Interview with Louis Clarke from Callus
Interview by Beth Jones and Richard Tilley
This weekend, on Easter Sunday to be precise, we here at Ever Metal HQ had the great pleasure of catching up, via Skype, with Louis Clarke, lead singer / guitarist with up and coming Northern Metallers, Callus. We were really excited to speak to him about all things Callus, after being totally blown away by them at Hammerfest X in March. We all settled down with a brew (Louis had a particularly metal mug!!!) and probed Louis on life, the universe and everything (to do with the band that is!) …
So, for people who haven’t heard of Callus, give us a brief history of the band – where did you all meet, and what brought you together?
Well it started in high school. I was in high school and I was a loser, so in my break, I would go and sit in the IT room. I was hanging in there with a few friends, and this kid comes in, he’s called Ben Wormwell, and he sits down at the computer next to me and I say, ‘hey Ben, look at this internet game I am on – it’s called Boobah Zone! So, I showed him that and we were playing that together and he said ‘hey, I like System Of A Down’, and I said ‘yeah I like Metallica’, and we started sharing music and stuff. Then there were many misadventures between then and now!!! We started jamming outside of school, and we enjoyed the same kind of music, so we started writing riffs. A few drummers came and went, but I knew that I wanted to join a serious band. I had been in a band prior – it was like a hard rock band, but it wasn’t serious at all, and I knew I wanted to push it further. So, me and Ben had been jamming for a while, and we named ourselves Callus, and got a gig. That first gig was in Preston in November 2013, and we have been working on it since then. That gig was an absolute disaster!! It was SOO bad!! Like I say, we have had numerous drummers come and go over the years, but Ryan joined us about half a year ago now and we have picked up the material again and it is solid now. Obviously, we have the three people, and there are three separate lives to take into account, you know, everyone has got different things going on, but we have settled with Ryan, and he’s very happy and that makes us very happy.
He is a great drummer.
Thank you – yeah honestly, he floored us when we started jamming – we were like ‘he actually wants to join our band?!’ We couldn’t believe it!! He is very professional, and it doesn’t even stop with his drumming – obviously we are working on the album and he’s got a home studio set up and he is just as good behind the desk as he is behind the drums! He’s just a crazy talented dedicated guy, and he has got a place in Callus now and it is very good!
So where did the name ‘Callus’ come from?
I had a few big sheets of band names, or song name ideas, and a few lyrics, and we were just jamming one time in our bedrooms, and we thought, ‘lets have a look at the names’, and it was Ben who picked it – it was on the sheet of many ideas, and he went down the list and saw it and went ‘We’re calling it Callus! It’s called Callus!’ and I was like ‘Sick! Sounds good!’! We knew that we wanted a one-word name. I think some of the best band names are just one word, you know, it’s clear – Pantera, Metallica, Megadeth – it’s just straight to the point, and I think that is what our music represents. It’s fairly straight to the point – it’s pretty simple stuff really! It’s not majorly complex, so we’re not going to have seven or eight words in our band name.
How about song writing – who takes charge there, or is it more of a whole group thing?
Well, the primary bulk of the material has been from stuff that I have written. Most of the lyrics have been from myself, because I do most of the vocals, but Ben has been doing lyrics on a bunch of songs that are his and writing the songs as well. He comes to me sometimes with an idea and we jam it on acoustics and then it morphs into a live element, you know with amps and electric! He’s coming up with stuff that I don’t even think of! So, it’s me and Ben primarily, but the great thing with Ryan coming in now is he’s actually been writing as well, which is really good. He’s got a quite a different taste of music – obviously he is in to his metal – but he likes a lot of bands that me an Ben aren’t necessarily big fans of, and it is great because he is bringing in another element, and there are going to be a few highlights of that on the album, because the songs are a mix of the songs that we have already got that aren’t committed to studio and some new ones as well!
Do you tend to write the lyrics first then add the music, or does the music come first and you put lyrics to it?
For us it always starts with a riff. We have a catalogue of hundreds of riffs that aren’t committed to songs – just little bits that sound good. Then, we sit down and kind of start linking the riffs together, and we build a song that way, musically, first. Then lyrics always come last in our process. A lot of it is working of syllables – how the riff and the rhythm feel, because we’re not the most complex song writers – it’s like Sabbath – a lot of the vocals follow the riff, and that’s a dynamic that we really like. They are one of our favourite bands. So yeah – lyrics come last. I do write a lot of the lyrics – Ben’s done a few, and I have written a few for Ben to perform – like the last song we did at Hammerfest was called ‘The Root Of All Evil’, and I wrote the lyrics to that but Ben’s got such a rough gnarly voice, I was just like ‘Ben, you’ve got to sing it!’ It suits his voice!
Where do you get your inspiration for lyrics?
I do a lot of reading. I like a lot of Stephen King, but I love old literature – H G Wells and stuff – anything really imaginative. So, it is a combination of stuff like that, just for that mentality and way of thinking, quite outside the box stuff. But then it is primarily life experience and all from deep within my mind!! From some deep dark recess under the hat!! Yeah so, a combination of life experiences – stuff that maybe Ben has told me that has upset him or made him happy – but it is quite open to interpretation though. One thing we want to do is get the lyrics printed for the album and we want people to read the lyrics and interpret it themselves. I would never go to someone and say, ‘this Callus song is about this!’ – We don’t want to be like that at all I have my own interpretation, but we want people to apply their own life experience to it. I think it is open to interpretation in that way. We are doing it from the heart and hopefully that resonates with people who listen to it, and it makes a connection with them and they get something out of it too.
So, the first time you popped onto our radar was, indeed, at Hammerfest X earlier this month. Was this your breakthrough gig?
I think so yes. As I said, we have been plugging away at it for a good few years now, but Hammerfest was next level! I definitely think that was our big shot. It’s just a case now of sticking at it and hoping to get more slots like that and play in different places, and the same place (!) and just keep trucking on.
We, I think, echoed everyone else in the room in thinking ‘wow, these guys are great’. How did you find the reception there?
We were astounded! We felt good about it anyway. Naturally there were some nerves because it was a big gig. But I think the likes of yourselves being there, and the general reception we got; we were blown away by it! And we are still in awe of it because everyone was so great about it and everyone seemed to enjoy it – we haven’t heard anything bad about it. We had people coming up to us around the festival saying, ‘argh we really enjoyed it’ and that was fantastic, just to see people so happy – it made our weekend! It made our career!! So far!
When we watched you perform at Hammerfest, one thing that we noticed was how tight you were together and, considering there are only three of you in the band, how much stage presence you had – you seemed to fill the stage. Has it been difficult, with the number of drummers going through, to get that tightness?
Yeah with drummers coming and going over the years, that’s been very detrimental to the progress of the band. In the past it has been like one step forward, two steps back, which has been really unfortunate. But, me and Ben are resolute in the knowledge that we are going to be doing this for years, and luckily we have found a third guy now who has the same vision as us, so now it is three guys going forwards, and I think that is why it has come up to the next level, because finally we have reached that point where we’re all on the same page, we all want the same thing, and we’re all going for it together. It comes in to what we said before about Ryan – he is a very skilled player and he just boosted us. It has been inspiring to play with him.
Have you ever toyed with the idea of adding any more members, or are you just happy with three?
We are happy with three at the moment, but all I would say is that we are never going to be set in our ways, you know, we’re open to any ideas. If ever the three of us thought, ‘Yes, we want to bring an extra element in to the band’, then we would do that, because its our band! And I think we are free to do that! There won’t be any didgeridoo players or bagpipes or anything like that though!!
Now, you have a couple of big gigs coming up in the next week – the ‘Metal 2 The Masses’ semi-final and ‘Mammothfest: The Best Band’ before that – are you nervous about those and what they could lead to? (CHECK OUT THE EVENT LINKS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE INTERVIEW)
We naturally get nervous when there a fair few people turn up, like anyone else – it can be like ‘woah there’s a fair crowd here tonight!!’, but we enjoy what we do so much and we are just excited for them – any opportunity, whether it be in the big festivals like Hammerfest, or Metal 2 The Masses in Carlisle – cos that’s at ‘Club Rock’ and we’ve never played there before so it is a new adventure, and we know the majority of the bands that are already on it, so it’s a good night in itself and that is always the aim for us. We want each individual night to be the best it can be all the time. Obviously Metal 2 The Masses and the Mammothfest one gives us the potential of playing these big festivals, which would be amazing, but for us we focus on the gig at hand, and then we move on to the next gig and see what comes our way and push for what we can. So, yeah, a little bit of nerves because it is the semi final for Metal 2 The Masses, but we are looking forward to it – we are going to get in there and do our thing, as we always do!
So, you have mentioned the album a couple of times – when’s it coming out?!
Well, we’ve done all the guide tracks! So, we’ve got all the material recorded in demo format, so it is just a case now of getting in and doing all the final instruments and stuff, which is going to take a while, because we are busy people outside of band, but we are hoping for a release towards the end of this year. We have had one or two labels who have potentially been interested, so it might be January. But, it will be ready when it’s ready. We want to take our time so that it is ready – we’re not going to rush anything. We want it to be proper so that we can stand by it, because it is our debut full length release and we want to be able to stand by it until the end of time and that is the goal! But we have got a name for it and the art work for it! So, we’re getting there! Progress is happening!!
Excellent! Can’t wait to hear it! Looking forward, what is your ‘next step’ career goal with the band – where do you want to take it to now?
Well we have talked about touring for a while now. I think we are trying to get something together for the end of the year. Sort of like a bit of a mini tour – try and get up and down the country a bit – that would be nice. I think that the next step for us is really getting out on the road and doing that, because we do gigs everywhere we can – we kind of have them dotted around and stuff, so we would like to push it a bit more. There is that and obviously the album. Once that is released, if we do a tour, we want to be really pushing that. We want to support that as much as we can and get it out there. So yeah – more things, bigger and better things, and just more gigs in general I think, and more releases!
The ultimate goal I supposed is to make this your career rather than anything else your career isn’t it!
Yeah of course!
To wrap up our chat today, we would like to ask you a question, that whilst unrelated to metal, is a question that we always like to ask, and is very important – Jaffa Cake – cake or biscuit?!
It is 100% a cake definitely! The clue is in the name! No basically I think a biscuit is hard, or it has to have a certain amount of crunch to it, but a Jaffa Cake is soft, it’s squidgy, you know – like a cake! So that is what I would say!!
It was our absolute pleasure to chat to Louis today, and we are very grateful that he took time out of his schedule to answer our questions. These guys are three really genuinely great guys with a superb passion and drive that will take them a long way. We are going to be eagerly awaiting the album and highly recommend that you all check them out too. To make that a little easier, all the links you need are below – happy listening folks!
BAND PHOTO COURTESY OF JENNIE CLARKE
Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of Richard Tilley, Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this interview, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to do adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities