Karl Willets is a legend. The man has created timeless death metal with Bolt Thrower and will no doubt do that again with his latest band Memoriam. Getting the chance to speak to the great man, I asked him questions about his new band’s origin, writing new music, their first gigs, Bolt Thrower, their future plans and Brexit.
Jack: Hello, thanks for taking the time to speak to me. How are you doing?
Karl Willets (Vocals): Hi there Jack, all is good – relaxing in the sun and recovering from the weekend’s excess of Obscene Extreme festival!
Jack: You said in an interview with Terrorizer that you really wanted to play again with former Bolt Thrower drummer, Andy Whale. Why did you have such a desire to play with him again?
Karl: It was really important for me to work with Whale again, he was the reason that I joined Bolt Thrower in the early days – when we both left in 1994 we tried to do a couple of other bands but it never really worked out! We saw each other but not so often after that. When I was thinking about starting up a new band I was not sure if Whale would be interested, he had not played drums for some time, so when he agreed to do it I was really chuffed! He is one of my oldest mates and we have a special bond! It’s great to see him behind the kit again after all these years. In fact I would say he is better now than he was back in the day!
Jack: Alongside Andy Whale there is Frank Healy from Benediction and Sacrilege, but also Scott Fairfax who used to be in Life Denied and Benediction (live only). How did Scott end up joining?
Karl: I always wanted to play in a band with Frank, we have talked about it on numerous occasions over the years and never got around to it, so he was the first and obvious choice when we got Memoriam together. We knew of Scott as he had recently played with Benediction on their South American tour, he only played with Benediction in a live capacity only! We knew that he got on okay with Frank – so Whale approached him, at the time I did not really realise how good he was and certainly did not anticipate the strength of his songwriting abilities. He really adds something special to what we are doing – the songs we are creating all come from Scott – he really is helping to create the sound of Memoriam in a huge way! Chuffed that we found him!
Jack: How did the first practice go?
Karl: Really well, we have the wonderful world of technology to help with this process nowadays so before we got into rehearse Scott was sending us MP3 clips of ideas to work on, so we had the basis for three songs before we even started! The chemistry between us all works really well too – we have loads of ideas – some work some don’t but we have created a space where we can try out these ideas which is very exciting! There is a lot of creative freedom among us!
Jack: You’ve said in an interview that the process has come together a lot quicker than expected. Why has this happened?
Karl: It really has. We have achieved a hell of a lot in the 7 months that we have been together as a band, recorded a demo, released a 7″ single, signed to a label, numerous festival shows lined up – it’s all happened real fast! I think that this is all down to our desire to get things going and using our experiences of over 30 years in the industry it has all paid off well for us. We are really enjoying doing Memoriam – it is a real pleasure.
Jack: You’ve just signed to Nuclear Blast. What drew you to working with Nuclear Blast?
Karl: When we first got together we originally toyed with the idea of setting up our own label and releasing it ourselves – however, we discussed the option of label support and decided at an early stage that if Nuclear Blast approached us we would sign to them. We all go back a long way with the guys that run the label and have seen how they have grown over the years whilst others have diminished. Frank has always had a good working relationship with them and we are pleased to be on their artist roster!
Jack: You’re about to enter the studio to record some material. Are you excited to be recording again?
Karl: That’s right we are booked into Hellfire studios where we recorded the demos in late September/early October – really looking forward to getting in there and laying down the new tracks that we have created, for me writing new songs is always the most exciting part about being in a band and I really enjoy the creative process of recording them – can’t wait to unleash them upon the world!
Jack: Will any cover songs be on the album or will it just be original material?
Karl: No cover songs on the album, just our own material – we may decide to throw in a couple of covers as bonus tracks – however, we are undecided on this at the moment!
Jack: In the Terrorizer interview you said you’d be performing some cover songs live from your other bands. Is this still the plan?
Karl: Absolutely, we are proud of our musical heritage so we intend to play a few songs from the bands that we have all been involved in definitely at this point!
Jack: When can we see a release date for Memoriam’s debut?
Karl: The debut album is set for release sometime early in 2017.
Jack: Your first show was at Obscene Extreme in Czech Republic. How did it go?
Karl: For our first show it went really well considering that people do not even know the songs we play yet – but generally speaking we are satisfied with how it went!
Jack: You’re also playing Bloodstock in August. Are you looking forward to playing the songs on UK soil?
Karl: It will be nice to do a show in the UK to play to our family and friends here!
Jack: Bolt Thrower are one of the most requested bands to play Bloodstock, would you like to bring Bolt Thrower to Bloodstock when appropriate?
Karl: No, I do not think that Bolt Thrower will ever play Bloodstock.
Jack: Did you have a good time playing Damnation Festival two years ago?
Karl: That was a killer show and we really enjoyed it – the attendance was amazing the hall was totally packed when we played!
Jack: Are you amazed at how in demand Bolt Thrower as a live act are in the UK?
Karl: Not really, Bolt Thrower have been doing it for some time now and very rarely play in the UK, so when Bolt Thrower do a show in the UK it is always a special event!
Jack: What has been a career highlight for you?
Karl: There are many! I think they are usually the first time occurrences – like hearing Bolt Thrower on the John Peel radio show in 1987. First time in the studio, first gigs in Europe, America and Australia! Being able to form a new band is definitely a highlight for me also!
Jack: Will we see any tours in 2017 for Memoriam?
Karl: Memoriam will play selective shows and festivals at weekends depending on what we are offered – we do not intend to go on tour.
Jack: Finally, what’s your take on the recent decision to leave the EU?
Karl: Well, I am totally devastated by the decision to leave the EU – for me it is important to be within the EU and I was a firm supporter of the remain campaign. It has divided the nation and in my opinion the vote was decided through the deliberate lies of the right-wing media, manipulating people’s fears of immigration. It would seem that the votes of the older generations (above the age of 60) have decided the future for the younger generations. It is ironic that most of the areas that voted to leave are areas heavily dependent of EU subsidy – I am interested to see where that money will come from now – most probably the UK taxpayer! Sickened and angered by the decision.
Jack: Thank you very much for your time and I hope the album goes well.
Karl: Nice one Jack, thanks for your support!