EVILE’s BEN CARTER - “If I Don’t Feel Dead When I Come Off Stage, I Haven’t Done My Job Properly”
April 29, 2021, a year ago
They have been called the head of Britain’s thrash wave revival. Whatever the label, Evile are fast, fierce and fucking furious after an eight year hiatus on their return album Hell Unleashed.
Featuring a retooled album and a rejuvenated fire, Hell Unleashed is old school meets new in all the best ways, and a firm stamp of a we’re not going anywhere mentality by one of the jewels in the thorny crown of modern thrash.
Founding member and drummer Ben Carter caught up with BraveWords for a deep dive into Hell Unleashed, band member turnover, the bands’ return from hiatus and much more!
BraveWords: Fans have been clamoring for a new Evile record for closing on a decade. I’d imagine releasing your comeback LP during a worldwide pandemic wasn’t exactly the blueprint, but we’re all happy to see it regardless!
Ben Carter: “Well, it’s not as hard as other bands because we’ve been inactive for eight years. So imagine lockdown times eight. You know, it’s been, not going to lie. Well, it’s been difficult for everyone, but like we said at the start of the call, you can’t complain. You just have to look at what you’ve got right now and work with the best of it. And that’s what we’re doing. Things are looking up over here in the U.K. and imagine in the not too distant future we’ll be back out and be allowed to gig. So bring it on.”
BraveWords: Obviously there has been some member turnover in the band. The exit and return of Ol Drake, the exit of Matt and Piers and Adam joining the band last year. Would you put that eight year hiatus between records largely on lineup shuffling? Or was it a combination of things?
Ben Carter: “Yeah, definitely. But I think at the same time everyone kind of grew up a little bit. Everyone’s had kids apart from myself. And I think real life took the priority for a change. Since the band started back in ‘99, 2000 we always said that that was the priority. But you can only keep that going for so long. In the early days, we were actively gigging and traveling around so much just in the U.K. in kind of forgoing any other aspects of life, really that became normal. And you can only sustain that for so long until you reach a certain age. And you can’t keep living like a carefree kind of 17, 18 year old. At some point you have to act like an adult and do adulty things. And I think this self-imposed hiatus, let’s go with that. That was the perfect time to do it.
“I’m the only kind of a mainstay right from the start, right to where we are now. That being said, I’ve grown up with Matt and Ol. Even as kids, before we even decided to make music together we were friends. Our fathers actually played in bands together at some point while they were younger. So, yeah, it was kind of told foretold that we were going to end up in a band someday. So that friendship element is still there. I think things get confused when you’re working and there’s so much pressure. That might have been a bit of a decision to leave as much as having a family life now and his health. You know, I think a lot of things take their toll. Matt rationalized it by saying he didn’t want to be away from his family for so many months of the year, just to get his pay off on stage for an hour a night. It didn’t justify the travelling and it didn’t justify the other 23 hours of the day that he’d be away from them, which is fine. That coupled with his health issues, you’re going to look after number one. But then going to a different angle, Ol stepping up to become frontman was the most logical, perfect thing that could have happened in such circumstances. You know, he knows the material. He’s been around since day one, co-wrote all of it. And it’s natural for the fans to see him step up to the front. You know, it makes sense.”
BraveWords: What’s your take on the current lineup as it stands? With Ol on vocals and Adam newly added on rhythm guitar? It feels like there’s a new fire and intensity there.
Ben Carter: “I think this current lineup is the most enthusiastic, and it’s the most driven, I think, besides where we were from the Enter The Grave era. This is like we’ve got a real opportunity to stomp another mark for ourselves. Adam’s dynamic in the band is kind of the kick start of that. He’s the youngest member of the band now, and with that comes a lot of desire and the want to kick doors down and do great shows and see parts of the world and all that kind of aspect of touring and gigging and being in an active band. That’s something that the rest of us have done to a certain extent. But he’s revitalized that want to do it. He’s lit a fire under the rest of us because of his youthful exuberance, shall we call it? He’s really, really up for it. And he’s made us up for it in turn.”
BraveWords: I’d like to backtrack a bit to your experience with the UKs thrash scene. When you guys broke in how would you describe the thrash movement in the UK? Evile is largely considered to be one of the torchbearers for the new movement of thrash bands in Britain.
Ben Carter: “Everyone says that we were kind of the spearhead of the new thrash revival in the U.K. It never went away. It just got pushed underground. Other forms of music held its head underwater for so long that they kind of forgot to take the foot off the head, you know what I mean? All those bands were still active. They were still doing great music and delivering great albums. It just got overshadowed and swamped a little bit by other lesser sub-genres of metal, shall we say. We went out with the thing thinking that we were like the only UK thrash band doing what we were doing at the time. So, Eric, our old record label, kind of tagged us with that, the leaders of the New Metal Revolution and the new thrash movement, blah, blah. When we go out gigging, there were so many of the bands with exactly the same mindset as us, and it was great to be part of that amazing scene and that collection of bands in the UK all wanting the same thing. And that was to make really, really classic sounding thrash metal and get it all over the world. Everyone’s really hungry for it, but we only realized that when we go out there and started gigging alongside them and then they had the same revelation we did, it was like, oh, you’re doing it too, cool. So I don’t think we were at the spearhead of anything. It’s nice that we were thought of in that way. But the scene was very active. It’s just people didn’t talk to each other as much as they maybe should have done.
“We wanted the same kind of aggression levels as the Teutonic, or bands like Sodom and Kreator. Huge influences. We saw Kreator a few times and we toured with Keator. Bands like Kreator and bands like Overkill, we look up to them so much because they’re still delivering such amazing live shows, you know what I mean? That whole delivery and the ferocity of how it’s delivered and packaged is still something that we want to attain that level of doing. It’s on our radar to do it in the future. Never mind stuff that inspired us to do it. Certainly massive influence from the big four. It’s just what you listen to while you grow it up and you kind of learn in your own craft. You can take influence from so many different things.”
BraveWords: Hell Unleashed really feels like the best of both worlds. That old school thrash feel that you have made your names on, but also a modern edge and polish, if that makes sense? Would you say that teaming with Chris Clancy had something to do with that shift?
Ben Carter: “Originally when we did Enter The Grave, we wanted it to sound really kind of old school to the extent that you could almost fool yourself into believing that it was recorded on tape. That old school vibe was something that Fleming brought to the table in abundance and it worked for stamping our mark with our debut album. It fit the material, fit the sound of the songs really well. In each album you can kind of hear the evolution getting closer and closer to the definitive Evile sound. And I think that’s something that we’ve pretty much perfected this time around. We originally did want to work with Russ Russell again, but he just wasn’t available in the studio in the time frame that we needed. I believe he completely gutted his studio to move it somewhere else and put it back together, so that kind of put a cap on that, so to speak. So we had to find someone else. And Chris was really interested.
“We’ve known about Chris for a while, but then when we got the opportunity to work in Andy Sneap’s studio, it was a no brainer. Andy was on hand to kind of sprinkle magic dust on stuff when it needed and just oversee things, really. And, you know, the more sets of ears you can have on something the better. So Andy was on hand to kind of come up with sarcastic comments and criticize little aspects. And then we knew not what to do and Chris made it better. But yeah, going back to the sound of the album, it was a conscious decision to make it sound old school with the grit and that visceral kind of audio quality. But at the same time, it’s clean in its delivery. It’s clean in its execution. And you can hear the performances played so, so well. Everything was very open sounding and hit hard, but it is a perfect marriage of old school and new school, as you put it.”
BraveWords: Take me through the collaboration with Brian Posehn on the track “Gore”. We know Brian is a massive metal fan. How did that meeting of the minds come together?
Ben Carter: “I believe Brian’s a big fan of the band. And I think we saw some footage of him wearing one of our shirts. So Ol being the online presence that he is decided to just send him a friendly email and say, you know we’re doing a new album. And this was I think it was Five Serpent’s Teeth. He recorded some backing vocals for ‘Cult’ for us. He’s always been in touch with the band since. He’s still a big fan. And we just thought we’d ask him again if he wanted to do something on the new album. And he said, yeah. COVID made it really difficult in terms of the logistics of it. We couldn’t get him in the studio because of travel. But he wanted to do it, is up for it and is always up for a laugh. And I think he’s happy to be a part of this new thing after eight years. It’s one of these bands that he likes and he’s actively encouraging us to get out there and do more. So I’m sure if we ever get to the States and Canada and Brian’s around, we’ll invite him to the gigs and get him to do it live. But, yeah, he’s backing vocals on ‘Gore’, which is amazing. It’s quirky little things like that that make you say oh yeah! We did that.”
BraveWords: Looking at Evile’s discography, and certainly a track like "The Thing (1982)” on this record, and that marriage of horror and heavy metal has always been prevalent. How important is that link between two worlds for you personally? And how aware is the band in creating those ties?
Ben Carter: “Definitely it’s something that we tried to portray on Enter The Grave, the whole thing about serial killers and horror themes and stuff like that. Back in the early days, we were young and naive, so we did a bit tongue in cheek. We didn’t really know how to make it, serious and sinister and dark. That’s something we kind of learned over the years. So a lot of the songs on the new album are very similarly themed. But we’ve just learned to package them up in a different way and make them have a bit more weight behind them. Without the tongue in cheek aspect and element, we wanted to get a bit of youthful naiveté and a little bit more fun and stupidity back in the band. Matt was very good at doing very deep, meaningful and very ambiguous kinds of lyrics and stuff, leaving a lot of things open to interpretation by the listener, which is amazing. He was brilliant at it. This time around we wanted to be a little bit more immediate and for a short album, you don’t have the time to hang about getting to a point. We just wanted to have a fast, hard punch to the face album and then it’s gone and done. The 12 minute opus and things like that is something we tried to steer away from. You can make a point a lot quicker than that.”
BraveWords: On a personal level, is there a personal preference with quicker metal tracks and albums versus really lengthy and somewhat cinematic or epic records?
Ben Carter: “I mean, modern life goes so quick now and people don’t have hours and hours to sit around listening to music in an evening and all that kind of stuff, and if people do want that immediate payoff, the gym and the working out, they want that intensity, you know what I mean. We’ve missed the faster aspect of our playing, so it’s great for us to just have absolutely ridiculously tempos on this album. It’s great for me as a drummer. I can really, like, dig in and get my teeth into it. And I want the work out and I’ve got this mantra where if I don’t feel dead when I come off stage, I haven’t done my job properly. You know, if I can’t physically feel like I’m going to die when I come off a drum stool, I haven’t worked hard enough. I’m in a fight with my drum kit and I’m going to win. So for me, it’s perfect. The new album is perfect for that in that respect. But again, it’s that same thing for people who are listening. If they want that quick blast of intensity and energy, this album delivers it in spades. It really does. But that’s not to say that writing a nine or ten minute song, that there’s anything wrong with that. I think we’ve done enough of it. I think we almost did our prog album far too soon. I always said about Infected Nations that it’s almost like writing album five as album two. This is the album we should have written a lot earlier in our career in Hell Unleashed.”
BraveWords: All things current, what will it mean for this band to get back touring and performing? Your fans, and the band itself, have waited a long time to hit the road.
Ben Carter: “It means everything to me personally. As a creative person and not having an outlet for it. I mean, everyone else has kind of been locked down for like maybe, what, 18 months? Two years, nearly. For us it’s been eight years. And the new album is a perfect embodiment of all that pent up frustration and aggression and not being able to do things the way we wanted and everything else that goes with that. It’s all kind of snowballed into this massive ball of rage. And I’m sure people will agree when they hear the album front to back, they’ll hear that in the delivery of it in the playing aspect. They’ll hear that in the weight of the songs. They’ll hear it in the tempos. They’ll hear it every time I hit my snare drum because I just wanted to murder my drum kit when I was in the studio. Honest, I just wanted to lay into it so hard because I’ve missed it so much. So it’s one of those. To be able to tour and get out and play in front of people, we’re going to do it so honestly. I don’t know how else to sum it up. It’s just going to be the most honest, open version of Evile anyone’s ever seen. We just want to get on stage, hit hard and have a beer and chill out with people afterwards. It all goes hand in hand. And we’ve always been a band that kind of wears its heart on his sleeve. And we’re always approachable and people can talk to us whenever they want. If you see us walking down the street, tap us on the shoulder and have a chat. But to be able to do what we want to do and deliver it the way we want to deliver it after eight years, it’s going to be pretty deep for us I think.
“To have fans come back to speak for itself. Our fans are some of the most loyal fans in the universe and they’ve not dwindled in capacity not dwindled in the support. Most bands after eight years try and come back, it must be impossible. Take Guns N Roses when they did Chinese Democracy. Fans can just desert you overnight if you’re not active in people’s minds. The fact that we can come back, release an album after eight years, have the same level of fan support, if not greater now, after all the shit that this band has been through and all the stops and starts and the roller coaster of losing Mike and then Matt quitting and things like that and the way we re-jigged the personnel, you’re going to have to seriously do more than that to Evile to stop that train from rolling. That road that we’ve got in front of us it’s still going. Most bands wouldn’t have that opportunity. So it’s humbling and exciting in equal measures.”
(Photos by: Karl Smith)