ZT INTERROGATION: ANTHOLOGY PUTS HYBERNOID BACK UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT
If you were too young to catch Hybernoid‘s crowning glory The Last Day Begins? first time around then a double CD re-release by Xtreem Records – complete with a whole host of other gems – is certainly worthy of your attention. The Lancashire outfit’s bass player Andy Bennett escorts ZT’s Paul Castles on a sepia-tinged journey back to the mid-90s when Hybernoid were among the more innovative bands on the underground music scene.
ZT: Hey Andy, really loving the reissue of The Last Day Begins? It is absolutely the dogs – can you just briefly give us the story behind it?
AB: The album was released originally in 1994 on Displeased Records, it was later released in Germany on Massacre Records and in Poland on Sick Records. In December 2015 Dave Rotten approached us to do something together. Of course we remember Dave from Repulse Records, he had the idea of doing a Hybernoid Anthology for a Spring 2016 release on his label, Xtreem Music. It was Dave’s view that there will be a lot of people who have never heard of the band, who might get something from the album. Back in the day, Motionless Magazine said it was ‘the best underground release ever made’, so it did definitely strike a chord with some people at the time.
ZT: To me, listening to The Last Day Begins? it still sounds really fresh – you must be pleased with how the album still stands up to examination more than 20 years after you recorded it? AB: Musical styles change and luckily mainstream metal moved in the direction of the sound the underground bands were creating. It was big hair and pretty boys then, so the underground was musically at odds with everything. People found it hard to categorize us in 1994, and I’m pleased that its sound may stand up today. It’s hard to know how it sounds to somebody else when you’re that close to it.
ZT: I guess the reissue allows you to tap into a younger generation who weren’t around back in the day? AB: Yes, that was Dave from Xtreem’s thoughts behind this whole project, he was a big fan in the day, and as such thought exactly that.
ZT: You’ve really put some thought into the re-release – it’s a double CD and the second disc is full of early demos – a complete package? AB: This double CD is everything Hybernoid did with the true line-up. We did a third album called Advanced Technology (Visage Records) but this was a spin-off project with only a couple of the main line-up involved. It’s electronic and has its moments of glory like the track ‘Creed’ which is like hardcore Jungle Metal, but is not a true reflection of the Hybernoid sound. On the 2016 CD is the first album, the early stuff, the demo material, the singles, the second LP new tracks, and later, unreleased stuff too.
ZT: The sleeve notes carry some fascinating images of old gig tickets, flyers, reviews, 7” singles interviews – A lifetime of memories in there? AB: We made a collection of what you could describe as a ‘Hybernoid History’, (stuff in a big cardboard box) basically everything we had from each person all got placed in to this one collection. It ended up being pretty big, with loads of zines, flyers, reviews etc. The sleeve montage(s) represent less than half of what we pulled together. We had a big session scanning loads of stuff, then randomly Photoshopped it all together. We tried to pick stuff from different places all over the world to keep it a little more interesting. The montage sleeve art had to be chopped down so it remained readable(ish), originally it was bigger with more stuff on.
ZT: The band split almost as they were getting going. Does that remain a source of regret or disappointment? AB: We never did really split up, we’re all still good friends. I would say it more just fizzled out. A lot of it was down to apathy, and down to location when people moved away. It made it all that much harder to make an effort to come and rehearse in a freezing cold farm barn, with a chicken shit floor, and fkin freezing in winter. There were no band rehearsal rooms like there is now, we got chucked out of most places because of the noise (apart from the farm).
ZT: What would you say is the one most significant thing that’s changed about the underground music scene from when Hybernoid first came together? AB: It’s got be technology, and the access to it. Its easier to make music yourself. That’s a double-edged sword, it’s great that new bands can make music and kick out some killer stuff. That’s something that you had to go to a studio for and pay sometimes a ton of money for, creativity no longer comes at a price. Of course, on the flip side, outside the underground you have charlatans manipulating modern music (and groups) and making a lot of money from complete tripe.
ZT: Some of the riffs and chord structures have elements of the Cocteau Twins. Was that a band that you admired in the 80s? AB: The Hybernoid sound was influenced from different sources; The word “gothic” has been used to describe it quite a lot. If so it was unintentional and was something we never thought ourselves. 4AD was an indie record label with quite a distinctive sound. I fairly recently heard its music described as “shoegaze”, an ethereal wash of distorted guitar where introverted musicians stood and stared at their feet. At the time we had never heard of that word, and I’m glad because it a fkin shitty description. Irrespective of that, some of that 4AD stuff was definitely an influence, the Cocteau Twins has been a favourite and still is played regularly even now.
ZT: The male/female vocals shared by Dunk and Paula was quite unusual back then – The chemistry clearly worked well though? AB: At the time in the very early 90s there was no female vocalists doing gruff singing, again it was something that Paula did that made the whole thing different, her softly spoken parts are in stark contrast to her savage vocal style. I never heard a female vocalist doing that style until years later, (if there were any others at the time they were a very rare thing).
ZT: The first disc has the 1994 album The Last Day Begins? And this is followed by some punchy electro instrumentals without any vox – Tell us a little about this? AB: These tracks were the demos for the un-released third album and have never been heard or released before. We laid all these down in Burst Studio, they have electronic drums but live guitar, keyboard and bass. These would have been taken to Academy studio as a “starter for 10” and everything re-recorded live there. You can see with these tunes where we were going, even though they are untitled and unfinished. It’s great that people can listen to them eventually I think. They are included on the CD because the original members all contributed to them.
ZT: Is there anything about the old days that you regret or would change if you could go back? AB: I don’t think so, to be honest we had a blast, we only ever thought we would do a 7” single, we did three of them and three albums. way beyond all our expectations. Good equipment would have been nice, as a band we all struggled for cash, so never had the best gear, just made do with what we had. We snapped a guitar neck in half on the way to a gig with Burial (Bolton’s finest) because everything was just piled up in the back of a transit van, no guitar cases or Marshall stacks in our world.
ZT: A lot of people remember Hybernoid with affection from the early 90s – do you think you got the recognition your talents deserved at the time? AB: I would say so, yes. There was a huge scene which we were heavily involved with all through the early 90s, most of the time we were getting 10 letters every day, letters with glued up stamps that you sent back (for reuse, of which Mr Postie didn’t need to know about). It was hard to weed out the real fanzines from the chancers looking to get free stuff, but you could tell most of the time when the opening words were “please send me bio, logo, CD, and T-Shirt for my fanzine blah blah”. Three of us did the mail, and it was a really great big massive worldwide family, making killer music totally under the radar of any big labels or any of the bigger music magazines. I remember one “mainstream” mag writing that they had no clue what was going on, much to their loss. Underground tape trading and that music scene did keep it “real” for a lot of people and was a little like the early punk ethos of getting up and having a go, making a demo and flyers, then maybe getting a small label to put it out.
ZT: Do you view the music a little more earnestly now that you’re slightly older and perhaps wiser? AB: It’s hard to listen to it for us without pulling it to pieces, but with most things age brings respect I think. I can respect the effort that goes into all things, whereas once of a day I would have dismissed them outright if it wasn’t my taste.
ZT: Your sound isn’t necessarily standard metal fare – it has plenty of dark goth passages, where do you think Hybernoid fit in? AB: The roots of many early death metal bands came from hardcore punk, Discharge, Conflict, Antisect and the like, similar for Hybernoid, where half the band were rooted from that world, but the other half from more traditional hard metal influences. Of course, we were all big fans of the underground bands and the bigger players like Carcass and Bolt Thrower, so chuck all that into the pot and what came out was The Last Day Begins? It is extreme metal, but distantly rooted in 80’s UK hardcore punk and 4AD maybe, I don’t know.
ZT: When Hybernoid fell off the radar was there a hope of some kind of reunion or did you feel the ship had sailed forever? AB: To be honest that has been spoken about a lot, it was maybe better to let sleeping dogs lie. When you’re coming up with tunes and another member says it “sounds like a vacuum cleaner” then its time to call it a day, haha!
ZT: What kind of relationship do the original band members have today? AB: Myself, Dave and Dunk are all involved in a race car called Doomsday Impala, we went from Extreme music to Extreme Horsepower, we are still close mates. Paula, and Andy Blondie are still in contact but don’t live in the same area anymore. We see Stanny from time to time also.
ZT: Have many pursued a career in music or have they veered down different paths? AB: Not personally, but the musical influence has most definitely rubbed off on our children. My son has been playing drums since he was 10, he is now 13 and already pretty accomplished. Dunk’s middle son is about to start a music degree in sound engineering.
ZT: Whatever happened to the wonderful Celtic statues that adorn the cover? AB: Dave carved the statues in the late 80s, early 90s. They were in his garden then, and are still there. The new cover concept was that the statues were photographed as they are now in 2016, and replaced with the original cover of how they were in 1994. They have just been left to nature to overgrow, weather and “return to the earth” over time.
ZT: Was there any thought of a reunion gig to mark the latest re-release? AB: No gig, maybe a reunion bash with some vol-au-vents and party sausages
ZT: Thanks for talking with Zero Tolerance, Andy. Really hope the re-release allows the Hybernoid sound and spirit to seep into new places as well as old. AB: Special thanks to you and Zero Tolerance (and all people associated) who have given us a chance to tell this tale again, long after our 15 minutes of fame have been and gone. Dave Rotten of Xtreem Music for producing this anthology, a retrospective look at what we did all those years ago. Ron and Lars at Displeased Records need a mention as they started this whole ball rolling in the early 90’s with all the releases.
Hybernoid is a made up word, a derivate of hibernate and humanoid. A person who withdraws into seclusion. Lyrics from the track “hide away in ecstasy inside my darkened room, in the arms of sweet despair and never ending gloom”. (Being a made up word is handy because Google doesn’t come up with anything other than entries for the band).
The lyrics are in the main are a very nihilistic look at dark ecology and the like. “World of Ruin”, “Ash in the Sky” etc. Nothing more than something thought provoking, (and when added to the music like the ethereal guitar on the track “Permafrost” it certainly does conjure up an image of barren frozen desolation, to me anyhow) is what the lyrics were trying to depict. The roots of a lot of lyrics I guess hark back to young lads coming of age when Cal and other spikey haired bands got up and fkin shouted about the “Realities of War”, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev pushing each-others buttons leading to extreme elevated cold war tension in the early 80’s. It gave a lot of people a lot to be angry about. The lyrics were the next step down that fked up world road, mixed up and rewritten by Dunk and Paula, most had something to say, albeit in a dark nihilistic manner.
THE LAST DAY BEGINS? (1994)
In the 90s the studio of choice was Academy in Dewsbury, Peaceville were using it a lot and the sound quality that came out of there was fab. Being about an hour away seemed a great idea to do the album there with Mags as the engineer, who had an impressive number of albums under his belt at the time. There was a chippy across the road, with the woman who looked like she fried the fish and pulled them out of the frying fat with her teeth, a quality establishment. We went there (Academy, not the fish shop) to do the singles, and all three of the albums. In between our falling out tiffs and belly laughs alike, Mags and Keith always made it a great experience.
There was a lot of moments of stupidity too, going to Holland was crazy, silly English knobheads on a Dutch psychiatric holiday. Andy ‘Blondie’ (guitar) running around Amsterdam with fkin two huge clog plants pots over his Para Boots and a rather irate stall owner chasing in hot pursuit. Also, him deciding it would be good publicity to get deported, which was his “ticket” to be able to act like a total balloon all the time he was there. One day we got so plastered in a coffee shop that Displeased Label Ron and Lars were concerned we wouldn’t actually be able to play the gig that night, again it was the English holiday knobhead syndrome “we will have the strongest on the menu please”.
Another story for a chuckle is when Filthy Charity (French Grindcore band) stayed over with us, they slept at Dave’s house with the gas fire on all night and set fire to the couch in the front room. Whilst everybody slept, the whole house filled with thick toxic black smoke, “running out into the snow in shorts and nude” as they wrote once in one of their interviews about their memorable moments of the past. Luckily they didn’t burn his house down.