Wednesday, January 23, 2013

PHIL SWANSON exclusive interview 1/2013

" I wouldn't want to be seen as a “true metal” die hard at this stage of the game. 30 years ago I was okay with that idea, but it just doesn't feel right or honest for that matter anymore"

Not only are you done with doing metal, your done with HOUR OF 13. Why?  

Lets be more specific and say heavy metal as people love to criticize me as it is and will try to find a way in the semantics as some future stuff will surely may be of metal descent, influence or crossover. But its got tired and its taking itself way too seriously these days  especially since this has already been done before and really not necessary to really do again in the first place. It was just supposed to be something fun and exploitive for me. I wouldn't want to be seen as a “true metal” die hard at this stage of the game. 30 years ago I was okay with that idea, but it just doesn't feel right or honest for that matter anymore. I still have a couple “heavy metal” records to finish over the next couple months like the 2nd Briton Rites and Vestal Claret albums, but I don’t see anything happening after 2013.

Actually 2013 marks a decade for me since starting Upwards of Endtime so when its all said and done Ill of had at least 15 full releases done in 10 years. That’s a good run that Im completely satisfied with and more than plenty as many have criticized me for, but hopefully 20 years down the road people will appreciate that there's 30 years worth of material to look back on even if it was all done in the first 10.

As for Hour of 13, well that was easily predicted by anyone keeping score as I was never able to bear it more than a year at a time before personality conflicts would force me out . While each time may have its own scenario, in reality the reasons are still the same. Chad and I just don’t see things professionally in the same way. This time there was some money issues that came up and led to smaller things that I just couldn't get passed, also his plans to do it without me even though I was still involved. In the end I gave an ultimatum that was never really seriously addressed so it ended.

And really why continue? There's 3 solid records, that’s a very good run for any band. I was done after the first being very content with the fact I was able to accomplish what I set out to do and that was to make a “cult” record like the ones I worshiped myself for so long. When fans of it requested me back I was honored by that cuz I didn't think anyone would even notice much less care. But unlike in the 80s fans now have a voice that can be heard on the internet, so I realized perhaps it was a bigger thing than I thought so I came back for the second time after Chad kept calling and asking that I would. After problems once again I left a second time thinking “two great records, I can walk away happy with what Ive done and maybe they will go on without me to bigger things and people will back on the first two records like I do the 1st two Maiden records” hahaha. But they didn't  not much happened after I left. No new material written just a few shows and it died out.

Then I started getting calls again from Chad, he (and you for that matter Bill) knew how much I wanted these punk songs we had written after the debut to be released. I had been playing them to people for years and everyone saying they should be released. Chad wasn't much interested I think cuz he honestly didn’t like what I did with them. But I was very happy with em and wanted them heard. So he used them as a lure to get me back to Hour of 13 saying Svart records wanted them. I was done with Hour of 13 at that point and Chad knew that, then he says he wants to change the Hour of 13 style and rework the punks songs to fit for a newHour of 13 record? Then a few weeks later I get a handful of songs to write my lyrics and melodies to. One was “Spiral Vacuum” from the Razzorrock tapes, one was “Rites of Samhain” (from the 7” that was never fully written or completed when released), what was to become “Lucky Bones” and the rest of what was 333. It wasn’t the deathrock record I was expecting but by then I was already roped in and said “fuck it” Ill just do what I do but on the understanding I have no interest in playing live outside the tour I had promised Mark the year before that never happened. Of course now I am the asshole for breaking that promise once again. But it was out of my hands at this point.

I was out of work for a brief period and Chad and I spoke about the possibility of touring. He mentioned Devils Blood were wanting to tour the US and that sounded amazing, less than 48 hours later Chad has booked some small shows with an unsigned band? Not exactly what I was thinking, but I tried to honor it the best I could but wouldn't be able to do any weeknight shows cuz I was back working again. I cancelled the Thursday night show as it was 5 hours away from me and there was no way Id make it in time. But was rehearsing for the other two when Chad contacted me cancelling them cuz of his work schedule.

In this period I had also seen in interviews Chad mentioning his plans to do shows without me and how he had already been rehearsing my parts to make that happen. When I read that I was “done”. I was already telling people close to me after the EU tour Im out, just too much bullshit to deal with. So I did the “grin and bear it” thing for a while and Dublin Doom calls saying they are in a bind and need us to play last minute. We owed Mark more than a favor or two so prepped for Ireland. Some more things came to light there that really didn't sit well with me and there were some other issues lingering with the label causing internal problems as well.

Then a few weeks after IR Chad books another show in VA I have no interest at all in doing, I actually had no interest in any of these shows that were booked, it wasn't I what I was looking for in playing live and Chad knew that. I also knew he full well intended to play it with or without me, I said “if you do it, make sure people know I wont be there”. He ignored my request does the show and posts it all over the internet, to  me it was a slap in the face.

I consulted with my “board of trustees” as Ill call them. A group of accomplished singers I go to for advice on this stuff so I know Im making mature professional decisions rather than emotional ones. They all said the same thing, I took what they said and thought on it for a while then went into discussion with Chad about what I needed to happen. It got heated went on for 3 days until his final message was “your obligations are over” so I took that as a “no” and here we are.

Which is fine by me as especially when it comes to the “occult” thing, this genre is dead, killed by over saturation and over exploitation. You can only go so far with this kinda thing, theres really no point in beating it into the ground. The genre is at its peak and I was glad to be near its pinnacle, its only downhill from here.

And as for the idea of Hour of 13 going on without me? I personally don’t see it going very far. It had that chance the other two times I was out of it. And while Chad can spend the next year singing my songs live he will still have to come up with a record to follow me with. I was watching a Paul Dianno rant the other day about Bruce Dickinson that was pretty funny but true, he explains how “Running Free” broke out and made Iron Maiden. That comparison can be made to “Call to Satan” as well, a song I wrote for Vestal Claret 2 years before Hour of 13. “Masturbation”  and “semen” are what made people take note to Hour of 13 something Chad was never a fan of in the first place. So now he will take his version of Hour of 13 down his “obscure mystical” path and we will see if it holds water with the fans still? And its one thing to sings songs that have already been written, now he will have to come up with his own. Personally I think Robb Pritchard was his best chance of continuing without me and people weren't buying into that even.

Will you still be performing live on the HOUR OF 13 tour?

No I wont be touring or doing anything under the name Hour of 13, recording or live. Although I did boldly offer Earache an alternative 4th record if they weren't happy with Chads next submission. Im not sure if I was half joking or not but I put it out there as in reality Earache own Hour of 13 until they get a couple more records as both of our names are on their contract.

I tried my best to hang in there for it, but in all honestly I could only take so much and issues were being ignored. In the end I made an offer but it was never considered oddly enough, so it could of very well happened but the situation changed so much as feelings were revealed I guess the anger was now on both sides so it wasn’t gonna happen. I told them how much I needed to do the tour that would cover my lost wages from work, the money that was previously owed to me plus a per diem for the time away and 3 months work it would take to prepare. To me it came down to money as there was no longer any other better reason to do it. It just sucked for me all around being a part of it, there was no joy in it whatsoever.

Looking back on HOUR OF 13. What's the positive and negative you'll take away from being in the band?

On the positive side some really great cult heavy metal records I hope will stand the test of time and be remembered as such. Some cool fans and friends while it lasted. A chance to relive my youth and make up for some lifetime regrets and get something out that was festering for more than three decades.

But the negatives far outweighed the positives as they tend to do. Without getting too personal its hard to mention but I can say that it took away everything I respected about the underground. It completely shattered my faith in it. I cant believe something rightfully underground be exploited so much. I miss the innocence of just being by myself recording at home and never venturing outside of that for music, I'm glad to be back to that now.

 Will you still be writing/recording vocals for the new BRITON RITES, VESTAL CLARET albums?

 I am right now recording the new Briton Rites record and even once Im done typing here will go right into working on the the final scratch track for it. Also the second Vestal Claret is pretty much done. We just have to re-record drums on one track and put together two more and it will be completed. So by the end of the year Ill have my “occult” days behind me thankfully.

Phil and Simon(Vestal Claret) at UP Studio during the mixing for "Bloodbath"

Howabout SEAMOUNT? What's your future in that the band?

Seamount is my future, still going strong and we are already into recording our 5th record so I don’t anticipate it dying down soon. Tim and I have made a decision to lay back with it for now and not think about doing anything live for the time being at least. Just concentrating on the new record and having fun with that.

What else is up your sleeve musically? You have some projects outside the realm of metal you'll explore?

Musically beyond Seamount not much. But Id like to see the Lords of Triumph record completed and Im not sure where that stands? All the songs are written and pre-production has been done for over a year but Martin (Altar of Oblivion) has had a pretty full plate so we will see? Arthur from War Hungry who played drums in the Hour of 13 video and I have been flirting with the idea of doing a little project together so that may happen, may be kind of a heavy thrashy hardcore thing. And I have been offered a couple guest spots that people may hear me on, just a song or two hear and there possibly.

Outside of music I have the comic book coming out with Burney D Burney this year and Im flirting with some other ideas but really now that I'm out of Hour of 13 I'm just appreciating having some control back in my life, working and spending time with the girlfriend, my kids and the dog with nothing looming over my head causing me stress and anxiety. I've made myself less accessible and its very comfortable to just be in my own place again.

Interview and pictures property of Bill Connolly/MENTAL FUNERAL ZINE 2013