Interview: Battalions

Working with Chris [Fielding] is an amazing experience, he is an absolute wizard behind that sound board! As far as him being an influence on the sound, I wouldn’t say that’s strictly true, but he just ‘gets’ the sound we wanted to go for.

Hull’s Sabbathian bruisers Battalions have had a busy time of late, releasing their second long player Moonburn on 5 August and playing the New Blood Stage at this year’s Bloodstock. Ahead of the release and that festival date, Nik Prowse posed a few questions to vocalist Phil Wilkinson about their new music, Bloodstock and what it’s like being in a band from Hull.

(((o))): So, what are your influences? What are you currently listening to?

Phil: We wear our hearts on our sleeves: Black Sabbath, St Vitus, Eyehategod, Iron Monkey, AC/DC, Scissorfight, Clutch. I’ve been spinning a lot of Demonic Death Judge recently, a criminally underrated band from Finland.

(((o))): I see from one of your press biogs you’re not in love with the term ‘sludge’. What’s a better term for music that’s heavy, doomy and sometimes slow? How would you describe your music?

Phil: That was more of a throwaway comment in jest rather than our actual feelings towards the term ‘sludge’. We would describe our music as the classic heavy riff sound, brought up to date with a fun bouncy edge to it all.

(((o))): How has your sound changed between your debut and Moonburn? Your earlier sound doesn’t seem as full – this new output seems a more rounded effort. How does working with producer Chris Fielding influence your sound? He’s worked with some real heavyweights, like Electric Wizard.

Phil: Firstly thank you! The main change would probably be that for Nothing to Lose, that was more of a culmination of a range of songs from over 5 years and various line-up changes. Whereas Moonburn was more of a concerted effort to write an album as a whole.

Working with Chris is an amazing experience, he is an absolute wizard behind that sound board! As far as him being an influence on the sound, I wouldn’t say that’s strictly true, but he just ‘gets’ the sound we wanted to go for. Especially as this was the second time of working with him, he has managed to simultaneously make it sound bigger while making it tighter production at the same time. It’s an absolute privilege to work with him, considering the pedigree of the bands he has worked with previously.

(((o))): When I first heard your music I thought of Scissorfight in terms of sheer heaviness and groove. I like the way they add traditional instruments to their sound, like the banjo. The last track on Moonburn, ‘Another Name for Death’, had an element of that, with the blues guitar intro and outro. Any plans to do more of that?

Phil: Well, Scissorfight are a big influence on me and Pete (guitarist), so the fact that shines through is of no surprise. We didn’t set out to add additional instrumentation, it was just something that happened organically, and if a song in the future needs it, we wouldn’t hesitate to try it.

(((o))): Are you looking forward to Bloodstock? Amazing lineup – old and new. Any highlights for you?

Phil: We cannot wait to play Bloodstock this year! It’s a definite career highlight so far. There are a couple of bands we have shared the stage with recently that we can’t wait to see on the big festival stage, notably Ba’al and Hundred Year Old Man. Other than that, some big hitters like Hatebreed and Obituary will be highlights of the weekend.

(((o))): How does coming from Hull affect your music? Is it like Sabbath coming from the foundries of Birmingham to create a heavy, metallic sound?

Phil: I guess any place a band resides can end up seeping into the sound of their music. Hull, being a downtrodden industrial wasteland for many years following the demise of the fishing industry, has certainly helped to garner a misanthropic view of the world, which is a personal cathartic experience screaming away these woes. There’s a saying around these parts, PURE HUMBER SLUDGE!

(((o))): Tell me something about the Hull Noise Collective. It’s great to see underground bands getting together to support each other and get themselves out there.

Phil: The HNC started around 4 years ago, between our myself (Phil) and my close friends Joe, Ben and Sam, as Hull didn’t get the calibre and genre of bands coming through on tour that they were interested in. This grew organically and all members of bands play with each other all the time, helping each other out. They are still to this day, booking shows in their practice room, and keeping the non-profit DIY ethics alive and well.

(((o))): How do you write your lyrics? It’s sometimes hard to tell what you’re writing about apart from the titles. Seems pretty varied to me. Is the modern day pissing you off, or are you just out for a good time?

Phil: The lyrics are pretty varied and there is no set theme. I write about what’s on my mind at the time generally, with themes ranging from dealing with depression, having a good time partying, songs about my favourite films and TV shows, misanthropy and nihilism. The usual, ha ha!

(((o))): Thanks Phil!

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