Bulletbelt's Ross Talks Blood and Demons

Bulletbelt straight out of New Zealand turf, had developed a song that would become one of the tracks off the horror comedy flick "Deathgasm". The film title is the title of the song that was used on the film and film's soundtrack, after meeting up director/writer Jason, a few times, the results were blood gushing. Guitarist Ross, discusses the band's development with the song, film, and about themselves, with the release of their latest album "Rise Of The Banshee", as well as what they have planned, including new music and some showcases happening in and around this year and the next.

1. Let's talk a little about the history of your band. When did you originally form and is this the original line-up?

Ross: Steve (drums) and I (Ross, guitar) formed the band in 2009. We've had a few changes in personnel over the intervening years and have expanded from originally being a 3-piece, up to a 5-piece as of today. From the current membership, Tim joined on bass in 2012 just before our first NZ tour, and the recording of our first album 'Down In The Cold Of The Grave'. Jolene joined on vocals in Dec 2013 - her first show was the vinyl release gig for our first album. The latest addition is Viv Te Tau on guitar, who played his first show just a month ago.

2. Do you remember how the idea of forming the band first came up?

Ross: Steve and I were friends, we had similar interests in music, and lived in the same suburb in Wellington, NZ. We are both drummers, and Steve just asked one day if I played any other instruments. I was self taught on guitar, so offered that up, and it seems to have stuck! I think we also have a similar interest in the management and promotion of the band, just pushing forward and making the most of opportunities as they present themselves. It definitely helps having two people in the band working together in a similar direction.

3. How long after you formed was it until you played your first live show?

Ross: We formed around June / July 2009 as just drums and guitar. We added a bass/vocalist a couple months later, and our first show was April 2010, so it was around 9 or 10 months.
4. What are your memories of the performance?

Ross: None. Ha! As it was my first time playing guitar in front of an audience, I was probably freaking out about being in tune, and not breaking a string! My only vague memory would be that I was standing up close to the front of the stage... as a drummer for the preceding 16 years, I had always sat down when I played, and was always safely tucked up the back with a drum-kit 'protecting' me from the audience. Quite a revelation to be that close to the action!

5. How would you categorize the style of the band?

Ross: In its most basic form - Black Metal. However, we're definitely striving to coherently introduce influences from other genres into our sound, thrash, punk, classic metal, hard rock, progressive, etc. As a result I don’t think we’ll ever sound like a traditional 2nd-wave-of-black-metal band that many associate with the genre.

6. One of two of your singles off "Rise Of The Banshee" called "Deathgasm", was that title taken from the film of the same name, or did the film come up with it first, then you guys did something with it, what's the story behind it?

Ross: The film title existed first. I had already begun working on some riffs for Rise Of The Banshee which we then developed into becoming the song 'Deathgasm'. We had met with Jason, the writer/director a few times when initially writing the song. He then let Steve see an early treatment of the movie.  Which we then used as lyrics for the song. If you've seen the movie, you'll notice references to it in the lyrics – ‘brotherhood of steel’, ‘Demons, set free upon this world’, ‘Blood gushing from their eyes’ etc

7. Have you seen the film itself Deathgasm? What did you think? Would you recommend it?

Ross: Yes, l saw it for the first time as part of a film festival here in Wellington in August last year. I really enjoyed it, as I think it nailed a lot of the metal references, has a quality comedic thread running through it, and also has a plenty of blood and gore for the horror fans. And because of that, it has also made it easy for us to get in behind it and help promote it.

I think from a purely underground metal perspective Jason also did a good job in nailing some great bands to be on the soundtrack. Not just some middle of the road, nu-metal / metalcore/ rock bands, but some real quality bands within the scene such as Emperor, Ihsahn, Midnight, Pathology, Nunslaughter (RIP Jim Sadist!!). He also made an effort to include some NZ metal/rock in the form of Beastwars, Razorwyre, 8 Foot Sativa, and, of course, Bulletbelt. The soundtrack is coming out on vinyl via Death Waltz Recording very soon - check them out here http://deathwaltzrecordingcompany.com/.

8. Can you disclose as to why you went with picking "Deathgasm" and "Sniper" for singles and video choices off "Rise Of The Banshee"?

Ross: I think 'Deathgasm' was an obvious choice because of the tie in with the release of the movie. We received a funding grant from the NZ government to help pay for the shoot. And a lot of staff and crew from the movie were involved, so the 'look' of the video is very similar to the movie - and obviously we could then use scenes from the movie within the video itself.

'Sniper' is a cover song, originally recorded by a band called The Nod from New Plymouth, NZ. We'd already had some good feedback on the song itself, and the story the lyrics were describing lent itself to a strong visual representation. The basic concept is obvious, and so when the idea was pitched to Keith at MeMumMe Movies the ideas fell into place quite quickly. Our scenes for Sniper were actually filmed around the same time as Deathgasm, but as this was a 'no-budget' production, the final product took a lot longer to complete.

9. Do you see anymore tunes taken off this album, to be made into singles or videos or is what you got, good enough for you guys?

Ross: We also have a lyric video for 'Minnie Dean' off of the album, which was actually the first video we released. It came out in September 2014 just before the release of the album, so that makes three songs off the album with some form of video representation.  At this stage, no more songs will be featured. We're concentrating on writing album #3, and will leave any plans for future videos until that has been done.

10. Let's talk a little about your latest release, what are the listeners in store for with this release?

Ross: I think the listener will hear some bombast and thrash! We’re definitely all about writing songs, and so it is an album you’ll want to listen to until the end, as each song is an entity / journey / statement unto itself. Both Steve and I are from a generation of vinyl / cassette tape playback so a lot of thought went into curating the songs for both an 'A' and 'B' side. So we have Rise Of The Banshee coming out on vinyl and cassette tape on Hallways Of The Allways Reckords around March/April 2016 - and I think that will be the optimum listening experience! A very exciting time for us for sure!

11. What's your take on "Rise Of The Banshee" as a whole?

Ross: It is a progression from the first album, there are improvements in song writing, performance and recording which all contribute to that. I feel as though with every rehearsal, and every new song, we continue to improve. So that is reflected on ‘Rise…’ as compared to ‘Down…’, and now as we move into album #3, the improvements are already evident.

12. What's your favorite song on the album right now?

Ross: It's 'Murderer's Collar' at the moment, and has been for a while. It has some of my favorite riffs in it, and I like the way the song transitions between sections and also back to the intro riff. I also like the fact that we were able to include such a great song straight after the opening track 'Death Tinted Red'.  I'd also pick 'Tarawera (Burnt Spear)' as it was a song I wasn't sure should have been included at all on the album. I just didn't think it was strong enough, but everyone else disagreed with me and so it stayed. But once I listened to in context of the rest of the album, and once we started playing it live, it really grew on me. 

13. Do you have any new music in the works, where is the new material headed?

Ross: Yes, there is new music being written at the moment. There's no drastic change in style coming up. We're taking a little bit more time with the writing process and of the 3 songs we have already, they’re showing good progress. I still feel it's early days yet, and I'm keeping a pretty open mind about what songs will make up the album this time, and being prepared to rewrite, or even scrap, some material if we think it could be better.

14. What are your current touring, show, and plans in general if any?

Ross: The only show plans we have planned are that in around Oct 2016 we should have the next album out and we’ll tour in support of that as much as we can. In NZ and Australia for sure, and in 2017, look to arrange some North American or European shows.

15. Have you heard of Bulletbelt?

Ross: To be honest, I don’t think I have. When you’re so close to writing pretty much every note on every song. And laboring over and analyzing every break or transition part in a song, I find it difficult to take a step back and look at how the overall band sounds. At the moment I’m relying on Steve, and also now more on Jolene, to give their perspective on how things are sounding. 

Thanks for the interview Natalie!
All the up and coming news about Bulletbelt can be found at facebook.com/Bulletbelt or @Bulletbeltnz on twitter. All our current merch - vinyl, CDs, T-shirts (male and female sizes) patches, and pins - and also digital versions of all our releases, are available at bulletbeltnz.bandcamp.com. You can also find Rise Of The Banshee digitally on iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify.

We also have some merch available in the US/North America from the distros below, support them!
NWN! Productions http://www.nwnprod.com/shop

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