Interview with Scruff Lewty (vocals/guitars) and Paul O’Shea (bass) of Hellbastard

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Hellbastard - LogoInterview by Jason Guest

Jason: Hi. Thanks for taking time out for this interview. The Sons of Bitches EP is a great piece of work (Ed: Jason’s review is here). With ever-widening class division, increasing political deceit, media domination, and rampant capitalism, it appears that Hellbastard will never be short of lyrical inspiration. Hellbastard’s music contains a very serious message. The lyrics on the EP are as vicious and cutting as they have been throughout the band’s existence. Despite centuries of protest and the increasing evidence that they are flawed systems, religion and politics still maintain a powerful position in the twenty first century. Why do you think such institutions can maintain their position?

Scruff: The balance of power is in the hands of few men. The grip of CONTROL is in many hands – the control of multinational companies, serving the dirty hands of corrupt governments, the fear and widespread lies of the fundamentalists within the clergy and religious institutions, the sheer shock-power- tactics of the men and women that are supposed to serve US, the PEOPLE… Remove the FEAR and dumbed-down-media and we may even wake up. We need to be SMACKED HARD in the fucking face to wake up. Humanity is asleep.

Paul: Because it’s human nature to be subservient. It’s always been that way and probably always will be.

Jason: What’s your view on capitalism and its effect on the world (globalisation, for instance) and on the individual?

Scruff: I am sure your readers do not need ME to answer this question, surely your readers are all too aware of what capitalism does to an individual and/or the environment… If NOT then they should be.

Paul: I believe Capitalism to be indicative of human nature. What’s going on now is just a large scale version of what was going on at the dawn of humanity.

Jason: What’s your view on the ‘Occupy’ movement? Does its spread around the world indicate the end of global capitalism, or is it more a case of false hope?

Scruff: We are on the brink of mass worldwide environmental/civil unrest. The question that really shits me up is, how long until we are fighting in the street over a can of beans? There is no ‘middle class’ anymore, and I do not know if there IS still hope. And even if there is, are WE really worth fighting for? (By ‘we’ I mean humanity, not the environment or anything alive OTHER than human beings)

Paul: It is a good intentioned and wonderful thing. Unfortunately, it is futile.

Jason: There are those that take every opportunity to assert that humanity is so weak that domination by capitalist ideology and institutions such as the church is inevitable. Do you agree? And do you ever see this changing?

Scruff: See above.

Paul: It’s not necessarily to do with humans being “weak”, it’s because there is a natural hierarchy. The majority of people, although unaware of it, need leadership and look to “leader figures” for answers.

Scruff - Hellbastard
Scruff – Hellbastard

Jason: Protest songs concerning the state of the world, the environment, and the economy in particular have long been themes in heavy music. Do you think that music has the power to affect or even instigate such a significant change?

Scruff: No, but it is a damn good way forward to education. Knowledge is power, and all that.

Paul: It’s a great way of making people aware of certain issues, for sure.

Jason: Given the effect of the internet and file-sharing on the music industry, what are your thoughts on the near-disappearance of the high street music shop and HMV’s doors closing?

Scruff: I am in two minds on this, I really love INDEPENDENT music trading; HMV has long been in a ridiculous position of charging high prices and over-the-top charges. I guess now they are getting what they deserve.

Paul: I rarely shopped at HMV, unless there was either a sale on, or it was Christmas Eve and I was in desperate need of buying somebody a present.

Jason: What’s your opinion of the internet? Could its subversive potential ever be harnessed for the betterment of society?

Scruff: It already has. Facebook campaigns (et al) have seen massive interest and even legal and publicised court cases decisively executed and justice have on more than one occasion prevailed. I am all for a free platform so people/groups/individuals can voice their concerns and views. 

Paul: It is an amazing thing which has totally changed the world. From a social perspective, it makes it a lot easier to communicate with large groups of people, so I believe it has already bettered society. The ability to communicate information is one of the major factors that has made humans the dominant species on this world. We now have constant access to pretty much all the information in the world, ever. News stories that would never be broadcast on TV and radio are now available to all. It also makes organising band rehearsals a lot easier!

Jason: The internet has had a colossal impact on music. Anyone can write a track, upload it and achieve fame (at least in some form), and anyone can access music anywhere in the world, either by paying for it or otherwise. What’s your opinion of the internet’s effect on music? Is it the modern version of tape-trading?

Scruff: Yes.

Paul: The “industry” has changed and recorded music has become a commodity. This is why tickets for live shows cost more, now. Ten years ago, bands released a record and toured to promote the record. Nowadays, bands give away the record to promote the tour. The industry is still figuring out how to deal with the change.

Jason: Despite the argument that the internet and piracy is having an impact on the music business, bands are being very creative in packaging their music. For instance, vinyl has made a welcome return to the market and all kinds of packages are appearing such as digipacks, picture discs, booklets, etc. Do you think this approach is becoming a necessity for bands to survive?

Scruff: The physical ‘product’ has ALWAYS been a very sought after ‘must-have’ for fans of music. I think the trouble is there are too many useless bands out there: bands with FUCK ALL to say and within the ‘heavy’ genre, bands that are so full of their own self-importance and credulity. When it comes to ‘heavy’ music I fucking despise safety-rock. One of the serious avenues of discussion with vinyl/cd/dvd/ (etc) is OIL… I foresee a massive WAR in Africa… that is where most of the oil reserves are after all. That is scary.

Paul: Certainly not “every band”, but for some bands, maybe so. I think playing shows is the best way.

Jason: Hellbastard “split” in 1992 and “reformed” in 2007/8. That’s a hell of a break. What is it that drives Hellbastard to continue making music today?

Scruff: We ‘officially’ split in 1992 because there was no way in hell we could continue, and besides, the final line up was shit. It was a shame because we wrote the follow-up album to Natural Order entitled Situation Violent. It had some absolute thrash-chugga-tastic riffs on there… Looking back I am glad we did, because I needed that time to make records and tour with other bands I formed – Nero Circus, Sidewinder, King Fuel, Moodhoover, Heavy Water, The Dischargers and a few more projects and studio-only projects. Today we still do ‘it’ because there are still HELLBASTARD songs to write, arrange and record and release… We can tour the world and get by doing that, but nobody knows who we are and yet we always sell lots of albums when we release something new. We are in a weird position for sure. I only write songs for me, no one else. That is what I do. When the day comes that nobody shows an interest anymore we may finally get the hint, and quit.

Paul: I’m pretty sure everyone in the band right now, will be making music until they are unable to do so.

Jason: The Sons of Bitches EP has a new version of ‘We Had Evidence’, originally from your first album. Why did you choose to re-record it twenty two years after its first release? What is it about this track that still resonates with you?

Scruff: It was decided really quite quickly by the line-up that recorded it, and it is always a great song to play live… And I think we did it a kind of justice. The newer version is way better. We like it, basically.

Paul: I think it was Scruff’s idea to re-record it. The new version is way more powerful and demonstrates how strong the current line-up is.

Jason: Not that you shouldn’t of course, but why include a reggae/dub track – ‘Throw The Petrol Bomb’ – on the EP?

Scruff: I had written the lyrics to that ‘piece’ first around two years or longer before we recorded it, I think in 2009. We tried to put a reggae track to it because it seemed the right thing to do. None of us even like reggae, I don’t mind some early Black Uhuru and Benjamin Zephaniah and the reggae tunes that BAD BRAINS do, but we just did it. It worked. The whole point was the lyrics really…

Paul: It started a few years ago. Scruff had the vocal melody and lyrics going around his head throughout the day. He did a little dance and sung it to us at band rehearsal. I put a reggae type bass line to it and it turned into a reggae song! We’d occasionally jam it for a laugh and when it came to doing the new recording, we thought we’d quickly do it at the end of the last day in the studio. We were going to have it as an unlisted “hidden” track, but in the end, we decided to properly include it on the EP, as it’s a fun track.

Paul - Hellbastard
Paul – Hellbastard

Jason: I read in another online interview that you felt that The Need To Kill was rushed and didn’t achieve what you wanted. How do you feel about Sons of Bitches?

Scruff: The best sounding thing we have EVER done is the 2009 Eco-War EP. I think The Need To Kill is awful; digital nightmare/triggered drum-bullshit. It has no soul. The Sons of Bitches EP on the other hand is less generic and more patterned. I have always said a band is only as good as their drummer. Prove me wrong anyone! When we recorded Sons of Bitches we had a great drummer. Admittedly the track ‘System Whore’ is too fast but other than this, tracks like ‘Arcadia’ more than make up for it. I wrote those songs and put much more thought into them, probably because I worked really REALLY well with the drummer. A band is only as good as their drummer. I have a problem in that only a timeframe of two weeks is enough for me to get bored by a recording once it has been mixed. I have always been like that. I am always the one that goes “Ok, that is done. Next.” This is what me and the drummer are doing now, writing new songs, every week – for the next new album. Very happy so far!

Paul: The Need to Kill has awful production but there are some very strong songs on there. Sons of Bitches is a billion times better. It’s the best Hellbastard record that has ever been released.

Jason: What does the future hold for Hellbastard? More music? Another album? Live shows? (Will you be coming to the Midlands? Birmingham?)

Scruff: Another album (Ssssshhh listen, you can hear the audible ‘sighs’ from around the planet…) and a lot more touring… Eventually we want to make HELLBASTARD our ‘day job’ and not the ones we are currently enslaved to. We will definitely be back in the Midlands. For sure.

Paul: All of those things.

Jason: Is Sons of Bitches indicative of what we will be hearing from Hellbastard in the future?

Scruff: Yes and no. I really strived to arrange something ‘new’ for HELLBASTARD with the track ‘Arcadia’. And I had a view that ALL new material should go that route. Problem being we love the riff, the triple-skipping-fretboard-gymnastic-shredding and it is almost a ‘signature’ for HELLBASTARD. Right now we have VERY ‘different’ sounding NEW songs and the ultra-mega thrashy-riffs are creeping back in… Well, I refer to ONE NEW composition in general since the S.O.B. EP. But yeah, this question cannot be answered because tomorrow is a different day and we PRIDE ourselves in not staying under one neatly labelled and cross-referenced ‘genre’. I think wholeheartedly it is a crime to classify something, label it and neatly store that information under a fucking label. I like (my idea of) chaos theory, no rules, the rule is: there are NO rules. This is why HELLBASTARD came and was BORN from PUNK ROCK.

Paul: Sons of Bitches is indicative of the future in the way that it is a very honest record that was written and recorded the way we wanted it to be.

Jason: Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Any closing words for our readers?

Scruff: Thank you. Thank you for your much valued interest in Hellbastard.  Be, not become.

Paul: Thank you, Jason. Expect the unexpected!

 

And you can find out more about Hellbastard via these links: