“…there are many people who listen to Hammercult and grew up on old school Metal… We bring the same spirit of the era –with an updated sound, style and attitude”
– Yakir Shochat, Hammercult
Interview by Raymond Westland
Raymond: Got to admit that I’m utterly floored by the sheer energy of Steelcrusher. How did you guys managed to capture this on the proverbial tape?
Yakir Shochat: Haha , first of all – thank you! Yeah, pure intense energy is what it’s all about!When I go into the studio or into a stage, I feel like I’m hitting the gym. That means that I’m going to kick some ass. Beast mode is ‘on’ hahaha. With Steelcrusher we not only wanted to follow up the same line we started on the previous album Anthems Of The Damned but also capture the pure intensity of Hammercult live show. The result was an over the top fist pumping, testosterone boosting, head banging piece of Extreme Metal!
Raymond: Your debut album managed to kick up a lot of dust. Did you guys experience any pressure to come up with an equally fine album?
Yakir Shochat: That’s a good question. The pressure was on for sure. Our debut album Anthems Of The Damned did cause a lot of uproar in the underground and was highly praised by many as ‘One of the most Brutal Thrash Metal albums ever’. It made a mark for being not only an extremely violent brutal form of Thrash which today Hammercult are known for, but it was also our first foot in the door for the global metal community. For many it was our first impression, which matters a lot.You know, I just hate when bands change their style from one album to the other. Fucking their fans over in order to make a buck. Not here. We wanted to keep on the same line that we started in Anthems… but also improve some parts to make it more solid – without losing our unique sound. It was definitely a challenge which I’m happy to say that we stood loud and proud against, and came on top.
Raymond: Can you take us through the writing and recording sessions of Steelcrusher? What were you guys aiming for?
Yakir Shochat: It was a crazy time, because we had full tour supporting Sepultura all over Europe between April and May, which means you are 100% on the road, while the recordings were set to July-August. So we had to place things in full throttle, as we did not have a lot of time to take a break. To make things even tougher – July and August are festival seasons, so during the recording we took a break to kick some ass on stage in Summer Breeze Festival (Germany) and Metaldays Festival (Slovenia) – so one day you are in the studio, the next you are on a plane on your way to a show – only to be back again to the studio a day after. No time to fuck around. To make things worse, I had a serious throat infection around that time, while I kept recording and performing live across the globe. So by the day we recorded the guitar instruments, while by night I had to record the vocal until the sun comes up – and here we go again! It was a very intense time – and that is clearly shown on the album. We entered the studio with full force and took no prisoners. Let all the aggression out there. No rest for the wicked! We exploded. I vividly remember that I had to use some stimulating substances in order to keep myself pumped, screaming through the nights with hardly any sleep around that time!
Raymond: You guys also take a lot of musical cues from punk, hardcore and heavy metal to name a few. How important is it for you to have a broader musical vision than sticking to thrash metal alone?
Yakir Shochat: Interesting question, and quite intriguing because my favorite musical style is Heavy Metal – but I play in an Extreme Metal band. We wanted to keep our style as 50% Thrash Death, but keep getting in there the Hardcore and punk elements which makes Hammercult to stand out from the typical retro thrash band. As a vocalist I always I decided to create a style that would answer that question how would a Heavy Metal vocalist would sound if he would use screams and growls. It would sound like something else, just like the music does. The broad musical style is very important to us because that what makes Hammercult sound like Hammercult.
Raymond: Hammercult isn’t above using lots of typical cliche metal lyrics. Is this something that comes with the territory or do you feel that these types of lyrics are vital for the overall Hammercult experience?
Yakir Shochat: Yeah it’s out there. It’s a tribute being expressed openly with time a tongue in a cheek method. I don’t think that those lyrics are vital for experiencing our music, however I know that there are many people who listen to Hammercult and grew up on old school Metal – which dealt with those subjects. We bring the same spirit of the era –with an updated sound, style and attitude.
Raymond: Many younger thrash metal bands seems to be content by merely rehashing the things bands like Exodus, Testament and Slayer already done like 30 years ago. What sets Hammercult apart in that regard?
Yakir Shochat: Well, our style is not your typical copycat ‘Thrash’ metal style like many other bands out there. We mix Death Metal, Punk and Hardcore into that – which creates somewhat of our own style. The vocals doesn’t sound like any other thing out there and same goes for the entire musical style that borrows many elements from different type of Metal. The way I see it, many, if not all of those bands who try to copy Slayer or Metallica will never create an album to can go head to head with Reign in Blood or Ride The Lightning – so why not create something of your own? That’s what we do. We created our own shit, and it’s sounds like motherfucking Hammercult… for good and for bad.
Raymond: In the Summer of 2011 you guys won the metal battle at Wacken Open Air. How do you look back on the whole experience and how did it open new doors for Hammercult?
Yakir Shochat: It was an amazing experience. To think about it – performing live in Wacken Open Air, The Mecca of Heavy Metal – only 8 months since the first Hammercult rehearsal took place. It was a big challenge, let alone to think that there are 29 other bands that are fighting head to head on that spot, but there can be only one! We stormed the stage that day like it’s freaking battle field. I vividly remember how they announced us as the winners. It was a night to remember.
Regarding opportunities, it gave us our first global media buzz to put us on the map, and some endorsement deals that gave us a great leverage while touring. They also invited us to come back and perform in Wacken 2012, which we did and had a great time as can be seen in their latest 2012 Live in WOA DVD release (Ed: reviewed here). Wacken have been very kind to us and they are great in my book.
Raymond: You also performed on Neurotic Death Metal fest earlier this year. How do you look on it the event? Did it open a lot of new doors for you guys?
Yakir Shochat: Neurotic Death Fest is a great extreme metal festival in the Netherlands. We had a great time during that show and I enjoyed my stay there. Regarding new doors, you never know. Even if there is only one dude in the crowd who was impressed with us live and he tells his friends about us – that’s another door open for me. Everyone who support us is adding fuel to the fire that keeps us going.
Raymond: Your home country of Israel is in almost permanent state of war. To which extent is playing your ferocious blend of thrash metal an outlet for yourself and the rest of the band?
Yakir Shochat: Funny thing, because surprisingly – there is little to no connection. Life here is not a picnic, but who knows, we try to stay out of politics in our music as I find it to be more depressing then making me mad.I said before that life here in Israel is not picnic, but where it does? An angry man is an angry man to some extent, no matter on which country he is born in and in which century. Some direct those emotions through art while others just do stupid shit that hurt themselves and each other. I tend to think that I stand in the first group.
Raymond: What holds 2014 in the cards for Hammercult as far touring and festivals goes?
Yakir Shochat: With Steelcrusher to be released in January, I expect a lot of new opportunities and exposure for Hammercult as we are a still young hungry and up and coming band. If someone who is reading this interview just found out about us – I’m happy! Haha Well, it is early to say for other plans, but there is a European tour coming out in April 2014 with Hammercult supporting Napalm Death which I’m sure it going to be a blast!