An Interview w/Karl Willets (Bolt Thrower)
If I were to answer honestly it’s a yes and a no. I was still hectically busy with my bread tossing ‘slavedom’ (job), readying my domicile for selling and Feind… he was busy scribblin’ away on a new tome (I hear one is soon about to unleashed upon the unwashed masses. Congrats Sir!). But that’s not all, in a moment of stuffing-my-face- at-a-local-eatery-boredom I decided I would poke around in the sites depths and unleash something I was especially proud of. The article in question a Skullfucked segment on none other than an act I have been spinning happily for over twenty five years - Bolt Thrower!
Which leads us to…
Again thanks a heap for this opportunity. To get the ball rolling I’m obviously going to ask… What happened?
It's been a while since the last release and it was a long time for that chunk of brilliance Those Once Loyal (05’) to be released (in my opinion it’s one of the finest BT albums to date). Admittedly I've heard rumors though I'm not sure what to believe. Could you please help clear the mist some?
Karl Willets: Howdy Arizona!!!
Hope all well… In answer to your ice/ball breaker question....
Don't know where to start really - that's a big question to answer…
HVP was recorded and released in 2001 - and the band did a couple of European tours following this and commenced writing the next album Those Once Loyal in 2003. in 2004 Dave Ingram left BT and I rejoined the band. TOL was released in 2005 so that is 4 years between the 2 records - which is not a long time in my opinion.
However, as you may have noticed it is now 2016 so that is 11 years since the release of TOL - now that is a long time!!!!!
In 2006 the band was busy doing European shows to promote the album, however we never got any serious interest from promoters in the USA....BT attempted to start writing new material for the elusive 9th album, but the songs we got together never really got off the drawing board - they just did not match the strength of the songs on the previous album so we took the decision to scrap them and wait for some better songs to come along which we hoped would happen but just never did, I suppose because we all work, have kids and other commitments outside of the band life just took over, we have 8 albums of great songs to play and we just concentrated on doing festival shows and short tours playing these songs and to be honest we were content with this scenario.
So we just stuck to what we do best playing a collection of our best loved songs loud and heavy at selective shows... for us that was enough!
Then tragedy struck BT with the death of our drummer. Martin Kiddie Kearns as we were preparing to embark on a short tour of Australia back in September 2015. This tragic event really knocked the band for 6 [months]... and is something that we are still trying to cope with 6 months off from it happening... to be honest I just don't know if we will ever be able to recover from it.
BT are currently on a long term break, a Hiatus whilst we try and get over what has happened, I am not sure exactly what the future holds for the band, however I can confirm officially that we have not split up!! We have just made a tactical retreat whilst we lick our wounds and regroup...
So in the midst of all this grief, sorrow and dismay, from the negativity and hopelessness that I felt following the loss of Martin I decided to concentrate my mind and efforts into forming a new band with Andy Whale - the original BT drummer and my longtime friend Frank Healy from Sacrilege/Benediction, adding Scott Fairfax into the mix who brings a whole new dimension and a bag of killer riffs to the mix, this new band is called Memoriam, in tribute to Martin.
So from the misery comes hope from the negativity comes a positive…we are all 100% focused on Memoriam and it is great to be creating something new with old friends - reestablishing lost connections and enjoying making music again!!!!
I hope this has helped to clear some of the mist.
I’m eagerly anticipating 'Memoriam' (obviously) and it's great to hear you’re getting back in the ‘swing of things’ (another Cricket (?) analogy to confuse those in the US) with fellow musicians that I recognize from other groundbreaking British acts.
The first Benediction Cd (Subconscious Terror - with Barney) was the first metal album I bought even before I owned a Compact Disc player, admittedly I also followed their career up until the point I immigrated and got caught up in all the intricacies life often throws in one's path.
Damn I'm getting 'wordy' (this'll probly get snipped).
I had to ask (I'll hate myself if I didn't) whatever happened to Jo Bench, I hadn't seen her name mentioned anywhere recently (Dave Ingram, who stepped in to offer his vocal expertise for one album – Honor, Valor, Pride - is featured all over the place) does she still play?
The main reason I ask is because (understandably) she was the first 'female in metal' I noticed and had a huge "crush" for a number of years. Seriously I was 16/17 and this was 'real' metal (in my opinion though I’m not afraid to admit I enjoy early Priest and Maiden also) not the glam stuff - it was amazing to see a lady shredding it with conviction up there with the guys.
KW: Yep grief is a very base emotion - death is still a kind of Taboo and you never feel it or talk about it until it happens to someone close to you!
I lost my dad from prostate cancer when I was 21 in 1987 just before I started in BT, a lot of the lyrics feelings and emotions are conveyed in the lyrics that I write...the same goes for the lyrics I am writing now for Memoriam... writing words is a cathartic experience and really helps to get the feelings inside out!
Jo Bench is very much alive and well, she lives in Germany these days with our tour manager/arranger Graham. She is OK, but I think that the loss of Kiddie hit her really hard, she also lost her mom a few years back also... as the bass player she developed a real strong bond with Kiddie - they were the driving rhythm of the band... she still plays but I have not really had much contact from her recently... just the occasional email.
I think that you are not on your own with your fanboy crush... she is great and is very determined 100% BT at heart always - never wanted to put herself in the limelight just wanted to play the bass - which she does fantastically - you gotta’ respect her for that - also she has inspired women to get into metal which can't be a bad thing!!
I am in regular contact with Dave Ingram, I consider him to be a close friend he is both a gentleman and a scholar. A metal brother from another mother! I am really chuffed to see him doing lots of exciting stuff such as Hail of Bullets... (also currently in…)
Look forward to the next installment - All the best - Grind On!! - Always!!!!!