Evile's guitarist Ol Drake chews the fat...

Being sick on the van and eating breakfast with thrash legends...

There’s a lot to be said for international phone-calls but when they fuck up, they fuck up on a grand scale. After an inordinate amount of mucking about, I finally get to speak to Ol Drake, lead guitarist with Evile. The new album Five Serpent's Teeth is released in Europe on 26th of September and then there’s the touring; let’s start with a bit of a chat about the new release.

Ol says “I’d say we wanted to go back to the first album (Enter The Grave) where, in terms of approach, we just wanted to be a bit more to the point; just get more riffs and vocal lines in there – just get some good head-banging in there, instead of wasting time on technical parts that no-one cares about. We just wanted to get the riff out. As for the songs; there’s some fast, aggressive stuff and there’s some neck-breaking ones on there, and a very special song for us which is called In Memoriam which is for our late bassist, Mike.”

The album was produced by Russ Russell, the same guy who did Infected Nations (Evile’s 2009 album); I’ve heard Five Serpent's Teeth, and it’s awesome old skool thrashy metal (despite having a pre-release copy complete with high pitched electronic security bleeps at the start and end of each track). You know it’s going to go down well.

So when the hell are you coming to Oz? “We’ve been trying for a long time to get to Australia. For a band of our level it’s so expensive to get there and we can never guarantee that we can afford to do it and that people will come and see us. Hopefully this album will allow us to get there definitely.”

September and October sees Evile on an extensive UK tour then it’s Europe and America, and as Ol says “...and then hopefully after that, Australia.”

Evile headlined the second stage at Bloodstock Open Air festival; and the rumour is they were handpicked for the slot, so who picked them? “I think it was the festival [organisers] themselves; we were on a tour with two other bands and they just decided ‘OK, Evile will play last’. I think it was just a random choice; for us it was just another gig and we didn’t know but Earache Records were there – and they were probably very drunk – and they enjoyed it and they wanted to sign us.“

The band quotes (among others) Metallica, Sepultura, and Slayer as big influences, and you can hear this on the new album. They obviously love that olde worlde thrash metal sound but do they get any urges to branch out and try other styles? “No, not really. We grew up with the likes of Slayer and Metallica and listened to a lot of death-metal like Obituary; it’s just what we love and we’re never going to turn our back on what we love. We like to try new things but if they’re not what we enjoy then it’s pointless. It’s always going to be heavy metal and thrash basically, but we just love heavy metal.”

The band are also huge fans of Exodus and Megadeth, so how was it to support them on the 2008 leg of their Europen tours? There’s a sense of disbelief in his own reality, as Ol explains: “It was mind-blowing! When we got the offer, it was obviously ‘Yes! We will’ but it was like a dream – I still don’t believe that it happened. Our dressing room was next to Megadeth’s - Dave Mustaine walking past saying ‘Hey buddy, how’s it going?’ – it was so weird. He asks us to get up and sing Peace Sells on the final night and I just can’t explain it, it was just amazing. I think we’ll always be music fans before band members – I still go to concerts and I don’t think I’ll ever stop stop doing that.”

After having their collective minds blown with the Exodus/Megadeth tours, Evile then went on to tour North America with Kreator, Overkill, Forbidden, Warbringer, Voivod and Vader; another tour with more influential bands. You can hear Ol smiling down the phone as he recounts the experience; “I can’t even explain it; it’s such a good experience and to just watch them every night playing some of your favourite songs from growing up, it’s just mind-blowing – and for them to be such nice guys as well is even better. You also have the illusions shattered in a way; you always look at them on stage like gods and then you’re sat eating breakfast with them (laughs) – it ruins the illusion in a way but it’s still amazing.”

Mr Mustaine, please pass the cornflakes...

As for tour mischief? “We always get up to mischief but less so on the American tour because at the level we’re at it’s just us four and a driver going round and it’s like a 15 to 20 hour drive every night and you basically just play, get off stage, have one drink maybe, then drive to the next show.”

Ben [Carter – drums] drinks a lot but he can handle it. He can drink 20 pints and just be fine. I’m the one who drinks less but gets really drunk and makes a fool of myself and is sick on the door of the van; hanging out the window in New York in the morning with tourists driving past the bus going ‘oh dear...’” We’ve all been there, I’m sure...

Joel [Graham – bass] drinks a lot of wine and sleep walks in the night and Matt’s [Drake – vocals/rhythm guitar] very sensible; he drinks wine as well but he likes to take care of his voice.”

When one of the founding members, bassist Mike Alexander, collapsed and died in 2009, the band almost imploded; how did his death influence the new album? “Quite a lot actually. It was such a shocking time. It really made us take a step back and re-evaluate what we were doing and why we were doing it and we decided that we’re in this for the long run. Let’s do this for Mike, let’s take this seriously, let’s do this well.  So a lot of it was just doing it for him and a lot of it was from anger and frustration with what happened, and I think you can hear that in a lot of the songs, especially the faster ones. I think it’s a musical amalgamation of how we felt about everything.”

“It was just bizarre; we had to drive back from Sweden after it happened. It was a four day drive and it was just violence really. I know one of us said ‘How bad do we want to do this?’ and as soon as he said it, it was like ‘Yeah, of course we do.’ – there were a few times personally when I thought ‘I don’t think I want to do this any more’ but I think that was just a low point and I got over it. Mike’s family and friends said ‘Please carry on for Mike’ so that was just an extra thing – we just had to do it for him.”

Was it difficult to find a replacement? “No, funnily enough, no. We did an on-line rehearsal thing where kids would send videos from Youtube  and email us, and we whittled it down to ten people and we rehearsed with them – they were all really good bassists but Joel was the one who walked in and even before he played bass, he was just a really cool guy. He was just like us; from the same area, same sense of humour, and then he played and we were like ‘Yeah! This is totally the guy that we want’”

You must’ve got some pretty shocking audition clips? “There were a few but it was great to see because you could tell the kids really love Evile and they want to be a part of it – you could tell they were beginners but it was so good to see them even trying so we’d always reply to say thanks for the video. Joel had been gigging for years before and he’d been in bands and we needed experience as well. We also needed technical ability and personality as well because you’re basically married to the person and you spend the rest of your life with them.”

The band’s formation runs like an archetypical metal story; schoolkids fucking about with instruments and playing covers. Ol laughs as he recollects the beginnings of Evile: “We started in 1999 and we started out just having fun - I stole Matt’s guitar when I could, just to teach myself guitar. We’d get together; me, Matt and Ben, just after school and we’d jam Metallica songs and then we thought ‘Let’s do some gigs with this – it’ll be quite funny’ so we got mikes form the local guitar shops and the first gigs were just local ones where kids would come along and we’d play Metallica songs – and that was it. We wouldn’t get paid, we’d get maybe four beers and that would be it. We did that for years and then I thought ‘I actually don’t like working in a games shop, I prefer being in Evile on stage’ and it just grew from being a hobby to a full time job. We just called ourselves Metal Militia then we called ourselves Exile and there were like 600 bands called Exile so we thought ‘Er...what can we do? Hang on, let’s change the ‘x’ for a ‘v’’ and then we were Evile” And thus Evile was born.

So what does the future hold for you guys?  “I’ve already started writing the fourth album; just riffs and stuff. But for the foreseeable future it’s just going to be touring...tour, tour, tour.”