The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world





Most fans of metal will have probably heard the name Andy Sneap by now, a legendary producer who has worked with numerous big names like Megadeth, Kreator, Arch Enemy, Exodus and Carcass amongst others. When he is not producing and mixing great albums, he's writing and recording them, most recently with a band called Hell who have recently been re-activated and are about to release their 2nd album "Curse And Chapter.  We chat to Andy to discuss the new album, the resurgence of Hell and the music industry as it is now.


Risen from their own legacy, having disbanded in 1987, HELL were reincarnated  in 2011 with the addition of Andy Sneap (guitar) and David Bower (vocals) joining original members Kev Bower (guitar and keys), Tony Speakman (bass) and Tim Bowler (drums). Now the British quintet is about the release the follow-up to its highly acclaimed debut »Human Remains« (Nuclear Blast 2011).



Andrew: Hi how are you?



Andy: Yeah good thanks.



Andrew: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, it's much appreciated!



Andy: That's OK, no problem!



Andrew: Just been listening to your new album "Curse And Chapter" and it sounds fantastic! A bit of old school metal with a modern sound mixed in. Tell us a bit about the album and how it came together.



Andy: We've been writing this one really for over probably the last couple of years where we started putting it together but the main part has been in the last 6 months really. It's 50% old material from the 80's that we have brought up to date and then obviously the new stuff that we've written as opposed to the first album where it was all old material. It's more of a band effort really on this one and obviously we've been playing for the last 2 or 3 years as a unit and it feels a bit more cohesive on this album, at least to me anyway. Really it's something we see moving forward rather than being a retro act. We're trying to take the qualities of song writing and the band from the 80's and giving it a modern twist like you say.



Andrew: Did you try to retain much of the original concept and sound of the original days or was this all about going forward and trying something new and different?



Andy: There's a little bit of both in a way. I'm kind of the way where I don't want to bring any modern influences into the music because I think that in a fact the start of a band production-wise we can keep it up to date. Also with the other guys as well, with the 3 remaining members especially Tim (Bowler, drums) and Kev (Bower, guitars) when they stopped playing back in the 80's, they really stopped listening to music. They got out of the scene and became middle aged men and they picked up where they left off so their influences are very much 80's based in playing and songwriting and mine are as well to be honest. When I listen to music I listen to older classic bands like Priest, Maiden, Saxon and Sabbath. I'm not really wanting to play anything that's overly technical, not even play really thrashy with Hell even though I grew up playing thrash. To me I prefer the classic metal style and I think that comes through and that's really where the band's heart is. We want the size and the heaviness of what we can get now but we want the approach of the 80's, I think that's the best way of putting it.




Andrew: Yeah listening to the album I can hear a lot of the classic sound, the speed/power metal groove but there's modern mixes added into it like synth sounds which add depth to some of the songs like in "Age Of Nefarious" which is a great song and has a bit of the old and the new in there.



Andy: What's funny when we were writing that I was thinking this was actually more like Sabbat than Hell. A little bit of the faster thrashier stuff going on. There's a bit of a middle ground there in a way. I try and keep it so there's a bit more melody in the music, I'm not scared to take it in a lighter direction in places. I think Dave's (Bower, vocals) voice as well ties the whole picture together. We can go in a lot of different places, we can go quite progressive, we can go quite Rush in places, we can go a bit Priest and a bit Maiden in places with the music. Whatever we do with it, because Dave's voice is so unique, it ties the whole picture together and I think it gives the whole band a bigger picture in a way.



Andrew: Yeah leaves everything open ended. The progressive things, are you keen to get into as well?



Andy: I think we're doing plenty of progressive bits when you look into it. Stuff like "The Disposer Supreme" and bits of "Something Wicked" and bits of "Deathsquad" which are quite progressive I think. So I think it's about as progressive as we'll go, I think we'll always mix it up. We wouldn't get too Dream Theater on anyone, I think we got a bit of balance and that's a good thing. When we were writing this we would sit back with the demos because we demo'ed everything so we could hear what we had as an album with holes so when we came to write the last couple of songs, we kinda knew what holes we had to fill as far as types of songs. We wanted to make it like the first album where it was a real landscape of different music really rather than getting too one dimensional in any direction.



Andrew: How much has the band changed since the first album came out a few years ago?



Andy: I think everyone has gotten better on the playing. Obviously we've been playing live for the last 2 and a half years and that tightens everyone up as a band. I think we've become closer as friends and closer as a unit. That naturally happens in a band, it either goes 2 ways - either the band grows apart or you become closer. I think because we've been friends for so many years, we've known each other for 25 years, it feels really tight as a unit so it's good. Obviously I'm doing a bit more playing on this record than I did on the first record because I wasn't even in the band as a guitarist on the first one. I threw a few ideas in and if I had an idea I would pick up a guitar and play on it but it wasn't until we had done the album that the guys were serious on taking it even further. It definitely feels like a band now, it feels like it was meant to be like this where with the first record we were kinda still getting it together and a couple of guys were still learning their instruments a little bit.




Andrew: You produced the album is that right?



Andy: Yeah that's right.



Andrew: Do you find it difficult to do both producing and writing and recording as well or do you find they mix well quite easily?



Andy: I find it mixes quite easily, especially on my own material. The one thing I do find really difficult is at the end of the day, giving the final master over because I got this access to the studio, an album is never finished. You can always go back and tweak something, you can be drivng yourself nuts. I mean I was literally working at half 6 in the morning going 'This is not right, this isn't right!' haha! It was fine, I would find the smallest things in there which won't affect record sales.



Andrew: Did you find that you kinda over-analyze stuff because you are doing both things?



Andy: Yeah and it's because your so close to it, it means so much to you. This band means everything to me so when you're that involved on it, it's really difficult to let go. But interestingly, the other way that I do as well when I'm not stressed about a mix I'm doing, every mix I do I want it to be 100%. It is kinda difficult to let go but it's kinda good to have deadlines when it's like that as well because it kinda forces your hand a little bit. I'll listen back to something that I wasn't 100% happy with 3 months later, I'll be like 'Oh that sounds good' and then I'll remember that I wasn't happy with it and I'll be like "I'm insane!" haha! But that's kinda what makes me good at the job, is that I go the extra mile to try and get it to where I'm happy with it.



Andrew: And that's the same for both as a producer and an artist if you are very passionate about it, you want to try and do everything 100% so it's a positive thing.



Andy: Yeah I think it comes across as well if you put that sort of effort into anything, whatever line of work you're in, you'll always do well because it means so much to you.




Andrew: Speaking of passion and all that, the band has developed a bit of a cult following for so many years. Why do you think the fans have kept such an interest in the band for so long?



Andy: I don't know really. Obviously I saw them originally live back in the 80's and I always thought that was their strong point. I don't think many of these tapes that were floating around on the internet really ever did them justice. I used to enjoy listening to the tapes but thats because I had seen what they could do live and that's one reason why we did the first album orignally because these songs never got recorded properly. So I don't know, it's a little bit chinese whispers as well. It's been that thing of 'this band were amazing back in the day' and it's gotten bigger and bigger, a bit of a cult following as you say, the way people talk about it. 'They used to burn churches, they used to set fire to...' none of that happened, it was all set off a bit of pyro in the back of a pub haha! It always becomes a bigger thing than it actually was. I remember Kev saying in an interview we gigged relentlessly or something and I was like 'you did like 15 gigs didn't you?' haha! It always gets blown a little bit out of proportion. The one good thing to these songs in a way, there's a charm to them that I realize back then and that's why I always wanted to record them. It amazes me that one of the bigger labels never picked up on the band but I think you have to see them live to understand it and back then the band lived close to where I am now, about 120-130 miles outside of London so it wasn't easy to get people from record labels and magazines to come see the band, they wouldn't do it. They wouldn't get on the train, there was certaintly no internet or it wasn't even easy to film the band live then, noone had video recorders back then. It was a lot harder for bands to get recognised, you had to be simply really special. A lot of bands had to go to London to perform for people to see them and they just couldn't afford it back then so they missed the opportunity the first time around.



Andrew: Obviously technology has played a bit of a part in the resurgence of Hell I guess. It's not the first time, Carcass is another band that has come out of the woodwork as well so it's played a good part in music in general I think.



Andy: Yeah I think so. A lot of people keep saying to me what I think of the internet and record sales and you can always sit there and moan about it and say it's damaged the music industry but I think it's also benefited the industry a lot as well with the fact that it's easier to get stuff out there. I think the market has gotten more saturated, obviously anyone can release something now and get it out there on facebook and you really have to sift through things. Me as a producer I get bombarded with emails from bands with a facebook link or a youtube link or something like that and I never listen to them. But every now and then someone will do something that stands out, you get a CD through the post which has some amazing packaging to it and it's the same back in the day with tapes as well. With Sabbat, we always made sure we got a color cover on the cassette, put some effort into the packaging and try to do something that will make record labels sit up and pay attention. And I think we're still going to do that, in a way it's kind of what we're doing with Hell now, we're putting on a show when we go out. When we do these festivals we stand out at the festival because we are doing something different and I think that's so important in this day and age especially with all these bands that are so similar.



Andrew: Yeah definitely. Like as you say the market has become so saturated that bands are fighting one another to get the smallest attention. I think it's harder now than before in some ways maybe.



Andy: Yeah I also think bands have gotten a little bit lazy and complacent too though. You look at all the bands coming up to the 80's, every single band had something that was slightly different. All those classic bands that came up, you could tell them apart just by listening to them. They all looked slightly different as well, they all had members that were individual characters. Where now, these young bands that all look like they had wind blown from one direction, they all got neck tattoos, the bass player sings the chorus..I mean come on! Noone is really doing anything that special that stands out. I mean obviously you get 1 or 2 bands in each genre that are doing it, you can always see the leaders in each genre but you can guarantee now that in 6 months down the line, there will be a whole load of bands that will sound exactly like the band that's popular. Peek outside the box guys! Try and do something that's your own thing, take the risks.





Andrew: Yeah they see the success that other bands have gotten so they say oh I can emulate that and they think they're going to get it but it shouldn't work like that really.



Andy: It's almost gone the other way where record labels are looking for bands that are like such and such. There's always been a bit of that but there's no artist development with record labels anymore where they're trying to make something individual and creative. They're trying to fit everything, pigeonhole everything into certain categories and they won't take the risk on it. That's what I'm missing now, that's why when I work with any new band now I want to see something new out of them.



Andrew: You'll be heading on tour with, as we mentioned, Carcass and Amon Amarth next month. Both bands which you worked with before. Do you think touring with bands you have worked with before has benefits or changes anything for you when you do your own show?



Andy: Yeah they won't fuck us over on sound check will they haha!



Andrew: Haha that's true!



Andy: No it's good actually because I'm friends with both bands. Obviously I know the management well and  the record labels well and the band members well so it's a really good vibe. It's nice to go out with friends and we're sharing a bus with Carcass as well so if you're living on a bus with 15 guys, you have to get on well. It's good, it's definitely got an advantage because everyone knows each other before the tour starts. Both bands have been in my studio so yeah good times.



Andrew: Well congratulations on the new album and good luck with the tour, it's been really great talking to you!



Andy: Yep you too mate!



HELL online:



Andy spoke to Andrew Schizodeluxe October 2013





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