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  INTERVIEW WITH HELL TO PAY

Johnny Main

johnny main

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hell to pay

As part of an ongoing series of exclusive MetalTalk Interviews, we speak to up and coming Hard Rock/Metal band Hell To Pay about them and what drives their ambition, a chat about their career so far and what their aspirations for the future are.

The members come from all over the UK and the band was formed in Manchester in 2008, but the origins of Hell To Pay date back to 2005. As guitarist Dario Nikzad explained to me: "(Vocalist) Daniel Martin and myself both moved to Manchester to study at University, and we ended up in the same halls of residence. It didn't take us long to have our amps stacked up in the Common Room and we were jamming out over songs like 'Purple Haze' and whatever else we both knew for hours – looking back now, I just hope that a few people who were there appreciated the shred!"

Nikzad continues: "We started working on some tunes back then but that was soon cut short when we both decided what we were studying wasn't actually for either of us. It wasn't till a couple of years later and we were both studying for music degrees that we met up again and began working on songs together again."

Article continues below...

   


With regards to recruiting the rest of the current band, Nikzad explains: "Tom (drummer Tom Henstock) was actually in a band that opened for us one night and myself and Dan both thought he had loads of potential, and our drummer at the time, who's now our sound engineer actually, had to quit unexpectedly a week before a show, so we gave Tom a ring, he nailed the set in a week and he's been with us ever since."

As for recruiting a bass player for the band, Nikzad describes filling the vacant position as "a nightmare! Just think Spinal Tap drummers, but worse! Stuart Robertson was actually well known to us and when our previous bassist let us down a couple of weeks before a tour, he was pretty much the first and only person we could think of. Over the last ten months or so though he's totally made the position his own and it's been awesome to have him around."

Moving on to late 2008 and the band had been writing and rehearsing for a couple of months: "Actually we'd recorded a demo which was for sale by the time we played our debut live show at The Ruby Lounge in Manchester city centre," explains Nikzad. At this point, though, the band were playing under the moniker of Balls Deep. When asked where the name came from Nikzad explains: "We couldn't agree on a name and generally thought it would be hilarious to force Dan to introduce us as Balls Deep – actually, we've got a couple of friends who refuse to call us anything else!"

hell to pay

"Someone's probably still got that demo," jokes Nikzad, before adding: "Fast forward a couple of months and we'd changed our name and played our first proper Hell To Pay show at The Roadhouse in Manchester." I ask him what prompted the name change to which he explained: "It didn't really fit with the material... if we ever decide to form a comedy rock band side project a la Tenacious D though, you know what it'll be called!"

As far as the band are concerned, they have come a long way since then including the release of an EP in 2011 called 'So Far So Good'. I ask Nikzad about the reaction to that first foray into proper recording to which he replies: "It was brilliant. All the feedback we got in terms of reviews was really positive, which gave us the confidence to really go out there and try and make this work. The EP was recorded for nothing and we were pretty much left to write, record and produce it ourselves, which was a bit daunting at first, but we have a few people to thank for their help in putting it all together."

Since then, the band have recorded their debut album, 'Judgement Day' (released in May 2013), which Nikzad is keen to point out was recorded on their own terms. "There's been no compromise in terms of material - these are simply songs done in the way we wanted to (have them). I think that's the most important thing to all of us in the band. We've toured the country extensively, I don't think there's a town, let alone city, we haven't visited, and we've had an awesome time meeting some great and often outlandish people along the way. Leighton Buzzard... you're in a league of your own with that one!" he jests.

"Along the way, though", he says, "we've had the chance to play some great shows, occasionally in front of thousands of people and play alongside some great bands – including a personal hero of mine in Paul Gilbert (guitarist for Racer X and Mr. Big), but hopefully all that is just the beginning!", Nikzad says enthusiastically.

Having the experience of writing and recording original material, I ask Nikzad about the songwriting process within the band: "Dan's the epi-centre for a lot of the material" he confirms. "A lot of the initial ideas, whether they're melodies or riffs generally come from him, although I'd like to think I've added at least a part to most of the songs! Once Dan has got a rough idea pieced together, that's when the two of us will sit down and go through it as a unit to work out the arrangement, any additional parts and concepts production-wise and then bring it to the rest of the band... when all of that work probably goes out the window and everything changes!" says Nikzad.

"Thematically, we've got a pretty broad range of ideas," Nikzad goes on to explain. "With the album, for example, we cover some pretty expansive topics like war whereas we've also tried to cover some much more specific personal issues like confrontation, doubt and betrayal to name a few. It makes us sound a bit melancholy describing it like that," Nikzad explains further, "but we just wanted to tackle serious issues that people could relate to, and I suppose some of those things are linked to love in a way".

"With the material that we produced for the EP, we got pigeonholed as some sort of Sleaze/Glam band, which considering the material was probably fair (at the time), and without being disrespectful to the genre - there's a lot of bands from it we love - we felt we had more to offer than just that", Nikzad says. "A lot of the inspiration comes from real life events – I would say at least half the songs on the album are in some way semi-autobiographical. Having said that, sometimes we've just got a specific idea or concept in mind and other ideas might come from some films or literature that we just like the story of - we don't really do politics though!" he affirms with a smile.

From here, it makes sense to approach the band's musical influences, and I mention that on their Facebook page, the band have listed the likes of Whitesnake, Deep Purple, Megadeth and Iron Maiden right through to Mr Big and Extreme as being bands that inspire them, but how do these bands influence the performance and songwriting within Hell To Pay now and in the future?

"To be honest I think that list is a little dated now," says Nikzad, "although the majority of those artists do definitely still apply, there's just a lot more to be added. I think those bands have all had a different impact on the way we write and perform and if I was to analyse it properly we could spend hours and hours explaining that.

"Essentially though, like the majority of newer bands, we just tried to take the things we liked most about our favourite artists, gel them together and put our own spin on them. It's pretty difficult to say how specific artists have influenced us, but I like to think there's a lot of variety on 'Judgement Day' - it's an album which covers the classic rock/Metal spectrum.

"Fundamentally, though, we thought if we had some Ronnie Dio/David Coverdale type vocals, with some Megadeth riffage, add in some lead guitars in the vain of Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme) and Paul Gilbert, with an occasional nod to Thin Lizzy in the harmony department. And added together with some melodic bass and some pummeling drums - not only would we enjoy the tunes we came out with, but hopefully a few other people would too. We don't think we're on par with the bands I've discussed they're just the standard we're aiming to reach."

"From a live aspect too", Nikzad explains further, "we just want to go out and have a good time! We didn't want to be one of those moody bands that seemed to hate performing. (To us) playing live is the main reason we're in this business, and as you can probably tell from the ridiculous faces we pull on stage we really do try and enjoy ourselves. So naturally we've probably learnt a lot from watching bands like Queen, Iron Maiden, Steel Panther and AC/DC. I think it's safe to say we all wish we had (AC/DC vocalist) Brian Johnson's swagger!"

I ask Nikzad if the band have any upcoming releases planned, to which he replies: "Our debut album is winging its way to an online record store near everyone with a computer very soon. We've done a limited edition run of physical copies as well, which you'll be able to get from our online store. The official video for the title track is up on our Youtube page NOW!"

I mention that the band secured a support slot for Snakecharmer (featuring ex-Whitesnake members Micky Moody and Neil Murray along with Adam Wakeman (Ozzy Osbourne Band) and Harry James (Thunder) at the Manchester Academy and ask Nikzad how this came about?

"We've played a lot of shows over the last few years and fortunately for us their F.O.H engineer and chief at STS Productions Pete Dutton has been at a couple of them, and was kind enough to organise it for us."

I also ask him which other gigs they have lined up for later this year? "We've got a few festival dates and mini tours lined up over the summer and then we're looking at doing three or four major shows before then end of the year. A couple are in the pipeline and a couple are confirmed but we can't say anything just yet but keep an eye on our website for details!

"Next year is really starting to come together though," he continues, "with hopefully our first foray abroad and we've already been confirmed for a spot on the main stage at the Hard Rock Hell AOR Festival March next year."

So for someone who's not been to a Hell To Pay live show before, what can they expect? "An honest, gutsy all out rock show," he says quite firmly. "Like I've said before, playing live is what we all really just want to do, but It takes a lot of work just to get there at this level. So when we finally get on up on stage we really try and make the most of it. If our hands aren't blistered and our voices aren't croaking by the end of the show, then you haven't been to a proper Hell To Pay show!"

Winding up the interview, I ask Nikzad what he (and the rest of the band) want to realistically achieve? "Realistically is a pretty unrealistic word when it comes to being in a band," he corrects me. "If there are any bands out there who don't dream of being successful, going on big tours and getting to just live as musicians then I presume they're the one who don't make it!.

"That's what keeps you going when you literally spend a night playing to one man and his dog - and we've genuinely been there", he says. "We'd be happy to just make a living from doing this but I don't think there's a limit on what we want to achieve."

All is can say to the band is good luck and all I can say to you, the reader, is to go and check out Hell To Pay!

You can watch the official video for 'Judgement Day' here:



You can see Hell To Pay live here:
Saturday 27th July - Blackthorn Music Festival, Compstall
Saturday 24th August - The Beer Engine, Coventry
Sunday 25th August - Meat Grinder Festival, Stafford
Friday 30th August - The Hairy Dog, Derby
March 2014 - HRH AOR, Haven Hafan y Môr Holiday Park, Pwllheli

Hell To Pay are:
Daniel Martin – Vocals/Guitar
Dario Nikzad – Guitar
Stuart Robertson – Bass
Tom Henstock – Drums

Online:
Official Website: http://www.helltopayband.co.uk/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/helltopayband

Thanks to Dario Nikzad and the rest of Hell To Pay for their time.

All pictures/Images are © Hell To Pay 2013.

16.7.2013




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The track is taken from the album 'Maximum Overload', which will be released in August...

motorhead aftershock MOTÖRHEAD RELEASE 'AFTERSHOCK - TOUR EDITION' ON 7TH JULY
The album is released with a live CD. It proves one major thing no-one should ever forget...they are Motörhead, and they play rock'n'roll!...

grave GRAVE REISSUE 'SOULLESS' ON VINYL ON JULY 14
The limited editions of the third album by the Swedish Death Metal act are issued in several colours...

wolf WOLF ANNOUNCE DETAILS FOR NEW ALBUM 'DEVIL SEED'
All the elements are aligned for this fierce slab of pure Heavy Metal mayhem...

darkest era DARKEST ERA RELEASE VIDEO FOR 'BEYOND THE GREY VEIL'
Watch the thematic centerpiece for the album 'Severance' right here...

hordes of belial DEF CON ONE ANNOUNCED AS HEADLINERS FOR HORDES OF BELIAL V: A 2014 SCOTTISH EXCLUSIVE
The Geordie quartet will play the Dundee event along with other high quality Metal bands...

sikth SIKTH ANNOUNCE HEADLINE TOUR OF THE UK
"We decided we had to do a full UK tour, just one show was never gonna be enough for us... Also we aim to add some 'never played before live songs' too"...

tankard TANKARD ANNOUNCE HILARIOUS NEW ANIMATED VIDEO FOR 'FOOLED BY YOUR GUTS'
The latest track from 'R.I.B.' (Rest In Beer) has been created by producers from The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology...

dead daisies THE DEAD DAISIES ANNOUNCE US SUMMER DATES WITH KISS & DEF LEPPARD
The band are ready to "bring some some kick ass, analog rock and roll music to all of you with the legendary KISS and Def Leppard and help make your summer as memorable as possible"...

suicide silence SUICIDE SILENCE ANNOUNCE ONE-OFF INTIMATE UK SHOW AT THE BORDERLINE, LONDON
The Borderline show is on 27th June. The Metal heavyweights will also headline Yorkshire's Ghostfest on 28th June...

Eluveitie ELUVEITIE RELEASE FIRST SINGLE 'KING' ONLINE, TAKEN FROM THEIR FORTHCOMING ALBUM 'ORIGINS'
The Swiss Folk-Metallers release a mighty tale of the historical figure Ambicatus...

sikth UK TECH-FEST WELCOMES THE GODFATHERS OF UK TECH-METAL SIKTH TO THE BILL
Djent monsters Monuments and acoustic guitar master Jon Gomm also join the line up...

escape the fate ESCAPE THE FATE ANNOUNCE UK TOUR FOR OCTOBER 2014
Now it is time for UK audiences to get their first look at the new look Escape The Fate...

anthrax ANTHRAX ANNOUNCE LIMITED EDITION COLOURED VINYLS AS PART OF THRASH BACK CAMPAIGN
Celebrate 30 years of Thrash with reissues from Anthrax and other classic bands...

gatecreeper GATECREEPER RELEASE VIDEO FOR THEIR SELF TITLED EP
'Force Fed' is available as one of the tracks on the pay what you want download...

jonny morelli JONNY MORELLI, DRAUGR DRUMMER DIES IN CAR ACCIDENT
Condolences start to pour in for the musician, tattoo artist and writer...

at the gates AT THE GATES ANNOUNCE FIRST EVER IRISH SHOW, BLOODSHOT DAWN TO SUPPORT
Swedish Melodic Death Metal pioneers to play Dublin in January 2015...

nita strauss ALICE COOPER ADDS NEW GUITARIST NITA STRAUSS TO LINEUP FOR 2014 SUMMER/FALL TOURS
The LA guitar wiz will join the tour in Michigan on June 26...

whitechapel WHITECHAPEL PREMIERE NEW VIDEO 'WORSHIP THE DIGITAL AGE'
The clip is the first full performance video from 'Our Endless War' and was directed by acclaimed director David Brodsky...

behemoth BEHEMOTH, DECAPITATED & GRAND MAGUS ANNOUNCED FOR DECEMBER TOUR
A chance for the UK to see 'The Satanist' performed in all its hellish glory...

steel panther STEEL PANTHER ANNOUNCE THEIR BIGGEST EVER UK TOUR
The dates include a night at the legendary Wembley arena in March 2015...

alestorm ALESTORM UNVEIL NEW MUSIC VIDEO FOR 'DRINK'
If you need a new anthem of the summer then look no further...

rik mayall RIK MAYALL'S 'NOBLE ENGLAND' SONG HEADING FOR NUMBER ONE SPOT AS ENGLAND'S WORLD CUP ANTHEM
The beloved late comedian looks set to storm the UK Top 10 with his lost anthem...

red dragon cartel EXCLUSIVE: RED DRAGON CARTEL GIGS BACK ON - BAND TO PLAY MANCHESTER AND BUCKLEY THURSDAY AND FRIDAY
Tickets for both shows will be at the special price of £10 as a gesture to fans who were inconvenienced by last weekend's events...

brutal truth DAN LILKER OF BRUTAL TRUTH INVITES YOU TO OBSCENE EXTREME FESTIVAL
This will most likely be the very last chance fans will get to see Danny and Brutal Truth live in Europe...

belphegor BELPHEGOR PUT THE FIRST 'CONJURING THE DEAD' STUDIO TRAILER ONLINE
The Black Metal giants are gearing up to unleash their tenth album ...

ill nino ILL NIÑO RELEASE ALBUM TITLE AND NEW SINGLE
Every pre-order for Till Death, La Familia will receive an instant download of 'Live Like There's No Tomorrow' and will automatically be entered to win an ESP guitar autographed by Ill Niño. ...

kobra and the lotus KOBRA AND THE LOTUS WILL BE OPENING ACT FOR KISS AND DEF LEPPARD THIS SUMMER
The new album 'High Priestess' will be released in September...

triaxis becky TRIAXIS ANNOUNCE NEW BASSIST & NEW ALBUM PLANS
Outstanding bassist Becky Baldwin joins the Welsh Metallers for third studio album...

rival sons tour RIVAL SONS ANNOUNCE DECEMBER UK TOUR
Following their current run of sold-out dates, the Californians return this winter with their unmissable live show...

spike frankie miller SPIKE ANNOUNCES RELEASE OF '100% PURE FRANKIE MILLER' IN SEPTEMBER 2014
The celebratory album features Ronnie Wood, Andy Fraser, Simon Kirke, Ian Hunter and more...

arch enemy ARCH ENEMY REVEAL NEW VIDEO FOR 'NO MORE REGRETS'
The album 'War Eternal' is out now worldwide and the band hit the road from July to December...

sanctuary SANCTUARY FINISH RECORDING NEW ALBUM AND ANNOUNCE THE RELEASE DATE
'The Year The Sun Died' will be out on September 29th in Europe...

rock metal circus ROCK AND METAL CIRCUS ANNOUNCE NEW VENUE FOR 2015
Roll up to Northants for Voodoo Six, Tygers of Pan Tang, Wolf plus some of the hottest new acts around...

aor 3 NIGHT RANGER TO HEADLINE HRH AOR 3
Adrenaline-fuleed rock and roll is the latest addition to the bill...

alz grinder ALZ-GRINDERS PLAN GRINDING FOR A CURE VOL 4
Over 300 extreme bands have contributed to the fundraising albums so far...

cambridge rock festival LINE-UP FOR CAMBRIDGE ROCK FESTIVAL ALMOST COMPLETE
The main stage is booked and stages 2 and 3 are filling up fast...

headbangers open air ANVIL REPLACE DEATH ANGEL FOR HEADBANGERS OPEN AIR
After Death Angel cancelled their entire European tour, Anvil step in with a special "best of" set...

uli jon roth ULI JON ROTH CANCELS GUITAR GODS DATES IN NORTH AMERICA
It's official - this guitar god has been grounded by visa problems...

joe bonamassa JOE BONAMASSA ANNOUNCES NEW STUDIO ALBUM 'DIFFERENT SHADES OF BLUE'
The new album of all original material lands on 22nd September...

red dragon cartel BREAKING NEWS: RED DRAGON CARTEL ISSUE STATEMENT OVER WOLVERHAMPTON GIG CANCELLATION
The band made a barbed official statement denying the reasons for the cancellation made by the promoter without actually addressing the main issue...

red dragon cartel BREAKING NEWS: RED DRAGON CARTEL CANCEL WOLVERHAMPTON SHOW, REST OF UK TOUR IS OFF, DOWNLOAD IN JEOPARDY
An argument broke out between the band and promoter Denise Dale who was representing Metal Music Bookings and Management...

uli jon roth ULI JON ROTH FACES CANCELLATION OF HIS PARTICIPATION IN GUITAR GODS TOUR
"The tour is in jeopardy...this has never happened in over thirty years of visas"...

les fest wiston LES-FEST ANNOUNCES MAIN STAGE TIMES
Get the latest from Scotland's premier Metal festival right here...

beermageddon METAL FEST BEERMAGEDDON STRENGTHEN THE LINE UP YET AGAIN...WITH EVEN MORE TO BE ANNOUNCED
Jaldaboath, Monumentomb and Furyborn are among the latest additions...

blues pills DORIAN SORRIAUX FROM BLUES PILLS PERFORMS A GUITAR PLAY-THROUGH OF THE BAND'S NEW TRACK
Watch and learn as Dorian deconstructs 'High Class Woman'...

cj wildheart CJ WILDHEART RELEASES FIRST SOLO ALBUM IN SEVEN YEARS
'Mable' is available for pre-order now via Pledgemusic. CJ will also be releasing his own brand of hot sauces this year...

hrh aor3 HRH AOR ANNOUNCE FIRST 10 BANDS
FM, Dare, The Poodles and Starz lead the charge for March 2015...

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