In March I had the great pleasure of interviewing Steve Tovey, the bassist and vocalist from the juggernaut that is The King is Blind (listen here), before their debut show at The Hole in the Wall (reviewed here). Since then a lot has happened for the band, including Bloodstock Open Air and the release of their EP The Deficiencies of Man (reviewed here). I jumped at the chance to interview the band to see what happened since our last talk, Bloodstock, the EP release and the future.
Jack: Starting off with a debut show at Colchester’s Hole in the Wall, you played a lot of gigs leading up to Bloodstock. How have the live shows gone and changed over this period?
Steve Tovey (Bass/Vocals): We’ve been really pleased with how all the live shows have gone, to be honest. Out on stage is where a band really shows their mettle (and metal…) and from the off we’ve gone down well at each show, especially considering people don’t really know our material to begin with. The Hole show was a great start for us and we were very pleased with the turn out and how well it was received.
Since then we’ve refined the set list, getting the order and the pacing of the set right, which has included bringing in a new song that willl appear on our album, that fits in beautifully.
Jack: When I was at Bloodstock wearing your band’s T-shirt a few people approached me saying they recognized the T-shirt and were looking forward to seeing you on Saturday. Are you surprised at how big the fan base has grown?
Steve: We have always been very confident with the material, that’s why we’ve progressed things as we’re genuinely excited by the music we’re writing, but you never know how it will be received. Obviously, some people will be interested due to our respective histories, but we have to prove with every song that this is not about what we’ve done before, but that what we’re doing now is relevant, and I think it’s testament to the quality of the songs we’ve put out that word has spread.
The lyric videos have been a great success, too. Sam Scott Hunter did an excellent job realising the vision we had for ‘A Thousand Burning Temples’, and that has been a perfect flagship for the EP.
Jack: How was it to play the prestigious Sophie Lancaster Stage at Bloodstock, a stage that has played host to bands such as Dying Fetus, Rotting Christ, Anaal Nathrakh, and Satan? Was the turnout and reception what you were expecting at Bloodstock?
Steve: It was an honour, a privilege and a great joy to play the Sophie Lancaster Stage, and playing a prestigious and recognised festival was something of a life’s ambition realized. The list of bands that have played that stage, and that festival in general, is an inspiration and something to live up to.
The reaction at Bloodstock was very encouraging for us and the future, to see how busy the Sophie stage was for us was a great sight. But it means nothing if we don’t back it up by continuing to improve as a band, and if we don’t now deliver when it comes to an album.
Jack: What are the differences between playing festivals and club shows?
Steve: We really want to thank the Bloodstock stage crew who made it so easy for us. In terms of performance, I don’t think we do too much differently though, obviously, it’s a bigger stage, so you have a bit more freedom to do your own thing on stage. The main difference is in the professionalism behind the scenes and the sound on stage, but, either way we’re confident in ourselves to deliver whatever the live environment.
Jack: You’ve also been announced to play Hammerfest next year, was the offer a shock?
Steve: Same as with Bloodstock, and we are delighted to have been asked. It’s flattering and motivating that people that matter in this business are prepared to give us a chance, and we can’t wait for Hammerfest. It’s also another chance to share festival space with bands we have great respect for, like Candlemass, who formed a big part of our youth and musical development.
Jack: You’ll also be returning to Essex in September to support fellow Sophie Lancaster stage band Winterfylleth, are you eager to return to the Arts Centre?
Steve: Colchester Arts Centre is a great venue, the best in the region. It’s the perfect size, has a nice sized stage with a great sound, and generally has a good turnout for metal shows. Saturday 20th September should be a great night. Winterfylleth are an excellent band, and it’s ideal for us to return there with them. Hopefully there’ll be a good crowd and if Bloodstock is any indication, both ourselves and Winterfylleth will deliver a great night’s entertainment for everyone there.
(More info and tickets here)
Jack: Lots of bands say there is a certain security about playing gigs in the home territory, do you agree?
Steve: Maybe, but we’re happy playing anywhere. We headed over to Swansea and played with Desecration and it was a very good gig. We’ve set a benchmark at the Fen gig and then at Bloodstock, and we have to raise it each time, not just match it, but set out to be better than the last time, every time. So far we’re doing that.
Jack: Your latest release The Deficiencies Of Man has a more death metal influenced sound that Bleeding the Ascension. Was this intentional?
Steve: Paul and Barney coming into the fold and making this a proper band rather than a project gave us an extra intensity and aggression, and really fired us up when writing the new songs, and I think that translates into the songs we wrote for The Deficiencies Of Man. Barney’s a beast of a drummer and brought an extra push to the existing songs, and that then translated into the new material too as everything was flexed, and the boundaries were pushed. It was also the first time Paul had contributed riffs and ideas to the writing process for The King is Blind.
There was such a buzz amongst us about being a band that in our first rehearsal together as a result of a pure adrenaline shot we wrote ‘A Thousand Burning Temples’. A real blistering, powerful, aggressive track, but with hooks too. And that’s important; it still has to be a song. Anyone can blast, but you still have to want to listen to it again and again and again, and we want to mix in groove and melody.
While Bleeding the Ascension (reviewed here) was a starting point, The Deficiencies Of Man is us setting a marker and refining and defining the sound. Was it intentional to be harder? Yes. To show more aggression? Yes. To be more “death metal”? Not necessarily. But what The Deficiencies of Man does is what we wanted it to, it establishes that benchmark. It shows people that The King Is Blind has death metal, doom metal, classic metal, black metal in our veins, but also that we can write good, interesting and varied extreme metal songs.
Jack: What was the reason to re-record ‘Revelation, Apocalypse’ for the new release? Were you unhappy with the way it came out on Bleeding?
Steve: Not at all, I like both versions. There were technical reasons, but the main thought behind re-doing it is that Bleeding The Ascension was a promo and ‘The Deficiencies Of Man’ is an official fully fledged release, and we love that track and wanted it on there. Also there’s a different nuance to how it’s played with the full band to how it was originally recorded, that we thought warranted re-recording, along with a couple of production ideas, such as using a proper acoustic guitar for the mid-section.
Jack: Do you or will you play any covers live at all?
Steve: Never say never, but we don’t have any current plans to. We would rather play our own material in the limited time slots we have to impress. Playing someone else’s song means leaving one of ours out.
Jack: Last time we spoke you said the European bands had been leading the way for the last couple of years, but at Bloodstock this year Bloodshot Dawn and Evil Scarecrow (two underground bands that use Kickstarter) drew two of the biggest crowds of the weekend despite starting at 11am. Do you think Britain is catching up with Europe now?
Steve: (Laughs) I’m guessing we’re seeing Britain as separate to Europe? No, that’s fair, and musically it’s definitely fine to do so. As I said before, it’s less about where a band is from these days. Britain is, as Britain does. I was impressed with Bloodshot Dawn and there are some thoroughly great British bands out there, Winterfylleth, Ageless Oblivion, Fen, Bast to name but a few.
It’s not a competition, but there are very few bands from these shores to have made an impact since the ’90s and the Peaceville 3 (Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Anathema). It’s overdue and we want to make that statement step. There’s a huge British metal heritage to follow in the footsteps of, from Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest via Sabbat up to My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost and Anathema. The time is right for someone from this isle to continue that legacy, and we’re going to do our damnedest to do that. But it’s not about us or our influences or contemporaries being confined to our home country. Music is global, the opportunities are there to spread the word outside the UK, so why not…
Jack: Is Kickstarter or similar crowdfunding projects something you’d consider using at some point in the future? A lot more bands are self-signing and releasing albums through Kickstarter, some bands even state the record label is not needed anymore as bands can obtain more money through it. Is this the future or are record labels still valuable?
Steve: Doing a band is not about making money. Could we get more money doing ‘The Deficiencies Of Man’ as a self-release? Absolutely, but that isn’t what it’s about. But we’re not averse to crowd-funded as an option, or self-releasing as you know from the ‘Bleeding…’ promo.
We chose to work with Mordgrimm on this release as they are a very respected label that were very keen to work with us while exerting no influence on the musical side of things. Perfect. For the next release and into the future we will consider what is most suitable to us out of the options available. We’re in a good position.
Jack: Do you guys have jobs outside of the band?
Steve: Absolutely. We couldn’t afford to do the band if we didn’t. You have to go into this with your eyes open – there are very, very few bands out there who make enough to earn a living. Music, Metal, is a passion, but it doesn’t pay the mortgage.
Jack: Are any of the members involved with other musical projects outside The King is Blind?
Steve: Barney in particular is quite prolific, but we all have bits going on in music one way or another outside of The King Is Blind. It’s cool. We’re secure enough for it not to be a problem.
Jack: Aside from T-shirts, will there be any more merchandise available in the future like hoodies?
Steve: One thing at a time, but, yes, definitely. We have stickers and badges of the very popular King Skull design and we’ll be looking to expand the range of our merchandise soon. Hoodies are definitely on the agenda, but as with the King Skull shirt, it has to be of a certain quality.
Jack: Is it too soon to be thinking of releasing more music, a full album perhaps? What is the plan for the band in 2015?
Steve: Not at all. In fact, we’re in full-on writing mode for the album, pulling ideas and plans together at the moment, taking stock of what we’ve got and what we want to say with it. We’re acutely aware that none of what we have achieved so far means anything if we don’t deliver an album that blows everything away that we’ve done so far.
Our priority between now and the end of the year is to write an incredible album. Then our priority will be to record an incredible album. That’s the pressure we’re putting ourselves under, and everything we’re achieving with The Deficiencies of Man is further inspiration – an extra level to begin from and to rise to. We want to take all the elements about who we are, both as a band and as people, and to arrange them into something immense. Something lasting, something fitting of the legacy of 45 years of British metal.
The King Is Blind are:
Lee Appleton – Guitar
Steve Tovey – Bass / Larynx & Pharynx
Paul Ryan – Guitar
Barney Monger – Drums