White Whale Caught: Memoriam/ex-Bolt Thrower Drummer Andy Whale interviewed

I’m not going to suggest that the ONLY reason there is no Bolt Thrower album inducted into Decibel’s Hall of Fame is because of a certain Andrew Whale. But for the decade or so that we’ve tried to assemble one, the ex-BT drummer and current basher for death/grind supergroup Memoriam, was deeply apprehensive about chatting with us regarding the creation of extreme landmarks Realm of Chaos or War Master. The good news is, that’s changed! The bad news is, the rest of Bolt Thrower are currently on indefinite hiatus, mourning last year’s sudden tragic death of their own drummer Martin “Kidde” Kearns. That unscheduled time out is partially what let to the formation of Memoriam this past January. Rounded out by BT vocalist (and Decibel’s favorite re-tweeter) Karl Willetts, Benediction/Sacrilege southpaw Frank Healy and Benediction live axe-slinger Scott Fairfax, the early returns on the band suggest it’s not too far removed from BT and Benediction, which is fine by us! In one of his first interviews since his Bolt Thrower days, Whale fills in some considerable gaps. 

You left Bolt Thrower in 1994, correct? When you split with band, was it your intension to continue a career as a musician? Or were you looking to enter—as Jeff Walker is fond of calling it—"civilian life?"

Andy Whale: Yes, August ’94 halfway through our second U.S. tour. That tour was very hard for the band. There had been some problems and the promoter was changed, the venues were not the best, and we had a few problems in the band. I think nowadays we would have taken a break—do other things—but back then it was just get on with it. We had a band meeting in a motel room. And I was asked if I was staying or going and I just thought “sod it!” Then I think Karl told everyone he was leaving. That was it a day or two later we were home.

Looking back on it, I should have done something else, but I just wanted to get as far away from Bolt Thrower as I could. But getting away from Bolt Thrower is not that easy! You go around in circles and end up where you started Working and bringing a family has kept me busy. I still see a lot of old friends, so I kept my ear to the ground and keep in touch with things.

If you don’t mind telling us, what field of work did you fall into? We realize that extreme music doesn’t really pay the bills—especially in 2016.

Whale: Service Engineer. If your Alarm/CCTV/Access/fire System is broken, I’ll fix it!
 
When exactly did you get the itch to start playing in a band again, specifically one in the style of Memoriam?

Whale: Well, I’ve been asked quite a few times to join bands and always said no! If I’m honest, there is one type of music I like playing: grind/death metal. It’s what I’m good at! 

I finally went to see the Bolt Thrower at Damnation Festival a year or so ago, and then when [Bolt Thrower drummer Martin] “Kidde” [Kearns] past away last year, things started to fall into place. Me and Karl went out last October and that’s when we decided to do something together again. When Scott and Frank [Healy] got back from the South American Benediction tour, we all went out for a beer to discuss it all. It’s great fun—things have just fallen into place—it just works well! And the interest has been amazing.

How actively is Memoriam rehearsing? And is there any timetable on when the band will have enough material together to record a proper EP or LP release?

Whale: We rehearse every week three hours. One hour to run through established songs, Two hours to work on new stuff. We have just finished at Hellfire studio—we did a demo which is just about to be released as a 7-inch through Cosmic Key Creations.

We will be announcing details about albums and extra live shows soon. People should check out the Memoriam website and Facebook page. I think in the five months the band has been together, we have done amazingly well. We have festivals booked and tracks being released. Memoriam are here to stay. We aren’t a project.

Can anyone in the band out-drink Frank Healy?

NO!

Despite infrequent touring and recording, Bolt Thrower has become something of a legendary act in the extreme music scene. And the first five albums you performed on are all pretty much viewed as classics. Have you followed the trajectory of Bolt Thrower’s career at all since you exited the band?

Bolt thrower have earned their place in the world—30 years is amazing for any band to be around. I put a lot of my energy into the band and enjoyed it a lot. I am proud of what I did with the band. But when I left, I didn’t want to know what they were doing for many years. If I’m honest, I haven’t really heard any of the albums I didn’t play on, apart from the odd track! But I like to play extreme music and that’s why I’m in Memoriam—it’s what I’m good at!

We’re not gonna have to wait another 22 years for the next Andy Whale project appearance, will we? 

I will keep doing what I do best for as long as I can—I’ll be happy with two years. Twenty-two years from now, [I] don’t think there will be many of us old boys from the Mermaid around. Hopefully some one will still listen to the albums, though.

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