Legendary thrash metal heroes Acid Reign rebooted a few years ago and since then they have been thrashing across the UK, laying waste to venues and festivals like it was the 80s all over again. Getting a chance to speak to frontman Howard “H” Smith, we talked about the band’s reboot, playing Bloodstock, the music industry, touring, music compilations and music new and old.
Jack: Hey, thanks for taking the time out of your day to answer my questions. How are you?
Howard “H” Smith (Vocals): I am well, thanks.
Jack: Acid Reign reformed in May 2015, did you expect the reunion to be this successful?
Howard: We didn’t reform, I’m the only original member so this is a reboot of the old band with new members.
Jack: Are you happy with the response to Plan of the Damned?
Howard: Well, it came out 18 months ago and people are still discovering it, that’s the thing with the internet there is so many bands fighting to be heard, so much content that it takes time. We are all VERY happy with it and the response. In fact that goes for the reboot too, people could have moaned and said “it’s just H” but we were honest, we called it a reboot and people have welcomed us with open arms, it’s been great.
Jack: What was the recording process like?
Howard: We went in, did our parts we came out again, job done, no messing. It was after all only one song so not really anything to report. I recorded the vocals in the same studio that the first two Bullet For My Valentine albums were recorded, trivia fans.
Jack: How did your shows alongside Xentrix go?
Howard: They were great, it seems like a lifetime ago!
Jack: What do you like about Xentrix?
Howard: They are great blokes! I’ve known them for years and it was the first time I’ve toured with them. They supported us once back in the day and that was the only show we’d played together so this was cool and surreal 27 years later.
Jack: How did you find playing Bloodstock this year?
Howard: One word. AWESOME. The biggest and best show that AR has ever played, I start buzzing when I talk about it I think I still have some left over adrenaline from that night.
Jack: How surreal was it to find out you broke a record for crowd surfing?
Howard: I wouldn’t say surreal as we have always attracted A LOT of surfers/divers but I think the most startling thing is that we did it given the average age of our fan base. So either the old school is showing the new school what’s up or everyone was just feeling it that night. I think it’s the latter as we have the video footage to prove it.
Jack: What makes Bloodstock such a special festival?
Howard: The size. It is the perfect size, you don’t have to set of half a day in advance to get to another stage. We benefited from that, when our support band Mastodon finished, people had ten minutes to walk a few hundred yards to see us, perfect.
Jack: Lots of thrash/NWOBHM bands are reforming or are experiencing a new wave of popularity. Why do you think this is?
Howard: Well from a thrash band’s perspective I would say that a lot of our audience are hitting 40 and that is when nostalgia really kicks in. Having said that there are also a new wave of kids into the scene who didn’t get to take part in it as they were too young (or not even born!) so a perfect storm of those two factors would be my theory. I could be talking utter bollocks though.
Jack: There’s been talk that lots of bands feel more entitled and are more focused on money than music, would you agree?
Howard: What money? [Laughs]. When you say “more focused on money” what that actually means is “trying to not lose money”. Coming back to the “business” after all these years has given me a window into the world of the modern full-time musician and I honestly do not know how they do it. Around every corner is someone with their hand out wanting a piece. Venues NEVER took a percentage of the merch back in the day, they do now (not ALL venues) because the money isn’t there. So their solution is to take a slice off the band. I would say society in general has become more entitled “what do you mean you want me to PAY for your music?”. When you announce a tour people moan about how you are not playing a gig on their street or on a more convenient day. It is now harder than ever to get people out to live entertainment.
I am also a stand-up and I can say that’s true for comedy too. Bands are only able to make any money by playing live. It also means there is a lot more gigs to choose from with less money about. When we played Camden with Xentrix both Paradise Lost and Annihilator were playing up the street! Having said all that no one has to be in a band so if you can’t make it work, don’t moan just quit. Please don’t think I am moaning! This is just my honest assessment, we all have jobs too so the band is not our living but we can’t afford to throw handfuls of cash away on it either. There may be some entitled bands out there, they are also part of society after all but I have yet to meet one.
Jack: How did you get Plan of the Damned on Speed Kills VII?
Howard: Joel De’ath MFN label manager asked me when I was interviewing him for my podcast (Talking Bollocks) I think we were the first band he asked as it would be a nice tie in with the last release in 92’ which we were also on.
Jack: Do you think there is a greater need for more compilations like Speed Kills?
Howard: I think things like Spotify, iTunes and Pandora means maybe for the old guard yes but for the majority, no. There’s always room for another Speed Kills is what I’m saying!
Jack: How’s production going on the new album?
Howard: Well we only have two finished songs, Plan Of The Damned and a new song that will come out just prior to the April Fools tour. There is lots of music and lyrics but it takes time to marry them all together, we all live so far apart that it just makes things a bit more difficult as none of us have ever written like this before, sending ideas to each other as opposed to working stuff out in a room all together. That makes us sound like a right bunch of old bastards doesn’t it!
Jack: What else do you have planned for the New Year aside from the April Fools Tour?
Howard: Other than the announced shows it will be trying to write that elusive album you were asking about. I can’t see anything coming out until 2018 if I’m honest. There will no doubt be a few more shows and the more gigs we agree to the slower the writing process gets, it’s swings and roundabouts. We are lucky enough to have very quickly acquired a good reputation as a live band and this leads to great stuff like Bloodstock the knock-on effect is that it takes time away from writing. An album will happen eventually, honest.
Jack: The Fear came out in 1989. Looking back how do you feel about the album?
Howard: It’s probably the album I feel the least connection to. The middle child compared to Moshkinstein and Obnoxious, it’s not that I don’t like it but there are a few things on there that I am not overly keen on songwise and my own performance. We only play Humanoia and Life in Forms from it live and I can’t see that changing too much in the future, we’re about getting more new songs in the set as oppose to old ones.
As an album it is very “1989” I think it really does show that we were trying to be as original as possible and bring our own sound to thrash, some of those ideas worked and some… not so much. But we took chances and that is the main thing however at the time journalists couldn’t get past the cover or our live shows being “fun” that was just too contrasting, jarring. I think it’s more appreciated now than it was at the time which is very satisfying.
Jack: Thank you so much for your time and have a good tour!
Howard: No, thank you, hope to see you at one of the dates!