By Cameron Cooper
It’s been a year of new horizons for Welsh headbangers Bullet For My Valentine, but for drummer Moose, it’s been all about getting back to his roots.
Things have been fairly tumultuous for Bullet For My Valentine recently. In February, they announced the departure of long-time bass player Jason James. With the recording sessions of their fifth full-length Venom around the same time, many would forgive the Welsh lads for losing the plot. But for a band that has survived the kind of rigorous touring schedules and ups-and-downs Bullet have, it is all just par for the course. A course that, according to drummer Michael “Moose” Thomas, is only just beginning.
“Doing this album was the most enjoyable studio experience I’ve had since being in the band,” Moose says, who found the freedom of recording without a producer over his shoulder to be extremely liberating.
“Basically I just wanted to go and play drums without any producer telling me off about a double kick pattern, or saying ‘try something here’. I really just wanted it to be me.”
The creation of Venom saw the band take a few cues from the early days, albeit with updated technology. Tracking demos in Padge’s (Michael Padget, guitar) home studio brought back the jamming approach to songwriting the band exercised on The Poison, but allowed the members to also have some degree of separation.
“I was just jamming drums and the boys were putting guitars down so it was kind of done separately, but all together at the same time,” Moose explains. “It was nice to be in a controlled environment instead of coming home with your ears ringing for 12 hours.”
Perhaps it was the old-school vibe or just his reservations about the slower, softer sound of Temper Temper, but there was something in the air that made Moose push the band’s limits like never before.
“I dunno, I just wanted it to be a million miles an hour and was always telling the boys to push the tempo! There would be two or three different demos of one song, and they’d gradually get faster and faster,” he says, laughing. “It became completely different because of the speed!”
Like every aspect of Venom, this harkens back to the much looser, no-holds-barred ferocity that took Bullet to the top back in the day.
“In a way, I didn’t really know how to play drums back then. I didn’t have any rules or anything when we were doing The Poison and Scream Aim Fire, I was just going for it,” Moose says. “Afterwards I wanted to play drums as if there were rules to it. But on this album I just thought ‘Nah, it’s rock n’ roll!’ so I went back to how I used to be when I didn’t know much.”
Moose’s ferocity comes through on the new record. His sub-woofer shaking bass kicks and earth-shattering fills are certainly a hallmark of the album, helped along by the majestic and polished production thanks to producers Carl Brown and Colin Richardson, the latter of whom carried the band through their first two albums.
“We all felt like we wanted to get back to our roots. Our albums with Colin sounded incredible, and he loves heavy metal so we knew he was the guy for the job.”
While no record is easy to make, Brown and Richardson’s jobs were certainly helped along by the preparation the band put in before hitting the studio, coming in with the songs ready to go.
“We knew what we had, and just got Colin and Carl to press record. That was really it. On Temper Temper we didn’t really have any songs, which is weird for a rock band. Knowing we had an arsenal of great songs and everyone had great parts was a really good experience.”
With the new record in the bag, the road ahead for the band is touring and eventually recording with new bassist Jamie Mathias.
“It’s as if I’ve known him all my life, he’s brought a breath of fresh air to the band. It’s fun to be on tour and it’s fun to play music now where as before there was a bit of beef,” Moose beams. “When we get to doing the new record it’ll be something we’ve never had before. Jamie has been the front-man in other bands so he is a songwriter himself. It’ll be good for Matt to bounce ideas off him.”
Before hitting the road, the band played a few warm-up shows, which Moose feels knocked it out of the park.
We played Camden Rocks, which is a cool little independent fest. It was Jamie’s first show and I think I was more afraid than he was. I really can’t remember the first two songs for that reason, we hadn’t played a live show in like 14 months,” he says. “We know every song on the new record is really good and we just can’t wait for it to be released.”
“We’ve only played two live so far –No Way Out and Broken. Everyone is really enjoying them and the response we’ve had online is overwhelming. It is nice to be in the good books of heavy metal again!”
In true Bullet style, nothing is being done in half measures: While nothing is set in stone, Moose is interested in taking on a similar touring schedule to the 2 ½ year marathon of The Poison tour, and is keen for the band to hit Australia for some headlining shows early next year.
“Everyone is saying ’18 months!’ and we’re like ‘No, if it’s good just keep going!’.”
Keeping a good thing going seems to be the band’s mantra, if Moose’s closing statement is anything to go by: “Anyone reading this, thank you for the support for the last 11 years and here’s to 11 more!”
Venom is out 14 August via Sony Music Australia.