Give us a potted history of the band
I’d previously been in a band before moving to the North East. That had never gotten off the ground as our drummer left and we never found a replacement, but it got me started on writing and left me with a will to get something together and actually get it as far as a stage.
I got busy with starting a family when I moved up here but when life had settled down a bit I started writing what would become Mortal Chains songs. The first lineup of the band was in place in May 2019 but didn’t get much done due to the drummer and second guitarist not being able to commit the time needed (for entirely legit reasons I should add). Alex came in on drums in February 2020 and we decided to play as a trio. All seemed fine but of course we were in lockdown a few weeks later. Alex was wary of coming to rehearsals after that so it wasn’t till January last year that we had a “reset”. Our first gig was last May and we put out the self titled EP in July, followed by a single in August. The single is a tribute to Lemmy and as such it’s less representative of our sound than our love for Motörhead. Our bassist Ross left in February due to increasing work commitments and we decided to continue as a duo while we look for musicians. Other than that it’s just been a case of playing as many gigs as we could get!
Who inspired you to start making music
Music has always been a massive thing in my life. There was always music playing in my parents’ house, I remember being amazed by “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” by Hendrix when I was about 4 and that honestly, that probably started me on the path to eventually playing guitar. Like pretty much everyone I started learning covers but the end goal was always to write songs myself. When I joined my old band it was on condition that I would contribute to song writing so I pretty much had to figure out how to go about it. A great push for me!
Alex’s interest in making music started from being a sporadic Guitar Hero player which led him to the drumkit. Using a Guitar Hero music creator, he made instrumentals which gave him a great creative outlet to experiment and get imaginative.
And the one or maybe two records that inspired you artistically
If I had to choose one album it would be “My Arms Your Hearse” by Opeth. It’s one of those albums where I can clearly recall the first time I listened to it. I hadn’t gotten far into exploring DM or extreme metal in general at that point but it was a revelation hearing the different elements of DM, prog and other genres coming together. It was also a big influence in moving away from traditional verse/chorus structures. The biggest part of that really was in my old band, I cowrote with the frontman who was very keen on the idea of not having the verse/chorus thing, my love of Opeth and especially the period from Morningrise to Still Life definitely helped get into that mindset. All that said, we don’t sound like any period of Opeth at all!
If you’re trying to explain who you sound like to someone that’s never heard you, what do you say
It’s always really difficult to explain what we sound like haha! We’ve been compared to a range of bands including Cannibal Corpse, Death, Carcass and even Celtic Frost. Probably a mix of Florida death and Bay Area thrash with a bit of black metal thrown in.
Actually, this difficulty is where the backprint on our shirts came from. We’re not pure thrash or death or anything really so “North East heavy metal shenanigans” seemed to sum it all up!
Tell us about your EP
We recorded the EP with Neil Combstock producing at Rocking Horse in Durham. We rehearse there so it’s somewhere we feel comfortable and know the guys working there. Shortly before recording the EP we’d done a rehearsal demo at Rocking Horse. We were happy enough with it to want to work with Neil, and we felt that a proper studio recording would give a better representation of what we do. We tracked the EP and the “Go to Your Grave” single in the same day, basically live. Alex was in one of the rehearsal rooms, Ross and I were in the control room with a CCTV monitor and talkback mics. This meant that we could play together without the drums being overwhelming. We used our live gear except that Ross’s bass was DI into the desk rather than through his head. The setup suited us really well and made the experience as easy and enjoyable as possible.
When writing the songs I’d originally envisioned a full length but splitting it into two EPs seemed logical when we came to it. There’s no overarching theme to the songs as such except that the lyrics are reactions to what was occupying my thoughts at the time of writing. Broadly speaking they deal with things that divide people, or my mental health issues, or a combination of both.
The “Go to Your Grave” single is a tribute to Lemmy and has lyrics inspired by various interviews I’ve read and his autobiography White Line Fever, combined with my own thoughts around the importance of honesty and integrity. The lyrics came to me while walking my dog one morning and the music came together in my head while I was at work. The advantage of using that trad verse/chorus structure I suppose!
Where can we get hold of it
The EP is available to stream and/or download on the usual platforms, Bandcamp, Spotify, Amazon, Apple, etc. The CD is available either via Bandcamp, at gigs or by contacting us directly. All links for the EP, socials, email and so on are on our linktree: https://linktr.ee/mortalchains
Tell us how you write
I’ve written lyrics for years, I’ve wanted to write songs since I was in my mid teens but had no clue where to start musically. I’d write lyrics though so I’ve got a ton of them sat around waiting… A song always starts with the music though. It’s pretty much a case of finding a riff to start with, expanding on it and building the song until it feels finished. I’ll write a second guitar part (the intention still being for the band to be a quartet at some point) and bass part. Once that’s done I go through the lyrics I’ve got saved until I find the right one, making changes as needed to fit the music. Alex has sent me lyrics too, which although I’ve not used them yet are part of that same process. It’s a case of finding the lyrics that feel right for that music and where I can get a sense of how the vocal lines fit.
Once that’s all in place and I’m happy with how the song is structured I record a demo with two guitar tracks, bass audio from Guitar Pro software and a vocal. Alex will use that demo to figure out his drum parts, then we’ll work on it in the rehearsal room to nail down the arrangement. Once we judge that it’s “gig ready” we’ll move on to the next song. Playing the songs live also sometimes results in changes to arrangements or vocal lines for example, there’s always a difference between the way a song feels in the rehearsal room and on stage. For us playing live is the focus so what works best for us on stage is key.
Tell us about your live show What would be your dream gig
Our stage show is pretty straight forward to be honest. We wear street clothes and play! Since we don’t have a bassist currently I use a second amp to fill out the sound. There’s a drop pedal in front of it so the second amp is an octave below the guitar sound. We’re constantly on the lookout for a reliable bassist and preferably a second guitarist but in the meantime the compromise of using two amps keeps us going and fills out the sound.
A dream gig for me would be something like playing Wacken, just to say I’d had that experience. Or supporting Exodus who are heroes for both of us I think. Something that when I’m 80 I can think “Aye, I’m an old bastard… but I supported Exodus once!”
What can we expect from you in the near future
Probably the next thing coming from us is a cassette release of the EP which should be with us very soon. Alex is a tape collector himself so he’s excited to get his hands on this, we know a few other collectors too so hopefully it’ll be a welcome addition to their shelves or wherever they keep them!
We’re currently in the planning stage of our next EP. We’re nailing down the drum parts for the last song, it’s getting very close to where we want it to be. I will say this, Alex is a phenomenally creative drummer. If he listens to one of my guitar demos for a week he’ll have his parts 60-70% there for the next rehearsal session. He has a great intuition for what works best for these riffs and we always end up with smiles on our faces as we work on a new song.
We’re hoping to record the EP in the next few months but it’ll probably take a while to release it as we want to make sure we get everything how we want it. We’re both set in our ways and like physical releases so the EP will be on CD again and probably on cassette too. We quite often get asked about vinyl but I’ve not had a quote that would make it financially viable to release it that way unfortunately. If anyone knows something I’m missing that would make it practical for an entirely independent band like us I’m all ears… There are also ideas for merch as well as the artwork and so on. Frankly, it all costs money so getting the funds together is going to be the deciding factor in how long it takes us to put the EP out. We’d rather wait longer and have everything ready to go from day one this time – whereas the various elements have been staggered for the self titled. It’s a case of going with gut feelings basically.
We’ve got a couple of gigs we’re waiting on the OK to announce but two we’re excited about that I can say are coming up…
On August 19th we’ll be at Downcast Studios in Gateshead for the inaugural Get Heavy Fest. The festival’s been organised by Bearbo Bagginz aka Stephen Cummings who it’s fair to say is a tireless champion of the North East metal scene. The fest has 9 bands throughout the day, 8 being from the North East with Cast in Tephra headlining. A link for tickets can be found on our linktree or by searching Get Heavy Fest or Beardbo Bagginz on social media.
Secondly on September 3rd we’ll be at Trillians in Newcastle for Mindfest NE. This one is organised by Jake Dorrell of Strike Promotions and is a fundraiser for the mental health charity Mind. The festival takes place over three days at a different venue each day, those being Little Buildings, The Cluny and Trillians. The lineup each day is fantastic and headliners are Amongst Thieves, October Ends and Collapse of Colour respectively.
Again, a ticket link is on our linktree or can be found by searching Mindfest NE 2023 or Strike Promotions on social media.
Tell us your favourite records that are rocking your headphones/tour bus / stereo
There are so many favourite records it’s unreal… I love the latest Holy Moses album, Invisible Queen. I think that actually came out the same week as Metallica and Overkill and Holy Moses was the one that really grabbed me that week. We supported Wolfbastard a couple of months ago and I absolutely love the Hammer the Bastards album, that was a constant in my car for weeks. Another one that is a regular in the car is Fury of Pegana by BOZ, another band on the Get Heavy Fest bill. Honestly this list could go on forever so I’ll wrap it up with one I got recommended today… straying away from metal, Idles are a band I’m definitely going to have to give some attention to on the basis of the Brutalism album.
Check out the bands track Go To Your Grave, below:
Find out more about the band here
Purchase the EP here
Read our interview with the band here