English grind trio Human Cull don’t look to reinvent the wheel each and every time they step into the practice space. They are way more interested in trying to split the atom with bass, drums and throat. Originally formed under the name Gran Toucher, they soon got serious in 2011, became Human Cull, and focused their energy on 40-second salvos of grindcore v2.0. They play fast, second gen grind; you can hear the Napalm, Brutal Truth, Insect Warfare, all that shit is in there, but the conviction with which they knock their songs out seals the deal. For a more detailed interview we did about the background of the band click here.
But read on as Edd Robinson [guitar/vox] offers up the skinny on new album Stillborn Nation, and the sort of shit that keeps them raging on in a thriving UK grind scene.
**Stillborn Nation is out on March 31st through WOOAAARGH records. Order it here
The UK grind scene is really thriving at the moment. Do you see many parallels between the scene now and the scene of the mid to late ’80s?
Edd: “Extreme conditions require extreme responses! The main difference I think now is that it has already been done. It’s almost like a repetition of what happened in the late ‘80s, ‘cos, I mean, everything that is coming out is really cool, from really good bands, but I think it is quite differnet in the sense that in 1988 there was nothing that sounded like From Enslavement to Obliteration before, but in the 2014 scene, although a lot of bands have their own sound it is still based on a formula that has pretty much existed for 25 years. Well it’s not a new thing anymore. It’s a pre-existing formula. Obviously, I wasn’t around in the late ‘80s for that kind of music but I imagine it had more of an impact simply because they had nothing like that before.”
It is impossible to look at the grind scene of the ‘80s and compare it to the current UK grind scene without looking at the political situation. We’re living under a similar economic and political model now as we did under Thatcher during the birth of Napalm Death et al — there are similar frustrations to rail against.
Edd: “Definitely. I mean David Cameron has repeatedly said that he looks to Margaret Thatcher as his inspiration, as one of his key political inspirations, so I suppose it is an easy comparison to draw with the late ‘80s. Something like the Poll Tax and the sort of opposition that received, and the massive cuts that the current government are making to public spending—hospitals, schools and universities, things like that—I think galvanises a similar sort of response in people each time.”
We talk about extreme responses, but people today seem dead to everything. Certainly, on an electoral plane, the left has really diminished.
Edd: “That was very true in the ‘80s as well. It was the death of the left. I actually studied this; I did a dissertation on this. It’s like generally not that many people are involved [in activism]. In both times it was only a small amount of people involved in active protests like in the ‘80s and it is often painted retrospectively as being a bigger movement than it was. I imagine that in 10, 15 years, people will look back on the early 2010s and something like the student riots in 2010, and that kind of thing is sort of retrospectively painted as being something larger or more all-encompassing than it actually was, when a lot of people actually didn’t give a fuck either way.”
To you feel that grindcore needs a political motivation to make it work? Which makes it unique in extreme music, in that death, black and doom metal doesn’t need such an explicit reason to exist.
Sam [vocals/drums] “There needs to be something there. There needs to be some kind of energy. It needs to be about something. Like you said before, it needs to be a product of something. It needs to be a way of people venting and I think that it’s a healthy way of doing that.”
Edd: “I totally agree with what Sam says. It is a healthy way of venting. I really like death metal but it is really rare now that there is something interesting because it has been done. That’s the thing with grindcore as well. I think because grindcore is something that feeds off a definite energy or anger, or some kind of friction—unlike death metal, which is often not really about anything, and it’s got to be a really good piece of music for it to have any validity, and it is very hard to make a really good piece of music if you are going to say, ‘I’m going to play within the boundaries of this 30-year-old genre.’ The struggle there is to be creative. To write a four-minute song about zombies that is not boring is probably impossible in 2014.”
How do you preserve the energy in your recordings?
Sam: “We just sort of do it live and feed off each other’s frustrations, especially if we try to play a song and then don’t, we fuck it up for whatever reason. We get a little bit wound up and then play it again. We recycle the energy and it all builds up.”
Edd: “Normally the second take’s the best. The first take will be sloppy. The second will be when we’ve done it the best. The third will be when we’ve done it a little too clean. By the time you’ve done it a third time you know it too well. You’ve found your feet and it lacks that aggression. It’s about striking a balance between staying tight and clear but also having that live energy. We always record bass, drums and rhythm guitar in one take together, and then I’ll add another guitar, or however many guitars depending on the recording. Then we’ll do the vocals after that. When we record it’ll be live, but just mic’d up nicely.”
That’s your challenge; staying in control but sounding out of it.
Edd: “A lot of UK bands are inspirational for that because they are doing it really well. The Atrocity Exhibit, some of their recordings are really good and they retain that live feeling—it’s the same with The Afternoon Gentlemen and Oblivionized too. Well I know that Oblivionized don’t do it live but they’re quite good at getting a nice raw take, and I think that’s because their drummer, Will, is really great and that really helps. The important thing in this music is to have a good drummer who knows what he’s doing, who knows who to drive the music. It’s not about technical ability, although obviously that helps; it’s about creative ability.”
The underground is so collaborative; it’s all someone who worked for someone. There’s a whole network of people who can help out.
Edd: “That’s what makes it so much fun. We’re not making any money, and that’s not why you do it. The idea of breaking even is the ultimate goal when it comes to the financial element to this kind of music. What is important is the fun we have and meeting like-minded people who also play great music and what to help you out, and obviously you want to help them out in return. And you end up becoming friends with them because you’re chatting all the time. Also, that’s where the internet is really cool because you can keep in touch with them really easily and chat to them on Facebook or email, Twitter or whatever.”
Does it take a little of the pressure off the creative process, band life in general, when you don’t have any financial expectations at all. Back in the days when there was a record industry, there was that expectation.
Edd: “Yeah, when you think back to when Napalm Death were top of the indie charts and playing to two thousand people in large London venues. Even by 1989, which is ludicrous to think about now. Napalm Death are obviously a big band now but I think their general sort of audience is 200 to 400. I think that reflects the disintegration of the record industry. But then you’ve got the staunchly underground nature of grindcore, which is its strength, I think. It is never going anywhere in terms of commercial possibility.”
And there’s that pressure on a band like Napalm Death to totally pound the road and play hundreds of gigs a year to make a living.
Edd: “Yeah, it doesn’t sound fun to me, the amount of work you have to put in to be a full-time band just to make a living. I would rather have a job and then do a band part-time, or not even part-time but on the side, like a hobby but more than a hobby.”
More like a lifestyle. Maybe that is the best balance. It’s weird how many bands you speak to who have a huge profile and a huge following and yet they’ve all got day jobs.
Edd: “Yeah I am surprised to see how big some bands are and don’t make a living. This might be going off on a tangent but I was reading about Amon Amarth, who to me seem like an enormous band; they all have jobs, and to me that is quite surprising. But I guess that is just the nature of the music industry now. I suppose 15 years ago they would probably have been a full-time band, wouldn’t they?”
From a consumer’s point of view, it seems like there are fewer barriers between genres or musical subcultures, or tastes even. Maybe MP3s have been a catalyst for that.
Edd: “The internet has totally done that. I mean, if you look at something like deathcore, the MySpace deathcore stuff, that completely was a result of people not really caring so much about the sort of genre boundaries, whether you were a hardcore kid or a death metal kid, all that kind of stuff. When I was 17 that was the thing, and obviously in the last 10 years that’s kind of been eroded; I very rarely meet someone who is entrenched in one thing but I definitely remember that being more prevalent 10 years ago. There is a lot more diversity now. There is not like one scene that gets big. Again, this might be the element of history warping things again but if you look at death metal in 1993 it just seems like there were so many bands who sounded the same, but they were all doing it because it was almost like a living to do it. But now everyone is a bit more different. I mean, I might be misinterpreting it—it’s really hard to say—but that is how it appears to someone looking back from our decade.”
Do you think that the tribalism of youth sub-cultures has disappeared now that everyone likes a little bit of everything? Do you think that people aren’t necessarily investing their identity in a particular movement, be it a hardcore punk kid or a death metal kid?
Edd: “I’m not sure. I think it is still the same really. I think it is just represented differently in the media, and also it’s harder for magazines and newspapers to interpret them because they are a lot more amorphous due to the internet. But I think it is still the same. I don’t think anything has changed.”
It’s an age thing, too. You only need to add 10 years and then suddenly you can be totally divorced from the tribalism of youth culture.
Edd: “Yeah, well I’m too old at 28 to understand youth culture now. Neknomination and all that kind of thing? I’m just like, “Who cares?” Or that thing where people, like, do a shot of cinnamon just to make themselves sick. Why would you do that? It’s just stupid—but I guess if I was 19 now I might feel differently. I dunno. The internet was already a thing when I was a teen and I definitely remember online drinking games in different forms. They were not as nihilistic as what they have become, but I guess that’s just an evolution over time. The internet has become completely pervasive. I think it’s a great think but I also think it’s sort of intimidating in a way.”
Is it not just more intimidating because we see more of human nature on screen? It is a platform for people to express the most vicious side of their personalities.
Edd: “It has the danger of making you a little more hateful, I think. You get wrapped up in things and lose perspective, and then just find yourself hating people for no reason. I find I have to check myself quite often. I mean, for starters, why should I care? And while I say hateful it’s more friends on Facebook posting things you find inane. Like, “Fuck this!” And no, why am I thinking like this. They don’t mean anything by it and I shouldn’t [care] but I think that the impersonal element to the internet does have the danger of fostering that.”
We’re over-sharing our lives. You hear everybody’s voice now and it’s overbearing. You hear the real side to people, even people, bands you looked up to and it’s nauseating.
Edd: “I think we could mention Malevolent Creation here. Like them posting childish, stupid shit on their Facebook page. These guys are almost 50; it’s really sad to see. I don’t want to see that aspect of a band. It’s just like, God, shut the fuck up! This is the problem with social media sometimes.”
And heaven help you if you go below the line into the comments sections underneath online news articles
Edd: “Yeah the Daily Mail comments section is a depressing place to look.”
But should you ever struggle for anger, it’s a great resource.
Edd: “We just write about things that annoy us, things that piss us off, or things that depress us. Our songs fall into three broad categories: political stuff, [songs] about things in the world, and I don’t know if political is the right word but they’re about things that are happening; then there’s the dystopian future sci-fi songs, and then there is occasionally the personal songs. They are all miserable. Bleak, I think that is the key word here, bleak anger.”
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