"At one gig in Manchester International Xentrix opened, then it was us, then it was Onslaught, and that was the closest thing to UK big 4 if you like, the 3 of us and other one being Sabbat, ever playing together on a single stage"
Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax have been considered the big 4 of thrash. However there have been Big 4s in other countries too and we were able to have an honorary guest from one of the UK big 4 for a Thrashers Unite interview. Yes! It's none other than the frontman of Acid Reign, H ... a.k.a Keith Platt...a.k.a Howard. With a Alfred Hitchcock blockbuster inspired track named "Motherly love" to an amazing instrumental track like "Suspended Sentences" this band was one of the pioneers of Thrash metal in the UK. Their Album "Fear" ranked at number 10 back in 1989 on the U.K. charts. They have been a major influence on many a thrash band in the later years. He was kind enough to revert and give his valuable time to us. We also want to thank him for good advice not only with regards to making music but also with regards to seeking help from mental professionals.
Vipress: Honestly I am very overwhelmed to talk to you.
Howard: Oh haha, honestly Is it only me?
Vipress: its so that I wasn't even born when you guys were at the peak of your career. So at this point I am.
Vipress: So how has life in comedy been so far and what inspired you to take it up?
Howard: It's been a long time .It's kinda strange that I have been doing comedy, rather lot longer than I was in Acid Reign. I have been doing stand over the course of
last 20 years. I have been doing it actually for 15 years. I had a gap of 5 years in between just because I completely fell out of love doing stand-up. I continued to write comedy for radio and TV but then I started doing stand-up live as the character "Keith Platt". Initially I was in comedy for 8 years kinda full time just as me (Howard).Later I had a 5 year gap and when I came back I had decided a character wherein Keith seemed to copy those imaginations which is actually fun. Yeah! It's been great playing all over the country. I haven't gone outta UK much which is disappointing but there is a chance that "Keith" might be heading himself to Australia which will be real fun. I am looking forward to potentially doing that. It was something I was always, always going to do. I have always been into comedy, especially been a fan of stand up throughout my life, I was also a class clown of school. I always enjoyed making people laugh. After Acid Reign I did a band called "Strange thing" for a couple of years and that did not work and then I moved myself to London to chase my dream of being a comedian. Believe it or not, it was 20 years ago this month (September 1994). It did take time but it was definitely worth it.
Vipress: What made you take the name Keith Platt?
Howard: Haha!!! Frankly I absolutely have no idea either. Initially I came up with Keith-The Uncool Keith,it just popped into my head and when I had to create it, I felt Uncool Keith sounded a bit strange, a bit odd, so I crossed and "Platt" was literally the first 2nd name that popped into my head. I tend to work like that whether its music or comedy. I tend to go with my gut reaction to get that feel. Sometimes if you sit with music and comedy, and think about things too much everything becomes complicated and eventually you are back to square one, and the best idea ends up being your first idea. I have learnt to go very much with my instinct and thus came into being "Keith Platt".
Vipress: Now that we know what's been up as far as your comic career goes, let's now turn our attention towards Acid Reign! What is the history of the band?
Howard: It was very simple, at school, me and a couple of friends decided to start a band. Initially it was just let's start a band. We all had different influences. No THRASH influences. In that band we rehearsed only once or twice and played the same songs over again and again and then it got boring. http://www.canadian-pharmacy24-7.com
I knew some guy at school and I knew he was into same kinda music as I was introduced to Mark Ramsay Wharton (Drums and keyboard) and later Ian Gangwer (bass) and Gaz Jennings. We did an album before that, I do not want to name it and we recorded it too but due to circumstances we never recorded it and our old members left. As soon as everyone joined in, things went a lot quicker and better. We started writing songs and we wrote Moshkinstein and recorded it and got signed to the label Under One Flag which is a part of Music For Nations. We did all that, we signed a record deal, did Moshkinstein the mini-album, we signed a deal with a management company and funnily we never actually played a live gig until then. So then we played the live gig and things started to fall into place after that.
Vipress: The 80s metal scene was a very healthy one in the U.K with NWOBHM and thrash metal really hitting top gear with bands like Motorhead, Venom, Iron Maiden, Raven, Onslaught, Sabbat etc. getting a lot of success. How was your experience being a part of that scene?
Howard: It was all positive, it was very very good times. Towards the end, not so much, people look back, certainly people who weren't there- "History has been re written to a certain extent and everyone view this with this kinda feeling like, "It was a very big thing, and it was amazing." Don't get me wrong it was big to a certain extent but it wasn't as big as people think. At that time UK thrash was very much poor compared to German. Nevermind, UK thrash bands never did anything outside of the UK. Sabbat did a few shows, we did a few shows, but none of us did anything particularly big outside of the UK. But within the U.K though we were always travelling up down the country and having a great time. I mean we played. Recently I discussed this with Nige from Onslaught on my Podcast a couple of months ago and we were talking about this... At one gig in "Manchester International", Xentrix opened, then it was us, then it was Onslaught, and that was the closest thing to UK big 4 if you like, the 3 of us and other one being Sabbat, ever playing together on a single stage. We never really played with Sabbat, but we knew them really well. We all were good friends. Infact we were the special guest on Andy Smith's 18th birthday party. Believe it or not, Haha!! That was a surprise birthday party for Andy and we also around the same time we were on our way to play in London along side "Death Angel", in fact the following night. So we called in and stayed that night with them. So yeah, we didn't play with Sabbat but knew Sabbat well. I have been friends with Andy ever since the 1st time I met him and we have been mates until this day. We played with Onslaught a couple of time, really cool guys, we played with Xentrix a couple of times as well. It was all good, it was great fun. The highlight which for me was probably the Obnoxious tour which was massive and really really well attended and great fun but literally within 9 months off that the UK scene was already dying and dying quickly. We did the obnoxious tour in April 1990 and it was awesome, you know, it was fantastic. Gigs were packed out, sold out, it was a great tour. But the next mini-tour we did which was November, which was just 9 months later. The crowd was halved, and it was quite obvious that something was happening and of course by February 1991 we announced that we were splitting up, and then Sabbat announced, that they were spliting up a week after that Onslaught announced that they were splitting too and it died out very very quickly.
Vipress: Can you name some bands you would attribute your songwriting and music influences to?
Howard: To be honest, if you think about it, there weren't any thrash Bands we could get influenced with. But bands in general, Black Sabbath is one, Gaz was always a huge fan of black sabbath. Metallica and Slayer definitely. Certainly not so much Anthrax probably because of their image if none other things. Certainly bands like Voivod, punk bands like Dead Kennedy and early hardcore like Crumbsuckers and Agnostic Front. On a personal note, my influences from early days would be "Fish" from Marillion. It was a Prog Rock band, back in the U.K. It was big at that time. Black Sabbath got me into heavy metal, Metallica and Slayer got me into thrash. The band that got me full stop into music was this prog rock band and Fish's stage presence is great with the crowd between songs. His lyrical ability, I took a lot from that. While reading his lyrics, I noticed he writes lyrics about all different subjects. He would use a breadth of words that weren't necessarily popular in that era. And from him I learnt that you could build a rapport and a relationship with the crowd. It completed the entertainment of the night. You guys see lot of bands between songs, they are kind of a let down and you simply stand around waiting for the next song to start. But when you interact, in live shows you feel .."Yes! this gig was an entertainment from start to end." Between the song,there should be entertainment as well. You should interact with people and keep the audience engaged through out that time and not just be lazy, stand up and play songs one after another. So I took a lot of influence from him from those things and vocally, as much as any other thrash vocalist from James Hetfield.. I learnt from him that lyrically you could write about important issue, Politics and social issues, and till this day I love his vocal delivery. Again do not get me wrong, I don't think it affects the way I deliver vocals but again I think. So probably a mixture of all this or I don't know what, how I turned out to be like this, the way I am.
Vipress: It's actually a good advice to all who have or want to start a band.
Howard: Ya Ya, its a good point. You gotta take your influences and incorporate them. There is so much out there, Thrash and Speed and Hardcore..loads of stuff out there.. that people have become so myopic, and are reminded of their influences. When we kicked off as Acid Reign, we did not have that. There were a plane of Thrash Bands. We were writing music based off a few 5-6 Thrash Bands we were aware of, playing that kind of music. That automatically, you are going to be in lot other music. we were listening to all kind of music. We all grew up very recently on stuff like Black Sabbath, but also stuff like Realm and also stuff like Queen and bands like that. So these were our influences. i guess that's why we sounded like we did. That's why I guess people heard the classic Thrash sound of ours because it is more of a classic sound because our influences were more classic. They were wider, whereas new age thrash bands are influenced by other Thrash bands. So obviously it's gonna have lesser of that classic sound. Don't get me wrong. I am not saying one is better than the other. I don't believe there is any point in that. People get hung up on" How the scene use to be back than" and all that. It doesn't matter. The only scene that matters is the scene that is around now. It was great to be around 20 years back and be a part of it but what's now is what matters now. And it's all about making it as good as possible. But yeah! I suppose there is a school of thought to say that bands may be could , should look further or feel other similar influences but have a variety. It's hard to say, If probably I was around now, I would have been doing the same I suppose as they are. You listen to a lot of Thrash band and you say, "Oh! They are awesome. And this is the kinda music I want to play." Frankly, that's exactly what we did and there were only a few 5-6 bands doing the same. So our influences were a lot wider. But if we would be coming up now, yeah probably we would have been doing the same what everyone does. It's a part of music evolution. Infact we need more of evolution because there are genres and genres popping up these days, sound is more generic and there is over -reliance of technology and definitely over-reliance of drummers playing with their feet.
Usage of Pro-tool is like indispensable and hence drummers sound like Drum-machine and I don't think we are that far from having a metal band consisting of a bass player, 2 guitarists, singer and a DRUM MACHINE. We aren't far away from that. It's disappointing to hear computerized modern thrash sounds. It's such a live and vital music. Thrash should sound live, there should be an atmosphere and for me, more and more albums are coming out to sound like old video game sound tracks instead of Thrash Albums.
Vipress: Your first EP "Moshkinstein" continues to be a staple in the playlist of many listeners of thrash metal and crossover. What would you have to say about that?
Howard: Firstly, the 18 year old me, would be amazed to know that 27 years later I would be doing an interview with someone in India, who wasn't even born when we released Moshkinstein. HaHa!! Its making me laugh. Well about Moshkinstein, If you can get hold of the archives, you will have the Moshkinstein demo, which is a remastered release and is in that package. My personal opinion, Moshkinstein demo is better than the album. I prefer it, my performance is better on it. The thing of being in a band is, you will always like the thing that you did most recently, So the Acid Reign albums I like in declining order are "The Obnoxious", then "The Fear" and lastly "Moshkeinstein", which is probably my least favorite. It's my least favorite because it was my 1st album wherein I made my biggest mistake. You can hear my learning throughout my career. It wasn't my best performance in a long way. Don't get me wrong, motherly love is a great song in its own way. I can't believe we actually wrote that. I always wanted to play live, it's a great change." Goddess" of course, "Suspended-Sentences" was towards like Old slayer. The intro of "Suspended sentences" is our attempt to do Slayer's "Hell awaits." "Chaos"- That's a beast of a song. It was the last song written for Moshkinstein. And you could see what was going to happen on "Fear", if you listen to the song carefully. That's actually when we started playing, really really fast and bit more technical. I kinda like all the songs on Moshkinstein. I am not a big fan of "Freedom of speech", Obviously, being a singer. But still you know, it's a quite cool instrumental. But this is the album that got us started, without this we wouldn't be anything. But again, you can clearly notice the kind of influences it was having on me at that time. "Moshkinstein", I came up with the idea of Moshkinstein, because the "Dead Kennedys" released the album called "Frankenchrist". So I realized that they had taken the name Frankenstein and used the first 1/2 of the name. So I came up with "Something Stein", the last half of the name and added Mosh to its prefix. Thus "Moshkinstein" was born. What can I say? I owe "Moshkinstein" a great deal. My best friend lived on the road and I told him "I have come up with this idea." and the character I was thinking maybe something like the Frankenstein based, who would show some moshing. It was very easy to create this character to be honest.
Vipress: In 2011, all of Acid Reign's EPs and albums were remastered and reissued on Lost and Found Records with the remastering job done by the legendary Mr. Bill
Metoyer and just recently the Apple Core archives box set was released under Candlelight. Why the difference of label?
Howard: The remasters were released on CD and then they were released digitally. So, If you download the Acid Reign albums anywhere, that's where you get the Bill Metoyer remasters. But unfortunately, they were only available in "The States." So that was the only way to order CDs from Lost and Found records from the States. They never really, managed to seal a deal outside of "The States". The idea behind signing up with "The Apple core" archives was to take the 3 albums released in the States and make them available in every other country. So "The apple core" archives is not available in "The United states." It is only available outside USA, with respect to Lost and Found. And we decided, yes that we could just put these albums out. The label said, yes is there any other stuff that's worth putting on there, and I thought let's try and put everything that we ever did, as much possible, all into one package. The CDs that were released in USA, all have extra tracks, like "Humanoid EP" and "Hanging on the Telephone" EP, and the "Remastered Demo." Are all on those American CDS. So we felt it was only good, if we put all our stuff out again. And then we made the "Worst Of Acid Reign" available as that album is not available for years and years and years. It's not available anywhere. So I wanted to put that in too. So we wanted to put everything out there for everybody and we had album released by candlelight. So wanted them to go in "Apple core" archives itself so they sound absolutely fucking amazing. They definitely have done justice and a brilliant job.
Vipress: A few years back you worked with Italian thrashers Satanika to record the sequel to the Psycho inspired Acid Reign classic "Motherly Love". How was your experience working with them?
Howard: It's funny because my experience with them was working with them via email. They emailed me the track. I wrote the lyrics, recorded the vocals, over here in the U.K. and then we exported all the files over the internet in Italy. So it was simple, they sent me complete finished tracks. I wrote the lyrics and vocals on it and sent the song back. As an experience it was very weird and strange .I haven't done anything like that before. Something funny, Haha! I haven't met any of the guys from the band till this day. It's so strange. But Obviously the way things work now. I recently did a guest appearance with a band named "Suicide Watch" for their mini album "Alienation". I did vocals on two songs for them. It felt like old days. I went to the studio with the band and recorded some tunes so that was very different. But the Satanika experience was completely weird and a one of a kind. I am in touch with "Barren" who is is major player in Satanika. He is on my FB page and we often trade messages every now and again. I sent him a copy of the archives as he was kind enough to ask permission for using the song. One day definitely I will meet them. We might play that song live. Haha!
Vipress: You're involved in a monthly podcast called "Talking Bollocks". What is it all about?
Howard: It's a monthly based podcast. It's me interviewing various band, either bands I know or bands we are able to organize interviews with, website "All about the Rock". It's about podcast. They asked me to do it and I said, "yes". We do podcast a month. One/month. From Jan till Sept there have been 9 podcasts and there is an extra special edition and it's called "Acid Reign 1" wherein instead of me interviewing, I am interviewed by the crew from "All of the Rock". It's about "Apple core archives". So that's what it is about. I started doing this at the beginning of the year and I enjoy it. The Sept 2014 edition features Nige Rockett from "Onslaught" and "Cory Clark". I have a chat with many cool people. Bobby Blitz from Overkill, Tommy Victor from Prong, Chad Grey From Mudvayne, my old friends in Gama Bomb, Xentrix, Lawnmower Deth, Artillery, Channel zero etc.. It's fun. It's a great way for me to sit and talk Bollocks with people from bands. It's a way of metal, what I am listening to and kinda give my opinions, what is happening in the metal movement all across the globe month to month. I get to talk about new stories in metal as well as current affairs and main concerned issues. The reaction has been amazing. Absolutely mindblowing. We passed around 8000 subscribers and every podcast picking about 1500-2000 more. I did not see this coming. I am absolutely amazed, that it's so popular. And all of the feedback has been good and positive. There are no haters yet which is bizarre. But I am looking up to picking up some haters, because when we have haters we will know it's really popular. It's crazy. On my youtube channel you can search it, or go to youtube.com/talkingbollocks. You will find a microphone on fire and that's when you know you found us. We are on all social networking sites. It's just great fun and thanks for asking me about it. Hopefully you get a chance to listen.
Vipress: About a week or two back Acid Reign made it official that a reunion is on the cards. Will it be the all original lineup? Looking to enter the studio again and cut out a new EP or album? Plans of touring etc.?
Howard: As you know, we have an Acid Reign Facebook page.I am always posting there and keeping people up to date about what's going on. In a recent interview I was asked about this and I replied, in fact posted my reply on the Facebook page and that has stirred up people to think what is going on. I would say there was a full-on reunion and rehearsal last year 2013. Around May time and everyone from Obnoxious line up was in to Mac, Adam, Ramsay Me and Kev. Unfortunately we had one rehearsal and Kev wasn't able to do it in Australia. The rehearsal went well. Adam and Ramsay kept rehearsing, tightening the set up and then everything went very quiet for a while and we had a message from Ramsay saying, "Unfortunately He wouldn't be able to continue and he was not gonna be able to do the reunion. At that point, Adam also decided that even he wouldn't be able to do the reunion as well. Adam and Ramsay decided to back out, both for their own reasons. We had to accept that as we aren't kids anymore and we have responsibilities of our own and thus we all going in different directions. So those 2 guys pulled outta the reunion and as of that it was dead. In the beginning of this year I have looked at potentially putting Acid Reign back together. I am still looking at that and if it works, and if works off and if it happens then there will be live shows in 2015 but it will be with a different line up. And as to whether there would be new material at this stage possibly but it is too early to say because ultimately there needs to be a line up to make those decisions and you know that the new line up would be asked about that. In 2015, if Acid Reign plays live it will be with a different line up. If by the end of 2015, if there are going to be no shows, then there will be no Acid Reign. It's 2015 or nothing basically.
Vipress: So do you have any advice for start-up bands?
Howard: Advice would be "DO NOT LISTEN TO ME." Basically play music just for the love. And if you get any kind of success, which would be great because you are doing something you love. And if people are into it, that is really really cool. Try and understand and manage if you work. You need to take time off, Keep that in mind. If possible try and be self employed. Try and find something that you are good at. So that you don't come on the road. Be true to yourself. Write the stuff that you want, that you like. Main Piece of advice for upcoming bands now is "DO NOT RELY ON TECHNOLOGY TO MAKE YOU SOUND GOOD." "DO NOT GO TO THE STUDIO AND LET PEOPLE RUN AND SAY-Hey you wanna use it, and make everything using pro-tools and make it all sound perfect. Music should not sound perfect. Music should not sound sanitized, Music should sound live, it should sound vicious and it should sound real. The minute you start letting technology take over, it will lead to a conclusion that the music is made my computer and not by you. Try and keep your edge, try and keep what makes you YOU.
Try and keep what makes your band different, try and keep that, don't lose it. You know create your own sound and keep that sound in the studio. And remember Metal is live music, metal is played live, metal gigs is what metal is all about and ultimately that's what you want. You want to create stuff that sounds just as awesome live as much as it sounds in studios. And if you create something in the studio that doesn't sound good live or you cannot do live, it would be a huge let down and it will affect your band in context to popularity and thus it would be a fall back on your ability. Eventually you will fall into a trap. So be yourself, and do not be a robotic computer while making music. Most of all have fun when you play or make music. Try and write lyrics that mean something, Try and write lyrics about things you feel passionate about, whether it's horror movies, or politics or whatever, it's all good but put effort into the lyrics lyrics should not be just words that someone shouts to a background music. Lyrics are 50% of what the song is about. When you get paid publishing, the publishing is divided 50% of lyrics and 50% on the music. So you know what's the weightage now. Unfortunately lyrics are what get forgotten and I am just a big fan of lyrics, that's what it is all about. Song should be a holistic living organism and it should be about what's being said was being played the whole time. The whole thing should sound as if it's the same thing. It should be a living, breathing organism and all of this comes from the bass, the drums, the vocals, the guitars and the lyrics. They all should be one thing. The music that I love does that best. So I conclude by saying, keep it live, keep it real and use technology with caution and use it sparingly.
Vipress: Thank you so much Howard. It was indeed a great interview. Loads of great advice. We are all hoping the 2015 reunion gig works out and we get to see Acid Reign Live again. All the best with your Apple core archives and Talking Bollocks monthly podcast.
Howard: Before we conclude, I would like the viewers to read this, and I would be glad if you include this, you being a mental health professional, I want to advise them that people's mental health is way more important than anything, certainly more important than Thrash Metal. Speaking from the point of view that I have undergone depression at one point in my life, I realized that without good mental health you cannot enjoy life, you cannot make music. Please make it as a priority to take care of it without feeling ashamed to visit a mental health professional if you find any glitch within yourself, mentally, physically or emotionally. If you have and you need to talk to somebody, you need go and see a psychotherapist. If you break leg then you go to a hospital and it's the same with mind. If you have an emotional break-down please visit a psychotherapist and get it fixed. Again I am advising it's nothing to be ashamed of to get help and I want to let people know that the work you are doing as a health care professional apart from being a Thrash fan is fantastic.
Vipress: Thank you once again.