Guernsey based doom metallers Byzanthian Neckbeard are geared for a busy last half of 2019, releasing an EP, Extinction, this week and a full length, Minaton, in November. Now, relegating them to strictly doom is a bit of a disservice since their intensity is closer to death metal and they have a keen sense of sludge but, doom is indeed the largest part of their music. However, either way you slice it, they destroy. Just their name conjures images of brutes pillaging entire civilizations and they certainly deliver, musically. Just ahead of this week’s EP we had the chance to get behind the scenes and pick them for info so stick around to see how it went down with all members’ hands on deck. Once you do that, head over to their Bandcamp page and go crazy, links within.
How did you first get into playing music, and have you achieved the level of success that you hoped for?
Phil Skyrme (guitar and vocals): I’ve been into playing music since I first got into Metal. As a kid, I picked up one of the old ESP Explorers that James Hetfield used to play and away I went. As for the level of success, it’s pretty rare for anyone in music to get to the heights they really want to, but you have to keep striving to get there!
Paul Etasse (drums): I’d always thought drums were cool, and as a kid I’d make drum kits out of any old shit with bass drum pedals made from Lego and started learning basic stuff just by copying things I’d see on TV. I bought an old kit cheap when I was about 13 from a guy that lived by my gran, who has turned out to be a good mate and one of my favourite drummers on the island. I’ve never really thought of success, I’ve always just loved hitting drums hard and writing music that I like whether others like it or not, that’ll do me!
Dan Robilliard (bass and vocals): I must have been 15 and the conversation went something like this – Them: “Hey do you want to play the bass in our band?”, Me: “I don’t know how to play the bass”, Them: “Thats fine, we’ve got a bass you can borrow”, Me: “Alright then”. The rest, as they say, is a shambolic adventure where I’m still trying to play the bass. As for success I’d agree with Phil and Paul, keep striving for it but at the end of the day we love doing what we do.
What’s the most you have ever debased yourself to get your band onto a show, into a magazine or otherwise promoted, covered, and praised? (If you don’t have a story, please tell us any funny/embarrassing story.
PE: I think it’s really important to not debase yourself in any way really, and I’m pretty proud that I never have in any of my bands, not least this one! There’s a pretty popular little venue in town here that I refuse to play at because they use a Perspex drum screen to reduce the volume, and that just doesn’t sit right with me! As for funny/embarrassing stuff – last year we were last on an outer stage at the island’s biggest festival. It was pissing with rain all day so I got drunk to kill the boredom and then when we came to play at 11pm, my left foot wouldn’t work, so we had to rewrite the set list on the fly to avoid any songs with double bass drum parts. Luckily everyone else either got soaked and left by then or was also mullered and didn’t notice!
DR: Unfortunately for this question, debasing is not something we do as a band. We know what we want to do, what we’re happy doing and that’s what we do. As for funny stories, I could tell you about “borrowing” a bottle of Vodka from a well known UK death metal band, or how we nearly lost a band member in a rather violent bin jousting accident, or perhaps about the origins of the band name…. scratch that last one, no one needs to know that.
What do you see as some of the great things happening in metal and what are some of the worst things happening inside the scene right now?
PS: I think one of the best things about metal now is that a lot of the scenes seem to be a lot better at crossing over and being inclusive. It’s not an issue now what you like (with a few exceptions for obvious reasons). Now you can turn up at say a doom show and you’ll see fans of all sorts there. Just seems to be a better community. That being said, the online community can be utterly shit at times, especially on the likes of Twitter. But then that’s just our scene’s version of the cesspool that is most social media “discussions.” Turns out that anonymity turns people into idiots.
DR: For the first time in a long time underground music is surfacing quickly. The number of new bands I’ve discovered recently is amazing. Aside from the overall quality of the music, I’m impressed with the number of bands who are absolutely nailing their sound right off the mark. As for the worst, there is a lot of very dark stuff mirroring the current global political trends and its growing in popularity.
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?
PS: You won’t find politics or social issues in our music. There’s a lot of bands who can do it so much better than I ever could (lyrically) and it’s always from the people who have actual experience with whatever the topic is. For example, I’m not gonna write a song about the state of Trans rights. I’m supportive of Trans and all LBGT mates, and I’ve seen the utter shit that gets thrown at them, but I’m not gonna sing about stuff that frankly I could get wrong or be misinterpreted in some way. I’m far happier being a nerd with the lyrics and singing about old sci-fi or some obscure video game. I prefer listening to bands who know what they’re talking about when it comes to the important subjects. I think that not all music has to be political or deadly serious. Sometimes you need bands who sing about stuff that isn’t just relevant to the current climate.
DR: There is a time and a place to be political and fight for a cause. If you want politics, this is not the band. If you want tracks about questionable folklore, sci-fi or something me or Phil happened to read on Wikipedia, we’re your guys.
What, or who, got you into metal and how old were you? How did your family take the news?
PS: I got into it by nicking my brothers tapes when I was young. Stuff like old Metallica and Ozzy. From there I started hanging around with the other lads at school who were into it and we all just fed each other with whatever we found. As for how did the family take it, not sure Mum was too keen, but my dad was a “rocker” in his youth and as I tended to follow in his footsteps a lot (to mums dismay) it was metal and drinking far too much from an early age haha!
PE: I distinctly remember it. We were just getting into heavier music with stuff like Incubus, Deftones, etc in the late 90s, and Dan played me ‘Becoming’ by Pantera at his house one day on his dad’s big stereo. Life would never be the same!
DR: I’d been listening to a few Ozzy tracks, or whatever had been on the legendary show “The Young Ones,” but hadn’t seriously taken an interest in metal until MTV came to the UK (which seems insane saying it now). They would play music for starters, but more than that, they’d play Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and Pantera during prime time. Add in Headbangers Ball and Beavis and Butthead and I was on a path I’m never going to leave.
What advice do you have for aspiring music critics and outlets out there? How can we all better serve the genre in the eyes of a hard-working musician?
PS: That’s tough. There’s so many good outlets full of good people who are feeding the masses with content about bands that most of us would never have heard of, even say 10 years ago. I used to just buy a print mag once a month and get stuff from there. Now, thanks to the social media I slagged off earlier, I get to hear about loads of releases from bands I’ve not heard of before. I don’t think I’ve much advice other than while I get the necessity of having some articles for clicks, sometimes the public just doesn’t need to know some stuff.
DR: More or less what Phil said, however I do have one small gripe with some critics. Beating the crap out of a band who play a genre you absolutely hate. If you only listen to symphonic black metal, what the hell are you doing reviewing a drone act. The opposite side to this argument is that it’s also possible for a critic to have their eyes (or ears) opened to a totally new avenue of music, simply because they did a review for something outside their comfort zone. So I suppose the advice would be don’t destroy a band simply because you were never going to like it in the first place. If you’re a fan of the genre and hate the music, then destroy.
What’s your goal? You guys thinking world domination? Maybe saving a continent? Maybe invading one? Any interest in starting a cult? Do you guys have day jobs or hobbies you want to share? Whatever it is, please let us know.
PS: Well, world domination would be nice. I don’t think we could fuck the world up worse than the current bunch of idiots are. I’ve often thought about starting a religion. Seems like a good way to make money and be tax exempt haha.
DR: In all honesty I don’t know what our goal is. We just like writing new tunes. Although I do get a massive kick from selling our shit to people and having them enjoy it. As for a day job, yes I have one but no one in my family could tell you what it is I do. They ask and then instantly regret it as I try and explain it.
When you’re not obsessing over your own material, what are some of your favorite albums to listen to currently? (Feel free to include non-metal)
PS: Well, I’m currently obsessed with Tomb Mold, the last two of theirs especially. Myself and Paul are (almost) patiently waiting for the new Creeping Death as well so have been spinning their ep a lot. Away from that, there’s the ever constant presence of “The Assassination of Julius Caesar” by Ulver that both me and Dan are addicted to. But we try to listen to a decent scale of different stuff.
PE: The Creeping Death ep has been on repeat in my pickup for weeks now, so I guess you can say that’s an obsession!
DR: At the moment, a fair bit of Joy Division and Killing Joke. Napalm Death is always around along with Ulver’s entire discography. Creeping Death is ace too.
What is the 12-month outlook for you or your band? Any specific events on the horizon that the masses should be aware of?
PS: 12 Month plan is to get the new EP and Album released to the masses and play as many shows as we can. No events planned other than organising release shows both here on Guernsey and our neighbours Jersey.
Summarize your band in exactly one word. (Disclosure: If you include additional words, we will select our favorite
Many thanks to Byzanthian Neckbeard for their time!