Evil Invaders – Feed the BeastWednesday, 11th October 2017
Armed and dangerous, Evil Invaders continue to impress the metal legions as their records and live shows spread far and wide beyond their Belgian homeland. While speed metal at heart, there are plenty of traditional, thrash, and even extreme elements that infiltrate the songwriting. Setting the table with 2015’s full-length debut Pulses of Pleasure, the band established themselves as a fan favorite on the live front, touring with Bloodbound, SkullFist, Majesty, and Suicidal Angels beyond numerous festival appearances during the summertime. Which brings us to the second full-length, Feed Me Violence – another fist in the face for metal fans who love energetic riffs and ripping vocals, only this time adding variance from a twin guitar/tempo perspective to enhance the attack.
The quartet aim to prove that the key to endurance is looking at the songwriting and performances from a marathon versus sprint stance – songs such as “As Life Slowly Fades” and “Broken Dreams in Isolation” the result of going with your gut and taking the seasoning/experience to the next level. Happy to inform me of the Evil Invaders outlook circa 2017, vocalist/guitarist Joe discusses the varied approach to Feed Me Violence, their continued use of artist Mario Lopez, lessons learned for best band practices in the personal and professional realms, as well as some prized metal vinyl talk.
Dead Rhetoric: Based on your previous work with Pulses of Pleasure and the EP follow up In for the Kill, did you have more confidence going into the songwriting sessions for Feed Me Violence – or do you still refine and retool material as you go along even in the studio?
Joe: Actually, it felt like the songwriting process was the same. We are writing demos, and it just comes naturally. We don’t try to think about things too much, or how things should sound. We write music, and in the end see how things sound and decide whether we like it or not. Most of the time we have a demo finished when we go into the studio – and while recording we still make changes to the songs. Most of the time it’s the vocal parts that change a lot compared to the demos.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve consistently stuck with Mario Lopez as the artist for every Evil Invaders cover. What do you enjoy most about his style, and what discussion did you have regarding the latest art for Feed Me Violence?
Joe: It’s like, this guy’s style, I immediately fell in love with it when I first saw it in 2013. I looked on his website, saw all of his artwork, and what he’s doing is great- it looks very old school, but unique at the same time. For Feed Me Violence, we came up with the idea of a guy that is ripping himself to pieces. It started with me taking a picture of the move with the mouth open, and I sent that to him and asked if he could make a really disgusting guy who is ripping himself to pieces. So he made a sketch, we looked at it and added more details. We went back and forth ping-ponging it, and I’m really excited with how it looks in the end. In the beginning I had a bit of doubt when I saw the initial sketches, but in the end it looked great. He added a lot of details, the cuts and wounds of the character like an eye that comes out, that’s something that he gave to it. A bit of a supernatural vibe, I like that.
Dead Rhetoric: On the latest album, there seems to be an added emphasis on expanding your classic/traditional metal nuances, especially in songs like “As Life Slowly Fades” and “Broken Dreams in Isolation”. Is diversity important record to record for Evil Invaders – and does natural experience and maturity play a part in this?
Joe: I think so. I don’t really like to write the same stuff over and over again. You can’t keep on repeating what you’ve already (done). The songs have the same vibe, you can still hear that it’s Evil Invaders but there’s definitely another level attached to it. There’s more clean parts on the album and more variation in the tempos. Like for example, “Broken Dreams in Isolation” is the slowest song that we’ve ever written- and we experimented with different tunings on it as well. I’m very satisfied with how that turned out- the vocals as well, the narrated vocals instead of biting all the time like I usually do. The melodies- there’s a more mature approach to this record than the previous ones.
Dead Rhetoric: Did you come up with specific ideas on diversifying the lyrics as well?
Joe: I didn’t really think too much about it. The cool thing on this record is I’m not the only one who wrote lyrics, Max and I wrote things together. It’s cool to have that variation, because if it’s one person writing all the time you get dragged into the same routines and the same structures very quickly. I don’t really have this feeling on the new record compared to Pulses of Pleasure. I don’t feel like I am repeating what I did before.
Dead Rhetoric: Did you know right away that you wanted “Mental Penitentiary” to be the first single and video?
Joe: No, definitely not. We just saw which song turned out cool and thought this could be a good song to introduce the new record. Because it’s got a bit of everything in it.
Dead Rhetoric: You were originally scheduled to play in the United States at a festival in the Mid-West called the Milwaukee Spring Bash that got cancelled due to visa issues – are there hopes to get over here for some proper touring, and how frustrating is this process for international musicians?
Joe: It was quite frustrating, that’s for sure. We got locked up in a cell for 22 hours. I’d rather be on the stage playing the show. We are definitely looking forward to playing in the US and we are going to tour there extensively. I really hope so, nothing is confirmed yet, but we are working on it.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the major changes in the development of Evil Invaders from your original beginnings to now? Do you have an idea of where you would like to see the band go in terms of goals/direction for the next three to five years?
Joe: I don’t really like to aim in a certain direction with music. Anything is possible, we could be more heavy metal on the next record in comparison to this one, or even more extreme, we will see how we feel in that moment. The sky is the limit to me- I’d like to become a band like Judas Priest- that size, if it’s possible. I know that it’s really hard to achieve that these days, we just want to keep on improving on what we do, just like our live show now. We work on that, it’s important for us to give a show and not just play your songs while standing still. Something needs to happen, there needs to be energy, people need to get excited. We really work on that, and always keep improving our live show, that’s something very important for a band of our stature. As far as we can take things, we will take it.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel the last rounds of touring and festival appearances have gone for Evil Invaders? Do you feel like you are making new in roads in many different countries/parts of the world, and which do you favor at this point – small clubs, larger theaters, or festival settings?
Joe: We’ve been playing great summer shows. We had a load of shows in different countries, plus a lot of festivals. I can see that the crowds are growing all the time. We played for different kinds of people as well- some mainstream festivals, extreme festivals like Obscene Extreme which is mainly grindcore and stuff. I feel like wherever we play we always get a good response from the crowd, even if they don’t know us- and it’s really great to see that. It’s not only the music that’s appealing to the people, but also the live show. Some people would tell me that normally they don’t listen to our style of music, but they thought we were really great.
It’s a hard question, every kind of setting has its own charm. The smaller clubs are cool because you are really close to the people, and it’s very intense. On the other hand we have really cool show props, and it’s better if we can set up our entire stage set up. To me, right now I think I would prefer the bigger stages over the smaller ones. It’s hard, it all depends on the vibe of the venue and how the crowd is reacting.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you have an affinity for the early pioneers within the Belgian metal scene, such as Acid, Cyclone, Ostrogoth, and Target – and would you say your music has gained a multi-generational appeal from the old school fans as well as newcomers to the scene?
Joe: I used to listen to the old Belgian bands when I was younger- not as much lately. I used to like Cyclone a lot, because of their raw energy. We see in our crowds a big generation gap as well. We have young people 14 years old coming to our shows to these older guys who saw all these bands in the 1980’s. I think it’s really cool that we are able to get good responses from the older guys and the younger ones. This genre reunites the old with the young- especially when people start comparing you to bands like back in the day. I see that as a compliment.
Dead Rhetoric: So you don’t mind when people make comparisons to Agent Steel, Vio-lence, etc. when it comes to Evil Invaders?
Joe: It depends. A lot of people have told me I sound like John Cyriis from Agent Steel, and they make the link due to the high pitches but I don’t think my voice is totally like this guy. Lately I’ve heard this less – I think it’s cool to be compared to the older bands. When some older guy comes up and he tells me he gets thrown back into the first time he saw Metallica, that’s really cool.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned when it comes to band chemistry and friendships – and how do you handle conflicts that may come up either in the studio or while on the road?
Joe: The thing I’ve learned is communication is really important between the band members. Everybody has to be able to say what is on their mind immediately, without any taboos. If somebody says they don’t like the way this record sounds, if they aren’t satisfied with a certain aspect of the mix, they should say it. We can discuss it, because nobody always agrees on everything. We always manage to have a healthy communication within the band. We’ve had a lot of member changes as well but I think they went smooth and not without any hard feelings because we are good at communication. We knew that member changes were happening because certain people didn’t feel like it was their thing anymore, we had time to look for new band members.
Dead Rhetoric: Because of these member changes, is it hard to keep forward momentum sometimes because you take a step back for someone to re-learn old material?
Joe: Yes, it’s hard. We always push through really hard and we’ve never cancelled a tour. We have made the band our first priority and as soon as we know someone is leaving, we have someone new as soon as possible that will know the songs. When Sam our previous guitar player left the band, we made the choice quickly that Max our bass player was going to take over on guitar, and then we were going to look for a new bass player. We did auditions, and one month later we were on tour again. It’s a big change when you have a new member in the band, especially if your bass player is going over to guitar, you get used to the vibe on stage. It’s different, it’s hard to explain, the chemistry is different and you have to find a way to make it work in a different way. I think we always manage to keep on going forward. I’m very satisfied with the way we manage to keep this band going on this level.
Dead Rhetoric: Knowing that you are a vinyl fan, what do you consider some of the most prized possessions that you have in your collection?
Joe: Wow. I think Crimson Glory- Transcendence is one of my favorites that I have on vinyl. It’s hard to pick, let me see. Motörhead – Rock ‘n’ Roll is another cool one. I’ve got a rare edition of Iron Maiden- No Prayer for the Dying, but it’s picture disc with a different artwork. It’s Eddie holding a stationary gun and shooting from a plane, an alternative artwork. That’s a really cool one.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe yourself as a person away from music – as I’d imagine the stage version of Joe is a little more elevated and energetic because of the speed/thrash metal you play in Evil Invaders?
Joe: Definitely. When I go on stage, there is a switch that flicks in my head, and it’s really like another personality takes over. I think it’s a good way for me to deal with the frustrations that I have in my personal life and I can just scream them out on stage and let the violence that’s inside of me out. In my normal life, it’s hard to describe myself.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ll be touring with Grand Magus and Elm Street in October and November across Europe shortly after the album’s release. This is quite a diverse tour package for you – do you believe it will benefit all the bands because of the separation of styles?
Joe: I think it’s cool to play for new crowds, because if you keep on playing for the same people all the time, you are never going to grow as a band. It’s cool to see some of the same people at certain shows because they we always be there for you. I like to see new faces all the time, and I think with Grand Magus it will be a really good tour for us.
Dead Rhetoric: Looking at the career arc of Evil Invaders, do you have any favorite failure that took place, that also became a great learning experience to make you even stronger in the long run?
Joe: Wow, that’s a hard one. Failures always suck, you know! (laughs) You learn from every mistake. I don’t really have one that stands out much. I don’t have any regrets of the choices that I’ve made in the past. I think everything went just the way that it should, or else we wouldn’t be where we are right now.
Dead Rhetoric: How are things going in your guitar making business? Have you had any special requests from other metal guitarists being out on tour so much with Evil Invaders?
Joe: People around Europe, I’ve made a few guitars for guys from Switzerland and guys from England, so that’s really cool. This medium of the band as promotion for me, since I started my own Facebook page for J-Axe guitars it went uphill. Things are growing, it’s nice to do something that you like doing in between all the touring and working for the band.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the state of speed/thrash these days, what excites you about it and where could things go in the future?
Joe: From the modern bands, that aren’t really a lot of them that kind of blow me away like some old bands did. The scene is definitely cool, we play with bands like Dust Bolt, Suicidal Angels, Skull Fist – all these revival bands. I often have the feeling that some of these bands are doing something that’s already been done before, and not the bands that I just mentioned, but with the new revival these bands already sound like one band from the past, instead of creating something new with a lot of influences.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for late 2017 through early 2018 for Evil Invaders? Will there be another video track, and have you already started to formulate new ideas for the follow-up recording?
Joe: We are thinking of releasing one more video, but we don’t know when we will release it or shoot it. We are doing the tour with Grand Magus in October and November, and then at the end of the year in December we are going to tour with Channel Zero, a Belgian band, and hit all the big Belgian venues. That’s going to be really cool, they have sold out a lot of shows here. In 2018 we are going to go to Columbia for the first time, and hopefully do more South American dates before, and hit Mexico after. Last time we went to South America was crazy, I can’t wait to be back. Later in the year we hope to do more touring, crazy festivals during the summer, the same old, same old.
We are working on riffs and ideas all the time. Max just came up with a song and he’s going to send me a demo of it tonight, I’m quite curious to hear it.