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  INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS ASTLEY OF XENTRIX

Johnny Main: Photos by Carlan Braid.

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After the success of their short UK tour in December, UK thrash Metal legends Xentrix are about the hit the road once again as support for American thrashers Overkill in what promises to be an unforgettable night. I caught up with Xentrix main man Chris Astley for a chat ahead of the tour.

As we sit down, it's Chris who breaks the interview convention by grilling me about what I know about the band instead of myself asking the questions. I explain to him that I first heard of the band after a friend lent me a copy of the bands 1990 album 'For Whose Advantage' on vinyl and then I caught the video of the band's cover of 'Ghostbusters' on ITV's 'Noisy Mothers' TV show (or was it still called 'The Power Hour' at that point, I can't really remember) which was hosted by Metal legend 'Krusher' Joule.

Chris laughs as I mention 'Ghostbusters' telling me that they still have to play the song in their set as a lot of people discovered the band through this rather unorthodox cover.

Article continues below...

 
 


I mention to Chris that I've waited twenty years to see the band live and then end up seeing them twice in six months to which he tells me "It's a bit weird doing this after so long!"

Enquiring the reason why he left the band in the mid-1990s Chris tells me: "In that period if you weren't Nirvana or House music... y'know, there was no Metal music and all the Metal clubs had shut down. At that period we'd just recorded our third album ('For Whose Advantage') which hadn't really done very much and people were doing all sorts of (musically) weird things, y'know.

"Metallica were doing odd stuff and Testament were doing odd stuff and then we did the 'Kin' album which was a bit odd too, but there were no gigs anymore, there was no Donington anymore and it was that period when Metal music died. I just thought I've been dong this for seven or eight years of my life, y'know, just playing Metal and don't get me wrong, it was hard to rip myself away but there just seemed to be no point - and there wasn't (laughs)!"

I mention that there's a marked change in the sound of the 'For Who Advantage' album and the bands follow up, 'Kin', so was this a conscious thing? "We just tried to do something different and a lot of people have always said to us 'Yeah, you're just trying to be Metallica', but we weren't!

"Once we got together in the rehearsal studio we just played what we liked to play and we've always done that - looking at 'Kin' now, it was just a reflection of the way we were feeling at the time, y'know? The songs were better but it's not helped that the production was a bit ropey so it all sounds a bit funny but we thought let's not stick by the rules and try to something a bit different. It was that time when we thought let's not stick to the rules here.

"Y'see, a funny thing was happening in Metal and we thought there were some bands who'd released material that we considered to be funny sounding albums. When Pantera first came out there was really just that bass, drums and guitary sound and everyone thought 'What's going on - that's just really weird!' and then that sound became the standard so we thought we're not going to set any standards ourselves, but let's just do what we think sounds good for those songs and try and make them a bit more grown up, because that's what we wanted to do, y'know."

xentrix

In the early 1990s Xentrix were labeled by the music press as Britains answer to Metallica so did the band get annoyed at the label? "Not really. The fact was that I use a guitar the same shape as James (Hetfield), but that's it, y'know. If you play Metal and you play Metallica and Xentrix tracks, there's no way that Metallica would write a Xentrix song! There's just no way! It wouldn't sound like Metallica, y'know?

"There are a lot more Metallica type bands than us but because I play an Explorer - incidentally, I was playing an Explorer when James was still playing Flying Vs (laughs) but it made it that much worse because I kind of stood like him and played the same shaped guitar and that's what people see.

"You and I were speaking about Airbourne earlier weren't we? Y'know, These days you can virtually be a copy of another band. Avenged Sevenfold, y'know, talking about sounding like Metallica or Iron Maiden or Guns N' Roses but no-one bats an eyelid or says anything anymore. I think it irritated us a little at the time but not that much.

"We were doing what we were doing (and) we couldn't change what we're doing, y'know. Do we change the songs and should I use a different shaped guitar? There were times when it bothered us, I think, but at the end of the day, I don't think it made any difference. At the time, we always felt that we were like the underdogs because we never really got to be that successful. We nearly achieved what we wanted but then it didn't quite happen."

When asked why the band never reached the heights in their heyday Chris explains: "If you look at bands like Forbidden, Testament and Metallica which were and still are big bands, and everybody goes on about the British thrash scene but we were never really part of that scene. We were part of the global thrash scene along with Metallica, Testament, Megadeth, Anthrax and all that kind of stuff but we were a few years behind them and kind of missed the boat. We still saw ourselves as part of that, but they were ahead of us.

"The other thing is that you could say that we just weren't good enough to make it but I've always thought that if you're an American band you put your first album out and then you tour America for nine months, then you come to Europe before going to Japan and Australia and you're on tour for, like, a year and a half - on the back of your first album! If you're a British band, you might get a couple of dates in Germany and that's your lot! There's no way you're going to the States - especially not twenty five years ago. It just isn't going to happen. We were never going to have the opportunity to get the kind of exposure all the other bands had. We felt there was no way of winning in that situation.

"When we asked why it was like that we were told that when you're an American band you have a large local footprint if you like, so if you're signed to Roadrunner America you're going to sell enough records to fund your trip round the world. If you're signed to Roadrunner UK, you can't sell enough records to pay for a trip to London and back (laughs) and that was a kind of a mis-match between us and those bands - the opportunities that we had. We still had some pretty good opportunities, though (laughs). Playing places like Hammersmith with bands like Testament and Sepultura - great times."

I ask what was it was like walking onto the stage at Hammersmith Odeon in front of a sold out audience to which Chris tells me: "It was amazing - just amazing. It still gives me shivers down the spine when I think about it! The thing about it too is that when we played there with Testament, they were my favourite band of all time and they were all at the side of the stage watching us play - just completely mind-blowing! That was just the one gig we played with them but we would have loved to have done a proper tour with them."

xentrix

So what happened after the 'Kin' album and what made him decide to leave the band? "I didn't love Metal any less and I didn't love these knob heads (gesturing towards the rest of the band) any less either (laughs) but there was no point. We were at the point where we were needing to be successful and make money and progress but the whole thing of the Metal scene falling on its arse, it became obvious it wasn't going to happen (for us).

"There were no gigs to play and there was no venues to play anymore so it was obvious it wasn't going to happen and when you've been struggling and surviving for so many years and you're beginning to grow into a bigger band but there's a point when you have to go 'Well, what's the point?' and I'd just had enough."

I mention that there was a statement put out saying Chris would never tour with Xentrix again, so what changed his mind? "I'm good at saying 'never again' (laughs), but I meant that at the time though. Of course, this lot went on and kind of did another Xentrix album without me, which I was quite jealous of because I really like that album. To me, the best Xentrix album is that one that I'm not on! (laughs).

"I was a bit jealous because they were still doing it and I couldn't y'know what I mean. For me it was 'never again' and I didn't play guitar or sing or anything for ages. Originally we got back together for Stan's birthday, I think, when he was thirty and as a one-off thing where I said 'never again' again.

"Then about six or seven years ago we had the chance to so some one-off dates with Testament and we got back together for that. We got together and did Preston, Bradford and another one (pauses) Barrow which were warm ups for this Testament thing but then Testament moved the gigs back a month and we couldn't do it, so at that point I said to myself, 'right - that's it, it's never happening again' and I never played the guitar or sung since then.

"Lots of things changed over time to bands we know, though, with Facebook and things like. People like (Nottingham Thrash band) Sabbat, who were the first ever band we toured with actually, and they were back together doing amazing stuff and doing these European festivals where you take your guitars, jump on a plane play a massive festival and then come home again the following day. We thought that sounded good and if they can do it, so can we and that's the thought that started it off.

"What really made it happen for me was when I spoke to Mark Palmer (General Manager at Roadrunner UK) and I told him that I wanted to go to the Wacken Festival but he said it was already sold out and the only way I could go is if we played at it and I laughed at him and said 'right we're getting back together' (laughs).

"Once I said that, I thought that we really should do this because (as a band) we're all still talking so I made a few phone calls and said to the rest of them 'if we're going to do this, we need to do it now' because we're not getting any younger and the time is right. Y'know, I'm forty five now and to be doing what we're doing - that is old! But right from the minute we announced we were going to do it, the level of interest was so massive, we couldn't believe it - we just couldn't believe it!

xentrix

"We spoke to Sharon Richardson of Factory Music who we knew through Hellfighter which Stan and Dennis formed after Xentrix along with the singer who joined after I left. They weren't really a thrash Metal band, just really heavy Metal but they had some involvement with Sharon and Factory Music so when we got back together, we called Sharon and she said she'd be really interested to get involved.

"Straightaway she said that Kreator were coming across to the UK and would we be interested in supporting them and as soon as that was announced on our newly launched Facebook page - the thing is that we never did the whole band thing with Facebook until then, and before you know it, you have three thousand followers! How did that happen (laughs)?

"As soon as she suggested we play with Kreator and Evile who were also on the bill, we thought 'that'd be good' plus we already knew Evile because the last ever gig we did in 2006 was with Onslaught, and Evile were the first band on so we thought what a great retro-thrash bill with us and Kreator plus Evile but because we were the first band on, we thought there'll be nobody in. A few people kind of wandering in when we're half way through our set maybe, because we were on at kind of six thirty and we really thought there wouldn't be anybody there, y'know.

"When we arrived for the sound check for the first gig in Dublin there was a crowd of people stood outside with Xentrix albums wanting them signed! We just thought it was some enthusiastic people but then the next weird thing to happen was as soon as the doors opened we sold out of merchandise! The guy behind the merchandise desk was going 'Everyone just wants Xentrix shirts!' and they'd all gone, so all of the merchandise we had for those three dates went on the first night!

"We were ready to go on and people were saying 'have you seen it out there? It's half past six and the place is absolutely rammed!' and that was the point where we thought y'know, 'what's happening here?' The minute the lights went down there was a huge roar from the crowd and we thought it was just mad - the whole situation was just crazy!

"We've been asking ourselves the same question ever since that gig - what's happening here? We take twenty years off and when we come back, everyone likes us! (laughs) We don't know what's happening but we're liking it! (laughs).

"There are people turning up to some of our gigs with all of our albums on vinyl but weren't even born when the first one came out! We had one guy turn up at Dublin in December with his 'For Whose Advantage' cassette tape cover for us to sign! (laughs)"

Bringing the conversation to a close, I ask Chris what's next for the band - a new album perhaps? "When we first started we thought 'right, we're just playing songs that are twenty to twenty five years old and we're a cabaret act of ourselves and no-one is interested in hearing new songs because every band that does this, people just end up disappointed. People just want to hear 'For Whose Advantage' or 'Crimes' or 'Balance Of Power' but right from day one we're being asked if we're going to be doing a new album!

"So, it's one of these band things where we're having a bit of fun and then you do some gigs and then you write some songs and then you record those songs and it's just a progression we're going through again and there are loads of ideas bouncing about. We were going to start writing a couple of months ago, but we were too busy trying to teach Kristian (guitarist Kristian Havard) the songs (laughs) so that kind of gone on hold for a bit but that's very much the plan.

"We're quite honest about this that what we want to do is to play big European festivals as opposed to a lot of driving about the UK. What we want to do is to drive to the airport, jump on the plane, get driven from the destination airport to the hotel, play the gig and then come home. That's what we set out to do, but to play the really big gigs, we need something new to release and it's a contrived as that.

"We're going to do it because that's what we need to do to get a place on those big gigs. People ask us why we're not playing Preston or touring here or there but we all have jobs and families and we're not wanting to spend weeks and weeks on a tour bus.

"This is a hobby! As nice as it is that people think we're making a living out of this, we're not. We didn't twenty five years ago and we're not now! It has to pay for itself but it's amazing that four middle aged blokes are still able to get up on stage and do this.

"Quite what happens after the Overkill dates we're not sure but we'll work it out when we get there."

With that we part ways, but I for one wish the band all the success that they surely deserve.

Special thanks to Chris Astley for his time.

You can catch Xentrix live here:
Thursday 13th March - Islington Academy, London (supporting Overkill)
Saturday 15th March - The Academy, Dublin (supporting Overkill)
Sunday 16th March - The Cathouse, Glasgow (supporting Overkill)
Monday 17th March - Sound Control, Manchester (supporting Overkill)

Xentrix are:
Chris Astley – Guitar/Vocals
Kristian Havard - Guitars
Chris Shires – Bass Guitar
Dennis Gasser – Drums

Xentrix Online:
Official Website: http://www.xentrix.co.uk
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Xentrix/354617581311808


13.3.2014






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johnny thunders LOOKING FOR JOHNNY: THE LEGEND OF JOHNNY THUNDERS MOVIE TO BE RELEASED NEXT MONTH
When Johnny Thunders died in New Orleans on April 23rd 1991, he left behind a mystery...

metallica METALLICA TO RELEASE 27 LIVE ALBUMS BEFORE THE END OF THE YEAR AND APPEAR IN THE GUINNESS BOOK OF RECORDS
To commemorate the anniversary of the LiveMetallica.com site, the band are offering CDs and LPs of every gig they played in 2014...

kobra and the lotus KOBRA AND THE LOTUS AND THE TREATMENT ANNOUNCE UK TOURS
Kobra And The Lotus will be kicking off their Headline Tour on 24th September in support of their latest record 'High Priestess'...

rival sons RIVAL SONS RETURN TO UK FOR DECEMBER TOUR
The band appear on Letterman in the US on October 9th, and will have an exciting UK TV appearance to announce soon...

linkin park LINKIN PARK PLAY TWO NIGHTS AT LONDON'S 02 ARENA IN NOVEMBER
Following their exhilarating headline sets at the European summer festivals, Linkin Park return for their own headline tour in November...

evil scraecrow AT LAST! A NEW VIDEO FROM EVIL SCARECROW
"It's an emotional thing for us to watch back. We hope that translates to everyone that watches it too!"

sabctuary SANCTUARY POSTS LYRIC VIDEO FOR 'EXITIUM (ANTHEM OF THE LIVING)'
Sanctuary continue that legacy that they started decades ago, delivering yet another fresh take on "classic-sounding" Metal...

electric mary ELECTRIC MARY ANNOUNCE MINI ALBUM AND UK TOUR
Australian five piece Electric Mary are back to spread Rock n' Roll's genuine flavour to Europe...

accept ACCEPT REVEAL LIVE CLIP OF 'PANDEMIC' FILMED IN FRONT OF 750,000 PEOPLE AT WOODSTOCK FESTIVAL 2014
UK fans can catch the band live at The Forum in London on the 27th November 2014...

hornet HORNET ANNOUNCE NEW EP AND SINGLE
"We really wanted to just expand the sound we already had by incorporating more of our influences to make our sound more modern and diverse..."

jimmy barnes JIMMY BARNES ANNOUNCES NEW 30th ANNIVERSARY ALBUM 'HINDSIGHT'
2014 marks the 30th anniversary of Jimmy Barnes' debut as Scottish born Australian rock singer-songwriter...

dragonforce DRAGONFORCE SUPPORTS ANNOUNCED FOR FORTHCOMING TOUR
London based hard rockers Neonfly will support in the UK mainland, with Northern Irish Metalheads Conjuring Fate doing the honours at the Belfast and Dublin shows...

within temptation WITHIN TEMPTATION TO HEADLINE BLOODSTOCK 2015
Within Temptation appear as a UK exclusive. Prog Metal titans Opeth will also appear on the bill...

emigrate EMIGRATE CONFIRM NEW ALBUM FOR UK RELEASE VIA SPINEFARM RECORDS
'Silent So Long' is the second album from the band formed by Rammstein's Richard Kruspe...

highway to hell WINNERS OF HIGHWAY TO HELL 5 ANNOUNCED
Texas Flood are the overall winners from an outstanding field, winning a contract and an appearance at Hard Rock Hell...

grim reaper THE LEGENDARY GRIM REAPER RETURN TO LONDON
Get down to the Boston Music Room on 27th September for Grim Reaper with Amulet and Dark Forest...

quireboys THE QUIREBOYS ANNOUNCE UK TOUR FOR NOVEMBER 2014
The 30th anniversary celebrations continue with a world tour including a trip to North America and a nine date UK leg...

eric martin MR. BIG SINGER ANNOUNCES UK SOLO ACOUSTIC TOUR
Eric Martin will play nine unplugged dates in December 2014 with a mix of solo and Mr Big material...

absolva ABSOLVA ANNOUNCE NEW BASSIST
British classic Metallers Absolva are delighted to announce the appointment of new bassist Karl Schramm...

manowar MANOWAR ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM PLANS AND UPDATED TOURING SCHEDULE
Manowar will headline Loud Park Festival in Tokyo on October 18th 2014 and will then resume the 'Kings Of Metal MMXIV' World Tour...

skyscraper SKYSCRAPER RELEASE VIDEO FOR 'MONDAY MORNING'
This dynamic band has been taking critics by storm with their inimitable brand of melodic hard rock...

the more i see THE MORE I SEE ANNOUNCE OCT/NOV TOUR WITH SAVAGE MESSIAH AND BULL RIFF STAMPEDE
Featuring world renowned guitarist Gizz Butt, the band always deliver incredible live shows that combine passion, energy and breathtaking musicianship...

devin townsend DEVIN TOWNSEND REVEALS Zē DETAILS AND ANNOUNCES SPECIAL ROYAL ALBERT HALL PERFORMANCE
Devin Townsend is extremely pleased to announce the release of long-awaited new double-album...

blastfest AT THE GATES, DARK FUNERAL, ROTTING CHRIST AND MORE ANNOUNCED FOR BLASTFEST 2015
Bergen, Norway, former home of the legendary Hole In The Sky Festival and considered thee black metal capital of the world...

exodus EXODUS REVEAL SPECIAL GUESTS ON NEW ALBUM 'BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT'
Bay Area thrash Metal provocateurs Exodus proudly announce the special guests appearing on their latest showcase of unrefined rage...

panzer PANZER STREAMING LYRIC VIDEO FOR 'THE LAST MAN ON EARTH'
Brazilian thrash/stoner act Panzer have just released a new lyric video on for the second track of the album 'Honor'...

bush BUSH ANNOUNCE OCTOBER 20th RELEASE FOR 'MAN ON THE RUN'
Multi-platinum alt-rock band Bush have announced an October 20th release date for their highly anticipated new album...

absolva ABSOLVA RELEASE VIDEO FOR 'LIVE FOR THE FIGHT'
The video features Luke Appleton (Iced Earth) who is playing bass for the band on the forthcoming European Tour...

giants of rock GIANTS OF ROCK FESTIVAL: FIRST BANDS ANNOUNCED
The reformed Family and pomp rockers Magnum will headline the event...

weapon uk ESTRELLA TO SUPPORT GILBY CLARKE ON TOUR AND ANNOUNCE A NEW SINGLE
The band are currently gearing up for a thirteen date trek with Clarke that includes dates in Wakefield, London and Edinburgh...

weapon uk WEAPON UK ANNOUNCE TOUR DATES FOR NOVEMBER
Weapon UK have tour dates confirmed in support of their critically acclaimed album 'Rising From The Ashes'...

amulet AMULET DEBUT ALBUM 'THE FIRST' RELEASED IN SEPTEMBER: FIRST TRACK NOW ONLINE
The album track 'Mark Of Evil' has just been uploaded to Soundcloud. Raise your fists and bang your heads on this one...

michael schenker MICHAEL SCHENKER'S GUITARS STOLEN FROM GERMAN RECORDING STUDIO
German police are examining evidence and the studio for fingerprints and DNA evidence to help catch the criminals...

jimi jamison JIMI JAMISON OF SURVIVOR PASSES AWAY AGED 63
Jimi Jamison, lead singer of Survivor, very sadly passed away on Sunday night...

distorted harmony DISTORTED HARMONY UNLEASH FOOTAGE FROM 'CHAIN REACTION LIVE!'
The Tel Aviv quintet are looking forward to bringing their show to Europe this November...

ensiferum ENSIFERUM TO BEGIN RECORDING SIXTH STUDIO ALBUM NEXT MONTH
"We are convinced that this will be a ground breaking album for us and the whole genre. Modesty? What's that?"...

les-fest wildfire LES-FEST WILDFIRE ANNOUNCES FURTHER ACTS FOR SUMMER 2015
Max Raptor, Anihilated and more join the stellar array of main stage bands...

mystery deeexpus THE HOUSE OF PROGRESSION & THE MERCH DESK PROUDLY PRESENT MYSTERY & DeeEXPUS LIVE
It's a night of Prog at The Borderline on Tuesday 9th September, one of three chances to see this unique pairing...

butcher babies BUTCHER BABIES ANNOUNCE DETAILS FOR UPCOMING 'UNCOVERED' EP
The breakthrough Metal act have chosen five of their favourite tracks to get a makeover...

avenged sevenfold AVENGED SEVENFOLD RELEASE NEVER BEFORE SEEN ORIGINAL VIDEO FOR 'UNHOLY CONFESSIONS'
Take a fresh look at the 2004 track taken from the essential 'Waking The Fallen: Resurrected'...

reckless ambition RECKLESS AMBITION AND DIRTY LIONS TO PLAY THE ROCK PATCH THIS SATURDAY
Anyone who hasn't seen Reckless Ambition, then you are in for a real treat...

meshuggah MESHUGGAH ANNOUNCE 25TH ANNIVERSARY SHOWS IN EUROPE
Celebrate 25 years of musical deviance on this tour which includes a date a London's Roundhouse...

mr big MR. BIG CHANGE RELEASE DATE FOR NEW ALBUM "...THE STORIES WE COULD TELL"
The original line-up are back with some of their most powerful material to date and their signature hard rock sound...

well eavy 'WELL 'EAVY - VOL. 1' COMPILATION TO BE RELEASED BY HANGMAN - AMULET'S OWN LABEL
Get down to the free entry release party in Camden on 29th August...

slipknot DEF LEPPARD TO PERFORM NFL PRE-GAME SHOW AT FIRST LONDON NFL GAME OF 2014
Joe Elliott: "I know what the atmosphere in the ground is like for 'our' football so I'm really looking forward to performing there before the NFL game..."

slipknot SLIPKNOT REVEAL NEW ALBUM AND TOUR INFORMATION
'.5: The Gray Chapter' will be released on October 21 followed by US dates with Korn...

hard rock hell HARD ROCK HELL 8 ANNOUNCES MORE ACTS
The Vintage Caravan, Blue Pills, Horisont, Spiders and Santa Cruz have been added to the line up for November...

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