We had a chance to discuss musical inspiration, pure love of metal and tour shenanigans with Anterior before their Islington Academy show with label mates Malefice and headliners Sylosis!
Who are you and what do you do in the band?
James: I’m James Cook and I play Drums
Steven: I’m Steven Nixon and I play Guitar
Could you just give us a brief history of Anterior?
Steven: Well there has been a lot of line up changes. The three original members grew up in same town, went to the same school and started playing metal music and got together. Basically what happened Luke used to play guitar and sing but he developed carpel tunnel in his wrist and had to give up on playing guitar and concentrate just on singing and that’s where I joined the band to play guitar. They had a nightmare with drummers over about two years I think there were about five drummers and James joined the band…
James: In about 2009 I was asked to join the band
Steven: We have had a solid line up for about two years now, it’s a weight off, and we feel like a solid line up now.
Tonight is the last night of the tour with your label mates Malefice and headliners Sylosis, how has the tour been going so far?
Steven: Awesome, there has been a few hiccups on the tour but that’s just touring but the turnout at all the shows have been really good and we get on well with all the bands on the tour… We are all good friends with all the bands.
James: We are actually quite disappointed that it is over, it doesn’t feel like it’s been eight days or whatever it has been. It doesn’t feel long enough, everyone is kind of kicking into their stride of playing well on tour and having a laugh with each other…
Do you just want to keep going?
James: Yeah but I think there will be a slight bit of carnage going on tonight!
What do you think makes metal special and why do you feel the need to create metal?
Steven: Good Question!
James: I work at a drum shop and a lot of people say ‘oh you play metal that’s angry music’ but I don’t see metal as angry music, I see it as passionate music. You have something that you want to say…
Steven: The reasons I think a lot of people play metal… 80-90% of people who are into metal are also musicians, when you start playing an instrument, I don’t know. For me, I started playing Green Day songs and as I started to get better and better at the guitar I started to play properly I found all that stuff was too easy and I started learning songs that were harder. Van Halen, Steve Vai, Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen. I think as you progress as a musician your taste in music naturally progresses as well. For me it did anyway
James: If you can play the kind of technical metal that we play, then that’s a good thing! When I started playing, as Steve said, I was playing Nirvana Covers and Chili Peppers covers. Looking at the start of my playing when I was ten to where I am now I would have never seen myself playing in a metal band like this but I absolutely love the music and I love playing it, especially the stuff of the new record. When we actually get a chance to play some of the new materiel it’s a really satisfying situation.
You guys were described in Metal Hammer as ‘Catchy Melo-Death with a thrash backbone’, there’s a lot of words there but how would you best describe your sound?
Steven: That’s a hard one!
James: That’s actually a running joke within us. At one point the genre on our MySpace was Welsh punk folk metal. Loads of people say we’re metal were metal core, thrash, death metal. It’s like, we don’t pigeonhole ourselves. We play what we want to play.
Steven: There are too many influences to say ‘we are hardcore’. There are loads, as James said. Metal core, death metal, Melodic Death. There’s all these new kinds of music
James: Swiss Metal, Euro Metal, Danish Metal! All of that type of area! It’s all in there!
Steven: It normalises it… Boring, Stupid
James: Just play it.
I read some reviews on your MySpace page to get an idea of what seeing you guys is like, I have never seen you live before so this will be my first Anterior show. What makes an Anterior gig different to any other metal band gig?
Steven: I just think we have a lot of energy. We put a lot of time into what we are doing and make sure the sound is solid. We would not feel right going on tour and fucking up on being sloppy. So I think one of the things we pride ourselves on is being super tight.
James: Were not that kind of band who would have a guy just sit there and play guitar. It’s not our thing. We are the metal band of enjoying ourselves on stage because that’s who we are off stage. It may sound really stupid but we are not sensible people!
Steven: We are mad totally! We have a lot of energy in our stage show and it does reflect when we play.
James: It helps the crowd too. If you have a lot of energy on stage it helps the crowd get into it as well. Same thing as if the crowd has a lot of energy so do we, it feeds off each other.
Steven: If you are going to stand on stage not moving and just playing, what’s the difference? You might as well just listen to a CD. People are coming out and paying fifteen quid to see a show. So you’ve got to remember that.
I have been listening to ‘The Silent Divide’ how important are the guitar solos to the identity of the band?
Steven: Obviously I think it’s a big part of what we do. I don’t want to say we are a guitar driven band because all the musicians in the band are equally important and equally as efficient but it seems to be a big part of the music.
James: Yeah definitely, if you were to take it out it wouldn’t be Anterior anymore.
It’s been just over a month since ‘Echoes of the Fallen’ has been released. How have the new songs been going down live?
James: Storming. This tour is not the first time we have played the songs off the new album, but this is the best reaction ever because people know the words. More people going for it, now when we introduce a song people lose their shit! And that is the response you are looking for at the end of the day.
And that must make you ‘lose your shit’ as well?
Scott Atkins produced the record; he has produced Cradle of Filth, Gama Bomb and Sylosis. He said in his blog the guitars were recorded left and right and it was a bit more work but for better results. Do you think Scott Atkins pushed you guys to produce a better record?
Steven: I think he did because we had the record written but obviously Scott has been in bands. He was in Stamping Ground, he has toured the circuit and worked with people and knows what he is talking about. When we started recording he would say ‘are you sure about that?’ and make us look at it again. He made us revamp some of the riffs and overall we got a better album. He didn’t change a lot but just a few things.
James: He really pushed me when I was doing the drums. I was doing my drums back in September and I was doing 10 to 11 hours in the studio really pushing myself as well. I would sit there and play the drums and he would listen and say ‘Bit wooden mate?’ You think ‘that’s a bit rude!’ but he said it on purpose to pick me up and give me that little bit more venom and get my personality into it as well. He would suggest different ideas with fills and then recording them and instead of having just one fill you’ve recorded he has five so when he is sitting there doing the tracking he can cut them in there. Can’t wait to work with him on the next album!
I found there was a definite live vibe with the album. Something about the sound was very immediate. Do you think that’s something that is very important to your band?
Steven: You do get bands that play the record over and over again and edit it so it is super tight and it sounds really clinical and dry. Everything is completely perfect and computerised. That was something we definitely did not want to do. We tried to keep the vibe; we tried not to edit the guitars too much.
James: One thing we hate with any band is if you record something on your album; don’t record something that is out of your BPM range. Don’t play something that is too fast for you because you have to play it live. If you can’t play it live there is no point in recording it.
You talked about playing Green Day and Nirvana covers, what is your earliest musical memory and how does it resonate with you today?
Steven: for metal I think it was Deep Purple. It was bands like that and it was my Dad who let me hear them.
James: My Dad dragged me to loads of Rhythm and Blues gigs from the age of five and that’s where I got into music. It’s quite strange now because when I look back on it, when I was younger I wanted to be the guitarist. I wanted to be the cool guy at the front getting all the attention and now I’m at the back of the crowd! Now I am the drummer no one can see me and that’s what’s frustrating! Now I am older and wiser I realise I now actually have the coolest job in the band because I am the drummer!
So this is the last date of the tour, what crazy stories can you share with us?
Steven: Yesterday I was sleeping on my mates couch in Burnley and I wake up to shouting and three of them are in full KISS make up. Then we were getting to service stations and they were just walking around like nothing was wrong, going up to the counter like ‘What?’ Some people’s reactions were really funny.
James: I don’t know why it happened. Someone found his girlfriends nail varnish and started painting their nails still drunk from the night before and remembered we had some face paint upstairs. They put me as Peter Criss!
‘Not even Peter Chris wants to be Peter Criss’
James: Exactly! ‘I’m a cat’. then someone said they would be Paul Stanley and I thought, thank fuck I’m not the only one who is going to look like a dickhead! It’s one of those things, it might not seem it but we work very hard on tour. Very hard to be away from your loved ones and be away from home on tour and to do these drives that we do is such hard work because you are in such close contact with each other when you have a chance to have a laugh just take it. I think that’s the reputation we have on this tour.
You said in an interview that the new album sounds very mature. Do you think that after the Carpel Tunnel, all the drummers, being without management means you have done a lot of growing up over the last 4 years?
Steven: I think it’s more of a musical maturity. When you write songs obviously the first song you write is going to be shit but the more write you refine it and the more songs you write the more it becomes something you want it to be and what we meant by maturity.
James: I think it becomes more organic because you know what you want to come out. Instead of thinking about what you are going to be playing you know what you want to play. Even in the two years I have been in Anterior my playing has matured a lot. My whole way of thinking about playing has matured a hell of a lot. I appreciate it so much, I love touring because it’s like a rehearsal, we play every single night and we get tighter and tighter. Last night we played in Nottingham and we have songs up near 190BPM and they didn’t feel fast! You sit there and play them and its fine, it not a struggle at all. Can’t get enough of that!
You also stated in that interview that you consider yourself to be an up to date 80s metal band. Where does that come from do you guys get a lot of influence from the 80s?
Steven: I would say personally, as far as the guitars go. When people who are not really up on metal ask what we sound like I would say to sum it up we sound like a really heavy iron maiden. We do a lot of the same stuff, the guitar harmonies and the guitar solos. It’s a good idea of what we do. So an up to date 80s band maybe? As a good description.
Do you consider yourself to be a Welsh metal band?
Steven: I would say we are based in Wales but two of our members live in London. I live pretty much near Glasgow and two members live in South Wales and we congregate in South Wales.
James: that’s our HQ!
Bands like you guys and bands like Revoker are coming out of Wales. What makes Wales such a great place for bands to come from?
James: Nothing else to do!
Steven: Sheep and fields and metal.
James: I don’t know what it is, it’s always been good even with the Bullet for my Valentine days. But what’s really cool is we are actually really good friends with Revoker and we know Dan from Skindred as well so it’s almost like a brotherhood from Wales.
Steven: What I love about South Wales is if you go to a gig all the bands get on with you and all the bands support each other and I think that’s really important. In other cities it’s really competitive. It is a fantastic community.
Photography by Jolie Swannack