October File (Steve Beatty ) - Interviewed by Dom Lawson (Metal Hammer)
Easily the most original and exciting rock band in the UK right now, October File have been steadily picking up critical plaudits and a rabid fan base over the last few years, and now, with the release of their phenomenal second album ‘Holy Armour From The Jaws Of God’, the band are ready to take on all-comers. Bigger, better and a thousand times heavier than previous efforts, the new album is a monumental achievement and one that promises to earn the band countless new converts. Speaking to bassist, founder member and song writer Steve Beatty, it’s clear that October File have never felt more potent and confident than they do today…
It’s been a long time since the first album and October File now sounds like a completely different band…the new songs are heavier, more aggressive and more epic. How do you explain such a radical evolution?
Steve: “When we did ‘A Long Walk On A Short Pier’, we were a totally different band. Matt and I write all the music, and our favourite bands that we grew up with always tried their best to make every record sound totally different from the last one, so that kind of theory applies to us too. We felt comfortable, when we got all the old stuff out of our system, because October File grew from the ashes of Schindler. Me and Matt were both in Schindler, which was frankly rubbish! The drummer was rubbish and the singer was rubbish and we weren’t very good either, but that’s where we started doing this together and so this feels like our third album, or even our fourth album. Hopefully in life you get better at things and not worse, and we’ve earned our spurs by getting better at something.”
Has it been important to nurture the band and make necessary changes as you went along?
Steve: “Not really. We haven’t made that many deliberate changes. I just think our song writing skills got better. In some ways we’ve had a fresh injection of enthusiasm. Getting a drummer who knows what he’s doing helped a lot! Our old drummer Ed was awful so we had to work round him all the time. Then the next drummer, Andy, came along and although he didn’t fit in with us personally, which showed because we got rid of him really quickly, he was capable of much more and so he dragged us up with him, whereas with Ed we were being held back. With John we now feel like we’ve got the other member of the band that we’ve always been looking for, rather than just some geezer who turns up when he feels like it. We had two members who dragged us back for ages, whether it was in musical terms or not wanting to rehearse for the album. John is ultra-committed, so now we can rehearse for eight hours if we need to.”
So would you say that the band has changed completely on a musical level?
Steve: “Yeah, totally. If you want a crap analogy, I think we were making shit homebrew and now we’re making scotch! The ‘Monuments’ thing was a step in the right direction, but we’re not proud of it. I like bits of the first album, but it’s completely different from what we’re doing now, but with ‘Monuments’ I just thought it was some good ideas, but really badly done. We were different people when the band started and that’s reflected in what we’re doing now. We’re able to execute our ideas better now. We actually wrote ‘So Poor’, which I think is one of the best tracks on the album, because our last drummer failed to show up for rehearsal. We just plugged in a drum machine and used the rhythm to write a song. That track evolved out of that. Everything on this album has a little story behind it. We actually started writing this album two years ago. We started off with 15 different songs that didn’t turn up on the album. We went and wrote 25 songs and ditched 15 of them. The sound developed on its own, really.”
Your music sounds completely unique and unusual compared to the vast majority of rock and metal bands out there. Is that something that you’re particularly proud of?
Steve: “That album took nearly two years to complete, song writing wise. We’ve had a few stops along the way. When we started we were really influenced by the things we grew up with. Matt and I were totally obsessed with The Stranglers, ‘The Raven’ album and all that sort of thing. When I started playing bass guitar, what inspired me? It was Jean Jacques Burnel. So therefore you mould your thing around those influences. Matt was more into Pearl Jam and that kind of thing but now he doesn’t listen to anything like that anymore. He just listens to Gang Of Four, Killing Joke and lots of metal now. I’m pretty much the same. Ben, the singer, was itching for us to get heavier. It wasn’t really a conscious decision. I think we always wanted to get there. It just took a while to do it. When all’s said and done, I think we’ve delivered a really good record and it’s different from what everyone else is doing. If people weren’t sure about whether they liked what we were doing or not, then this is a big statement to say that as far as we’re concerned, this is where we begin.”
How do you feel about being compared to Killing Joke all the time?
Steve: “We never wanted to sound like anyone else. The constant comparisons to Killing Joke, because we toured with them and Jaz is on the record, well, do we sound like them because we play dark music? That’s like saying that every metal band sounds like Metallica and that’s bullshit. Just because it’s in that realm doesn’t mean that that’s what it is. You know, we all went to see Killing Joke and they were fucking outstanding, and I said to the others ‘We don’t just want to be as good as this, we want to be better than this!’ and that’s the intention. We want to do our own thing with that level of intensity.”
How did you persuade Jaz Coleman to take part on the album?
Steve: “Jaz really likes the band and it was great when he turned round and said that he’d like to do something with us. He offered to produce the album for us, and we just thought that because he’s barmy it might not be the best idea. We don’t really want to go to Morocco to record the guitars, Jaz! (laughs) We’d rather do them in Reading. So we thought we’d do our own thing, so he offered to do some guest vocals instead. That bit on ‘High Octane Climate Changer’ was written with him in mind. In the end what he did was the exact opposite of what I wanted him to do, but it turned out amazing! It was great, watching Jaz Coleman singing lyrics that I wrote on one of our songs. He was sitting there, waxing lyrical about the record and being honest, and I kept thinking ‘Wow, Jaz Coleman likes my band!’”
You seem to have played shows with a wide variety of bands. Was that a deliberate ploy to confront as many different audiences as possible?
Steve: “Well, we’ve toured with lots of different people, from Killing Joke to Deathstars. We’re prepared to take any gigs. If there’s an audience in front of us, we’re happy to let people make their own minds up. We’ve picked up people along the way. We did a gig in Swindon recently and there was a real mix of different people there, people who’d seen us on this tour and that tour, and there were really young girls dancing down the front and the 40-year-old guys at the back wearing our tour t-shirts from two years ago, and all of a sudden we could see that we’ve done a lot of ground work for this, and we’ve delivered a great album at just the right time.”
October File is clearly a band with songs that are actually about something. Is there an overall theme or philosophy behind the ‘Holy Armour…’ album?
Steve: “I can’t write about things I don’t care about. I can’t write a song about some bird I’ve met or some geezer that was down the pub. It’s an intentionally angry album. It says that I am a human being, I live on this planet, and although it might not be a rock ‘n’ roll thing to say, I care about this planet. This is supposed to be the 21st century, some kind of utopia with all the technology we’ve got, and yeah, we’ve got iPods and mobile phones, but we still fundamentally treat each other like garbage and we treat the planet like garbage. I suppose it’s just time to get this stuff off my chest. It’s not preaching. We’ve just chosen to express this anger and I’m not ashamed of that. If you think it’s not rock ‘n’ roll or whatever then you’re quite welcome to go fuck yourself! You don’t have to listen to us or come to our gigs. This is what we’re doing and we’re not changing it for you.”
You’re obviously not a band that cares too much about image or trying to fit in with current trends…
Steve: “To be honest, I’m not really in a band to get my cock sucked. I go to football regularly, I’m a big Scotland fan, and a lot of people go there to have a big party and get pissed and everything, but I don’t even have a beer when I’m there. I go there to watch football, you know? I’m not turning up to play a gig to get my cock sucked or to get my picture taken. Music is my passion. It’s great to write a song that encompasses how I feel about something. If you love music then you should be doing it regardless of the rewards. Your reward should be walking out of the studio with something that you’re proud of.”
The artwork for the album is incredible…
Steve: “We got this Czech guy called Viktor. He did the Killing Jokes ‘Hosannas From The Basements Of Hell’ album. We went on his website and had a look and we found this picture and thought ‘That’s it! That’s ‘Holy Armour From The Jaws Of God’!”, so that was it. It totally fitted with the album. It’s important, when you think of classic albums, that the music, the artwork and everything is just how it should be. Look at ‘British Steel’ by Judas Priest, for instance. We came up with the album title, looked at that picture and it was perfect. It just felt right. But he’s a mad artist. His stuff is really original and unique. It’s like a metal sleeve but with all the wrong colours! It shouldn’t really work, but somehow it’s perfect.”
Now you’ve recorded an album you’re really happy with, what do you think the future holds?
Steve: “At the end of the day, we’re never going to be career band. If therefore you’re not worried about what people think then you’ve got no constraints anymore. So we’ve just carried on doing what we do and it all fell into place. I think we’ve done something unique and it’s hard to do that these days. Sometimes, being original works against you because most people are thick as pigshit, but we’re not ashamed to be on our own doing this.”
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