Australian metal pioneer Peter Hobbs has just released his first Hobbs’ Angel of Death album in two decades and is about to fly into Sydney for this weekend’s Aftershock gig. Loud posed some questions to the great man and he replied with sagacious eloquence:
Heaven Bled is the first album in 21 years. Did you have it in the back of your mind that you were writing the follow-up to Inheritance or did you go into it with the mindset of capturing Hobbs Angel of Death in 2016? Did the material on Heaven Bled have a particularly long gestation period, or did it come together relatively quickly?
I’ve had some of those songs kicking around for 25 years that never even had the opportunity to be on something. I’ve been in the industry for a very long time, and I was always told that I was 20 years ahead of my time. So being smart like a wise old owl, I thought, I’ve got a lot of old song there, I’ll record them and see how they go. There’s a lot of new tunes, but there’s some oldies there. I just thought that I’ve got a legacy that I want to give back to the industry. I was influenced by a lot of bands and they’ve been influence by me over the years. I’ve been doing this for almost forty years. So I thought, Fuck it, instead of letting it all go the waste, let’s put it down and see how they work out. My idea was to branch out and give a gift to a wider variety of metal lovers. I don’t want to be labelled as a fucking thrash band. I’m pretty intelligent and I’m versatile. What the fuck is black metal? What the fuck is thrash metal? It’s what comes from your heart, what comes from your inspiration – that’s what music’s all about. If you want to be a black metal band, well fucking good luck! Because there’s about ten million of them to follow.
When Hobbs’ Angel of Death started out, you were known to refer to the style of music you played as ‘virgin metal’. Do you still see what you’re playing as ‘virgin metal’ given there have been so many different styles and subgenres created over the years?
The virgin metal thing is a thing of the past. People said we were pure virgin metal and that type of thing, but that was due to the management I had. But that’s in the past. That’s all old hat shit. At the end of the day, without being egotistic in any way because I love all types of music – there’s a lot of talent that the world, that Australia, has to offer – I think I’ve been lucky to have been able to write some good hooks and some good tunes which people have been able to appreciate that sort of grow into a cult status. That’s not bias, that’s just going off the proof of being around in the industry for such a long time! How do you please a crowd? What do they want? And by playing live, I can see it. You play old songs, and you play new ones and you can sort of judge if the new ones are fitting in with the old ones, you’re on a bonus win already.
You’ve been playing metal since 1984. Has your approach to playing/recording changed much/at all in those thirty two years?
I’m old school. When I recorded the new Heaven Bled album, I walked into a studio in Italy, and I saw all the old school recording stuff: Soundcraft mixing desk, 24-track set up and of course it had Pro Tools mixed in it, but the analogue way of recording and then digital in the end to finish the product. I think it was the answer. I was the producer on this new album, so I knew what I wanted. I knew exactly what sound I wanted. I knew what I expected from the musicians, and I’m lucky that the guys that played on this new album gave it their heart and soul, and they did it with honour and pride. They didn’t actually come into the studio with me thinking, Oh fuck, we’re going to be on the new Hobbs album, they came in there like my sons, and gave me their passion, and heart and soul. Everyone who’s been a part of this – artwork, Scotty McMahon, mixing, the studios, the musicians – Simon (Wizen – guitars), Iago (Bruchi – drums) and Alessio (Medici – bass) – everyone’s just done an awesome fucking job, so my hat goes off to them. It’s just a great thing.
You recorded with a Europe-based lineup. Do you feel that these musicians have brought different influences into the mix, compared to say, an Australia-based lineup?
To be honest, I recorded that album three times. I did it with Australian guys, and I’m still friends with them. Bo Remy said to me, “Holding off and doing it and coming to the conclusion where you were totally happy is the way to go.” I said to my partner after I’d recorded it again that there was something missing. Something wasn’t right. Then collaborating with these new guys, younger Europeans, changed things immensely right away. We had a feel about what to deliver. So I just told them to do the best in the studio, play what you can do, and that’s it. I want to give back to the world my legacy. I’m nearly 60 now!
Will you be performing with the musicians who performed on the album, or do you have an Australia-based lineup on the cards?
When I get the chance to to America, I use an American line-up, and I can’t say anything about that right now. I’m not saying shit until it comes off. Europe has another line-up of course, and I love hooking up with those guys. At the end of the day, though, it’s still a hobby. I feel sorry for the new generation that’s trying to start. Because the industry is saturated with bands. There’s some great talent, and there’s people just wasting people’s time. That’s why I’m really hardcore against crowd-funding, I’m hardcore against paying-to-play. I was asked to play with some high-caliber bands, and I was told, “Before you give us for fee Pete, take into consideration that we have bands that will pay to play on these festivals”. And I said no thanks. I would rather do the clubs, do the small venues, I can interact with the crowds, talk to them, give them my gratitude and be who I want to be.
You have a Sydney show coming up next month. What are your expectations for the show? The Sydney show will also serve as an album launch for Heaven Bled. As such, will you have anything special to mark the occasion?
I came up there for [Andy Dowling’s birthday show] in about 2014. I love the dudes up there. There’s a lot of great bands and people that I know up in Sydney. It’s always cool. I love bumping into Kriss Hades and having a few beers with him. And all the other dudes on the Sydney scene. They’re all fucking awesome, because they work as hard as I have. I’m just looking forward to it.
I’m coming up there to play the old songs, because I can’t get away from that. People want to hear the old songs. So I’ll probably play a 45 – hour set mixing the old stuff with the new and spend the time and talk to the fans and talk to the new album with them while I’m up there and give them the opportunity to purchase it. It’s not just about playing in a band. It’s about interacting and talking to them fans. The fans come first, because without them you might as well sit in your bedroom. It’s not about making a profit, it’s about making a little bit back to make another shirt, maybe another album. That’s why I don’t get into that crowd-funding shit. You’ve gotta make sacrifices. You’ve gotta get off your arse and do shit. In the early 80s, I went home to my first wife when I was in Tyrus and I said, “I really want to go further with my career. I’m gonna ask the Tyrus guys if they wanna pack up and move to Europe or England.” They were shocked. Fuck me swinging, how’re we gonna do this? I had to keep moving forward, so I sold the house and went! As long as you believe in yourself you can’t say how far you’ll go. So of course I went over to Europe, met everybody I wanted to meet, got hooked up with a deal on Steamhammer, come back broke! But I got it done. That’s what I like to impress on the younger generation. You have to make the dream a reality.