Steve Tovey is, as his name implies, a wonderful man from across the pond. He’s invovled in a million project. Most notably, his band The King is Blind (which you can listen to here) and his metal metal site File XIII (which you can view here). Please note that the British grammar is intentional. It’s a policy here at Nine Circles that we allow our friends from the United Kingdom to stay loyal to the crown and spell stuff in a weird way.
How did you first get into playing in music and have you achieved the level of success that you always hoped to achieve? Did you get into the writing aspect or the playing aspect first?
Hey man, thanks for the profile, I do genuinely appreciate it. And I apologize in advance for waffling and not being as funny as Chris Redar. (Editor’s Note: you can check our Chris Redar’s profile here.)
I got into playing music the same way most teenagers do – shit thrash bands, and godawful Metallica covers acts. In terms of achieving things, it’s taken a while, but The King Is Blind is absolutely fulfilling all outstanding metal ambitions I ever had. It’s been such a positive thing to have had happen, and I’m grateful for the opportunities and the pure joy and fulfilment I’m getting from doing it.
In terms of things being “serious”, writing and bands has always been concurrent. I started writing for Terrorizer around the same time mine and Lee (James Appleton – TKIB guitarist)’s old band Entwined put out our debut on Earache. And I picked up writing again around the same time as TKIB became a going concern. All or nothing, death or glory, I guess, innit. I have an addictive personality so tend to dive full on into things. I have recently stepped down from Ghost Cult stuff because with TKIB ramping up, and life / work / family, I need to claw some time back from somewhere, so unfortunately I’ve had to step back on the writing front
What’s the most you have ever debased yourself to get The King is Blind onto a show with a band you love or into a magazine, blog or the like? Alternatively, maybe you have a great story about debasing yourself in the noble name of Ghost Cult Mag?
I genuinely haven’t had to do any debasing for TKIB. People seem to actually like us and want to book us. Which is nice.
As for GC, ah, I’m pretty straight as a writer and editor, and while I’ll chase, if a PR doesn’t want to play ball, I can’t be fucked to go begging. That said, I have agreed to do features on bands I couldn’t give a shit about in order to get other features (or live reviews for hot-ticket gigs), or in one case, interviewed someone I didn’t like as an apology for completely forgetting to interview Ulcerate.
You play music AND write AND edit. So I’m going to ask you a question that I ask to a bunch of promotions people who also are in bands and potentially also own labels: How do you reconcile the two and where do you draw the line for covering those things that you are also involved in (e.g. shows, fellow bands and your own releases)?
It’s seems to bother “the internet” more than it bothers me, but people do say things and some get a stick up their arse (ass? – I’m not jabbing anything up no donkeys) about it. I’ve always stuck to a rule, even in the old Terrorizer days, of not reviewing anything from anyone I personally know. I think it’s just about being ethical. I’m not writing for any reason other than the sheer narcissism of enjoying reading my own stuff back and my ego thinking 4 or 5 people might give a shit about my thoughts, so I wouldn’t lie in a review. It makes sense, if you’re going to be honest in reviews, not to review things from people you know cos it’ll only cause bollocks somewhere down the line. Features / interviews, I have no issue doing with people I know, cos there’s no analysis or comment there. In fact, I think some of my best interviews have been with people I know.
It seems that now everyone has a passion for some cause and that those people are very open about displaying their passions. This is probably a very, very good (and progressive) thing socially. What are some of the most important issues (social/political/humorous/etc.) for you and how do you insert those issues into your music?
People. People are my interest, and people are fucked, man. The whole lyrical concept of TKIB is telling stories that seek to highlight the deficiencies of man; that despite thousands of years of existence, we still can’t tolerate difference. As a race we have lived in constant conflict, over land barriers, or over which God is “Better”, over whose scripture is “right”, over interpretations and misinterpretations of ancient teachings, with pride, ego and greed fuelling constant unnecessary conflict.
The new album, Our Father (plug plug – out on 29th January on Cacophonous Records) is a concept album, and the starting point for the concept for the album was the song ‘A Thousand Burning Temples’ on our previous release, an EP called The Deficiencies Of Man. The song is about purging clean the human race of people who sin in the name of religion, and of the truly corrupt, about starting again. But in doing so, there was a realization that even if we did, humanity is so fundamentally fucked that we wouldn’t learn. We haven’t done so far from our mistakes. We don’t teach our next generations, we don’t learn from history.
So, the album is an allegoric tale based in the telling of Satan. And who doesn’t get into metal to write songs about Satan!?! But in this case, it’s developing him as a literary character, fleshing him out and telling his story from his genesis through the genesis of man to resurrection, to highlight that in us all is the instinct to commit the seven sins; that, despite the incredible potential in each of us, apathy and pride, mis-teachings, and this horrific, selfish world, take over. The true creator of mankind is not God, but Our Father is Satan, and in us all, from his creation of Adam as a gift to God, through to his seed implanted in Eve at the point of the Fall of Man, are these seven failings. But that, hopefully, by asking questions of ourselves, we can develop our self-awareness to begin to nullify these default positions.
What, or who, got you into metal and how old were you? What’s the first instrument you picked up?
Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, and it’s still my favourite album today. And probably a very big part of the reason for wanting to do a concept album. I was 12. I was into pop. Real cheesy pop (though Shakin’ Stevens was my first musical love… did you guys get Shakin’ Stevens over the pond?). But ‘Can I Play With Madness?’ was on a chart compilation called Now 12. And I loved it. Despite not having a clue there was even a thing called heavy metal. I got vouchers for Christmas that year, and Seventh Son… was the first metal album I bought. From Rick Astley and Kylie Minogue to Iron Maiden, and I never looked back. Whitesnake’s ‘Give Me All Your Love Tonight’ was also on one of those compilations, and I got 1987 not long after. What a blinding album.
The first instrument I played was keys when I was early secondary school, but I gave up as I couldn’t be fucked, really. I then got a shitty “Encore” guitar and the world’s worst 10 watt bedroom amp when I was 13. I went to my mate’s guitar teacher and learned how to play ‘Seek & Destroy’ (Metallica) and ‘Sanctuary’ (Iron Maiden) badly.
The problem was, I never practiced, to the point that, when we were doing Entwined, the only songs I could play were our own.
What’s the stickiest you have ever been?
Ha, we recently recorded our first promo video, and I got covered in slime, shit, mud, blood; we were rolling around in outhouses, getting set fire to, having dirt and fluids poured over me, being attacked… All in it was a very unglamorous and bloody enjoyable day.
Other than that, all I’ll say is, if you’re a hairy-chested man, using chocolate body paint is an absolute bugger to get out afterwards and really not worth it…
What advice do you have for aspiring writers and musicians out there? How can we all be more like Steve?
Ha, main advice is don’t be like Steve. I spent half my life worrying about what I “should” like, what bands I “should” be listening to, and not listening to stuff I did like cos it wasn’t “cool”. It took me a long time to realize, fuck everyone else and listen to what you love. Even if it is cheesy heavy metal. I fucking love cheesy, uptempo heavy metal, but for years I denied myself it. I’m much happier in my musical skin nowadays than I’ve been any time since I was 16.
I don’t know man, I think music journalism is in a weird place, cos people can just stream or youtube albums, so reviews, I don’t know how much they really mean anymore? When it comes to sites and features, too many people can’t be arsed, or aren’t good enough, to get musicians and bands to say anything of any interest or challenge them on the bollocks they do spout. And I’m as guilty. I may push an angle or try and get something slightly different from a band, but I don’t really challenge what they say.
I’ve noticed from the band front, it really is on you to put things across in interviews.
So, musically and writing, either of them, what I’d say is, if you’re going to do it, do it to actually say something. Don’t just be an empty mouthpiece, rehashing press releases, don’t give every album 8+ out of 10, and if you’re in a band, don’t copy. Try and find a cool way of doing something different, but that fits in with what you enjoy playing.
Do you have a day job in addition to your writing, editing and playing duties or are you a full time prostitute of the music industry at this point? If you don’t have a day job that you care to bore us with the details of, do you have any awesome hobbies that we wouldn’t normally think to associate with you?
Ha, there’s no fucking money in metal. It’s not even a consideration. I’m too old and too far down the line to be doing any of this (being in a band, writing) for anything other than the love of it. I have a mortgage, a wife and kids, and with the best will in the world, they’re not going to sub me doing The King Is Blind.
As for what I do, I have a very unmetal job, and work in Human Resources. To be fair, I do enjoy what I do, most of the time, particularly the large scale change management projects I’ve led, and I like the psychology side of it, and how you can effect and affect a group and try and mould a company culture. I do get fed up with the people being dicks to each other side of it, tough.
Finally, when you’re not listening to, writing or playing metal, what are some of you favorite non-metal albums/things to listen to?
I have to admit, pretty much 99% of the stuff I listen to is rock or metal. I’m fine with pop stuff, whatever’s on the radio, with most other music, but if it’s out of choice, it’s going to be rock or metal.
I have found, the more band stuff I do, the less heavy the stuff I naturally listen to, and the less underground my choices are, but I’m cool with that. I got into this stuff through Maiden, Metallica, GNR and had the door opened to the extreme stuff by bands like Amorphis, Cradle of Filth. I’m happy to come back and lurk in the doorway again. Suits me fine.
Thanks SO much to Steve for his time (of which he has very little free!)
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