Gama Bomb Interview.


During the time of when Philly [Byrne] had to undergo throat surgery, was there ever a time when you guys thought to yourselves about what would happen to Gama Bomb if something went wrong or it wasn’t the same as beforehand?

Of course, that was a major factor when I lost my voice – for both us as a band and especially me as an individual. We had to accept that in the immediate term at least, things would have to change. I couldn’t continue to just sing the way I had, nor was I really capable of it. It’s now two years later and I’m only regaining those portions of my voice. I think that anxiety, the fear of this change and the fear of loss, was a big motivator to be honest. Sure, we probably argued a lot because of it during that whole time, but in the end I think it spurred us on to make a better album. When you have to go under the knife to get into the studio, it makes you appreciate the opportunity much more.

 Tales from the Grave in Space was the first album to be released for free by a signed band, what made you guys want to do this and what were the outcomes of doing so?

 We did it because not only did we get all our personal music for free, and illegally as a result, but moreover because we realized the band was kinda stuck on a treadmill.

We’d released one album through a small imprint, and then another on a large indie label, and we got a taste of how it all worked. At that point we knew that our songwriting was improving constantly, but the support to push it out there, the money and the man hours to make it a big deal, would either stay the same, or inevitably shrink. Labels are like a fickle girlfriend: they lose interest in you pretty quickly if you’re not a massive success straight out the gate.

So yeah, we saw that kinda happening and wanted to create a real story around the album, a big buzz that would get it the attention that it deserves. We wanted to break the box, and the label we were on wanted a band silly enough to experiment with giving their music away.

From our perspective it worked perfectly: we got excellent PR out of it because we were doing something new, we got to play in places where our music is not normally released physically, and it won us a lot of respect from fans. We also physically outsold the previous album which was only physically released. Free content meant we sold more.

If there’s a downside, it’s that the release scared the ‘traditional’ digital music people. There were chains of stores in the US who refused to stock the album because we’d partnered with a filesharing service like Rapidshare. Basically people saw their slice of the pie threatened, and they closed ranks. That’s what happens – they’re the very people who should be innovating, but instead they act as a guard against progression.

Again though, once you commit to changing the game you need to stick to it: that free album has undermined our ability to be distributed in the US to  this day, but we have to be unconcerned about that. Our music is digitally universally available, and people eat it up. If the industry won’t profit from it, that’s their loss.

  Obviously most people would turn around and say that releasing a free album wouldn’t make you any money to live on, were there ever concerns about this when the idea came across or was it a no-brainer to you guys?

 Well as I say, we actually outsold our previous album, so financially in a purely spreadsheet universe it was something of a success – but that doesn’t factor in the reality of a record deal.

Basically, a record contract is a guarantee that you’ll be in the red forever: it’s not a game, especially now, where you can ever earn a living.

This wasn’t only a no-brainer, it was our only sane choice: we could either adapt or wither on the vine. And while our spreadsheets might not say we’ve boomed in size or profit, those things don’t matter at the heels of the hunt. We’ve got the respect and support of our fans, we write cool music and go cool plaes and we’ve never compromised ourselves to win that. We win.

 What have been the weirdest things to have happened to you on tour? Or actually perhaps in general, any crazed fans posting you their genitals or maybe not?

 We’ve met a few weird people, but to be honest they’re usually more kinda drunken or a bit slow on the uptake, as opposed to mad people. Toothless lads wearing a box of beer as a hat who really need to tell you something but are too drunk to talk, that kinda thing.

I met a woman who was in porn when we were in America, and there was this whole weird scene where she was telling us all about her life and all the crazy, degrading shit that had happened to her. She had no perspective on herself, no moral compass. It was fascinating and terrifying. I suppose it counts as a crazy story because she was in porn, but to be honest most of our tour stories involve someone vomiting or pulling pranks on each other – not really drugs or sex or any of that. We’re quite innocent. Joe sprayed me in the face with Cif one time. I remember that quite well.

  It seems in the past few years there’s been a massive resurgence in Thrash Metal, has this ever put you guys under more pressure to make albums that’ll push all of these new kids out of the water or did it help you guys gain more recognition and respect?

 The thrash revival happened to us completely by accident to be honest. We pre-dated it by a few years and weren’t expecting to become even remotely popular. We were pretty much playing a dead genre of music for kicks, because we were nerds about it.

In that way, and probably because we’re egotists at heart, we’ve never considered ourselves as competing with any other band. We’ve made many friends in that new wave of thrash, but we never pinned our fortunes on it. We’ve been popular and we’ve been nobody and neither particularly scares us more than the other.

Also, we’d never write music based on what other people are doing: that’s a major lesson from the ‘first wave’ of UK thrash in the 80s – copy other bands and you’ll kill your own good ideas. Of course we’re delighted thrash came back and helped us reach more people, get a record deal, all that: but we never considered ourselves as part of it. We’re a thrash band, not a new wave of thrash band.

  It’s obvious you guys make music for the fact that you love it and not for the money and fame but when you guys formed was it just a matter of making music for the fun of it and if you got spotted then you got spotted or did you make it a goal to be spotted and recognised all over the world for your incredible music?

 Well at first our goal was to play a gig for our mate Kevy’s birthday. Then the goal was to play a gig outside our hometown, in Belfast. Then it was to have t-shirts, and a demo, and badges – and then… so yeah, we got into this for fun. We did it just to make each other laugh, to play music we love, and to get drunk, but I suppose we gradually did want to develop it more and more, any time we saw a way to do it.

We made sure we were doing stuff off our own bat before we got signed. No record label has the money to sign a metal band and build them up: you need to turn up fully formed and functioning before they’ll work with you. We self-recorded an album, demos, did gigs in the UK, got a little press where we could, got stage clothes, all that.

So we were in it for fun, and I suppose we still are. We’re not earning here. We do a lot for the love of thrash metal.

 If you wasn’t in Gama Bomb or musicians at all, where do you reckon you’d all be now?

 Probably in much the same place! We’ve always made a point of developing our real lives as well as the band career thing. We all either study or have careers outside of the band.

I reckon if we had never been in the band, we’d probably be working in the same kinda thing, Joe and I would know each other, but we wouldn’t have met Domo, or Paul or John, which would be tragic really. We’re talking about a kind of family in our band.

 Also, last but not least, what is the future for Gama Bomb after The Terror Tapes?

 More of exactly the same, man. We’re writing an album and we’ve decided to take our time about it, to record it when it’s ready, when it’s good enough. Aside from that we’re arranging some euro shows, possibly a South American tour for fun. Basically we’re going to keep doing what we’ve always done: gigging, recording, maybe drinking a bit too much, for as long as our old bodies will hold out. From here to eternity, you know what I mean?


About Jessica Howkins
Music Journalism and Broadcasting graduate, Editor-In-Chief for Distorted Sound Magazine and contributor for various publications.

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