Interview: Possessor

Maybe one day we can make that film. It’s would be trash with some thrash and I think we should have a small role as ‘The Possessors’, a college party band that gets interrupted by a figure in the shadow killing off the teens at our show. Ha! This thing writes itself! Maybe John Carpenter is reading this.

A little while ago I got in touch with a great little band from London, named Possessor. They’re basically horror film freaks who love to play crazy rock’n’roll, but they do it so well. Hearing that their new album was available, I was obviously more than interested (read the old chat here).

Graham Bywater and Matthew ‘Bean’ Radford have been working on this project for a while now. With their brand new album The Ripper, the third full length is available and it’s quite some piece of work. Time to check up with them again. Both gents where kind enough to answer some questions.

Possessor says be excellent!

E&D: So, how has Possessor been doing lately?

Graham: Hi. Good thanks.

Bean: Hey, not bad at all, we’ve had some pretty good things going on.

Graham: We have been super busy making this new album and getting it all ready for release. We’re also having a bit of a line-up change in the new year as we’ve never had a permanent bass player. We are also looking into getting a fourth band member to help me out on guitar while I’m doing the occasional frenzied solo. In 2018 we will be back with a new live line up that will hopefully flatten the universe.

E&D: You’ve been releasing some EPs, can you shed some light on those?

Bean: The EPs are really just a way of keeping our name out there and hopefully keeping people interested in what we are doing… ‘The Revenge’ track was originally intended to be included on Dead by Dawn, but when it came to putting it all together, the flow of the album worked better without it. Interestingly, it was actually completely reworked in the time between initial tracking and its Halloween release. In the end only the drum track remained from the original session. Graham reworked the riffs and vocals and they are actually completely different to what I was playing along to when we recorded it. The B-Side, ‘The Foreboding’, was essentially an improvised piece and makes up a trilogy of songs which were all approached in the same “made-up on the spot” way… The first of these was ‘The Creeps’ on Dead by Dawn and the third is ‘Notting Hell’ on The Ripper.

The live EPs are just for fun really. The Ghouls Out (Live in Soho) EP holds a particular significance to me because it was recorded on my 40th birthday with a few good friends in attendance.

Graham: There aren’t a great deal of live albums being made these days and I’m a bit fond of the classic live metal albums of yesteryear. I thought it would be a good way to bridge the gap between albums and put out a few free, and deliberately very rough bootleg style live EPs. It’s a fun way of keeping people interested, but we wanted to make sure they cost nothing and almost purposely sound like shit.

E&D: You’ve just released ‘The Ripper’, which is a more noisy, raucous and angry record than the previous Dead By Dawn. What can you tell us about its conception?

Graham: It was conceived after too many beers and some soft jazz.

Bean: Haha! here was never really a conscious discussion about how it was intended to turn out. We just wanted to make a great heavy metal album, influenced by all the things that excite us about that style; volume, weight, riffs, breakdowns… All the stuff that makes a person bang their head. We wanted it to be a progression from Dead by Dawn and I think we achieved that by going backwards to a time when metal was a much blunter tool than it is now. Between Dead by Dawn and The Ripper we were listening to a lot of early Iron Maiden, Saxon, Black Sabbath (always) and NWOBHM. The aesthetic was denim, leather, bricks and booze. Think Derek Riggs. All of that seeped into this record.

E&D: What was the writing and recording process like? How do you gents go about these things?

Bean: The lion’s share of the writing is Graham’s work. He will turn his ideas into demos which he passes over to me. I’ll listen to them on repeat and give my thoughts. Any edits or changes are minimal. My role is to put a thrust behind them all with the drums. I just try and hit them hard and give the songs a kick. I want people to FEEL these songs and experience them in the same way they would if we were playing them live. Having said that, The Ripper is also the first time I’ve contributed guitar parts to a Possessor album. ‘Lava’ is a riff collaboration between Graham and I.

Graham: For money reasons and sheer want of control I used to record everything we did albeit in a rather primitive and lo-fi way. This album was recorded with a reputable metal producer, Lord Sam Thredder of Slabdragger fame. He helped us get a really tight and hefty vibe that didn’t take too much away from our previous recordings, but with his input, we really turned it up to eleven. Also, Sam is way better at recording drums than me.

We hammered this record out in two days, the second of which was super tough but extremely productive, and we are really happy with the results which have captured a fresh and invigorating twist on the Possessor legacy, whilst maintaining the grubby and homespun sludgy vibe of previous albums. It’s definitely more focused on our roots (Bloody Roots).

E&D: You all hail from London, where life must have been a little turbulent the past year. Has any of that seeped into the album you think?

Graham: Absolutely, I get really upset and angered by any form of terrorism or small minded and senseless crime. The London Bridge knife attack in June hit really close to home as I had literally jumped on a train home from there just an hour earlier. That evening was a nightmare and worst of all, thanks to social media, it was only minutes before the world was watching actual CCTV footage from the discomfort of their own homes. The amount of lifelong misery that one delusional and impressionable asshole can inflict on another human being is haunting and deeply affecting. I just want folk to shake hands, get along and have a good time.

There were actually a fair amount more aggressive lyrics on this album that dealt with the issues above and venomously tore into that fruit loop who’s currently in charge of America, but I changed a lot of it at the last minute to lighten the mood. But just a tiny bit.

Bean: Speaking personally, Possessor is an escape. London can be a turbulent place, as much as any city really. Politically and socially there is a lot to get upset or angry about. There is the threat of terrorism hanging in the air, people are losing their homes and the media continues to try and destabilise communities and pit us against our neighbors. It’s a dark situation. My day job is in social care so every day I see the impact this can have on vulnerable people and it does make me hit the drums a bit harder! In some ways, being in a band, being creative and having the opportunity to share that with other people is a type of therapy. On that level, I think it does influence the album in so far as the passion we put into something that is completely about having a good time. It gives me a chance to step away from the horror of real life (which is far more frightening than the fantasy horror we put into our songs) and do something completely positive.

E&D: So, what movies did you guys find inspiration in for this album (although I suppose the Jack the Ripper reference can hardly go unnoticed)?

Graham: Braindead. Because it’s absolutely brilliant, ages incredibly and is just so much fun. I recently re-watched Ms.45 and it kinda stuck in my craw and added a bit of a revenge and vigilante vibe to the riffs. The track ‘Hacksaw’ was intended as an imaginary, cheap and nasty slasher like Nail Gun Massacre or The Mutilator. Maybe one day we can make that film. It would be trash with some thrash and I think we should have a small role as ‘The Possessors’, a college party band that gets interrupted by a figure in the shadow killing off the teens at our show. Ha! This thing writes itself! Maybe John Carpenter is reading this.

The Elm Street and Evil Dead films (minus Army of Darkness) are always a very big reference point for us too, as are the good time flicks like Spinal Tap, Fast Times, Bill and Ted and more recently Deathgasm. The good stuff!

Bean: We’ve always had an affinity with big, silly, over-the-top horror films like Dracula, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Night of the Living Dead, Troll Hunter and The Lost Boys. There are references to all of those films in the lyrics and in some of the samples we use. I’ve said it often that Possessor are a band to be enjoyed in the same way as all of the above… With your friends, at volume, in the dark and with a beer.

E&D: What song (or songs) would you highlight as exemplary for this new record and why so?

Graham: I think ‘Conjure and Possess’ is my favorite, perhaps because it was only completed a few days before hitting the studio and I think to an extent we winged it. I simply used early Iron Maiden as a major stepping stone and planned it all out in my head every night before I went to sleep for a week. I set out to write a killer opener that explodes from your speakers. I also really have a soft spot for ‘Lava’ as Bean wrote that COC style riff towards the end. And it has such a swing, preceded by a sinister quote from Charles Manson.

Bean: I’m proud of all of the songs on this album. The writing of ‘Conjure and Possess’ was preceded by a text from Graham that read, “Can you do the Clive Burr ‘stomp?!!’” Haha! Have a listen and make of that what you will!.. That aside, if I had to pick one tune to showcase The Ripper, I would choose ‘Whitechapel Murders’. It’s the centrepiece of the album and I think it captures the vibe of old school heavy metal perfectly. It’s a proper horns up, headbanger of a tune.

E&D: So last time we were in contact, Dead By Dawn had just come out. You were about to get it out on Graven Earth and Anvileater Records, on tape and CD. What’s the status now label-wise? Was it more comfortable to already have a release deal in place for you guys?

Graham: We are still very much with Graven Earth as Rachel just does not mess about or waste any time. It’s a pleasure to work with her again. The CD has just come out on my little label, Wicked Lester Records, a project I started this year to help spread the word on bands I discovered on Bandcamp that I loved but in some cases didn’t appear to have the audience I personally thought they deserved.

E&D: What is up next for Possessor in the near future? Any tours coming up?

Bean: First thing is to get The Ripper out on all formats. There’s a cassette release imminent and we have plans for a vinyl release in the new year.

There are no live plans in the calendar. As Graham mentioned, we are actually in need of a stable live line up, which is something we are working on right now. Once that is in place we plan to hit some venues, louder and heavier than ever.

E&D: I have to ask, when are you guys going to tour the continent?

Graham: We need to get on that. It would be a pleasure.

Bean: All offers are considered!

E&D: Last time, I asked you guys what sort of food Possessor might be. One of the answers was beer. I thought it’d be fun if you could link each of your albums to a beer and explain why.

Graham: Ha, this is a dream question! Electric Hell is a like Yakima Red. It’s crisp, dark and dangerous.

Dead by Dawn is cheap lager like San Miguel or Kronenberg because it’s pretty scrappy and you’ll more than likely wake up asleep on the floor the morning after.

The Ripper is London Beer Factory’s Chelsea Blonde. A current fave of mine.

Bean: Hmmmm, I’d say Electric Hell would be a Polish lager. Cheap but very strong. It’ll mess you up but you’ll have a good time getting there.

Dead by Dawn would be a bit more bespoke. A limited run craft ale… Sold in a small can with a swampish illustration on it… but with a ridiculous alcohol percentage.

The Ripper would be Newcastle Brown Ale. Hands down. No messing about.

E&D: Anything else you’d like to add?

Graham: Thanks for having us! Go blast The Ripper immediately and be excellent to each other.

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