Sunday, April 19, 2015

Pete Giles (Unseen Terror, Azag-Thoth, Insight, Scalplock, etc.) interview

Here's an interview with Pete Giles. That's probably not a household name for most hardcore punk fans, but Pete was the bassist or guitarist in such bands as Unseen Terror, Azag-Thoth, Insight, Antichrist, Harmony As One, and others. With the exception of Unseen Terror, most of those bands are not the most well known either. But it's Pete's proximity and associations with the main players in bands such as Napalm Death, Heresy, Sacrilege, and many others is what makes his anecdotes and insight so interesting. And he was willing to recount them candidly, undiluted, and with complete honesty. If you were to draw a family tree of all the British bands 1985-1992 that all shared members, Pete would be all over it.

Starting in Antichrist, who were one of the absolute earliest extreme metal bands to come from England, Pete was involved right from the get go. Even though he doesn't play on their only recorded songs, two tracks on the "The Bailey Brothers Present Diminished Responsibility" compilation LP, Antichrist are both excellent and important for their contribution in ushering in the new era. Pete was also in Azag-Thoth who were another one of the earliest extreme metal bands from the UK, and are surely familiar to tape traders and fanatics of the time period. Azag-Thoth featured both Shane Embury and Wayne Aston from Warhammer (widely acknowledged as the first UK band to play death metal) while Shane was playing in Napalm Death at the same time.

After Azag-Thoth came to a close, Pete teamed up with Shane Embury again in Unseen Terror along with Mitch Dickinson (Antichrist, Sacrilege, Heresy, etc.). Mick Harris (Napalm Death, Doom, Extreme Noise Terror) also did time in Unseen Terror as well. In more recent years, Pete has played in Flyblown (who released a split 7" with Disclose from Japan) and Realities of War (a Discharge influenced band with one EP). Needless to say, Pete has a ton of anecdotal information to share, and his experiences documented in the interview below make for a great read.

This interview was conducted as a co-interview with my buddy Alan from the Glorious Times book and blog. His blog can be seen here: http://pioneeringglorioustimes.blogspot.com.au/ . If you haven't checked out the Glorious Times book, i can't recommend it highly enough. It documents what i would describe as the "tape trading and fanzine years" of the burgeoning international death metal scene -- basically 1985 through the early '90s. There's a wealth of excellent information contained within it, interesting first hand accounts, unpublished photos, and more than enough cross appeal and coverage of hardcore punk (Cryptic Slaughter, Massappeal, Napalm Death, Terrorain, Unseen Terror, and more) to make it a necessity to check out. So thanks to Alan for all his help!


Pete Giles interview conducted in July of 2013.

Social Napalm: Early on in your musical career, you played in the hardcore punk band Insight featuring a vocalist John, who had previously been in the anarcho band Hagar The Womb. Was this your first real band, and how did you come to be in it?

Pete Giles: No it wasn't, in fact Insight was only ever a side project for me because John at the time was also playing bass in Harmony as One. Harmony as One was my principle band having been formed in '89 with Martin Daniels on drums (who would go and play in both incarnations of Scalplock and Darren Livermore on bass (who also played in Long Cold Stare). And then before that my first band was Azag-Thoth, which Harmony as One came out of.

SN: You were involved with Antichrist who, along with Warhammer, are remembered as one of the earliest extreme metal bands from the UK. How did you end up jamming with Antichrist, and can you please explain who was in the line up and how it came to be? I've heard it featured members of AYS and Heresy? (Example: can you please talk also about the guy Jason on vocals who was thanked in the Slayer record?)

PG: Well I was friends with Jason, we were part of the same group of friends who hung out in London at weekends. For me at least Jason introduced me to some really crazy music at the time, most notable was Current 93. That blew my mind when I heard it. We used to cut up and sample tracks on our tape players and then send what we had done to each other, although that was slightly later, maybe '85. Anyway, it was mentioned he was going to rehearse with the drummer Rim from AYS and this French guy Carl who was going to play bass, and he asked me if I fancied trying out on guitar. Of course I wanted to do try out but could I actually play guitar? Had I ever been in a rehearsal room? Did I understand timing? Or did I even own a guitar at the time? Well to all these questions there's only one answer: NO!! Anyway I tried out but it was an absolute disaster, I simply couldn't play.  It was only later and totally unrelated to anything I was doing that Jason would enter Rich Bitch studio in '87 to record alongside Unseen Terror and Heresy a couple of tracks for the Bailey Brothers comp. That was the only time Jason recorded Antichrist properly from what I recall.

SN: Was there other Antichrist material recorded other than the two songs on "The Baily Brothers Present Diminished Responsibility" compilation LP?

PG: Not as far as I am aware.

SN: What happened to Antichrist after the comp songs were recorded?

PG: There was some talk of Earache doing a release but it came to nothing.

SN: Mitch was talking a couple years back about possibly pressing the Warhammer stuff to a limited edition vinyl, asking folks who'd buy it because that would determine if the project moved forward. Did you know about that, and if so, what ever happened to the project -- Mitch hasn't publicly mentioned it again.

PG: No, sorry, I am neither in contact with Mitch or knew about this announcement.

SN: How did Azag-Thoth come about? What was the original line up, and how did you meet Shane and Wayne? Did you know them through tape trading or something else?

PG: Azag-thoth was born in late '84 early '85. I bought my bass rig in '84 and wanted to do a band. I eventually roped in a couple of mates Rich on guitar and a drummer who I just don't remember the name of right now. The band existed as this across the summer of '85 and we recorded the "Death Creed" demo. Then as quickly as it had assembled it fell apart with the others, who weren't really into that kind of music anyway, leaving the band. Fast forward to '87 where I was still looking to find new members, when I saw an advert in Kerrang from Wayne saying he needed a bass player, while of course I needed a guitarist. So I phoned him up and said "Hey, I have this band I want to start again would you be interested?" and the rest as they say is history. Upon traveling up to Bridgenorth it wasn't long before I was introduced to Shane who had just started to rehearse with Napalm Death. Soon after first meeting he offered to help Wayne and myself out by drumming for Azag-Thoth.

SN: Azagthoth could have quite easily become more of a corner-stone band than people today realize, if you released something beyond the demos. Sort of like Majesty which until the internet and lots of back tracking most fans of L.A. grind and in particular Nausea and Terrorizer didn't even know were all three connected. What went wrong? Was it simply money, lack of a label, or members wanting to move on that was the reason Azagthoth never went that next step further?

PG: There are lots of reasons why it never happened for the band. First and foremost we were considered too extreme. I even have a letter from Metal Blade saying I don't think people are ready for this extreme kind of music, whereas Earache said it was too metal!!! Secondly, Shane's drumming is fuckin' atrocious, I don't think we would have been taken seriously because of it. Then there was the commitment issue, Shane was doing Napalm and Unseen Terror, and it came to be a bit of a competition between Unseen Terror and Azag-Thoth on who was going to write the fastest riff. Then  Wayne wasn't really into the kind of music we were playing, he wanted to play Manowar barbarian music which I wasn't into at all. Then there was the distance issue, I lived around 150 miles away from Shane and Wayne and consequently it was only a matter of time before I said bollox.

SN: There's next to nothing currently circulating from Azag-Thoth beyond the demos ("Death Creed" and "Shredded Flesh"), can't recall if any rehearsals made it onto the tape trading circuit in the 1980's - did you guys leak those rehearsals at all or are they stashed with some ex-member?...provided the tapes were even recorded that is.

PG: Shane may have a rehearsal tape, but I haven't found any. I thought I might have found  a rehearsal tape from '85 but it wouldn't play properly. So I doubt there is anything else out there.

SN: You mentioned previously that with Azag-Thoth you had interest from Motorhead's management. Can you please elaborate on this and what exactly transpired?

PG: Malcom Dome put them onto me, but once I sent them the demo I never heard from them again.

SN: After Azag-Thoth garnered so much interest, what were the circumstances causing the band to come to an end?

PG: Distance and commitment. At the same time while the band was in existence we didn't garner very much of anything.

SN:  How did you go from Azag-Thoth to starting Unseen Terror? Was Wayne Aston (Warhammer, Azag-Thoth) an original member of Unseen Terror, and why did he leave the band?

PG: I have kinda covered this above. So after I was in Unseen terror, Wayne started playing bass for them with Micky Harris singing.

SN: What was it like recording a session for John Peel, and can you please recount the experience? Was John Peel's radio show a big influence on you?

PG: That wasn't me, that was Wayne who did the John Peel session. I had been out of the band for a while by then.

SN: You're pictured on the Unseen Terror 12", but you didn't actually get to play on it. What is the story behind you not ending up on the record?

PG: Where I was working wouldn't give me the time off. I had been rehearsing hard for the recording but was still under prepared because of the short amount of time I had been in the band before the recording was scheduled.

SN: I've heard rumor of Mitch writing three new Unseen Terror tracks supposedly. Do you know if there's any truth to this, and were you involved at all? Would you consider reforming Unseen Terror?

PG: I do believe there is some new material that Mitch has written and I know that Shane and Mitch have spoken about going out and playing some live shows. However I was never involved in this discussion. I am after all nothing more than an incidental footnote when it comes to discussing Unseen Terror. I am 100% certain they wouldn't ask me to play with them especially since I am not in contact with either of them.

SN: What was it like being on Earache Records in the early days with bands like Carcass, Napalm Death, Heresy, and others. Did you feel an affinity with the others or an excitement about what was going on?

PG: I don't know if there was any affinity. Heresy hated Unseen Terror. Steve, their drummer, had  an Unseen Terror sticker on the toilet seat so he could piss on it every time he went for a piss. I loved Heresy more than any of the other bands, although I never actually got to see them but saw Napalm a number of times.

SN: When Unseen Terror came to an end, you reunited with old friend John from Insight to form Harmony As One and even had Mitch Dickinson try out. What is the story behind Harmony As One and how that band came to be, and how did it differ from your previous bands?

PG: No that's wrong, it was Darren Livermore who played bass first and then John came along a lot later. Harmony as One was a massive departure from Azag-Thoth in so many ways. I grew tired of singing gore-torture orientated songs, I wasn't listening to any death metal by the end of the band, my influences for starting HAO were straight edge bands like Straight Ahead and Unity, and Uniform Choice, and No for an Answer. Bands who had a social conscious. I was by now playing guitar and I wanted to play hardcore and had absolutely no interest in metal.

SN: With so many people from bands that you were involved with and traveling in your circle, did you ever try out or have any interest in being in Napalm Death? Was the opportunity ever presented to you?

PG: There was never an opportunity to try out, it would have been fun to have a go.

SN: Are you still in touch with Shane Embury, Wayne Aston, or Mitch Dickinson at this point?

PG: No.

SN: Having a hand in the formation of the extreme music scene in the UK (which was therefore part of the world-wide phenomenon) -- what do you think back to most fondly from that pioneering era?

PG: How exciting it was to hear new more extreme music. It was so vibrant and you never really knew what to expect next. Of course that couldn't last and by '88 most of the extreme music had already become quite derivative.

SN: Any particular bands, both home and abroad, which really spoke to you back then through their demos etc and encouraged you to keep doing things? Asking about the underground here, not the bands that had already gotten deals and had records out like the usuals Slayer/Kreator/Bathory etc etc etc.

PG: None that I can remember.

SN: In more recent years, you've been active in DIY bands Scalplock and Realities of War. Can you please discuss both bands and what they were about?

PG: Scalplock was the next logical step from Harmony as One. This was the most extreme band I ever did, politically and musically we really pushed at the boundaries. When Spread the Germs Over the Human Worms came out  it caused such outrage that it was called at the time  the modern version of the Sex Pistol's "God Save the Queen". We also had real difficulty getting it printed because of the political content. It went to 8 different printing presses before the label eventually found someone who would print it. Realities of War was nothing but a small side project that lasted a few months doing classic Swedish punk meets Discharge meets Flux of Pink Indians. We played a few shows and it was great fun but again there were commitment issues so that came to an end soon after we formed.

SN: Can you reflect at all on what it used to be like during that era compared to, say the last 20 years?

PG: Well it is difficult to reflect on this, but was it better? Well of course it was, because it was so fresh. It's incredibly difficult to push at the boundaries anymore. That would be the one thing that stays with me and the attendance at shows which was much better than it is now in our digital age where everything is available at a click of a button.

SN: Do you still try to weed through the bands today trying to find that diamond in the rough that can sock it to you...? It's so difficult because the volume of bands is extremely heavy now compared to the 1980's and the selection isn't noted for it's ingenuity....

PG: No I don't, I really have no interest in what bands are doing nowadays. I tend to listen to older music and I have no love for most of the shit that's out there now.

SN: What are you up to these days? Are you still actively involved in playing in any bands?

PG: Yes, I continue to play in a band with my wife, it’s a two piece band called Pombagira. Super heavy and psyched out progressively long songs that melt the mind. The extreme thing has remained with me since I now I tend to use 7-10 amps at once, downtune to A, use baritone strings and destroy people's hearing. With regards to other things I am now doing, I am now a writer for an American occult publisher.

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