HELLBASTARD : “Coven Of Wolves” 

By Octopi Mills

Britain’s Hellbastard have been knocking over apple carts and defying genre classifications since the mid-80’s. “Too metal for punks and too punk for metal” is a common way to describe their heavy, ripping music and outraged, environmentally conscious lyrical attack. They enjoy the “outsider” tag and in fact would do nothing to change that description.

Prime mover of the band for many years has been a fellow named Scruff, who considers himself a warrior for the Earth and a master of all things HEAVY. Hot on the heels of their provocative new album “Feral”, Wormwood’s master of the esoteric Mr. Octopi Mills speaks to Scruff to find out what makes a bastard tick…

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Welcome to Wormwood Chronicles on behalf of Hellbastard, Scruff. Your contributions to music and your way of thinking are to be mentioned at this time in respect and honor..For those who do not know of Hellbastard, we won’t bother giving them a historical re-enactment, but rather I would like to ask you to share with us some of the more memorable moments within this long frame of time, or anything you would like to share regarding the past?

SCRUFF: Hello, Octopi and Dr. Mality, such an honour to be grilled for your online publication. What can I say about the past that hasn’t really already been said???? The band came from a wish to make heavy music with sensible lyrics. We had already seen the ‘first wave’ of Punk Rock sweep over the UK like a bad rash - and with the advent of Thatcherism within British politics things weren’t exactly looking shiny for these shores. The origins of the band came from Punk Rock. We began as 3 disaffected kids that had a natural ‘bond’ in the fact that we all had troubled lives and didn’t get along too well with the mediocre trappings of a conservative society. We all met because of my Brother (Big Toot) who used to run a club entirely promoting Punk/Hardcore bands called “The Station” which was in our North-East hometown of Gateshead, Newcastle Upon Tyne.  In the early 1980’s we just wanted to create something heavier than what was around, but have meaningful lyrics, not the nonsensical crap that was prevalent with the more heavy ‘metallised’ bands of that era. Within a year of forming we recorded our debut demo, “Ripper Crust (1986). This demo proved to be problematic for us in the short-sighted aspect of we were TOO ‘metallic’ for the Punk Rock crowd that we CAME from, and TOO ‘Punk Rock’ for the Metallic crowd. It was an instant dichotomy... then we set about recording our debut album, except that it wasn’t released (‘Hate Militia’ released as the ‘2nd demo) so we recorded another one which was released on ‘Meantime Records’. Then we got another record deal (Earache records) and recorded our second (but really the 3rd) album and started doing a lot more touring. We have toured Europe and the USA as a ‘headlining’ band in our own right. We have played some pretty prestigious festivals over the years and certainly will continue to do so. To date we have played in so many countries and on so many tours and dates I lost count. Some of the bands we shared stages with are - Antisect/Amebix/Forbidden/Saint Vitus/Tryptykon (Celtic Frost)/Corrosion of Conformity/Fabric/1349/Napalm Death/Wolfbrigade/Sacrilege/Converge/Pig Destroyer/Misery/War Plague/Anti-System/The Mob/Agnostic Front/Heresy/Concrete Sox/Axegrinder/Sacred Reich/Paradise Lost/Kreator/Sacrilege BC
/Undergang/Conflict/Carcass/Slammer/Dezerter/PanzerBastard/Morbid Angel/Anvil/Hard Ons/Bolt Thrower/Cerebral Fix/36 Strategies/Deviated instinct/Poltergeist/Toxic Reasons/GBH/Svetlanas/Kina/Oi-Polloi/ - this ‘list’ could go on forever,.. so i’ll shut up now. By 1992 we had burned ourselves out with serious line-up changes and I decided to move away from my hometown and form another band. So I did. Jump forward to 2008 and I reformed Hellbastard again with a promise that we’d at least try and do things ‘better’ second time around, I’d like to think we are ‘kind of’ getting there. 

WC: We have reviewed the new Hellbastard album, “Feral”....I have the advantage of knowing you are a driven individual with a certain fire and especially so in a live sense...One can hear it in the energy that always burns in the music...How did you go about working with the recording and performance with “Feral”? How do you go about channeling this energy? Is there a certain working formula or ritual you have to go through? 

S:  The very first thing that was recorded for this album were drums - they were applied during a ‘click track’. Although this may seem the better of two worlds in the whole process I have some question marks hanging there. 1). Yes, it is a tight result in the end, but the problem i see is that ‘human error’ is lost in the ‘robotic’ way of achieving the end process. Am I a ‘fan’ ? Not really. This was the first time in all these years we used this medium, and in retrospect, hats off to our drummer at that time, he literally played the drums with no ‘guide’ guitars at all, just his own mental memories of the tracks we had solidly rehearsed for the album. I was most impressed when it came time to lay down guitar tracks. 2). I also had to be there the whole time, whereas other members of the band left and came back during the process. By the end of that album I was finished. Exhausted. A few of us were, and such is the ‘price’ for our ‘art’.

WC: One of the passions expressed in the lyrics is that of the love and respect for animals...What have you learned from the animal companions you have had, and would you share a tale with us with one of your best experiences with these creatures? What you may have learned or discovered?

S: It has taken me a while but I know this: animals don’t fuck each other over for a percentage. Animals are loyal, even in the face of utmost desperation. When someone remarks that animals are not as important than humans are I think FUCK YOU. I say they are even more important. By this I mean IN EVERY WAY. I PLACE ANIMAL LIFE ABOVE HUMAN NEED. I know the oceans will be fish-free at around 2048, or even sooner. SHAME ON US.

WC: What are your reflections of “Feral” now that you are away from the actual recording of the album? It seems like you have reached a certain level with the album, and the themes in the lyrics surely express more than ever in some ways on this album, at times....I know you mention loss in the inner notes of the album, and a sort of dedication to those that have ever lost something...a lot of your spirit or soul seems to be contained in this one...

S: The only lyrics I never wrote on “Feral” were some lines in ‘We are Coven” by Teddy Horse of Count Beetle and the last section in “Wychcraft” by Rob (Amebix) Miller Some lines in “Engineering human consciousness” were by a friend of mine John. W and the lyrics to “Social Hand Grenade” were written by our other guitar player Pete Salvage. Lyrics have always been a big deal to me,... Hellbastard came from the Punk Rock scene and we grew up with the Anarcho-Punk scene as well. It is this way that helped me differentiate between good and bad choices in life, (it helped, put it that way). 

WC: Are there any books or authors that inspire you these days? What of classics? Do you get inspired by anything in this area lately or in the past, perhaps? What about music?

S: This is honestly not so much of an easy question to answer. The line up of Hellbastard,(bass player/programmer  Laine-Pearce-Rees, Drummer/percussionist Steve-Earl-Lee (aka ‘joint’ from 2008’s ‘The Need to Kill’ album) and guitarist Peter Salvage and myself) of course all LISTEN to different styles of music. We are into different activities and have completely different lives to each other. But when it comes to the band and the music it really works out. Personally I cannot really listen to music as much as I used to, if i do listen to something it’ll be out of courtesy because someone has sent me an album, or I think it’ll be ‘interesting’ (and by ‘interesting’ i mean it won’t be a dirge of distorted equipment with some screamed vocals on top). We’re in a genre that doesn’t really pay too much attention to detail within music and that I think is where i find it annoying. I’ll get inspired by being in silence. I love silence, I never appreciated it as much as i do now I am older. It is vital, it is so important to sit in silence, and nothing can top that except maybe sitting in the forest in silence. That surely is the best way to come to terms with the fact that we’re all dust. 

WC: You have done projects other than Hellbastard in the past; such as Heavy Water, Moodhoover, Sidewinder and you have any plans for any future projects or is this your main concern right now?

S: I have played with so many other musicians that you cannot help but learn a thing or two along the way. One thing which struck a chord pretty quickly as regards music is, the better your drummer is - the better your band will be. A drummer is the integral part of any band. If the drummer is bad, your band is bad. It’s that simple really. It does help if you all get along,… I was in a band in 1979 called “Feeble Minded” and we played some local Punk Rock shows at the ONLY Punk Rock venue in Newcastle Upon Tyne, at the time that my brother would help out there and become involved in organising stuff. Things quickly changed after a few years and I got a band together called “Sons Of Vengeance”. We’d support a lot of the bands that my brother booked at the Station Club gigs. Sons Of Vengeance were absolutely awful (what can I say? We were little kids and knew nothing). I was also in a band that I discovered through my Brother (‘The Apostles’) and they were far more organised than our lacklustre efforts. The Apostles had many albums and demos and 7” eps out at that time,… but I strayed away from this with a desire to create something HEAVY,… so “Sons Of Vengeance” quickly became ‘Hellbastard’. I don't say this much but what I REALLY think when it comes to bands  is If you can't hack it, if you can't be memorable, if the passion you exhibit is nonchalant or zero, if you find comfort or solace in unaggressive non-confrontational mediocre safety-rock & if your style is amplified over substance & you're always doubting yourself - then maybe you need to think about quitting music altogether & becoming a fucking politician…. or a stamp collector or some shit. 

WC: What are your plans for “Feral” in the future? Will there be a tour planned or any special events such as festivals or anything in this nature soon or further down the road?

S: We have a few festivals lined up (Obscene Extreme/Dirty Weekend Fest & some others…) We tour Europe in Nov 2015 as a ‘headlining’ band and that is basically all that is planned for now. There are strong talks going on to come back to the USA in 2016, and to tour South America, Japan and Australia at some point. It’s not easy to do when you have the 8-hour job around your neck all the time. 

WC: Sometimes we share things here at WWC involving things that would fall within paranormal or supernatural subjects.Also Dr. Mality here has his "House of Weird" on Facebook where he may investigate certain topics of this nature at times... Do you have a story or any thoughts on these matters?

S: There is one thing I always stick to and have always said regarding this subject, and it has proven to be accurate time and again - science tells us that if something cannot be re-created in a laboratory then it probably doesn’t exist. What nonsense that is! In the case of UFO’s, Poltergeists, Spirits and suchlike - there is ALWAYS a percentage that CANNOT simply be explained. That is the percentage I am interested in for sure. I know people that are completely ‘closed off’ from any of this, they simply deny all and any “factual evidence” and wash their hands of it. 

WC: Certainly it seems not only animals, but nature has its place in your themes and such with this music...Do you have any places you would mention that you enjoy merely visit or gaze upon there or afar? What would you say about the English countryside? Do you find any special places there?

S: I’m glad you mentioned the environment. A lot of people have clearly missed this in the past, but every single HELLBASTARD release has been about the ENVIRONMENT and NATURE in general. Even the first demo “Ripper Crust” was a wording towards environmental collapse… IE- The earth (Ripping apart) Crust ( The earths’ soil and land) although the word “ripping” was used amongst some genres to describe the overall sounds of various bands, and guitar sounds…. it’s a play on words. The next audio release “Hate Militia”,… that was a vision of trillions rising up and taking back the earth for all animals and those who wish to be rid of the destructive elements of humanity. The “Heading for Internal Darkness” album is self-explanatory, although many have stupidly missed the whole point of that album, from the title, to the artwork to the lyrics enclosed therein. The “Natural Order” album followed this on, “Natural Order”, it’s obvious.  The Natural Order of life, if we had that then today’s world would be a whole different ball game. The “They brought death” 7” in 1988 was self-explanatory,…. “They” being humanity…., “Eco-War” mini album is straight forward (the title gives it away a little,..hahaah), “The Need to Kill,…rage murder and retaliations”, it is not very well ‘hidden’, it’s straight to the point. Even the “Sons of Bitches” release was straight forward, there’s no ‘hidden’ meanings in our releases, they are all - HERE’S WHAT YOU GET, Bang! (wearing hearts on sleeves). We continued this with this years’ album “Feral…” so if you look back to the early years you see a general theme, that being ANIMALS and ENVIRONMENT. That, to me is what HELLBASTARD is all about, like I have said time and time again, we’re too ‘metal’ for the punks, and too “punk” for the metalheads,… and that’s the way we like it. As for books, if I listed my reading material it’d be so long it’d take down the net with its’ mass of cyber text. We all read a lot. It’s one of the pleasures of having a brain i guess. 

WC: You have worked with outside artists on the “Feral” release and had a number of guests...Will you continue to do this in the future, or did this just sort of happen finally? What made this album see this made possible?

S: It’s always a pain in the ass for organizing these ‘special guest’ appearances, but once these things can be finalized then it really is about respect and not to mention an honour. “Feral” features two ex members of the legendary UK band AMEBIX and guitarist/engineer/producer Andy Sneap formerly of SABBAT (currently with reinvoked 80’s power/rock/metal band ‘HELL’). I go back with Andy Sneap and the Amebix guys a long long time - it was an honour to have them guest on our album. That’s basically it really. 

WC: Where do you see the human race heading, and is there hope for the species? Do you think mankind will ever learn to respect animals? It seems they cannot even respect themselves...Any thoughts?

HB: It has been said before but it can be said again,…. when you look at the insect/animal/plant world there appears to be a very valid reason for every single living breathing item being there, there is a circle of events that ‘add-up’ - IE (They don’t consciously go out of their way to fuck each other over for a percentage)  but when you look at humanity all you can find is a complete lack of empathy for the environment and a destruction on such a vast scale that it defies description. What exactly IS our point of existence ? I don’t know,…. I don’t think anyone does. 

WC: It has been an honor to interview you, Scruff, on behalf of Wormwood Chronicles and the good Doctor Mality here...any last words or thoughts you would like to share? Take care, olde boy, and hope to see Hellbastard in the states...

HB: Thank you so much for taking time out grilling us.