Evile Guitarist Ol Drake Checks In With Some Thoughts Following Release Of New Album
Band Photo: Evile (?)
It's been a mere two weeks since the North American release of "Five Serpent's Teeth," the anticipated third album by U.K. thrashers Evile (reviewed here), and fans worldwide are still digesting it as the band gears up for its new touring cycle. In a rather formal email exchange, guitarist Ol Drake recently checked in with me to share a few thoughts on the album, his band, and metal music.
Mike Smith (OverkillExposure): “Five Serpent’s Teeth” feels somewhat like a stylistic combination of your first two records, “Enter The Grave” and “Infected Nations,” and thus a quite graceful progression in your sound. Did you have any specific musical goals in mind when you sat down to write these songs?
Ol Drake: We wanted to make things a bit more straightforward. We didn’t want to spend so much time in technical sections or strange time signatures. Our goal was just to make a really diverse, interesting metal album, without repeating ourselves.
Mike: More so than the previous records, the songs on “Five Serpent’s Teeth” make powerful use of the first person. “I,” “Me,” “We,” and “Us” play a heavy role, making it a somewhat more emotional listen. Can you shed some light on what fuelled the lyrical approach this time out?
Ol: Personally, I can’t. A lot of the lyrical themes are from [brother/frontman Matt Drake's] head and he is quite secretive when it comes to the meanings. He prefers the listeners to make their own interpretation of a subject instead of meanings being so readily available via Wikipedia, etc.
Mike: For several years now, Evile has been considered one of the leaders of the so-called “thrash revival,” and is routinely noted for playing “retro thrash.” When starting out, did you consciously see yourselves as particularly “retro?”
Ol: When we started in 02/03, there wasn’t a goal to “revive” anything. No one where we lived liked or played thrash metal anymore; it was looked on as a joke. When we played shows people would say, “Why are you playing thrash? It died 20 years ago”. After a while it just gained popularity. We all had jobs then and it was just a musical hobby. There were no tags or musical labels that we put on it; just “thrash”, because it’s what we grew up with and was all we knew how to play.
Mike: When did you become aware of the existence of such a movement?
Ol: I can’t really pinpoint when it happened. We noticed a lot of other bands doing the same thing that we were doing, and then the magazines started paying attention after we brought out “Enter The Grave” in 07. So if anything I’d say I became aware after we released that album.
Mike: Did you have any inkling that this “revival” would grow as large as it has? Or was it all a big dumb accident?
Ol: I’ve no idea, because we had no intention or knowledge of such a thing. For me thrash never died; it only “died” in terms of media coverage. Music is still listened to by the fans whether or not the media cares. So many bands like Kreator were, and still are, going.
Mike: It seems the “retro” thrash movement has become pretty homogenized and stale lately, with bands attempting a near-farce of a stereotypically ‘80s look and feel (rather than focusing on just writing good, distinctive, memorable music). Do you see any truth to my assessment, and could that be a reason for Evile’s increasingly diverse songwriting as of late?
Ol: All I know is we like to keep things different. The “thrash fashion” thing got old really fast. We’ve always wanted our main focus to be on material. We don’t have any gimmicks or extras; we just have songs that we spend a hell of a lot of time on. We’ve released “Enter The Grave” so we don’t ever want to release another one; we want each album to have its own identity and feel, regardless of what people think we should be writing.
Mike: While thrash is clearly the bedrock of your musical foundation, what bands outside that genre inspire you most to spice up Evile’s sound?
Ol: That’s a tough one to pin down, as personally I listen to a lot of different stuff. I’d say one group that made me really sit up, listen and think was Gentle Giant, a progressive band from the 70s. They have so many bizzare and unorthodox ideas, it made me put that approach into how I think.
Mike: When presented with tour opportunities, which appeals to you more: filling a slot in an “all thrash ‘til death” attack package, or filling a slot in a diversified package that may include numerous other subgenres?
Ol: We like to be on quite diverse bills, but we also love playing on very similar bills. It’s just like choosing between venue shows or festival shows. They’re both great in their own ways. I enjoy playing to a different crowd as you’re playing on fresh ears, and it’s good to play out of your comfort zone now and then; it really makes you hear your music in a different light.
Mike: Do you feel obligated mostly to a thrash audience, or to an all-around metal audience?
Ol: I don’t feel obligated to anything; I just like to write metal. It’s never worth worrying about whether or not the “thrash audience” will approve of it because that’s limiting our output, which is just stupid.
Mike: In your travels, what crowds have appeared the most formidable and dangerous? British, American, Canadian, or elsewhere?
Ol: I never like to show favouritism, as anywhere can be just as mental as anywhere else; it just depends on whether or not someone starts it or not, or if that feeling is in the air. Some of the most insane shows we’ve had are in Spain.
Mike: Do you ever notice any interesting patterns in how crowds behave in certain parts of the world?
Ol: No. I used to, but we’ve done so many shows in the same places and seen so many exact opposites that it just stopped me thinking that. I think it depends on the atmosphere, the sound, the venue, the band; so many things matter on whether or not a crowd gets into it or not. I think some people are just frightened or insecure to get into it. When they see other people getting into it, that makes them feel they’re able to as well. So if loads of people are getting into it, a lot more will. It’s a strange subject. Sometimes some people just like to stand and listen. When I saw Testament for the first time at the KOKO on their reunion, I simply stood there watching and listening to Skolnick.
Mike: Can you fill me in on your upcoming tour plans for the next few months? When will we see you back in North America, and with whom?
Ol: We’re just finishing up a UK tour , and we plan on hitting Europe and Scandinavia in the new year. We’re definitely coming back to North America in 2012, but we’ve no idea with whom. It’s very difficult and expensive for us to come over, so it all has to be right. We were very lucky to be over there for five months in 2010; but I wouldn’t say it was financially viable.
Mike: Tell me some things about yourself that your fans might not know. Any big outside interests or hobbies?
Ol: I’m interested in playing piano and drums, and generally learning about music. Other than that I’m interested in Tibetan Buddhism, though I wouldn’t say I’m a “Buddhist.” I just really admire its morals and ways.
Mike: Evile’s old school musical influences are fairly obvious and have been much discussed, but I’m interested in knowing what you’re listening to for fun these days. What current metal bands and/or records are really floating your boat? And if all the new guys suck, what good old standbys do you never keep far from your ears?
Ol: I don’t listen to much new metal. I do like the new Machine Head; I got to know the Trivium guys and enjoy them too. Warbringer are great too. I never keep Sepultura, Obituary, or Metallica too far from my ears.
Mike: How about music outside of metal?
Ol: I enjoy a lot of prog, jazz and classical. Gentle Giant, Camel, King Crimson, Miles Davis, Frederic Chopin.
Mike: Some newer fans may not know of the death of Mike Alexander, your former bassist. I understand that was a traumatic and difficult time for Evile, and has left a lasting imprint on the band. If you’re willing and able, will you tell me a memorable story about him – the kind you might want to remember him by – for the benefit of all our readers?
Ol: My favourite is when we played at Brixton Academy with Megadeth in London. Mike saw Pantera there with Dimebag many years ago, and he was on the same side of the stage as him on that night. I remember looking over at him during the set, and he was the happiest I’d EVER seen him. When he was queueing outside, Dimebag hung out of the window and poured some Jack Daniels down to his mouth; that window was also the same one as our dressing room’s. Amazing night. Amazing guy.
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