Interview with Dave Hunt of Anaal Nathrakh
By Sheri Bicheno
Good Evening – Rick Here. On 5th April Sheri was lucky enough to go to The Asylum in Birmingham to cover the Anaal Nathrakh / Akercocke Co-headline show. Whilst there she also got the chance to interview Anaal Nathrakh’s vocalist Dave Hunt. I’d like to thank both Dave and Sheri for a great interview. Read on…
I was invited to Uprawr Studios, Birmingham to have a chat with Dave Hunt, vocalist of extreme metal band Anaal Nathrakh. He greeted me warmly and we went to find a place to chat away from the hustle and busy sounds. We found an empty studio and with one chair between us, no one was rude enough to take it.
Sheri: “ANAAL NATHRAKH! That is from a film is it not?”
Dave Yes, it’s from Excalibur.
Sheri: In the 80’s. No?
Dave Well, I first saw it in the 80’s – I think early 80’s is when it came out. It’s just a film that me and Mick both liked. It’s all it was. There’s no great significance to it to begin with, because when we started out doing stuff, we were just knocking about in the front room of a… shit house (laughs). So we weren’t thinking “what would you like your band to be called when you’re on the bill at Wacken” or ya know, nothing like that was in our heads. It was just some name for a thing haha.
Sheri: Dark sounding, really haha.
Dave: Yeah haha that’ll do. But by the same token, I’ve said this in interviews before, what’s a Metallica? No one knows what a Metallica is because it’s just a bollocks word that’s just a name for a band. Ours has slightly more significance than that, so in comparison to that, we’re doing alright! Haha!
It’s part of this spell that’s used in the film, it’s a very destructive force that the actor who plays Merlin, he had a great voice… he did refer to it as The DRAGON haha!
Sheri: I’ve friends who have seen it who recommend it. So you guys have been going for 20 years now?
Sheri: Haha does it feel that long?
Dave: No it doesn’t, that’s the thing! We didn’t know. We’ve never paid much attention to things like that and we did this album and people are going “You’ve been going for 20 years now” and we’re like fucking hell really! I didn’t know. So to us, it’s never seemed that we’ve been going for more than about 4 or 5 years really.
Sheri: That’s really humble…?
Dave: Well, it’s the way it is, we don’t notice it, we’re not really self grandiosing and we’re not very reflective about what we’ve done…
Sheri: You’re just loving it?
Dave: Yeah, we’re just interested in what we’re doing now and what we’re doing next. So when I say apparently… haha. It’s true. I am now aware of it, but we weren’t until recently.
Sheri: You are now on tour with the guys in Akercocke… I’ve known Sam for a good few years, brilliant bunch of guys… you kicked things off in Bristol the other day?
Dave: Yeah, it’s only a Tourette, the one in Bristol and then the three over the course of this weekend – it’s not some great big long six week night liner affair, but it’s been nice to play with them, they are a good bunch of lads, we’ve been known and for years we’ve played with Sam and Dave haha! I like the idea of calling them Sam and Dave… I got an email that was addressed to me and it said “Dear Sam and Dave”, cuz I like my Motown and Soul music that Sam and Dave were, ya know, “Hold On, I’m Coming” and all that… But yeah, obviously we’ve played with them and the guys in Voices…
Sheri: I do love Voices!
Dave: Yeah, we’ve played with them a few times. It’s been nice playing with them and it kind of feels overdue cuz we’ve known them for years and we’ve played once or twice with Mistress when me and Mick used to be in another band called Mistress. So yeah, finally playing properly together like this, it’s kinda cool.
Sheri: It is cool, because you do compliment each other as artists and are compatible with each other.
Dave: There’s this thing in really early neuter, it draws a distinction because he used to go on about Ancient Greek culture and stuff, it draws a distinction between the Apollonian and Dionysian, stuff that takes after Apollo – and stuff that takes after Dionysian. I think that, in a weird way, sort of limits the difference between us and Akercocke. Apollo is clearly defined lines, it’s architecture so, in terms of its application…Dionysus is more drinking and dancing and no clear lines and the orgiastic experiences, they tend to be a bit more technical and a bit more sort of careful with the way their style of their playing and stuff like that and we’re a bit more punky and anarchic… we sort of compliment one another quite well.
Sheri: Two extremes on either side of the spectrum. I hear you. As you’ve have been going for this amount of time and with your experience… do you have any advice for aspiring bands that want to keep ideas fresh within their writing, inspiration and such? There isn’t a bad Anaal Nathrakh album so have you got any wisdom for other bands that you want to bestow?
Dave: In respect to younger bands… no. Haha. But also the opposite of no. I sort of actively haven’t denied them any advice within those lines. There’s loads of advice they should be given when they first start out. Haha. Most of it, in my experience, revolves around getting legal counsel when it comes to signing to record deals and I mean that’s in just one specific instance. But generally, just in general getting someone who knows that business side of things, just to make sure you don’t fuck up. Because no one wants to concentrate on that… that’s not why anyone does any of this. But you will get hamstrung by people who do concentrate on that and you know, aren’t necessarily interested in your creative output. So some advice along those lines, make sure someone is taking care of all that for you. They are doing so that you don’t have to think about it so much, THAT kind of advice, yeah. Know what PRS is, know what mechanical loyalties are, know what things like that are so that you don’t have to think about it. But on more of the creative side, certainly in terms of insuring longevity or anything like that… no. Because… if you don’t already have the answers to that, then just stop!
Sheri: There’s no point…You have to take your own journey?
Dave: I think, yes. You should have that in your mind, heart, and soul, whatever it is. Somewhere within you, you should have some kind of answer to that, even if you can’t put it into words before you pick up a guitar, before you write a song. Mick said to me once, as he records bands and stuff, he says sometimes he gets the impression some people aren’t sure why they’re doing it. One thing you have to do when recording bands is to help them get into the right head space to produce a good performance – and that can involve a conversation you know, remember what it is, what is this song about for you and all that kind of thing. I think if you struggle to answer questions like that then you’re doing something wrong in a more fundamental way. Then again maybe I’m just talking bollocks! Haha!
Sheri: Not necessarily at all. One of the things that I don’t see eye to eye in the music industry with is, you know, I work with festivals and a number of underground bands and there is a lot of exploitation going around with a number of people who are kinda out for themselves. I get that a business is to be run but doing things for the love of it is more rewarding…
Dave: I think so too. At the same time though, if you do things for the love of it, you’re laying yourself open sometimes to being exploited by people…
Sheri: And this is why you were saying you have to be clued up…?
Dave: Yeah exactly and that I say the two sides do have to go hand in hand. You have to know what you’re doing on the annoying business side just to make sure that someone isn’t taking advantage of you – but beyond that minimum, you shouldn’t have to worry.
Sheri: This in itself is good advice. So… your vocals – let’s talk about your vocals… they’re very diverse. Do you coach and stuff or…
(Dave shakes head sheepishly and grins)
Sheri: Ahh! Self-taught! I mean it’s very low, very high, very deep and then very raw all at once. A good example is ‘Reek of Fear’ – I was listening to that the other day – how do you go from one extreme to the other?
Dave: Badly usually haha! Maybe practice haha. I’ve always been guided only by what I thought sounded right. Sounds like the appropriate thing to do. I’ve never paid any attention to whether or not I could do it. Cuz if you try something and it doesn’t work, you just do something else. So you give it a go. But beyond that, I’m terrible! Haha, I haven’t got a clue about technique or anything like that. In the past couple of years, I’ve started doing a bit of warming up before gigs and that’s about all I’ve done… and that causes problems sometimes, you know, it can hurt and stuff like that. But… I’d rather have it that way. Because I’ve attempted at times to exercise a bit of technique or control or anything like that. Not that I know massively what I’m doing haha but you can find things on YouTube or whatever that tell you what to do. I think it’s antithetical to doing music properly, personally. I can’t stand the idea of being halfway through a gig and the thing that’s in the forefront of my mind is “hmmm, how’s my technique?” Just doesn’t seem right. And it’s… maybe you can get good enough at technique that it ceases to be something that enters your head and even though you’re doing it properly, you’re still thinking about what I would think are the right things. I don’t think Pavarotti struggled thinking about technique. He was able to stay focused on what he was doing because his technique was flawless in the first place. Or close enough to it. I’m not good enough for technique to do that, I’d have to be thinking about it and that to me detracts from what you’re doing. To me it’s more important to have the method acting sort of a mind set about it. It comes out the way it does because you felt the way you did. Not because you studiously practiced.
Sheri: With feeling behind it… and that’s how it should be?
Dave: I think so, yes. The thing is… that ends you up with a sore throat haha!
Sheri: And a multitude of Vocalzone haha?
Dave: Yeah haha! I’m not saying that is the right way to do it but that’s the only way I can…
Sheri: I think that’s probably good advice as well. I mean I have friends that are in younger bands that DO have that barrier there about their technique.
Dave: Music is about expression to me, if it’s not expression then you’re doing it wrong.
Sheri: This leads me onto… Where is the most interesting or most memorable place that you have played?
(Dave pauses for a moment in thought and laughs)
Sheri: I know you’ve been to many exotic corners of the world haha!
Dave: We’ve played a few…haha! So yeah… trying to think of something… I mean we not long came back, before Bristol last week, the show we did before that was in Brisbane in Australia. That was, in Australia, was sort of on the way home almost, from Japan. Four shows in Japan. Not to overlook Australia which is a wonderful and fascinating place in its own right, haha, but Japan being so exotic and so different to the West… especially in Osaka. We went around a few places and that can be weird, sometimes you go to a bit and it looks, sort of like… like England? But you know big cities all over the world, you know, big tall concrete buildings, great big state roads, but then you go to some places and the back streets of Osaka are not anything like that. Some places, you’re just like… I really am somewhere else… Cuz there are stages of difference. If you go from here to Holland, you know, then in Holland the buildings look a bit different and the people have a certain atmosphere about them that people do in every place and everywhere. But other than that, it’s mostly the same. Or you go to Germany and it’s very very similar, the food is quite similar and all that. But then if you go a little bit further to say, Greece or Bulgaria or somewhere like that. The writing is different on the road signs. You know, there are tell-tale signs that this isn’t the same place. Then it seems to me, having been around to a lot of places, possibly the strongest difference in that sort of thing is being translated somewhere in the back streets of Osaka, haha. Because you don’t know what anyone’s saying haha. You don’t know what any of the shops are because they’re selling things or doing things that you don’t get back home. You don’t know what any of the signs say, you don’t know what any of the food is. The smells are around you know…?
Sheri: And that can be really cool actually. Just kinda getting lost and not really knowing where you are can be one of life’s most thrilling experiences.
Dave: It can be yeah! It does depend where haha! I was in Bogota in Colombia with Benediction and I was tempted to just go for a wander. I went to a place in Copacabana in Bolivia, it was about 3 or 4 in the morning and I was a bit drunk…and I thought I’d go for a good walk, go for a look around. The local guy as I was walking off, just grabbed my arm and was like “Dont go that way…go that way” (points to the opposite direction) and I was like right… and then it sort of dawns on you, actually I’m not in Kansas anymore and apparently down there, wherever down there was, was dangerous especially if you were foreign and stuff. The difference is sometimes of questionable benefit to you haha, you could end up in trouble kind of thing… but for the most part, difference is a good thing.
Sheri: Your most recent album was released at the end of September last year, it’s still pretty young but has had great reception, and one of my favourite songs from it is actually ‘Forward’!
Dave: Ok, cool!
Sheri: There are elements of, I think a World War One kind of vibe… can you elaborate on that a bit?
Dave: Yeah, World War 1 was one of the big aspects of inspiration for it. Because it was 2018, obviously it was 100 years since the First World War and although there had been a significant amount of commemoration of it, I thought culturally in this country, we had undersold the centenary of the First World War. Some good stuff on Radio 4 actually, they had a day to day series called Home Front and stuff like that. I mean there were things but it seems to have passed a bit more easily for me. One of the things I remember from school was some of the war poetry we studied. Which was our first exposure to it, I don’t know if kids nowadays, I don’t know if you did it at school, but it was standard…
Sheri: Haha I’m 32 this year, we studied pieces of scripture…!
Dave: There you go haha yeah, well I’m 10 years older than you haha, so things might have changed. But apparently not no, haha. But one of the things that made a profound impression on me from that was a poem called Dolce et Decorum Est – and that is basically a poem, a first-hand account of being in a Chlorine Gas attack.
Dave: Yeah…it’s not…fun. There’s another one by Siegfried Sassoon and the authors of those poems knew one another in real life…and Sassoon who did “Aftermath” which appears on the album, basically got to know Wilfred Owen, who wrote Dolce et Decorum Est, in hospital and begged him not to go back out into the war. But he did and was killed seven days almost to the hour before the Armistice was signed…so one week, on the 4th of November… and to know that was his story of this you know, poor sensitive boy who was thrown into Hell… and to read the words of that poem and others like it… that seems to me to capture something that was absent from the commemorations and centenary. So it felt fitting for us to include some of that for inspiration on the album.
Sheri: That’s a good concept to have for the album, it’s not something that many people would look into, and things are looked into on a much larger scale…
Dave: Yeah and one thing that struck me about reflecting on all of that, because first of all, the poetry and some of the art was pretty impactful and profound you see, but it was also the parallels between then and now, or last year – so for example, the mention of use of Chlorine Gas in that poem, Chlorine Gas had been used in warfare before – I am no war historian, I’m aware that it had been used before – but not on that scale, because no one would do that, because that’s just too horrific! … until they did it. Then at the time that we were putting some of the album together, the Satan 2 rocket system was unveiled by Putin. This is a continental ballistic missile system capable of delivering payloads anywhere on the globe, so i gather, including nuclear ones. It just struck me how strong the parallel was between that and Chlorine Gas. We can put a nuclear bomb anywhere on the planet – but we wouldn’t because that would just be too awful! In just the same way that Chlorine Gas was… and at the same time, Chlorine Gas was being used as an interior, still. Like, 100 years later, we are still doing this to people. So yeah, a series of parallels seem to crop up between that and the modern day as well. It was kind of like having settled on that idea of part inspiration, it was the gift that kept on giving, and you know, there’s loads more stuff that just falls out of it once you start to think about it. So there’s quite a lot going on the album haha! Conceptually speaking.
Sheri: Fantastic! Is there anything you can let us know that might be going on for this for you guys? What are you up to?
Dave: I mean obviously we’re doing shows and that so we’re not in the studio at the moment. At the moment, we had the last album, A New Kind Of Horror – with the last one that we had under the deal that we had with the record company – so technically, we are sort of not signed at the minute – I would expect there to be an offer to carry on haha!
Sheri: Absolutely, it’s not gonna be long at all.
Dave: No, I wouldn’t have thought so, we’re sort of trying to figure out what we’re going to do. So we’ve got these gigs lined up but we’ve also got a load of live audio from the Japan and Australia tour – so we might put together a live release or we might keep it back for bonus tracks on stuff. Other than that, everything’s sort of up in the air – and we quite like that! Haha! I’m not sure what’s gonna happen next but we’ll find out!
Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of Sheri Bicheno and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.