Interview: Asa of Elyrean.
Interviewed by Paul Hutchings
Staffordshire based technical thrashers Elyrean have had quite the last 12 months. Winning the Wolverhampton Final of M2TM saw the band make their Bloodstock debut on the New Blood Stage, whilst December saw the band release their EP/album ‘Blacken The Sun’ to hugely positive reviews. As well as that, the band had a support slot with Canadian thrash legends Annihilator at KK’s Steel Mill. With lockdown slowing the momentum slightly, Paul caught up with vocalist and bassist Asa Jones to find up more about happenings in the Elyrean camp.
The Razor's Edge: Welcome to The Razor’s Edge Asa. How has it impacted on you and the band?
Asa: It’s meant that we’ve been able to focus on the album which is where we wanted to be. Obviously, we miss playing shows and we had some good stuff booked but it has allowed us to focus on what we wanted to work on. We have a lot of the stuff written quickly so the impact hasn’t been too negative.
The Razor’s Edge: The key thing for any band who wins M2TM is to keep the momentum going.
Asa: Yes. We had a few guest slots at M2TM semi-finals across the UK and we had the headline show for the Wolverhampton final this year, all rolled on to next year. We were booked to do Badgerfest and a few others. We were trying to get some tours going as well.
The Razor’s Edge: You’ve been active on your social media pages. You are of an age to embrace social media with ease. Do you enjoy it?
Asa: It is easy for us to use. It can be a chore though; you still must find things to post to interact with the fans. You don’t want to keep putting the same thing that every band does. You need to make your band stand out. That’s the challenge. We don’t struggle with getting to grips with it though! I know how to do it. We can’t meet people, so we try and so some things to keep people engaged. It can be a bit of fun and a way to get to know your audience a bit. We get a decent response in general. The recent posts about the album generated some interest.
The Razor’s Edge: Let’s talk a look back over the last year because it was quite immense for you as a band. You entered M2TM. Was this your first attempt?
Asa: That was our first entry. We didn’t start playing live until 2018 so that was only our second year of playing live. We started the year playing HRH and that was very last minute. One of the bands dropped out and we were offered it the night before. Then Matt Edwards (Mayhem Management/Unearthed Music) and Dan Carter (FatAngel PR) got in touch about M2TM. We heard horror stories about battle of the bands shows but it was local and we thought we’d do it as it was an extra show, bit of an experience and a lot of our friends were doing it too. And it wasn’t. We had no hassle. Even in the final we ended up borrowing a pedal board from The Black Hounds and we then won so technically we owe The Black Hounds the win!
The Razor’s Edge: I’m a judge in the Cardiff M2TM and 2019’s event was astonishing in every aspect. How was M2TM for you?
Asa: There was a good spirit amongst the bands. The punters will support their favourites, but they had two votes, so they were encouraged to stick around for that second vote. The bands supported each other, shouting out as they were playing, sharing support, and having a drink afterwards.
The Razor’s Edge: What about the final? How were the nerves on the night, knowing that you were 30 minutes away from the gig of your lives? And when you won? Can you recall how you felt?
Asa: It was mental. We were last on and then there was the headliners, Evil Scarecrow, and they are impressive. The other bands competing had a variety of approaches. Atarka had confetti cannons, Blood Church had a black metal aesthetic with pigs heads and things so they were going for the visual representation. The Black Hounds are straight up, Rustlung opened it up and they smashed it and then there was Eyes of the Raven who went on to play the Jager Stage at Bloodstock. They are well known and a banter band; they are serious but enjoy their stage banter and they brought a lot of people. We didn’t expect to win. When Simon announced it, we all flipped out, I threw my beer everywhere.
The Razor’s Edge: Haha! So, moving on, the final was on 1st June leaving you with plenty of time to plan for those magical 30 minutes. You played on the Sunday which meant three days of partying beforehand! How did your set go and how well controlled had you been?
Asa: We played at 1:30pm on the Sunday, and clashed with Solitary on the Sophie Stage and I can’t remember who was on the main stage [Ross the Boss finished at 1.30pm and Soilwork started at 1.50pm]. We tempered things on the Saturday. Thursday, we met up with friends, Friday I was at the VIP bar getting absolutely hammered! Haha! Saturday, we calmed down a bit. Playing early afternoon is difficult for us, we are used to playing at night!
The Razor’s Edge: And what was the actual event. Did you feel you had a good reception?
Asa: It went well. We had a big crowd. I wandered in and out of the New Blood Tent over the weekend and some crowds were bigger than others. We spent a lot of time promoting over the weekend. Handmade shirts that we’d stencilled on with the band name. We had a flag and handed out CDs to anyone promoting it. We got through the hiccups.
The Razor’s Edge: The set up at the New Blood is meant to be professional. How was that?
Asa: Yeah, there was a lot of help at hand. They made sure everything was in place and treated us like normal people with a laugh and a joke. We had fun. We were at the New Blood Stage on the Thursday and met most of the crew and they are very humorous people, it was a great experience.
The Razor’s Edge: And then later in the year you got to play with Annihilator. Was that just the one date?
Asa: Yes, we opened the show at the Steel Mill in Wolverhampton.
The Razor’s Edge: How was it? Did you get to meet Jeff Waters?
Asa: Yeah. He watched the soundcheck and the set and said he was a big fan. The rest of the band were supportive, and it was great, as were Archer Nation who were also on the support. It was brilliant, especially as I’m a big Annihilator fan and Jeff Waters is a big influence. It was a bit surreal getting that compliment from him.
The Razor’s Edge: I heard the turn out wasn’t that big?
Asa: It was about half full, about 3-400 people. It was quite an unresponsive crowd, not just to us but during Annihilator. The crowd only livened up when they played Alice In Hell. It seemed like people didn’t want to have that much fun!
The Razor’s Edge: It’s strange. Annihilator don’t get huge UK crowds. I saw them in the 02 Academy 2 in Birmingham a few years ago and we’d driven from South Wales and there were only a hundred, maybe 150 there.
Asa: They were telling us that they don’t get a big turnout in the UK but across the rest of Europe it’s massive. They always sell out shows.
The Razor’s Edge: Let’s turn to ‘Blacken the Sun’. Classed as an E.P., it’s longer than half the albums I review!
Asa: Yeah, we get that a lot Haha!
The Razor’s Edge: It has received a hugely positive set of reviews. You choose to self-produce with Daryl [Payne – drummer] taking on the mixing and mastering duties]. Had he produced before?
Asa: No! He’d brought loads of stuff, demos and things and we don’t have the funds to hire studio time. We have the equipment, so we thought we’d do it ourselves. He’d produced Where Shadows Dwell as well, so he learnt on the go. We hired a function room in a pub during the World Cup to record the drums, in three days and recorded guitars, bass and vocals at his. The vocal booth was basically his wardrobe with the door sticking out, some blankets over it with pegs on and I screamed into it like a madman!
The Razor’s Edge: That sounds like a learning curve to draw from. You are well into writing the new album. Are you going to hire the pub again!
Asa: Daryl is building a studio in his garden so we will be able to fit in there and record and practice. That should be good, and the production should be done there.
The Razor’s Edge: You’ve sold out of the first run of CDs. I’m not sure how many you produced but that is an amazing response. How does it feel?
Asa: We did 25-30 copies and sold them in a week. We sent some to the States and mainland Europe which was great. We do plan on doing another run. We just don’t know when.
The Razor’s Edge: After all the momentum, 2020 would have been one to really attack. How many shows have you lost? You were going to play Badgerfest in October. That must have been gutting.
Asa: We were so excited. Xentrix were playing. Obviously, John had to decide and it wasn’t going to be safe so it’s been rolled to next year. We’ll be playing and at least we get to do it.
The Razor’s Edge: You are massive fans of Sylosis who have roared back with a very impressive album ‘Cycle of Suffering’ this year. I can here the comparisons in your sound, but you don’t copy anything, merely absorb their influence. What is it about them?
Asa: Only three of us are massive fans! But they are mine, Daryl, and Will’s favourite band. They are a thrash band even though they say they aren’t. Josh Middleton’s influences range from Mastodon to Death, Nails to Crowbar and outside of faster stuff. It pushed us towards the music that we can do. Every album they do is unique. No band sound like them, as much as we do try!
The Razor’s Edge: You listen to a lot of music I am sure. Apart from the Sylosis album, what other releases have interested you this year?
Asa: Plenty of UK thrash, Shrapnel, new Divine Chaos is excellent, new Testament and mostly thrash metal is floating the boat.
The Razor’s Edge: You are working on a debut full length release. If your EP is 40 minutes, how long with the album be? And when can we expect it?
Asa: Hopefully next year. We have a single that won’t be on the album. That’ll be out first. We are focusing on getting the album written, we are working on the riffs and structures and then we’ll be adding the solos and layers. We are looking to experiment a bit more, taking the stuff that was unique on the EP and taking it to the next logical step. A lot faster, technical but also melodic. It’ll be about an hour. We don’t write short songs!