Video Nasties' sound is one of the most satisfying things on offer today for those craving undeniable riffs with a grisly horrific flavour. They manage to play a kind of metal that's brutally visceral inspired by death metal and vintage horror movies, while having crunchy grooves and an irresistible rock 'n' roll quality to them that in no way consigns them to the dingiest corners of the underground, a crossover potential in musicality not unlike a Venom Prison or a Black Breath just with a more cult focus and aesthetic.
Formed out of Liverpool in England, last year's debut album "Dominion" was released just as COVID-19 began to shut the world down. A year later, Video Nasties are firmly on the map despite it all, with a new single "Draw the Shades" accompanying the album re-release that is threatening to see them already become one of metal's reliables. Guitarist Stu Taylor and bassist Rick Owen spoke to us about forming the sound of horror.
You released your debut album "Dominion" in March last year just as the pandemic was beginning to hit. How’s that year been with launching your first album at such a time?
Rick: It was really bizarre because "Dominion" was two years in the making. We’d been working for ages and then just started to hear about this virus, and lockdowns started being spoken about just around the week before we released the album. We played a release show on the 14th of March and then on the 23rd went into a three-week lockdown. On the day we were getting messages from people asking “Is this still happening?”
Stu: I think there were people there who had symptoms but nobody knew how serious it was and it was only a couple weeks later that everyone started falling ill from it. We were lucky enough to just be able to play the release show and get that in but it’s been a year out since, about three tours cancelled and re-arranged festivals all the time.
Has the balancing act been strange though of not being able to go out and actively promote the album but simultaneously becoming far more popular and known of through it than you were prior?
Stu: It’s been a surprise really, because yeah we’ve managed to sell out the album, feedback was amazing, and we didn’t really suffer from not being able to promote it as much as I thought we would. We shifted a lot of stuff.
Rick: There was a moment where it was a bit touch and go, where you can’t play any gigs and you hope that people don’t just start forgetting about the album, but it’s been okay.
You'd all been in heavy bands around the Liverpool area before this so what was it that united you all in the direction of making big headbanging tracks about horror movies?
Stu: We’d known each other for years through the Liverpool and we shared a room when we were in other bands. I was doing The Bendal Interlude and SSS, Rick was in Iron Witch, Tommy was in Bendal as well, and we shared the same practice room. Things started closing down with the other bands we were doing at the time and I think it was when The Bendal Interlude wrapped up that this started picking up.
Rick: We were jamming at one point anyway as a three-piece doing like 70s rock and New Wave of British Heavy Metal style stuff, but it wasn’t anything serious, just wasting time in the practice room. The Bendal guys then wanted to start cracking on with something else straight away.
Stu: Something heavy that wasn’t like what we’d done in the past. There’s bit like there’s SSS thrashy stuff but not so much of the stoner doom thing. It started out a little more At the Gates Swedish melodic death metal stuff and then we wrote the first song Transvoltum which really was us finding our feet with what we were doing.
You're a deceptively hard band to categorise in terms of fusing all these extreme sounds from death metal, black n roll, punk and hardcore, and John Carpenter-esque synth scores. Was that a long process of trying to hone that or did it come rather naturally?
Stu: We were used to use samples and things in The Bendal Interlude and that’s something we wanted to keep for this, but it wasn’t like we had the name of the band and thought “Let’s do this 80s nostalgia music that suits that”.
Rick: I think it was when Damian came on board doing vocals, his lyrics were quite dark anyway and that’s kinda where the horror thing came from.
Stu: Dave our drummer does a lot of the synth stuff, and I was messing around with audio collages and layering different film samples over each other so those things worked well together. We took melodies we had on guitar and moved them over to the synths, so there are parts that sound like they’re originally a score but they’re parts of the songs that we had written. The artwork and the whole package came together from there.
What’s Liverpool like for supporting an extreme band like yourself?
Rick: It’s got a few sort of fractured scenes. You’ve got a hardcore punk scenes that’s dominated by skaters and it can be cliquey at times. We do have quite a lot of crossover shows with them, and then there’s a metal scene that you just very rarely hear of. I think the main problem is venues. We’ll get a bit of a scene going with regular gigs and then the venues will drop off and disappear. We’ll be back to square one again and you won’t see it for another two or three years. It’s always been like that for as long as I can remember.
You’ve just released the new "Draw the Shades" single as a standalone release, so what does that represent in relation to where you’d been on the album?
Rick: It’s like part two of "Dominion" I guess in a way, we didn’t really wanna move too far from what we were doing on "Dominion" but we knew we had to write new music earlier than we were initially going to because of what’s going on. "Dominion" we don’t feel has really had its day yet so moving on from it and taking the spotlight off of it isn’t the plan yet, but it seemed like a good track to put out with the repress of the album. Having this flexi disc with it is a good companion piece and a follow-on from where "They Rise" left off on the album.
With the lyrical content of it relating to addiction and the listener being able to take that in whatever direction, is that representative of you not just limiting yourself to explicit horror film topics despite the general aesthetic of the band?
Rick: Well it was written around this idea of bloodlust so it is horror, but none of the lyrics are too obviously vampiric so you can relate to it with all sorts of addictions.
Stu: Yeah it’s not as in your face as some of the stuff on "Dominion" I guess. I like that and it’s something we could do more of, but Damian writes the lyrics and to be honest it could be god knows what next.
Rick: On "Dominion" there are songs like "Stay Gold" about piss play, so he does touch on other subjects! I think there will be more horror in future but we won’t shy away from exploring other areas.
How do you go about selecting the samples and taking care to fit the atmosphere of tracks to subject matter? There can be this misconception that using horror movie samples can be a really lazy thing just placing them on the front and yours feel quite carefully placed into the fabric of the songs.
Stu: Yeah, I think our quality control for that is really thought out and a bit ridiculous. With "Draw the Shades" the main melody of the song is the synth part which we use in the chorus and then again in the bridge section, and it just creates atmosphere.
Rick: There was definitely a lot of film-watching in the build-up to "Dominion". I was buying Grindhouse DVDs which is like just two or three hours of solid grindhouse trailers, and constantly making notes to record certain bits at these times to use them.
Stu: Taking dialogue from one film to mix with the sound from another film, a lot of mixing and matching.
Rick: We wrote "Stabbing Nightmare" and didn’t have a name for it, and I was watching this Italian film called Eyeball. The trailer was really over the top and I just immediately thought that it was amazing and we had to use it for the song. It was originally gonna be called "Stabbing Nightmare, Living Terror" which is the tag-line but it was a bit of a mouthful.
What’s your recording process to achieve that vintage death metal sound you strive for?
Stu: We record it ourselves and we don’t do it with the best gear in some flashy studio, and that works in our favour. It wouldn’t suit what we’re doing to be too polished, and doing it ourselves just has a better atmosphere with not having to work against the clock. You can do like thirty takes for a guitar part in your bedroom rather than wasting someone else’s time doing it all day. We send it off to get mixed and mastered but we chose who we went with for that reason too, to have it not be too pristine.
Do you feel like it's a particularly good era for bands doing unique takes on horror-tinged metal, from yourselves to bands like Tribulation, or is it just a pocket that's always been strong?
Stu: I don’t know really, me and Dave were really into bands like White Zombie that probably comes across in the samples and that stuff. I always loved what they were doing. I’ve noticed more since we released "Dominion" I think, not because they’re copying what we’re doing but because us doing this draws it to attention for us a little bit more. I think there’s still room for a bit of that. We’re of that age where we can remember walking into a video shop and buying an actual video, and the whole packaging has this 80s video cassette rental store thing to it which fitted perfectly.
How do you feel about the landscape of horror at the moment? Are you still continually inspired by new horror?
Stu: Not so much myself. I’ve never seen a good remake.
Rick: I’m different. One of my favourite franchises is Scream and I love how that thing can very self-aware and bring in things from other horror movies, even though I didn’t fully pick up on it the first time I watched it when I was younger. I’m a massive fan of the psychological horror films that are coming out at the moment, like Hereditary and Midsommar or Hagazussa and The Witch. They can be as trippy as they are horror films, and stuff like Mandy and Color Out of Space can do that too. I’m the only one who is into more modern horror though and I think Video Nasties will always be more old school.
You’re obviously named after the video nasty sensation in the 80s when there was this moral panic over gory horror movies. Do you think horror still has the power to reach that level of societal fear like it did then?
Stu: I’m not sure it can be done again really, like when The Exorcist was shown and you had people throwing up and screaming leaving the cinema, I can’t imagine that happening with a film these days.
Rick: With the internet you can find videos of pretty much anything online, and so for horror films these days to genuinely shock people like that it’ll be quite hard to achieve, but I also don’t think you can get away with as much these days.
It’s early to say for a band who have just released their first album but is there any kind of long term goal to Video Nasties or indeed any plans you have already to advance what you’re doing in any way?
Stu: Just do it as long as we can really, and get bigger and better with every release. There isn’t much else to life at this point! There’s plenty more to come I think.
Rick: More touring, seeing as we have not done any. There’ll be more new music in the next year. We’re in every week putting ideas together and releasing Draw the Shades as just a one-off single was a completely different experience to writing, recording and releasing Dominion. I think the way the industry works at the moment we might just stick to that idea of releasing a few singles rather than diving straight back into another album. When we did Dominion we locked ourselves away for two months to record it spending twelve hours a day every weekend, so I think it was a lot more relaxed to get the one song done and we’d like a bit more of that. When shows come back we can probably handle quite a heavy gig schedule and still find time to record little singles and bits like that.