The British band October File is back with a new album, Our Souls To You will be released soon. It comes out in two versions, two producers got the job - and both were too good to be ignored.
The following interview with bassist Steven Beatty was presented to us by their label Candlelight Records. Enjoy reading!
This is the first album to be written and recorded by the same, stable line-up. Has that made a huge difference to the outcome?
It took a long time to get to this point. Me and Matt were the nucleus when we started and Ben's been there since day one. Me and Matt were the organisers in our band and Ben was the organiser in his, so we wanted to get someone else like that to complete it, but we didn't! It's one of those things, when you're in a band and you need a drummer, but he had to go and he did. We just felt that we had to put up with it because although he wasn't perfect, we had a band and you have to get on with stuff. How long do you wait for the right person? It's like falling in love. You can't try to fall in love. It just happens. Then the next guy came along and he was just another nightmare. We're not snobby or up our own arses but we're all decent people and we're interested in talking about events, politics, religion, well the world... and we have adult conversations. We asked him 'What books have you read?' and he said 'What's a book?' Matt kept saying to me, 'Just ignore it, he's a good drummer!', but he didn't do his job so he had to go as well! In the end, John (Watt) came along and it took a while to fit personally with the rest of us because he's a very reserved and quiet character but he clicked and he's the glue now. He's been with us for three years now.
The last album, Holy Armour In The Jaws Of God, looked like it was going to be a huge success for the band, but then you were unable to tour...what happened?
John came in, we did the record and we got some great press and everything was happening, but then I got that ear infection and couldn't tour. I got really bad tinnitus and my hearing specialist just said that I had to lay off it, get used to it and then calm it down, get some earplugs and wait until my ears were strong enough. By the time we got back into things after taking a hiatus, we figured there was no point in touring Holy Armour now. We'd missed the boat on it and there wasn't any point in going out and playing loads of gigs after taking a year and a half off. We might as well use the time to make a new record. The pressure was off. No one was expecting us to play a gig and no one had heard from us in a year and a half, so we just started rehearsing again and then started writing again. It's the first time I've ever been in a band that's had the opportunity to write 30 songs and finish with ten! We threw away so much material and so many ideas and riffs. To his credit, Ben wanted to take total control over writing the lyrics for the first time. We didn't have to say to him 'I've got something written, what do you think of this?' because he already had it covered. John was going home and working out drum patterns and stuff, and we all felt like we were working on something as a unit for the first time, and it was really enjoyable!
Do you all see eye-to-eye on everything when you write songs?
Well, we still had the arguments you'd expect. It wasn't like Some Kind Of Monster because we're not a bunch of muppets like Metallica managed to make of themselves in that movie, but we had some of those moments, like 'Just play the fucking riff!' and all that. But it was an enjoyable experience. When we went in to record it I thought it would turn out really good. We were very hopeful. When it was finished, I went into the studio and John Mitchell had done his work on it and I couldn't believe that it was us. Regardless of how it sounds, we're all really proud of what we've done. We've never been into it for the money or the fame. We can all sit back and say that we've done something we're really proud of and that's good enough for us.
Our Souls To You is a very focused record, but it's diverse too...was that intentional?
Because we'd written it over a long period of time there were all these influences coming in. For instance I was really getting back into anarchist punk, back when we were writing Public Display. Ben and I had been talking about the old '80s days when there seemed to be a whole youth movement that wanted to change the world. He said it was a real shame that he was too young to have been a part of that because that would have been an amazing thing and that you don't even get kids wanting to vote these days! We were discussing this and he seemed like he just wanted to go and have a fucking riot on his own, so let's just write a song about it then! So we talked about doing a song called Riot, but that sounds a bit too '80s and we wanted something a bit more stuck-up, so it became a public display of anger. I said to Ben that it would be so good to just vent your disagreement with everything. So that's one example of the combination of generations and influences that are going on this record.
It must be satisfying to fill a gap, lyrically and conceptually, that few young bands seem eager to fill at the moment...
Not only is that a horrible state of affairs, but it's also what turns me off of a lot of stuff now. All the bands I grew up with, I connected with that music because it connected not only to my ears but my soul and my mind. We just can't write a record about girls. It's not that we're a bunch of depressives, it's that there’s a real anger coming from all four of us and we need to debate and inspire ideas and discussion. I don't want people to turn around and go 'Here's another ten songs about ripping up corpses'. I'm 42, John is 24 and he feels the same way! I would really like to think, in a totally non-pretentious way, that we might inspire someone to think about some things. We're not trying to change anyone's life, but we've got something to say so we're saying it. It doesn't need to be any more than that, and we're certainly not apologising for saying it. If you don’t want to listen, then don't!
Do you think that standing out from the crowd like that has been a hindrance as much as a benefit for you?
Of course it has. Our motivation isn't on the basis of being on the front cover of magazines. As far as we're concerned, we're doing exactly what we want to do. That's our mission statement and we're not interested in doing anything else.
What made you decide to ask both John Mitchell and Justin Broadrick to produce different versions of the album?
Well, we realised on the first two albums where we'd gone wrong on production values. Matt's a unique guitarist because he's really into classic rock stuff and he's a massive Led Zeppelin fan, but then he's really into all of Josh Homme's stuff and then he really likes Big Black, early Stranglers, Killing Joke and all that, which makes for a great combination of styles and he's a very good guitarist. Then you've got Johnny who's a really serious metal drummer, a technical drummer. We've got two camps, basically. John and Ben are younger and more into contemporary metal stuff and they want a big production to bring that out, while me and Matt were thinking that we wanted to strip it down, lay it bare and have it as raw as possible, like a 1982 production or something. As far as me and Matt are concerned, we'd like it to be more like a live band in a room. Anyway, I knew Justin Broadrick and Matt and I really like Godflesh, so we said 'Why don't we ask him?' We sent him the songs to see what he thought of the material and that was it, so he did his version of the album. So that satisfied both camps in the band. From a listener's point of view, if you're a metal fan getting into us, you've got this big rock record to get into. But we also appeal to a lot of people to the left hand side of that, fans of Killing Joke, Fear Factory, Big Black, the indie crowd. I've got mates that are into metal that think we're brilliant, and I've got mates that aren't into metal at all that think we're brilliant. So we wanted to satisfy both camps in the band and both camps that like us. You get the double-disc for the price of one album. We didn't raise the price to compensate.
Is this something you will repeat in the future?
On the next record, you'll probably see more of a combination of both sides of our sound. Ben and John aren't really that keen on the Broadrick mixes, but they're warming to them. I think we all like both sides to some degree. Maybe it's part of our evolution to find some agreement beforehand and settle on a mixture. Maybe it's helping to define where we're going. Bands need to find new ideas all the time. I listen to the Broadrick mixes and I think 'That's pretty mental!' There's a hell of a lot of clanking going on there! But as far as we're concerned, it's one record and we don't want to see the Broadrick version as a secondary disc or a side issue, because we actually think it's better to say that the album stands as it is. The album is those songs repeated. Some people won't see that, but then some people are stupid. As a band you put yourself out there and some people will love you and some will hate you. We're just throwing the record out there and you can rest assured that whatever people say about it, we won't be that bothered! I'm not there to pander to idiots. I'm there to satisfy myself.
Now that you're ready to hit the road and tour properly this time round, what kind of bands do you see yourself playing with? Do you care?
We played a show with Nashville Pussy recently, and you couldn't get more of a contrast, but people really liked it. It's a funny thing, being a musician and walking on stage and expecting people to hate you, but they didn't! If we are a band that juxtaposes itself into many things, then that's great. I don't say I'm a metalhead, I'm a fan of music. I'll listen to Discharge or Public Image or Bigelf or Fear Factory. I just like really good music. I think Bryan Adams' Run To You is a great record. I like Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen, but I don't want to buy all of his other records. We can play with anyone and that's a good thing. For the first time we've been getting lots of offers for things, which is great. More will happen when the record's out because we've either been written off or forgotten and the new record has been received fantastically well and that's hugely positive. We just did the tour with Fear Factory, so it's just beginning. I see this as the real beginning of October File. We've defined ourselves with this record and we're going to get a broader appeal than before. We can move on from here. And if we don't, we don't! I can't think of any better reason to be in a band than to be with my friends and make good music. I don't give a damn about being famous and I don't give a damn about a different career or anything. I just really like being in October File. I love what we do and we're good at it. As long as we all enjoy doing it, I'll be happy.
Victor Safonkin has created another stunning album cover for Our Souls To You... did you ever consider using anyone else?
It would be hard not to use Victor. How do you follow on from the Holy Armour cover without him? A picture of a Ford Fiesta? Ha ha! The thing is, he sums us up really well and it's great. Victor floats between worlds and they must be really fantastic worlds because his imagination is just incredible. We found that the image suited the religious theme of the title, although it still amazes me that people don't understand what Our Souls To You means...
Yes...arseholes to you!
Some people still don't get that! Ha! Victor just fits really well. The artwork looks all serious yet it's bananas, but it works. If people don't get that we're saying 'arseholes to you!' then they're definitely not going to understand the cover or why there's some guy carrying a massive fish! Ha ha ha! It's just incredible. We thought about doing something else this time, but what could we do? His imagination is unquestionably fantastic, but he also has this amazing ability to paint! He's up there with any classic artist. It's skilful. It's not just a picture of a Campbell's soup can, this is real. It's the difference between someone playing three chords in a punk band and some kind of Beethoven-type guy. He's incredible. He's the same as what we're trying to do as a band. We're trying to be unique and to be the best we can be all the time. Who wants to sound like every other generic heard-it-all-before band? And there are plenty of them about...
Thanks to Candlelight Records and Steve Beatty for enlightening us about Our Souls To You!