It should come as no surprise that I’m excited about a new Possessor record. The horror-inspired doomsters from the United Kingdom have been quite prolific in the last few years, and they are one of the rare bands that I’ve interviewed twice already (you can read the interviews here, and here, they’re quite fun).
The main inspiration for this group is hard to define. Where before I had a strong Sabbath vibe from these gents, now we’re moving more towards a punky, upbeat sound. It must be that first wave-style black metal influence, but also, most definitely, Black Flag. It’s more energetic, pushier, more domineering. I mean, it’s all good stuff and good clean fun.
So the horror samples are still there, and you only need to glance at their artwork to get that vibe. ‘Gravelands’ is less spooky though, it’s more ‘scary-biker-gang-might-be-werewolves’ scary. I suppose that’s a thing. After that hardcore beatdown beat on ‘Jim The Mutilator’ (obscure reference to the Rotting Christ originator?), the buzzsaw bassline on ‘Backwoods’ is pretty rad.
We turn a darker corner on ‘Savage Rampage’, with a higher pace, which approaches that primitive sound of bands like Midnight. The guitar riffs definitely contribute to that, no warm walls, but gritty, grim bursts hit your darkening mood. All good and set to go for the next bangers, which are ‘Breathe Fire’ and ‘Creature of Havoc’. Here we get back to the good old hard-rocking vibes we love about Possessor. Punchy, heavy sounding tunes, with nice heavy metal hooks and riffs. It feels like music made for a simpler time. It feels odd to get this classic metal vibe in these times, but it also just feels fucking good to hear these riffs that sound like sludgy Iron Maiden efforts.
‘Hiking To Hell’ underlines the coolness of this album again, by returning more to the grimy, repetitive sound and mossy walls of sound from their ‘Dead By Dawn’ album. Groovy stuff. You gotta love Possessor.
A little while ago I got in touch with a great little band from London, named Possessor. They’re basically horror film freaks who love to play crazy rock’n’roll, but they do it so well. Hearing that their new album was available, I was obviously more than interested (read the old chat here).
Graham Bywater and Matthew ‘Bean’ Radford have been working on this project for a while now. With their brand new album ‘The Ripper’, the third full length is available and it’s quite some piece of work. Time to check up with them again. Both gents where kind enough to answer some questions.
Possessor says be excellent!
So, how has Possessor been doing lately?
Graham – Hi. Good thanks. Bean – Hey, not bad at all, we’ve had some pretty good things going on. Graham – We have been super busy making this new album and getting it all ready for release. We’re also having a bit of a line-up change in the new year as we’ve never had a permanent bass player. We are also looking into getting a fourth band member to help me out on guitar while I’m doing the occasional frenzied solo. In 2018 we will be back with a new live line up that will hopefully flatten the universe.
You’ve been releasing some EP’s, can you shed some light on those? Bean – The ep’s are really just a way of keeping our name out there and hopefully keeping people interested in what we are doing… The Revenge track was originally intended to be included on Dead by Dawn but when it came to putting it all together, the flow of the album worked better without it. Interestingly, it was actually completely reworked in the time between initial tracking and it’s Halloween release. In the end only the drum track remained from the original session. Graham reworked the riffs and vocals and they are actually completely different to what I was playing along to when we recorded it. The B-Side, The Foreboding, was essentially an improvised piece and makes up a trilogy of songs which were all approached in the same “made-up on the spot” way… The first of these was The Creeps on DbD and the third is Notting Hell on The Ripper.
The live eps are just for fun really. The Ghouls Out (Live in Soho) ep holds a particular significance to me because it was recorded on my 40th birthday with a few good friends in attendance.
Graham -There aren’t a great deal of live albums being made these days and I’m a bit fond of the classic live metal albums of yesteryear. I thought it would be a good way to bridge the gap between albums and put out a few free, and deliberately very rough bootleg style live Eps. It’s a fun way of keeping people interested, but we wanted to make sure they cost nothing and almost purposely sound like shit.
You’ve just released ‘The Ripper’, which is a more noisy, raucous and angry record than the previous ‘Dead By Dawn’. What can you tell us about its conception?
Graham – It was conceived after too many beers and some soft jazz. Bean – Haha! here was never really a conscious discussion about how it was intended to turn out. We just wanted to make a great heavy metal album, influenced by all the things that excite us about that style; volume, weight, riffs, breakdowns… All the stuff that makes a person bang their head. We wanted it to be a progression from DbD and I think we achieved that by going backwards to a time when metal was a much blunter tool than it is now. Between DbD and the Ripper we were listening to a lot of early IronMaiden, Saxon, Black Sabbath (always) and NWOBHM. The aesthetic was denim, leather, bricks and booze. Think Derek Riggs. All of that seeped into this record.
What was the writing and recording process like? How do you gents go about these things? Bean – The lion’s share of the writing is Graham’s work. He will turn his ideas into demos which he passes over to me. I’ll listen to them on repeat and give my thoughts. Any edits or changes are minimal. My role is to put a thrust behind them all with the drums. I just try and hit them hard and give the songs a kick. I want people to FEEL these songs and experience them in the same way they would if we were playing them live. Having said that, The Ripper is also the first time I’ve contributed guitar parts to a Possessor album. Lava is a riff collaboration between Graham and I.
Graham – For money reasons and sheer want of control I used to record everything we did albiet in a rather primitive and lo-fi way. This album was recorded with a reputable metal producer, Lord Sam Thredder of Slabdragger fame. He helped us get a really tight and hefty vibe that didn’t take too much away from our previous recordings but with his input, we really turned it up to eleven. Also, Sam is way better at recording drums than me.
We hammered this record out in two days, the second of which was super tough but extremely productive, and we are really happy with the results which have captured a fresh and invigorating twist on the Possessor legacy, whilst maintaining the grubby and homespun sludgy vibe of previous albums. It’s definitely more focused on our roots (Bloody Roots).
You all hail from London, where life must have been a little turbulent the past year. Has any of that seeped into the album you think? Graham – Absolutely, I get really upset and angered by any form of terrorism or small minded and senseless crime. The London Bridge knife attack in June hit really close to home as I had literally jumped on a train home from there just an hour earlier. That evening was a nightmare and worst of all, thanks to social media, it was only minutes before the world was watching actual CCTV footage from the discomfort of their own homes. The amount of lifelong misery that one delusional and impressionable asshole can inflict on another human being is haunting and deeply affecting. I just want folk to shake hands, get along and have a good time.
There were actually a fair amount more aggressive lyrics on this album that dealt with the issues above and venomously tore into that fruit loop who’s currently in charge of America but I changed a lot of it at the last minute to lighten the mood. But just a tiny bit.
Bean – Speaking personally, Possessor is an escape. London can be a turbulent place, as much as any city really. Politically and socially there is a lot to get upset or angry about. There is the threat of terrorism hanging in the air, people are losing their homes and the media continues to try and destabilize communities and pit us against our neighbors. It’s a dark situation. My day job is in social care so every day I see the impact this can have on vulnerable people and it does make me hit the drums a bit harder! In some ways, being in a band, being creative and having the opportunity to share that with other people is a type of therapy. On that level, I think it does influence the album in so far as the passion we put into something that is completely about having a good time. It gives me a chance to step away from the horror of real life (which is far more frightening than the fantasy horror we put into our songs) and do something completely positive.
So, what movies did you guys find inspiration in for this album (although I suppose the Jack the Ripper reference can hardly go unnoticed)? Graham – Braindead. Because it’s absolutely brilliant, ages incredibly and is just so much fun. I recently re-watched Ms.45 and it kinda stuck in my craw and added a bit of a revenge and vigilante vibe to the riffs. The track ‘Hacksaw’ was intended as an imaginary, cheap and nasty slasher like Nailgun Massacre or The Mutilator. Maybe one day we can make that film. It’s would be trash with some thrash and I think we should have a small role as ‘The Possessors’, a college party band that gets interrupted by a figure in the shadow killing off the teens at our show. Ha! This thing writes itself! Maybe John Carpenter is reading this.
The Elm Street and Evil Dead films ( minus Army of Darkness,) are always a very big reference point for us too, as are the good time flicks like Spinal Tap, Fast Times, Bill and Ted and more recently Deathgasm. The good stuff!
Bean – We’ve always had an affinity with big, silly, over-the-top horror films like Dracula, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Night of the Living Dead, Troll Hunter and The Lost Boys. There are references to all of those films in the lyrics and in some of the samples we use. I’ve said it often that Possessor are a band to be enjoyed in the same way as all of the above… With your friends, at volume, in the dark and with a beer.
What song (or songs) would you highlight as exemplary for this new record and why so?
Graham – I think ‘Conjure and Possess’ is my favorite, perhaps because it was only completed a few days before hitting the studio and I think to an extent we winged it. I simply used early Iron Maiden as a major stepping stone and planned it all out in my head every night before I went to sleep for a week. I set out to write a killer opener that explodes from your speakers. I also really have a soft spot for ‘Lava’ as Bean wrote that COC style riff towards the end. And it has such a swing, preceded by a sinister quote from Charles Manson.
Bean – I’m proud of all of the songs on this album. The writing of Conjure and Possess was preceeded by a text from Graham that read, “Can you do the Clive Burr ‘stomp?!!’” Haha! Have a listen and make of that what you will!.. That aside, if I had to pick one tune to showcase The Ripper, I would choose Whitechapel Murders. It’s the centrepiece of the album and I think it captures the vibe of old school heavy metal perfectly. It’s a proper horns up, headbanger of a tune.
So last time we were in contact, ‘Dead By Dawn’ had just come out. You were about to get it out on Graven Earth and Anvileater Records, on tape and cd. What’s the status now label-wise? Was it more comfortable to already have a release deal in place for you guys? Graham – We are still very much with GravenEarth as Rachel just does not mess about or waste any time. It’s a pleasure to work with her again. The CD has just come out on my little label, WickedLesterRecords, a project I started this year to help spread the word on bands I discovered on Bandcamp that I loved but in some cases didn’t appear to have the audience I personally thought they deserved.
What is up next for Possessor in the near future? Any tours coming up?
Bean – First thing is to get The Ripper out on all formats. There’s a cassette release imminent and we have plans for a vinyl release in the new year.
There are no live plans in the calendar. As Graham mentioned, we are actually in need of a stable live line up, which is something we are working on right now. Once that is in place we plan to hit some venues, louder and heavier than ever.
I have to ask, when are you guys going to tour the continent? Graham – We need to get on that. It would be a pleasure. Bean – All offers are considered!
Last time, I asked you guys what sort of food Possessor might be. One of the answers was beer. I thought it’d be fun if you could link each of your albums to a beer and explain why. Graham – Ha, this is a dream question!
Electric Hell is a like Yakima Red. It’s crisp, dark and dangerous.
Dead by Dawn is cheap lager like San Miguel or Kronenberg because it’s pretty scrappy and you’ll more than likely wake up asleep on the floor the morning after.
The Ripper is London Beer Factory’s Chelsea Blonde. A current fave of mine.
Bean – Hmmmm, I’d say Electric Hell would be a Polish lager. Cheap but very strong. It’ll mess you up but you’ll have a good time getting there.
Dead by Dawn would be a bit more bespoke. A limited run craft ale… Sold in a small can with a swampish illustration on it… but with a ridiculous alcohol percentage.
The Ripper would be Newcastle Brown Ale. Hands down. No messing about.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Graham – Thanks for having us! Go blast The Ripper immediately and be excellent to each other.
Label: Graven Earth Records/Anvileater Records Band: Possessor Origin: United Kingdom
London always has some great bands brewing something unique and fun. I stumbled across the new Possessor album, number two from the three piece and I tell you, this is awesome! The album is right now only available through bandcamp and well worth your moneys.
Oh, check out the interview here too.
Call it doom, stoner, sludge or as I’ve read somewhere ‘thrash boogie’ and you get the message. It’s fun, dirty and has that jacked up feel of energy, speed and kick-ass riffing. The band seems to be mostly about the fun and just having good times, while lacing their music with some horror themes and grimy distortion.
Opener ‘Afterburner’ has the screaming guitars and the bad-ass bass lines to make you want to start moving (or put that pedal down while driving in your car). It overall has the groove and swagger of a Kyuss but more grungy. The guys like to spice things up with some horror movie samples, like on ‘Scorpion Swamp’, which has these characteristic high paced drums that keep you sharp.
The sound of these guys is heavy and full of groove, with vocals seemingly far away under a sonic blanket. They know how to create that carpet of woolly distortion, but sharp and catchy riffing is also in the book for Possessor. They remind you a little of ElectricWizard playing in the desert with JohnGarcia on vocals, but there’s something more to it here thanks to that southern swagger. It still feels remarkably British.
For some reason this band makes me think of Motörhead, because of that obvious lack of care for sticking to one genre and just bringing you something that is rock’n’roll as fuck, but just a lot more heavy. Check for example the punked out ‘Terror Tripping’ or the wild ride that is ‘The Curse of the Hearse’, there’s no way to put this band in one corner apart from that. The raw, unpolished sound is fun and catchy, that’s why I make that comparison. This might be one of the coolest things I’ve heard in months.
Did you hear that awesome album by Possessor yet? You should, because it blends all styles into a potent cocktail of gritty, grimy horrorcore sludge.
You can probably rant on about the Sabbath-esque influences and noisey southern swagger, but these Londoners sound unique and awesome, so I thinought it would be a good thing to get in touch with them and get into it with these gentlemen.
Graham Bywater, Matthew ‘Bean’ Radford and Marc Brereton were keen to answer some questions about their music, horror films and their new album.
How did Possessor get started? Were you guys involved with other bands before?
Marc: I was in quite a few bands before Possessor and I still am, but this is definitely the most fun. I’ve known Graham for years as we met back in college and used to record stuff in his bedroom. We always talked about playing together, but it took until now to come into fruition but when Graham asked me to be a part of Possessor it didn’t take long to commit when I heard what he was pumping out.
Graham: Marc was the only person I met at college who didn’t really have strict guidelines and restrictions to what he was into. He wasn’t ashamed to say he loved Green Jelly. The dude had literally no pretensions. He also immediately reminded me of Sasquatch so that was good.
Bean: I know that Graham and Marc have known each other since they were very young, but my personal involvement with Possessor began shortly after Electric Hell was released. I met Graham by complete coincidence. We were both on our way to a Fu Manchu gig in London and had stopped at the same pub before the show for a few pints. My Iron Monkey T shirt was enough for Graham to start a conversation and we soon started talking about music. Graham mentioned Possessor. I’d actually heard of them and had really liked them; they were also looking for a permanent drummer so I offered my services.
My “audition” consisted of a night together, drinking beer and talking about Guns n’ Roses. By the end of the evening Graham had gone missing and Marc had seen my girlfriend naked. This pretty much set the benchmark we have followed ever since!
So what bands do you guys like and influenced your sound?
Graham: It varies greatly depending on the mood. We drove through a rain storm listening to ‘Canadian Metal’ by Darkthrone on the way to a gig recently. That was a very heavy and inspiring moment and has kinda stuck with me. That album, ‘F.O.A.D’ seeped its way into the sound of Dead by Dawn. Other bands that have been on repeat recently are Midnight, Pentagram, Enslaved, Death Evocation, Misfits and some band called Metallica. The Shrine and Bongzilla have been on my iPod a fair bit and that new Kvelertak album is crazy. I normally aim to discover a band a day if possible. Even if they suck.
Bean : I feel really passionate about music. I listen to blues, classical and jazz but at the center of it all is a love for heavy metal. Black Sabbath are the beginning, middle and end for me and they are a huge influence on my playing. From there my tastes go in a lot of different directions. All the way from LA Glam to Death Metal. Classic stuff really. Obituary, Priest, Black Flag, Iron Maiden, Love/Hate, Entombed; I could go on and on.
In terms of influence on Possessor: For me it’s about those bands who can capture an energy and put that on tape. Motorhead’s Overkill comes to mind as does Charles Mingus’ Blues and Roots. On the Mingus album you can hear the band whooping and howling as they play. It’s such a live, un-tampered, vibrant sound. It’s an odd comparison but it’s exactly how I’d like Possessor records to sound.
I understood that you guys are not originally London folk from an interview with Doomed and Stoned. Where do you guys hail from and is how would you say it impacts your sound?
Bean : I’m originally from a small village in Kent. It’s fair to say that it was a fairly isolated place without easy access to town. As a result my childhood was spent reading and writing stories and playing in the nearby woods, close to churches and graveyards! All of this helped me to develop a good imagination which in turn guided my interest towards fantasy tales and horror stories. Ever since I’ve had a disposition towards the occult as an aesthetic, which is why I find Possessor so appealing. It’s also why I’d love people to experience the band in the same way as they would a ghost story or slasher movie!
Graham: Kent. Staplehurst via Sevenoaks. I’ve always been more inspired by nothing than everything.
Horror flick are as I understood an inspiration too. How do you know you’re catching that vibe when writing a song?
Graham: Possessor are basically a horror film disguised as a band. It’s just a natural part of our sound and is effortless. I guess it has a lot to do with the decade we were born in and to this day I don’t really know anyone who isn’t totally nerdy about cinema. I got into bands like Maiden and Helloween around the same time I discovered films like The Terminator and Re-Animator and I knew from a very young age that music and film go hand in hand. People seem to pick up on that with Possessor which is good.
When we younger me and Marc used to spend our Sunday afternoons watching Hills Have Eyes and Evil Dead and the natural instinct was to follow it up with a beer and a jam.
Maybe we should write a musical. I reckon we could do a gig within a film, like in the woods with the Blair Witch or in the kid’s dreams in Nightmare on Elm Street. Bean : For me, a good example of this would be The Creeps (from Dead by Dawn). It started as a jam on some percussive ideas for another song, but hearing the drum played back in isolation was so evocative of all things voodoo. It put an image in my mind of cannibals dancing under a volcano while their cooking pot boiled. I think the best Possessor songs can make a direct connection to the mind’s eye.
How do you guys pick your artwork? Because it instantly gives off that film vibe. Is it created from scratch or do you use existing images?
Graham: This album took a bit longer as we wanted to outdo our previous concepts without losing the originality. We always go for simple and mysterious imagery but the idea of the faceless character of past releases has become something else with this design as it reveals slightly more.
We often use really old public domain photos that just jump out at us. I normally edit and rework the image until it looks like something new and creepy but always surreptitiously empowering. We don’t talk about the art much as it really should just speak for itself. We like mysterious figures and forms, not blood and gore.
If Possessor was allowed to do a live soundtrack to a film, like bands have been doing on Roadburn Festival for example. Which film(s) would you love to do the score to and why? (and how would it sound)
Marc: Lord of The Rings!! (needs no explanation)
Bean : Something thrilling, visceral and brutal. Texas Chainsaw Massacre would suit us perfectly. That, or a compilation of machete attacks from Friday the 13th.
Graham: The Lost Boys or perhaps Motel Hell? Something trashy and eye catching. Or perhaps it would be even more insane if we played a heavy set to something like Open Water or even a collection of bits from Jurassic Park. Dinosaurs stomping and sharks chomping to the riffs!
A festive gig set to Christmas Evil could be good too.
How would you describe the writing and recording trajectory for your latest album (which is so awesome)?
Graham: Pretty natural. There’s a certain sound, style and spirit to Possessor that writes itself. Having said that this album is definitely edging more towards being filmic and the end result certainly feels more like a group effort this time round. We took a while creating this album because of time restrictions and work but the actual performances themselves were done live and on the spot. One take on most tracks.
Bean : It was recorded really quickly. The drum tracks were done in a single afternoon and in the majority of cases they are first takes. We really wanted to retain the energy and spontaneity of those fresh takes so we deliberately moved through the process quickly without poring over the details or refining them. We wanted this to be a brutally real album with imperfections and accidental highlights. I’m proud to say I think we really achieved that.
If I say that you guys sound like Black Sabbath and Kyuss meeting at a Danzig show, how does that score on the chart of interesting comparisons you’ve heard?
Graham: Well I love Kyuss and Sabbath so that’s fine with me. I’ve noticed we have been compared to Venom and Therapy? a fair bit, and to be honest I don’t get that at all. One review said we sounded like early ElectricWizard crossed with Bathory (?) I think I prefer your description mate but to be honest I don’t really think much about comparisons. We sound like Possessor.
Bean : One of things I really value about Possessor is the wide variety of comparisons that have been applied to us.
People have said we sound like Metallica, L7, Prong, Ministry, Slayer, Pantera and RobZombie too. I love that it is difficult to pin us down. The best bands always have something unique about them which is exactly what I think Possessor are striving for
What is a Possessor live show like and are you guys planning to hit the continent soon?
Bean : The Possessor live experience is a heavy one. Our hope is the audience gets on board in the same way we are; basically to celebrate heavy music and have a good time.
We would LOVE to play future shows on the continent. Our recent show at Sonic Blast in Portugal was a huge success. European metal fans made us feel so welcome and really seemed to “get” what we do. I’d be happy to experience some more of that.
Graham: Yeah, that was great fun. I think our live performance often depends on how well we are rehearsed. We like to keep it raw and exciting and ever so slightly theatrical. Depending on the night and the beer intake we may wear a form of war-paint or corpse paint purely because it amuses us and brings to mind the old school craziness of AliceCooper or Gwar. Other shows can be pretty slick with heads down and feet on the monitors. I think that sometimes a sloppy gig with shit loads of passion and energy is more memorable than being a predictable and routinely structured one. I don’t know why anyone would want to see the same exact performance twice.
We would love to travel and play more outside of the UK, so…
Marc :..Set us up with some dates.
What are the future plans for the band?
Graham: Have some fun and try not to go insane in the meantime. We will be releasing a special something for Halloween this year so keep an ear out for that. One thing we really want to do and have discussed in depth is put out a covers EP. That would be fun, but it could go either way. The songs would have to be weird enough to be worthwhile. We wouldn’t just be covering Ace of Spades and War Pigs.
Bean : In the immediate future? Hopefully more shows. I’d really like to take Dead by Dawn on the road and see people react to these songs. We’re at a stage now where we’re trying to build the profile of the band and that means getting out there and showing people what we’re all about. Beyond that… Write. Record. Do it all again, only bigger and better!
Marc: Burn stuff!
Finally, if you had to describe Possessor as a dish, what would it be (and why)?
Marc: Spicy shepherd’s pie, it’s heavy and hot. Graham: Fajitas. Loads of heavy flavors with some added cheese. Bean : Old fish heads and beer – because our food budget will ALWAYS be weighted towards beer.