In the first of a series of interviews as we countdown the days to Bloodstock 2021, Emily Castles speaks to Jake Wallace, guitarist with Northern Ireland’s Metal to the Masses winners Elder Druid.
MR: Many congratulations on winning Metal 2 the Masses in Northern Ireland – has it fully sunken in?
Thanks very much! Yeah, it has now but it definitely took a few days to come to terms with it. We’ve been attempting to win M2TM for about five years now, so it was nice to finally come out on top!
MR: The M2TM structure was very different this year – can you tell us a bit about how it worked, were you concerned it could impact your chances?
The bands that got through to the semi-finals back in 2020 were all supposed to play a grand final on 10 July in Belfast. It would’ve been eight bands battling against each other for the one place at Bloodstock. Unfortunately, due to Covid, the live final couldn’t go ahead. Instead, James Loveday (of the Belfast-based concert promotion company, The Distortion Project) picked three judges to decide the winner. The vote had to be unanimous and thankfully, the judges picked us.
MR: What did you think of the overall standard in the final?
The standard in Northern Ireland has always been very high. It’s never an easy gig, from the first heats to the semis to the final. There’s never a show that you’d certainly be confident about.
MR: How has the pandemic impacted the band, have there been any particular challenges or hurdles you’ve faced?
It hit pretty hard. We’d released our last album Golgotha back in January 2020 and just managed to squeeze in a European tour in February before the pandemic struck. We had invested a lot of money in merch and vinyl and to this day, we still haven’t been able to have one of those records sitting on a merch table. It was very disheartening but at the same time, we managed to sell a lot of merch over lockdown and that helped recuperate funds to go towards our new album.
MR: You’ve got some brilliant artwork to promote your third studio album, Carcosa. How does the artistic process work?
Cheers! The new cover was created by Kelvin Doran from Serpent Tusk Studio. He’s an Irish artist that we’ve worked with before in the past and he did a tremendous job with the Carcosa cover. We usually come up with a name and a general theme or colour palette and then let the artist expand on that. We gave Kelvin a few pointers, but the finished product was way beyond anything we could’ve imagined.
MR: And what can you tell us about the sound on release of Carcosa?
We’ve been keeping most of the information fairly quiet, but we hope to release it later this year via two different labels in Poland. The first will be the vinyl release via Interstellar Smoke Records and then on CD and tape via Galactic Smokehouse Records. We had hoped to have the album finished this summer but with the pandemic and our other guitarist Mikey having a kid, there’s been a number of delays and drawbacks. Winning M2TM has also added a (very welcome) delay to finishing recording the album because we’ll be rehearsing the set at every practice between now and then! Gotta make sure it’s fine tuned.
MR: You were also shortlisted for the Irish Metal Awards ‘album of the year’ in June for Golgotha. Have you been pleased with how the album has been received?
We were very pleased with how well it did, despite the pandemic. It was the first record we did entirely by ourselves. It was written and recorded in our rehearsal space and mixed and mastered by our bassist Dale. The artwork was incredibly eye-catching, so a lot of people were drawn in by that, but we seemed to have the musical firepower to back up the artwork and keep people interested. It was a very successful record for us and a steppingstone to what we’re doing with Carcosa.
MR: You’ve just announced an Irish tour with Ukraine’s Stoned Jesus in 2022 – are you looking forward to that? And have you got any other gigs or tours planned after Bloodstock?
Of course, can’t wait! I’ve been booking the majority of our shows and tours over the years, so I spend a lot of time trying to find my favourite bands and help them book Irish tours. It means I get to see them and of course, get to play with them – so it’s a win-win. Stoned Jesus was a band that I really got into back in about 2012, and I never thought we’d ever play with a band like that. We also have an Irish tour supporting Conan in May next year so very excited for that. There’ll no doubt be album launch shows and possibly a UK tour in between now and May but that still needs a bit of work to organise.
MR: Is Bloodstock a festival you know well – Have you been as fans?
We’ve all been very aware of the festival over the years but none of us have ever been before. A few of us would normally go over to Desertfest in London as that’s usually more suited to our doom/sludge taste but we’re delighted to have the chance to go to Bloodstock for the first time, and of course play it.
MR: Have you had a look at this year’s Bloodstock line-up, anyone in particular you’ll be hoping to catch?
All of us have varying tastes so we’ll probably be all over the place but for me personally, I’m most excited to see Conjurer, Conan, Therapy?, Napalm Death, Orange Goblin and Judas Priest.
MR: What can fans expect who may be seeing you at Bloodstock for the very first time?
They can expect a heavy, down-tuned sonic assault. We have two guitarists and two bassists, so it’s a very thick wall of sound. We’ve hand-picked one of our best 30 minute sets, and it’s just riffs upon riffs – very little room to breathe so it should be a pretty intense half hour.