Latest release: Kill All Kings (Metal Blade)

Nineteen years ago Belgian groove metal merchants Channel Zero stormed through Australia with a tour that some still talk about to this day. A short time afterwards, the band was done, never getting the chance to consolidate the strong following they built here during that visit. In 2009, requests from fans for a reunion show led to six sold out nights in a row. Former Soulfly member Mike Doling stepped in to fill the guitar void and has been with Channel Zero ever since.

“A fan of the band started a Facebook page to get the band back together to play a show in Brussels. The venue seats about 2500 and they decided to go ahead and do the show, they put tickets on sale – and it sold out in ten minutes,” Doling says from his home in Japan. “The venue offered them another day, and that sold out. Before you knew it they had six nights sold out. So the band has six nights sold out and the guitar player gets cold feet and doesn’t want to do it. The band has six sold out shows, no guitarist. So they called me. I flew out to Belgium, jammed with the band, and the chemistry was really good man. At the shows we just fell in love with each other, man. It was just the perfect fit.”

Before long, Channel Zero had completed an album, Feed ’em With a Brick, that mostly went by unnoticed due to lack of a worldwide distribution deal. It was a sign of a solid return however, and new release Kill All Kings has a much stronger push behind it.

“The last one we didn’t have a worldwide record deal,” Doling explains. “We just signed in three countries. For this record we found a world deal with Metal Blade. That’s why you’re hearing about it! Because we got the big record company machine behind us.”

Kill All Kings has been getting the kind of reviews that any band would be pleased with, widely positive reaction echoing around the world for its monstrous groove. For Channel Zero, it’s even more special given the heartbreak and tragedy that surrounded the album’s recording. Only days before they were due to hit the studio with producer Logan Mader, drummer Phil Baheux died suddenly at the age of 45.

“We were slated to start recording two days after he died,” the guitarist says, a sad note in his voice. “Logan Mader was boarding a fucking airplane when he got the news. The night that Phil passed away, we were doing our final listen to the demos. We were celebrating moderately – just a few beers – and the next day we woke up and he had passed away in his sleep. It was fucking devastating, crushing… right now I can barely talk about it. But the other two guys – man, they’d been friends with him for 25 years! It was really really really fucking hard, man. We’re still coming back from it. August 10th will be one year.”

At that point, Doling admits, the light had gone out. Channel Zero almost broke up for good. It was only a chance call from Doling’s former Soulfly bandmate and long-time friend Roy Mayorga that led to Kill All Kings becoming a tribute to Phil Baheux. The Stone Sour drummer convinced his buddy that the album should be recorded, and then offered to play on it.

“He called me to give me his condolences as a friend,” Doling recalls. “I appreciated his call and in the conversation I told him we had a record written and he stopped me dead in my tracks by saying, ‘Dude, you have to record the record! You wrote the songs, don’t let them just die! I’ll play the drums on the album for Phil.’ So Roy played drums on the album for Phil.”

Mike Doling invested quite a lot of himself in Kill All Kings, as both the band’s guitarist and one of its chief song writers. Musicians are often at pains to choose favourites on a new album, but Doling is able to put his finger on his highlights quite easily.

“A lot of the songs are dear to my heart,” he says, before selecting some specific tracks. “’My Brother’s Keeper’ is my favourite song on the album. It’s personal, the lyrics and the music behind it, but I really love ‘Kill All Kings’ too. It’s just so damn heavy. And ‘Dark Passenger’ man, because it’s a sing-along anthem. It reminds me of Iron Maiden and why I love Iron Maiden. We wanted to write something that sounded like you were playing in an arena, and that’s the opening track on the record.”

In terms of subject matter, the ‘Kill All Kings’ of the title is an exploration of the theory of the Illuminati, a secret society some people claim to be controlling everything that happens in worldwide economics and politics – and more. Doling doesn’t claim to necessarily believe in it, but “we wanted to write a song about it.”

“With the current times and the banking system and the whole Illuminati theory – no one really knows if it’s real but we tackled it. If it is real, these are the kings of the world today. The barbarians that we need to kill,” he continues. “There’s so much shit going on for financial gain. I think that so much war is hiding behind religion but it’s really about greed. These guys are hiding behind religion and using religious fanatics to further their goals.”

Channel Zero is hoping to get down to Australia once again. They’ve been in touch with Soundwave’s AJ Maddah, who brought them out of that first tour all that time ago. Doling is hoping they can be on next year’s festival, but if not they’d be just as keen to do a club tour.

“We want to get back there,” he says. We’d love to play Soundwave, we’d love to play a club tour… We’re really focusing on Australia. We want to go there more than anywhere.”

The band has a few shows lined up in support of Kill All Kings but at the time of our interview Channel Zero was still in the process of linking up with an international booking agent. For now at the very least, they have a new album that they are rightfully very proud of and something that will remain as a testament to their fallen friend and band mate.

“You know what, I don’t think anyone would have thought anything [if we had not recorded the album]” Mike Doling says. “We would have just kinda faded away and we would’ve been that band that lost their drummer and just ended. But now, we’re that band who lost our drummer, put a new record out and used our positive energy to put a kick-ass record out in his name. When we were recording it there were tears and laughter. Phil was a complete comedian. There was so much energy from him driven into those songs. You can hear it on the record, man. At least we can! I’m glad we did it, man.”