Interview with guitarist Nige Rockett
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: November 1, 2018
British Thrash Metal veterans, Onslaught, who called it quits in 1991 and reformed in 2004, have become one of the most respected Thrash Metal institutions among metal fans over the years. Since their reformation, the legendary thrashers have released three well-received albums, toured the world and gone through some lineup changes. Drummer James Perry and guitarist Wayne Dorman are the new recruits, both joining the band in 2018.
The band inked a deal with Alpha Omega Management at the end of July 2018 and have been working with songs for their seventh as-yet-untitled studio album, which is rumored to be the band's most hard-hitting and vicious album thus far. That doesn't sound bad, does it?
But there's more going on in the Onslaught camp, so we'd better let the band's original guitarist Nige Rockett tell us what they have been up to lately and what can be expected from them in 2019...
Luxi: How's life under the BrExit these days?
Nige: Total chaos, my friend...! The country is in a terrible mess and divided right down the middle. The government doesn't have a clue about what they are doing and I foresee lots of trouble and potential public unrest ahead...!
Luxi: You were invited to be a part of the 70K cruise next year. You must be excited, right? What are some of your expectations about this already legendary cruise?
Nige: Yeah, we can't wait, it's going to be awesome! This will actually be the second time we have played the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise so we feel incredibly honored to be invited back on board once again. It's going to be even more spectacular this time around as the boat is even bigger than the last time we played; 3000 metalheads on one ship!!
It's a truly amazing experience for the fans and bands alike and I would recommend it to anyone.
Luxi: There's been some turbulence in the Onslaught camp as far as the band's lineup is concerned. You have new drummer James Perry and new guitarist Wayne Dorman in the lineup these days. What kind of a process was it for the band to find these lads to replace Andy (Rosser-Davies) and Michael (Hourihan)?
Nige: I wouldn't necessarily say it was too turbulent haha, but it was very necessary and definitely in the best interests of the band.
James (drums) has been waiting in the wings to join the band for many years now, he's a longtime friend and helped us out on a South American tour back in 2013. He really is an incredible drummer. Strangely enough, James had emailed me around a month before Mic Hourihan left saying "if we ever needed him, he is ready and waiting" so bang, James was straight in, no drama whatsoever...! It was a real easy transition and he already knew 80% of the songs.
Regarding Wayne, we headhunted him thru videos, etc. on YouTube. I really liked his guitar style and he is also an amazing vocalist which helps massively with backing vocals and with the songwriting.
Luxi: Both James and Wayne learned the ropes in other bands (Bull-Riff Stampede, Wrath of the Gods, etc.). How important was it for you to find experienced musicians or was it more important to have the chemistry, right?
Nige: It was hugely important to find the right guys to step into the band. Lineup changes can be a huge pain in the ass, so if and when it happens, you have to make changes that are going to improve the band and take it to another level musically.
As I said previously, we all knew James and what a great drummer he is so that chemistry was already in place. I had a lot of conversations with Wayne before he joined the band to make sure we were all on the same wavelength. He's very hungry for success and his enthusiasm for moving Onslaught onwards and upwards was very infectious and it's already paying off greatly as his contributions so far have been very positive.
Luxi: Can you tell what the best assets of these new blokes are? What have they brought to the band?
Nige: Both guys have brought with them musicianship of the highest order and a very relaxed and chilled attitude into the Onslaught camp. It's a very happy and cool place to be right now and it feels like there are no limits to what we can achieve with this lineup.
We have played three festivals/shows so far and the fans have been super amazing as always. The feedback from everyone about James/Wayne has been 150% positive, which says we totally made the right decisions...
From a guitar point of view, Wayne is one of the tightest players I've had the pleasure to share a stage with over the years and we all love his style of soloing, its pure full-on Metal, no-nonsense, no prisoners taken...!
F**KIN' VICIOUS AND AGGRESSIVE IT'S GONNA BE...
Luxi: There's been some talk that you guys have been working with some new material for your next album. Is there anything you can reveal about this new material? It's rumored to be your most vicious and hard-hitting album thus far. Do you think this album will be Onslaught's Reign in Blood? ;o)
Nige: Who knows, I guess that's for the fans and the press to decide. ;o)
Yeah, writing is well underway, and we've already played one of the new songs live a few times. It's entitled "A Perfect Day to Die" and the response has been mind-blowing. We couldn't have asked for more from the fans. It's always a worry when you air a new track for the first time, but everyone who has heard the song has already taken to it just like one of the older classics.
Luxi: Your previous album, VI, was very well received everywhere, so I was just wondering whether the success of it set the bar even higher for you guys as far as the making of this new album is concerned?
Nige: Definitely!!! We always set the bar as high as possible with each and every record we make. I see no point or joy in making a new album that's not as good as your previous releases, that would just be conning ourselves and our fans.
So yeah, the bar is high and we're up for the challenge. I have a really good feeling about the new recordings.
Luxi: How much have James and Wayne contributed to this seventh as-yet-untitled Onslaught record? Do you feel like you have five equally good songwriters in the band nowadays?
Nige: Wayne, in particular, is becoming a great writing partner with myself and has already had some great input to the new material. For James being a drummer it's a little more difficult but he is certainly making his mark with the drum patterns, etc. It's really good to have some fresh and cool ideas coming into our studio right now and we are thoroughly enjoying the songwriting process for album number seven.
Luxi: When you start the songwriting process for a new album, are there things you discuss in advance as far as a concept or musical direction? Do you believe in the power of a spontaneous musical approach when you start songwriting? I guess being spontaneous can never be that bad, can it?
Nige: Yeah, we always discuss things in depth before we approach any big project with Onslaught whether it is touring or writing a new record and, of course, the direction of a new product is always a major factor. We have talked about the new record a lot and we have a very clear picture of where we are heading this time around. By doing it this way many cool and spontaneous things arise and lead to bigger and better ideas. Jeff, for example, isn't a prolific writer but his small contributions to the songs can be quite crucial and defining to how the finished product turns out. Little things can sometimes make the biggest impact.
Luxi: So, when can we—the fans of the band—expect this new album to hit the stores? Impatience is killing us...
Nige: Haha ... now that's the million-dollar question, Luxi...!! And one I really can't answer right now.
Writing is going great and shit is sounding really immense, but I don't want to put any time frame on things, and I don't want to put unnecessary pressure on the band.
Onslaught records have always come naturally in their own time. I would be very wary of rushing the writing process just to meet some deadline and then take the risk of delivering a substandard album.
It takes as long as it takes, but we are planning to release an EP before the new album comes along just to give everyone a taste for the new record.
CONTRACT IN BLOOD
Luxi: There was a pretty large article about Onslaught in the book Contract in Blood: A History of UK Thrash Metal, written by Ian Glasper. Have you read the book and how did you like it?
Nige: Yeah, it was a very cool book indeed and I think Ian did an amazing job in getting the whole thing put together and released. I know he really worked his ass off on the project and we were very honored to play a major part in that, especially having the book named after one of our songs.
Luxi: The name of the book, Contact in Blood, indicates Onslaught's role in UK Thrash Metal is very important, along with Venom, Warfare, Sabbat and others. The band started out as a Punk-fueled act music-wise, but eventually, you took more and more influences from Thrash Metal. What could you tell us about those early days of Onslaught, even prior to the band's debut album, Power from Hell? Was it all about surviving and believing that this band would be something?
Nige: Onslaught formed in 1983 as a Hardcore Punk band as you say, but the influences from the likes of Motörhead were clearly there from day one.
It was a real whirlwind period for the band, we were making a very good name for ourselves within the Punk scene and things just shot upwards from there. Before we knew it, we were signed to Children of the Records within a year of forming and in a short space of time released the first record Power from Hell, which I guess could be classed as one of the first, if not the first, "Thrash Metal" albums to come out of the UK.
It was a crazy few years. We went from four kids who couldn't play in 1983 to an internationally recognized band signed to Music for Nations with two albums under our belts and touring with our heroes Motörhead by 1986 ... unreal!!!
Luxi: Do you think the book covered all the essential UK Thrash Metal bands that needed to be mentioned or would you have added some names?
Nige: Yeah for sure, I think pretty much every band that existed in the '80s got a good mention in the book, even ones that never actually released any physical product. Ian did his research very well and it was cool that even the smaller bands had the opportunity to have their say on the UK Thrash scene.
Luxi: In many ways the band's second album, The Force, was considered the major breakthrough album from you guys. When you look back in time, this album has really pushed the band's career a long way and the album is rightfully considered as one of the cornerstones for the Thrash Metal movement. Do you see this the same way as I do?
Nige: It's always very difficult to have such an opinion about your own band, but I guess over the years you finally come to accept what everyone tells you! After all, the fans and the press are the important people who make your career, so we need to respect the kind words that were said about The Force album.
We toured the album worldwide for its 30-year anniversary in 2016 and that tour went on for almost two years due to the demand, and that was incredible. It really showed the love that people have for that record...!!
NEW EP AND RE-RECORDING OF IN SEARCH OF SANITY COMING UP
Luxi: ... and three years after this monstrous release, in 1989, Onslaught put out In Search of Sanity, without Sy Keeler's vocals and it basically killed the band's reputation, at least for a while. Did you personally see those days as very dark times for Onslaught, in the sense of how drastically the band changed its sound on that album? I also remember reading that first In Search of Sanity was recorded with Sy's vocals on it, but due to the pressure of your record label at that time, they wanted to use a more commercial sounding vocalist for this recording—and Steve Grimmett was chosen for this job (who was—and still is, a great vocalist—hands down). I was wondering if the original album recording with Sy's vocal parts will get released someday perhaps?
Nige: Yeah, that's very true and it certainly wasn't the band's finest hour at the time, but this is something that we promise to rectify in the very near future. There will be a re-recording of the In Search of Sanity album with Sy Keeler on vocals and with a full on "Metal production" this time around...
The original recordings sadly aren't available any longer, but we do have the demos that we made before the album.
In Search of Sanity had some very cool songs, but the polished production along with the addition of Steve Grimmett changed the Onslaught sound radically, something which our hardcore fans did not really like too much. Strangely enough In Search of Sanity was actually our biggest selling record and we made a lot of new fans at the time, so it wasn't all negative even though it was a dark period for Onslaught.
Luxi: Time for the last question: what does Onslaught have in store for 2019?
Nige: 2019 is hopefully going to be a huge year for Onslaught! We have recently signed a new management contract with Alpha Omega and the plans are very cool. We have had many discussions about this next phase of our career and the need for us to step up to the next level, which is crucial. But first, we have to make a new record and make sure it's a really good one and then the plans will all come together!!
We want to get an EP out there early next year while we finish off the album and then tour, tour, tour, because that's what we do best.
Luxi: Thanks so much for your time, Nige. If you want to throw your closing comments to conclude this conversation, then by means be my guest... ;o)
Nige: My pleasure Luxi—and thanks for some great questions!!
As always, I would like to say a huge thank you to our amazing fans for coming along with Onslaught on this incredible journey, without you ladies and gentlemen we are nothing...!
The best is yet to come I can assure you!! See you all in 2019!
|Other information about Onslaught on this site|
|Review: In Search of Sanity|
|Review: The Force|
|Review: Killing Peace|
|Review: Live Damnation|
|Review: Sounds of Violence|
|Review: Sounds of Violence|
|Review: Generation Antichrist|
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