Banshee Rising

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Horror and metal have always been gore filled bedmates and inherently related. The misanthropy the (sometimes unfortunate) misogyny, the shock value, the violence, the extremity and the allure for society’s outcasts. The relationship was perfected in 1986s Trick or Treat (not the 2007 shit fest) with Ozzy Osbourne and Gene Simmons bringing metal to the big screen.

The relationship has been brought into the new era of metal with Deathgasm, a labor of love from Kiwi director and writer Jason Lei Howden. Not only is the movie a fun filled, gore laden horror romp, the story revolves around two metalheads who unwittingly summon demons by way of playing some forbidden music. The movie’s score, soundtrack and many references within the film are a metalhead’s dream with numerous poster, t-shirts, LP covers, and background music that make for a fun name that band drinking game. One such band is New Zealand’s own Bulletbelt, who made a video for the movie, which is where I discovered them. I thought it would be fun to reach out to the band’s founder and drummer Steve Francis to find out more about his band as well as the involvement with the movie….

Alright! For us American readers give us a little history of Bulletbelt? I get a sense the band is almost a bit of a continuation of Demoniac — whom you drummed for in the early/mid ’90s and who were one of New Zealand’s first extreme exports?

Thanks! Demoniac was a long time ago! Bulletbelt formed in 2009. I knew Ross (guitar) lived in the same area as me so I hit him up to see if he wanted to get something going. No real plans for world domination but just to write some tunes and see what happened. We clicked pretty quickly and have forged into a good team who drive the band. We started out playing a few local shows, then spread the message throughout NZ with a lot of touring. We’ve also been lucky to share the stage with many great international bands who have made it down to the ass end of the world including Impiety, Goatwhore, Tragedy, Paul Dianno, Municipal Waste, Rotten Sound, Sepultura, Napalm Death, Carcass etc. Plus we’ve toured Australia 3 times including tours with Midnight and Toxic Holocaust. We are a very active band!

For those that don’t know, you guys made a video for the recent metal/horror movie, Deathgasm. How did that come about? Was the song written before the movie or was the song written for the movie?

Yes, we were very excited to be involved in this project. Jason Lei Howden contacted us initially looking for shirts, posters etc to use as props in the movie. He lived in Wellington where we are from so we met up for coffee and hit it off. He gave me the script of the movie before it was made, so we wrote the song before the movie even existed! I made sure I had some good phrases and sayings that would be used in the movie. We tried to keep the tune pretty simple, with a catchy chorus like the classic metal movie themes, “Hellraiser” (Motörhead), “Dream Warriors” (Dokken) and the greatest movie soundtrack Trick or Treat!

The movie is fantastic! How was it to be involved with not only a labor of love from some clear metalheads, but a New Zealand effort to boot?

Yeh! The movie came out amazing. I personally am a huge Trick or Treat fan so to have a small part to play in this is something I’m grateful for. Jason did an amazing job off a tiny budget. You can tell watching it that he knew his metal which makes it legit for metalheads. The first movie that has really nailed the metal side of it without making us all look like dickheads!

Has the exposure from the movie helped the band at all? I know at least I discovered you guys because of the movie!

Oh yeh for sure. It was an amazing opportunity for us and we grabbed it with both hands. Let’s just hope we don’t end up like London (The Decline of Western Civilization part 2) [laughs]  

Talk a little about new vocalist Jolene Tempest. She definitely brings the black metal aesthetic and voice to the sound. She did guest vocals on a prior album correct?

Yes she did a line on our debut album. She actually said to me, that if our old vocalist leaves, to ask her first. She has bought some great ideas to the band since joining and I think we’ll see that really grow as we move forward from here. She’s an amazing tattooist and artist so also brings great design ideas to the band.

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I hear a lot of early Martin Walkyier in her voice , and she seems to be channeling Dani Filth as well. She have any influences from those two?

She loves all the classic BM stuff and I’m sure has listened to a lot of CoF back in the day. The Martin Walkyier reference I’ve never heard, I’ll have to pull out my Sabbat records!

Her looks and style seem to be far more theatrical and over the top than the rest of the band. Is she given free reign in her looks and presentation?

Yes, she has definately bought a lot of ideas to the band about imagery and theatrics. Moving forward it’s something we are working on together. To tie the music, the artwork and the overall imagery together into one cohesive package.

Other than the vocal switch, how have you developed since the 2012 album Down in the Cold of the Grave?

Our songwriting has improved considerably and I guess we are at the stage now where we know what Bulletbelt is and how we want our music to come across. We also now realize that with hard work and a DIY attitude we can make anything happen including heading to the US and Europe which is one of our next goals!

Is the title of the new album based around Jolene joining the band, she certainly could be the banshee in question!

Kind of. I’ve always loved classic metal albums that just sound cool as a title and don’t necessarily have to be too meaningful. One’s you can easily remember and are catchy like, Pleasure to Kill, Ride the Lightning, Show No Mercy, Satanic Royalty, Rise of the Banshee… but yeh it all kind of fit together and worked. Plus the kick ass artwork from Scarecrowoven. Wait until you see the full artwork on the gatefold vinyl release coming soon from Hota Rex.

When playing a style that’s rooted in thrash and black metal, how do you find the balance between the two?

It’s just riffs and song structures that are brought to the band by Ross and Tim (bass) and then we work on them as a band and keep tweaking until we have a song. There are no rules and moving forward we really aren’t afraid on the next album to mix it up a lot more. There are BM, DM, Thrash, Trad metal and Punk influences running through Bulletbelt. We want to keep expanding those boundaries while making it more cohesive. That is the challenge.

I also detect some US, east coast hardcore/punk — especially in the drumming — or am i completely wrong there?

Yeh for sure. I listen to lots of punk, mostly old classic stuff but really like Gallows (UK), Tragedy (US) plus all that amazing old Swedish dbeat.

I can maybe name a handful of bands from New Zealand… Ulcerate? Diocletion? Erm… you guys? How is the metal scene in New Zealand?

The scene is good. Lots of cool local bands plus a handful making their mark internationally like Diocletion, Vassafor, Ulcerate, Dawn of Azazel, Exordium Mors, Blood of the Moon, Carnal, etc. It’s a small scene and the usual politics involved in these things, but I would say it’s stronger than it’s ever been. I just hope to see some young bands starting to come through as it’s been a bit quiet of late.

Are there any bands fusing traditional Maori themes and sounds into metal? I’d love to hear a metal Haka.

There have been a couple of bands that have done it. The challenge is to do it without it being cheesy or disrespectful to the culture. The Haka is a very powerful thing but if not respected or done properly you could come away looking like you are either talking the piss or just have no idea. To do it well you would need to have an expert on the Maori culture advising so you do it right…

Can tell me about the lyrics behind Minnie dean? Looks like something a little more usual black thrash affair?

Minnie Dean was the first and only woman hung in New Zealand. In 1895 she was found guilty of Infanticide. Up to 14 Children had gone missing in her care. The most famous incident was when she boarded a train carrying a heavy hatbox. The rail guard who helped her on and off the train testified at her trial that her hatbox was very heavy getting on the train and very light getting off…. When writing Minnie Dean our goal was to keep the song at the same tempo all the way through kind of like Orgasmatron!

I assume you have the same issues as Australian bands when it comes to tours, merchandise and such?

Living in the ass end of the world has it’s plus’s and negatives. Touring anywhere other than NZ or Australia takes a lot of money for flights… merch is a lot more expensive to produce. I’ve heard from American friends how much their shirts costs to print and ours are about 3 times as much. But with energy, enthusiasm and a can do attitude you can still make stuff happen down here.

Whats next for Bulletbelt? Deathgasm sequel?

We are now into writing our third album. We are fired up to take it up many notches and really raise the bar. We have our most cohesive band unit ever and are all commited to making something special. We are aiming to record in October so watch this space! In the meantime we have a split 7″ coming out on World record store with our Aussie brother Bastardizer plus Rise of the Banshee tape and Vinyl release is coming late March.

Thanks for the interview and best wishes for Teeth of the Divine!

https://www.facebook.com/Bulletbelt

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