Iron Fist Magazine

INTO BATTLE: SATAN’S SATYRS

Virginia biker doom punks SATAN’S SATYRS have been one of the standout bands of 2013, espousing the same traditional values and old school spirit as Iron Fist. So, it was no surprise that our boss Will Palmer signed them up for his new label BAD OMEN. With a new album ready to go in early 2014, DAVE SHERWOOD talked to CLAYTHANAS about the creation of a new breed of wild beast

Some of you are probably thinking “Satan’s Satyrs? What? Who?” And rightly so. Well, continue reading and you’ll know more about them than those already in the know. With their second studio album soon to be unleashed by Bad Omen records in early 2014, Satan’s Satyrs are still an unknown force within the heavy metal community. However they go beyond heavy metal, beyond doom, beyond punk. All the elements that in fact create their monster sound. The bringer of evil, Claythanas (or Clayton to his friends), describes the band as “almost like a spectacle.” And this is not far from the reality of things. Fixated on the heavy side of ‘60s and ‘70s rock music and the darker side of NWOBHM, Satan’s Satyrs bring to the table a prestigious element and a respectable sound. Just in the ugliest way possible. Claythanas admits, “Maybe some people just find it so outrageous or bizarre that people have to be like ‘what the fuck is this?’ I’d like to think there’s some music in there too, but it’s all about the vibe.” Up until now SS have been tagged possibly too close to the metal punk movement. We were interested in finding out Claythanas’ opinion on what the band are exactly, and how the band have progressed in the lead up to their second studio release.

“Metal Punk is a term maybe at one time in my younger years I would have had some sort of affection for, but I don’t take it seriously. If people ask us what we play I just say rock ‘n’ roll. What people know as the band now from the last record and from live shows is different to what I know as the band because a lot has gone on over that time. New material has been written and it’s two different things. In the coming months I’m sure people are going to put different tags on what we play because we are progressing as a band.”

Forming back in 2009, Clayton was an easy-living 16-year-old teenager, enjoying his summer vacation in his hometown of Herndon, North Virgina. It is a lonely thought to consider a metal musician as an outsider of the local rock and metal community. However, being subdued and comfortably detached from a group with reason maybe the most satisfying decision to make. It could also describe someone who is level-headed, mentally in depth and has a tolerance of criticism. “I was just a teenager hanging out in the graveyard with a friend of mine who I refer to as ‘The Ghoul’,” he explains. “We were listening to Black Sabbath, Black Flag and Electric Wizard. Well, that’s where the idea of the band came about. Also listening to Witchfinder General is what gave us that down-tuned doomy vibe. At that age and being of my generation it’s hard to find people who were into the old shit. I don’t wanna sound like I’m tooting my own horn but I feel like I am an exception of my generation of buying records and listening to the old heavy bands.”

With the impression that he would rather save up for his next pair of flares or watch his latest bundle of VHS cassettes, the likelihood of seeing him procrastinate down the local rock bar on Saturday night was unheard of. “I wasn’t involved in any local scene at all, not in the slightest. So I never felt like bringing a band up that way, where I would play the game in the local scene and then hope something develops out of that. Also at the beginning it wasn’t really a band. We met up a couple of times, recorded some tracks and then did a demo. It formed really casually with no previous intention.” Isolated from neighboring metal fans could be one of two things; trapped in a forever vicious circle of being just another support act, or facing the fires of Hell and showing the world what demons hold within. For Claythanas and The Ghoul, they chose the latter and the demo proved to be very popular. However not just locally, but for what Claythanas had hoped for – a worldwide curiosity of this rough and ready limited edition demo tape. “I wasn’t afraid of it being sloppy, rough and gnarly. Rough around the edges; that’s a key phrase when talking about the early stuff. I think that was definitely some of the appeal, too. However it was when the LP came out [‘Wild Beyond Belief!’ (Trash King, 2012)] people started perking their ears and I thought momentum was being developed. It was really cool to see people latch onto it like that. I knew when I had that taste of optimism that I could expand on this and see how far I can take it.”

So how does one keep that appeal? Claythanas admits he is already less care-free than he was and the band have developed leaps and bounds. The fear of creating a signature sound so early is good in some respects, but could it have any backlashes? Claythanas doesn’t think so. “As the years progress influences develop and record collections grow. You grow as a person and you have time to reflect on what kind of sound you want to put out there. The LP was still raw and very much in the same vein as the early demo stuff, but that was almost two years ago and a lot has changed since then. The band has now become a three-piece, which is the way it was always meant to be. You need every instrument there live, in person, holding their own with this kind of music and I think it’s going to show on the new record. This band is meant to be a three-piece, or more? Who knows?”

As we sit around discussing the uprise of a one-man project influenced by gloomy sounds and gravestones, the subject of live shows enters the conversation and how this is the most effective way to portray their Satanic empire. “I think the major turning point for me was definitely playing Roadburn Festival this year. Before that we hadn’t done any high profile gigs, anything under the public lens or anything worth a shit – pardon my French [laughs]. But when we got there the response just blew us all away. Just even stepping off the stage I thought ‘something has changed here. We gotta jump on this before it dies away’. The response we got there is something we are still excited about and it shows there is an audience out there still receptive to this music.”

The organisers of Roadburn must have seen this coming, as in fact Satan’s Satyrs played two sets last year, something which was planned way ahead of the festival date. An SS set on the Electric Acid Orgy stage curated by Electric Wizard, and the next night on a bigger stage playing only Blue Cheer covers. “I guess going back talking on the phone to [Roadburn mainman] Walter, it was his idea. However it was later that he brought up that we should just do Blue Cheer songs. He knew we were fans. As a matter of fact the Halloween proceeding Roadburn 2012, we did a Blue Cheer cover set at a local show in Washington DC. It got on the Internet and people heard about it, so I guess he heard about it too. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the way it turned out but people came up to us after and said they loved it, so that’s cool. I’ve always been outspoken about the influence of that band so I suppose it was kind of natural. It was a nice fit.”

Another regular attendee of the Roadburn festival is Bad Omen (and Iron Fist) mastermind, Will ‘Angel Witch’ Palmer. Although, in some respects, labels aren’t needed in today’s music industry what with social media and the like, we were keen on knowing what it was about this brand new independent label that stood out from their previous offers. “I met him at Roadburn and he seemed like a cool guy. We got talking about where the band should go and what plans the band have for the future. It seemed he and I were on the same page. It was clear to me he definitely understood us. Plus there were a lot of new opportunities for us that as a band we would never think about. It’s nice to have someone who keeps that in mind. The way I think of it is we are just doing our songs and doing what we do but it’s good to have someone keeping an eye out of for opportunities for the band. I recognised he had ideas for the band that matched my ideas.”

Another way in which both Satan’s Satyrs and Bad Omen are similar is their joint love for authenticity and vinyl. The inevitable response to a question such as “Is the new album only going to be released on vinyl?” is hardly worth asking anymore. However talking about the importance of vinyl and how it will gradually increase to take over the main physical source of music output seemed far more sensible. “Vinyl is the only format I really care about but unless CDs are totally out of fashion, which they actually are if you think about it, I wouldn’t wanna limit the bands reach. I can be a moaner in the state of the music world if you want but the reality is everyone downloads now. However if you come to our gig and buy a vinyl I’ll shake your hand. Unless it’s flu season then maybe I’ll give you a nod [laughs]. Vinyl is where it’s at for me and the real freaks know where it’s at too.” So we’ve gathered the fact that yes, vinyl is making a comeback, but that is nothing new to Iron Fist readers. But we’ll admit the making of a record in a digital format is still something that exceeds in popularity. Claythanas politely intervenes, “As a matter of fact the new record is gonna be totally analogue. It was recorded analogue and it was mastered analogue too. For me it’s just an easy choice because it sounds better. If you record digitally there is always a risk the sound is not going to turn out right. There is less of a risk if you do analogue because it sounds more natural and less effected. Or in some cases wonderfully effected in all the best ways. Sometimes I record onto a little four-track cassette. I just love that sound and it suits the band well.”

It is not long before we get onto the authenticity of the band and how they compare to other bands who are receding back to the vinyl tradition. “I see bands with the retro-rock trip has kind of taken hold a little bit but to be honest I am less of a fan of these new bands and more of a critic. You’ve got the riffs but you don’t have the look or you’ve got the look but you don’t have the riffs, or the production just sucks! There is always something missing or they’re doing something wrong and this influences me, actually. I wanna do things meticulously and it gets a bit obsessive after a while. I don’t wanna get the 2013 sound and look, that’s the last thing I want.”

Our talk could have gone for hours, but of course time is words and Claythanas has a day of writing riffs and listening to Blue Cheer to be getting on with. Listening to the ideas behind Satan’s Satyrs and the era of time he is coming from is a special thing. Not everyone gets it, but with the likes of Roadburn, Bad Omen Records and Iron Fist we all hope as a collective to widen fans knowledge and understanding of free-loving denim Lucifers. Claythanas leaves us with this back burner regarding the new album: “2013 is almost over and once you get over your New Year’s hangover you’ll find a new single on your doorstep with a non-album B-side before the release of the album.”

originally printed in Iron Fist #8