Interviewer: Paul Hutchings
Derby based Devastator have been picking up steam and interest since their formation in 2017. The band play a raw old school blackened thrash which has its roots sewn firmly in the first wave of black metal and thrash. Influences are clear: Venom, Slayer, Possessed, Death, Sodom. The band is Tom Collins on bass and vocals, guitarists Richard Bateman and Christopher Whitehurst and drummer Jack Scarlett. Over a ropey Zoom connection, Paul had a chat with Tom, Rich and Chris about the band, their new album Baptised in Blasphemy and their guilty pleasures.
The Razor’s Edge: Welcome to the Razor’s Edge interview and thanks for taking the time to do this.
Tom: Thanks for having us
The Razor’s Edge: Let’s get lockdown out of the way. How has it been for you all?
Tom: I’m a key worker so I haven’t stopped.
Rich: I think we have all been working. I’m at Amazon. It’s been fun. That’s all I can say!
The Razor’s Edge: Had you managed to finish the album [‘Baptised in Blasphemy’] before lockdown?
Chris: We were lucky because we had everything against us this year. First the hurricanes and floods and then Covid!
Tom: We managed to finish the recording just before it all broke
Rich: Chris and I recorded our solos in the middle of a storm. If you looked outside the whole of the studio was under water!
The Razor’s Edge: You haven’t pushed the release date back though?
Tom: No, we’ve stuck to the release date that we agreed with Clobber Records
The Razor’s Edge: How did the band get together?
Rich: Back in 2016 I was doing my own instrumental music; Tom was in a band called Repulsive which was a Swedish death metal worship band and Chris and Jack were in Hellrazor which was party thrash. I met Jack through his partner at a house party and he saw a video of me playing on Facebook and messaged me and asked if I wanted to join a band. I said yes, and Jack said I know a bassist called Tom who is in Repulsive. That’s the early story. We basically went through the next two years with different members and stylistic changes until we settled on us three [Jack, Tom and Rich] and Chris wanted to keep Hellrazor going but we said that he should join us and do something different. He was at the very first gig [the only one as a three piece] and then he joined us and finished the line up as you see now.
Tom: It’s good Chris joined us when he did because we were the most unproductive band for a good solid year. We would go into rehearsals and play the same Sodom song and get drunk and that was it and then we would leave the rehearsals and go to the pub. We achieved nothing!
The Razor’s Edge: It’s all down to you then Chris. You grabbed them by the collar and pulled them out of the Sodom gutter!
Chris: Jack and I were in Hellrazor and it was weird because we got gigs easily, but members kept changing and Jack had enough and met Tom and Rich. I didn’t know they were starting a band at the time and I asked Tom to fill in for bass for Hellrazor and he played a couple of shows with us, and at one gig , the drummer never showed and we were like, what are we going to do. Jack had been out celebrating a new job, so Tom called him and got him in to play. He was there pissed up but we managed to do the gig. I wanted to keep it going. Tom declined to join but I was asked to join Devastator instead.
The Razor’s Edge: Tom, were you just bass player in Repulsive. Have you only taken up singing for Devastator?
Tom: No, in nearly every band I’ve been in I’ve been lead singer and bassist. In Repulsive I was the original singer and bass player until we quickly realised that it was difficult for me to play and sing at the same time. I wasn’t even the original singer in Devastator. There was a guy before me, and he ended up moving to Cardiff and I said I’ll do it and I’m a huge fan of Tom Angelripper and Lemmy who both sang and played bass.
The Razor’s Edge: What is the scene like in Derby?
Tom: For us it is fantastic. We don’t play at home a lot, the closest we do consistently is Nottingham but when we do play here it’s a busy headline show. It’s great. There are some good bands. Abduction are from Derby. We’ve got friends in Beyond Your Design, a metal core band and 28 Double.
The Razor’s Edge: That’s good. Classic rock tends to dominate in my part of the world.
Tom: I think that’s everywhere. People love to go out on a Saturday night to watch a covers band
The Razor’s Edge: Don’t get me started. That’s a pet hate of mine! Your influences are clear when you listen to the album, which is a cracking listen by the way. Short, sweet, hits you in the face and leaves you on the floor. I’m a little bit older than you so I can remember your influences the first-time round. What is it about the old school that draws you younger guys into it?
Tom: For Venom and first wave black metal, if you compare it to the second wave, there are not a lot of riffs in the second wave, except for Darkthrone. There hasn’t been a band under the umbrella of black metal with the raw energy and the punk side of it as well. For me that’s what attracted me to bands like Venom, it’s the attitude.
Chris: There’s more rock n roll sounds and it’s loud!
Rich: When you listen to the first Venom album, with its raw production that’s what does it because they are all kind of shit with their instruments and in a time when you can make shit sound like gold, then it still stands out.
Tom: They are probably, next to Bathory and Slayer, one of the most important extreme metal bands ever even though most people wouldn’t admit it.
The Razor’s Edge: Any other bands that might be a bit lighter when you started getting into metal, any gateway bands?
Tom: Motörhead was my gateway band when I heard ‘Ace of Spades’.
Chris: Yeah, I love Motörhead too. I saw them when I was 18 at Rock City in Nottingham and it was absolutely chaotic noise. I was at the front and I got hit with the shock wave.
Rich: Mine was Dethklok which wasn’t mainstream and then my second band was Cannibal Corpse. There was no smooth transition.
The Razor’s Edge: Tell me about the live bootleg, ‘Darkness over Derby’. It’s unusual to release a live bootleg before your album.
Tom: It was more of a test. We had so much footage and audio from gigs that I mixed it and sent it to the boys and asked if they wanted to release it at some time. It sounded very raw and captured how we are live, so we agreed. It was all done in the space of 24 hours, so it wasn’t really planned but more to showcase some of the tracks that are on Baptised in Blasphemy.
Rich: It was also a way of keeping the audience hungry. The last thing we released before that was the demo in 2018 and after that there was nothing for a year. We’ve been hyping this album for about two years, so it was a way of edging people towards the album
The Razor’s Edge: And metal fans are always desperate for a release, a CD or something
Tom: We were asked non-stop for a year about when we were going to go into the studio and then every time we tried to go something came up and stopped us! It took us ages to get in the studio.
Rich: We said we should sit down and plan our studio time. Okay, when are we all free? And everyone would go not then, not then and not then! Okay, never mind! [collective laughter]
The Razor’s Edge: At least you did get into the studio eventually because it will be at a premium after lockdown with everyone having written new material over the last few months. All the reviews I’ve read, and there are quite a lot online already, are really positive. Congratulations on that. Were you aware there were so many metal sites and radio stations?
Chris: I’m never aware of things like that
Rich: It’s a real rabbit hole
Tom: It really is. Our PR company, the reason how we find them [reviews] is not because we are looking for them but because the PR company will send them to us and it is literally every day, have you seen this review, have you seen that. At least six times a day.
Rich: We were played on a radio station in Spain before we were played in England
The Razor’s Edge: How much attention do you pay to the reviews? Chris, you obviously don’t! [laughter]
Tom: It’s been positive. I’ve not read any major criticism. The only negative was that the album is too short. Other than that, we will read them. We are thankful that people like it. We’ll have to wait for the bad review to come out and we will take on board any advice or criticism. In the end, we are doing this for ourselves, really. We work so well together if other people enjoy it then that is a plus and it makes us happy. Maybe we are doing something right.
Rich: And even though the reviews have been positive, we don’t let that get to us, it’s cool but we are looking at how to top this next time. Always thinking about the future. We’ve got plans for stuff for next year. That’s the way we work
The Razor’s Edge: And I’m assuming given the length of time it takes to get to the studio, and often people don’t appreciate this, is that you are probably sick to death of these songs and want to get onto something new.
Tom: Especially with this album, these songs have been road tested. Some of them have been played for years. The first song we ever wrote is on the album. When we’d finished recording, I said I’m not going to listen to it until I must.
The Razor’s Edge: One of the things I liked on the album is the duel guitar work which comes across alongside the old school gnarly sound.
Rich: the main song that features most of the harmonies is ‘Spiritual Warfare’. Chris wrote it. He came to mine and played it. Chris can’t record anything, so he plays them to me, and I record it as a rough demo. We fleshed it out a bit more. He showed me the duel guitar harmonies and we worked on it. That song went through quite a few melodic iterations
Chris: Yeah, we jammed it out at Rich’s. It was fun. I like to write with someone as a lot of what I do is duel guitars so it’s nice to have someone to jam with and swap ideas.
The Razor’s Edge: It comes across where the duel guitars stand out. You are doing more interviews now I assume, is it something you’re used to, and would you have done as many interviews without the lockdown?
Tom: I’d like to think so! I did a few in Repulsive so it’s not that new. This [Zoom] is new, I’ve never done this before. We would be getting some press, but we’d be gigging a lot more.
The Razor’s Edge: Are you taking them as a whole group or splitting them?
Tom: If it is a written one then the questions will generally be aimed at the band as a unit, and if there is any specifics then they ask. We try to do everything together, and make sure not one person is writing something that could be wrong and someone else reads it and goes, what did you say that for!! It’s fun to do things together.
The Razor’s Edge: One of the things I picked up is that fingers crossed, you are online to play Beyond the Grave Festival in London in November. Some heavy weights on the line-up with Desecration and Avulsed headlining. How did you get on that bill?
Tom: I do the graphic design for Beyond the Grave so when I was designing the poster one of the bookers, Mark, got in touch and I’d done last year’s poster so he asked if I wanted to do this year’s one and I said, yeah, sure, and I was having a conversation and said book Devastator for it and he went, yeah okay! I was only semi-serious, as it is a death metal festival, but he was like, yeah you got it! It never hurts to ask!
Rich: As far as we know it’s still going ahead.
Tom: They are confident it’ll happen, and they are bringing Avulsed over from Spain. Hopefully, it’ll happen
The Razor’s Edge: I really hope it does because I think everyone involved in music is worried about the future and survival of bands and venues. Have you lost many gigs?
Tom: We technically still have three dates with Hellfekted and Beyond Your Design, a mini weekender, at the end of July. I’d assume it‘ll get cancelled but we need to speak to the bookers. We can obviously only gig when we are permitted.
The Razor’s Edge: Rehearsing is a challenge I suppose!
Tom: It was a challenge to me moving to a new house, so it’s even worse now!
The Razor’s Edge: I’ve seen some of the stuff on-line, you’ve done some live streaming. I’m pleased bands are doing it but to me a lot of it looks like bad audition tapes! [laughter]
Tom: We did it for fun. Nothing was planned out. We just decided one member at a time would go online and see what happened. Chris even cooked! [laughter] It was a bit of fun.
The Razor’s Edge: You have more interviews lined up. You are doing one with UK thrashers and I’ve told them I’ve stolen all the decent questions! [laughter]
The Razor’s Edge: A couple of quick-fire questions to finish
The Razor’s Edge: An album you never tire of listening to
Tom: ‘Black Metal’ - Venom
Chris: ‘Orgasmatron’’ - Motörhead
Rich: John Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps’
The Razor’s Edge: Song you’ve like to record a cover of but you’ve played ‘Agent Orange’ to death so maybe skip this?
Tom: ‘Bursting Out’ by Venom. It’s been stuck in my head for the last week
Chris: ‘Nellie the Elephant’ [laughter]
The Razor’s Edge: A top five gig that you’ve been to as a fan [one that stands out]
Tom: Venom Inc at BOA with Behemoth watching at the side
Chris: Better than Cronos’ Venom
The Razor’s Edge: A gig that you wish you could have been at
Chris: Dio. I remember a couple of years ago, before he died, he did the whole of Holy Diver and I didn’t have the money or something so didn’t go and I went, I’ll see him next time, and then he was with Heaven & Hell and then passed away and I was gutted
Tom/Rich: Death with Chuck
The Razor’s Edge: Thanks. Chris, I won’t tell you I saw Dio on the Holy Diver tour the first time around then! [lots of laughter]
The Razor’s Edge: Any guilty pleasures
Tom: All of the synth wave!
Chris: I like a lot of movie soundtracks, John Williams, that kind of stuff
Rich: Ariane Grande
The Razor’s Edge: Thank you for your time. I wish you all the best with the album and hope to see you in South Wales soon.