Wollongong metallers Nekrofeist have slowly but surely building a following via a series of gigs and their well-received self-titled EP, released last year. The band’s videos have appeared on MTV Australia’s Headbangers Ball and their music featured in UK metal bible Terrorizer’s monthly Fear Candy compilation. The band will also be performing alongside Sydney’s Daysend at a show at the Cabbage Tree Hotel, Wollongong on June 4 – proudly co-presented by the folks here at Loud. We chatted with bassist Rob Giles about the band’s next release, touring plans, influences and indigenous origins.
Q: For those among our readers who are unfamiliar with Nekrofeist, can you tell us a little about the band’s formation and history?
A: Dave (Tinelt, vocals) and Damon (Bishop, guitars) had performed together before in various metal bands and Paul (Gilroy, drums) and I had worked together in a great folk-rock act called De La Ville through the mid-90s, although we’ve actually been mates since our teens. De La Ville had a very Alice in Chains-meets-Pink Floyd vibe; we loved that band and still talk about it a lot. Damon was also in a band called Demigod through the 1990’s with my brother Steve, who is a great metal drummer and now drums for Dogs of Stone.
Nekrofeist is essentially the brainchild of our singer, Dave. He coined the name and logo years ago and attempted an array of formulas with a bunch of different local musicians. Damon and Paul became part of the band in 2007 and I was approached to play bass at that time via Damon because I’ve known him and Paul for many years. Unfortunately I couldn’t commit at that point in time because I was bound to several other musical projects. They went through a few other bassists before asking me a second time, which was at the Testament gig at the Metro in 2008. It just so happened that the project I was involved in had folded the night before, so my slate was clear so to speak. One door closed and another opened straight away, so who am I to tempt fate? The four of us are a tight unit and we have a connection most bands can’t achieve after a decade together. I’ve been in a lot of bands so I can say with some experience that we’re a great, functioning team.
Q: Interesting. In a sentence or two, describe the band’s music and primary influences.
A: Each of us is inspired by very different music, but the areas where we overlap is what comes out in Nekrofeist. Pantera, Testament, Machine Head and Anthrax are the collective influences we share, I would say. Damon is very influenced by guitarists such as Randy Rhoads and Zakk Wylde, which is very evident in his style and sound. Dave loves Megadeth and Motley Crue most of all, but grew up on a bit of country music, which I find really interesting. Paul is the most similar to me when it comes to heavy music, we love White Zombie, Prong, Corrosion of Conformity, Helmet, Faith No More... the list goes on. Paul is also very big on Aussie rock such as Rose Tattoo and AC/DC. I’m probably the broadest in musical tastes and the guys would agree with that, I guess. In one afternoon I can comfortably listen to Slayer, The Zombies, Elvis Costello, Opeth, Garbage, The Beatles, Danzig, Regina Spektor, Mr. Bungle and ELO without blinking an eye. It’s all great music to me.
Q: Indeed. The band recorded their self-titled EP with assistance from an Indigenous Arts grant. Can you elaborate on how this occurred?
A: It wasn’t so much a grant, more like a prize won in a competition. The word "grant" slipped into an early bio of ours mistakenly; it sounds like we were handed a wad of cash, which is not the case at all. Dave was watching the indigenous affairs program called Message Stick on the ABC, and saw a story he vehemently disagreed with, so he phoned into the ABC’s switchboard and gave them a piece of his mind. The folks on the end of the line liked him and they got talking, as you do. Dave is great in that way, he is a very adept communicator and salesman. That’s what makes him a great frontman in my opinion, that air of confidence. Eventually they pointed us in the direction of Gadigal, who were seeking artists for their label and running a competition to record an EP of original music at their new studio. Remember that Gadigal’s background is predominately country and hip-hop, and to their credit they gave us a go despite our being light-years outside of their comfort zone. I respect that a lot. Not to mention the fact that three-quarters of us are non-indigenous. I was pretty surprised at the time, to be honest. But despite all the obvious differences they’ve been very supportive and helped us out in areas where we had no experience at all, especially the industry side of things. I’ve learnt more about the business-side of music in the last year than I could ever have otherwise. Also through our opportunity with Gadigal we met Ash Manning (producer) and Lachlan Mitchell (engineer-extraordinaire), who we consider part of the family now. Whenever we do a recording in the future, those guys will be involved for sure.
Q: Great stuff. The band has also spoken out against a few critics who have felt the band has tried to get an "easier ride" due to the indigenous connection. Obviously this is ridiculous, but have you encountered much if any hostility at shows because of this?
A: There will always be detractors in life, no matter what your career is, or the choices you make. Frankly, I only see positives in what we have and most of these nay-sayers are the types who never come out to shows anyway. We consider the indigenous connection nothing less than an asset. There’s been no trouble at shows, none at all. I’d go as far as saying that people in general are very accepting of us. The metal community are a very open-minded bunch - more tolerant than the average Joe, I would say.
Q: Is the band actively writing for your next release yet? If so, how is it shaping up compared to your self-titled EP?
A: We’re always writing. The reviews of our first EP have been fantastic, particularly from overseas. Some very constructive points were made too, and we’ve been considering all of that. Obviously it’s not in our interest artistically to dwell too long on what the critics say, but we’re confident in the direction we’re going and there is a great desire within the band to progress and push ourselves harder. In hindsight I can see where we ‘played it safe’ in certain areas, but that’s part of the learning experience, isn’t it? With that in mind, the new material is heavier and more epic, with darker, longer songs. Particularly in terms of song arrangements, we’re getting a lot more game, I‘ve noticed. There’s a song we’re been road-testing called "Headless Parabolic Man". There are aspects to that song that we would never have attempted a year ago. It really gives me confidence in the future of this band to see the guys take on such an erratic, challenging arrangement and embrace it like they have. It really motivates me to see the guys so willing to push themselves. We’re on a creative high right now, I think.
The next EP is actually ready to go, it’s titled 'Fatalize'. We decided to do another EP-length release rather than an album, mainly for financial reasons because we really want to do a video for the aforementioned "Headless Parabolic Man" - it’s scripted and everything. Our original plan was to have the EP out in the beginning of 2011, but our recording plans fell through and we’ve been gigging so hard that it’s been down on the priority list. We’ll certainly have it out by the middle of this year.
Q: Nekrofeist has been regulars on the live circuit recently. What have been some of the highlights of recent live activity?
A: Playing the YABUN Festival on Australia Day was pretty special for us, being such a major event on the indigenous calendar. The crowd was great and the variety of acts on the day was huge. It was great exposure for us, and a great experience to play our first festival gig. Clover Moore (Sydney’s Lord Mayor) was on-stage directly after our performance. On my way out I asked her if we’re a hard act to follow, and she laughed. Then I hear her at the microphone addressing the audience for her speech, saying how great we were. Not many metal bands can say they’ve been given a good rap by Clover Moore, I wager! We played drinking games at the after-party with Wilma Reading. She’s an awesome entertainer, so experienced. Dave got a picture with (then NSW Premier) Kristina Keneally, which made some good media exposure for us as Dave got her to do the ‘metal horns’. It was hilarious, she had no idea and Dave had to actually bend her fingers into shape. She’s a great sport and sent us an autographed copy. I framed it and gave it to Dave for his birthday.
Q: (Laughs) What gigs does the band have lined up for the immediate future?
A: Our next show is at The Cabbage Tree Hotel, Wollongong on June 4, supporting Daysend. There are more on the boil but nothing I can confirm at this stage. We’ve been winding things down a notch or two to make room for recording and fine-tuning the new material. Also some more writing will be done in our icy cave at Paul’s house, in the bowels of Albion Park.
Our local followers are aware that we also perform covers gigs under the name Cover Charge. It started as a "secret" way for us to hang out together, sample pub schnitzels and earn money for Nekrofeist, because sadly a band can earn much more money by playing other people’s homogenised radio-friendly music rather than being creative and writing their own. It’s all very arse-about, don’t you think? Anyhow, we’ll be doing more of those shows to inflate the bank balance a bit. We also have a number of charity gigs planned (playing as Cover Charge) for causes we believe in. We played a gig for a women’s health charity called Raise The Gong, and also performed at a community event in Shellharbour. There’s a gig coming up at Shellharbour Workers Club to help raise funds for a desperately sick local kid who needs to travel overseas for treatment. So, it’s not all about the money as you can see- we do help where we can and are happy to help out a cause we believe in.
Q: In five words or less, describe a Nekrofeist live show.
A: An assault on the senses!
Q: On a more personal note, are there any new releases you’ve been enjoying lately?
A: The last CD I purchased was Wasting Light, the new Foo Fighters album. It’s easily their best album since Colour & Shape in my opinion, a very cohesive bunch of songs. Butch Vig is a great choice of producer too, the guy’s a genius. I’m really looking forward to seeing the documentary Back and Forth. I’ve also been listening to a prog band called Beardfish, their new album is called Mammoth and it’s awesome. The new Star One is cool; I love the guitar sound Arjen has achieved on that CD. The recent remaster of Deep Purple’s Come Taste The Band is outstanding and I can’t wait to see the doco. Kevin Shirley remixed a lot of the tracks for the bonus CD, and that’s interesting to hear his perspective. I’ve been revisiting some older stuff lately too. Madlove’s first album White With Foam is just brilliant, I rave about it to everyone. I heard an interview with Trevor Dunn recently where he said a second one is on the way, which inspired me to revisit that CD.
Q: Any famous last words?
A: Anthrax - best with Bush. Buy our merch at http://nekrofeist.bigcartel.com