Stephen - Its all about playing live as much as possible to air and promote our latest album 'Somewhere in the West'. After our time away, we had all been itching to get back on stage to remind everyone what Amok are all about; producing premium grade thrash. We've just finished playing our first two return shows and the reaction from the crowds was immense. Everyone seems to be feeling the new material!
2.Recently you have released a new album, can you tell us a little bit more about the musical direction it has taken and also how does it differ from your past recordings?
Stephen - The main shift from previous material is a step up in the technicality musically and a healthy injection of aggression to both the riffs and vocals. We've always tried to find our own style and avoid the generic thrash sound. One listen through of 'Somewhere in the West' will confirm to anyone that we are indeed the real deal.
Greg - There's a more organic sound to this album. We really are a band that functions best when we're jamming - our riffs come alive by playing in the room together and these songs reflect more what we create in the studio. There was a much more 'homemade' approach to this album that I think has worked to our favour in that we had complete control over the sound.
Matt - This is my first recording with Amok, but I think it sounds a little more 'focused' than their last CD. We also took our time on this one, probably more so than in the past. I think it sounds far better executed, and a little more 'matured' (like a good whisky!)
3.This is your first album in 6 years, can you tell us a little bit more about the gap and what has been going on during those years?
Stephen - After 'Downhill Without Brakes' things slowed down and that was our own doing. The album was so well received worldwide with positive reviews all round. ‘Thrash Island’ from that release seemed to grow arms and legs, turning into something of a cult anthem among thrashers. That enhanced our profile, but we foolishly failed to act on it.
Keith - Aye, if I have one regret, it is that we did not push on from the success of 'Downhill Without Brakes'. Having said that, we realise now it was a period when a lot of things changed in all of our personal lives, and that’s life, it gets in the way sometimes. We still remained great friends and all the songs for the new album were written during this time so in a way a lot of good came out of it! The best thing to come out of the gap was getting Matt Storry in the band! His playing on the album is incredible and has definitely given our sound a kick up the arse! I just wish we had him in the band years ago! Maybe that is another regret haha!
4.Can you tell us a little bit more about the lyrical topics and subjects the band explores with the new release?
Stephen - Lyrical content is an area in which we have always tried to set ourselves apart from the crowd. Metal, especially thrash, is often so predictable. Personally, I think it is easy and boring to write songs about Zombies, drinking your brains out, or mindless violence. It takes skill and real imagination to write something which really speaks to and draws in the listener. We always try to give our songs a proper narrative and write about actual feelings, situations or topics people know of or can relate to. Topics in the new album range from poverty, corruption and addiction, to lawlessness and the general deterioration of the human race. The album closes on a poem too which is quite cool.
Greg - A lot of the lyrics are inspired by home as well. We write about things connected to our life in Glasgow - people that we know and things we've seen. Glasgow's a big influence in everything that Amok does.
5.What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Amok' and also are you do you know about the other bands that have also used it as their band name?
Stephen - The name came from back when Calum was a young drummer. For some reason or another he scrawled the word 'Amok' on one of his drum sticks and from then on always thought he should use it as a band name.
Calum - I still have that stick! Actually still use it, I should probably buy some new ones!
Stephen - The dictionary commonly defines Amok as 'to behave uncontrollably and disruptively' or 'a murderous rampage', which is actually fitting as when we formed our aim was to shake up the then metal scene within our native Glasgow. Back then it was loaded with mediocre 'nu' metal bands and whatnot, much to our anger and disgust. We wanted to gatecrash the scene, cause maximum disruption to it, and kill off the norm.
6.What are some of the best shows that the band has played over the years and also how would you describe your stage performance?
Keith - We are fortunate to have played a lot of amazing gigs and supported some great bands. However our most recent gigs that we played in support of the new album will go down as my favourites! Amok has been going for 10 years now and it was such an amazing feeling to still be out there playing these killer new songs with the lads! As I said before there is such a good vibe in the band at the moment and I felt really proud to be out there playing them live after a year of hard recording! It feels like the beginning of an exciting new chapter in the band. Thankfully people seemed to like the new songs haha!
Stephen - If I was to describe our stage performance in one word it would be intense. From day one, we've always came out all guns blazing. We give every ounce of energy in our bodies to the crowd every single time and try to get crowd interaction to the maximum. Over the years there's been blood shed, bones broken, vomit educed and equipment trashed...all in the name of thrash.
7.Do you have any touring or show plans for the future?
Stephen - We've played two shows recently upon our return and have several additional dates already booked including a support slot for UK Thrashers Savage Messiah. At the moment we're taking things as they come and maintaining focus on promoting ourselves and the new album. Sadly, Matt is working in Japan at present but we are playing with a session drummer who is doing a fine job. Hooking back up with Matt behind the kit live is our primary future plan.
Greg - We're hoping to tour properly towards the end of the year. There's a good chance we'll be touring across the UK and possibly some European dates as well.
8.On a worldwide level how has the feedback been to your newer music by fans of thrash metal?
Stephen - Fantastic, we're really pleased with the reaction to the album. It was a slow burner at first, but that is to be expected after such a long time between albums. Clever distribution and promotion has helped with a steady stream of very positive reviews coming through. The new material is an evolution of our trademark heavy, yet very accessible sound we've honed over the past 9 years. The new album is one big melting pot that fuses together technicality, speed, aggression, power and melody to produce what we see as a fresh outlook on modern thrash metal, and from the reviews it would seem the vast majority agree with us.
Greg - It's been brilliant, we're all really chuffed! New fans seem to be popping up everywhere! We've had some contingents growing in places like Mexico and Colombia where they seem to really be enjoying our sound! Hopefully, as the album continues to get out there, we'll see more disciples join the clan!
9.What direction do you see your music heading into on future releases?
Calum - I think the long arrangements as seen on SITW are out my system for now, I want to focus on getting new songs condensed down and really focus hard on becoming a better song writer. I don't ever want us to release two albums the same. Having Matt on board will also alter how I write because having such a talented drummer opens up a whole new realm of possibilities! However in truth, what we write has never been forced, I always start with a plan but in the end I chase a good riff, bounce it off the guys and the end result is Amok. We work really hard on our arrangements and spend months getting there. I'm really proud of this, and I'm really excited about the future as I feel we are getting better at it.
Greg - We're already thinking about the next album and myself and Calum really want to keep it as heavy as possible. I think there will be more experimenting though. We've always been proud to play thrash but we always want to try something new and add to it. We are Amok though so it's bound to be fast!
10.What are some bands or musical styles that have influenced your newer music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
Calum - Out of all the guys with the exception of Matt, I'm the biggest fan of thrash in all its forms, and I know my stuff, but I do like to look beyond thrash for ideas. The Sixty Eight riff on our new album was a riff I stumbled upon while learning a Skynyrd riff, and chord progressions can come from anywhere, I'm way more open minded these days and generally respond to good songwriting no matter what genre.
Keith - The cool thing about this band is that we are not all 24/7 thrashers! Each member listens to a diverse range of music and I think this really helps to create our sound. On a personal level I love my metal but you are most likely going to find me listening to Van Halen or Skid Row haha! I would name some other bands but I don’t want to get kicked out the band!
Matt - Gene Hoglan's drumming with Death is one of my biggest influences. In truth though I've not been listening to a lot of metal recently, just Toto and Paul Simon haha! I'm turning into my dad!
11.Do you have any non musical interests?
Stephen - Everyone within the band has their own non-musical interests to keep them busy. Many of them aren’t what you would call very 'rock and roll' though! Some shared interests between a few of us are sports, such as golf and football. Drinking lagers of the world is probably the biggest shared interest of them all! Matt loves travelling and snowboarding, Greg enjoys video games and movies, Calum reads a lot, and travels about Scotland but mainly just plays guitar, Keith loves his sport, and I enjoy weightlifting & bodybuilding, cookery and art - namely painting and printmaking.
12.Before we wrap up this interview do you have any final words or thoughts?
Stephen - We'd just like to take the opportunity to thank first and foremost Cheryl of Witches Brew for all her support and belief in our music. If she hadn't shown the faith in us that she has, then who knows where we would have been! A big thank you also goes out to the thrash fans out there who follow, promote us and buy our music - your continued support is appreciated more than you may think!
Finally, we can safely say that this new album is only the beginning of a new, more driven Amok. We've already started work on new material and intend to release some tracks over the coming year. For further info, the best way to stay up to date is to connect with us at www.facebook.com/amokscotland.