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Interview - Joff Bailey (Savage Messiah)

Interview with Joff Bailey from Savage Messiah
by Danny Sanderson at 20 August 2014, 11:16 AM

London's SAVAGE MESSIAH are fast becoming one of the UK's premier Thrash / Heavy Metal acts, alongside bands like EVILE and TRIAXIS. Danny Sanderson caught up with the band's lead guitarist, Joff Bailey, before they hit the stage for SOS Festival to talk about Government approved funded Rock 'n' Roll, Game of Thrones, and how one of the standout tracks on "The Fateful Dark" almost never saw the light of day…

Today I'm talking to Savage Messiah. How are you doing?

Yeah, I'm pretty good.

I know you were recently awarded something as part of a Government grant, which was part of the Music Export Growth Scheme; What have you done with the money? Have you put it to use with touring or merch or what?

Well, it's quite weird how that works; it's a little bit like a Tax Rebate, so if the label were to put some money into touring or merch of something like that, there'd normally be expenses for stuff like fuel, and this allows us to claim a percentage of that back, which helps us out immensely with stuff like playing abroad. It's not like we're just wandering around with a big wad of cash in our pockets, it's not like that at all.

I know that Dave is, or was, an accountant, so I guess that it's good having someone like that who has experience working with money in the band, especially at this point in your career when you're gaining a name for yourself.

Yeah, yeah, he's definitely clued up with that kind of stuff, which is great. He's actually working for the NCPS right now, collecting like royalties and all that kind of stuff. So yeah, it's quite another important string to his bow, really. It's a great insight into that part of the industry as well for us; we can look and stuff and say to ourselves "Wow, we were losing money here!"

How is your new Bassist Matt settling into the band?

Excellently. Really excellent. He's a good lad and everything, and he came into the band just before the Soulfly tour we were on earlier in the year, he'd been with us for like a couple of weeks, he'd had two rehearsals, and when we went out on tour, we had no problems at all! He's a good, hard worker, he's really good with his social networking, and the whole social media side of things. Yeah, we're all more than happy with him, he's worked out great.

I saw you guys at Sound Control not long after he'd joined the band and he was shit hot live!

Yeah, that was a headline show, wasn't it?

Actually, my mate Mike \[Coyle, who also writes for Metal Temple] was in the opening band for that show.

Oh really. Yeah I do vaguely remember those guys.

So, the Fateful Dark has been out for about four months now. How do you think that people are receiving the new material live?

Yeah, it's been received very well. I mean, at the moment, we're playing better live than we have ever before, and I think that because we wrote those songs with the live environment in mind. The writing process just involved us four guys in a room, jamming, crashing it out, and saying "What could we fit in here? What would sound best there?", and just making sure that these songs would sound really great on the live platform. They're translating really well to audiences, and we're really happy with how people are reacting to those songs. All the live reviews that we've had for this albums run with the new tracks have so far have been all good, so, yeah, there's no complaints there, we're all really pleased with it!

I know that you guys, as a band, are quite well read; For example, you've got a song called "the Mask of Anarchy" which is based on the Percy Shelley poem about the Peterloo Massacre. So, really, bearing that all in mind, what have the lyrical themes and inspirations been for this new album?

A bit of everything really. Dave is really into stuff like politics and economics, power struggles, a lot of that kind of thing. Where this album differs from "Plague of Conscience" was that that record was more rooted in that kind of thing. I mean we used the Shelley poem for the "Mask of Anarchy" and stuff like that. But with this record, it's been a bit more matter-of-fact, if you get what I'm saying. You don't always have to have a history lesson every time you're reading the lyric booklet for an album. A lot of people just wanna Rock out, so we tried to go a bit more down that kind of road on this one, while still getting the deeper points across, you know.

It's definitely more fun to listen than the sort of bands who sing about sex, drugs, fast cars and crap like that. I now that it's not entirely necessary to have the deeper elements there, but it's nice to have that, you know?

Yeah, it can have a bit of substance, but at the end of the day, you've got to have a chorus man! Like, on the last TESTAMENT album, they had the song "Rise Up!", and the chorus just goes  "RISE UP! WAR!" And when you hear it, it's like, "fucking YES!" I mean, everyone like to shout "WAR!", because it's cool; so we try and do stuff like that as well, do something with that kind of influence.

For the new album, what was the writing and recording process like?

It was really good! We used Scott Atkins again, who's a really good producer. We've used him on…actually quite a lot of our albums! He mixed "Plague of Conscience", and he's done the same with the new one. We'd definitely use him again, we like Scott. He's got a good relationship with the band, and we work well with him. He's brutally honest with you, he'll push you to do better, and he will bring you to the point of tears with how hard he makes you work for the results. He'll sit with you for ages to get the right performance out of you as well; but that's what you want with a producer. You don't want a Yes Man producer who'll just lay down whatever it is you're happy with.

You wouldn't want to do a half-arsed job of it and people think it was rubbish.

Yeah, he definitely wants your album to be the best that it can be. And if something's not right, then  Scott is the first to tell you "That riff's crap!" At the time it can get to you, because you're downtrodden and tired, and you've been playing the same thing for about eight hours on end, and then he'll go "We need to change this", and you'll just go "NOOOOOOOOO!"

So was this album recorded at Foel Studios?

It was actually recorded it at Grindhouse Studiosin Eton Market, which is kind of cool, because you're really isolated out there, because there's nothing but fields and cow shit for miles around for as far as you can see. So it keeps your mind on the task at hand. And it's good when he says that something's not right and you need to change something. Like on the song "Minority of One", that nearly didn't happen. We had the chorus and everything, and a song around it. And Scott told us, "I like the chorus, but the rest of the song's a bit stock, so we need to work on it." And we nearly dropped it, like nearly dropped the song from the album, but now it's become one of the stand out tracks on the album.

It's definitely a fan favourite now.

Yeah, whenever we play it live, we get a great crowd reaction.

That is one of my favourite tracks off the new album, and it'd be a shame for it not to be on there.

Yeah, and it's gotten to be one of the best songs on the album almost by accident. I mean Scott really worked with us all, and we knocked our heads together, and at the end of the day, we came out with some decent stuff. So yeah, we like working with Scott.

The band's name apparently comes from a 1972 film starring Helen Mirren and Ken Russell. Why was that name chosen for the band?

I don’t know really, it's not a big story. I think Dave was just channel hopping one night and the film was on, and he just went, "Oh, Savage Messiah, that'd make a cool band name…"

There's a lot of bands that, when you ask them their name, they'll come out with some long, pretentious meaning being why they're called what they're called, and then there's band's like you guys who just named it after a book or a film or something, like that. I mean, Black Sabbath are a great example of that kind of thing; they were named after a film that was showing at the cinema around the corner from where they practiced.
I know you've got the "Pope" character that you use on your album covers and for promotional stuff. How is that character going to fit into the band's overall concept?

I mean, it's a thing that we'd like to keep going. The artist that designed the cover for the last two albums, a guy called Peter Salie, we sent him a few lyric sheets when he was doing the artwork for "Plague of Conscience", and his first idea was that; the whole Pope guy with all these hidden things that work into the album's lyrics, like the "All Seeing Eye". It really summer up what the album was about. So we decided to carry that character on into the new record, and again, he came up with the goods for it. It's definitely something that we want to try and cultivate and use. I mean, he basically created our own Eddie the Head for us, you know.

I mean, a character or "mascot" is usually great to have; a band like Kreator has their guy, and obviously Iron Maiden have Eddie. And people see their mascot and go "That's an Iron Maiden/ Kreator record" Hopefully people will be saying that about Savage Messiah in the future. A lot of great bands like Iron Maiden, Motorhead etc have their own guys to go on their album covers; there are a lot of these characters in the Metal World. And we're not really Hell raisers as such, I hardly drink while we're on tour, so if you see me playing up onstage tonight, it's down to me. But it's great to have a mascot like that at our disposal, because that character can scream for the band, you know.

You also released a video for "Hellblazer" to help promote the new album, and the video for that song featured one of the cast of Game of Thrones. So how do she end up getting involved with that?

Well, that was a thing that the director of the video came up with, having a girl who was possessed and stuff like that. And I'm a big Game of Thrones fan anyway, so when he said to me "You know Kayla from Game of Thrones? The Bendy One? Well she's going to be in your new video!" And I was just like "OH YES!" And it was awesome, it was really cool. I kept asking her what it was like on set and what it was like filming scenes with Tyrion. It was a really good day, I really enjoyed it! It was really cool. There was a mate of ours called Phil up at the shoot dressed as the Pope, and doing all this exorcism style stuff, it was really good.

I mean, the cast of Game of Thrones cast often appear at Rock shows and festivals. The guy who plays Sam in the show was actually at Sonisphere, and there's a picture of him that's been leaked online meeting Mastodon!

No way! That's so cool! If the Game of Thrones cast ever turned up at one of our shows, I would just lose my shit!

It would be great to look out into the crowd and see Sean Bean staring back at you!

It really would be! Maybe he's into Metal… a lot of his roles involved death and battles, so he could very well listen to it to get into the mood!

What are your plans for the rest of this year after your show today?

Well, we've got a couple of tours coming up in the later part of the year. We're doing a UK headline tour, as well as a few headline dates over in Europe. There's talk of going over to Japan for a few days as well, which would be really, really good, and we're playing Alt Fest in August, which should be good. I'm really looking forward ti that one. Also, we're writing for the next record at the moment, so with any luck we'll all be in the studio at some point in the new year. So yeah, there's plenty in the pipeline, we'll jus get our ace to the grindstone and get on with it, you know.

Finally, have you got any messages for your fans before the end of the interview?

Thank you very, very much for the support. It's been really great. Thanks for picking up the new album and turning out for gigs, it's been really good. We can't survive without you and your support, so thank you very, very much!

Thank you for the interview dude, and have a great show tonight!

Cheers, man!

Savage Messiah's new album "The Fateful Dark" is out now via Earache Records. Catch them on tour, including the Headbangers Ball in October/ November. 


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