Interview with guitarist Kristian Havard
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: June 2, 2019
The UK has produced some of the best bands in the history of Heavy Rock and Metal. We all know the country's heritage; it's beyond words.
When speaking of the UK's Thrash Metal scene, it's one of the finest and most influential in the whole world. Sabbat, Onslaught, Hydra Vein, Re-Animator, Slammer, D.A.M., Deathwish, Xyster, etc. all thrashed their hearts out in the eighties making the British Thrash Metal scene world famous.
Xentrix, which started out as Sweet Vengeance back in 1986, became a household name in the UK Thrash Metal scene shortly after getting their highly praised debut album, Shattered Existence, released by Roadracer Records in 1989. That album led to a tour in 1989 with another British Thrash Metal legend, Sabbat. One year later, they got the precious opportunity to open for Bay Area Thrash Metal legends, Testament.
In 1990, the band recorded their follow-up album, For Whose Advantage?, which opened new doors due to its success. In 1991, they headlined across their home country with Skyclad supporting them. During that same year, Xentrix opened for bands like Sepultura and Slayer (the latter gig taking place at the famous Wembly Stadium).
In 1992, Xentrix started heading in a more progressive direction musically, recording two more albums (Kin in 1992 and Scourge in 1996) before splitting up in 1997 due to lack of interest from the United Kingdom's then dying Metal scene.
Lots of water has flowed down the River Ribble since, and after second reunion attempt, these legendary Preston-based thrashers are back for good. The band's fifth studio album, Bury the Pain, will be unleashed by France's Listenable Records on June 7, 2019.
The Metal Crypt contacted founder member Kristian Havard to get insight on what led to the reformation of Xentrix...
BACK IN THE LIMELIGHT OF THRASH METAL AGAIN
Luxi: First of all, congrats on the new Xentrix album, "Stan"! I was one of the privileged people to hear Bury the Pain in advance and it sounds great, dude!
Luxi: Xentrix reformed in 2013. What led you to put the band together again?
Kristian: We were still in contact with people in the industry and other bands, etc., and we got the offer to play some shows opening for bigger bands if we got back together. We had a few rehearsals and we just slotted right back in there! It was as though we'd never stopped.
Luxi: Did you ask original vocalist Chris Astley if he'd be interested in doing this reunion? If you did, why wasn't he interested in joining the band?
Kristian: Chris was a part of the original reunion; in fact, he recorded the first version of Bury the Pain. Unfortunately, his heart wasn't into doing music anymore and he told us that he wanted to stop. The three of us remaining were very frustrated with him at the time and we considered just calling it a day... again! But we decided to give it a go to find a replacement vocalist, and thankfully we found Jay.
Luxi: How did you find Jay Walsh to fill Chris' tennis shoes as far as this whole reunion thing is concerned?
Kristian: We thought it was going to be impossible to find a new vocalist who could also play guitar, particularly our type of music, as it's not an easy thing to do. So, we decided to concentrate on finding a new vocalist and separate guitar player. I knew Jay from Bull-Riff Stampede and knew he grew up liking Xentrix. In 2016 I saw him at Bloodstock Festival and we started chatting about the band and I mentioned we needed a guitar player and he jumped straight in with "I'll do it" and that was that, he was in. We had a few singers come down and audition and, for one reason or another, just didn't fit. We all started to get very despondent about the whole auditioning thing and started thinking things like "maybe we'll never find anyone," not realizing that the perfect guy was under our noses. After another disappointing episode, I flippantly said to Jay "I don't suppose you can sing?" to which he replied, "I used to, but I haven't for a while, give me a few weeks and let me have a go". A few weeks later we all met up in the rehearsal room and as soon as he started singing, I knew we had found our guy.
Luxi: Obviously Jay needs to do some time management between his other band, Bull-Riff Stampede, and Xentrix. Has he already prioritized his activities regarding both bands' comings and goings?
Kristian: I think it's easier now than it used to be to manage two bands. I think most of those guys have another band they play with; in fact, James the drummer is playing for Onslaught as well. Bull-Riff Stampede is Jay's baby, so he'll always be true to those guys, but Xentrix is starting to make a bit of a comeback, so he knows which side his bread is buttered.
Luxi: How did you end up signing with Listenable Records? Did they make you an offer that was hard to resist? What kind of a deal do you have with them?
Kristian: Listenable approached us when Chris was still in the band and have been in contact ever since, seeing how things were going and have always been enthusiastic and persistent. I think a record label's job is different in this day and age, but saying that, they are pushing us and really getting behind us which is really cool.
NO NEED FOR A XENTRIX TRIBUTE BAND
Luxi: Bury the Pain is the band's first studio album in 23 long years. When did you start writing songs for this album? Are some songs more than twenty years old while others are more recent?
Kristian: All the songs are new, nothing is from "the old days". After doing reunion shows and playing the material from Shattered Existence and For Whose Advantage? for about a year, we all felt that we still had some songs left in us and we needed to do something about that. I think a band needs to write new material otherwise you become a cover band version of yourself and we didn't want to feel like a Xentrix tribute act, so the natural process was to start to write and record new music. We started this album with Chris Astley on vocals and we recorded a version with him on it but redid the vocals when we enlisted Jay.
Luxi: The album, at least in my opinion, is the most riff-driven and toughest-sounding album that the band has ever recorded. Do you have any idea why the album turned out to be so heavy and mean? Was your intention to record the heaviest album to date?
Kristian: When we decided to start writing a new album we all agreed that it needed to be more like our first two records, Shattered Existence and For Whose Advantage?. We wanted to make the album that we should have made after those two records but with a more modern production. We still wanted it to sound like Xentrix but with a 2019 polish, and I think we've achieved that.
Luxi: What was the toughest part about this album? Find a time frame for everyone and a suitable recording studio to get it all recorded?
Kristian: Yes! Time is a very precious thing particularly as you get older. We tracked most of the drums for the album with Andy at his place and then went away and did the guitars and vocals remotely. Writing was a totally different process this time around, mainly down to technology and time constraints. For the first Xentrix albums we locked ourselves in the rehearsal room and worked through every riff and drum beat bit by bit. Sometimes we'd come up with stuff on the spot that maybe we wouldn't have done if we hadn't all been present, but writing like that is a time-consuming process that I knew we couldn't do. This time technology allowed me to basically assemble finished songs to present to everyone, and then tweak from there.
Luxi: Whose pain is getting buried in the title track?
Kristian: "Bury the Pain" is about those demons that talk to you in bad times. They tell you to strike back and take your revenge. The lyrics are the demon's voice telling you to stop crying and stand up for yourself and "bury your pain". The cover is the guy from For Whose Advantage? listening to those demons after he's just taken his revenge out on someone.
Luxi: How many songs did you go to the studio with and did you have any leftover?
Kristian: We have a couple, but we've already started to write new stuff, so I don't think we'll ever need those tracks.
PERSONAL FAVORITES OFF THE ALBUM
Luxi: Do you have any specific favorite song off this album? If you do, can you kindly explain why you find the song so appealing? Mine is "World of Mouth" at the moment. It's a straightforward, unforgiving and very riff-driven song that simply screams to be liked by any fan who can understand the deepest essence of true Thrash Metal. Was that a fitting enough description of this song?
Kristian: Tough question, bit of a "Sophie's choice" moment. I like the title track "Bury the Pain", the opening harmony is a nod to Priest. I always love harmony guitar parts like that. It's an exciting track that has some different classic Xentrix sounding parts. I also really like "The Red Mist". I think the chorus is great and "I will never back down" is a sentiment that resonates with all of us. Weirdly for me, I like them all and normally I have a couple that I'm not so fond of, but this time I think they all stand up to each other.
Luxi: Prior to the album's release date, June 7th, do you have plans to release a promotional video to boost sales? How important are these promotional videos?
Kristian: Yes, we will do a promo video. In fact, I own a video production company and have made quite a few promos and band-related videos for Megadeth, Accept, Stuck Mojo and recently our friends in Shrapnel. Check out the video for their song "Jester" that I directed for them.
Luxi: Last year you toured with such acts as Kreator, Evile, Overkill and others. What kind of live plans do you have for this year? Will you be announcing new dates any time soon?
Kristian: We have things in the pipeline, but the overall plan is to finally try and get to play the countries that we didn't get the chance to play first time around.
Luxi: How do you see the future of British Thrash Metal? Lots of new Thrash Metal bands (Evile, Shrapnel, Amok, Incinery, Thrashmist Regime, etc.) have emerged from the UK since the days of Xentrix's first two albums and some older acts have made successful reunions as well (Onslaught and Anihilated both being very good examples). There's no denying that the second wave of British Thrash Metal has been happening for quite some time already...
Kristian: I think the UK scene is very healthy at this minute. There are plenty of great Thrash bands out there. I think as long as people support them at a grass roots level and get to shows and buy merch and CDs, then the future is very bright.
Luxi: What about Xentrix's future? You don't have plans to become a one-album miracle after the days of your reunion in 2013, right?
Kristian: We plan to hang around for a bit longer. We have signed for another album with Listenable and we have already started to write songs for it. And we don't plan on it taking quite so long to get it out there.
Luxi: Thank you, Stan, for getting this interview done and all the best to you and Xentrix in the future. If you have any last comments, feel free to spit them out as a perfect ending for this interview... ;o)
Kristian: I'd just like to say a massive thanks to everyone that has supported the band. Cheers and see you in the pit!
|Other information about Xentrix on this site|
|Review: Shattered Existence|
|Review: Bury the Pain|
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