Interview with James McBain
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: March 23, 2023
Hellripper is a one-man blackened speed metal band from Aberdeen, Scotland run by a guy named James McBain. Since 2014, he has been able to create quite a fuss with his high-quality take on the genre and it's no surprise he has a good number of followers these days.
Hellripper's third full-length studio album, Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags, was released by Peaceville Records on February 27, 2023, and it was time to contact the mastergoat himself to talk about it among other things as well.
THIRD ALBUM – WARLOCKS GRIM & WITHERED HAGS
Hey there, James! Has live been hectic since your third full-length studio album, Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags, was released on February 17, 2023?
James: It's only been a week or so since the release, so I have been busy doing press and packing orders and all that sort of stuff. I think I'll be able to see things more clearly in a week or two!
... and, of course, my sincere congratulations on this achievement. To me, the album represents the high-octane and energetic blackened speed metal style that you have had since the very beginning. How were the recording sessions for it compared to your previous album, The Affair of the Poisons, released in October 2020? Would you say that you worked the same way with this new album?
James: Yes, the whole writing and recording process was largely the same as it has always been for me. Everything was written and recorded at home. I decided to try out some new recording software and plugins, so that took a little while to get used to and I wanted to be a bit more experimental with the production on the album. But yes, the process has been basically the same for me since the first EP in 2015.
THE ROOTS OF HELLRIPPER'S SOUND
The band's sound has always been a mixed bag of several influences. There are the filthiness and rawness of Venom, the rock-ish vibe of Lemmy's Motörhead (in "The Hissing Marshes"), some Swedish black metal (in "I, The Deceiver"), and, of course, and lots of speed and thrash metal elements (in "The Cursed Carrion Grown" - did someone mention Slayer in here due to your first screaming part in the song?) I guess that also tells us something about your private record collection if I am not completely mistaken... ;o)
James: Yes, with this album I wanted to bring in a lot of elements from everything that I like (both metal and non-metal) in order to keep things interesting for myself, and to keep myself inspired. I wanted to give myself less limitations when creating Warlocks Grim...
Of course, you have the influence from Venom, Darkthrone, Slayer, Motörhead, etc. like usual, but I also tried to incorporate some ideas from bands ranging from Agalloch to The Beatles. I'm a fan of a lot of different music, and it was a fun challenge when trying to make some things work in a black/speed context without diluting the overall sound.
As far as the more melodic parts on Warlocks... are concerned, at times I was reminded of Jon Nödtveidt's (of Dissection fame) works. How much has the musical heritage Jon left behind meant to you personally?
James: Dissection is not a band that I listen to very regularly, so it is interesting that quite a few people have made the comparison!
Would you say with this third Hellripper album you have set the bar for quality with the band that you will try to maintain with future releases?
James: With every album, I just try to write the best things that I possibly can at that moment, and each previous release is used as a sort of benchmark, I guess. I am very happy with this record, and I think it is my best to date, but I tend to have that opinion with each new release.
A HEALTHY PERSPECTIVE ON YOUR OWN STUFF
Would you say that you are your harshest judge when talking about the quality of your material? Do you often let other people (some of your closest friends maybe?) hear your new stuff first to find out if it kicks ass rather than sucks donkey balls, if you will?
James: Yes, I am very critical of the material I write, and I will not release anything that I am not completely satisfied with. With about a month to go until I had to submit the album for mastering and to the label, I deleted a track because it just did not seem to work for me. I replaced it with a track that I had been working on previously that I felt fit the album better.
I often send the work in progress tracks to friends of mine and the label to see what they think, and that is very valuable. Of course, since it is solely me working on the music, I will have heard the tracks hundreds or thousands of times by the end of the process and so my view can become distorted. It helps to get an outside opinion from people that I trust as they can sometimes point out things that I may not have picked up on.
Since you started Hellripper in 2014, was it crystal clear that you wanted it to be just a one-man band (excluding the guests you have had over the years, of course)?
James: I think initially, I thought that by releasing a solo EP that it would attract other members, but I soon realized that I much preferred working alone and so I have decided to keep it that way.
Is it easier for you to be captain of your own ship, so to speak, than just one of the many slaves, making it easier to sail across the murky waters with no one telling you which way to go?
James: Yes, the whole process of working alone is preferable for me. It allows me to create music with no compromises, and it allows me to do things at my own pace without the need to cater to others' schedules.
BLACK AND SPEED METAL IS THE THING
Just like the other material you have released, people seem to appreciate your work a lot. Has that come as a surprise to you? Did you ever expect there would be so much demand for this type of blackened speed metal among today's metalheads?
James: I love black/speed metal and it's my favorite type of music, so it's not a surprise to me that others share the same view of the genre as a whole. There are a lot of great bands making music in this style and it's great to see it gain more of an audience!
I had no real expectations with Hellripper when I first started other than releasing an EP or two. I thought that a few people from my local scene at the time might give the music a listen and like it, but I did not really think beyond that, so it is very nice to see people from all over the world enjoying my music and I'm very grateful for all the support that I've received with the band!
As far as your future releases are concerned, how much new material is already written for your next opus?
James: I have loads and loads of riffs and ideas at all times. Sometimes a riff won't be used for years, but out of nowhere you manage to find the perfect context to include it and so it's important for me to go back through old ideas occasionally. But yes, I do have a few things in the further stages of progress for a number of releases. I have an idea of how I want the next album to sound, and I have a few good track ideas that may not necessarily fit this vision and so will probably be released on an EP or something.
BEING ON FAMOUS PEACEVILLE RECORDS
You are on the famous Peaceville Records these days. Does that make you feel proud, knowing this label has released many great albums by some really big bands, from Paradise Lost to Autopsy to Darkthrone, and so on?
James: Yes, it's quite surreal to be working with Peaceville. A lot of my favorite releases have been put out by the label, and a lot of my first experiences with extreme metal were with Peaceville releases.
Would you say your cooperation with the label has been going smoothly for both parties?
James: Yes, absolutely! It's been a great experience working with Peaceville and they are very accommodating to my ideas and what I want to do with Hellripper. I am not forced to do anything, and they don't interfere with the music which is important to me!
GOATS ARE GATHERED FOR LIVE PERFORMANCES
Do you still have a steady live lineup ready to conquer stages whenever you may get invitations for playing live?
James: Yes, the current version of the live lineup has been together for over four years now, so things are going well in that respect! We've been playing more and more live shows each year and we've played some cool shows! We have some great shows planned in 2023 that I'm really looking forward to, and we're always looking to visit new places!
How did you find the right guys to play live with you in Hellripper?
James: Clarkie (bass) has been a friend of mine for around 10 years and we've played in bands together during that time, so it made sense to ask him to be a part of the live band. Joseph (guitar) played in a local indie band that I was aware of, and I knew he was a fan of bands like Motörhead and Metallica, so when I needed another guitarist, I just messaged him on Facebook to see if he would be interested. Max (drums) responded to a post that I made on Twitter and sent me a few video playthroughs of Hellripper tracks the same (or next) day, and so that worked out well!
2023 seems to be relatively busy for Hellripper, live-wise. You have some festivals (Welcome to Hell, Dominion Festival, etc.) and club gigs coming up here in Europe, so my question is do your long-term plans include playing outside of Europe as well?
James: Yes, this will be the busiest year to date for the band which is exciting! We do have plans to play outside of Europe, but we are waiting for the right time to make it happen.
Do you enjoy doing festival slots when you have a bit less time to impress your audience, so to speak?
James: Yes, festival slots are good fun! Of course, they have a different vibe to a smaller club show for example, but we've had good experiences so far and it's always nice when we get time to watch other bands perform!
I was wondering if there's a special band in this world that you'd like to hop on tour with?
James: Metallica, of course, though that may be slightly unrealistic! I would love to play with some of the bands that influenced Hellripper heavily such as Midnight or Toxic Holocaust.
"THE BEST THING IN THE TOWN"
What do you hope to achieve with Hellripper in the distant future? Your own statue placed somewhere in Aberdeen, Scotland, saying, "Kneel in front of the best thing this town has ever produced..." or something along those lines... ;o)
James: Haha, that would be nice. I'll put that in the council suggestion box!
My primary goal is to continue making good music, and hopefully the band will keep growing because of that!
That's all I had in mind for this pleasant conversation, so I sincerely want to thank you, James, for your time in getting this interview done, and wish you all the best with your future comings and goings with the band. Any closing comments in mind perhaps?
James: Thank you for your time! And thank you to all reading this! Go check out the new album, Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags wherever you listen to music and check out Hellripper on all social media and streaming platforms. All hail the goat!
|Other information about Hellripper on this site|
|Review: Coagulating Darkness|
The Metal Crypt - Crushing Posers Since 1999
Copyright © 1999-2023, Michel Renaud / The Metal Crypt. All Rights Reserved.