci fi tales of death and retribution. So as you can see, I have drawn from a wide range of concepts and scenarios. Every song is like a mini movie that we sonically sculpture to tell the tale. The album also features our first song of an autobiographical nature called Austrian Assault. It tells of what happened on our recent debut concert there and what a great time we had. It has a good time party atmosphere which is a good contrast against the heavy content dealt with by the rest of the album. I personally hate safe albums where every song is virtually the same, Cloven Hoof albums are varied and different so the listener is kept guessing. Tempo changes play a great part in our sound building up to a chorus with light and shade passages. It is very heavy and powerful music and has a prog rock sense of theatre and drama. Someone called us thinking mens metal… I like that a lot! “Resist or Serve” reshapes Cloven Hoof rather than redefines us, the songs are all written with early Cloven Hoof at the heart but moulded by the current line up.

 

– After listening this opus, it feels similar to the European albums recorded during the 90’s; is melodic but with really powerful parts and riffs, even near to Prog in cerain moments. How could you define this opus? Have you all been involved in the songwriting?

I guess because I write all the songs and have been in the band from day one I am bound to get singled out. It is only the same as Steve Harris gets in Iron Maiden, there are always key people and leaders in any band. Sometimes it is nice when people recognise your contribution over the years. Joe is a fantastic writer and he is bound to contribute in that department in the future. Chris will no doubt add the odd riff or two. I suppose I have a very definite vision and style of writing. It has been hard to get other musicians used to writing in that way until now. Cloven Hoof is my baby I guess because I have devoted my life to it, but Joe, Chris, Jake and Luke play a huge part in its continued success. The band is nothing without the fans and the FIVE individual band members so everyone’s contribution is not to be taken for granted. The occult themed songs are something I personally love and we are really well known for. So there is a generous helping of that subject matter. With a name like Cloven Hoof the ultimate blasphemy, what would you expect? Right from the start we wanted to get back to our roots with this album and deliver an opus that drew its main influence from ‘The Opening Ritual’ and the debut album. They were by far our most successful and best selling works so far and it made sense to try and capture the magic and essence of the N.W.O.B.H.M. The fans wanted it and we did too because the brooding menace of those records are really compelling. ‘Resist or Serve’ does that I feel and it is our darkest and most aggressive sounding album yet.

 

– What differences do you find between that 2006 “Eye of the Sun” and this latest record?

I love ‘Eye of the Sun’ it has some great songs like ‘Inquisitor’ and ‘Whore of Babylon’. Matt was a fantastic singer and there were great individual performances from guitarist Andy shortland and drummer Lynch. The production is more processed than ‘Resist or Serve’ but it stands up as a very well constructed album. The new album is more in your face and aggressive with greater depth of lyrical content. In many ways R.O.S is a natural follow on album because some of the tracks are concluding parts to songs on Eye of the Sun. The song ‘Golgotha’ for example was about Christ having doubts about his divinity at the point of death. The track ‘Deliverance’ features the crucifixion and is the conclusion to the Golgotha track. ‘Angels in Hell’ dealt with Revelations and the last epic battle between good and evil, Helldiver expands on this theme focusing on avenging angels that patrol the borders of limbo. These guardians keep the forces of hell at bay and stop them invading Earth and Heaven. The notion is they were created to maintain order after Revelations had taken place.

 

– And what’s left from those early CLOVEN HOOF? Are you, more or less, still influenced by the 80’s British sound?

Our sound is now very defined and to break away from the essence of what made the band what it is would be a big mistake. I know what the fans love about the band because they tell me through thousands of e-mails. We were determined to release an album uncontaminated from any external influences and deliver a 100% Cloven Hoof true metal album. High Roller is the only label that encourages a true metal band to do that. That is why they are the perfect label for us. They stand for quality and keeping it real on vinyl and CD. The 1980’s British metal sound will always be at the core of our essence it is true to say.

 

– You were part of the so called English NWOBHM. What did those early days mean to the band?

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s metal kids really did rule the streets in the UK, the N.W.O.B.H.M. movement was incredibly popular and well supported. Denim and leather armies were everywhere, it was inspiring and exciting times for any band that wanted to play loud and heavy. Metal kids are really intelligent and they make their own minds up. They know what is good and what is not and it is great to see the fans today are the same. The mood and spirit of those days is still as strong as ever today around the world, when you go on tour you can see it with your own eyes. The only difference is the British music press was all for promoting and pushing British bands in the early 1980’s. Sadly they do the opposite these days, they are all for ramming corporate hyped up fashion groups down your throat. Or in fact any trendy band the big record companies tell them to. The British metal press sucks! If they would change their attitude then metal would be huge again but they are too busy kissing the backside of the money men. Hyped up so called nu metal is dying on its arse, however true metal never dies!!!

 

– Nowadays the access to albums and bands is easier. Have you noticed, since your reunion, thanks to this, albums like your two first ones are again rising among younger generations?

Yes the internet gave freewill a huge boost as I said earlier… Metal kids are really intelligent and they make their own minds up. We see more younger kids at our shows these days and that is fantastic for the future of metal. Music smashes through boundaries like age, sex and race. At our concerts we encourage it to be like cup final day when everyone supports the same team… we can all go crazy and let off steam! Metal is a brotherhood and we are so proud to be part of such a down to earth loyal underground society. When you love it, metal is better than any religion or drug and you will play it until you die!

 

– Was this a reason why the band got back in 2006?

The only reason we disbanded in the first place was to ride out contractual hassles that got in the way of the band progressing. When our lawyers told me Cloven Hoof are free from all ties then I set about reforming the band. It was a shame the guys were different people when we did a reunion show however. They all had different agendas and the chemistry was not the same, I was the only one who had the same drive and passion. Time and tide does, that with personal problems and individual commitments getting in the way. With the best intentions things had to come to a head and personnel had to change and evolve. Today Cloven Hoof has the perfect line up but it wouldn’t have been possible without the guys who went before.

 

– And since them up to the date, how has everything been? How could you compare this period to your early days?

The first line up were an excellent group of guys and we were all good friends. We were young green and had no sense of fear. We played what we wanted and broke many rules because we didn’t know what the parameters where. Steve, Kevin, Dave and myself made it up as we went along. Now we are cited as being pioneers of power metal of all things. We played fast because we were nervous in the studio and adrenaline kicked in. I wrote music in a heavy prog way because I wanted songs done in movements or various musical passages because I was not aware it was common to practice to put verse, chorus, verse chorus, solo, chorus Ad infinitum! Today we have a definite style and songs that people expect us to play. Cloven Hoof is known and respected with a very loyal fan base of die hard fans all over the world. I still write for myself first the fans second and the critics not at all. You cannot please everyone and fans will always argue about various line ups and the merits of individual songs but that is to be expected. It is harder to work within a certain framework otherwise you will alienate your fan base but I try to write as a fan of the band anyway. I guess that is the secret. In comparison I enjoy today more than yesterday, If you chase the past you will always end up being disappointed.

 

– Now coming back to the present, how’s the touring and gig situation?

Everything is going fantastic at the moment as we are rehearsing for a show in Paris and then Sweden Rock festival. It will be amazing at Sweden Rock because we will be with Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper great heroes of ours. The new album will be released whilst we are there so exciting times ahead. We are playing a Metal festival in the UK in August but it will be our last this year because of recording commitments for Joe’s solo album. In November our main man and singer will be in Jeff Wayne’s multi million pound musical War of the Worlds. I am very proud of him because I loved that album as a kid. Ian Gillan was in Jesus Christ superstar when he was in Deep Purple so Joe is in good company. The rest of Cloven Hoof will be rehearsing songs for the next studio album throughout November and December so it will be very busy times for us.

 

– And about the album, will there be any vinyl special edition?

Resist or Serve will be available on vinyl for sure, in mustard and green limited editions I believe. I can’t wait to get a copy because the cover and packaging are superb. I think there will be a free poster too! High Roller Records always does a top class job.

 

– That’s all from our side, our best wishes and hope to see you soon in Spain.

Cloven Hoof will play in Spain next year in a heartbeat, all we need is the right promoter. It is our dearest wish to play a record amount of shows in 2015-2016 because playing live is our first love. Metal bands are defined by being a great live group, it proves you are the real deal. Cloven Hoof love being on stage best of all! There is nothing better than meeting the fans face to face and signing autographs. They tell you what they like about the band and keep you focused and motivated. Joe, Chris, Jake, Luke and myself thank the fans with all our heart for staying loyal all these years, they are always in our thoughts and we are honoured and privileged to be worthy of their love and support. Keep playing that metal till your ears bleed… Cloven Hoof salutes you Spain and all it’s metal maniacs!

 

Paco Gómez

paco@queensofstel.com

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