Perceived by many in this part of the world as the godfathers of the current Northern Ireland hardcore scene, By Any Means are about to release their second EP – and celebrate with support slots with two of the genre’s most seminal acts, Negative Approach and Madball.
So, that seemed an appropriate juncture with which to pull up a pew with founder and guitarist Paul ‘BAM’ Anthony (pictured left), crack open a bottle of rather fine brandy and discuss the band’s past, present and future… and, like all good stories, the best place to start is right at the beginning and get a little bit of background:
” Originally we had Micky Higgins on vocal,” the imposing guitarist explains. “He left and Dave Lyness came from bass to vocal and Chris came in on bass. Then Dave left and CC came in on vocal. Finally, Dave Byers left the drum position clear and we tried a few drummers and have recently got [former All The Kings Ashes frontman] Gavin Brown on drums. So, that’s us now… CC on vocal, me on guitar, Chris on bass and Gavin on drums.”
Individually and collectively, what are your musical influences and how do you knit these into the BAM sound?
“For me my influences are obviously from a hardcore perspective, mostly old school east coast hardcore like Cro Mags, Gorilla Biscuits, Madball, Agnostic Front, SOIA etc. I’ve been listening to hardcore from the mid 1980s so a lot of the progenitors and old-school guys have stayed with me along with the philosophies that they pushed of unity and disenfranchisement with metal attitudes etc. Having said that I take a lot of influence from Black Sabbath, AC/DC and blues and jazz musicians. By Any Means is basically blues and rock music turned up very loud and played fast. Metal, rock, hardcore etc is taking those major and minor blues and pentatonic scales and the expression that those scales give and just cranking it up. See Motorhead for the ultimate expression of that.”
Last year, you recruited a new singer: do you think CC (pictured right) has helped take the band to the “next level”, so to speak?
“CC has definitely brought his own take on things. He’s a bit younger and more active onstage and definitely ‘sells’ it much more than previous incarnations of the band. It gives me more of a chance to step back a little and just play guitar. As for the ‘next level’ I’m under no illusions that, to be honest, this is probably as far as we’ll ever get in terms of exposure and influence on the hardcore scene in the UK or globally. I didn’t start the band to be ‘the next big thing’ but as an expression of myself and what I feel and think about my life, our world and my thoughts in terms of lyrical expressiveness (when I write lyrics). I’m basically in a band that I’d wanna see live and listen to.”
You’re playing a couple of high profile gigs this weekend, which we’ll come back to in a moment, and you’re using these to launch your new EP: I’m one of the ones privileged enough to have heard it (albeit not in its finished state), but I’d like your thoughts on how much of a progression you feel it is from your earlier recordings?
“Each recording we’ve done has had its own reason and identifier. The first EP was really just to get something out there for people to hear, a kind of ‘statement of intent’.
“The album we wanted to sound professional and well recorded so people would take us seriously as a band who wanted to do something more than just be a ‘local’ act, and it certainly did that in that we toured it round the UK and parts of Europe.
“This latest recording I wanted to sound live and organic; I wanted the listener to feel they were a part of the recording process and not separate from it, and also to get some of the newer material out there obviously.”
One thing I noticed on the EP was that your guitar tone is a lot deeper and richer: did you do anything different in terms of the recording process this time around to make it so?
“Yeah. When we recorded the album I just plugged into one of the heads I use and recorded that and eq’d it slightly to give it a touch more gain and also multi-tracked the guitar parts individually – whereas with this EP I used the exact set-up I used when I play live – Gibson Les Paul into a Zakk Wylde overdrive pedal into a stereo splitter which then goes into 2 JCM 800 modified heads and into marshall cabs and used multi mic’s and recorded the guitar track in one take, live. No cutting and pasting from other tracks we just banged out the tune using bass, guitar and drums live in one take to get that spontaneous live feel. We did each track three times and just chose which one we felt was best and the guitars came out just as I wanted them.”
The EP also captures the energy of your live shows: is it important that recordings do this, and that you – or any band – are able to reproduce what they record in the live environment (which so many bands seem to be unable to do without the aid of backing tracks and other such shit)?
“It’s very important to me and to us as a band. Of course you can never really capture the true ‘live’ sound as when we play we give it absolute dixie and part of the experience of the live arena is the show itself. We don’t use triggers or synths or other such things because we wanna keep it simple, heavy, raw and aggressive and a representation of what the live show is like.”
Coming back to the gigs I mentioned: you’ve supported a lot of visiting hardcore bands – in fact, it could be argued that, as one of only “proper” hardcore bands here in Northern Ireland, you are probably the “go to” band for such gigs – and are doing so again this weekend, with slots with Negative Approach and the mighty Madball: what is it like for you to play on the same bill as bands you respect and admire?
“For me it’s the ultimate test of a band to play alongside people I’ve looked up to since being a teenager and for those guys to come up to you after a show and say ‘hey man, that was awesome’. To be onstage with these bands is an absolute dream come true. Twenty years ago, I was jumping off my bed with a tennis racket in my hand pretending to be them, fantasising about even watching them live and to be there with them is beyond everything you could hope for. It makes all the hard work you do making music and keeping a band together worthwhile.”
I mentioned the word ‘respect’ – and I know it’s one which is very important to both you personally and the band as a whole, and it is one of the values you list on your current range of merchandise: how difficult is it, in a modern society which actually seems to hold a greater regard for disrespect, to maintain this and the other values you hold?
“It’s not difficult to have respect for others, but it’s very hard to have respect shown. A lot of bands in the ‘scene’ really couldn’t give a fuck about these values – honour, loyalty, pride in oneself, respect for others and yourself, integrity, personal responsibility. I hold these values above all others, I teach my children these values as the basics of being a good person and I show them the values in the way I act and conduct myself. It’s up the individual to keep and nurture these values. If someone gives me respect I will reflect that back… you wanna talk shit and act like a dick then don’t be surprised when you get your come-uppance… As Sick Of It All said – give respect, get it back.
Coming back to the subject of gigs and live shows… It’s notoriously difficult for local bands to attract audiences: does it irk you that people are prepared to pay lots of money to see name “acts” but not shell out a few quid to support local talent? Or do you think that it’s just a symptom of the economic situation at the moment?
“No, not really to be honest. ‘Name acts’ have mostly paid their dues doing pretty much what we’re doing now – the heft of travelling miles to gigs you rarely get paid for in a small van, for the love of the music. My main beef would be ‘tribute’ acts who make money off other people’s music, stage show, name and reputation. I might only play to 20 people who each paid a fiver in, but those 20 people deserve our absolute best and at least at the end of the show I haven’t sold my soul in someone else’s name and I have integrity and pride in OUR music!”
Obviously I’ve interviewed quite a lot of Northern Ireland bands over the years, and one thing we always discuss is the local music scene. There is obviously a huge wealth, and diversity, of talent around at the moment, but it does strike me that, although there are also plenty of backroom promoters more than willing to put on gigs, there seems to be a distinct lack of venues, especially for bands a the heavier end of the spectrum, with the result that they end up playing the same venues on what can sometimes seem to be a monotonously regular basis? Would you agree or disagree with this assessment?
“Disagree. If you look hard enough, work hard enough there are plenty of venues out there only too happy to put a band on. Limelight and RocKD have been promoting local talent for years and they have my absolute respect, Voodoo Belfast the same, Warzone are working hard in a non-profit environment to host bands and tours and are criminally overlooked…. Pavillion on the Ormeau Road, Comrades Rock in Ballyclare – there’s literally hundreds of small venues out there all across the province and indeed the country. Get off your arse and look.
“What seems to be the problem is local-band egos. ‘Oh we’re not gonna play there… we should be higher up the bill… it’s too far out of the way…’ etc. Shut up, play, get experience and a name and build your fan base from people who aren’t related/friends. Work hard, play hard and show support for others.”
On a slightly related subject, do you think the media – and here I’m meaning the more “traditional” media, such as newspapers and radio, rather than websites such as PlanetMosh – pay enough attention to music at the heavier end of the spectrum or are they too busy kissing the ass of the latest Simon Cowell-approved talentless wannabe? Outside of a couple of exceptions, even local “music” websites are crammed with nothing but mop-haired indie kids and singer-songwriter types? Or do bands like yourselves care about being admitted to what appears to be very much an exclusive club?
“Once again, it’s there you just have to get involved, get off your arse and look around. There’s Across The Line right here in Belfast. Planet Rock do an ‘unsigned’ show. TBFM promote unsigned and smaller bands and there’s a quite a few others on a local level that are playing unsigned, small and independent acts. The Thin Air, Belfast Music, Belfast Metalheads Reunited, The Big List… it goes on and on, the number of media outlets you can access. Start on a local level and work up. Being a metal or hardcore or doom, stoner etc band immediately excludes you from mainstream ‘Kerrang!’ style media. If you wanna make music that is popular and ‘mainstream’ and ‘accessible’ you’ve a better chance, I guess. I choose to make hardcore and it’d be remiss of me to then piss and moan about not getting national mainstream exposure when I choose a ‘niche’ area in which to express myself.”
Looking to the future for BAM, what is next up for you guys? Have you any “big plans” for 2015 that you’d like to spill the beans about?
“At the moment, I’m putting together plans for some international tours and shows as well as recording again – hopefully in the new year. There’s a couple of BIG support slots planned for early next year which I don’t wanna say too much about as it’s still in the planning stage.”
Finally, what other Northern Irish bands would you recommend our readers check out?
War Iron, Fuckhammer, Altus, Putrefy, Zombified, Overoth, Spittin Teeth, Defyed, Rabid Bitch Of The North, Donum Dei, Gacy’s Threads, Axe Catcher, 7.5 Tonnes Of Beard, Latern for a Gale, Mohican Jack, Astralnaut, Maverick, Sinocence and Hornets spring immediately to mind. There are literally tonnes of ‘local’ acts who are cranking great music out every week. Get off your arse and get to a gig!!”
By Any Means support Negative Approach at Voodoo, Belfast (with Spittin’ Teeth and Defyed), tomorrow (Wednesday October 1) and Madball at Limelight 2, Belfast, on Friday (October 3).
Photograph of Paul courtesy of (c) Simon Parsons. Other photos (c) PlanetMosh.com