– Hi, thanks for your time. What are you currently up to? How is everything doing right now with DEATH PENALTY?
No problem , thanks for asking these questions. Everything is going ok at the moment with Death Penalty. Hopefully this will be the case for the future.
– You formed the band and started composing before having a line-up so, how did the whole idea of forming a new project after CATHEDRAL was buried arise? And how did you select the members you wanted to play with?
Well for many years Lee had always said to me that if I ever wanted to do a record outside of what Cathedral were doing then he would put out a record for me. But most if not all my time and energy was focused on what Cathedral was doing. So when I kinda knew that the band was coming to an end I pieced a lot of riffs together that I’d had for awhile and started writing a whole bunch of songs for what eventually has become the Death Penalty record. Some of the songs I initially wrote were never used and when Michelle became a part of the band I wrote some more songs which ended up on the album and the 7″. The only one out of the band who I knew I wanted to be involved was Michelle. I’d heard the Serpent Cult record a few years back and was a record that I loved , the music and the sheer heaviness blew me away but most of all the vocals were great. Of course when I heard that record all those years ago I never even thought that I would be working with 2 members from that band. So when I was serious about doing a record I knew who I wanted to sing these songs and that was Michelle. I’ve always been a fan of female singers and male singers who have a high vocal range like Ozzy , rob halford , Geddy Lee etc …. I like dio and vocalists like him as well but for the music I wanted to do I wanted someone with a higher range. So I nailed Michelle and asked her if she would be interested in doing this and she said she would like to do it. So we were looking for a drummer and a bass player and she mentioned that Cozy would be interested in playing drums and so I went to see him and rehearse with him and it was awesome. It was like a hand in glove. Very natural what he did with the songs. Everything fitted and what he played was perfect. An awesome drummer and a really sweet guy. So we needed a bass player and again Michelle suggested Raf as she had known him for awhile and was already in a band with him. Again went to rehearse and to meet him and a great solid bass player and a lovely guy. I’m very fortunate that all of the band a really nice people.
– We could say DEATH PENALTY is an international band, as the rest of the members aren’t from the UK so, is this a handicap when it comes to work on stuff and rehearse?
A bit of both really I suppose. In this day and age with e mail it’s not to bad because you can keep in regular contact about band issues and it’s only Belgium as well so all I gotta do is jump on Eurostar and I’m there in say 5 to 6 hours. I suppose had the guys lived in Sweden or Norway etc …. It may have been a little more complicated but you can make things work out if you really want to. I suppose the only down side is that we don’t see each other that often and would be nice to hang out with them and have a drink and talk about bands we do and don’t like which means usual everything they like I don’t and vice Versa !!! Ha !
– As I said, you had several songs ready before you got any musicians so, is just you who works on the songwriting process? Or did the members later add their own ideas? For example when it comes to the vocals, did Michelle have free hands on her lines?
I write all the music as of course I started this and wanted to do my own record but I let Michelle have complete control over lyrics , vocal melodies etc …. To be honest lyrics are not something I think I could write very well. I could attempt to write some but they wouldn’t be very good I’m afraid and also I think lyrics are very personal so when Michelle writes the lyrics she has gotta feel what there about and so on certain parts of the songs she will know how she wants to sing certain lines softly or aggressively. I have ideas for where she should sing on certain riffs , not the melody but I will say that riff has vocals and the next part is instrumental and then she never listens , goes away , writes on all the wrong parts and I think what is she doing ? And then listen again and think yeah that sounds cool and it makes sense. Ha ha! I think she has a unique writing style as well. I like the way she will repeat a line in a song but will only change one word for the next line. It seems to be a theme she has going. The only input I had on any vocal part was I asked her for Sign Of Times if she could maybe just sing along with the riff like an Ozzy / Zeeb Parkes kinda thing. The vocal melody was all her idea.
– Your debut album was released recently, and so far it has got really good reviews. Is how is working and the feedback it’s getting fulfilling your expectations?
To be honest I didn’t really have any expectations. I mean it’s fantastic to see all the great reviews of course , no body wants to make a record and release it and then read reviews which put the album down and give it poor ratings so to see so many positive things said about the album is awesome. But in saying that when I was writing this stuff and when we recorded it I knew it was pretty damn good anyway. That’s not being big headed just honest. As a writer you just have that feeling that what your writing is something special. Of course with the other guys in the band they have helped in achieving this. The trick now is to make the second album even better which is gonna be tough cos I think this record is awesome but well do our best. I’ve already wrote around 8 songs so far , they may not all be used , but at least 5 of them are of the standard of the debut or if not better.
– I guess when people see DEATH PENALTY is a band formed by you may expect a second part of CATHEDRAL, which can be a double-edged sword. What are your thoughts on this?
I totally understand that people will or maybe expect to hear Cathedral in our music and as i was and am the guitar player for both bands you will get riffs that are very similar in Death Penalty. But if people are expecting Cathedral part 2 then you ain’t gonna get it. This is a new band with old influences but new ideas on how to approach them. Yes of course there’s gonna be riffs and certain things that we do that could sound like Cathedral and could of been on a Cathedral album and in the future it’s will still be the case as my writing will still involve writing slow doom riffs and the comparisons will always be there but what Death Penalty is doing is more old school metal with a modern approach with hints of doom in there and of course having a female vocalist it will sound very different. Hey , not everybody’s gonna like it but the reviews so far seem to suggest that we are doing something right. And I still write from the same song book as I always have. It’s not like I’ve gone in a different or new direction and turn my back on all the bands that I love. Sabbath is my main inspiration as well as Witchfinder General. Always have been and always will be as well as all the other bands I love
– In fact even though DEATH PENALTY shares some similarities with CATHEDRAL, overall is more of a Heavy Metal band, quite influenced by the NWOBHM I think. Could we say we are seeing here another side of your musical personality? Or is it just a project when you can unleash all your influences without thinking they should find into a certain pattern (Doom Metal for instance)?
I completely agree with you. Doom metal has and will always be my first love. It’s in my blood that style of music. But of course there’s many other styles of music I love as well and some of my faves are early 80’s euro metal and the N.W.O.B.H.M. So what Death Penalty is doing is mixing all that together and seeing how it sounds. So yeah I’m just taking all my influences and writing whatever I feel. I suppose and example would be say if I was writing for Cathedral we may have a verse riff that was inspired by Trouble then the next riff would be like Dream Death and then we may have mid section like Winter / Celtic Frost with Death Penalty we could have a riff inspired by Sabbath then the next part might sound like Tank then a riff like Acid then end with something like Persian Risk. I’ve always wrote stuff like what we’ve done on the album it’s just that there wasn’t a place for some of this stuff in Cathedral. It’s not like I’ve just decided to write these kinda riffs , I’ve had stuff like this kicking around for a number of years on old riff tapes that I’ve got.
– What do some of the lyrics on the album deal with? And where do you draw inspiration from to create it?
The lyrics are very personal to Michelle. They are very abstract, intense and do not come from one event. The lyrics evolve from thoughts and feelings that have grown heavy on her back. They are often about inner struggle , love , hate , jealousy , darkness and light.
– The band was named after the debut album by WITCHFINDER GENERAL so, apart from them, what are some of your other musical influences?
The stuff I’ve always been into since I was young are still the bands I love today of course with a few newer recent bands but influences range from Sabbath , Witchfinder General , Acid , Trouble , Tank , Satan Jokers , Dark Wizard , Silver Mountain , Znowhite , H Bomb , Warning , Tygers of pan Tang , A ll Z , Kiss , Angel Witch , Satan , Bay City Rollers ( yeah seriously ) etc ….
– This album has been released by Lee’s label, Rise Above. How is like working for first time with him and his label with a new band?
Working for and with Lee is a real honour and a pleasure. I met him 26 years ago and have worked alongside him for 24 years and in all that time a very humble and honest man you couldn’t ask for. It’s great being on Rise above a swell because Lee is such a fan of the music , I don’t mean just ours or all the bands on his label , I mean he is a genuine music fan. He’s not just a business guy who runs his label looking for shitty bands that are popular that he knows will sell and he could make good money off. He’d much rather sign a band that he digs the music and give the band a chance to get a record out knowing that the band may not sell that many records and if they do happen to shift some records that’s a bonus. He’s an intelligent guy who has a vast knowledge of all genres of music. I actually thought I was quite knowledgeable about music until I talk to him and I think to myself I know fuck all compared to him. Also as I said I’ve worked with him for 24 years and he’s the most honest guy I know. Take note moss , purson and especially electric wizard.
– All this about the «Death Penalty» album being said; how could you describe it in just 3 words?
Honest , awesome , classic !!!
– And finally, what are your near-future plans?
To try and get out and play some shows to promote the album and make the next record better than this one.
– That’s all, thank you once more for answering our questions. If you want to add some final words; feel free to do it.
Thanks for the questions. Hope anybody that hears the record likes what Death Penalty is doing. Take it easy and all the best.