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Xentrix's Kristian Havard: "Who knows if the human race can survive having this ‘Hive’ mentality where everyone is plugged into a collective conscience, maybe we’ll end up like the Borg from Star Trek."

Interview with Kristian "Stan" Havard from Xentrix
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 31 July 2019, 10:10 PM

It has been a while, in particular when talking about the Xentrix Thrash Metal clan. Surely one of the toughest acts in the late 80s in the UK that brought in a world of pain, pleasurable pain. Just recently, the band came back to releasing albums with "Bury The Pain", via Listenable Records. Steinmetal had a chat with veteran guitarist, Kristian Havard, aka Stan, about the new album, new singer, lyrical concepts and more.

Hello Kristian, it is a true honor having you for this interview for Metal Temple online magazine. I guess an official welcome back to the album game is in order, how have you been doing sir?

I’m doing very well thank you! But please don’t call me sir, it makes me feel like the police have pulled me over. ;)

Xentrix has been back since 2013, yet mainly played shows without releasing any new material. Recently you signed with the French Listenable Records to release your new album in seventeen years, “Bury The Pain”. Let’s start with the obvious, what took you so long to come up with an album?

We actually wrote and recorded this album in 2015 with our original singer Chris Astley on vocals. Unfortunately, Chris made the decision not to do music anymore, which put us in the position of disbanding or do the hardest thing for any band, and try to replace the singer… we chose to carry on. So we put everything on hold until we could find a replacement and record a new set of vocals.

 “Bury The Pain” also officially introduced a new frontman / guitarist to your ranks, ex-Blaze Bayley’s Jay Walsh. It is true that it has been two years since the guy’s inception into Xentrix, yet first time in a recording. I have to admit that with Walsh at the front, it sounds like natural Xentrix. What is your perspective on Mr. Walsh?

Originally Jay joined the band as just a guitar player, it was only after we’d had yet another setback auditioning singers that I flippantly said “Can you sing?” To which he replied “Give me a few weeks and I’ll give it a go”. When he came back and we fired up one of the old songs, both myself and Dennis looked at each other in approval, it had taken 2 years but we had found our guy. I think he sounds different to Chris but when we do play the old stuff it still sounds like Xentrix. Jay is a real Metalhead, he’s brought a fire back to Xentrix that maybe wasn’t quite there before.

 “Bury The Pain”’s songwriting style and approach to the way you have been thrashing all these years is a kind of tight mixture between “Shattered Existence” and “For Whose Advantage?”. Truth be told, an iconic period for you guys back then. Do you agree with that assessment or did you envision something different?

When we started writing new material I wanted this one be the album that followed "For Whose Advantage?" but with a more modern production. It’s nice to have a past to look back on and say “that’s cool, and that’s shit” so let’s do more of the cool stuff! We’re at the age where we genuinely don’t give a fuck about trends and what everyone else is doing, we just make the music we want and if people like it… great, if they don’t… tough! I think this album sounds like Xentrix in the year 2019.

You had quite the team producing and mastering the album. What is your appreciation of their work? Is that the sound and mix pattern to follow Xentrix from now on?

I’ve been friends with Andy since 1988, when we opened for Sabbat. He’s such a great guy and an amazing producer with a great ear for detail. But most importantly in my opinion he has an extensive knowledge of Heavy Metal and how it should sound. He also has a brutal sense of humor, which is a massive part of what we do. Obviously Andy is very busy playing guitar for Judas Priest and isn’t always available, so we called on Russ to finish off the mastering. I’ve met Russ a few times in the past 5 years and he’s such a great guy with a fantastic ability to make heavy music sound exciting! Which is what it should sound like.

The artwork featured on “Bury The Pain” is extraordinary. Before I checked I thought it was Ed Repka, yet you hired Dan Goldsworthy, who also did works for Accept, Hell and Gloryhammer among the many. Needless to say an awesome choice. What can you tell regarding the message the artwork holds? What is the vision behind it?

My idea for the cover was to have a guy being tormented by some demons that are whispering instructions into his ears. So I contacted Dan with this idea and very quickly he responded with a rough version of the cover and straight away I loved it, it was exactly what I pictured. Then he took it a step further by making it the same guy from "For Whose Advantage?" And I loved it even more. He’s a great artist, some of the detail is amazing, I love the faces in the demons' body and the blood stain on his shirt, it looks amazing on vinyl.

Today’s Metal market is diverse, energetic, always twisting and turning, even though there are numerous groups keeping the old flame burning. How do you see “Bury The Pain” fit this crazy era?

We definitely don’t worry about things like that, but I see us slotting in with bands like Sacred Reich, Exodus, Testament. I think if you like those bands then it would be worth checking us out. These days it’s easy to check out a new band, the internet is great for that.

It felt to me that “Bury The Pain” is one of those albums that simply lashes on everything that is damaged. Actually, it is quite logical nowadays. Do you believe that we are at a social breakpoint? Is there a future that holds a different fate for our crumbling society or everything is just fine as it is?

I think technology is the duel edged sword that has drastically changed the way we all interact with each other and it’s all happened incredibly quickly. Who knows what effect being globally connected will have in another 20 or even 10 years' time. Who knows if the human race can survive having this ‘Hive’ mentality where everyone is plugged into a collective conscience, maybe we’ll end up like the Borg from Star Trek. The problem I have, and I know most people do, is that I’m seduced by technology, it gives me pleasure very second of the day but I know it’s removing some of my old fashioned people skills.

Which of the album’s tracks is your addiction? That one single tune that can’t leave your ears unless you are sleeping. Please elaborate regarding your pick.

It’s hard to pick your own stuff because your so close to it and you also have experienced it a shit load of times so you never really put it on when your relaxing at home. But if I had to pick one it would be the title track "Bury The Pain". I think the riffs are cool and the chorus is catchy, and I’m pretty proud of the solo.

With your latest signing to Listenable Records, you also entered a new era of music promotion. There is a hefty choice of platforms that can assist bands nowadays to be better known, not mainly for newcomers per se. What is your opinion regarding these new options? Are those too much and you are pro the traditional ways or is it an advantage?

I think music streaming is a great thing in the way that people can experience a world of music with one device. Gone are the days of doing research on a band, maybe reading a review before purchasing an album, just click on it and check it out for yourself. But it’s important to still support bands by buying march and cd’s etc otherwise the future of Metal won’t be there.

Supporting “Bury The Pain” is your top goal I imagine. Other the festivals, which I already saw you on several bills, will you be touring as well in Europe?

There are things in the pipeline, so fingers crossed. The internet and cheaper air travel has meant that it’s much easier for bands of our size to get to play countries in the world that we just couldn’t get to back in the day.

Kristian, I would like to thank you for the interview. Your comeback into releasing albums is a blessing and you sound tight as ever. All the best mate.

Many thanks!


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