In honor of the release of HELL’s long overdue debut album in North America today, Nuclear Blast USA caught up with HELL guitarist acclaimed metal producer Andy Sneap to ask ten question about Human Remains – which was a whopping 29 years in the making.
How exactly does HELL have a tie-in with Metallica?
I’m presuming you are referring to them talking about covering a Paralex track when they were thinking of which songs to use on the Garage Days EP. Lars [Ulrich] mentioned it a while back. Paralex [in whose ranks were two original members of HELL] released their much sought after White Lightning EP – on green vinyl, no less! – and were also featured on the compilation album [“NWOBHM: ’79 Revisited”] that Geoff Barton and Lars compiled a couple of years ago. So that’s all, really.
HELL existed for such a short amount of time after their inception in 1982. What led to the band’s rapid break-up?
The band signed to Mausoleum Records back in 1984/85, who then went bankrupt. This happened over a one year period of the band being kept in limbo and by the time it had all fallen through, band members were in debt, disillusioned, and disinterested. Kev Bower quit to be replaced by one of Dave [Halliday]’s guitar students Shaun Kelly, but a year later they disbanded and unfortunately in early ’87, Dave Halliday took his own life.
How did the aftermath of Dave’s death play out, leading up to today?
After Dave died, everyone went separate ways. Kev totally gave up on music as did Tim Bowler [drums]. Tony [Speakman, bassist] kept playing in local bands. I met both Tim and Tony again about 10 years ago and of course, we’d always talk about old times and the band. It was only when we managed to find Kev three years ago through his son being into metal and liking bands I’d produced that we had this crazy idea of recording the old material. We didn’t really think what we were doing at the time, it was more like an old boys’ convention where we’d have a few beers and record a bit at a time when I was available. But it really brought us all together again and has actually been a tremendous amount of fun. I think the results speak for themselves.
David Bower, the new lead singer, is actually quite theatrical, both visually and with his voice.
We found him at under the same roof as Kev. David’s actually a professional actor/lunatic who has appeared in a few of the UK soaps and also Othello in London with the comedian Lenny Henry. By nature he’s a tenor, but we got him down to do the voice over in “Plague And Fyre.” It’s when I got him to sing some backing vocals I realized the missing piece to the puzzle was right under our noses. His brother Kev is the guitar player and he’d also seen the band maybe 15 times back in the day, so he knew exactly what the band was all about.
Are all the tracks on Human Remains all the original songs from back in the day?
Yes, they are all from the ‘80s. A few tiny tweaks arrangement-wise to streamline them a little bit, but in general, they are very true to the originals.
It’s surprising to know you guys didn’t get carried away with your “old boys’ convention” and write new material for this one!
No, not on this one. The next album will see 50% old and 50% new. There’s a lot more to come and we have big plans for that already. Like I said earlier, Kev gave up on music and now he’s rediscovered it; the ideas are really flowing. I also have a huge stock pile of riffs and ideas and Dave Bower is also a talented guitar player. Tony has a couple of ideas he keeps mentioning too, so I think we are well into album 3 by now.
You’ve been around long enough to see the evolution in music production really evolve. How would HELL’s original demos stand up to the full album’s standards of today?
The demos were mono; the album’s in stereo… I’m not kidding, either. We could get into the whole analog / digital debate. What I tried to achieve on this album was an honest recording of these songs. We took almost an old-school approach, no cutting and pasting, heads-down, see-you-at-the-end, but still obviously as tight as we could get it. People have commented on the production being more organic than my usual productions, but really it’s down to the song writing and style of playing than anything I’m doing. I’ve worked on and off on the album over the last three years. Basically, whenever I had a spare weekend, I’d call the guys up and say “Right – let’s get to it.” If you combine all the time up, including the mix, it’s probably taken 10 weeks. There wasn’t really any difficult points; the hardest bit was saying “That’s it, it’s done,” because an album is never finished.
There are people who really dig the album who weren’t even born when HELL’s first demo was recorded in 1982!
The reaction to the album is quite humbling, actually. We knew it was good but had no idea how people would take it. It’s always a bit of a nervous time when you release an album but always very satisfying when the opinions across the board are universally positive. It just confirms we have done the right thing, which after all the hard work, upset, and time gone by for these guys, is a truly wonderful feeling.
What do you think is the appeal of NWOBHM bands in today’s scene?
I think the scene’s getting a bit saturated with the new stuff. Labels are partly to blame. I think schedules have become too predictable, so people hark back to the old days where it was more about classic song writing rather than the latest hair cut and 7-string single note riff. Back then, in the ‘80s, people really believed in metal; it really came from the heart. I won’t put another HELL album out until we are 100% happy with it. Bands are too rushed these days and I think it doesn’t help bands develop.
It’s nice to know you’re back playing guitar and will soon to hit the stage again with HELL, as it’s been a while since your other band, Sabbat, has recorded or played live.
Deep down, I always have been a guitarist. It’s just that Plan B kinda worked out for me. I must admit, I’m pretty bored with sitting on my ass in the studio all day, so now I’ve been given the chance to do this. I’m 100% in; it’s fun. It may cost me some money and a couple of albums I could have done, but you know what? I don’t care. Playing to me is priceless.
The track listing for Human Remains is:
01 – Overture: Themes From “Deathsquad”
02 – On Earth As It Is In Hell
03 – Plague And Fyre
04 – The Oppressors
05 – Blasphemy And The Master
06 – Let Battle Commence
07 – The Devil’s Deadly Weapon
08 – The Quest
09 – Macbeth
10 – Save Us From Those Who Would Save Us
11 – No Martyr’s Cage
Total running time is 66 minutes and 6 seconds.
Watch the video for “On Earth As It Is In Hell” here.
Order the Human Remains CD for only $10 at Nuclear Blast USA’s online web shop.
HELL’s 2011 line-up:
- David Bower – Vocals
- Kev Bower – Guitar Keyboards
- Andy Sneap – Guitar
- Tony Speakman – Bass
- Tim Bowler – Drums