Interview with vocalist and guitarist Yakir Shochat
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: October 23, 2015
Israeli metal warriors and true defenders of all things morally acceptable and justified Hammercult have been making a name for themselves over the past 5 years or so with several gigs and touring at least semi-actively. Of course they've also released some great Metal music that can hardly be ignored.
Hammercult's last two albums, Anthems of the Damned and Steelcrusher, both brought overwhelming feedback that gave cause for some extra chest pounding among the troops. If the stars aligned in a favorable way their latest album, titled Built for War, may well bring down half the moon in terms of success.
The Metal Crypt decided to approach the band's vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Yakir Shochat for a second time to get his feelings and thoughts about Hammercult's third album and also his feelings about the current political climate of our corrupt world with war, poverty and the endless cycle of senseless killing and death due to the unspeakable hatred between different religious and cultures and so forth.
Luxi: Good to talk to you once again Yakir. How's life been treating you lately? Good, I hope.
Yakir: I'm doing great Luxi, thank you for having me again at The Metal Crypt. I've said before that I've been a reader for yours and it's always a great pleasure for me to be here!
Luxi: The news is Hammercult's third full-length studio album, Built for War, was released at the end of the summer of 2015. Did you feel nervous about how the Metal crowd from all around the world would welcome it?
Yakir: As arrogant as it sounds the answer is NO. Why? Because I'm confident about Hammercult and I'm confident about Built for War as an album. The truth is it's our best album so far. I know EVERYONE says this. Hell, even Metallica said it before St. Anger but for Hammercult it's true. Those who liked our previous albums, will LOVE Built for War.
Luxi: After spinning it nonstop, I agree this album could easily be your best work to date. It's more diverse, more melodic and even more tightly played, a complete package in which frenzied Thrash and true Heavy Metal clash perfectly. How do you feel about Built for War? Does it contain of all of the elements that you wanted to get on the record?
Yakir: Thank you very much for your kind words Luxi. It is indeed our best work to date! Built for War is really a manifestation of everything, and I mean everything, I love about Metal! The aggressiveness of Thrash Metal, the punishing sound of Death Metal, the rebellious attitude of Punk, the tough and rough, in-your-face approach of Hardcore and the glory of Heavy Metal – it's all there!
For me, Built for War is the ultimate package of what I love about Metal. What I grew up on and what I believe in.
Luxi: Were there any disagreements about the album's musical direction?
Yakir: Since the majority of the songs are written by me and Guy it was pretty clear cut. More importantly, when anyone throws an idea into the room for a new Hammercult song they know how it should sound. If it's not going to sound like Hammercult, it doesn't have a chance. This is the number one rule we all live by. Honestly, I believe it would be very difficult for me to write lyrics for a song which musically I don't feel is right. I know because I've tried. For us, if it doesn't scream "Metal" it's out the window.
Luxi: How was recording process different this time compared to the previous album Steelcrusher? Did you feel more secure and confident regarding how you wanted this new album to sound?
Yakir: We never stopped writing songs. Between each release the band keeps writing new songs all the time to keep fresh ideas pumping. The progress just comes naturally. As for the difference between Steelcrusher and Built for War, we kept on writing music and getting an idea of what the band should sound like going forward. The recording was easier, smoother and much more fun in the grand scheme of things. There was no fear in experimenting as it felt very natural all the way.
Luxi: You had described Built for War as sounding like Destruction-meets-Manowar, which actually is a pretty fitting description. There's definitely lots of blistering aggression on this record with the testosterone-oozing and masculine chest-pounding of Manowar. Was everyone in the band on the same page from the very beginning when you started writing songs for this record?
Yakir: First off, thank you for the observation. It was a natural process which the entire band was on board with. In fact, you can hear this process starting on our second album Steelcrusher when compared to its predecessor Anthems of the Damned. The next step was pretty clear and can be heard clearly on Built for War. All in all, it really highlights the band's unique sound as there is no other band today that sounds like this. This unique combination is what makes Hammercult so...Hammercult.
The songs are pretty much my vision of how I see Metal in 2015; strong, bombastic, aggressive and a fist-pumping testosterone powerhouse.
Luxi: Are there some songs on Built for War that were a bit more time-consuming and challenging to make than others and can you pinpoint what made them so hard to make?
Yakir: Good question but the truth is that the songwriting was very smooth. Yes, some songs are much different from the previous material we wrote and recorded in the past but there were no songs which took substantially more time than the others.
Luxi: Lyrically, you also wanted to be honest, straightforward and socially aware on this new record of yours as a song like "Spoils of War" proves. Would you enlighten us a bit more about the lyrics on Built for War, about some of those topics that you felt are personally important?
Yakir: Good observation Luxi! I certainly agree with you. This album is indeed more mature when it comes to the lyrics. It is the first time we dealt with political issues such as war and governments (as in "Altar of Pain" and "Spoils of War"). The reason is that I can no longer ignore this endless cycle of death which we are living in, where you realize one day that you are just a pawn in this game and your life isn't worth shit to the people who make the calls on this earth; governments and people who have wealth beyond wealth. I can't ignore this sad reality anymore.
Luxi: You also covered Slayer's "Evil Has No Boundaries" I assume in honor of Jeff Hanneman who passed away in 2013. How much of an influence on Hammercult were Slayer and Jeff in particular and why did you pick this particular song as it was actually been written by Kerry King?
Yakir: For me it didn't matter who wrote it. Slayer was Jeff and Jeff was Slayer. We wanted to record a tribute to early Slayer because I really REALLY love that time in their career. The works of early Slayer are a huge influence on Hammercult and we are very proud of it. I still remember the day I found out about Jeff's passing. It was in 2013 during our European tour with Sepultura. We were celebrating in the hotel after another great show and than we heard the news. I dedicated the last song every night to him for the rest of the tour.
The idea of covering early Slayer and putting our Hammercult style into it was pretty clear for all of us.
Luxi: The world is in a very fragile state right now due to all kinds of economical and political crises as you are surely aware. What's wrong with us humans in your opinion? Are we so short-sighted and stupid that we are willing to destroy the world and each other sometimes for purely religious reasons (the ominous terrorist organization Isis, etc.)?
Yakir: Interesting question. The Middle East in particular is a very sensitive subject which for the first time our career was actually touched on in our music.
It is also important to point out that I moved to Germany last month with my wife as we were both tired of the cycle of hate and death in the Middle East and decided to start a new life. It is an uneasy question which to answer would require another 2-3 hours and won't even scratch the surface. I do believe we are at a point where I'm afraid things will get worse before we will see the end of it. Extreme situations require extreme solutions.
Luxi: How easy or difficult was it for your new guitarist Yuval Kramer to jump into your ex-guitarist Arie Aranovich's boots and find his own role in Hammercult overall? Did he take part in the songwriting process for Built for War? How have his experiences in many other bands helped him to adjust?
Yakir: Yuval wrote the instrumental tracks "From Parts Unknown" and "Ode to Ares" but he didn't participate in the writing process of the other songs which were written by me and Guy. It should be noted that Yuval worked with us for a long time before becoming a full member. If you watch the video clip for "Steelcrusher," which is a live recording from December 2013, you can see Yuval playing with the band. It was very natural for him to join as he played with us on multiple occasions before Built for War. Having him in the band is really great for all of us. He is a good person and a good guitar player. Arie is still a close friend but he decided to have a career doing sound engineering and producing which is where his true passion lies and we all respect his decision.
Luxi: What are some of Yuval's best assets as a musician?
Yakir: He is a good man, which is surprising as most musicians are assholes, trust me. Yuval is a hell of a guitar player and a good person which is the best combination I could have asked for. He also brings some classical elements to Hammercult which is great.
Luxi: Did you confront any major obstacles or setbacks in the studio in Tel Aviv or would you say the whole recording process went smoothly this time around?
Yakir: Even smoother. Maayan destroyed the drums and pulled the entire album together in just two days. The vocals were recorded at my home so that went quickly and easily. It was the best recording experience I have ever had. Didn't have to use drugs for this one. ;o)
Luxi: Vocally, you tried out some different things on this new Hammercult record, stretching your vocals from screams to growls to angst and hatred-filled Hardcore-Punk shouts, plus you didn't hesitate to try out some clean vocals (like in "Spoils of War") either. Did you feel comfortable using such a wide vocal range on Built for War or were you skeptical about stepping out of your personal comfort zone?
Yakir: It felt natural, it really did. You know, we didn't rehearse any songs on this album. We simply wrote and recorded it as we went. The vocal lines were not "tested" but I had in mind how they should sound and it was as if the songs told me what to do. I shit you not. I simply entered the recording session, opened my mouth and what came out felt right. As I said before, it really was natural. It was an amazing experience and I really enjoyed the opportunity to have more varied vocals on this album!
Luxi: Who's the creepy looking warrior with the muscles, hammer and shield pictured in the middle of the album cover of Built for War? Is it you, perhaps? ;o)
Yakir: Haha, in a certain way it is. Sword and sorcery will always be a part of the Hammercult universe it is as simple as that! So why did we placed the Hammer Warrior (which I call Steelcrusher, like the album) in the streets doing the shit he does? To bring the war to them! If there is one war that's worth fighting these days it is the one against those forces trying to take our freedom away by legal, authority and financial means! I wanted to hurt them and to crush them! We got the power! The people! Not a bunch of weak bankers and their puppets called the police! We and not those rotten politicians! The concept is to take them to our world or take our world to them! They are only strong if you play by their rules! Fuck that!
Luxi: Do you have any plans to shoot a promotional video for one or two of the songs off this new album?
Yakir: There will be videos for "I Live for This Shit" and for "Rise of the Hammer'. Expect the crazy yet funny style for which we are known.
Luxi: After Built for War has hit the stores will you start touring to support the album? Are you anxious to introduce these new Hammercult songs to the crowds and do you believe your new stuff will go down well?
Yakir: A few months ago we supported Overkill for a show in Tel Aviv and played some of the new songs. The crowd loved it! I'm positive that everyone who liked the previous Hammercult stuff will really enjoy the songs, especially on the live front!
Luxi: How much can you reveal about Hammercult's touring plans for this year and the next? Do you have any headlining dates or are you trying to find support slots for more established Metal acts?
Yakir: There will be another headline European tour in early 2016. As for support slots, we are always open for any option but as of now we are planning mostly headline shows.
Luxi: How would you sum up 2014 for Hammercult, success wise? Did you achieve all your goals or do you feel you achieved even more than you hoped for? Your tour with Napalm Death plus several festival appearances obviously brought in a bunch of new fans, right?
Yakir: Indeed. 2014 was a hell of a year. It's started in January with our second album Steelcrusher, followed with the Napalm Death tour and multiple festivals and ended with our first headline tour at the end of the year. It was a year to remember. Keep in mind some of the songs from Built for War were starting to be baked in late 2014 so it was really productive on all fronts!
As for new fans, I believe that with each step the band takes forward we get new supporters. Even with this interview, more new metalheads will get to know Hammercult for the first time!
Luxi: Where do you believe Hammercult will be in a couple of years? Feel free to show your inner talent like the French apothecary Michel de Nostredame, who became known for his book Les Propheties.
Yakir: Haha, OK then! I do see Hammercult doing the shit we do and enjoying every minute of it. I'm really thankful for every moment I've had with this band living my dream and playing the music I love, making people happy and entertaining them. I really can't wish for more. I can only hope that more people will enjoy the music we play, the energy in our shows and the passion we have for this "show-business" called Metal. So I can only wish to do more of it and for the ride to never end. Filth and fury, Metal is my religion. I live for this shit.
Luxi: Thank you very much for talking to The Metal Crypt about the excellent new Hammercult album and all other things Yakir. Lastly I want to wish you all the best with all your future endeavors with the band. Let the last words rightfully belong to you...
Yakir: Thank you very much for having me again here and supporting Hammercult. I would like to thank the readers of The Metal Crypt for checking out Hammercult. THANK YOU! Make sure you check out Built for War, I'm positive you will like it! Stay strong. Stay Metal!
|Other information about Hammercult on this site|
|Review: Built for War|
|Interview with vocalist Yakir Shochat on November 20, 2014 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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