Byzanthian Neckbeard – Interview
Interview with Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
PD: What type of artist are you?
Phil: This is always a difficult question to answer. We fit into a few different genres (sometimes within the same song!), the main ones we tend to sit in are Doom and Sludge, with healthy helpings of Thrash, Death and a light sprinkling of Black and Grind? Maybe we’d be better off just calling it Metal?
Paul: Heavy. That’ll do.
Dan: I’d definitely go with heavy and for this album at least, rooted in Sludge.
PD: Tell us the brief history of yourself.
Phil: Well we all live on the island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands. We’ve all been in bands together over the years, but never the 4 of us who formed Byzanthian Neckbeard back in early 2013. We started writing and once we had enough songs for both a live set we started playing gigs and then headed into the studio to record our debut album “From the Clutches of Oblivion”. This was released in August 2014. Not long after it came out our guitarist, Jon, decided to leave the band. We’ve been a 3 piece ever since. We used the drop in members to change our sound a bit and set about writing new material. There’s been a few ups and downs over the last few years, but we’ve finally gotten our 2nd album written and recorded!
PD: Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
Phil: Blimey, there’s a lot. Musically bands like Crowbar, Mastodon are definitely there, along with Conan, Electric Wizard, High on Fire to name but a few. Non musical influences I’d put writers like John Wyndam and Philip K Dick down. I’m pretty heavily influenced by a lot of older Sci Fi books.
Paul: Musically for me I love big powerful drums. Vinnie Paul is top of the pile, Tommy from Crowbar, that kind of thing. I love drummers who play to make a song better, not to show off. I also love everything Ben Koller does, Converge obviously but also All Pigs Must Die and Mutoid Man. His creativity and style are unbeatable on a 4 piece kit, and he hits them properly too! Song writing wise it depends what I’m listening to at the time. The title track of the LP Minaton was written just after Nails released You Will Never Be One Of Us, and I wanted a song with no real intro that just kicks you in the face straight away. We’ve got Mastodon inspired parts, High on Fire inspired parts, all sorts really from all over the metal spectrum.
Dan: Between us we have a pretty broad selection of music that we can draw upon. Whats interesting with this band is that we’ve never set out to sound like anyone in particular. We’ll generally write with a few guides in mind; It has to be heavy, it has to have groove and it has to have hooks. Phil and Paul have definitely covered the heavy and hooks bases, but for groove I always hold up bands like Clutch and Down as obvious shining examples. Less obvious for groove is Codex Necro by Anaal Nathrakh (One of the all time grooviest extreme albums ever written) and Enemy of The Music Industry by the mighty Napalm Death. From a non musical perspective I’d say literally anything that I find interesting. It could be a passage from a book or something I found on Wikipedia. Its amazing what you can shape a tune around.
PD: What are your dreams and goals?
Phil: Well we’re hoping that people like the new record and hopefully we can get across to both the UK and Europe and play as many shows as we can!
Dan: I get a real kick out of hearing people play our music, wear our merch etc, so as Phil said just hoping people like the new record…. and world domination, couldn’t possibly screw it up any more than it is already.
PD: Who writes your songs, what are they about?
Phil: All 3 of us write the music. It’s a very organic writing style, where everyone has their say and surprisingly there’s never any arguments over it! As for the Lyrics, I write the majority, along with a lot of help from Dan. As for what the songs are about, well they’re about all sorts. Some are influenced from Sci Fi books, some from weird stuff we’ve stumbled across on the internet. There’s one that was written due to one line in a show i watched about myths and legends and there’s even one on an obscure video game story. Basically we write about anything we think could work.
Paul: When we started the band we agreed that if there was any part of a song that any of us weren’t happy with for whatever reason that we’d bin it, and nobody would be offended. That works well, and a surprisingly small amount does get binned in the end. We’ve got a couple of songs based off a folklore book that a couple of mates on our neighbouring island of Alderney wrote. It’s all completely made up but don’t tell anyone…
Dan: Its a very, very collaborative process. Anyone of us could start a new track with a riff or some drums. Tracks more or less evolve from there. We get to the end of a riff and see what fits with it. After 1 or 2 riffs we generally have an idea where the track wants to go and we follow it. As I suspect most bands do, we write tracks we want to listen to. We try to keep people on their toes with unusual timings (never intentional) or breaks, but that is about as complicated as it gets.
PD: How do you promote your band and shows?
Phil: We tend to play locally more than off island (due to the logistics of getting off the island) so it’s local promotion through social media mainly.
PD: What do you think about downloading music online?
Phil: Now that’s an in depth and tricky subject. Torrents and the like are a sign of the times that really isn’t going to go away anytime soon. And yes, thieving music does suck. But with how much music there is in this day and age and how it’s basically impossible to keep up with everything, sometimes it’s a necessary evil for those who want to “try before you buy”, especially if a band hasn’t gotten their music up to every streaming site. We all wish it didn’t go on and that everyone who hears our music paid for it, but sometimes it’s nice to just be heard, even if some git has stolen it.
Dan: Always tricky this. For us this is not our main source of income, so the pirate aspect is extremely irritating, but its not our livelihood on the line. In all honesty streaming is almost as bad, and for me at least its removing a lot of the enjoyment of discovering new music. There is so much out there that its easy to get overwhelmed to the point that you just say screw it I’m going to listen to something old.
PD: What’s your outlook on the record industry today?
Phil: From an artists point of view, it’s both an interesting, vibrant time to be involved in the scene and it’s also easily the most difficult time to be able to get your music heard. There’s so many releases every day, it’s a big ocean that’s filled with a huge level of talented bands and we’re all vying for attention.
PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?
Phil: I’d have to say something like “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby, just because of the royalties haha!
Paul: Seasons in the Abyss. It was the first Slayer song I ever learnt to play, and it just flat out fucking rules from start to finish!
Dan: There isn’t one. I’m more than happy with the stuff we’ve written. Besides if we’d written White Christmas, no one would have bought it…. Just look at the state of us.
PD: What are some of your pet peeves?
Phil: Badly organised gigs, shit drivers and local travel prices!
Paul: Drummers that tap their drums. Hit them properly!
Dan: Travel costs. Its a great place to live but christ its expensive to get off this island.
PD: What is your proudest moment in music?
Phil: Appearing on the New Blood stage at Bloodstock. We had a pretty full tent and it was awesome to play for so many metalheads!
Paul: yeah Bloodstock was absolutely amazing, hard to top that!
Dan: Thirded, Bloodstock was awesome. I’m gonna have to be the one to say it, I’m bloody proud of Minaton. It was awesome to write and a pleasure to record.
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