Pandemic Sparks Bullet For My Valentine to Return to Heavy Music

BFMV-main-minBullet For My Valentine’s eponymous titled seventh studio album is out now and it’s a real banger. The boys from Bridgend Wales present Bullet 2.0 and it’s their heaviest yet which should make old school metal fans very happy indeed. I talked with drummer Jason Bowld about the reborn Bullet and how the pandemic may have inspired the band to create their best album yet.

You guys just released your seventh album and it’s self titled. That’s usually done with a debut. What made you guys decide to self title the album
There were lots of reasons. We started writing it in April 2019 and it was quite clear that it was going to be heavy and then when the lockdown happened, it focused our writing even more and we were all writing separately for a moment or two and then the flow was just fantastic in writing and I don’t think we’ve ever had it where the flow has been that natural. It just represents a really honest sound I think.

This band in the past, you know, we’ve been in the studio and we’ve been finishing off albums and writing songs in the studio, which does happen, but I think it’s the first time where we’ve been fully prepared and so confident of our sound. Nothing’s contrived, it’s all heavy. A lot of bands come out and say, oh yeah, it’s gonna be the heaviest album we’ve ever done, and then you listen to it and then it’s like, three heavy songs. With this one, every song is heavy. We really put our money where our mouth is and in some ways I guess it felt like a bit of a reset and I think it felt appropriate to self title it because of coming out of the lockdown, life is never going to be the same again and you can’t quite believe that this pandemic’s happened. It just all fit really, we didn’t plan it that way, it just felt right to self title it. That’s what you’re gonna get, Bullet for My Valentine.

Did it happen organically because of the amount of time that you had to write this?
Yeah, and I think the lockdown has forced a lot of introspection with everyone, a lot of unnecessary introspection because if you’re in a dark place you don’t really want to look in anymore. So I think that introspection helped us as a band really, and helped us enjoy what we’re doing again. We tried to write heavy when we started writing “Gravity” but it just didn’t work. We were jamming the heaviest riffs and beats but it felt like we were trying too hard and that’s why we experimented with “Gravity”

It sounded a lot more produced, a lot more slick or melodic.
Yeah, it was a lot more slick. I think the first song I wrote with the band was “Don’t Need You”. That’s when I first joined and I loved the fact that “Gravity” was very groove based and actually, in a weird twist, although I love frantic metal drumming, I also love groove. “Gravity” brought a lot of groove to Bullet even though it wasn’t super technical, it’s quite a contemporary album while done with the Bullet sound and it’s probably quite divisive but it didn’t do us any harm at the end of the day. It did us a lot of good in Europe and we actually gained some Bullet fans so this time around with this monstrously heavy album that’s totally the other way, I was kind of worried. Oh my god, is this gonna lose those fans that we gained from “Gravity”? But thankfully, it hasn’t, the people who got on board then are still on board with this and love the heavy direction.

There’s still some pretty nice riffs in there and there’s still some melody to it as well, but the first song “Parasite” just kind of comes out and slams you in the face. You’ve been opening with that on your tour.
I think people are a bit shell shocked to be honest with you when we open with that. It is a proper kick in the face and our sound man hates opening with that song because it doesn’t give him a chance to gather his thoughts in the sound, but it’s a great opener and it just puts a flag in the ground and tells everyone this is what you’re going to get.

BULLET-FOR-MY-VALENTINE-AlbumCover-minWere you able to record together in the studio when you did this album?
It was a bit disjointed actually. To be honest with you, generally we record separately anyway. First, it was me and Matt. I was doing drums, Matt was in the control room, we were working together and Padge (Michael Paget) came in later on to do his guitar solos. I think the other guys would get really bored if they’d sat there listening to me recording drums. I’ve got no idea why, what could be more pleasurable for your ears?

How much are you involved in the songwriting yourself?
It differs really, “Gravity” was predominantly Matt and myself but this time around it was very disjointed. We wrote a load of stuff together in April 2019 so “Knives” was almost a band effort, and then when lockdown happened, Matt wrote a bunch of stuff on his own. And then we got together at Padge’s studio and wrote some and then I think Matt and Padge wrote together, so it was disjointed. I’d say predominantly the songwriting is by Matt and Padge and I contributed to about four songs, credited Jamie a couple, so it differs every album.

Do you contribute more musically, or lyrically?
Musically, definitely. I think lyrics are such a personal thing for vocalists to get their head around. On “Gravity”, I was helping out with the odd phrase or whatever, but I think that the soul of the song has to come from Matt and most singers really, because they got to believe what they’re singing and deliver that.

The one exception that I could think of would be Neil Peart who wrote all the lyrics.
Oh, I didn’t know that. Wow. That’s amazing.

That leads me to another question. Who were your influences growing up? Who were the drummers that you worshipped and followed?
Well, if I put my head back into my 13 year old self, then my early influences were Alex Van Halen. That was thanks to my brothers who were into their sort of older rock music, them being older than me, and my dad was into Sabbath so I appreciated Bill Ward a little bit later. I think what really got me going was Dave Lombardo. That was it, it was like, I know what I’m going to be now.

I used to slow the records down with my hand to work out his drum fills. I was just obsessed, absolutely obsessed with Lombardo. The other guy is Charlie Benante. I love his technique, quite different from Lombardo. Lombardo is more of a natural beast with a very organic feel, where as Benante, his technique is fantastic, quite a light drummer but he’s got really fast feet, fast hands, amazing technique.

Then I think when I got older, Josh Freese is a drummer I really respect because of his session work and I love the fact he’s a bit of a chameleon but he walks the line of technicality and musicality equally.

That’s the perfect musician, the perfect drummer. I could talk drums all day but not all listeners are going to be drummers are they.

Somebody said something the other day about drummers, and you hear the stories about Keith Moon and others and somebody commented that all drummers are a little bit crazy, because of the hours and hours they spend just banging on the drums. Would you agree with that?
There is an element of that. I’m very OCD about practice. I don’t know if OCD is the right way of putting it, I just want to be the best I can and I’m never really happy. I went through a period of never being happy at all, but if you go too far down that road, then you’re just going to live a life of misery.

Now I’ve got this kind of margin of 20 per cent, if I’m kind of within that area at the end of a gig I’m happy. The thing is nowadays everything is so edited and fixed and even on YouTube you’ve got guys posting drumming videos and it’s clear that they’ve just edited them to make them sound perfect.

It’s annoying, it’s like, come on; just make the most of being human because in two or three hundred years time we’re gonna be AI.

So embrace your emotion and embrace the little quirks that make us human.

You and Matt go way back, right?
We did an album called “AxeWound” back in 2012, which was a slab of metal that was conceived in two weeks and that was just from jamming.

This album kind of reminds me of that although it’s a bit more of a controlled affair. But I hooked up with Matt in 2010 when I filled in for Bullet on their first arena tour and then we hit it off and we did the “AxeWound” album and then I hooked up with them five years later.

You pretty much knew the band inside and out by the time you joined.
Kinda yeah, they’re honest, nice normal guys from Wales, at the end of the day and there’s not much to uncover. What you see is what you get, which is great, refreshing.

I love the videos for the new album.
Thank you, that means a lot.

And you guys had the same creative director for all four videos. That’s kind of unusual, isn’t it?
It is but it’s such a no brainer really. We’ve never really been happy with any of our videos we’ve done and so this time, because the album, the whole vibe of it is so wholesome, that thread had to just continue like an arrow through everything we do.

We’ve got this fantastic creative director named Fiona Garden and she designed the artwork, redesigned the new band logo and the videos, we’ve got a thread through them.

We just want it to be consistent and the more consistent you are, the more powerful the image you put out and the easier people get it. The easier people get it, the more you’ve got them in that two and a half year touring cycle.

They want to be part of the Bullet experience rather than an album, some Spotify, and a random live show. It’s really important to put a strong image and portrayal of what you’re trying to achieve out there in every avenue.

How do you enjoy making videos?
Well Fiona is brilliant because she just captures what she needs to. In the past I hated them because you’re playing a song 50 times.

As a drummer, it’s a nightmare because you’re kind of always in shot. You might be focusing on the guitarist but you’re always in the corner and you’ve got to give it all, even if it’s just a few seconds.

If you just go, I can take it easy here, you can bet your ass that’s going to be the shot that’s going to be used. Yeah, but with Fiona, fantastic.

You also had a project back in 2008 in which you recorded a bunch of demos, Then They Fell From the Sky. You guys released an album this spring, was that just a matter of having so much time with the pandemic that you said, “Hey, why don’t we dig that up and do something with it?”
I think it was actually eight years prior to that I was in a band called Pitchshifter. I left Pitchshifter and got into the session world and then thought, “I want to make something for myself and give a band a go”, so I started this band with a friend Dave Draper, who’s a fantastic producer and Colin from Hundred Reasons who sang on it.

Everything was all ready to go but Colin couldn’t do it for whatever reason and it just wasn’t meant to be at the time and like you say, during the pandemic Dave finished producing it and we got it out there and we’re still really proud of it, super proud of it. It’s something I’m going to do more writing with, playing live is a bit of a commitment because of touring with Bullet.

When I’ve done a tour I just want to be at home really, playing toys with my daughters, leading a normal life. So the thought of practicing a bunch of songs for another band makes me feel a bit numb.

I know some musicians that have three or four projects going constantly, but they also don’t have young families. Another thing I noticed on your website is you guys have a signature mead now, kind of in the same vein as Iron Maiden with their beer. I think it’s pretty cool.

I’ve never tried mead myself, I’ve always wanted to. The first thing that comes to mind is Vikings which totally goes with metal music.
Yeah, it’s cool actually. I think the Demon Mead came out last Christmas. I’m not really a big drinker but I remember having it last Christmas and I enjoyed it. It’s very sweet but it’s good.

I went on a really long walk with my son late at night and we took a little flask of it and got a bit lost on the way back home.

It seems like the kind of thing you probably can’t drink a lot of.
Yeah, and I might add that my son is over 18.

You guys have a pretty heavy tour coming up, heavy schedule in Europe in January and February. I’m sure you have some plans to come over to North America and do some shows in Canada and in the US?
You know, for me, it’s all about Canada over there. I absolutely love coming to Canada.

In fact, I feel like it’s somewhere that we haven’t explored enough since I’ve been with the band because it’s a hotspot for Bullet and I’d love to do a tour of Canada. Literally we just do a couple of days on the end of a cycle or something and we did some amazing festivals there in the past few years.

I’m gonna put that to the agent that I want to do more in Canada. We should and I’d rather shave off a couple of weeks in America and spend it in Canada.

That would be great. We’re kind of a border country; all our big cities are close to the border so it wouldn’t be too hard to get a few dates, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, that sort of thing.
The tour is scheduled at the moment, we’ve got Europe, then we’ve got Japan in the spring and then we’ve got a really full festival season in the summer in Europe and I think there’s plans for America in the fall and then Europe again.

Obviously this is all COVID willing; we have to be honest about that. We just don’t know what’s going to happen from one day to the next. Europe’s in a mess right now.

Yeah, it’s starting to go backwards.
I mean, we’re good in the UK, things are good. And the fact that we just did our tour, we’re just so grateful that we managed to do that without any hiccups and we’ve just got to make the most of the positive moments because we’re in a better position than we were a year ago.

Well, hopefully, I’ll see you here sometime in the fall, maybe in Detroit.
We do play Detroit quite often when we’re in the States. That’d be awesome. Drop us a line and let’s hook up and have a few beers, let’s have some mead.

For more about Bullet For My Valentine, visit www.bulletformyvalentine.com.

Photo: Fiona Garden
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Dan is a photographer and writer who loves all forms of music and entertainment with a particular passion for the classic rock of his youth. Whether in the photo pit or chatting with local or international artists, Dan is in his element and enjoys bringing the story to you, the 519 community. https://www.facebook.com/27thfloorphotography | https://www.instagram.com/27thfloorphotography