Jo Bench interview by Chazz and Lork K Philipson for Global Domination
Bolt Thrower are gods. That’s all the fucken intro you need, cumstains.
Global Domination: Jo, MTV Raps. So, Karl is back now. How long will he stay this time you think? With all the vocalists in the scene how come you decided to use Ingram when Karl bailed? He did a decent job but we wouldn't say he was the ultimate vocalist for the Bolts. Did any other guys try out? Wasn't Van Druen involved at some point? What's the story with that? I guess you have covered this a million times, so let's make it a million and one, ok?
Jo: I guess Karl will stay as long as he wants to, although we did get him to sign a contract until the year 2012, so he’ll probably be around long enough to do the box-set! We got Dave because he was the only vocalist we knew who had a normal sized ego. No, he wasn’t the ultimate vocalist for us, but he probably was for Benediction. We didn’t try anyone else out, we didn’t know anyone else who’d take the job on!! And to cut another long story short - Van Drunen joined after Karl originally left, he didn’t record with us, just did a couple of tours, and left because his hair fell out.
Global Domination: Bolt Thrower was an Earache band for several years, and now you are with Metal Blade. What happened at Earache, or did you complete your contracts and were free to sign with Metal Blade at that time? How has Metal Blade been treating you so far?
Jo: The best thing BT did was get off Earache, they could’ve been a great label, they had a lot of good bands, but they got greedy and blew it. We weren’t happy for years with them, so when it came to a point when they wanted us to re-negotiate the contract, we said no and that we wanted out. Luckily they let us go, and we signed to Metal Blade. I don’t think Bolt Thrower will ever be totally on the same wavelength as any record label, but Metal Blade are definitely one of the better ones.
Global Domination: In my book, "The IVth Crusade" might very well be yer strongest effort so far. What do you remember from that recording and what's yer highest ranked Bolt-album? And which one would be the worst, as a whole. We'll get to fave-songs and shit later on...
Jo: Can’t really remember anything memorable about recording that album, do you want me to make something up? OK. Yeah, the recording was wild, we were all totally fucked up on Jack Daniels and mindless drugs, Karl and Whale recorded in the nude, and the police came out because of the extreme heaviness that was going on! OK? On a serious note, I couldn’t really pick a fave album, they all hold pretty good memories for me. I kind of have a soft spot for ‘... For Victory’... My least favourite is probably ‘Realm of Chaos’, it’s got some great songs, but no bassist should have to record at that pitch ever, the strings were like spaghetti. I’d love to record that album again at C#, with a killer production!
Global Domination: Do you remember playing Eskilstuna, Sweden back in the early 90's? Isn't that like the only time you have been in Sweden so far? You do know we want you guys playing here on a regular basis? Would you mind putting my name on the guest list if you eventually show up?
Jo: Yes I remember it well, it was a nightmare. We came on the overnight ferry, which took 24 hours or something, terrible crossing, everyone was sick. Then we turned up to this ridiculously huge aircraft hanger venue, with a tiny PA and borrowed backline that was crap. I don’t think that was our only time in Sweden, we did a few shows, but admittedly we haven’t been back for years, our experience in Eskilstuna didn’t help! We are planning to do a Scandinavian tour when the new album is out, so I might think about putting you on the guest list...
Global Domination: Looking back, who was that one person or band for you that influenced you enough to make you decide to become a professional musician? Please don't say Slayer, everyone says fucken Slayer.
Jo: Slayer. Ha. No, the band that influenced me most was probably Sacrilege from the UK – a killer but really underrated band, they were totally ahead of their time. Musician-wise, amongst other memorable moments, I remember being totally blown away by Dark Angel ‘Darkness Descends’ and decided I wanted to be a drummer! Obviously due to the fact I couldn’t play drums for shit, that was never going to happen... Then I saw a video of Venom on their ‘Seven Dates of Hell’ tour and then I wanted to be Cronos..I already had the boots, so I was nearly there... ha,ha...
Global Domination: Speaking of... how did you get your start as a bassist? Were you originally a guitar player who switched to bass like so many others, or were you always a bass player? Who do you think are the best bass players out there now, in metal that is?
Jo: Not the most exciting story, but Gav was originally on bass and he just decided he wanted to move onto guitar. They tried out a few bassists, which didn’t work out, so I asked if I could try out, so they said yes and agreed to let me join on a ‘2 month trial’. I worked my ass off learning the songs and was ready to gig in a week. I think it went ok, cos I’m still here. I’m sure there are amazing metal bassists out there, but I’m still a fan of the same bassists I liked when I started – Cronos from Venom, Rainy from Discharge, and Geezer Butler from Sabbath.
Global Domination: The music of The Bolts isn't very technical or anything, how skilled a musician do you think you have to be to pull yer stuff off in a flawless manner?
Jo: I don’t think you have to be a skilled musician at all to play Bolt Thrower’s music, that’s the great thing about the band!! It’s all about the riffs....!
Global Domination: What about equipment? Bolt Thrower albums have a pretty distinctive guitar and bass sound, what does your recording setup look like? Do you use anything different for live situations?
Jo: We use exactly the same gear for recording and live – both guitars use Marshall 9010 power amps with Boss GX700 effects units, Marshall 4x12 cabs. I used to use a Marshall 800 series guitar amp and overdrive it, but now I use a Peavey T-Max bass head and Laney 2x15 cabs.
Global Domination: The UK sucks when it comes to breeding decent hockey players you know... Why is that? Are you even remotely interested in the NHL? Any team out there that makes yer heart pound faster? Any idea as of why hockey players usually look like they fell down the fucken Ugly Tree? We ask this becoz we are huge NHL-fans, in case you didn't know.
Jo: Actually I’m a massive hockey fan. I’m addicted to watching it. My favourite team is Tampa Bay Lightning, they had a fantastic season last year. Brad Richards is awesome. OK, I confess, I know nothing about it...
Global Domination: Bolt Thrower's songs tend to be about war, war, and then there are a few more about war. Have you ever considered writing songs about getting lit up on a Saturday night and cruising out to the beach and having a good time or some shit? Seriously, after so many albums does it get any tougher writing about war and battles and such for a new album? Do you feel like you can't write about anything else without pissing off the fans?
Jo: Well, the demo version of ‘In Battle there is no law’ had a totally different theme – it was originally called ‘In Bottle there is no Beer’ and it was all about alcoholism. About drinking so much that there was actually no more beer left. It was a concept album. No, seriously, we always planned on writing about war, we realized that as there had been wars since the beginning of time, we’d never run out of subject matter! The song titles are a little harder nowadays cos everyone seems to be writing about war, so we have to keep checking that something hasn’t been used before.
Global Domination: Isn't it kinda funny that you had damn sloppy drums over the first albums and still managed to get the attention deserved? Were you guys ever aware of the sloppy-factor, or was it more like "Fuck it, let's have some more tea, no one will ever notice the sloppiness anyways"?
Jo: No, there was no tea involved! I just think we were trying to play stuff that we weren’t totally capable of playing!! Karl had only been ‘singing’ for about a month, I’d only been playing bass for about 4 months, Gav had been playing guitar about 6 months, and Whale had only been playing double-bass drums for about a year before we recorded the album and it definitely shows. It was ‘every man for himself’ and if we ended the song at the same time, then that was a bonus! I make no apologies, and I’ve heard worse debut albums! One album reviewer called us a ‘drunk Slayer’, I think that says it all...
Global Domination: What is it with the English people and all this tea-drinking anyways? Has media blown it out of proportion or do you guys actually consume all that tea?
Jo: No, it’s true, we are a nation of tea-drinkers. Actually, we are all pretty hardcore when it comes to drinking tea – I can even take it without sugar!
Global Domination: Bolt Thrower has been on countless tours and played festivals all over the world now. Which was the biggest crowd you have ever played for and how many people were there? Do any shows over the years stand out as the best Bolt Thrower shows you all have played?
Jo: The biggest crowd was probably 25,000 at the ‘With Full Force’ festival in Germany. We actually don’t like playing festivals, we like to play in venues – better sound, no problems with weather, better toilets, etc... We don’t need massive crowd to make an enjoyable show, I can have an awesome time playing to 500 people. There have been a lot of great shows, one show I really enjoyed recently was the indoor Westfalen festival a couple of years ago, it was only to about 1500 people, but the crowd was fantastic. I personally played like shit, but you can’t have everything...
Global Domination: Do any songs stand out as favorites to play live? Are there any songs you are just sick of playing live?
Jo: I still love playing ‘IVth Crusade’, ‘..For Victory’, ‘Powder Burns’, they are great songs live. We never really get sick of playing our stuff, cos we all choose the set with the songs we personally like best. Kind of selfish, but what the hell... Nowadays we have more songs to choose from, but to be honest when we only had 2 albums out, we were getting pretty sick of the same songs all the time.
Global Domination: Speaking of things you don't like. Are there any Bolt Thrower songs you have grown to dislike? If you could go back in time and erase the recording of any one Bolt Thrower song, which would you pick?
Jo: I think the band could’ve lived without recording ‘Domination’, it was always crap, we only recorded it on one of the Peel Sessions (RIP John Peel), it didn’t even make it onto an album.
Global Domination: You guys have been a huge influence for a lot of bands, there's no denying that. Are there any newer death metal bands you think carries your legacy onward? It would be nice to hear what kind of metal bands makes you tick. What do you think of all these new “old-school tribute” bands like Bloodbath, Chaosbreed and God Among Insects?
Jo: It’s obviously very flattering to be part of a band that has influenced a lot of newer bands. I haven’t heard the bands you mentioned, so I can’t really comment on them. To be honest, I don’t listen to a lot of the newer metal bands, I think a lot of it is lacking originality, I’ve heard a lot of it before, and done better, so I tend to listen to the same stuff I did 20 years ago - early VoiVod, Sabbath, Candlemass, Trouble, Sacrilege (UK), as well as punk like Discharge, Amebix, Antisect, etc. That stuff still sounds as good now as it did when it was recorded. And ‘New old-school’? is that possible?
Global Domination: Sure it is. Naturally I have to ask... When will there be a new album? Can I have an advance?
Jo: The plan is to record around March, and release it September/October time. I might give you an advance, it depends how you edit this interview...
Global Domination: Looking forward to the advance then, hoho... I'm sure everyone who interviews you asks something like "is it any tougher being a woman in the heavy music scene", so I'll flip it around here. What are the advantages of being a woman in the heavy music scene?
Jo: There haven’t been many advantages being a women in the heavy music scene for me, I get no special treatment from the other band members, the assholes still make me carry the gear! I’ve noticed in the scene nowadays some bands seem to use their ‘hot’ female member to distract you from their crappy music, so I guess it looks like it does have some advantages...
Global Domination: Ok, so I play with an old-school death metal band called God Among Insects. You bastards have played a big part in inspiring us you know. Is there a chance you could take us out on a support slot thing like very soon? We can thank you guys by playing something from "The IVth Crusade". In the stereo.
Jo: No, you will never support us. We hate old-school death metal.
Global Domination: What about groupies, do you have any male groupies? What's the craziest thing a fan has done to get the band's attention, yourself or any of the guys in the band?
Jo: We never were a groupie band, some of the band members are married with kids, so sorry I’ve got no crazy fan/groupie stories for you – maybe you should contact Manowar...
Global Domination: We wouldn’t contact Manowar if they were the last band on earth. Manowar are gay. As far as we know, there's no official website for you guys. Why is that? It's pretty unique not to have it these days you know...
Jo: It’s mainly because we haven’t got off our asses to sort one out. We do want one, and I’m in the process of collecting loads of stuff for it, I just haven’t found the computer wiz to get it up and running.
Global Domination: Since we are talking about the Internet and websites, what’s your take on all the file sharing and album trading going on? Do you see it as the same thing as all the tape trading that used to go on, or with new technology has it crossed the line and become pure theft?
Jo: I came from the tape trading scene, so I see file sharing as a positive thing. It’s a good way to introduce people to your music, Ok, we may lose royalties, but so what? We never formed a band to make a load of money from it. I don’t really agree with bootleggers, that’s a different issue, but I see this as a good thing, maybe not the industry, but definitely for music.
Global Domination: We all know by now about the tragedy in Ohio that happened in early December with the Dimebag Darrel murder. Do you want to see a change in the way live shows are run from now on with better/more security and such? Has Bolt Thrower ever had any run-ins with insane fans over the years?
Jo: I always thought the security in the US venues were pretty good – obviously not. It’s a pretty freaky thing that happened, and hopefully a one-off. I just hope that everyone won’t get too paranoid because of it, I don’t want to see venues overrun with security, maybe just smarter security. I’ve seen stage security guys freak out at the sight of a moshpit and will try to break it up. They should be more aware of what’s going on. We’ve had a few fights at our gigs, and the odd loser jumping around on the stage, but luckily no psychos!
Global Domination: That's that. We thank you for the interview and would like to know if you love us. Becoz we love you. Wrap it up, add whatever you want us to know that we didn’t cover here!
Jo: Thank you for the interview! I couldn’t possibly say I love you, especially after only our first interview! Just want to say the usual thanks to all the Bolt Thrower fans for sticking with us over the years, we really do appreciate it. We’re might actually get off our asses and come and play some gigs for you soon! Check out the Bolt Thrower website....... well, you probably should wait till we’ve actually got one I guess! Cheers!
Global Domination: Thanks for your time, doll.
Jo: No problem at all, it was interesting....?
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