Hellripper‘s forthcoming EP is another slab of charred granite from Scot James McBain. Here he speaks to Paul Castles about his new release and the reissue of his album Complete & Total Fucking Mayhem.

ZT: Your new EP, Black Arts & Alchemy, is out on April 5 – How are you feeling about it, James?
Yeah, it’ll be out in early April. I’m feeling really good about it and can’t wait to finally get it out there! It contains some of my favourite work to date and it is my best sounding release yet.

ZT: Were there any significant differences to how you put this record together compared to previous releases?
Not really, my process has been more-or-less the same since the beginning. Everything is still written and recorded by myself at home. I am always trying to learn new recording/mixing techniques however, and I did spend quite some time trying to get a heavier drum sound to make the sound fuller on this recording.

ZT: It was mastered by Joel of Toxic Holocaust, how was it working with him?
Yeah, that was cool as I’ve been a fan of his work for quite some time now both his musical output and his mixing/mastering. We had a few chats over e-mail and he had everything done really quickly. The end result was even better than expected!

ZT: The new EP is on Reaper Metal Productions, have things gone well with them?
Things have been going great with them so far. I have been friends with Thomas (label partner) for a while now due to a shared interest in death metal and some non-metal music and I have been a listener of Reaper’s (label owner) podcast, ‘Hellcast’ for a few years so it was cool to be able to work with him. It seems that we all have a similar vision of how we want things to be done etc. and we all get along so I couldn’t ask for anything more really at this stage!

ZT: And they’ve also released a remastered version of the Complete & Total Fucking Mayhem album – Can you explain the thinking behind that?
The original version of the CD was self-released in a limited quantity and has been sold out and out-of-print for quite a while now. They were fans of the compilation and expressed an interest in releasing an updated version with three additional tracks (from my 2018 non-album releases) that were not included on the original version. I have had quite a few people enquire about a repress too, so it made sense. The repress contains updated artwork and a new layout which (in my opinion) is a great improvement over the original release so I’m happy with how that has turned out too!

ZT: For those new to Hellripper just explain the format of the band. Is it still essentially a solo project, James?
Yes, Hellripper is written and recorded entirely by myself. It started as a solo project solely because I could not find like-minded people to play this type of music with me. I do now occasionally get friends and other musicians to contribute things like guest vocals or guitar solos to songs, but for the most part I do everything on the studio recordings. The band ended up getting a lot more attention than I ever thought it would so I ultimately decided to recruit a live line-up of musicians in order to play shows. The live line-up has changed quite a bit over the past couple of years but I’m hopeful and confident that the current line-up will be the same for the foreseeable future.

ZT: Are you happy to maintain this arrangement for now?
I am used to this arrangement now and I feel like it is working well so I have no desire to change that at this time. If new material starts to sound stale or lacking inspiration then I would consider changing things up a bit in some way – possibly getting others involved with the studio recordings but for now the process will remain the same.

ZT: There are a number of interesting solo ventures such as Foul Body Autopsy and Abduction – do you take a particular interest in artists who are going through a similar process to yourself
I have in the past looked at how other solo ventures do things such as how they go about playing live and recruiting members or how they record their music etc. but now that I have my own process and I am used to doing things my own way, I don’t pay as much attention to that stuff anymore. It is always interesting seeing how other people do things regardless of whether they are a full band or a solo project. You can always pick up helpful tips or ideas from others, whether it be songwriting, recording, marketing etc. Everyone has a different way of doing things and I’ve been given advice that just doesn’t work for me and I have given people advice that just doesn’t work for them. It’s helpful to know different ways of doing things so you can put your own spin on them and come up with your own methods that work for you. I always encourage people to go it alone if they are having trouble finding band members or whatever and am always happy to answer any questions people have regarding how I do things and any methods that I think might be helpful to them. I try not to draw attention to the fact that Hellripper is a one-man band as I don’t think it should make a difference to a listener. I did used to mention it quite a bit early on as I thought that’s what you “had to” do ha,ha but I’d rather have people judge the band on the music rather than how many members are in the band.

ZT: You’re playing with Midnight at the Dome in London in April, they’re a band you have a strong bond with.
I’ve actually never talked to the guys in Midnight but I have been a massive fan for ages now and I guess the styles of our music are quite similar. I’m really pleased that we have been given the chance to play with them and are looking forward to that show immensely! The last time we played in London was great, so I’m definitely excited about going back.

ZT: You must be looking forward to some interesting live shows you’ve got coming up in the UK and into Europe
We’ve only played twice in Europe so far and both times have been amazing so I’m really excited to get back over there on this tour. We will be sharing the stage with some amazing bands which I am really grateful for too. We’ve been lucky to get some great shows and be a part of some cool festivals this time around and for a first tour, I couldn’t really ask for much more! I’m also looking forward to meeting all the people and fans that are coming to any of the shows. It’ll be cool to finally meet some people that I have only spoken with previously online.

ZT: You’re playing at a pre-Roadburn event ‘Ignition’ in Tilburg – Hellripper are perhaps not your average Roadburn band!
Ha,ha, I would agree with you there! Roadburn is obviously one of the best festivals in the world and the lineup is always special but yes, does not usually include bands of our style. The pre-show party however which we are playing has had its fair share of speed/thrash bands in the past such as Evil Invaders, Attic and Butcher. I’m beyond pleased to be a part of Roadburn, no matter how small a part haha and it will be our first show in the Netherlands too which is quite cool!

ZT: Can you just confirm who’ll be on stage with you on this tour?
I will be joined by Joseph Quinlan on guitar, Clark Core on bass and Max Southall on drums. I will be on guitar and vocals. The rest of the guys are all great musicians and I’m looking forward to touring with them. They are all friends of mine too which helps greatly.

ZT: With your love of old school black metal have you any plans to catch the forthcoming film about Mayhem, Lords Of Chaos?
I actually just watched it a couple of days ago. It was a lot better than I expected, although some parts definitely stretched the truth a bit. Varg drinking chocolate milk while murdering Euronymous… ha,ha. But overall, it wasn’t a bad film. Some elements were clearly meant to take the piss out of the scene. Although not entirely accurate, it was an entertaining watch.

ZT: Your home town of Aberdeen is known as the Granite City – is it still as tough as ever?
It’s still grey… it’s still cold… ha,ha. I actually live down in Fife now, about two hours out of Aberdeen and like it a lot here. It’s a lot more peaceful than Aberdeen. It’s also really close to both Edinburgh and Glasgow so I can attend ‘bigger’ shows and events more regularly than before. I can see myself living in another country at some point in the future but I’ve got no specific or immediate plans for that.

Hellripper’sBlack Arts & Alchemy EP will be reviewed in the next issue of Zero Tolerance Magazine.

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