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Interviews

Interview with Howie Bentley, guitarist and songwriter for Cauldron Born and Briton Rites, author

Interview conducted by Omni

Date online: July 15, 2017


Howie Bentley and I became friends when I started listening to his music and had also just begun writing again. He read some of my articles and helped me get them published, so it was practically destined for me to eventually conduct an interview with him. Howie is best known as the main musician behind Cauldron Born and Briton Rites, but he has also become a published author in the last few years. It's been awhile since we've heard any new music from him, so I figured that I'd check in and see what he's working on right now.

Omni: First of all, how are you doing and what's new with Howie Bentley these days?

Howie: I moved to the mountains and isolated myself to write fiction. I didn't touch a guitar for a year. I recently have picked it back up and I am thinking about maybe making some music again.

Omni: I was wondering about that. I'm glad that you haven't given up on music yet! Can you describe your bands for readers who might not be familiar with them?

Howie: I formed Cauldron Born in 1994. Cauldron Born was the band I had always wanted to hear. I saw the musical style as an extension of bands such as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden that I had grown up with in the '80s. But instead of trying to write music that sounded just like these bands, I wanted to extend the tradition of British metal by getting a little more musically adventurous with progressive, or adding more technical elements such as odd meters, dissonance, unpredictable vocal melodies and other unconventional ideas, while retaining the traditional elements that define heavy metal.

I was inspired to start Briton Rites while carving a Jack-o'-Lantern a few days before Halloween. I can't remember what year it was. I had been reading Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla and watching a bunch of old Hammer films, and I decided I wanted to make some music that made me feel the way that story had. The main musical influences are Black Sabbath and Witchfinder General.

Omni: I actually described Cauldron Born almost exactly the same way when I wrote about Born of the Cauldron a while ago. I'm glad that I wasn't too far off the mark! It's been a while since you've released any music. Do you have anything new planned for a new album?

Howie: I have a whole Briton Rites album written. We were going to start recording it in early 2013. My wife became very ill in late December 2012. She was diagnosed with cancer and fought it a year and a half before I lost her in 2014. I lost my father nine months later. A lot of things changed in my life and I am just now picking the guitar back up to see what I want to do.

Omni: You certainly have my condolences as someone who has also lost family members and people close to them in the last few years. I'm excited to hear that you're still considering the possibility of new music, as the first Briton Rites album was one of my favorite recent doom metal albums. Your previous music is all out of print. Do you have any plans to reissue any of it in the future?

Howie: At this time, I am on the fence about whether to reissue the Cauldron Born debut and the Briton Rites debut now, or wait until I have some new material to release with it. I still have some vinyl and cassette copies of Cauldron Born - Born of the Cauldron, and I have some vinyl copies of Briton Rites - For Mircalla for sale. Anyone who is interested can contact me at: howie@howiebentley.com

Omni: I'm fortunate enough to own the albums already, but I'd definitely like to see them reissued on CD as people regularly tell me that they're looking to buy them in that format. The prospect of new material is appealing as well. It's obvious from listening to your albums that you've had a musical education. Can you tell me a bit about your background with the guitar and your music studies?

Howie: I was initially self-taught. Back when I started, there were no instructors where I lived and really no good books to learn from, so I listened to cassettes and records and tried to pick out the songs and guitar solos. Later, I got some books on scales and so on and started playing in bands and teaching a few students. I moved to Atlanta to attend the Atlanta Institute of Music (AIM) and graduated in 1989. My education was largely relevant to jazz guitar. I studied with a number of great musicians at AIM including Steve Freeman, Randy Hoexter, and Jimmy Herring. That was a great era to be going to AIM, because I also got to attend master classes and seminars given by guitar greats such as Paul Gilbert, Jason Becker, Tony Macalpine and Greg Howe. I even managed to get private lessons from Paul Gilbert and Greg Howe while I was at AIM.

Omni: That sounds amazing. I'm glad that you mentioned your own time as a guitar teacher. I understand that you've also had some lessons from Marty Friedman via correspondence. Have you considered using the Internet to give guitar lessons to students? I actually talked to Jeff Black of Gatekeeper not long ago and he said that he wanted to learn some tricks from you.

Howie: Yeah. When I stopped playing guitar for a year to write a book, I also stopped teaching. I am back to that now, and I will be teaching lessons online via Skype. If anyone is interested in arranging lessons, they can contact me via the email address that I mentioned earlier.

Omni: In addition to music, you've also had several stories published. Can you tell me more about your writing and where people can find your stories?

Howie: I have always said that Robert E. Howard was writing heavy metal back in the 1920s and '30s. Howard used the written word as a vehicle for this presence that Black Sabbath revealed to the world sonically in 1970 with the release of their self-titled album. Anyway, DMR Books has taken heavy metal back to the written word with the Swords of Steel anthologies and I have been a regular contributor to these books in the last three years. Swords of Steel is a paperback series that collects stories written by heavy metal musicians such as myself, Byron Roberts , E.C. Hellwell, Mike Browning, Jason Tarpey, Jeff Black and more great metal music fantasists. I recommend these books for anyone who loves sword-and-sorcery and weird fiction by such giants as Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. You can find the Swords of Steel books here: dmrbooks.storenvy.com

I have also published my stories in Cirsova magazine and with Horrified Press in the UK. Anyone wanting more information can go here: www.howiebentley.com

Omni: I'm happy to report that I own the first two Swords of Steel books and I plan to pick up the third one soon. I understand that you have a new novella coming out. What can you tell me about it?

Howie: My novella is titled Under a Dim Blue Sun, and should be published be the time this interview goes live. Under a Dim Blue Sun is an interplanetary adventure set during World War II. The book is about an Army Ranger named Captain Erasmus O'Brien who is sent on a mission that could decide the outcome of WWII. He hijacks a Nazi flying saucer, but he loses control of it and lands on a planet threatened by snake men. The tale is an action-packed adventure filled with sword fights, ray gun battles and interplanetary romance à la Edgar Rice Burroughs. The novella will be published as a paperback-double along with Henry Kuttner's Lands of the Earthquake. The book should be available here by the time your readers see this: dmrbooks.storenvy.com/products/20576513-lands-of-the-earthquake-under-a-dim-blue-sun

Omni: That's a pretty far-out story. I'm interested in it myself and I hope that it proves to be a success. I understand that literature has been a significant influence on your music in Cauldron Born and Briton Rites. Has heavy metal music influenced your writing as well?

Howie: I would say that it hasn't, but I do put a few things in stories here and there that reference heavy metal, usually unintentionally.

Omni: That reminds me of something. Your character Thorn began as the mascot of Cauldron Born and he eventually became a character in some of your stories. Can you tell me about his back story and how you originally created him?

Howie: Thorn just seemed to spring out of nowhere. I have long been interested in the Armanen runes, which the Austrian mystic Guido von List said were revealed to him during a spell of blindness in 1902. The third rune in the Armanen row is Thorn. Thorn is the martial rune that represents Thor's hammer, Mjölnir. The Cauldron Born mascot, Thorn, is the rune incarnate. He is summoned for vengeance and destruction by those with their backs to the wall. So far I have written five stories about Thorn. Four of them have been published. Most of them are novelette length.

The published stories are:

All Will Be Righted on Samhain (Swords of Steel)
The Mask of the God Hunter (Barbarian Crowns)
Guardian of the Rune Dagger (Devil's Armory)
The Heart of the Betrayer (Swords of Steel II)

Omni: You've given me a big reading assignment here. I hope that everyone reading this is taking notes. There will be a book report due at the end of the week. What music have you been listening to recently?

Mostly instrumental stuff and hard rock this week. I tend to listen to that kind of stuff more in the summer. I am listening to Yngwie Malmsteen's Marching Out right now. I have been listening to Marty Friedman's Inferno a lot lately. It has a few elements I don't care for, but most of it consists of great and musically adventurous ideas. I have also been listening to Inquisition's Into the Infernal Regions of the Ancient Cult and Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith. In the summer, I tend to listen to classic hard rock such as Whitesnake, Badlands, Blue Murder, Dokken, and Lynch Mob, but I still listen to a fair amount of Black Sabbath and Judas Priest when I am drinking. I was thinking just the other night that not much has changed regarding that since I was a fifteen-year-old.

Omni: Are there any newer bands that you've been impressed by lately?

Howie: I am not really up to date on a lot of new bands, but I like Eternal Winter, Gatekeeper, Eternal Champion and Solitary Sabred.

Omni: I'm a fan of Gatekeeper as well. My last interview was actually with them. As I said earlier, Jeff Black is also a fan of your guitar playing. Let's have some fun. If you could play in your dream band with any musicians, living or dead, what would the lineup be?

Howie: The lineup would be:

Howie Bentley - guitar
King Diamond - vocals
Steve Harris - bass
Claudio Simonetti - keyboards
Kim Ruzz - drums

Omni: I'd check out their album. I'm not much of a musician, but my band would look like this:

John Arch - vocals
Howie Bentley - guitar
Kevin Heybourne - guitar
Lee Payne - bass
Kim Ruzz - drums

Omni: I decided to kick myself out of my own band due to inadequate musical talent and let you join in my place. A big improvement.

Omni: All right! Thanks for your time. Do you have any final words for the readers out there?

Howie: Judith, thank you for the opportunity to do this interview, and thanks to the folks who take the time to read this. By This Axe I Rule!

Omni: Thank you as well, Howie. I am sure we will talk again soon!

If you're like me, you're looking forward to hearing more music from Howie Bentley in the future. While you wait, why not curl up with one of his stories and listen to Born of the Cauldron or For Mircalla? That's what I'll be doing.

Buy Swords of Steel books and Howie's new story at the following link: dmrbooks.storenvy.com

You can also find more information about his other stories at his official website: www.howiebentley.com

If you need to get in touch with Howie about guitar lessons or buying copies of his albums, send him an email: howie@howiebentley.com

Other information about Howie Bentley on this site
Interview with Howie Bentley on October 9, 2009 (Interviewed by Sargon the Terrible)




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