Lee Fitzsimmons indulges in a bit of pub chat with ONSLAUGHT guitarist ANDY ROSSER-DAVIES about early mornings, his penchant for fromage and something you don't see in every moshpit!
Life takes you down some quite obscure pathways at times doesn't it? Every so often one of those turns heads in a direction you never thought you would go down. So, when I was offered the chance to interview Andy, a member of one of my favourite thrash Metal bands, Onslaught, I had a moment of revelry before accepting.
Since joining the band in 2008, guitarist Andy Rosser-Davies has become an integral part of the ongoing Onslaught saga and one, I'm happy to say, I managed to drag to the Swan Inn in Liverpool for a moment, or thirty, of his time.
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After a period of settling in, during which time we encountered a noisy ice bucket, staring fans and an entire floor of the bar being lent to us for the interview, both Andy and myself got down to brass tacks, tackling the important issues. These contained such classics as his love of cheese, hatred of early mornings and a certain incident with a wheelchair-bound fan that he was kind enough to share. More on all of that later.
Once we'd established he was doing fine and that the previous night in Swansea, the major determining factor was "loud, sweaty, loud, loud, sweaty and loud again", we took ourselves on a nice little detour about what a great thrash Metal set should be like: LOUD AND SWEATY!
We also touched upon the subject of this being his first time in Liverpool and how he was hoping to see the sights, although I felt the need to impress upon him the only sight worth seeing was the pub we were in.
Steaming ahead into some meaty questions, I asked him about the new tour and how their new addition, Mike Hourihan, was working out for them:
"Really well. Mike came after Steve decided he didn't want to do it anymore, I guess, and he did the European 'Scream For Violence' tour, and he is doing, obviously, this one as well. Yes, it just worked out really, really well, you know? Everybody's saying how much energy there is and how loud it is. Yeah, very good."
Digging a little further I wanted to find out the backroom buzz and feeling about the tour in general, and his opinion on how it's going overall:
"The European tour went really well and was a kinda comeback to the UK for our first headline tour here for quite a while. The response has been exceptional really. We are kind of stoked about how good the turnouts are, and the reaction we are getting is fantastic. Such a range, even though it's the 'Scream For Violence' tour, we try and play a bit of everything I guess, so that way we get new stuff and sort of stick to the older material too."
This, obviously, led to a discussion on the New Wave Of Thrash Metal and how acknowledging your music history doesn't mean omitting the development of new stuff. Feeling the need to be such a nosy git, I decided to ask what keeps him smiling during tours and what, indeed, hits the reverse:
"Hahahaha, how much time do we have?! The worst thing is early mornings. The rest of the guys aren't too bad, but I hate them!"
And the best Andy?:
"The best things? Ok - sounding cheesy, I guess, but it's just getting the reaction off people, meeting people. One thing with Metal and thrash is it's almost a lifestyle choice as much as it is listening to the music. Wherever you go in the world, generally the atmosphere is still the same."
Again, the discussion meandered towards my desire to chop off his hands and immerse myself in his life. Laughingly, we didn't delve into where those hands had been however. Flying the world doing what you love doing? Who wouldn't want that? And you can tell that Andy enjoys every minute of it. An artist and a fan rolled into one.
Now, being that the British public are nosy bastards, I decided to try and pry into any weird, obscure or downright funny tales from the tours, present and past. I wasn't disappointed with the response:
"Yeah, there are lots of them, obviously, but for legal reasons it's probably best not discussed..."
Come on Andy...:
"..I guess - oh okay. There was one show we did in Holland; I think it was the Dynamo. Well, not the Dynamo, but it was kind of linked with the club you know? We love people going crazy and people enjoying themselves.
"Anyway, to cut a long story short, we where doing this gig outside, and they started a kind of ring and this pit's kicking off, with a couple of thousand people. Then, all of a sudden this guy in a wheelchair gets hoisted above, and he is basically in the pit and people are carrying him along in it! And I looked down and looked back up again and all you can see is them chucking an empty wheelchair around! This guy, man, fair play to him - they picked him up and he was going berserk, he loved it man!"
This was the cue for peals of laughter from Andy, Wendy (who was taking the photographs) and me. Anybody within earshot could not help but laugh. Composing myself, I bravely soldiered on, all the while chuckling away. Can't wait for the memoirs!
Hitting a few questions about how the band tolerates being in such close proximity with other guys for so long, Andy went on to explain:
"I guess it's the same as any kind of relationship you know? Sometimes you get on, sometimes you don't. Sometimes that kind of attitude can actually aid your creativity and sometimes it stifles it. It's something you kind of work through."
This tack led to my follow-up question about their songwriting process, especially on the new album:
"Last album Nige and I wrote. Nige does the lyrics, and then we kind of do a 50/50 on the music. What we did on 'The Sound Of Violence' was decide what kind of album we wanted to make. So that's our kind of template - then we just sat down and crafted it, like: first riff, ok, second riff, next riff, next riff. 'This is wrong', 'that's good'. It was a constant process."
He spent a bit of time apologising for what he called the 'fromage' contained throughout this interview. It was at this point that Gama Bomb decided they wanted to be a part of the interview when they phoned Andy on his mobile. Cool ring-tone! However, we did find out they where thirty miles from the venue.
'The Sound Of Violence' became our next talking point. I wanted to know what had changed since the 'Killing Peace' era:
"Well, there were the personnel changes; obviously, I came in instead of Alan Jordan, and Jeff instead of Jim. I think it was a progression. We just try to make the best record we can and we have exactly the same attitude now. We sit there and think 'right, next record? What do we do?' Well it's got to be better and you've got to push it forward. I'm in the enviable position of actually being a fan and being in the band, so I see each album is a progression. The core of the band is there but there's a progression of improvement each time."
So, what about the inspiration behind the album?:
"I think really it was to make the nastiest record that we could. We were kind of discussing titles, and the actual title says it all. It was 'right, we have to make the most aggressive, abrasive, nastiest thing that we can'. That's what we where aiming for I guess."
After taking a rather perverse pleasure, which I confessed to Andy, of watching him struggle for the right words and my penchant for Metal snobbery (which I have often been accused of), we had a discussion about the lifespan of Onslaught when compared with other, New Wave Of Thrash Metal bands. Touching briefly on the subject of bands that become too commercialised in order to 'make it', it filled me with a sense of pride to acknowledge the integrity and dedication of Onslaught to its music and fans.
Right - spotlight on, pressure time, I decided to get Andy's opinion on something that I have been wondering about for a very long time:
"Andy, you have a packed out Wembley stadium, thousands of Metalheads baying for a tune, and you are told you only have one track to grab them and hook them to Onslaught - which track and why?"
"Ohhhhhhh... Right, I'm going to give you two choices here. The definitive song of the back-catalogue has got to be 'Metal Forces'. I think that's the one that represents the band, however long the band lasts. Personal favourite? 'The Sound Of Violence'. It's a real kind of headbanger thing. Simple and really brutal."
After a few quickfire questions (see below), the interview came to its conclusion, although I would have happily spent the whole evening chattering away like a loon to this fantastically gifted and thoroughly lovely bloke from Swansea.
I thanked him so much for the opportunity to meet up and have a chat, and told him I was really looking forward to the night's thrash festivities!
Metaltalk.net scally Lee with Andy
||DID YOU KNOW...?
As a wind-down to the interview, I threw a few off-the-cuff questions at Andy:
L: "Bacon on toast or sausage on toast?"
A: "Bacon sandwich." (What a diva! Choosing off the list!)
L: "Beer or spirits?"
A: "Spirits." (So everybody now knows what to get him!)
L: "Dog or cat?"
A: "Cat, although I love dogs too."
L "Favourite guitar?"
A "Well I have to say Dean, nice little plug there."
L: "CD or digital download?"
A: "Digital download." (Ooooh, I much prefer the feel of a CD, although Andy did clarify his answer with "LEGAL digital download!")
L: "Last album ever bought or one that has pride of place? And not one of Onslaughts!"
A: "Tough question. Favourite thrash album is 'Master Of Puppets'." (Andy got a little misty-eyed here - the album obviously means a lot to him.)