Interview with vocalist Yakir Shochat
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: November 20, 2014
Israeli Death/Thrash Metal act Hammercult won the Wacken Metal Battle back in 2011 and the wheel rolling steadily ever since. They have churned out two albums so far; the debut, Anthems of the Damned, in 2012 and its follow-up album, Steelcrusher, released two years later. Both albums have provided Hammercult with the opportunity to tour and make some crucial festival appearances. Sharing stages with important bands like Sepultura and D.R.I. have undoubtedly raised Hammercult's name to a whole new level.
The Metal Crypt caught up with vocalist Yakir during the band's European tour and asked about their recent tours and festival shows, how they ended up on Sonic Attack Records, life and the Metal scene in Tel Aviv, life after death and a lot of more...
Luxi: How's it going Yakir?
Yakir. Everything is great! Especially when doing an interview for The Metal Crypt! I've been following this 'zine since I was a teenager! I'm very happy to be doing this interview and come to "full circle" so to speak.
Luxi: As I type this I am wondering if you have already left town, ready to crisscross Europe on your fall tour. Six countries and 12 dates; what are some of your initial thoughts about this tour?
Yakir: We are currently halfway through the tour and are now relaxing on a day off in Germany. During this tour we will celebrate our 150th show since we started! It's a really exciting time. We kicked off the tour with a bang as the first show was a festival in France along with Carcass, Destruction, Coroner and many others – we had a blast!
Luxi: Hammercult have already experienced some of the European festivals in 2014 like Germany's Rock Harz festival in July and The Czech Republic's Brutal Assault festival in August. What kind of experiences were those festivals for you and what did you learn about playing at and being a part of a bigger mainstream festival?
Yakir: You learn new shit every day and every show. I love playing festivals but I don't prefer them over club shows. If people are having fun in the crowd, that's all that matters to me. Giving the people a great experience for their hard-earned money! Regarding learning, you can always pick up and learn new stuff about logistics, sound and even organization, just by observing your surroundings. That's true power right there!
Luxi: Do you believe that, had you not won the Wacken Metal Battle competition back in 2011, Hammercult would not have come as far as you have?
Yakir: Great question! I would say that the answer is YES, we would have gotten on the right track without the victory at W.M.B. BUT!! And it's a BIG BUT! It would have taken much more time for us to get here.
You have to keep in mind that Hammercult were founded in Oct 2010 and by August 2011 we were performing on another continent at Wacken Germany on a huge stage in front of thousands of people and we were declared the winner over 29 other bands. Three months later we were on a full-blown tour with D.R.I. and a few months later we put an album out and were on another tour with Sepultura. All that happened in the year and a half after we were founded.
Wacken was a launching pad for us; it gave us a really good exposure and for that the festival will always have a sweet spot in my heart. However, I really think that we would have reached a certain level of success without it but it would simply take more time to get there. I'm very thankful for the push we got.
Luxi: Are there bands out there that you'd cite as big influences on Hammercult's music, some that, without their existence there perhaps wouldn't be a band called Hammercult?
Yakir: Hmm, too many to point out. From Running Wild to Venom, from Iron Maiden to Manowar and Judas Priest, I've grown up listening to 80's Metal and we take all those influences into our fresh modern Metal outfit. If I had to state ONE person who is most responsible I would say the late, great Tommy Vance from the Friday Rock Show. Why? Because he got me into Metal in the first place, and he captured what the spirit of Metal was all about at that time.
Luxi: Was it easy to work with the combination of Sonic Attack Records and SPV GmbH?
Yakir: It was a very smooth and easy process as all parties are truly professional and experienced industry specialists. I'm very proud to be a part of the family and I truly feel that we in Hammercult have found our home.
Luxi: Karl Walterbach, who founded Sonic Attack Records in early 2011, has snapped up Hammercult and a few other bands for his label, like Pathfinder, Slavery and Victorius. How has it been working under Karl's command so far? Have you been happy with Hammercult's current status with the label and is there anything that you'd like to improve between the label and Hammercult?
Yakir: Mr. Walterbach is one of the most noble, honest, and sometimes even brutally honest people I know. Working under his banner is nothing but a pleasure. Why? Because you have to earn it and that means working your ass off. There are no free rides here. He has no time for jobbers or for "rockstars" attitudes. No, you have to work and build everything from the ground up, until your fingers bleed, but it's worth every moment. His experience, advice and leadership are priceless. I'm very happy to be a crewmember under the banner of a man who is considered to be the godfather of German Metal. It's that genre I grew up listening to and am influenced by.
Luxi: How was it recording your debut album, Anthems of the Damned, for Sonic Attack Records/SPV GmbH? Can you still remember all the excitement and enthusiasm that you felt when you entered the studio? Did you feel any pressure while at the studio?
Yakir: If any musician tells you that he was not excited recording, let alone his debut album, he is full of shit. We were very excited. Your first album on an international label is your first kick at the door, so to speak. The door might open with one mighty kick or it might take two or three. For others, the door may never open. That's a challenge once you understand the meaning of things. It does matter. It always matters.
We recorded the entire album at our home studio and it sounded so brutal that it really captured the spirit of Hammercult at that time. Hungry, very hungry. It was an amazing experience.
Luxi: After your debut album Anthems of the Damned was released you toured around Europe along with Crossover legends D.R.I.? How was that experience and what did you learn from them, for example, how to survive on the road with a serious hangover? ;o)
Yakir: Oh Luxi, get out of here! You have to be kidding me! Learn something? Read my lips; THOSE GUYS SHOWED US THE ROPES. We were green as fuck. I'm talking about rookies who don't know jack shit. It was our first tour. The band had just turned 1 year old and here we are on a full-blown month-long tour with D.R.I., a band that we all grew up on!
D.R.I. took us under their wings and taught us a lot about surviving on the road and even thriving. It was like being in school again. We were sponges try to soap up anything we could from those old crazy road dogs. To this day we love those guys to death.
Regarding experiences? I'm sorry but I would rather not talk about some of the stuff we did in public, if you know what I mean. I will tell you one thing; they played for 90 minutes and finished off 50 bottles of beer during the show. Now that's a talent I'm afraid I would never conquer! They are the kings of Hardcore Crossover – enough said.
Luxi: How was your European tour with Sepultura in 2013? You played a good amount of shows with them in the first half of 2013 and I can only imagine it must have been one heck of a tour. It gave you a chance to play in front of both smaller and bigger crowds and introduced Hammercult to a mix of fans as well. What are some of the most memorable moments from this tour?
Yakir: Wow, you have done some serious homework! Respect! Yeah, during 2012/2013 we played about 30 shows with Sepultura and it was an amazing experience.
The most memorable moment of the Hammercult and Sepultura tour was the night when Andreas Kisser recorded a solo for our second album Steelcrusher, for the song "We Are The People." Andreas got in the studio and when I say studio I mean our backstage room, which we quickly organized to a sterile studio and recording devices, listened to the song, picked up his guitar and nailed a PERFECT guitar solo. A true professional!! That's my favorite moment of the tour, which is documented in our album Steelcrusher.
Luxi: When the time came to start the songwriting session for Steelcrusher was there any pressure, knowing how well your debut album was received among Metal fans worldwide?
Yakir: There is always a pressure because you always need to push to a higher level and many metalheads will forever worship a band's first album (that's a known syndrome). The bottom line is that your new album will always be judged by how good it is next to your previous album, so the pressure was on, for sure.
Luxi: How did the recording session of Steelcrusher differ from the recording sessions of your debut album Anthems of the Damned? Obviously, recording your debut was a learning experience but you must have felt more confident recording Steelcrusher...
Yakir: Steelcrusher was recorded fairly quickly; by day we recorded the guitars and by night I recorded the vocals. I had to use many stimulating substance to keep myself screaming to the microphone overnight. I recorded the vocals at our drummer's house and, guess what, the neighbors did not liked the crazy man who screamed all night like he was on fire. They even called the police twice during the recording session. Yeah, it was good!
Luxi: Did Steelcrusher bring more opportunities to make Hammercult even more well known globally, help score gigs and move your merchandise better?
Yakir: It certainly did! It was an amazing push, much bigger than I thought and really made Hammercult a part of the international Metal community. There is still a long road ahead, a never-ending one perhaps, but it is certainly pointed us in the right direction.
Luxi: How do you feel about the Israeli underground Metal scene? You come from the capital city of Tel Aviv and the scene is active with bands like Amaseffer, Black Sachbak, Dark Serpent, Magor, The Fading and many others, correct?
Yakir: The main scene is indeed in Tel Aviv. For Hammercult, 90% of our shows are in Europe simply because the Israeli scene is too young and small and, like all young things, it still needs time to grow.
Luxi: Melechesh, probably the most well-known Metal act from your country, relocated to The Netherlands some years ago due to problems with religious organizations in Jerusalem. Have you had any problems with any fanatical religious groups?
Yakir: No problems so far, but there are logistical issues. We mostly tour around Europe and living on a whole different continent means we cannot just get in the van and start a tour from Israel to Lebanon, Syria and Iran...
Luxi: Do you think Metal music and religion can be a good combination in an open-minded religious society?
Yakir: Everything can be a good combination, as long as you are not pushing your agenda in others' faces. As long as you respect others you can combine anything successfully. Metal is like alcohol; you can mix it with almost everything, from juice to coke, but please don't shove your shit down my throat. Personally, I think in this day and age religion should take the back seat to science. It's 2014 and people are killing each other over religion – that's just wrong.
Luxi: Do you believe that you'll be reborn, in one form or another, when you have reached the end of the road in this particular life?
Yakir: Deep questions Luxi, I like it – not the typical Metal interview.
You know, I believe we only get one chance and at the end of the road there might be an afterlife, or there might be nothing so all that matters is to be kind to other people, be happy, love and be loved. Don't waste it. Not every man truly lives, you know?
Luxi: 2014 is almost at an end but does Hammercult have anything in store for the end of the year? Gigging, demoing new songs and stuff?
Yakir: Once we are finished with this European tour we have 3-4 more shows in Israel and then we start to wrap up pre-production for new songs.
Luxi: How about your plans for 2015? Have you discussed Hammercult's third album and do you have ideas and/or songs ready for it yet? Do you have plans for shooting a live DVD? I suppose that would be something the Hammercult fans would like to see happening...
Yakir: Currently we are planning to record our third album, Spoils of War, in February 2015! We have 15 songs, which we still need to work on and weed out a few but it's a very exciting time!
Regarding a DVD, yes there are plans for this, but I would rather postpone everything until we are done with the third album. That's what the people really deserve; new songs on a yearly basis.
Luxi: It is good to see you making it this far. Before I let you go, I have just one more question. Ready? This is an easy one; Where did you pick up the name for your band? Is it a play on words; "hammer" and "cult" = Hammercult. Was it this simple to find the name for the band?
Yakir: Haha – sounds badass, right? I love old band names with one word that combine various words. The goal was to find a name that is hard as nails and really capture the intensity of our music. Hammercult was perfect; a blunt object which is used for maximum force. A cult, some sort of a religion, which worships that weapon. Now that's powerful and fucked up at the same time!
Luxi: Thank you so much for your time. I want to wish you all the best for Hammercult. Let there be lots of success waiting for you guys at the top of the hill. Want to throw out any closing comments, perhaps?
Yakir: Again, I want to thank you and The Metal Crypt for having us here, I love this zine!
More importantly I would like to address YOU! Yeah, you, the person who read this interview. Check us out online, on Youtube, Facebook, whatever. You might like what you find, so consider this an open invitation to you, from a fellow die hard metalhead.
Take care and keep the flame of Metal burning!
|Other information about Hammercult on this site|
|Review: Built for War|
|Interview with vocalist and guitarist Yakir Shochat on October 23, 2015 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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