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Monday, April 30, 2018

Interview: Black Emerald


In February, the Reading, UK-based metallers of Black Emerald released their full-length debut called Hell Can't Handle All Of Us. DutchMetalManiac's Tim van Velthuysen recently spoke with Black Emerald's drummer Connor Shortt about Hell Can't Handle All Of Us among other things.

Hey, congratulations with your new album, Hell Can't Handle All Of Us. It's very nice!

Thank you, glad you enjoy it. It's been a long time working on it.

Black Emerald was already formed in 2005. Can you tell us something about its history?

The band formed in 2005, it was Edd and Simon at school. It has many lineups since, like I don't know how many lineups there actually been. I joined in 2012, we were a five-piece at that time. Two guitarists, a bassist, a singer and me. One guitarist left that year, so the guitarist became lead-guitarist, our bassist became rhythm-guitarist and Simon picked up bass. Then our rhythm guitarist left, so down to a three-piece now. So, there have been many different lineups, but we've done some really cool gigs. They played in Oslo before I joined the band, which is something I really like to do. We played Bloodstock, done a couple of tours.

Since when is this lineup?

This lineup has been since the end of 2013.

So now it is stable?

Yeah, this is the most stable lineup the band has ever had. I now am the drummer for half the band's life which is good.

Hell Can't Handle All Of Us is your full-length debut, how does it feel to finally have it released?

It is such a relief. We started recording it back in 2015. We've been talking about this album since 2013, since we became a three-piece. It's such a relief just to be able to say that we have a full-length release on release-day. This is sort of what Black Emerald are, something to send out to people. Something to be proud of.

How did the writing process of Hell Can't Handle All Of Us go?

So, with writing generally Edd or Simon will come up with a riff, take it to practice and then we jam that for a while. If we can't figure out where to go with something in about twenty minutes or so, we scrap it. We're fairly brutal with that sort of stuff. If we come up with something and it's not going well after twenty minutes, we kill it. That's that. Then we generally carry on from that jam stuff and it kind of all gets squished down into a track. I don't really write any guitar or bass parts at all, but Edd writes in horrible time signatures, so I generally edit quite a lot. He write a riff and I tell him how to play it in 4/4 instead of the horrible time signatures he plays them in. I write drum parts and then I edit stuff. Edd and Simon write most of the other stuff. We do that, take it into the studio and see what happens.

You recently played some shows since the album was released, including a launch party in your hometown, Reading. How did the audience react to it?

They really enjoyed it. The closing track of the album, Jonestown, went down really well. We were very pleased with that, because it's 9:55 long. They really enjoyed that one. I think that's the favorite track of our album for all of us. It was the first time ever that we played it live. With a backing track because we got a choir and samples. It's nice that the track works for so long. It finally got out and everybody enjoyed it. It was a really good night.

Your music sounds like it contains a lot of different styles, how would you describe your music yourself to someone who hasn't heard it yet?

I think we have to be quite careful and just say metal. Because we really don't fell into a specific subgenre particularly. Some of it is proggy, some of it a bit bluesy, stoner or sludgy. One track that is going to be on album two is actually very ultra, which is probably like 190 bpm thrash. We kind of jump subgenres quite a lot. Some of it is also a bit hardrock as well. It's quite difficult to describe, just because we can't give ourselves a subgenre. We can do so for songs, but not for the complete band.

What are your musical influences?

Musically I like classic rock: Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, stuff like that. I also grow up listening to a lot of grunge: Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, like that. I also like poppunk, so I think Travis Barker was quite a big influence on my drumming, which is an odd thing for metal. I go to many gigs and the drummers have spectacular feet, but I do much with my hands. A lot of what I do is hand-difficult, not foot-difficult. The Rev of Avenged Sevenfold is another big influence on me. Simon likes heavy, bluesy stuff: Clutch, Eyehategod, stuff like that. He also likes stuff like Johnny Cash. Edd loves bands like Thin Lizzy, Journey, sort of '80s, AOR. Anything with big hair and big guitarsolos, Edd loves it. He is also a massive Taylor Swift fan, he really is into countrypop. I am a massive Kanye fan. We all have way different influences. We actually did a small Kanye cover to open at the album launch. We bring a lot of odd influences from everywhere in a kind of already odd band.

You have 2 guests on this album: Craig Mcbrearty of Gutlocker doing guest vocals on Life Of Anxiety and Andy Gunn of Remnant as guest guitarist on Voodoo Princess. How did these collaborations come to pass?

Gutlocker and Remnant are two of the bands we gig with the most in the local scene. So, we known those guys for years, great guys. We wanted something a bit heavier and a bit angrier on Life Of Anxiety. So, we thought Craig would be the ideal guest vocalist. When we did Voodoo Princess, we wanted a couple more guitarsolos in it, so we thought this would be absolutely perfect for Andy. I think Edd sorted that probably. Andy came to the studio, listened to the track and wrote that solo very well. Great job by both of them.

How was working with them?

It was really easy. We talked with them before at gigs and stuff like that. If either of them are at a gig that we are doing we generally get them up to do the guest part live. So we got Andy to do the Voodoo Princess solo at the album launch.

The artwork is made by Andy Pilkington of Very Metal Art. What made him the best person for this job?

If you go on his website and look at who else he worked with and how good the quality of what he made is, it's always excellent. That's why we got him to do the album artwork. He also made the lyric video for Dr. Stein. It was quite an easy decision, he just does incredible work. We thought that if we are going to do a full-length album, we would make sure to do it properly. So we got Andy on for the artwork and the video.

I saw on your Facebook page that you just signed to Enso Music Management. Are you happy with it?

It's great! I can't actually remember when we first met Rachael. I think it was in 2014, but we did a pub gig in Reading. We were supporting one of the bands from Enso and we met Rachael there. We also supported Cambion at The Sanctuary in Basingstoke. So, we have known Rachael for years and we got offered to sign to Enso. It was an incredibly easy decision to make. I think we got the offer and then we had signed the contract within 48 hours. It was a bit of a no-brainer. So, we are really pleased with that happening. I can't wait to what's comes from it.

Currently you have three shows announced.

Yeah, we got The Dev in Camden supporting Fury, Ffli Stock in Dragonffly in Pontypool which we are headlining, Facebarmageddon in November. Last year's edition of Facebarmageddon was amazing, it was such a great time out.

Can we expect more Black Emerald shows soon?

We definitely got more in the works. We are trying to get some shows which would be absolutely incredible if we did manage to. I don't know if that will happen, but I hope so.

Maybe coming to The Netherlands?

We would love to. I know Enso has people out in Europe. Europe is definitely our priority to get out into. There are many good scenes. What I said earlier about Oslo, I would love to go there. I would love to go to The Netherlands, Germany. Poland got a great scene. So, it will definitely be interesting to be able to do a tour around Europe. I guess it just a matter of finding time and contacts for that.

Any other future Black Emerald plans you can already tell us something about?

We are already working on our second album, we already got a couple of tracks finished for that and a couple of tracks we are working on. Furthermore I think we try to get as many gigs as we can. See what happens.

Thanks for your answers! Is there anything you want to say to our readers?

Find us on social media, listen to the album if you can. Check out my other band InAir. InAir is much less heavy. Thank you!

Black Emerald Official Website
Black Emerald Facebook
Black Emerald Twitter

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