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EVILE's OL Drake: "I think more metal bands need to be honest about the fact that they have full-time jobs, because, you might put “Lead Guitarist" of “so and so band” on Facebook, but that’s not what your job is."

Interview with OL Drake from EVILE
by Leanne Evans at 04 May 2021, 2:45 AM

Metal Temple’s staff writer and interviewer, Leanne Evans, had the opportunity to speak with OL Drake, vocalist and lead guitarist of EVILE, and possibly one of THE nicest guys in the world of metal. After an eight-year hiatus, and now signed to Napalm Records, EVILE is back with their latest release, an absolute belter if you ask us, their fifth album, “Hell Unleashed”. In this interview, we cover everything from the experience of the last twelve months, through to gory details about the latest release, and some glorious bits in between… Read on to find out how Chuck Schudiner holds a place in OL’s heart, weird questions from fans and which fellow metal heads OL would invite to a metal tea party…

So, OL, how have you been?

Ummm… bored (laughs) The lockdown’s been good, because I spent more time with my family, it’s given us more time to write music, but it’s just been, you know yourself, just boring. Nowhere to go, nothing to do…

Have you had your first post-lockdown pint in the pub?

OL: No, we’ve got a three-year old and a seven-month old…

Nice (in a sarcastic tone)

OL: (Laughing) Nooo… (At this point, we both laugh together in only a way that parents can, there seems to be a level of empathy between us as to how challenging lockdown has really been with kids in tow.)

So, you’ve been bored, but I would imagine that the last 12 months would have given you a level of semblance and some creativity and got the cerebral juices flowing again?

OL: Yeah, it did. So, we actually finished the material at the end of 2019, the only thing we were really waiting for were the lyrics and vocals from Matt. We waited a year, because he just didn’t have the time, so it gave me a lot to do in the lockdown, in terms of writing all the lyrics, sorting the vocals out and it also gave me the chance to listen to the music again, because one thing you don’t want to do is release it without second guessing sometimes. Because in a year, you’ll listen to it and go, “Oh, I wish we would have done that”, you know, so it gave me that opportunity, I was quite thankful for it really.

I’d heard actually, I’ll admit that prior to the interview, I wanted to do a bit of digging on you as well, and try and vibe what you’re all about…

OL: (laughs) It sounds like you’re trying to blackmail me… (wonderful Yorkshire sarcasm comes through, it’s perfect!)

(At this point, we both laugh, maybe nervously, maybe hysterically, but we’re definitely enjoying our chat)

(in the cheekiest of tones) I very well could… but I’ve not found anything too salacious… just yet!

(Again, a good belly laugh between us, OL is brilliant fun!)

But what I did find was actually REALLY cool, I came across one of your picking videos and you spoke about your techniques, of which one of them was called the “Shit Technique” (we both laugh) very insightful…

OL: Yes, I call it that because I can’t fully explain how to do it, it’s a thing I do, I think it’s a bad habit that I picked up, and I kind of turned into a technique (laughter)

Look, dude, it’s clearly working for you… stick with it! One of the other things I’d found, when doing my research, was that you’re doing a lot with Twitch, which seems to be another area of being able to express your creativity. Has doing that brought a different facet to your craft? Have you been able to widen what you’re doing and venture into new territory?

OL: Yeah, it’s been a completely different animal, to be honest with you, it’s basically live streaming and just playing the guitar and people coming into the chat, and they ask questions and everything, but it’s kind of a no pressure situation, so you aren’t 100% performing, you’re just playing with people, and if you make mistakes, it doesn’t really matter… live, it matters, but it’s given me the freedom to not overly ‘care’ about my playing and just have fun with it, if you know what I mean, it’s kind of given me a bit of freedom on the guitar and made me worry about it less. It’s been good.

That’s really good. And when you said that you get asked questions, have you had a weird question that you’ve been asked? I’m sure there must be some weird ones…

OL: (smiles) Yeah… everything from “What colour underwear are you wearing” to “How many inches”… (MT laughing hysterically) There’s a lot that I don’t answer and just ignore it and let it go… there’s lots of weird and wonderful questions on Twitch!

(laughing) I can only imagine… I mean, I won’t ask you what colour underwear you’re wearing now, it would be highly inappropriate (both laughing)

OL: (laughing) I actually don’t know, I can’t remember, so I couldn’t answer you anyway…

So it’s cool that you’ve got involved in something different, and again, coming back to my research and trying to find different topics to pick your brains about, I came across your cover of “Voice of the Soul”, which is honestly, SO awesome! What struck me, is that as perfect as it is, and this uber-talented guitarist that you are, you still introduced it as saying that it’s got “flaws and fuck-ups”. Do you think you’re really hard on yourself?

OL: Yes, I think it’s a blessing and a curse to an extent, because it makes me over-analyse everything, there’s also a line that I can cross, where I can go too far into analysing, but the Death cover was really fun, I did it because it was Chuck’s anniversary of his passing, I wanted to do something for it. I actually got an email from Chuck’s mother, because she’d heard the cover and she really liked it! I was just blown away! I mean… WOW!! I LOVE doing little things like that, it keeps me fresh, it keeps me on my toes… but I’m definitely hard on myself, but I think it’s a good thing in some ways.

Yeah, the thing is, if anyone thinks that they’re perfect, they’re never going to strive for improvement, because they’ll think “been there, done that, got the t-shirt”. So, your fans think you’re fantastic, but you as a person, you seem very down-to-earth, very accepting that you’re only human and you obviously want to strive to be the best version of yourself… nonetheless, I think you’re perfect (laughs)

OL: (Laughs) well, like you said, I’m from Yorkshire, anyone who comes from Yorkshire who thinks they’re the best thing in the world, isn’t going to get very far!

(Laughs) actually, you saying that, just a general question I’d ask anyone from Yorkshire… why is Yorkshire “God’s own country”?

OL: (Laughs) Well I don’t really subscribe to the whole (kind of shouts) “YORKSHIRRRREEE”, as much as it’s great and as much as I love it, I think it’s the whole concept that the countryside is really beautiful and people just see it as if God were to make somewhere, it would be Yorkshire!

Going back to the cover you did of “Voice of the Soul”, would you say that Chuck was a huge influence for you as well?

Ol: Yeah, Death was always one of my favourite bands, but Chuck himself has been one of my favourite musicians and he’s what made me, what spurred me on, to be the singer of Evile in a way, because when Matt left, I don’t think I thought a lead guitarist can be the singer as well, but then the second layer I thought “No! Wait! Chuck Schuldiner! If he can do it, I can at least give it a shot!” If it wasn’t for him, I might have questioned it a bit more… but (laughs) I probably would have still done it anyway!

The thing is as well, he seemed like such a down-to-earth kind of guy, so unassuming in a lot of ways, and just a really good-natured, kind person, who happened to be so immensely talented!

OL: I spoke to a few people that knew him, like James Murphy who did my solo album, Steve Di Giorgio, Gene Hoglan, everyone I’ve met who knew him, said he was just a mellow, relaxed, chilled out guy, just really nice. I think a lot of people in metal are, you find that people who play metal, other people think “oh, I bet they’re evil”, but most people I know in metal, are just really nice people!

There is actually this misconception that if you’re into metal, you must be some kind of unhinged mentalist… which (laughs), perhaps we all are, but, we’re good people!

OL: Yeah, it reminds me of an episode of “Casualty” that Evile was in, like Evile’s music, and the plot was something bad had happened – I can’t remember what – but, it led you to believe that the guy who was into heavy metal, did the bad thing… and then by the end of the episode, it wasn’t, it was someone else, and it made everyone watching it think, “oh, that was bad of me to think it was the metal guy”. It was a really good episode!

Did “Casualty” have to ask you if they could have the music in there?

OL: (laughs) yeah… but it’s “Casualty”, you’re going to say “yes”!!! It’s like a dream! (both laughing)

It is really interesting this journey that you guys have been on, because you’ve been around for donkey’s years really, when you look at your career, but then you’ve also had quite a long hiatus, which I know that, from your perspective, was something that you really needed. In terms of having that break, and then coming back, do you feel that you’ve been able to have that break, have that proper rest, essentially rest your soul and get yourself back together again?

OL: It wasn’t mostly about getting rest, it was more about, because my life was Evile, 24/7, it was music, everything, I didn’t have jobs a lot of the time, because I was concentrating on Evile so much, that I missed all the normal landmarks that people have in their life. Things like, the big house, having kids, I wanted to do that, and one of the main reasons I left, was because it was an unrealistic way of living. This time around, when I re-joined, I’d come to terms with the fact that, being in a metal band now, is a hobby and it has to be on the side-lines. I’m not going to pretend that it’s my career, because with most metal bands, it isn’t. I think more metal bands need to be honest about the fact that they have full-time jobs, because, you might put “Lead Guitarist of “so and so band” on Facebook, but that’s not what your job is (laughs) But this time around, I thought “Look, let’s just go for it”, I’ve accepted that we’re never going to be playing arenas, it’s never going to be a full-time career, but it would be great if it was, but let’s just do it when we can. I was a lot more comfortable doing it this time round.

It’s very endearing that you’re as humble as you are about the success that you’ve had, but you talk about that there’s this acceptance of not performing in arenas… but actually, you’ve played with some HUGE names, like Megadeath, Exodus and Sabbat, that’s huge! To me, that’s a massive achievement; from that perspective, do you think that’s something you can improve on? Do you think you can “go bigger”? Do you see yourself in a bigger light now?

OL: Honestly, since we started, I don’t see Evile in a bigger light, or a smaller light, it’s exactly the same. The only thing I think we’re aiming for is to be able to carry on doing it, which means quite a few things. We need the fans’ support, to buy the CD’s, to buy the vinyls, to come and see us, because any employer you walk up to and say, “Can I have two months off to do a tour?”, most of them are going to say “No”. It’s a really fine balance that you need to find, and I just hope we can find it. The goal would be to one day, breakthrough, and be able to do it properly! It’s just so difficult, especially in metal.

It is a shame! You and I are going to be biased and say, “Metal is the be-all and end-all”, and everyone in metal is perfect (laughing), it’s a shame that there are some brilliant bands, but there isn’t the perfect environment to get people to where they should be, it’s quite crushing. Without wanting to put a dampener on things, do you also feel disappointment that you can’t quite push yourself to where you want to be?

OL: I wouldn’t say disappointment, I’d say it’s a shame because there’s SO many talented bands that should be doing this as their career, and the fact that they can’t, because of the way of the world now, you know, streaming and the internet, it’s disheartening. We do it because we LOVE doing it, we didn’t start doing it just because we wanted to get famous and make money – we would’ve stopped a LONG time ago, if that were the case – it’s just the fact that we love it, that we still do it (laughs) it’s like “How much did you make on that tour?”… “Make??!!” (laughs)

That must be disappointing for you. When I listen to your music, there’s SO much soul, SO much heart, SO much passion. It makes me feel sad, as a fan and a listener, that essentially, you’re not making an absolute killing like you should be!

OL: I mean, as long as people are enjoying it, I think that that’s essentially the end goal. If ten people really enjoy it, I’m happy. I get messages all the time saying, “You helped me through a really tough part of my life”, I mean that’s better than any money. If you can make a difference to someone’s life, I think it was all worth it, even if it’s just one person.

You’re right, I think that’s it, going back to metal, it’s literally a lifestyle, it’s everything, it’s not just music, it’s what it represents! Metal heads are very impassioned about what they’re listening to and it’s very much a spiritual connection and that’s what Evile really convey, it’s that opportunity that you give to the listener. Looking at your career, where you’ve started, what you’ve been able to do, up to this point of the new release, what you’ve achieved is incredible. Have you ever listened to where you started, and to where you now are, and appreciated how much you’ve matured in your sound?

OL: Yeah, I have actually, a few times, and on my Twitch stream, people ask me to play stuff off our 2004 Demo, and I play it and think, “WOW, we had no idea what we were doing!” (laughs), but it’s fun, but then going from our first recording to our newest album, going through all the albums, we’ve loved everything we’ve done, but then everything has built-up so much, but we all agree that this newest album, I’m not even saying this as a press thing, we’ve got a really special feeling about it, like we’ve never had this magical feeling for an album. We’ve loved them all, we’ve put our heart and soul into them, but this one, there’s just something about it, I think we’ve got something special, you know. I really hope everyone checks it out, I really hope they do.

Honestly, I think you’ll be blown away! When I was sent the press pack with the album, listening to it, and naturally comparing it to other albums, there’s previously been the very obvious Metallica and Slayer influences that have come through. The “Hell Unleashed” release, it’s like, OK, you’ve got that sound from the thrash giants, but this is Evile’s identity. You’ve come into your own, it’s SENSATIONAL! “Hell Unleashed” also has some really interesting thematic (laughs) one track is called, “The Thing”, how did that come about to write a track about a horror monster?

OL: Well, “The Thing (1982)”, is my favourite film of all time. It’s literally just the film, “The Thing”, so we’ve always tried to do film songs, so we’ve done “Rambo”, “Jaws”, “Gladiator”, we’ve done loads of them. We haven’t done it in a while, so “The Thing” is my favourite film and when I was racking my brains for lyrics, I was thinking “Why have I never done my favourite film of all time” (laughs) so, it just had to be that…and it just kind of wrote itself (laughs)

I mean, the thematic, to say it’s about this deranged “Thing”, the actual track is so cleverly constructed, it’s such an amazing listen! Honestly, I’m not just saying this because we’re talking, the whole album is an absolute masterpiece, it really is!

OL: Thank you! Thank you so much!

When I put “Gore” on in my pretend pit (my kitchen), I just wanted to have loads of people around me and just go for it and maim myself! And when “Hell Unleashed” bursts in, maaan! Speaking of “Hell Unleashed”, I mean that comes crashing in, it’s there, it’s in your face! Is that almost like a metaphorical middle finger, in a way, of EVILE saying, “We’re back!”?

OL: Yesss! 100%, that’s why we put that track on first, because it’s the shortest song, and we just wanted to punch people in the face (musically) and just let everyone know that we’re back, we’re serious and this is the most aggressive stuff that we’ve done to date! It was a statement really… it was less about the song and more about the “ARRRRGGGG” (laughs after an expressive metal shout)

(laughing) YESSSS! It’s like this full-on, front-frontal, thrash announcement! What you’ve set out to achieve, it absolutely comes through, it’s blistering! As much as I understand you’d had a bit of time away, actually, those inhuman, breakneck speeds… I mean, DUDE, how do you even do it?! Are you supernatural or something? It’s just INSANE!!!

OL: It’s just years of practice, I started off, I couldn’t even play guitar, and I heard Annihilator, and the picking on Annihilator is just insane, so I had to learn it, I spent eight years of my life learning Annihilator songs, and I think I just, kind of, subconsciously stole that ability and I just ran with it and tried to get faster and faster… “War of Attrition” on the new album, I think is the fastest we’ve done… and (laughs) I hope we never play that song live!!!

Is there anything you have to do in particular to build yourself up or prepare yourself when you’re playing live? When you’re live, you’re there, you’ve got to bust it out, do you do anything different compared to being in the studio?

OL: I listen to a lot of Metallica before we play, I always put on “Kill ‘em All” to get in the mood, it really helps me to get into that mindset of where thrash came from, I do that quite a lot.

Nothing else that gets you set up? I mean, some people wear lucky underwear… maybe that’s what the person on Twitch was getting at (both laugh)

OL: One thing I used to do, I had a Red Bull every day before we played, which I don’t think having a Red Bull every day is very healthy and I got really hyper! (laughs) I used to get really nervous before we played, and over the years I just stopped, there was no, like, ritual or anything, I think I just know that when I get up there, it’s going to be fine, that I just enjoyed it. So yeah, I just start warming up an hour before we play… and that’s about it.

(laughs) Oh, OK… you literally make it sound so easy! I’m sure it’s not!

OL: (laughs) It is! It is! If you make it easy, it is!

Actually, going back to when we were speaking earlier about how you mastered your craft, there’s a lot of fledgling guitarists out there that, you, to them, you’re like this demi-god! And there’s really experienced guitarists as well, who equally hold you in such high regard; if you could give any tip to them, or any hints, anything, what would you personally want to say to them?

OL: I would say, that, well, I started using guitar tab books, and the more I played and listened, the more I realised that they were wrong… like, a lot of the official tab books are not right. The more I learned, and the more I enjoyed it, the more I enjoyed the challenge of learning it by ear. I started that quite early, so the best advice I could give is find your foundation of being able to play, but then do it completely on your own, learn for yourself, because that’s the only way you will find your own identity as a musician, or a guitarist. There’s thousands of clones out there who shred and play sweeps and play really fast, and the older I’ve gotten, and the less I give a shit about playing fast, it’s just like “Well done, can you write something I’m going to remember in ten years?”. I much prefer playing slower, memorable things, but that’s a challenge in thrash; you can’t really play slow in thrash. But I’d say that, go and do it yourself, play by ear, and just find your own comfort zone and then run with it.

That’s a good bit of advice. It’s the same with anything in life; just go balls-deep, be yourself and that’s all you can be! So, there’s one last question (OL is set to hop over to another interview, he’s a man in demand!), a very “Leanne” question (we both burst into fits of laughter, OL has gauged that I’m a bit nuts and unhinged), so it’s an obscure one… if you could have your own celebrity metal tea party, who would you invite? The rules are, you’ve got to have someone to cook, someone to provide entertainment, someone to converse with and someone to party with?

Right, so, to party with, I’d say Gary Holt from Exodus and Slayer… I remember partying with him, and he was running around with a banjo, playing Metallica on it, being a drunk idiot! To cook, I would probably say Dave Grohl, I would love to hang out with him! To talk to, Gene Hoglan, he’s such an interesting, nice guy and then to entertain, I’d say, Steve Vai, because he’s a god! Everything he does on the guitar… I just… well, I just don’t believe, he’s using two notes and I’m like “How are you doing that?!” (laughs)

(laughing) Do you actually think it’s possible that there’s someone on guitar more inhuman than you?

OL: (laughing) YES!

Well, listen, if you’ve got to go, I’ll let you free (laughing), It’s been such a pleasure, thank you for being so patient with me and for popping my metal interview cherry!

OL: (laughing hysterically) You are welcome!!

And that, Metal Temple readers, was the inimitable OL Drake of Evile, what an absolute legend and a seriously wonderful character! Who knew that such an inhumanly fast thrasher, could be such a gentle soul? Evile’s latest release, “Hell Unleashed”, is out April 30th on CD, VINYL and Digital Download.



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Edited 05 December 2021
 

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