Midnight, that special time of evening when the sky is as dark as it's going to get. In a lot of ways that definition applies to the band known as Midnight as well. Their music is heavy and fast and their lyrics are darker than the fathomless depths of the ocean.
Midnight have been pushing their own brand of old school heavy metal influenced "black rock and roll" since the early 2000's and have already made a significant impact in the American underground.
The star of Midnight, Jamie Walters (aka Athenar) has almost singlehandedly reinvigorated the American thrash metal scene with the blackened speed of his music and sense of humor. I was lucky enough to ask him a few questions about the Midnight legacy, read what he has to say...
ThrashHead: How old were you when you picked up your first bass and who were some bands that influenced you to start playing early on?
Jamie: I was about 12. some players that influenced me to play bass at the time were Gene Simmons, Steve Harris and Geezer Butler. those are still the same people who I love to hear play today. then maybe a year or 2 later I really started to play guitar more because you could make up songs better on that rather than a bass. I learned most of my lead stuff by kill em all. Kirk Hammet did a great job at ripping off Mustaine's leads!
ThrashHead: You've played in many bands during your career so far including Destructor, Terminal Lovers, and Nunslaughter. Throughout the years Midnight seems to be your sole focus as a musician. You've released more recordings under the Midnight banner than any other. Is there any particular reason why Midnight is more "your baby" over your work with other bands?
Jamie: I've never played in Nunslaughter...those guys are fags! I'm kidding of course (about the fag thing). I also played bass on the first Gates of Slumber demo. The reason why I do Midnight more is cuz I'm the only studio member so I can do whatever the hell I want and don't have to worry if anybody else likes the songs or not.
ThrashHead: Why did you choose to use a stage name? Is it symbolic in meaning for you or simply because it sounds cool? How did you come to select Athenar as your stage name?
Jamie: The same reason Cronos did, I'm sure cuz it sounds better than conrad lant. i'm not sure if it sounds cool or not but it's better than my birth given name, Harvey Lipschitz.
ThrashHead: You seamlessly balance your playing styles, which are considerably different from band to band. For example your playing with Terminal Lovers (which also features Count Zigar of Midnight on drums and Chris Smith of Keelhaul) is much more slower and precise than it is with Midnight or the Destructor stuff. Was it important for you to have a more jam oriented stoner rock band in order to balance out your career as a predominantly speed/thrash metal musician?
Jamie: No it's not important at all. I just like playing with those guys cuz I've known them forever and are really good musicians. Although I haven't played with them for a couple of years now.
ThrashHead: In 2007 you did an EP devoted to covers of songs by the Seattle punk band The Spits. How would you say The Spits have influenced you personally and Midnight as a whole?
Jamie: Not much. That record was more inspired by Vanilla Fudge if anybody. I just thought it would be a cool idea to do covers of hits of today like Vanilla Fudge used to do. not do just a standard old metal tune. The Spits are a really good band though with great songs!
ThrashHead: The NWOBHM influence in your music is inescapable but I also sense a lot of punk rock creeping in. Is that something you are ever conscious of? Do you take any influence from shock performers like G.G. Allin or The Mentors?
Jamie: I've been a fan of the Mentors since I was a child so I'm sure there's some influence there, the hoods might give that away! Early GG stuff is good but I wouldn't say he's one of my fave dudes ever.
ThrashHead: Right on. I saw you live once and you put on quite a show. Do you feel an obligation to deliver your music live as violent and unrelenting as it comes off on a record? Do you have any wild stories from incidents at shows?
Jamie: I play the music how I think it should sound. If you're playing brash heavy metal I don't think it seems right to just stand around looking cool neat spikes and make up or nice smelling long flowing hair. You should feel how the music feels right?
This one time at a show...it was wild!
ThrashHead: Cool. Has Midnight ever caught any kind of controversy or backlash over any of the lyrical content considering that a lot of songs like "Vomit Queens" or "Lust, Filth and Sleaze" and well most of your other songs might alienate female listeners?
Jamie: I've never been worried about what the listener cares male or female. as far as those 2 songs go "vomit queens" is about a woman throwing up on somebody so she's in the power position, she's the one in charge. " Lust, Filth and Sleaze " is a song about monogamy, the only gash I'll need, the only milk I'll ever need. Just one vagina and one set of glorious jugs.
ThrashHead: Interesting. "TAP" is another pretty heavy song lyrically, why was the decision made to keep that one as a vinyl only bonus track?
Jamie: That's a cover song by a local band I grew up listening to called black ax. they were a bunch of chemical sniffing warped 16 year old kids that jammed killer metal after school in a basement. they had other bad azz tunes too like, "whip me beat me", "fist fuck" and "toss the cross". I just kept it on LP cuz i don't think CD listeners were ready for such vile shit!
ThrashHead: Sounds gnarly! What kind of equipment did you use in the recording of Satanic Royalty? How long did it take to record? What did you look for in the recording?
Jamie: Whatever was around. not long, about 2 weekends for everything. Cheapness.
ThrashHead: Kick ass! I noticed the art on the insert of the record features some work by Josh McAlear in addition to the awesome cover art by William Lacey. How did you come to select the art for the packaging of Satanic Royalty? What did you look for?
Jamie: I just gave those the guys the titles and asked them to come up with something. I thought both were great. William did a fantastic job with the cover though.
ThrashHead: Where does the title Satanic Royalty come from?
Jamie: I ripped it off from rolling stones their satanic majesties request.
ThrashHead: How do you feel your music is contributing to, changing or at least helping to influence the current state of American heavy metal?
Jamie: I don't think I'm doing anything new but rehashing some old shit that I still love to listen to.
ThrashHead: I personally feel Satanic Royalty is one of the finest metal albums I've heard in a long while. What do you hope younger generations of fans take away from an album like Satanic Royalty?
Jamie: Hopefully they'll figure out that most bands past 1990 suck ass! it's strange because i assumed everybody knows about Exciter, Venom, NME but I'm finding out that's not the case. so hopefully younger music fans can get into the real shit not some overproduced shit band with no songs.
ThrashHead: You're about to embark on a tour with Joel and the guys from Toxic Holocaust, how stoked are you and how many dates are lined up?
Jamie: I'm not a huge fan of touring but I do like Joel and the Toxicausts so it should be a good time. i think there are 11 gigs total, most in cities we've never played before which is cool with me.
ThrashHead: Before we let you go, what would you like to say to the legions of Midnight fans out there reading this?
Jamie: Legions of fans? stay off the dope, spend money on records rather than beer!