Ol Drake needs no introduction, as lead guitarist for Evile, he, along with his brother Matt, Ben Carter and Joel Graham, have been devastating the metal scene for many years now, releasing classic album after classic album.
From Their "All Hallows Eve EP" to this year's seminal thrash album "Five Serpent's Teeth", Evile stands as one of the bands leading the charge in a thrash renaissance.
Their music has helped rekindle a spark in the Heavy Metal world which some have deemed lacking; and yet, with all the accolades and success, they remain deeply rooted in their passion for their music and true to the people who have supported them throughout the years.
Future "Metal Gods", most definitely, but without the attitude. As was the case with bands in an age before the internet and cable music channels, it's all about them playing the best kick ass rock n roll they can for fans and not the status.
Knowing full well that free time is often a luxury musicians don't have, I want to convey my deepest gratitude to Ol for taking a few moments between tours and right before Christmas, to speak with me.
ThrashHead: You were introduced to music at a very early age, your father Tony was a guitarist, how old were you before you realized that rock n roll was you in your blood?
Ol: I'd enjoyed Rock music from an early age. My parents would always play Queen; we were a Queen household. I think it was in my early teens when my brother, Matt, got heavily into Metal and I'd listen to it as well.
I'd say maybe 12? I can't remember exactly.
ThrashHead: How instrumental were your parents in your and Matt's success? What are the most important lessons you've learned from them?
Ol: They were very instrumental. They've always been 100% supportive and helpful. I remember my mum saying once "It's better than them being on street corners causing trouble and doing drugs" haha.
Evile wouldn't exist as it is today if it weren't for my dad. for the first several years of our covers band and sometime into Evile he would drive us to every show and help out with gear etc. None of us could drive and he'd done the exact same thing in the 70s with his bands, so he just thoroughly enjoyed it I think.
ThrashHead: It is often noted that Matt got you into heavy metal and most folks know that Metallica was one of the bands you guys enjoyed the most, but what was it about them which drew your attention the most; was it their earlier or later music? Was there a particular song which just grabbed you and didn't let go?
Ol: I don't know what it was about them that drew me to them. They had a certain magic to them, that just made me want to feel how they must feel when doing what they do. They were just a huge inspiration; the fact that you could tell they enjoyed doing that more than anything in the world really shone through for me. I'm not tying their talent and legacy down to "old or new"; I like Metallica full stop. I'd have to say it was either Fade, One or Puppets that got me hooked.
ThrashHead: Is it true that, though Matt took classical guitar lessons, you are essentially self-taught? Do you think both your talents is genetic, something you inherited from your dad or was it the environment you were brought up in that made you the talented guitarist that you are today?
Ol: Matt only took classical lessons when he was very young, I doubt he remembers any of it. We're both self-taught, and I do believe it's genetic; but that's not to suggest it has to be passed down for the ability to exist.
Once I started playing guitar I felt that I had to explore the instrument until I got to a standard that felt comfortable (that's the part that I think is genetic). To this day I'm still yearning to learn more about the guitar; I don't want to stop learning about music. Anyone can play the guitar, or any instrument for that matter; it's whether or not they put the time, dedication and passion into it. Technically, nothing is hard to play, it's just unfamiliar.
ThrashHead: Evile's history is quickly becoming a part of thrash metal lore. It is widely known that your brother Matt and Ben were school mates who got together to start Metal Militia and it wasn't long before you came on board; could you tell me a bit about the formation of the band, and what it was like during those early years in Huddersfield?
Ol: In the early days it was basically just Matt, Ben and I playing music at first. We weren't a band and didn't have any aspirations to "become" anything. We got jamming more and more in rehearsal rooms and just really grew to love it; that's when we put out the ad in GTR Guitars in Huddersfield and we found Mike.
We started gigging locally and just had fun. We all had 9-5 jobs then and the band was just a hobby on the side. I remember at times I'd finish my shift at Gamestation (where me and Ben worked together at for a long time) and we'd run down the road to Abrahams (closed now) to play a gig after work. Then we'd get up for work the next day. We ventured out of Huddersfield at times for shows but we couldn't go far having jobs etc. We were lucky if we got £50 or some beer. I'd go into a very interesting contrast between earnings back then and now, but I won't haha.
ThrashHead: When did you guys realize it was time to put Metal Militia to bed and bring forth Evile? Was there a single moment you can recall or had you guys evolved so much that you now felt confident with doing your own music?
Ol: We got sick of playing songs that weren't ours. I don't know how cover bands do it for as long as they do it. Every time a song would end, everyone would cheer, but it'd be like "......yeah..... we didn't write that".
So, we literally said "fuck this, we can do this ourselves". We started writing our own material and had the idea of incorporating it into our current covers set. "Killer from the Deep" was the first song we wrote; I'd dare to say in late 2002 (almost 10 years ago already; wow). We stuck it in the set and people cheered it more than the Metallica songs. From then on it was a case of "right, let's do this". We got a new band name, we started writing in our spare time and had so much fun doing it.
ThrashHead: With the birth of Evile in late '02-early '03 you guys put out two legendary albums, the "All Hallows Eve" EP and the "Hell Demo". The "All Hallows Eve" EP is absolutely phenomenal, tracks like Dawn of Destruction and Killer From The Deep sound as true to the roots of thrash metal as anything that came out of the Bay area in the early 80's. "Hell Demo", is equally insane and some of the tracks made it onto your Earache debut "Enter The Grave", whereas other songs didn't, most notably "Death Sentence" and "Russian Roulette".
ThrashHead: Could you tell our readers about what it was like to enter the studio for the first time and hear the result of what you had recorded on those albums? Could you tell then, that the band was destined for greatness?
Ol: Honestly, the first album was difficult in a way. We were thrown in at the deep end. We flew to Denmark to work with Flemming Rasmussen (Master of Puppets, Ride the Lightning) in a huge studio in Copenhagen with hundreds of Gold discs on the wall, tracking through the desk Lightning and Puppets were tracked through. An amazing, epic start, but incredibly daunting at the same time. We'd never recorded on that scale before.
It was amazing to hear everything coming together for the first time. We only knew the songs from quickly recorded demo material and playing the songs live; now we were hearing it through the mind and skills of Flemming Rasmussen. I wouldn't say we knew we were "destined" for anything, but I know I had the feeling of "yeah, I might have to quit my job soon", which in the music business today, is a huge gamble in itself.
ThrashHead: Out of curiosity, are you guys thinking about a repress of those albums?
Ol: No. We want to leave them as they are, where they are; they're special to us and have even more special significance after we lost Mike. We throw in a couple of ideas from then as a nod to them ("Long Live New Flesh"), but they are what they are and that's where they'll stay.
ThrashHead: Before Evile was signed, you guys were already hittin' the road hard, how did the band get by between gigs; did you have day jobs or were you somehow able to live off of what you made on the road?
Ol: We all had day jobs. Before we got signed that was our guaranteed income. As soon as I made my decision for the band to be my 24/7, I gave up that guaranteed income for a long term plan of making the band successful.
The band back then made an absolute Zero back then. We'd get paid in beer or petrol money. We're far from able to live off what we make even today from being on the road. Hopefully "Five Serpent's Teeth" will be the start of changing that.
ThrashHead: What are some of your most cherished memories you have from the time before Evile landed the label deal?
Ol: There are so many. We did a lot of shows with Pitiful Reign and Headless Cross (now Savage Messiah on Earache ) up and down the country. One that pops into my head is playing the Queen's Hall in Nuneaton. There was literally no one there (as in 0) so each bands' set would consist of them playing to the other two bands, having 4 man circle pits.
Sometime through the night (I think whilst we were playing to PR and HC) two people walked in to stand at the bar and watch; We all suddenly had to take everything seriously, and the 4 man circle pit stopped. I was trying so hard not to laugh, but they left anyway hahahaha
ThrashHead: Now, comes the moment of truth, you release Hell Demo, and a year later you are signed and recording Evile's debut "Enter The Grave". Could you tell us what happened during that year between the recording of "Hell Demo" and you taking your first steps into the Studio to start laying down tracks for Enter The Grave?
Ol: We just did the same old that we had been doing; gigging and working. There is a myth that the internet and free music helps bands; I can honestly say the internet had NOTHING to do with us getting signed (probably apart from "ooh look how many myspace hits they have").
We got signed from gigging as much as possible, and putting our all into writing songs. The label saw us at Bloodstock Open Air '06 and then again at Junktion 7 in Nottingham and they liked what they heard/saw. Gigging and good songs is the way to go; anyone can sit at home and record stuff on the computer, but that won't show labels any kind of incentive for them to sign a band if they aren't on the road constantly, showing the band's furtherance 100% dedication.
ThrashHead: What was the atmosphere like when you found out Evile had landed a label? How did you guys react and what did your parents say to you when you told them?
Ol: It was amazing, as we'd never set out to be signed or "get" anywhere. It was a "once in a lifetime" kind of feeling, as we just took the bull by the horns and did it. Our parents were over the moon and encouraged it.
We made sure that everything we were signing was reasonable and that pretty much dictated what our life from then on would be; the band. We got an e-mail from the label boss, DIgby, asking if we'd like a record contract, and we thought there HAD to be a catch. I remember asking like "you mean.... records to be released by you?..... on the same label as Carcass, Napalm Death and Morbid Angel? (he can't mean that, we must be on some bottom division thing)" but he meant it, and we still feel honoured to be in such a position.
ThrashHead: What was the recording sessions for "Enter The Grave" like? Your brother had reached out to legendary producer Flemming Rasmussen who has worked with some of the biggest names like your childhood idols Metallica as well as Blind Guardian, Artillery and Morbid Angel; how did it feel to have someone like that producing?
Ol: The sessions were very cool, Flemming is a great producer and really friendly. We got on with him straight away; I think he got on with me, I kept eating all his waffles.
ThrashHead: That first year or so after the release of "Enter The Grave" must have been mad, you were playing with everyone from Machine Head, Megadeth to Exodus and the band was garnering some serious kudos from the media, including powerhouses such as Metal Hammer! What lessons did you gain from that time? And what are your most memorable moments?
Ol: I learned to stay grounded. I'd seen so many people and bands "get" somewhere and become absolute dickheads. We started doing all this amazing stuff, but we were still four guys from a small town in the UK, and I think we'll always be like that; even if we started earning money from this hahaha
ThrashHead: Next comes "Infected Nations", this time with Russ Russel producing, who happened to have worked with bands whom we consider some of the best in their genre such as The Exploited and Napalm Death. Did you feel any pressure to meet the power and excellence of "Enter The Grave"? And, were you blown away by the overwhelming positive reception it received?
Ol: To be honest there's no time to feel pressure. I, personally, am so caught up in writing the music that it's a waste of time worrying about what you're writing. We wanted to try something different and not release "Enter the Grave 2" and I think we accomplished that. We were blown away that people accepted it after loving ETG so much; we thought they would completely boycott it.
ThrashHead: Not long after the release of "Infected Nation" , you guys lost your bandmate and friend Mike Alexander. Like Metallica before you, it seemed right when the band is riding a wave of success, tragedy hits. How did the band confront such a loss? You have been credited with writing the lyrics to the song "In Memoriam" which appears on Evile's current release "Five Serpent's Teeth"; did this help you say goodbye to Mike and to continue on?
Ol: We confronted it like anyone else does when losing someone. We looked back with fondness, remembered all the amazing times with Mike, and were grateful for our time with him. We were glad he was at least doing what he loved to do more than anything at the end; We were just sad he was away from his family. "Memoriam" started out as a song "for" Mike, but it grew into something more and is basically just for anyone who's lost anyone, and is a reflection on how we as a society treat and fear death. There's nothing to fear; why fear the inevitable? it's a complete waste of time. Just enjoy the time you have.
ThrashHead: Earlier this year Evile released yet another well received album, the aforementioned "Five Serpent's Teeth", and you've just wrapped up a tour of the U.K. with Savage Messiah. Next, in 2012, you will be going right back out onto the road with Portrait, Dr. Living Dead and Delirium Tremens supporting you.
How do you avoid burnout? we've all seen what heavy touring can do to a band and what it did especially to the thrash bands of yesteryear. How much of a risk do you see with this affecting you and Evile? When do you think Evile is going to have a bit of time off from conquering the world?
Ol: I don't know hahaha. We love doing it, is the answer, I guess. As long as we can travel comfortably, survive and there is a show to play; we have no complaints.
To this day we still tour in vans on certain tours (the USA is VERY expensive to tour), but it's whether or not you can put yourself through that for the pay off of playing live.
ThrashHead: How does it make you feel, when you realize many metal fans, especially some of us who were there back in the day, view Evile as one of the true inheritors of a legacy born in places like Ruthie's Inn, The Keystone and L'Amour?
Ol: It's nothing but an honour. As I said, we started out with no aspirations, so any praise like that is always amazing to hear. I get people in their 40s and 50s coming up to me saying "you're the real deal; I was there back in the day. Thank you for making me feel 16 again" - stuff like that is amazing to hear. It reinforces my determination to keep doing this.
ThrashHead: Since '90-'91 there has been a void left in heavy metal whereas it seems a lot of what I personally consider to be heavy metal, was swinging towards either power/progressive or the growling vocal styles of death/black metal. In recent years, there has been a yearning for the return of the rhythms, speed and power of bands like Exodus, Sodom, Death Angel, early Metallica, Kreator, Testament and Coroner; metal outfits which one can truly mosh to again and bands like Evile have been able to fill that void to the delight of headbangers around the world.
What's your opinion on the resurgence of thrash metal?
Ol: It's a strange subject, as Thrash has always been there; the press has just taken more notice of it in the past 4/5 years. We're privileged to be a part of it, but we stake no claim in "doing" anything for the genre. I just think it's great there are so many bands still playing a genre of music that a lot of people turn their elitist noses up at. Thrash didn't die in the 80s, and Classical didn't die in the 1800s. It's music.
ThrashHead: From the beginning of Metal Militia, through the success of Evile and up to now, who are some of the most interesting and/or inspirational characters you've met and why?
Ol: Dave Mustaine was an interesting and inspirational character. A lot of people have bad things to say about him, but from my month+ long experience of touring with him, I think that negativity is a lot of hearsay. He was always interesting to talk to on current events or bands, always made sure we were ok and was just a genuinely cool guy.
ThrashHead: Evile has been noted as a band who isn't pretentious, and seems to adhere to the advice of metal gods like Ronnie James Dio who understood the importance of not disregarding fans. It seems Evile and especially you, take great pains to make a connection with your fans. How do you keep things in perspective even after three major successes?
Ol: It's not tough, it's just common sense. I remember speaking with James LoMenzo and thanking him for being so cool to us on tour; I can't remember his exact words, but they were basically "Pass it on, helping and being cool to each other is what keeps us all going" - Those weren't his words, but he meant that. It just makes complete sense to me; there is no reason at all to be a dick to your fans, ignore and not speak to your fans or treat them in any negative way; they're the reason we're doing what we're doing.
ThrashHead: Getting off the subject of albums, tours and history...we'd like to know a bit about you away from the limelight. What are some of your favorite things in this world to do; apart from music, what brings a smile to your face?
Ol: Funnily enough, the thing that brings a smile to my face is music and playing it. Away from the band that's all I do; other than watch films, cartoons and play video games.
I've had every games console to date from the Commodore Amiga up to Xbox 360 (I haven't got a PS3 yet, I'm happy with the 360).
ThrashHead: When you are at home kicking back, what music do you listen to?
Ol: I was just listening to Greenslade's self-titled, and Gentle Giant's "Acquiring the Taste". Anything that tweaks my ear and intrigues me musically/technically.
ThrashHead: If the total sociopolitical collapse of the world happened tomorrow and you had a bunker to ride it out in, what are the five things you would want to take with you and why? (apart from friends and family of course)
Ol: Guitar (with lots of spare strings), a keyboard, food/water, .......can't think of a fifth; give that space to someone else hahaha
ThrashHead: Any words of wisdom you'd like to share with our readers?
Ol: Support the music/bands you like, or they might not be able to make what you like for much longer.
Once again I have to give my thanks; like we say for all the bands out there, go support them, connect with them on the social machines, get the word out, hell, give 'em some beer and gas funds!
"Thrasher" from Enter The Grave
"Infected Nation" from Infected Nations
"Cult" from Five Serpent's Teeth