Gama Bomb – Thrash GlorySunday, 18th October 2015
Self-proclaimed titans of an AC/DC brand of speedy crossover/thrash, Gama Bomb have no intention of chasing the commercial dragon in their career. Writing love songs about beer or scarecrows is as close as they are going to get – without relenting in terms of energy, speed, and ferocious execution. Untouchable Glory, the fifth studio platter, is another whirlwind in terms of lyrical topics and musical speed – firing bullets in the chamber again and again.
Bassist Joe McGuigan has a speedy Irish delivery when fielding the questions thrown at him – making this discussion seem more like a conversation we would have as good friends in a pub. Everything from origins to geekdom, Sodom to Agent Steel, their tour cancellation with Artillery a couple of years back and even a love of horror movie posters was fair game… as well as where the new album may be more of a proto-typical Gama Bomb effort than the previous one.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the early days of developing Gama Bomb in Ireland – was it a tough sell at first to deliver your brand of thrash when the movement wasn’t necessarily so hot of a genre in the early 2000’s?
Joe McGuigan: Yes, it absolutely was for a couple of reasons. As you said, the music wasn’t really in vogue at all, and also because we were young guys and we weren’t technically playing amazingly as a lot of young bands don’t. For the first few years we spent most of our time playing with punk bands, because there weren’t a lot of other thrash bands around Ireland and England.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you enjoy the challenge of keeping up with the musical speed antics of your bandmates in terms of Philly’s rapid fire vocal delivery? Have there been times where you almost trip over your tongue to fit the right words in?
McGuigan: You know, we have pretty fast singing but there are a lot of other bands who do that type of stuff as well. For us from a musical point of view generally we will write an album, go on tour, and by the time we come back from a tour we are usually adept at playing a few BPM faster than we were previously comfortable doing. So it means that when we go in to make a new album we will write music that is slightly faster than we previously have had.
Dead Rhetoric: Were there any particular bassists that you were into growing up that you model your style upon?
McGuigan: For me the two biggest ones were Tom Angelripper from Sodom, on the Persecution Mania album and the other would be Dan Lilker of Nuclear Assault from the Survive album. When I was getting to grips with playing the bass when I was younger those were the influences for me.
Dead Rhetoric: Who are some of the vocalists and bands that you consider peers or careers that you would like Gama Bomb to emulate/relate to? I would imagine that Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth comes up very often in comparisons to your range/delivery…
McGuigan: That’s kind of a direct result of us having spent quite a lot of time on the road with Overkill. On our second album Citizen Brain, those subsequent tours we did a European with them and then on the next album we did a North American tour for three months. We got to be good friends with Bobby, him and Philly struck up a camaraderie and they became good friends. As far as other bands, there are bands like Nuclear Assault that were a huge influence when we were younger, then other bands like Helstar. I am not sure there are a lot of bands these days that we are listening to for inspiration.
Dead Rhetoric: The new album Untouchable Glory has the trademark humor and angst that has been consistent in Gama Bomb since the start. Where do you see the separation between this effort and previous records in the catalog?
McGuigan: This album is a lot more refined. We really tried to write catchier choruses and make the songs as snappier, faster, punkish and full of energy. I think our last album we spread a little bit into more New Wave of British Heavy Metal approach to our thrash. It’s a lot like the Citizen Brain album, just with better ideas.
Dead Rhetoric: Has Philly recovered fully from his throat surgery of a few years back or is his range a little different because of this?
McGuigan: His range is still a bit different. What he’s doing, it takes two-three years to full recover, it depends on how bad the injury was to the vocal cords. It’s been about two years now since he’s had the surgery and he’s been going to opera lessons for a while. I think it’s going to be another six or seven months before he has his whole range back.
Dead Rhetoric: Describe Gama Bomb in a live setting- what do you hope to get across to the audience? What have been some of your favorite tours/ places to play through the years?
McGuigan: Well I guess we are lucky because we are talking about Philly, he is quite a front man who can sell the show and sell the band to an audience. We want people to be smiling and that’s the whole point of doing this, to entertain people and have a really good time. We want people to enjoy themselves, sing along and shout. As far as tours we’ve really enjoyed, the North American tour we did about four years ago went great. We recently did the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise, (and) that was a lot of fun. Trying to think… it all becomes a bit of a blur after some time.
Dead Rhetoric: Who came up with the cover concept, as there are a number of significant 70’s fighting movie heroes that appear on this?
McGuigan: The idea of the band, we want to have an exploitation style poster for the cover of the album. We thought something like the Dirty Dozen, but frame it in the sense of the band members on the front. We always joked about bands like Exodus that were on the cover of all their albums, and we thought we should really make an album where we are on the cover. Everybody came up with their own character and then we sent it to Graham Humphreys.
Dead Rhetoric: You mention in previous interviews how the term ‘geek’ is now socially acceptable and desirable these days. Do you think this has always been the case in the metal realm?
McGuigan: I think ever since Star Wars came out, and Rush. The late 70’s being a geek has been pretty cool and cutting edge. It hasn’t had a negative connotation apart from the 80’s culture with Revenge of the Nerds. It is a badge of honor to be so interested in subject matter like that.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you find your fans resemble a lot of their geek side when it comes to their passion for Gama Bomb?
McGuigan: Yes, we have a lot of geeky guys at the shows and in the band on stage as well. It goes hand in hand with heavy metal, but we get lots of different people from lots of walks of life that come to our shows.
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