With their recently released debut, Spectres, currently making waves and a recent tour with Scouse doomsters Conan under their belts, Richard Holmes caught up with guitarist/vocalist Craig Bryant to talk social media, Jethro Tull and burning bass cabs.
RUSHONROCK: How did Bast first get together?
Craig Bryant: The first incarnation of Bast was formed by myself and Jon Lee (drums) in 2008, following a string of naive, misguided projects over the best part of a decade. We cut our teeth on a handful of live shows in our local area for a year before recruiting Joe Dickinson on bass to complete the line-up. After parting ways with Joe in 2011, Gavin Thomas stepped in to take over low-end duties, finalising our current and permanent lineup.
RUSHONROCK: You draw on a wide range of musical influences on Spectres – are there any acts which have had a particular impact on the band?
CB: Between the three of us, our music tastes are pretty diverse, drawing influence from all corners of extreme music and beyond, but there is a lot of common ground and mutual favourites as well. Bands of note include Tool, Nachtmystium, Cough, Neurosis, KISS, Alpinist and Jethro Tull. If we have any sort of goal, it’s probably to produce the most cohesive blend of the above as is possible for us to achieve.
RUSHONROCK: How would you sum up Bast’s sound?
CB: Consciously defining or pinning down our sound has never really been a concern for us. Essentially, Bast acts as a melting pot of the ideas and influences of each member, so the sound we work toward is simply something that gets the seal of approval from all three of us – be it doom, black metal, prog, grind or any other style. So long as weíre all excited about an idea, we consider it our sound, without relying too heavily on a particular genre classification.
RUSHONROCK: What influences your lyrics? Are there any particular themes you are drawn to?
CB: The lyrics for Spectres follow a particular narrative that has a core, underlying theme at its centre – man’s constant search for truth and the ultimate lack of answers he may be met with. It follows a primitive man as he descends into a cave that he believes to be inhabited by the ancient spirits of his ancestors. This, however, is exclusive to this record and the initial concept for our follow-up, while exploring other aspects of the human condition, will take more literal and descriptive aspects from a completely different scenario.
RUSHONROCK: You were the first band to record at Skyhammer, the studio built by Conan’s Jon Davis in Cheshire – how was that experience, and what do you think resident producer Chris Fielding brought to Spectres?
CB: Not only was it a first for Skyhammer, but our own first experience in professional studio! We’re fans of both Conan and Chris’s work so knew we were in good hands from the beginning, and we enjoyed every minute of it – from the recording process itself, to getting away to a quiet area in the countryside. We definitely felt that we were on the same page as Chris when we talked about what we wanted to achieve, with our main goal being to capture the sound and vibe of the songs as they’re performed live. Consequently, we didn’t record to a click to help maintain a natural sense of swing and energy, and managed to achieve what we feel to be a fairly raw sound with the guitars and vocals.
RUSHONROCK: Why did you choose to record at Skyhammer?
CB: We are fans of most of the work that Chris has been credited with over the years (the producer has worked with the likes of Napalm Death, Electric Wizard and Primordial), and thought, with regards to his particular back catalogue, that he’d be the ideal person to merge the various shades of heavy music that we had to bring to the table. We were originally booked to record in his London studio, which was cancelled due to various noise complaints and other complications (which served only to confirm our choice of producer!), but we were adamant to stick with it and wait until he was available once again. At this time, by chance, Jon Davis was building Skyhammer Studio, and luckily for us Chris soon delivered the news that he was to be the resident producer there, with us being first in line to put the place through its paces. With Jon’s collection of gear and Chris’ skills behind the desk, we couldn’t have hoped for a better situation.
RUSHONROCK: What have been your most memorable live shows so far?
CB: So far we’ve been lucky enough to support some of our favourite bands, which is an ongoing source of pride for us and will always provide memorable experiences, but the first memories that spring to mind are a mixture of both pleasant and not so pleasant experiences, that are all fairly amusing with hindsight! Accidently setting a bass cab on fire whilst on stage was a particularly eventful moment, as well as maneuvering an enormous 8×10 bass cab up the most narrow staircase in London. Partying with a notoriously (unnamed) mischievous band after a show was most definitely an interesting encounter, on the same night a fight broke out in the pit after our set. Swings and roundabouts, but all experiences that are worth having.
RUSHONROCK: You’ve played with bands from many genres in the past, including Zatokrev, Winterfylleth , Latitudes and Nachtmystium, what kind of responses have you had from their respective audiences?
CB: Every genre has its purists, and it’s always going to be tough to please everyone when experimenting with something that’s regarded as sacrosanct by some. Luckily, from our experience so far, this is a minority of people, and in regards to black metal and doom, fans of the one tend to be fans of the other. People who follow post-rock and similar types of music seem to appreciate anything that has an experimental flair so most audiences tend to be appreciative of music that pushes boundaries, if only slightly. Some of our most enjoyable experiences and interesting responses have been the result of shows in which promoters have put together more mixed, creative line-ups that put us in front of an audience that isn’t as acclimatiSed to such heavy or aggressive music.
RUSHONROCK: Do you think the quality and diversity of UK extreme music is better now than it has been for a long time?
CB: The quantity of smaller bands, such as ourselves, has definitely increased in the last three or four years, with notable collections of bands emerging from all corners of the country – more visibly in London, Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds (on our radar at least). There wasn’t even half the amount of promoters, bands or even interest in such underground fringes of metal when we first started, especially not in the small towns where we grew up, and we’ve only been active for around six years. The sharp rise in social media as a tool to promote DIY shows may be partly responsible for the emergence of new promoters putting on local bands, getting in touch with tour managers to promote smaller travelling bands, or even just to communicate directly with a small audience or fan base. The ease of distribution and spread of underground music through blogs may account for the diversity of new bands, and the discovery of more experimental, off-the-wall music that would not usually receive mainstream or printed press. Websites like bandcamp and last.fm provide even the most grass-roots musicians a platform on which to promote their music without having to shell out much cash initially, and as a music fan, they help you to find even the most niche artists no matter how specific one’s tastes may be. The passion and quality of underground music has undoubtedly always been there, itís just easier to find for more passive and proactive music fans alike.
RUSHONROCK: Finally, what are your ambitions for Bast?
CB: In the short term we have a few tours planned for Spectres, and intend to play to as many different audiences as we can this year. We’ve also started the initial stages of writing our follow up full-length. As for the long term – we have no idea! As much as we love Spectres, we’re certainly not out of ideas and don’t plan to play it safe with new material. However people continue to respond to us, we intend on carving our own, individual path regardless, and welcome all those who have enjoyed Spectres to follow us on our journey, wherever the path may lead us.
* Bast’s debut, Spectres, is out now on Burning World/Black Bow Records.