As the Soundwave Behemoth lumbers into full operation, Long Island Thrashers This Is Hell are in their element. With a new EP (the suitably thrashmongous 'The Enforcer') on the horizon and due for release just after SW hysteria finally relents, there's a lot for guitarist Rick Jimenez to be excited about, so it was no surprise that the superbly bearded axeman was in good form when he took his place at the MetalTalk Melbourne interrogation table. We'll get to that EP later, but first things first.
Good week so far?
"It's always crazy being here, especially this year with this line up, it's just crazy. Not so long ago we did a bunch of interviews for this and people kept coming up with the same question – if you could put together any tour… and you know it's funny because the same bands that are here – Anthrax, Metallica, Slayer – we always on that list."
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I'll just cross that of my list of questions then.
"Haha! OK, but it was ridiculous! Usually it was those three bands, D.R.I., the Cro-Mags and Sick Of It All, 1981 Minor Threat or '86 Guns n' Roses... so the fact that were here playing with three of my favourite Metal bands and three of my favourite hardcore bands – Vision Of Disorder, Sick Of It All and Madball, is pretty amazing!"
Have you been getting much time to socialize with any of those guys?
"Different days it changes. You know in Brisbane we had to fly out really early, Sydney we were there all day and then you have all those days off where you get to hang with different people. Today we're here all day so I'll try and see all the bands I want to see today, because I might not get the chance again... but really this whole festival is like fantasy life, it's just crazy!"
America doesn't really have much like this does it? Apart from the Warped tour and the old days of the Ozzfest?
"No, nothing. I think the logistics of something like this in America might be a bit more difficult. So many of the bands here are American, or North American at least, and there not the whole 'Oh! We're going to Australia where it's fucking beautiful!' vibe... it's more of a well, this is the same shit we normally do kinda thing."
And I guess there are a lot of promoters all with different vested interests that might make things difficult?
"Yes, And I think it's also, well... American crowds aren't as psyched as they used to be so I just don't think it would be as big a deal to them. They are so spoiled!"
Well, for a long time very few bands came down to Australia, when Soundwave started up in Australia people went mad!
"It's amazing. And here the tickets are like $200 dollars, which is a lot of money but people are happy to pay it. In America people would say '$200? I'm not paying that!' even though they'd pay a hundred bucks to see just one of these bands! So for us it's cool, I mean we get to come to Australia, and who the fuck are we next to some of the bands here!"
He seems genuinely wondrous at this state of affairs, Does this joy extend to the reception you've had so far?
"For the most part, yes. Brisbane was a good way to kick off the tour. Sydney, which historically hasn't been as good for us was even better than Brisbane, so that was awesome! Then we played with Anthrax and Fozzy last night at one of the sideshows, a bit of a different crowd, some people who had never heard of us let alone seen us, and we thought we'd done OK, but then in the crowd afterwards people were saying they loved it and that's so cool, that open mindedness... I think that's something that, in as far as heavy music goes, Metal has no peer. You know, I love Metal, I love hardcore, I love punk; but that lack of pretence was one of the things that first drew me to Metal.
"It's not like 'they're singing about Satan!' – which is cool – first and foremost it was the music. It was the same when I first got into hardcore, but it's why I'm not so psyched about it anymore – the pretence. A lot of my friends who are dead-set hardcore guys get mad at me when I say that, but we know it's true! There's no reason to lie about it! There's a lot of pretence in modern hardcore! I left high school in 1998 and I don't want to still be there in 2013!"
One of my good mates was in one of the UK's leading hardcore bands in the nineties – he had the shaved head, bandanna, heavy jewellery. They've reformed now and he looks like Sammy Hagar. You just know that it shouldn't matter but it will to some people, won't it?
"Absolutely, and there's no need for a divide... What we know from hardcore, punk and Metal is... what you look like? Get the fuck outta here! It means absolutely nothing! That's the point of it all! That's why we gravitated towards it, because we don't fit in! You don't want to come to this scene to be told, well, you don't fit in with this, because you look like that. Heavy music should be inclusive instead of exclusive. And when it shows a sign of being exclusive... I don't want any part of that. That's not why I do this."
I wholeheartedly agree with you. Our minders are hovering, which means time is running out, so let's move on to that EP I mentioned in my preamble – you've covered the Metallica classic 'Whiplash'. How did you decide on that particular cut?
"When Metallica did the 'Live Shit' release, the San Diego set on that... I'm a Metallica nerd but I'd never seen them at that point so I didn't know what their sets were like. Every song they did I'm thinking 'oh! That's cool!' but when they went into 'Whiplash' I can dead set remember the first time I saw it – second verse, Newstead starts singing, and I'm like OH MY GOD!! THAT'S SO SICK!! Third verse – he's singing again! So I would always go back and watch that video. And that's alsways the highlight for me.
"So I always thought, when I do a band, a serious band, I want to do that song, and sing Newstead's parts. But the first serious band I was in I played the drums, didn't sing, we weren't a Metal band, so it never happened. Little by little, with the evolution of This Is Hell, it got to the point where we thought we might do that.
"Two albums ago, in 2009, we nearly did it as a B-Side. And now, when we came to do the EP, we said we'll do two songs and a cover. Sorry, an intro, two songs and a cover. What do we want to cover? And I said ‘Whiplash! And I want to do Newstead's parts!' So we did. And you know, it suits us – it's about Metal and touring, and circle pits!"
It certainly does! And in fact if you didn't know better, you'd just think that it's a This is Hell song in the way it's delivered. You must be in heaven being able to see them here?
"Oh yes! We sneaked up in Sydney and watched them from the side of the stage, trying not to get caught, and then I realised I was probably allowed to be there! They are a classy band. They held a barbeque in Brisbane before the first show – they didn't have to do that – We did Soundwave in 2010 and nobody did anything like that. I don't fault anyone for that, but Metallica are the biggest heavy band in history – I'll debate that with anybody, and they won't win. Black Sabbath may have invented Heavy Metal but with Metallica it skyrocketed, and I would say there is no Heavy Metal band bigger in history.
"And they are hosting this barbeque for idiots like This Is Hell! I'm eating their hamburgers and they're just hanging out! Those dudes are sidestage watching Slayer... when they are about to come on you'd think oh, closed stage, and you wouldn't fault them for that... no! This Is Hell is allowed to watch Metallica from side stage! What the fuck is going on? Unreal!
"And they sound great on this tour. They go up and down, but they're playing Metallica songs, they're playing 'Orion'! Trujillo nails Burton's solo! And I'm posting pictures of it on instagram! We're so privilidged to be on this tour, It's fantasy land."
And, as Piet gazes whistfully into the middle distance at the remembrance of it all, I decide that's as good a place as any to bring our convo to a close. This Is Hell – good guys and true crusaders for heavy music.