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TRAPPED IN PURGATORY's Chris Neighbour: "Politics comes into it, you cannot avoid it, the rise of right-wing politics and the whole wokeness, the way that we’re supposed to behave and supposed to condition ourselves is rammed down our throats..."

Interview with Chris Neighbour, Andy "Jock" Jamieson, Jon Hoare from Trapped in Purgatory
by Leanne Evans at 09 June 2021, 7:53 AM

TRAPPED IN PURGATORY isn’t new to the thrash scene, in fact, three-fifths of UK thrash originals Purgatory make up the band, whilst members of the rhythm section hail from metal outfits Fourwaykill and Mercury Rain. These incessant thrash brutalists have previously said of themselves that they were “Baptised in blood, born of necessity; this is not a reformation, this is a rebirth”. Don’t be fooled, these guys are veterans to the scene and know EXACTLY how to penetrate your thrash-core. The five-piece outfit delightfully treated us greedy thrash guzzlers to their uncompromising and unyielding debut marvel, “Damned Nation”. Metal Temple gave the album a hell-raising 10/10 and recognised that the bestial fivesome more than satisfy our ravenous appetite for demonic sonics, spewing their additively heavy stylistic straight from the pits of hell. Metal Temple’s staff writer and interviewer, Leanne Evans, had the chance to catch-up with Jon Hoare, Chris Neighbour and Andy “Jock” Jamieson, three out of five of the thrash demons of TIP, to discover the roots of the band, how a thrash masterpiece is created and what’s next on the agenda for these maestros of monstrous metal…

Hey guys, nice to catch up with you and thank you for speaking with Metal Temple, how have you been?

JON: For me personally, it’s been a very interesting few months… I moved to Germany In November 2020, which gave us a deadline for us to finish all the tracking for the album, so that was an interesting time.  In a way it was good to have a deadline, or we may have still been finishing it now.  So yeah, fun times!

CHRIS: Yeah, I'm good. I'm just waiting for this awful pandemic to level out so I can get back out to some gigs and some festivals.

JOCK: Not too bad, looking forward to getting back in a rehearsal room. Especially when Jon can join us from Germany. Just getting back to normality would be great!

So, the question that we’re asking all the bands right now, given it’s been such a tough time for everyone, how has the last 12 months been for you? Have you had any particular coping mechanisms or strategies to survive this year of hell?

JON: Well, not really for me.  It wasn’t like we were gigging every weekend and then had to stop suddenly, so there wasn’t really much impact from that side of things and recording and production is a fairly solitary pursuit anyway.  Just keep the minimum number of people in the studio.  The move to Germany was actually easier in a way ‘cos I didn’t have any FOMO (“Fear Of Missing Out”) ha-ha!

CHRIS: I think the last year, it's been tough for everyone, I work in the social care sector, so I’ve been lucky enough to still keep on working, but for me personally, one of my saving graces has been making the album, just to be able to create and have that outlet to stop me losing my mind has been amazing. I think in a strange way, if we hadn't been forced into recording the way we did, we may not have had so much time to create what we did. Metal literally saved my sanity.

JOCK:  A lot of time last year was spent working on the album, most of the tracks had been written and luckily, we had already recorded some guide guitar tracks before the first national lockdown. So, from March to October the album was being recorded. Some tracks were written during this period, so we had to adapt to how we approached it. The album helped us stay sane to an extent!

 Going balls-deep into the brilliance of Trapped in Purgatory straightaway, how did the inception of the band come about?

JON: All Jason’s idea to do it!  You’ll have to ask him why the idea sparked, but I just got a text from Chris (We’d done odd bits and bobs over the years) asking if I’d be interested in doing an EP.  If only I knew then what I know now…  I might not have replied… ha-ha!  I think that the three original members of Purgatory felt there was unfinished business.  I was happy to tag along and help - and throw my toys out of the pram a few times…  LOL!  The inception of the original band was before my time.  Weston Super Mare was a bus ride away from where I lived, I didn’t know anyone that actually lived there.

CHRIS: Yeah, I think just to echo what Jon has said. There was definitely unfinished business, Purgatory had been contacted by a record label back in 2015 or 16 asking us if we'd like to remaster and re-release all the old material from the 80’s, this kind of got us excited and meant that Jock, Jason, myself and Daryl and Bernie all had to reconnect - not that we’d drifted that far. The label wanted us to do a couple of new tracks, but it just didn’t come together. Fast forward a couple of years, and Jason text me out of the blue and asked if I fancied working on something. It became clear very quickly that we wouldn’t be doing a full Purgatory reunion, but Jock was onboard, so we just needed a rhythm section. Cue Jon and Mark, both of whom I’d worked with before in one guise or another, they fitted perfectly, both bringing quite different flavours to the pot. It flowed quite naturally from day one and the beast was unleashed!

JOCK:  Chris, Jason and I had been in the band Purgatory in the late 80’s UK thrash scene.
We released an album through Moshtunage Records a few years ago, “Demon Days”, a collection of both demos we released. We did chat about maybe recording some new material, but both the drummer, Bernie Cobb, and bass player, Darrell Jacobs, live in New Zealand and Australia respectively, so it was a bit impractical! It was about 2019 when Jason contacted Chris, then me, and asked if we would be interested in getting together and seeing if we could write some songs. Then we looked for a drummer and Bass player; Chris had worked with Marc in FourWayKill, and he had known Jon from his band Mercury Rain. So, we all met up and it was obvious from the first rehearsal that it would work.

What was the predominant motivation to form Trapped in Purgatory?

JON: As above really.  Some unfinished business, the feeling that we had more to offer, and the time was right where we all had time to do it.  It felt good to get my teeth in to a new project.

CHRIS:  A lot of it was because we still had something to prove. We felt that watching a lot of newer thrash bands come up that we can still give them a run for her money, so kind of out and necessity, but also out of a pure love and stubbornness for what we do.

JOCK: Seeing if we could produce a modern sounding thrash album with some old school thrash while introducing different influences we have as band members.

And the band name; can we assume that you’re fans of Slayer? Is it deliberate that the band is named after some of the most famous lyrics in thrash of all time from “Raining Blood”?

JON: Too many bands called ‘Purgatory’. Plus, this feels like a new beginning, so it works as a nod to the ‘old’ band and yeah, the Slayer tie-in is nice.

CHRIS: Yeah of course it is, we all love Slayer and also it's nod back to the old Purgatory days.

In your opinion, how do you differ from other contemporary thrash outfits?

JON: I wouldn’t really call us an out-and-out thrash band.  The attitude is there, but I would like to think that we have some other influences that come through.  We’re not ‘everyone heads-down, race you to the end’ I don’t think.  Also, we had very little expectation to deal with – other than our own – so we were a little freer to experiment…

CHRIS:  We're considerably older, less money and fewer prospects ha-ha!!!

JOCK: The songs are structured as songs and not just riffs, something that a lot of thrash bands seem to forget. The lyrics are also a big part of the band. Chris spends a lot of time working on them. We were quite a political band in Purgatory, so a lot of the themes and messages are there. And with what has been going in the world, and especially politics, there is a wealth of subject matter to work with. We did have a lot of conversations about the structure of the album and how the album would flow for the listener. We also kept solos to a minimum. The songs were the most important part of the project, and it was something we hope we’ve achieved.

Now then, 2020 was a rough year; did you guys find that it actually enhanced your craft and created inspiration for you to record the album, “Damned Nation”?

I think we all felt that we had to strike whilst the iron was hot.  We had to stop rehearsing in the traditional sense due to Covid, so with my self-imposed deadline as well, we had to finish writing remotely, and then record over a few months when lockdown eased.  A lot of shared MP3s and ‘discussions’ about things, but Dropbox and Zoom did the job for us.  I guess it was me that kind of took the lead on how we recorded it and put it together.  I probably have the most tracking experience and all the kit to do it.  Nice to use all the gear in anger!

CHRIS: This is really where Jon came into his own.  Myself, Jock and the others, we had no real experience of writing remotely. We were strictly “Old Skool”, we come from a time when you just turned up, plugged in and banged it out for months on end until you had an album. This time round, we have to sit back and think a lot more, think about what we were bringing to the table, send it to and fro via MP3s and really create something off the back of that, rather than just relying on what we've done in rehearsal room. It was a fascinating way to work, and I had to come up to speed personally, very quickly come crashing into the 21st century if you like.

JOCK: It made recording the album more challenging! It made us more focused, and Jon had told us that his family were moving to Germany in November so that made it something we had to really work at with a tight schedule! As for inspiration, with the events in the world all around us and the political events here in the UK, it has made the album probably more reflective lyrically.

Speaking of “Damned Nation”, what a belter that is! I mean, WOW! For a debut release, you guys had me positively ‘creaming’ myself when I reviewed that thrash beast! How did the inspiration behind the thematic come about? Is it pent-up personal opinions or based on politics in general?

JON: Chris is your man for the lyrical and conceptual ideas.  He really is a perfectionist, and although the subjects are tried and tested metal fare, he brings a spark to it with some excellent lyrics and a hell of a lot of conviction.  I like singers that write lyrics and sing.  I think it helps with credibility and I think it gives the singer mor of a ‘buy in’ if you know what I mean.  He is always writing lyrics.  I don’t think the well will ever run dry thankfully.

CHRIS:  I made a conscious decision not to write from a first-person perspective on this album. I've done that in the past with previous bands and it can get very dark very quickly, with trapped in purgatory I wanted to go back to the old school way of writing, the observational, the critique, the looking out of the window as we watch the world burn and write what you see. of course, politics comes into it, you cannot avoid it, it's everywhere, particularly with the rise of right-wing politics and, also, the whole wokeness, the way that we’re supposed to behave and supposed to condition ourselves is rammed down our throats by the media. You can't help but be affected by that and you can't help but write songs if you're writer.

The artwork is a complete masterpiece and insightfully complex; how did the concept come about and who executed the final design?

JON: Again, Chris’s ideas mainly.  We gave Jock a scenario, and he just came up with it.  It’s got the late 80s Thrash look, and I think it really works.  We didn’t want any real changes I don’t think.  Most of the time was spent getting the logo colour right, it couldn’t be too graphic or gory, because that wouldn’t suit the music.

CHRIS: Yeah, it kind of depicts that mistrust for leadership, for authority and the way that the governments are overseen by the banks, by millionaires, by other people pulling their strings. And we, the public, we kind of stumble around, half in adoration for these people, and half in blind ignorance. Ultimately, the future doesn't look bright. We kinda had it coming to us, the warning signs have been right in front of us since the 50’s.

Talking about the tracks on “Damned Nation”, you guys have a couple of cracking instrumental compositions (as with any fantastic thrash album, of course!) who was the genius behind those?

JON: ‘Prelude to War’ is all Jason.  We went through a few iterations and re-writes and all that kind of stuff, but Jase is very good at changing and adapting.  He doesn’t throw his toys out of the pram, and he is very calm and measured. Most unusual for a musician.  ‘Ashen..’ also started out with Jason, and then I got to add some piano and strings.  I still can’t believe they let me do that… ha-ha!  Then Jock put down the solo, pretty much first take.  So yeah, studio born, but I think closes the album nicely.

CHRIS: If I had my way, I would have barked over all of them ha-ha! There is a funny story of me writing some lyrics and sending them to Jason, I told him that I had some great words that will go over Ashen Tide, he just sent a reply back that simply said “mate, it's an instrumental.” I took the hint.

Which tracks are the band’s personal highlights of “Damned Nation”? Are there any that tested the band and pushed your skills to the limits?

JON: They all have something about them.  I think that every song needs a hook or a standout section.  Little bits like the Middle 8 in “Patient Zero” and the link to the solo work well.  I like the bass tone in “Spit it Out” as well.  That makes me smile. (Beyond the)“Rubicon” is a bugger to play as well as it doesn’t follow any real pattern…

CHRIS: I really like the speed and arrogance of “Out of the Fire” but I think that one will really come into its own when we can play it live. The title track is a blinder, I love the discordant guitar work from Jason, and it’s got a huge Maiden-esque chorus to it which is always good.
As Jon says, Ruby was a curve ball, we had this spark in the studio when I was trying some vocal ideas out. Jon’s eyes lit up and we both said, “wow, that’s kinda nothing like the rest of the album…let’s do it!”

JOCK: “Beyond the Rubicon”, that was a song that was created totally online. Having to create a song this way was a challenge but one that showed that we could work this way.  Musically, it is a different style of thrash, but we wanted the album to have tracks that take the listener out their comfort zone. “Patient Zero” was another song that was different than a straight-ahead thrash track.

“Patient Zero” really had me; it’s lyrically brilliant and very compelling. I understand that Chris is the predominant mastermind behind the song-writing, who – or what – is “Patient Zero”?

JON: Hopefully Chris will answer that from the lyrical angle, but I see him as the epicentre of something – sort of Randall Flag from “The Stand”.  The music was mainly mine; I think.  It’s played on a Baritone guitar, so in B rather than E, and it gives the album a subtle shift at that stage.

CHRIS: Yeah, PZ is a great track, a lot of melody there from Jon, it’s catchy as fuck! The song is heavily influenced by a certain orange world leader from last year, but it could be about any hate mongering person of influence. It’s about planting that seed of mistrust, anxiety and hate and then profiteering from the consequences of what follows.

“Beyond the Rubicon” is another work of genius on the album, the progressive influence works magnificently and really showcases Trapped in Purgatory’s melodic side. Tell me more about the thought process behind this track and what it represents to the band.

JON: One of the last ones that we wrote, we wanted something different.  I had it on my laptop, and at the end of tracking a different song, me and Chris just played with it.  We kind of looked at each other and went “Whoa…” can we do that?  It was one of those moments.  Then Jock came up with the idea of a female singer.  I’m glad it wasn’t my idea, as my background is the whole female-fronted symphonic metal thing.  Glad it came from him!  There was a lot of discussion about it…

CHRIS: Yeah, what he said….

And Theresa Smith from Metaprism features on the track with her mellifluous vocals, how did that collaboration come about?

JON: Theresa was the only female singer that Chris thought could make it work.  So, we contacted her, and yep, job done!  None of us have ever met her.  All done over email.  God bless the internet!

CHRIS: I’d seen and heard Theresa perform in her band Metaprism, and she is just awesome. A natural frontwoman with an outstanding voice. It was her or no one really.

Do you guys intend to collaborate with any other artists at all? And indeed, are there any artists in particular who you long to work with?

JON: No plans set in stone, but we have lots of mates in bands that were going to do backing vocals for us – or we were going to ask – but Covid meant it didn’t happen.  Maybe on the next album?  I’m lucky in that I am always busy doing something, and my current project is with Rich Shillitoe (also ex-Mercury Rain) which is a full-on gothic orchestral concept piece with different singers and keyboards and choirs…  Just a diversion from the day job!

CHRIS: I’d certainly be up for the odd guest spot on future recordings, I’d love to work with the guys from Onslaught. On a personal level, I’d like to do something quite lo-fi, maybe a one-off EP of Sabbath-tinged death and roll!

Speaking of other bands, you’re all ‘veterans’ of the thrash scene (I use that term in the most endearing way possible and, by no means, wish to allude to your collective age as a previous music journalist audaciously did!), which bands have you guys played with over the years and what have been career highlights?

JON: For me, it’s been local Bristol bands back in the day – Crisis was the main one – and then Mercury Rain since about 2000, although not really active since 2004, we never officially split.  I also toured as a session bass player with Power Quest in 2008.  I’ve done festival promotion and lots of things.  I believe that you have to live to the max…don’t put things off, do it now!  The whole TiP thing has re-ignited my passion for creating and recording.  I still love it after all these years!

CHRIS: Crikey, loads. I sang briefly with some dodgy Andrew-Lloyd-metal band once called…Mercury Rain or something? Ha-ha. But yeah, a few.  Purgatory with Jock and Jason when we were teens, then I joined an alt-metal outfit called Guttersnipe. That kinda morphed into Fourwaykill, who went onto to have some minor success. Created a few ripples for a while. That was with Jay Walsh (Xentrix/Bull-Riff-Stampede) and Rob Hicks (Panic Cell/ Seven Deadly).

JOCK: In the Purgatory days we supported a lot of bands including Suicidal Tendencies and Onslaught.  I have supported Diamond Head, Skid Row with Gripshift.

Now, I’ve heard on the grapevine that there’s a new album in progress! What do you intend to achieve with the next release and what can greedy thrash monster fans of TiP expect?

JON: Chris has already fleshed out a good number of tracks in terms of titles and lyrics, but with me in Germany we will have to see.  It certainly makes life more interesting.  I have a feeling that to put more in, raise our game and the bar, we are probably looking 2023…

CHRIS: Yeah maybe…we’ll have to see if we get another lockdown so we can work on it!

JOCK: To make a bolder album, the groundwork has been done. People know who we are now, and we’ve read a lot of reviews and fan comments and taken on board what has been said. Ultimately, the next album will have to be what we want to do, as any band will tell you. We must enjoy it and be inspired to play it.

Will the next release continue tackling grubby politics and societal shitstorms?

JON: I would have thought so!

CHRIS: Nope, it’s going to be a triple concept album about Jack the Ripper…called “Saucy Jack” (MT has genuinely gozzed tea everywhere at this level of brilliant sarcastic British humour!)

“Damned Nation” is a bounty of blistering brutality, a pure sonic onslaught that just grips you from the get-go and an utter thrash masterpiece; how can you guys possibly top that? Do you have any tricks up your sleeves?

JON: I think that a lot of the recording process this time was such a learning curve.  Now we know we can do it, we can focus more on the songs.  Not that we didn’t this time, but we know how to record, and it works, so that is a weight off.

CHRIS:  I think we’ve learnt what works and what we could maybe do with less of …I’d like it to be faster, more solos, bigger choruses.

The world’s starting to open up once again (please, metal gods, let us have live music back!), have you any plans for gigs at all?

JON: They are practicing without me early May with a view to gigging, so hopefully yes.  We would love to.

CHRIS: Update: We’re not realistically looking at gigging this year, it’s just logistically a nightmare. So hopefully next year, the odd festival would be good.

Let’s throw in some fun for good measure…if Trapped in Purgatory were going to do a cover, which track would it be and why?

JON: We did look at ‘Two Tribes’ by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.  It’s on a hard drive somewhere, as that has the attitude and can easily me given the metal treatment.  That may or may not see the light of day! FGTH were quite different back in the day.  They wrote some good songs.

CHRIS: Ghostbusters! Ha-ha!!!

And finally, the most unique question you’ll likely EVER be asked in an interview - possibly even in your entire life - my signature “Leanne question…” Who would you invite to your own fantasy celebrity metal tea party? You need to choose someone to cook, someone to chat with, someone to entertain you and someone to party with…

JON: Eric Peterson from Testament – he cooks very well.  I’ve seen him on YouTube!  Geddy Lee to chat with, Dee Snider to party with and Jeff Waters from Annihilator to entertain…  That would be an odd evening.

CHRIS: Oooh good one. Doyle in the kitchen, he’s a vegan and I recon he’d make a killer chilli non carnie. Lemmy for conversation, he’d have the room transfixed. Ted Nugent for entertainment, we could just laugh at the utter bullshit he came out with and seeing as I’m a clean-living guy these days, Biff Byford to party the night away with a good British brew!

JOCK: Someone to cook James Hetfield Someone to chat to Rob Halford, someone to entertain Ozzy Osbourne, someone to party with Ozzy Osbourne lol!!

 Nice one guys! Well, you’ve certainly gained some new TiP thrash monster fans from the Metal Temple… we love you guys! Keep up the good work and let’s look forward (fingers and toes crossed) to some gigs next year and a further album release. Keep it metal, you wonderful reprobates, and thank you for your time!



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