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Interviews Hellripper

Interview with guitarist and vocalist James McBain

Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen

Date online: February 25, 2024


Interview top pic by Daniel Kilgus, live pics by Luxi Lahtinen

The seventh Nordic Metal Cruise from Turku, Finland to Stockholm, Sweden (and back) took place on February 11-12, 2024, and this very popular ferry trip featured Bob Malmström, Abbath, Hellripper and Brymir on the bill this time. Yours truly from The Metal Crypt attended for the second time and managed to hook up with James McBain from blackened Scottish goat worshippers Hellripper, and he shared his experiences both during and after the cruise plus he talked about some of the band's plans.

METAL ON THE SEAS

How was the Nordic Metal Cruise for you, James? This show was your last on this tour. How are you feeling considering it was a pretty long tour, crisscrossing Europe?

James: It was a fun weekend and a nice way to end the tour! It was our longest tour to date and so yes, it was quite tiring! But we had a great time and enjoyed the whole thing so much! It was good to see a lot of new places and meet old fans, as well as new fans from the shows!

Was this your very first time attending a cruise like this?

James: Yes, this was our first time attending something like this! I have been aware of a number of these cruises all over the world, of course, but have not been involved in any previously. It was cool!

How would you sum up this tour? Did it exceed your expectations of how well you would be received by the different crowds around Europe?

James: It was great for the band, and for me personally! Of course, we were the opening band, and this was our first ever tour in this vein, so I didn't know what to expect to be honest! I feel like we were received well by most of the crowds and a lot of opportunities have arisen already on the back of the tour, so I feel like it was very successful in that respect! The other bands on the tour and the crew involved were very nice, so, of course, that was a great help too!

Were there any surprises on the tour?

James: Like I mentioned, we were the opening band. I didn't know what to expect but you hear stories of opening bands being treated poorly or not attracting that big of an audience. That couldn't have been further from our experience on this run - it was a great "surprise."

Did Abbath treat you guys like a true gentleman, allowing you to do proper soundchecks and whatnot?

James: Yes, I spoke with Abbath quite a few times and he was very nice! We hung out with the rest of the band (Toxic Holocaust, too) and crew quite a lot also, and like I said, we felt very welcome on this tour. If we needed any help, they were happy to assist where they could!

SUCCESSFUL AND SMOOTH TOUR

Going on tour is usually a good learning experience because you can always learn from things that don't go well. What did this tour teach you that you can do better or improve the next time you go on tour?

James: To be honest, I can't really point to any "less" successful things on this run. We had some problems with our van which was quite worrying at first, but in the end, we found a garage and it was fixed overnight! Luckily, it happened on a day off, so we had no obligations. It led to us running a little late the next day, but we informed everyone, and it was all good in the end! That type of thing is unavoidable, really.

We were constantly trying to improve and adapt our show to make it the best it could be, and so we were regularly changing the setlist based on crowd response and changing the way the show "flowed."

Overall, it was a very successful tour and to be honest, it was very smooth! The other bands, venues and the crew played a big part with the way they organized things. I think that we will naturally keep improving as a live band as time goes on.

What were some of your highlights from the tour?

James: We had never been to Spain and so that was a very pleasant surprise in how well we were received! Barcelona was one of the first shows of the tour, and we had to order a merchandise restock right after!

Lisbon was absolutely wild! The crowd from the very first moment went very hard! Insane amounts of energy there and it was similar in Prague. We opened very early on (around 6:40 p.m.), so we weren't expecting people to go crazy, but from the very beginning, it was just madness!

The majority of shows were really great for us, and I appreciate every person that came out early to check the band out!

THE IMPORTANCE OF MERCH

So you cannot complain much about your merchandise sales on this tour?

James: Yes, the merch sales were by far the best we've had to date! Again, I was unsure what to expect with us being the opening band but in the end, we had to restock things 3-4 times, and still by the end we ran out of some things.

Now that the tour is over, what will your next steps be once you get back home? Will you concentrate on writing new material for the band's fourth studio album or make plans for some summer festival appearances?

James: I arrived back home last night, and for the next couple of days I will be focusing on getting any merch orders placed online while I was away sent out! Next week, I will resume work on the next album and will work on getting things organized for all the upcoming shows from April onwards!

NEW ALBUM – WHEN?

Hellripper is, of course, known as your baby. Do you think you are going to write the next album alone, or will you invite some of your band mates to contribute to the songwriting process?

James: The next album will be entirely written by me again. It's how I like to do things. Some of the live band as well as some others will probably contribute some guest parts as usual, though it's still early on in the process, so we will see what happens!

I am curious to know how much material you have already written since the days of the Warlocks Grim... album?

James: I have around 15 songs in various stages, though the album will consist of 8 tracks as usual. I'm excited about the new material and am looking forward to getting it out there.

What can you tell us about this new material? Does it go hand in hand with the material on your previous album or will it contain a couple of surprises?

James: I would say it ties in well with the previous album, though there are certainly a few new elements present that I have never tried before and think work well! It's still early in the process with only one track completely finished and so I still have no idea what the final product will sound like.

NO STRICT RULES IN THE SONGWRITING PROCESS

When you compose material for Hellripper, do you set a standard for when a song is good enough to be part of Hellripper's song repertoire?

James: Not really! If a song sounds good to me, then that's all that matters! It doesn't matter to me if a track is a 10-minute progressive epic or if it's a two-minute punk song, if it's good then that's that! Of course, I try to make the albums cohesive and so some tracks may be left out and released as part of something else later.

How do you normally get yourself into a creative songwriting mood?

James: Sometimes I am just in a more creative mood. I always listen to music and love watching music documentaries or bands documenting their album creation process. Those things usually inspire me in some way!

What made you change the logo of the band? Do you think the new logo represents better what Hellripper is all about nowadays?

James: I haven't really "changed" the logo. I just wanted a number of different designs that would work better in different situations! The choice of logo will depend on the situation or any accompanying artwork.

FUTURE

What plans and goals have you set for yourself and Hellripper during this ongoing year?

James: We have a lot of live shows planned for 2024 and going into 2025 so that will take up the majority of my time. Any other free time will be spent writing and recording new material for the next album.

Well, that's all I had in my mind for this conversation, so thanks a lot for your time, James, and all the best with your future comings and goings with the band. Any proper closing words to conclude this interview?

James: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me! All Hail the Goat!

Other information about Hellripper on this site
Review: Coagulating Darkness
Interview with James McBain on March 23, 2023 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)




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