Evile – Grinding Through the Teeth Machine

Sunday, 31st March 2013

(This content originally appeared on Blistering.com)

The unfortunate passing of bassist Mike Alexander in 2009 left British thrashers Evile in a position few bands are capable of dealing with. A founding member and core element of the band’s sound, Alexander, along with brothers Matt (vocals/guitars) and Ol Drake (guitars) and drummer Ben Carter quickly established themselves as the preeminent force in British thrash via 2007’sEnter the Grave and 2009’s Infected Nations. But Alexander’s untimely death cast a pall on the promotion for Infected Nations, forcing the Brits to re-evaluate their future and course of the band. Thanks to the outpouring of support from all ends of the metal world, and addition of bassist Joel Graham, Evile was able to pick up the pieces and forge ahead.

This year’s Five Serpent’s Teeth is easily the band’s best offering. With thrash still as the foundation, Evile have taken things to a new level in terms of performance and tightness, something that is mostly an afterthought in the retro-thrash realm. Instead, the brothers Drake lay down some of most compact and razor-sharp riff-action in decades, thus heightening their ability to create thrash songs of substance and variety. And if the departure song “In Memorium” (which is dedicated to Alexander) proves anything, it’s that Evile are gradually inching closer to get out of the very restrictive thrash box.

Hot off the heels of Five Serpent’s Teeth’s release, Blistering snagged Ol Drake for a round of queries that focused on how the band managed to move forward after Alexander’s passing, the recording process for the new album, and how they’re managing to survive in a scene that is not exactly conducive to thrash bands. Read (and thrash) on…

Blistering.com: After Mike’s untimely passing, did you have any thoughts of packing it in?

Ol Drake: Honestly, I did. I seriously questioned whether or not I’d be able to do it. I didn’t know whether or not I’d be able to look over at the other side of the stage and it not be Mike there. When you’ve been in a band since Day One with someone, it’s hard to imagine it with anyone else. We always said it’d be us four or we won’t do it; but we were forced out of that. Fortunately we got Joel, and it made me so happy to be able to carry on; he made it very easy.

Blistering.com: How difficult was it to basically “circle the wagons” and get the group back on track?

Drake: It was difficult, but Joel fit in so well that it was great. We auditioned a few people, and they were all great bassists, but there wasn’t that comfort there. As soon as Joel walked in, before playing a note, it just felt right. He’s from our area, he has the same sense of humor; it all just worked. We took only two months out before getting back on the road, so we were basically lunged back into it.

Blistering.com: The outpouring of support for the band and Mike’s family had to make you feel good. Were those the kind of things that made it easier to keep going?

Drake: Definitely. The feeling of camaraderie from the metal community was overwhelming. When you have bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica and Ozzy/Sharon [Osbourne] sending help and condolences it’s just mind-blowing. Mike would have been blown away by all the help, and his kids and girlfriend were too. On top of that was the fan response; the support from our fans made it SO much easier. They welcomed Joel with open arms while remembering and respecting Mike.

Blistering.com: Because all of this happened with Mike, do you feel it put a hindrance on the support of Infected Nations?

Drake: In the context of the album’s promotion, yeah I think it did, but that was the last thing on our minds. It was a shame we couldn’t get the album more promotion, but it’s the biggest shame Mike wasn’t still with us. On the subject of Infected Nations, everything is a bit of a shame and difficult to talk about.

Blistering.com: Five Serpent’s Teeth is Joel’s first album with the band. How did he fit in? And what does he bring to the table?

Drake: He fit in great. He’s from a very classic rock background, and was into thrash as a kid so he was a perfect fit. Mike was a lot more about speed, and Joel has a lot more of a groovy approach. It took a while for Ben and Joel to lock in, but when they did, it really worked.

Blistering.com: As for the new album, it’s a big leap forward on the production-front. Since this was your second album with Russ Russell, what type of things did you work on to make the band sound even heavier?

Drake: I think one of the more important aspects was that we were a lot more open with each other. On Nations, it was our first time with him, so on both sides there was some apprehension. This time around there was a lot more honesty in terms of what was bad and what was good. We’d become such goodfriends that everything was just comfortable. A lot of the heavier sound comes from the Fender EVH guitar amps; they have such clarity and attack that it was so fun to work with in terms of sound.

Blistering.com: From a pure playing standpoint, the rhythm guitar action on the album is quite impressive. You and your brother have some of the fastest right hands in the business, so I’m curious to find out how much importance you place on being tight and precise.

Drake: It’s the most important thing to me. I always admired [James] Hetfield’s right hand work; it’s just flawless. Flemming [Rasmussen, producer] was telling us how precise he was when tracking [Ride the] Lightning and [Master of] Puppets and I just love that much attention to detail on the guitars. There’s nothing better than multiple guitar tracks all hitting the same notes at the same time.

Blistering.com: “In Memorium” is clearly a departure song for the band, but has a lot of purpose behind it. Being that you’re known for being primarily a thrash band, is doing a song like this going to set a precedence as to where you can do things outside of the thrash box?

Drake: “Memoriam” was created because of what happened with Mike, but we’ve always enjoyed challenging ourselves and trying things differently. It was a breath of fresh air artistically, and combined with the feels on the rest of the album I think it was a perfect mixture.

Blistering.com: You came up through the retro thrash movement and now a lot of bands are starting to fall by the wayside. How has Evile been able to keep going?

Drake: We place so much importance on the songs. We have no gimmicks, we aren’t following a fad; we started playing Thrash at a time it was a “joke” to a lot of people. We simply like to try different things and never limit ourselves because of people’s expectations.

Blistering.com: Do you ever wonder how the band would fare if you were around during the 80’s?

Drake: I have no idea. It’d be interesting for sure, because no matter what decade music is written, it’s still music. I despise the frame of mind that “you weren’t around in the 80s so you can’t play Thrash” – that’s bollocks. I love and play classical music, but I wasn’t there to see/hear Mozart.

Blistering.com: Given the state of the industry, how hard is it for a band like Evile to stay afloat? Do you do the band full-time?

Drake: Very hard. People don’t realise how difficult it is being in a relatively “new” band. I won’t sugarcoat it; there’s no money. We’re only able to do this if we can not lose money. If you lose money it’s not doable. I really hope Five Serpent’s Teeth is the album that puts our foot in the door to be able to do this as a living. I personally do the band full-time. I do everything from e-mailing, liaising, online promotion, fan interaction. It has to be done. I’d rather the band have 100% output than me have a second job to hinder that.

Blistering.com: Finally, what’s on the agenda going into 2012?

Drake: Tour – that’s all we can see ahead of us other than the 4th album, which I’m already writing in my head. We’re gonna try get back to North America, maybe even over to Japan and China, Australia. Everywhere!

 www.myspace.com/evile