Having just released their third ‘killer’ album and celebrating ten years in the business this year, we caught up with Basement Torture Killings for their sick and twisted celebrations.
It’s not been an easy few years for Basement Torture Killings since their last release, 2014’s A Night Of Brutal Torture. Three-quarters of the band have gone missing (probably best not to ask any questions) and there were other issues in between. Yet sole survivor (and guitarist) Tarquin managed to assemble a fresh trio to join the BTK ranks, including new vocalist Beryl, whom their third album is named after.
We spoke to Tarquin about the new record, being around for a decade now and why they love creating such filthy, extreme music.
ZT: How did the writing and recording for ‘There’s Something About Beryl’ go?
Tarquin (guitars): It was a slow process overall really, I think I started writing for the album about three years ago. However, with the line-up problems and things it took time to get them fully prepared. When we started getting some momentum though, the last few songs came together really quickly. As for the recording we started last June, I think it was. We made the conscious decision to record over several weekends with a gap in between them, the idea being is that we could listen back and tweak things etc. I think overall it worked for us but it took longer than any of us were expecting. Once we recorded the album we needed to find a producer and we had a couple of people in mind. In the end we chose Ivy Skuratov of Death Culture Studios in Russia. He was recommended to us by the guys in Holocausto Cannibal and Grunt. I’m really pleased with the sound he got, I think it’s very old school but also quite modern sounding as well. Overall I’m really proud of the songs on this album and the album itself, at the end of the day I guess that’s all you can ask for.
This is your first album with a new line-up. How did that affect things?
One of the big differences is that we actually worked on the songs as a collective and also played some of the songs live before we had recorded them. Previously we kind of operated as an internet recording project and it was very much a case of here’s a song I want you to put a lead here and sing here. Then once it was recorded we had to learn the songs. This time it was much more organic and more of a group effort. This lead to some of the arrangements being very different to what was initially planned and I think that the songs benefit from that. I think this album has much more groove to it and adds a lot more thrash to the mix which is a different dynamic to what we have had before.
Especially with a new vocalist, what does Beryl add to the mix?
I was really impressed with the vocals that Beryl did on the album and I really like her range. It’s very different to most vocal styles and her high range stuff is just nuts. More than that in all honesty if she hadn’t of come along I don’t think we’d have made the album. We had a rough time with a previous singer who worked with us for about a year and I think we lost a really important part of the band in that it became less visual and more a straight ahead band. Luckily with Beryl she’s brought loads of theatrics back into the mix and is always thinking of more sick and twisted things to do on stage, whether it being pulling innards out of teddies or handing out blood bags into the crowd for mutual consumption.
And do you know where the previous members are now?
On the run! I still talk to the original guys, I mean Bertrand is one of my best friends and we’ve known each other long before the band and still hang out now. Musically our old drummer is doing a tech death band called Lost Brethren and Bertrand is doing some prog 80s synth thing. Ultimately it’s hard being in a band when you have a families and jobs and stuff so it just kind of run its cause for them. I had their blessings to carry on and am glad that I did.
What inspired the general lyrics and musical direction for the album?
Well musically it was just a case of what came out, I listen to lots of stuff like Exhumed, Impaled, General Surgery etc. so that certainly had an influence. But I also allowed myself to start bringing in other elements. I mean there are some very black metal-esque riffs in parts and that’s something we’d have never done before. The more thrashy elements were something we haven’t really done before; the strange thing is that there wasn’t a plan to incorporate more of those types of riffs, it just kind of happened. It’s like I said earlier, it was a very organic process with regards to the writing.
Lyric wise we stayed very true to our aesthetics and as always, all of the songs are about murder and torture. However this time we stayed away from real serial killers. I mean we have never sung about actual crimes but we have done stuff which was based on what real killers may have done. One of the things that we have explored on this album is the origins of the killers which was a lot of fun to do. We also have a song which is about Beryl making snuff movies called ‘Abduction Torture Snuff Porn’. The other songs were just messed up ideas we had. ‘The Ratcatcher’ is inspired by American Psycho, there’s a part in the book where Patrick Bateman catches a rat and starves it before introducing it into a hapless victim. I always found that part of the book really extreme so it made sense to do a song about it.
How happy have you been with the reaction to it so far?
Overall I think the response has been positive. The interesting thing is that I think there are some people who have reviewed the album that have a very strong preconception about how we will sound and have decided they will hate it before giving it a chance. However, once they hear it I think they are surprised and have acknowledged this. I think if we can turn these people around then we have produced something of merit and that’s a positive. Personally I think that this is the best album we have ever done and I think the feedback reflects this. We are very much a gore grind band but we are also so much more and I think that with this album people are starting to realise that.
What drew you to create such filthy, extreme metal with a disgusting horror theme in the first place? Why not just play some classic heavy metal?
Well it all started as a joke really and just kind of grew into what it is. Initially it was just supposed to be a one off song which I recorded whilst visiting Bertrand in Sweden. We had been to a Nominon and Grave show the night before and rather than go sightseeing or do tourist stuff we decided to write a song. We had it recorded and mixed etc. in a day and I set a MySpace up at the airport whilst waiting to get home. The line up was all serial killers, I think if memory serves me right it was:
Ted Bundy on vokills
Ed Gein and Richard Ramirez on guitar
Fred West on bass
Vlad The Impaler on drums
That was supposed to be the end of it but then Thus Defiled stopped being so active and I started writing more and that’s when everything else started to happen. Why the theme? I think it was just us being juvenile if I’m honest, we always loved horror movies and stuff so it’s just an extension of that. Plus if you don’t sing about Satan then the only other option in my mind is gore and horror.
Basement Torture Killings have been around for ten years now, did you ever imagine the band lasting this long?
Nope not at all. I’ve been in this band for over a quarter of my life now and it’s been a massive part of me. Like I said before, it was supposed to be just one song and it’s provided so much more. We’ve been to some awesome places, met loads of really cool people and released quite a bit of music. Some of the time the band has been a chore but most of the times it’s been really fulfilling and a lot of fun. But ten years is a long time, not sure where it’s gone really.
Do you feel you’ve achieved what you set out to back in 2007?
I think it’s more than surpassed expectation and what we set out to do. We’ve managed to create something that’s a little bit different and that a lot of people enjoy or endure. The funny thing about being in a band is there’s always something else you want to achieve. So if you look at it that way then it’s delivered but there’s still much more to do.
Finally, what are your plans and ambitions for the next ten years?
More of the same really, we played the Czech Republic for the first time this year and we want to do more shows in that region. We have a really good reputation within the UK but now we want to push that further and really start hitting Europe and beyond. We’ve done lots of shows in Europe already but we really want to get the band known there. With that in mind, we have shows in Poland (with Dead Infection and Rotten Sound) and Portugal (with Cephalic Carnage and more) and more are planned. I also want to continue what we started on this album with it being more character focused and I think there is a lot we can play around with lyrically. We’ve also been asked if we want to do a War of The Worlds type thing but obviously based around BTK and that’s something I’m starting to work on now.
Ultimately if we could get to a position where we can play cool festivals and shows around the world and release a few more albums then that would be a good place to be.