With one of Belfast’s favourite night’s out, Helloween Havoc, returning after a year’s sabbatical this coming Friday (November 1st), PlanetMosh will be publishing exclusive interviews with the five participating bands over the next five days.
First to step into the interrogation chamber is Mark Payne, bassist with Christian extreme metallers ForChristSake. We start by asking for some background information – the usual stuff about who they are and so on…
“We’ve been playing as a solid unit since 2008: the band was originally started by our drummer Ignatios but he could never get the right people to fit the band [but now] we are the settled into the current lineup, which is Ignatios (who also does lead vocals), myself, Simon (lead guitar) and Ben on rhythm guitar.”
Musically, what are your influences, both individually and collectively, and how are these reflected in the band’s sound?
“Musically, we love metal and as you would be aware this is an influence in our own music – we are all into a variety of metal acts.”
This is perhaps an obvious question, but you’re born-again Christians and yet you play death metal: are your beliefs and the music not at odds with each other?
“We do not see it this way: yes, we are Christians which, yes, informs our song writing and lyrics, but not to any detriment to what we do. We have our beliefs – all other bands we compete with seem to be either atheist or otherwise and we do not really see them getting asked this type of question in that it is accepted what they are, and we hope for the same: we want the music to do the talking – but we are not going to hide our beliefs either just to sugar coat it for anyone who it offends.”
Has it been difficult for you to be accepted on the Northern Ireland metal scene, which is notoriously introspective and unforgiving, or do you think people have accepted the music first before thinking about the message behind it?
“It has and it hasn’t: I have just done an interview with Belfast Metalheads Reunited and cue the slating from “commentators” in the local scene. I think we have people who enjoy what we do and have no problem with the message behind it, we do have some big supporters behind us away from this little country and some people you would be very surprised at. We want to play music: we love this type of music.”
In a country – i.e. Northern Ireland – where religion not only plays such an important role in everyday life, with the church, of whatever denomination, not only extremely influential – one might even say dominant – but also perceived as being extremely ‘conservative’ in its approach to all things secular, how do you think ‘traditional’ Christians view the band and how you present your message? Is it just as hard to be accepted as heavy metallers with a Christian ethos as it might be to be accepted as Christians playing extreme metal?
“Yes. We don’t get to play mainstream Christian events: it’s a case of we are too heavy for the Christians – and there is an ambivalence to us by non-Christians. We do not have a chip on our shoulder or an attitude problem: we work hard at this, be it here or abroad.”
You’re releasing your debut album, ‘Apocalyptic Visions Of Divine Terror’ soon, so we’d like to talk a bit about that and the issues it addresses, both personally and spiritually. So, first of all, tell us about the album title: is there any specific meaning behind it?
“Thanks [for the plug] Mark. The album title is inspired by events in Revelations, which is found in the Bible at the end – it would be a good idea for people to read some of the passages and reflect on what it says, the meaning behind it all. It is scary, and yet we all shamble along through life not giving a second thought for what is coming down the line… You look around the world and see what is happening – war, famine, terror, slander, strife: the world is broken.”
Are there any particular themes behind the individual songs, or running through the album as a whole?
“We do speak about social issues. One of the songs, ‘Shadow’, deals with the scourge of suicide which has blighted many parts of Belfast: another, ‘Leech’ addresses government corruption, etc. [while] ‘Hollow Way of Thinking’ addresses certain people’s narrow minded attitudes in life and how they always need to fight to stay ahead and belittle and comment on others, instead of looking at themselves.- so its not all light happy go lucky songs! We do have social issue songs: we are serious about the subject matter in our songs.
“The artwork was done by a Canadian guy called Shaun Patterson (http://www.shaunpatterson.com), with some guidance from the guy who did the Cattle Decaptitation stuff!”
Tell us a little about the Urban Death Collective: what is that all about?
“It’s a company who supports what we do locally and internationally: it’s being built up as we speak and we try and promote it as much as possible.”
You’re signed to an American label, Roxx. Why is that and is the US a target market for you?
“[The] US market is a target market, yes, due to its size and the demand for our type of music. Roxx was a natural progression: they know our type of music and have been looking after this genre for years. They have been 100 per cent supportive of what we do: they know what they are about and have a wide reach via Century Media Distribution, which we are really excited to be a part of.”
Playing live is important for any band: tell us a little about your live shows and what audiences can expect…
“We try and give a high intensity show and give it our all, and let that energy flow through what we play…”
I’ve seen you live many times, and you’ve played on some pretty varied bills – of which Hellowe’en Havoc is another example: have you ever felt uncomfortable with any of the line ups you’ve been asked to be a part of, or ever turned down a gig because of another band on the bill…
“No, not really. I think one of the first gigs we did was in the Limelight supporting Descration and Condemned – so I don’t think we shun any band regardless of their beliefs: we try and be the light, if that makes sense, and not judge others just because they don’t believe what we do…”
Are there any bands you wouldn’t share a bill with?
“No – unless they were particularly against us…”
Finally, there are a number of artists and acts out there who wear their faiths very much on their sleeves: I’m thinking in particular of Hayley Williams of Paramore and The Devil Wears Prada. Some of these acts have been accused of “using” Christianity as a gimmick: how do you feel about artists like that – do they detract from the likes of yourself who are genuinely using the medium of music to express your own deeply held beliefs?
“I cannot speak for these people, as they all have to answer for themselves. I know for us that we do genuinely believe in what we are doing and will continue to plough forward… we just find success further afield and that’s cool.
“P.S. Please check us out on Scuzz TV’s ‘Death by Decibels Level 5’: we are happy to be included on this, but its kinda weird seeing your band on national TV…”
ForChristSake play Hellowe’en Havoc – with NASA Assassin, Altus, Scimitar and We Are Knuckle Dragger, at Belfast’s Voodoo on Friday (November 1st: https://www.facebook.com/events/213248798814720/