Barry Thomson interview by TJ Rappel for Chambers of Sorrow Zine, 1995
Chambers of Sorrow: First, the question I'm sure you're getting asked all over the place: what happened with Karl and Andy, why'd they leave?
Barry: Barry: Well, there's no shit to throw around or anything, they just didn't wanna do it anymore.
Chambers of Sorrow: That's it?
Barry: That's it, they just didn't want to do it anymore, they wanted to do different things, go to college, settle down, get married, have kids, you know, that sort of stuff...do different things with their life, and Bolt Thrower just wasn't part of it...they didn't think they wanted to do it anymore, they weren't into it as much, so the best thing to do is--go! Y'know, get out and leave it to the people who really wanna do it.
Chambers of Sorrow: That's too bad. So was there any hard feelings at all, or...
Barry: Barry: No, not at all, I mean, I still speak to Karl and Whale once a week, y'know, go out for drinks and everything, so there's no problem there, I mean I spent a third of my life with 'em...not like I'm not in a band with 'em and I'm not gonna talk to them.
Chambers of Sorrow: Right, I would think. Um, didn't you cancel some shows in the US last summer? Like weren't you supposed to play the Milwaukee Metalfest and that...
Barry: Yeah, but I mean that was like a...fuckin' shithole place...
Chambers of Sorrow: Yeah it was, I know (laugh)! It's a stupid deal too...
Barry: (laughs) Let's face it, we're not gonna travel all the way through the night, get there at eight o' clock in the morning just to play two songs at twelve o' clock at night. I mean so really, we were well within our right to say no.
Chambers of Sorrow: How'd Martin van Drunen hook up with you guys?
Barry: He's been a close friend of the band for many years, so when the gap became available in Bolt Thrower, he was the first choice really, because we're very close with Martin, ever since we'd been to Europe, the first-ever dates we'd done in Europe was with Pestilence, so we just remained friends ever since...and he said yes straight away.
Chambers of Sorrow: That's great, 'cause he's another one of my favorite vocalists.
Barry: Barry: Yeah, everyone's saying well hell, I really love Martin, and the work he's doing, and I really love Bolt Thrower, I mean you two guys gettin' together'll be ace. And they're right!
Chambers of Sorrow: Whatever happened to his band SUBMISSION?
Barry: He's left them now.
Chambers of Sorrow: They never even got anything out, did they?
Barry: Uh, no, no.
Chambers of Sorrow: Who's the new drummer?
Barry: It's Martin Kearns. We call him Kiddy.
Chambers of Sorrow: "Kiddy"??
Barry: Yeah, because he's only 17 years old. But he doesn't look 17, he looks like 22, 23. He's a big lad, 6-foot-2. He's a real nice kid. He's going to add that little bit of youth to the band that we needed, seeing as we're all approaching thirty! We'll probably need that little bit of youthfulness put back in, so that's pretty good, and we've got the new blood, of the two new members, so it's looking pretty good for Bolt Thrower.
Chambers of Sorrow: So how are they working out, good?
Barry: Yeah, Martin's doing very well on the drums, he's obviously got a new style to learn because he was playing in more of a hardcore sort of band before. But he's pretty good on the old double-bass, as he WHACKS the kit, which I like, y'know, he's a big lad. It's so good to play with a drummer who does whack 'em 'cause Whale tended to be a bit light on the double bass sometimes. He lacks the power sometimes live, if he tended to be "tickling 'em" one night as we'd say, he just didn't get that THUD, wereas Martin is really whacking 'em when he plays, so it's good!
Chambers of Sorrow: Overall, does it sound a lot different, or...?
Barry: Barry: Yeah it does, actually, 'cause we now have that...it's more in your face, I don't know why, it seems to be a lot tighter with Martin on the drums.
Chambers of Sorrow: I mean as far as the vocals, too?
Barry: Well the vocals, I mean to tell you the truth, we haven't done a practice with Martin yet!
Chambers of Sorrow: Really.
Chambers of Sorrow: Hm.
Barry: He's coming over next week to start rehearlsals. But Martin knows all the songs very well, 'cause one of his favourite bands has been Bolt-Thrower through the years, so there's no problems with learning the stuff or anything.
Chambers of Sorrow: Right, right. So, you're touring Europe soon, aren't you?
Barry: Yeah, we tour Europe on the 2nd of February, which is very close.
Chambers of Sorrow: For how long?
Barry: Eh, for five weeks, with Asphyx, Martin's old band, and Cemetery.
Chambers of Sorrow: Oh wow, that'll be great. Are you gonna be coming to the US anytime soon??
Barry: We want to! We want to come over in April, but only as a support tour. We've had too much hassle in the USA with headlining, we just don't really wanna get involved. We just wanna turn up, play, that's it, and we wanna support someone this time around.
Chambers of Sorrow: Yeah, I saw you guys on the Warmaster tour.
Barry: Yeah, I mean that was a good tour for us, it was a real good tour, but last time around...it's a real band-splitter, America is, it's one of the worst places to tour in the whole world. There's too much stress and strain. I mean over here [Barry was at the Earache NY office when this interview was conducted--TJ], people send half a deposit off to the agent, they phone up the agent and say 'have you received the deposit' and they say no, the venue says 'we've sent it, we're not giving you that much, we've already sent half of it off,' and...ah, it's just a fucking nightmare. So if we do a support tour, it'll be a lot easier.
Chambers of Sorrow: Okay...last year, or was it the year before, when Gorefest and Unleashed released live albums, I always thought how cool it would be if Bolt-Thrower would do a live album! Now you did the limited-edition thing with the ...For Victory CD--what made you decide to do that?
Barry: Well it's like a testament to the old band, really. It shows that we haven't pratted around with it, we haven't gone in and spent a lot of money on it, it's just--we had it lying around, y'know, it was an 8-track tape, we recorded it one time, just done it ourselves...just on an old 8-track that we've got, we got like a demo studio at home where we write stuff, we took it out on the road with us, we had about three or four English dates to do so we just took it out with us. And when we played Manchester the PA was good enough to use to record off, y'know. So we done a quick 8-track once and we never thought we'd ever us it, it was just something that the band wanted, y'know, have a live tape, you can say oh, this is us live in Manchester. So obviously there was no crowd there (laughs), y'know Manchester in England we don't really play to many more than about 150 people anyway. So it was just one of those things, but it was purely just to record the music, y'know, for ourselves. So when Earache said 'fuckin hell, we need something to go with this album, do you wanna put something, y'know like another song on the CD in with it,' I says well, how 'bout some live stuff, they said 'well, you can't record it now because you haven't got the band,' I said yeah but I've got this 8-track lying around at the house. Why don't we just go in and mix it properly, from the studio? And they went 'oh yeah, okay!' So we went in, just two days, mixed it, and...it came out very raw, very live, but also like--fuckin, in your face, the only thing it's lacking is probably little a bit of atmosphere, because the crowd is very much like, "HEY." "OI." And you got one bloke going...
Chambers of Sorrow: clap clap.
Barry: Yeah, there you got one bloke doing that and it's funny, you know! 'Cause we left everything in, we didn't like add in the crowd, we didn't do anything like that. We could've if we wanted to, but that wouldn't have been right! That wasn't how it was recorded. And basically it's just a testament to Bolt-Thrower, that was it, that was us. It's actually longer than the album, the live stuff. So it's a good product for someone to have, hopefully people will tape-trade it around.
Chambers of Sorrow: The only thing that bummed me out about it was that there was no Real of Chaos songs on it.
Barry: Yeah, but at that time, we were advertising the IVth Crusade album, it was done on that tour. There was some on the actual live tape but we didn't mix them. The Realm of Chaos album, we haven't played them songs for years, we just don't play them anymore really.
Chambers of Sorrow: Uh, that's kinda too bad, that one's one of my favourites.
Barry: Yeah, "Eternal War" and "World Eater," well we usually play "World Eater." It was okay in the late 80s, when we were playing that sort of stuff. The fast blast beats were in. But now when you play it, you just sound like a dated band...you don't really wanna play it onstage, we just progressed. When we play it live, people really get into the slower riffs, y'know "World Eater" the slow riffs. Then when it goes fast they just stand there and 'well, I can't wait for this bit to finish so I can get into the next bit.' That's why we dropped 'em.
Chambers of Sorrow: What have you done as, like, MTV videos?
Barry: Uh, we did a "Cenotaph" one, and we did a "IVth Crusade" one, which was really shit, both were shit actually, but the "IVth Crusade" was REALLY shit, just like some live footage just thrown together. This time, we're gonna do two songs off the ...For Victory album, proper video, you know, full production and everything. So that'll be a good one, "For Victory," and then we're doing "Forever Fallen," off the album, which is like a faster song, which is something we haven't done really on a live video, a fast one to show different styles...
Chambers of Sorrow: Okay, Bolt-Thrower's sound has remained pretty constant over all the years, whereas a lot of bands like (a short list of bands who shall remain nameless--TJ) have changed direction. Do you have any comments on that?
Barry: Well what they do, you'd have to talk to them, but as far as Bolt-Thrower is concerned, we aren't going to change, we don't want to change, we've our own style and we're good at what we do--why change, you know? We're original in our own style. If you want a Bolt-Thrower album, but a Bolt-Thrower album.
Chambers of Sorrow: You don't have to worry about which one's THE GOOD ONE.
Barry: Yeah. If people like Bolt-Thrower, and we have a very hard-core fan base who always buy our albums...they just love it, they know--'fuckin, I can't wait for the new Bolt-Thrower, because I know I can rely it's gonna be like they always write 'em, but better!'...and at the moment, we are increasing--every album is getting better and better and better, so hopefully we can keep progressing. And we have reached five albums...if we can make six, seven, eight, then--fucking hell, we must be doing something right, and we're not gonna change it.
Chambers of Sorrow: Great! Let's see, what's next...OH! Why didn't you continue the "World Eater" and "Cenotaph" and "Embers" series on the new album?
Barry: (sounding suprised) Wow, you're the first one that ever fucking picked up on it!!
Chambers of Sorrow: Really?
Barry: (laughing) Everyone else is saying 'why...why do you have the same riff on three albums?'
Chambers of Sorrow: It's a series, I used to play all three in succession on my college radio show and it sounded so fucking cool!!
Barry: Yeah, well you're the only one that ever picked up on it, everyone else said, 'yeah, you record this album, and then you've got the same riff on it. Was that intentional?' And I think, well OF COURSE IT FUCKING WAS, YA TWAT! (laughs) It's a trilogy, it was gonna go on for every album, and the reason we didn't do it for this album was because NO ONE picked up on it, no one at all, they just thought we had the same riff on every album.
Chambers of Sorrow: (I'm laughing like a fucking idiot at this point) Well you coulda done it just for me then!
Barry: I couldn't believe it, we were like 'how thick ARE people?' ...so we just didn't bother on this one...we always intended to do y'know ever single album, fade it in and carry it on, but it lost all its appeal when we found out no one knew what was up! (laughs)
Chambers of Sorrow: That's too bad. 'Cause when I saw you live, you ran "World Eater" and "Cenotaph" together.
Barry: That's right, we used to run all three.
Chambers of Sorrow: If we could go back to the Realm of Chaos album, what was the connection with Games Workshop all about?
Barry: Well, Games Workshop actually approached us [before] we signed the contract with Vinyl Solution, our first record label...they said they'd be interested in having us on their sort of label, they didn't actually have a label, but they wanted to make one to tie into their products, and they wanted to put out an animation sort of thing with us doing the soundtrack and all this sort of stuff. It was all like good ideas and everything. But the guy who wanted us to do all this was a fan of ours and he actually owned the company, but he sold it, and soon after we'd done the cover with Earache, because Earache came in and said 'no, we wanna put you out,' which we thought was better for the band as a whole, so we worked in joint collaboration with Games Workshop and Earache. And soon after that album was released, the managing director sold the company, he was the one who used to like us, he sold the company and then fuckin hell, we were dealing with accountants, not people. Then it was, 'oh no, you can't use this artwork, it's gonna cost you this much,' and all this bullshit. So we just thought well fuck it, this isn't how it's supposed to be, seeya. We didn't work with them ever again.
Chambers of Sorrow: Yeah I was wondering about the whole 'Realm of Chaos' concept, I mean you named the album after the games, and you had all the artwork...
Barry: Well a lot of the titles were already wrote because we were into that sort of stuff anyway. That's how they picked up on us, because we did a John Peel session and we had a song called "Realm of Chaos."
Chambers of Sorrow: ...and some of the other songs are based on that too, "Plague Bearer," "World Eater," all that stuff...
Barry: Oh yeah. A lot of these things were already wrote you see, and we did a Peel Session, and this is what this chap heard, who actually was the managing director, he heard all this and he said 'fucking hell, this band are into our sort of stuff! We can use this', you know, that's why they got in touch. So it wasn't like we wrote anything around their stuff, it was already done. Karl and Whale and Gavin were all avid players of Warhammer 40000, which is a concept that they have...
Chambers of Sorrow: Yeah, I have the book!
Barry: Barry: So they were very much into that already and they used to play these fancy-role-games. So it was a very good step for Bolt-Thrower because it was what three of the band wanted to do anyways.
Chambers of Sorrow: Now just to clarify, a bolt-thrower is a weapon, isn't it??
Barry: It is, it's a medieval weapon of war, yeah.
Chambers of Sorrow: Okay, I was just wondering. Um, geez, that's about it, you got anything else you wanna talk about?
Barry: Mmmmmm, nope! I've done enough talking today, I think! (laughs) What I will say is if people haven't heard Bolt-Thrower for a bit, go into your record shop, check it out, just give it a listen-to, see what you think, if you like it, buy it!
Chambers of Sorrow: Okay, thanks a lot!
Barry: Barry: Yeah, no problem. Seeya!
Originally printed in Chamber of Sorrow 'Zine #6
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