Did you hear that awesome album by Possessor yet? You should, because it blends all styles into a potent cocktail of gritty, grimy horrorcore sludge.
You can probably rant on about the Sabbath-esque influences and noisey southern swagger, but these Londoners sound unique and awesome, so I thinought it would be a good thing to get in touch with them and get into it with these gentlemen.
Graham Bywater, Matthew ‘Bean’ Radford and Marc Brereton were keen to answer some questions about their music, horror films and their new album.
How did Possessor get started? Were you guys involved with other bands before?
Marc: I was in quite a few bands before Possessor and I still am, but this is definitely the most fun. I’ve known Graham for years as we met back in college and used to record stuff in his bedroom. We always talked about playing together, but it took until now to come into fruition but when Graham asked me to be a part of Possessor it didn’t take long to commit when I heard what he was pumping out.
Graham: Marc was the only person I met at college who didn’t really have strict guidelines and restrictions to what he was into. He wasn’t ashamed to say he loved Green Jelly. The dude had literally no pretensions. He also immediately reminded me of Sasquatch so that was good.
Bean: I know that Graham and Marc have known each other since they were very young, but my personal involvement with Possessor began shortly after Electric Hell was released. I met Graham by complete coincidence. We were both on our way to a Fu Manchu gig in London and had stopped at the same pub before the show for a few pints. My Iron Monkey T shirt was enough for Graham to start a conversation and we soon started talking about music. Graham mentioned Possessor. I’d actually heard of them and had really liked them; they were also looking for a permanent drummer so I offered my services.
My “audition” consisted of a night together, drinking beer and talking about Guns n’ Roses. By the end of the evening Graham had gone missing and Marc had seen my girlfriend naked. This pretty much set the benchmark we have followed ever since!
So what bands do you guys like and influenced your sound?
Graham: It varies greatly depending on the mood. We drove through a rain storm listening to ‘Canadian Metal’ by Darkthrone on the way to a gig recently. That was a very heavy and inspiring moment and has kinda stuck with me. That album, ‘F.O.A.D’ seeped its way into the sound of Dead by Dawn. Other bands that have been on repeat recently are Midnight, Pentagram, Enslaved, Death Evocation, Misfits and some band called Metallica. The Shrine and Bongzilla have been on my iPod a fair bit and that new Kvelertak album is crazy. I normally aim to discover a band a day if possible. Even if they suck.
Bean : I feel really passionate about music. I listen to blues, classical and jazz but at the center of it all is a love for heavy metal. Black Sabbath are the beginning, middle and end for me and they are a huge influence on my playing. From there my tastes go in a lot of different directions. All the way from LA Glam to Death Metal. Classic stuff really. Obituary, Priest, Black Flag, Iron Maiden, Love/Hate, Entombed; I could go on and on.
In terms of influence on Possessor: For me it’s about those bands who can capture an energy and put that on tape. Motorhead’s Overkill comes to mind as does Charles Mingus’ Blues and Roots. On the Mingus album you can hear the band whooping and howling as they play. It’s such a live, un-tampered, vibrant sound. It’s an odd comparison but it’s exactly how I’d like Possessor records to sound.
I understood that you guys are not originally London folk from an interview with Doomed and Stoned. Where do you guys hail from and is how would you say it impacts your sound?
Bean : I’m originally from a small village in Kent. It’s fair to say that it was a fairly isolated place without easy access to town. As a result my childhood was spent reading and writing stories and playing in the nearby woods, close to churches and graveyards! All of this helped me to develop a good imagination which in turn guided my interest towards fantasy tales and horror stories. Ever since I’ve had a disposition towards the occult as an aesthetic, which is why I find Possessor so appealing. It’s also why I’d love people to experience the band in the same way as they would a ghost story or slasher movie!
Graham: Kent. Staplehurst via Sevenoaks. I’ve always been more inspired by nothing than everything.
Horror flick are as I understood an inspiration too. How do you know you’re catching that vibe when writing a song?
Graham: Possessor are basically a horror film disguised as a band. It’s just a natural part of our sound and is effortless. I guess it has a lot to do with the decade we were born in and to this day I don’t really know anyone who isn’t totally nerdy about cinema. I got into bands like Maiden and Helloween around the same time I discovered films like The Terminator and Re-Animator and I knew from a very young age that music and film go hand in hand. People seem to pick up on that with Possessor which is good.
When we younger me and Marc used to spend our Sunday afternoons watching Hills Have Eyes and Evil Dead and the natural instinct was to follow it up with a beer and a jam.
Maybe we should write a musical. I reckon we could do a gig within a film, like in the woods with the Blair Witch or in the kid’s dreams in Nightmare on Elm Street.
Bean : For me, a good example of this would be The Creeps (from Dead by Dawn). It started as a jam on some percussive ideas for another song, but hearing the drum played back in isolation was so evocative of all things voodoo. It put an image in my mind of cannibals dancing under a volcano while their cooking pot boiled. I think the best Possessor songs can make a direct connection to the mind’s eye.
How do you guys pick your artwork? Because it instantly gives off that film vibe. Is it created from scratch or do you use existing images?
Graham: This album took a bit longer as we wanted to outdo our previous concepts without losing the originality. We always go for simple and mysterious imagery but the idea of the faceless character of past releases has become something else with this design as it reveals slightly more.
We often use really old public domain photos that just jump out at us. I normally edit and rework the image until it looks like something new and creepy but always surreptitiously empowering. We don’t talk about the art much as it really should just speak for itself. We like mysterious figures and forms, not blood and gore.
If Possessor was allowed to do a live soundtrack to a film, like bands have been doing on Roadburn Festival for example. Which film(s) would you love to do the score to and why? (and how would it sound)
Marc: Lord of The Rings!! (needs no explanation)
Bean : Something thrilling, visceral and brutal. Texas Chainsaw Massacre would suit us perfectly. That, or a compilation of machete attacks from Friday the 13th.
Graham: The Lost Boys or perhaps Motel Hell? Something trashy and eye catching. Or perhaps it would be even more insane if we played a heavy set to something like Open Water or even a collection of bits from Jurassic Park. Dinosaurs stomping and sharks chomping to the riffs!
A festive gig set to Christmas Evil could be good too.
How would you describe the writing and recording trajectory for your latest album (which is so awesome)?
Graham: Pretty natural. There’s a certain sound, style and spirit to Possessor that writes itself. Having said that this album is definitely edging more towards being filmic and the end result certainly feels more like a group effort this time round. We took a while creating this album because of time restrictions and work but the actual performances themselves were done live and on the spot. One take on most tracks.
Bean : It was recorded really quickly. The drum tracks were done in a single afternoon and in the majority of cases they are first takes. We really wanted to retain the energy and spontaneity of those fresh takes so we deliberately moved through the process quickly without poring over the details or refining them. We wanted this to be a brutally real album with imperfections and accidental highlights. I’m proud to say I think we really achieved that.
If I say that you guys sound like Black Sabbath and Kyuss meeting at a Danzig show, how does that score on the chart of interesting comparisons you’ve heard?
Graham: Well I love Kyuss and Sabbath so that’s fine with me. I’ve noticed we have been compared to Venom and Therapy? a fair bit, and to be honest I don’t get that at all. One review said we sounded like early Electric Wizard crossed with Bathory (?) I think I prefer your description mate but to be honest I don’t really think much about comparisons. We sound like Possessor.
Bean : One of things I really value about Possessor is the wide variety of comparisons that have been applied to us.
People have said we sound like Metallica, L7, Prong, Ministry, Slayer, Pantera and Rob Zombie too. I love that it is difficult to pin us down. The best bands always have something unique about them which is exactly what I think Possessor are striving for
What is a Possessor live show like and are you guys planning to hit the continent soon?
Bean : The Possessor live experience is a heavy one. Our hope is the audience gets on board in the same way we are; basically to celebrate heavy music and have a good time.
We would LOVE to play future shows on the continent. Our recent show at Sonic Blast in Portugal was a huge success. European metal fans made us feel so welcome and really seemed to “get” what we do. I’d be happy to experience some more of that.
Graham: Yeah, that was great fun. I think our live performance often depends on how well we are rehearsed. We like to keep it raw and exciting and ever so slightly theatrical. Depending on the night and the beer intake we may wear a form of war-paint or corpse paint purely because it amuses us and brings to mind the old school craziness of Alice Cooper or Gwar. Other shows can be pretty slick with heads down and feet on the monitors. I think that sometimes a sloppy gig with shit loads of passion and energy is more memorable than being a predictable and routinely structured one. I don’t know why anyone would want to see the same exact performance twice.
We would love to travel and play more outside of the UK, so…
Marc :..Set us up with some dates.
What are the future plans for the band?
Graham: Have some fun and try not to go insane in the meantime. We will be releasing a special something for Halloween this year so keep an ear out for that. One thing we really want to do and have discussed in depth is put out a covers EP. That would be fun, but it could go either way. The songs would have to be weird enough to be worthwhile. We wouldn’t just be covering Ace of Spades and War Pigs.
Bean : In the immediate future? Hopefully more shows. I’d really like to take Dead by Dawn on the road and see people react to these songs. We’re at a stage now where we’re trying to build the profile of the band and that means getting out there and showing people what we’re all about. Beyond that… Write. Record. Do it all again, only bigger and better!
Marc: Burn stuff!
Finally, if you had to describe Possessor as a dish, what would it be (and why)?
Marc: Spicy shepherd’s pie, it’s heavy and hot.
Graham: Fajitas. Loads of heavy flavors with some added cheese.
Bean : Old fish heads and beer – because our food budget will ALWAYS be weighted towards beer.
Any other thing you want to share?