An Interview With The King Is Blind’s Steve Tovey: “We’re really analytical about things and what we can do better next time but that’s good”

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The King Is Blind Bloodstock 2016 Tess Donohoe

Earlier this year at Bloodstock Open Air 2016, Rock Sins were lucky enough to catch up with Steve Tovey, frontman of one of the UK’s hottest metal exports currently; The King Is Blind. We managed to cover everything from The King Is Blind’s influences, their writing process and even a bit of politics.

How do you think earlier went?

Good! I think I’m much happier about it now than I was straight afterwards.

You’re quite self-critical then?

Yeah, definitely! But I think that helped with the writing. We don’t just listen to a riff and go “yeah, I like it” we have to go into “does it do anything and does it work.” We’re really analytical about things and what we can do better next time but that’s good. You can’t be complacent. Your creative thing, whatever it is, you’ve got to keep challenging yourself.

It’s telling that the first pit opened up during the new song…

Yeah, it’s interesting that! It’s funny that one of the things we’ve noticed about playing gigs is that people are ready to go but they like to be told to. That’s one of the good things about not playing the bass anymore and just doing vocals; you can pick up when it’s the right time to say like “now you fucking do it, this is the mosh song.” It’s part of the reason we played two new songs. So as to get a feeler for whether the new material worked well alongside the older stuff. When you take an album out on the road you work out which songs work better live and on your next album, sometimes it has an influence on how you write, and I think that worked. The two songs we played they are a bit more “punch you in the face,” upper cut you in the gut type songs. They’re more honed and that’s not to be negative about anything before but I think it’s an awareness that we’ve got a batch of songs for this new album that are going to be ridiculous live and we’ve got a batch of songs for this new album that we can really push the experimental stuff on. Because we know there’s certain songs we did on Our Father that we’re not necessarily going to play live and you can push the songs out with those and there are songs that you are going to play live and want people to beat the shit out of each other to.

How do you think you’re developing on the new album?

It’s an interesting one actually, because we’ve never written for anyone else and we’ve never taken anyone else’s opinion onboard while we’re writing but it’s interesting to see what people liked about the album. People liked the diversity because that was a concern because lots of bands like to sound like one or two things whereas we just want to sound like metal that’s good. From post-metal, to trad metal to extreme metal if it’s good it should go in. It’s good to see that people are picking up on the fact that these songs are like, two minutes of doom, then there’s a cool little ethereally bit and then it just goes metal and it gives us that more confidence that people know we’re not sitting in a box of writing just three minute thrash songs.

Our photographer asked what The King Is Blind were like and I couldn’t really describe you I just had to go “doomy, nasty metal that kinda sounds like early machine head in bits”

I’m glad you mention Machine Head though cause people miss that as an influence and we’ve mentioned it on twitter and stuff (follow us @thekingisblind) but I think it’s something that’s missed – that groove. I think bands like Machine Head and Deftones, I don’t mean that we sound lke the Deftones, but I think that their understanding of dynamics is something that we take away. But then we grew up with bands like Candlemass and that’s a big part of the sound. 45 years of metal! If its good its in. We took the piss a bit by describing ourselves as ‘Monolithic Metal’ because we didn’t want to sound like we were just little bits of everything because we do have a cohesive sound. We’re just Heavy Metal.

A lot of bands take quite a few albums to form that cohesive overall sound is the fact that you’re all quite experience musicians something that led to you having this much more cohesive, wide-ranging sound.

It does help being experienced but I don’t think we sound like any of our previous acts – there are certainly elements of them in there. With Barney he brings in that hardcore kinda driving drumbeat but really we’ve just learned from mistakes of the past and the one thing we’ve learned massively is “don’t restrict yourself.” When we do stuff like Mourning Light we asked can we really do an 8 minute long song in the middle of a really aggressive metal album that’s really drawn out and tells a story. Its like, yeah, yeah we can. But we had to make it work and there was a eureka moment in the rehearsal where it was good and we just went but if we do that. I guess we’ve known each other over twenty years so we’ve got a good, safe, creative environment and the freedom is there to experiment.

Do you tend to jam things out a lot more?

It’s a mix really, we’ve got a store of riffs on a sound cloud, called the “wank bank,” where stuff called progress goes on. We usually go in with about three quarters of a song done and then the rest is just filling in all the gaps. MY part on the music side is a lot closer to the arrangement of the tunes really Lee is the main creative force and he has a lot fo the guitar ideas. Everyone has their different strengths like Lee will come in with five riffs but Paul will be like yeah, but how about we add this! He’s got a really great ear for where to take songs and taking it back to ‘The Principle of Evil Made Flesh’ by Cradle of Filth which Paul was one of the main songwriters on and it does a lot of things it shouldn’t do but what it does is better than what it should do. He’s got a really good ear for that.

Thematically on ‘Our Father’ you had a lot of classical literature elements coming in are you going to keep on with that theme?

The second album will be a concept album. We’ve got a song that’s coming on the Music for Nations Speed Kills compilation that’s out in December that links the two albums. We’re always thinking! But the first album finishes with Satan being reborn because of the amount of sin and evil that people do to each other and with album two, to change the setting to the modern day, Satan is reborn in the modern Western world where religion has failed – neither good nor bad we’re not making a lot of comment on that but we’ve lost a lot of morality and we’ve lost a lot of ethics and culture’s just in a really weird place. We’re seeing stuff like the rise of UKIP, the rise of the far right and we basically just haven’t learned at all. Whereas ‘Our Father’ is a bit more Gray with God and Satan both representing much more neutral characters this new album is going to be more black and white. Where god, in this case, represents good it’s people that have fucked the understanding and interpretation of religion which is about peace and empowerment and about being a better person but then Satan is the charcter that is taking over so in the second album he unleashes the seven different sins as plagues. Each of the seven songs will be about a different plague.

The new song we did today is about how Boris Johnson’s a massive c*nt! But it’s about people like politicians putting themselves in a position solely to profit. With Brexit Boris Johnson put himself in a position solely to be the hero – he didn’t even want to win the elction. He was just positioning himself to become the Prime Minister. So I think that’s the difference with the themes of ‘Our Father’ which was a lot more about why people are horrible to each other, why we are flawed and why we have tendencies to be messed up and unkind. The second album is going to be a lot more specific and will be containing a lot more modern examples but I think you can’t go through what we’re going through at the moment with the Brexit stuff and Trump coming through in the US and you can’t have Syria and you can’t have Paris and Orlando and everything without being really worried. It’s about saying actually we never set out to say anything political but you have to. We’re telling a story of the modern day and we have to be honest and think about what we really believe.

Is doing something some more specialist merchandise to accompany the music something you’ve ever thought about doing?

We were hoping that ‘Our Father’ will come out on vinyl soon and part of what we want that to include is a wider package around that. One of the other ideas we’re looking into is trying to take different ways of promoting ourselves to be honest. We don’t want to go out with one hundred different bands. We don’t want to be the band like One Minute Silence were twenty years ago that everyone gets sick of we want to look at more ways of doing things online, write some blogs and stuff and publicise stuff like the Easter Eggs that are in ‘Our Father’ because there’s loads in there. There’s loads of references to other bands in there both musically and lyrically but hopefully the booklet will be something that will tell the story. So we started on the inlay of the CD which is a prologue and not included in the lyrics and really sets the tone for it and then the lyrics tell the stories. I hope we get to do something before that.

You mixed around the setlist a lot today, you didn’t play Mourning Light or anything so how important is it that you keep doing that for each audience?

Yeah I think that we tend to try and pick the setlist for where we’re playing. When we played Temples last year we opened with Mourning Light – because it’s a different kind of audience that want more doomy stuff, that want the more seven, eight minute epics. Playing Download we did the 6 or 7 most aggressive, standard formula rock songs off ‘Our Father’ and Bloodstock we know its an intelligent, metal crowd but also that it’s a heavy metal festival so people want to, as happened, kick off and beat the shit out of each other. It’s about getting that balance and asking what represents us best to who we’re playing to. We’ve got the Ackercocke tour coming up and the challenge three is playing a load of stuff that’s intelligent, interesting and challenging. We’ve got a wealth of stuff on ‘Our Father’ so it’s about matching that to the audience. I think todays worked. People seemed to like it!

The King Is Blind’s debut album Our Father is out now on Cacophonous Records.

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