Hour Of 13 | Interview
September 18th will see the second installment of Dublin Doom Day. Following the premier of the event last year, when the likes of Esoteric, The Lamp of Thoth and a host of Irish bands successfully annihilated Fibber McGee’s, Chapter II promises to be one of those unmissable events of the underground Metal gig calendar.
Light of Day promotions is once again to bring the all-day ruckus to Fibbber McGee’s of Parnell Street, while a very special warm-up gig the night before will take place in The Pint venue on Eden Quay.
Most impressively, reclusive U.S. Heavy Metal genii Hour of 13 have deemed the event worthy of their first ever gig, while heavy hitters Griftegard, Pagan Altar and Mourning Beloveth are set to be amongst the other highlights for the main Doom Day.
The warm-up gig will be headlined by UK upstarts Asomvel and Ireland own Old Season. All in all, seventeen bands from the U.S., Europe and Ireland will be performing over the weekend.
With tickets already being hoovered up by the Doom faithful, Metal Ireland took the time for a quick chat Phil Swanson, singer for event headliners Hour of 13. Making the live debut of a band that have attracted fanatical devotion in the underground over the course of their two albums is no simple decision, particularly when the group is a duo and lacks the full band that would make the transition from studio to stage much smoother.
Phil is himself based in Connecticut, with bandmate Chad Davis stationed several hundred miles away in North Carolina. Pulling over from the chaos of the freeway after a busy day’s work, a crackly phone-line connected Lorcan Archer with the man himself.
MI: Ireland is a long way to come to play your first gig, but HO13 seem like a band that don’t balk at long distances. The group has now succeeded in putting out two very well-received albums (Self-Titled and this year’s ‘The Ritualist’). Did the distance prove a big challenge when making the music?
Phil: Not really, because I’ve really been doing this sort of long distance stuff for a while. I sing for another band in Germany, Atlantean Kodex (epic Metal in every sense of the word – LA), and I also sing for Seamount, who are also a German based band. We’re getting ready to release our third Seamount album shortly.
So in that respect, North Carolina’s not that bad for distance. For the first HO13 record I went down to North Carolina and recorded in a studio, but nowadays we do all our own recording. It’s really just much easier. We prefer it that way, to not be restricted to go to a certain city to record, or by time or whatever. It’s been pretty effortless with the last record.
We actually rented out a multi-million dollar studio for the first, self-titled Hour of 13 record. Believe it or not, it’s one of the most expensive studios on the East Coast here. We recorded it all together but we were not as happy recording there as with our second.
The place was actually an old stone church that was restored in the 1930′s, and everything was recorded under Cathedral ceilings. It was ridiculous how nice and comfortable it was! But it just didn’t work, for our style of music it almost ruined it. It was just way more comfortable the second time around when we did it all ourselves.
I don’t like studios. I’m not comfortable in them. With time pressing in and people around me, ugh! The technology simply allows us just to do it ourselves now.
We can work at our own time and our own pace and performances are always right if you can do them again and again. You do it when you’re ready to do it, then you just hit record. The home equipment we use now is almost equilivent to more basic set-up they had in the 80′s.
MI: And naturally the 80′s are where HO13 look to for a lot of inspiration in terms of the music that you try to create.
Phil: Oh yeah, without a doubt. There’s no denying that this is a band completely influenced by 1980′s Metal and late 1970′s Hard Rock. It almost all comes from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands, at least to my mind.
MI: You’ve decided that Dublin Doom Day is going to be Hour of 13′s first ever gig. Why, of all the places in the world, did you guys decide to come here for it? Surely people must have been chasing you down everywhere to play your first gig.
Phil: I had been to Germany a few times, to Hammer of Doom and a few other times. You know, every single time I was there, it was the Irish fans I’d meet who’d be really rabid and great.
And I mean, yeah, we could have decided to go and play in Germany, but there they love every single Metal band. They’re not very particular! We could go there to play a festival and everyone would be there to see every band.
It felt to me like Ireland is a place where they’re really committed, even from what I’ve been reading on the forums on line. From the very first album, Irish fans were the first people in line saying ‘Hour of 13!’. Out of respect of that, we want to play for people who really want to see us.
Now with that said, I’ve been trying not to play shows live for like five years now. With Hour of 13, it was the same deal. I didn’t want to play for just an audience. I wanted to play for a crowd who really wanted me to play.
We have talked about playing here in the U.S., and doing a small tour here, and I know how hard that would be, for various different reasons. But if I play for the Irish people that I’ve met, those rabid fans I know from Germany, that would be enough for me. I would rather play for those guys than for guys in any other country.
MI: So is this going to be one of very few live performances that HO13 are going to give the world, or is it the start of something new for the group?
Phil: This is really the beginning in my mind. It took us a long time to get to this point. This is the showcase, but it’s where the live thing begins for us. We’re getting session musicians together for this to play it. Once we get back home we’re going to rethink it and see where we can go.
We have other stuff going on right now that we really can’t discuss, but there’s going to be a lot of new things happening with H013. We view ourselves as a real band, and we’re going to do everything that we need to do.
We were of course a real band before, but moreso in the recording sense. I am going to make the commitment to play live and to tour, because of the forums and the people that are asking for it.
To be honest, the reason I came back to H013 after I left (Swanson had a brief stint away from the band in 2008) was because of what I was reading on the forums. I just thought to myself that I can’t avoid this.
I remember how I felt when Paul Dianno left Iron Maiden. I just thought; ‘This is it. I can never listen to this band again…’. And I’m still waiting for him to come back!
MI: I’m not sure that would be such a great idea at this point!
Phil: Haha, but you know how it is when you’re a fan of music and things change. It can be hard to accept. And I kept reading that on the forums, and I just thought to myself, ‘Why am I leaving?’
There are few musicians that actually get the situation where people really want to hear their music, so I just thought to myself, you have to do it.
MI: How did it feel to hear that sort of collective message to go back to the band coming from individual fans on message boards and forums online? It’s the sort of instant collective feedback that bands wouldn’t have had back in the 1980′s.
Phil: Right, there was no such sort of voice back then. I think that sort of voice can be distorted online, because fans and people can have such a say, and give such feedback to groups. And I’ve seen bands cater to that sort of a collective online voice.
I don’t mean it in the way of listening to criticism, but more in letting it guide their writing. I don’t agree that that should be done, but I definitely think it is kind of surreal, because I have actually been one of those guys on those forums.
I remember reading about it on forums when Reverend Bizarre broke up and everyone was talking about how tragic that was. And then when I started reading that sort of thing about my own band I thought, Whoa! You really have to listen to that sort of feedback because it’s important.
It’s definitely a different ball game these days. But you know, I think the if fans had this sort of voice back then in the 80′s, that they have now, it would have been a large factor in decision making. Maybe it would have been different with Iron Maiden and Paul Dianno.
MI: H013 can’t impart their sound on stage with just the two members up there, so NighBitch, another band whom you’re a member of and who’ll be performing the warm up gig the night before in The Pint, will be acting as session musicians. Can you describe them to anyone’s who’s not familiar with them?
Phil: We have a 12″ EP coming out in October, which will be a bit late for the gig but our demo is out at the moment. I wouldn’t consider it Doom really, it’s a bit more along the lines of traditional Heavy Metal.
It has more modern influences in it including some Black Metal. Ryan, our guitarist, plays in a Black Metal band that’s just signed to Metal Blade. I guess you could say it’s a little less retro, I’ve heard people compare the music to stuff like Danzig for example.
It’s still very much metal and occult oriented. I’m a big fan of Ritual (UK) and to be me, NightBitch have some of their style. Maybe more in the Angel Witch or Black Sabbath vein than anything else.
MI: Speaking of ritual, are you confident that you’ll be able to recreate the occult and dark atmosphere of the two Hour of 13 albums on stage? Has it been much of a concern for you?
Phil: To be honest, it’s been a huge concern. It was a big issue for me around when I briefly left Hour of 13, because people would be constantly asking about it, and I was adamant that I was not a performer. I don’t want to be one.
I want to write songs and record music more than anything. So I was really nervous about how to live up with that.
When I was in Europe, I spoke to Selim who’s in the Devil’s Blood. And they have the whole performance extravaganza with the blood and everything, and I talked to him about how I could never do what he does.
And he just said to me, you only live once…but I was still thinking no way. I don’t have it in me, I’m not King Diamond. I mean Alice Cooper is a huge influence on my part of Hour of 13, but I’m not that guy.
I began to realise that fans like this music so much, that I’m not going to have to do anything. The music will speak for itself. It’s all about that, I’m just going to go up there and play, and hopefully people will respect that.
They’re there to hear the music live. Anything else we do, I feel would be a kind of distraction from that. This style of music is historic, if you think of Mercyful Fate, and Coven from the 70′s, and Black Widow.
To have this big performance, like the Devil’s Blood is cool, but it’s not my thing. I just have no pretense. I can’t pull it off, but I’ve got more comfortable with the music. They don’t want me to get up there and embarrass myself, and embarrass the music in the process!
MI: You must have gotten the impression from playing live with Seamount for example, that people are going to go up from and bang their fists to the songs they like as the songs are delivered with passion, right?
Phil: That’s exactly how it was. Even performing with Seamount was a mental struggle for me. But after we played Doom Shall Rise, everything changed for me. I often think that big performance bands go out with the idea of dealing with an unknowing crowd, who’s not familiar at all with them. That’s not the case for Hour of 13.
We’ve released two very popular records and we’re playing for fans of those records. We don’t have to do that, and convince people to remember us. They’ve got those records and that’s the reason that they’re at the show. I’m not going to take away from that.
MI: Speaking of records, it’s not been long since The Ritualist came out and it’s picked up a lot of acclaim from many quarters. Once this trip is over, will the band kick right back into generating another album or will you take your time?
Phil: I think once we get back it’ll be getting right back into productive mode, writing and recording. To me that’s what it’s all about, but it’s all about multi-tasking. People know that I’m involved in more than a few bands, so playing shows won’t get in the way of that.
Chad has actually just finished recording a bunch of cover songs, just to get back into the swing of things and get the recording set up.
We’re going to do a Witchfynde song for example just to get started again. I have my idea to do a ‘Missing Girl’ EP, and to re-record ‘The Crawlspace’, ‘Missing Girl’ and ‘Possession’.
MI: Three songs that definitely stand out from the rest of the albums.
Phil: Right. I want to do them again, and put them on their own release. After that, Chad has all these new riffs, and it’s just a matter of putting pen to paper and putting more stuff out there.
MI: This year’s Dublin Doom Day is a much big event than last year, over two days and two venues. Is there any other bands on the bill that you’re particularly looking forward to catching?
Phil: I’d say Old Season. I really dig that band. I think the singer is such a cool dude. I don’t know him personally but I saw them at Hammer of Doom and I thought ‘Whoa, this guy is like Messiah Marcolin. His voice is just so strong.
Then I saw him tuning up before Mourning Beloveth (who will be playing the following night) at Doom Shall Rise and I thought this guy is just a cool dude.
MI: I doubt you’ll be dissapointed with Mr Frank Brennan on the night. This is quite a long way to come for a first gig. Have you ever been to Ireland before in any capacity?
Phil: No, this is the first time over for everyone involved, so we’re really excited. Unfortunately I’ve got to get home right afterwards, I have got a job and kids to raise. I’d love to travel around and see the place.
There is talk that Hour of 13 will put myself and Chad in a position to be full-time with Hour of 13, where we’ll be able to spend time and see these countries, but at the moment it’s all about getting in and out.
I think we’re arriving Thursday and we’ll be back out by Sunday, which is alright by me, I’ve been doing that in Germany and it’s not that bad of a trip.
MI: People listen to the Hour of 13 albums and here this tormented voice and this riffs, but what do the people behind them actually do from day to day?
Phil: I actually work in construction. I’m a heavy construction operator and supervisor. Chad is a real starving artist, he’s totally dedicated to his music. I think he’s worked in a restaurant that’s pretty easy with his time.
You know, we’re just hurting, haha, like everyone else. Just trying to get by and play music. That’s the whole motivation.
- Lorcan Archer ::: 03/08/10
HOUR OF 13 will play Dublin Doom Day – Chapter II, on Saturday, September 18th in Fibber McGee’s, Parnell Street. Tickets price at €28 are still available from www.tickets.ie and www.sentinelrecords.com.
Dublin Doom Day’s warm-up gig takes place in The Pint, Eden Quay, on Friday September 17th, featuring Asomvel, Old Season and many more. Tickets are available via www.sentinelrecords.com
Dublin Doom Day : Chapter II – September 18th – Fibber McGees – €28
MOURNING BELOVETH – www.myspace.com/mourningbeloveth
HOUR OF 13 – www.myspace.com/hourof13doom
PAGAN ALTAR – www.myspace.com/paganaltar
GRIFTEGARD – www.myspace.com/griftegrd
BRIGANTIA – www.myspace.com/brigantiadoom
OFFICIUM TRISTE – www.myspace.com/officiumtriesteholland
PEOPLE OF THE MONOLITH – www.myspace.com/peopleofthemonolith
WHY ANGELS FALL – www.myspace.com/whyangelsfall
DE NOVISSIMIS – http://denovissimiss.wordpress.com
SHATTERED HOPE – www.myspace.com/shatteredhopegr
Dublin Doom Day Warm-Up – September 17th – The Pint – €18
ASOMVEL (England) – www.myspace.com/asomvel
OLD SEASON (Ireland) – www.myspace.com/oldseason
ARKHAM WITCH (England) – www.myspace.com/rourkesdriftyorkshire
MOUNTAIN THRONE (Germany) – www.myspace.com/mountainthrone
NIGHTBITCH (USA) – www.myspace.com/sexandforce
COUNCIL OF TANITH (Ireland) – www.myspace.com/counciloftanithdoom
BRAINS (People’s Republic of Cork) – www.myspace.com/laapot666