SOME time ago in a mystical land of flying V guitars, where heads banged and locks of unruly hair were tossed back meaningfully there existed a strange beast. That beast was Thrash Metal.
Through the vagaries of time and the vacillations of record labels the mystical land of Thrash Metal was consigned to the musical outback, with the patched up denim cut offs hanging limply from the wasted shoulders of those who once “banged that head that wouldn’t bang”.
Then the men and women of the land decided that they needed no truck with fashion – they declared independence and 10 years ago something special emerged – a cross-border monster, ready to bring Thrash Metal’s land back on to the consciousness of the other occupants of the crazy world metal.
That cross-border outfit are Gama Bomb and they’ve just unleashed new album The Terror Tapes – and what a corker it is! [Read our review here]
We caught up with Gama Bomb bassist Joe McGuigan for his take on the journey so far and why those who have no sense of humour should go and listen to Evile...
“Yea 10 years, mad!” he said just taking a breath before enthusing about what the band are at.
“We’re in a really positive head space at the moment. We felt that the material on the new LP is the best we’ve written, and the press and fans have proven us right, so yea creatively we’re on top of our game and business wise things have come along leaps and bounds since the release of our last album.
“So I think we’re in a great position to keep on making records for the foreseeable future.”
But right here and right now Gama Bomb have the Terror Tapes out on AFM Records, and album that is close to being the definitive take on the genre...but where did that come from, after plugging away suddenly the band have battled adversity such departing guitarists, vocal surgery for Philly and a guitarist to broke tendons in his finger. Just what can the unconvinced get with The Terror Tapes?
“I think the album’s genesis was kind of born out of such a long tour for the last album ‘Tales From The Grave In Space’," explained Joe. We played 200 shows and a kind of awareness came to us that that album and the previous one ‘Citizen Brain’ were really brother and sister style and writing wise.
“We really wanted to change things up a bit, bring in more of a metal feeling rather than crossover and refine our writing a bit. So yea, expect bigger catcher chorus, more thrashing break downs. Basically a more refined, sleeker Gama Bomb!”
Humour and Gama Bomb are close brothers, taking the innocence of thrash’s tendency to reference popular culture – a little like the early Anthrax obsession with Stephen King novels and Hawaiian shirts. But there are the some snooty ones who don’t like a laugh claims Joe.
“Yea! Humour and metal have never really gone hand in hand,” he said.
“Like Anthrax's humorous appeal was always more, as you say, a fashion thing rather than a musical thing.
“I think people who take themselves too seriously are unlikely to get Gama Bomb. That’s ok with us; those people are better off not annoying themselves by listening to our music.
“Listen to Evile instead.”
Here in the UK and Ireland Gama Bomb are seen as another band plodding through the tour and album cycle, which almost was derailed when they split from Earache. However, prophets are not always taken heed of in their own land.
“Yeah definitely! Ireland and the UK have never been known as a stronghold of thrash, but we’ve always been able to fill The Underworld (in London) and have a tidy wee rep. in the UK,” said Joe
“But, for sure, 90% of our fans and touring activity are concentrated on the rest of the world.”
As fellow thrashers Onslaught have told this blog outside the scenster magazines and fashionable TV stations thrash still holds sway across the rest of the world as Joe explained:
“We’re on tour, headlining in Europe at the moment and every night we see a small army of kids in their battle jackets, patches up to the nine’s. It’s something that’s definitely catching on at home, just not in huge numbers.”
With mainstream metal and rock media in the UK a closed border for many bands, is social media the answer – something that Joe thinks is only part of the answer.
“Social media is a great tool for bands. It really helps to connect with fans; but at the end of the day it’s on the internet, and there’s only so much you can accomplish online.
“The best way to get your name out there is for people to wear your shirts and talk about you, do gigs!”
With that in mind Gama Bomb are currently on the road – doing gigs!
“We’re on tour in Europe now, then we’ve got summer festivals throughout June, writing in July, an Irish tour in August, along with the Bloodstock Festival in the UK. At the end of August, we’re going to America and December, we’re going to Brazil again.
“Hopefully, we can record in January, then do ‘Thrash Domination’ in Japan, in February, fingers crossed.”
Jesus wept – Thrash really is hard work for bands and fans alike.
There is one thing for certain and that is that Gama Bomb have grown and emerged over 10 years into a pure thrash goldmine – digging into the archaeology of the genre to produce nugget after nugget of original takes on thrash. Bring on the Terror – we be waiting!
With all that serious interviewing done – we caught up with the more “off-the-wall” interview questions. Here they are verbatim as they say as Joe discusses Spuds demise, eight minute epics and sci-fi greats...
Now on to the serious questions.... How crushed are you that well-known post-gig Belfast eaterie Spuds has closed?
“It’s a disaster of the highest proportions. I’ve had so many bogging food poison inducing cheesy beans and chips out of there. But it was always the number one place to go after Laverys. End of an era man. I remember vomiting all over the place at Manowar courtesy of Spuds.”
Paul Voerhoven - a sci fi visionary or just a pretentious director who believed his own hype after Robocop?
“Well, he’s not necessarily a sci-fi genius, but he’s made some amazing films. One of my favourites is ‘Black Book’, and generally his films about Holland are amazing; ‘Soldier Of Orange’, etc. Then, ‘Basic Instinct’ and ‘Hollow Man’ are total wank.”
All the thrash stuff is great, but when are Gama Bomb going to knuckle down and give is a concept album with 8 minute epics :)
“Never. We’ll pass that one over to Evile as well.”
If there was one cover version (not metal) that you'd love to do, what would it be?
“We were always talking about doing a Pouges tune. We’ve done lots of disco though, "Do You Wanna Funk", "Billie Jean" and "I Got 5 On It" (by The Luniz), they all get brought out every now and then.”
And in those three answers there is a hint at the hidden genius in the aural hand grenade that is Gama Bomb: knowledgeable, opinionated, funny as hell, but most of all, true princes in the mystical land of Thrash Metal!
Terror Tapes is available right now on AFM Records