In their own words, Acolyte are an extreme metal band from Manchester, interested in creating some harsh blackened grooves with a melodic slant. Inspired by bands such as Ved Buens Ende, Enslaved and Deathspell Omega, they have played across the UK and their debut album, Alta, is gaining momentum all the time. On the 25th May they headlined Halifax’s successful Einherjar Festival. I caught up with Chris, lead guitarist and Malekh (Tom), composer and guitarist, for some insight into the trials and tribulations the band has faced during its formative period, and the achievements they have made despite these. The interview starts with some concerns about swearing, considering this may be broadcast as part of the Wyrd Ways Rock Show. I reassure the guys that it’s not Channel Four; they can say Fuck and Bugger!
Mabh: So Malekh is a stage name?
Tom: Yeah, my real name’s Tom.
Chris: I need a stage as well really.
Tom: Big bastard!
Chris: There we go!
Mabh: So tell us a bit about the band. How did you get started? How long have you been going?
Chris: I’ll leave that up to Tom…
Tom: I formed the band in 2008, so it was a while back. I lived with our vocalist who’s not here right now; he’s in the pub with a pint and a paper apparently… A different pub! Anyway he moved into my house, and we would live together for 6 years, but when he moved in we started listening to a lot of metal together. I played guitar although I hadn’t played for ages, and I’d just got another guitar and started playing and eventually just decided I wanted to do something like this. So that’s where it started in 2008 and after many, many, many, many, many problems this is where we are now!
Chris: Yeah, the band’s changed line up about four times now.
Mabh: Do you reckon you’ll stick how you are at the moment now?
Chris: I hope so!
Tom: I hope so, yeah. Chris has been in the band since 2009.
Chris: Yeah, I’ve been one of the loyal members.
Tom: It’s me, Chris and JT that are the oldest members. Gaz is actually in A Forest of Stars as well, a black metal band from Leeds. They’re doing quite well; we’ve been on tour with them, done a few gigs and he’s awesome, he’s lovely and the best drummer we’ve had.
Mabh: You have to look after drummers, don’t you?
Tom: Well he lives in Leeds and we live in Manchester so it’s a bit difficult getting practices together. It’s just ongoing trials and…
Mabh: So you’ve come all the way up from Manchester today…
Tom: I spent most of my time here going ‘I don’t know where I am’.
Chris: Yeah, we got lost.
Mabh: Well I only live in Leeds and even I was doing that.
Tom: My phone usually has sat nav and it just was like ‘No, fuck off!’
Chris: We just kept driving round and round.
Mabh: So with your band being spread across the Pennines, do you have a lot of gigs over Yorkshire way anyway?
Tom: We haven’t done a massive amount of gigs actually because; well, we have in the past but last year I had a slipped disc. I had surgery on it… [Tom shows me scar on back] …so I was actually not able to gig that much over the last year. Which is hilarious, because that’s actually when we got signed [by Mordgrimm Records] and released our debut album! We’ve not really done anywhere near enough shows to promote it, but we had no choice which was a nightmare.
Chris: It’s been good to write some new tunes though, because we recorded an album, released it, and it’s given us some time to work on the second album. It’s coming together.
Tom: It’s pretty much written but we haven’t played it all together as a band. Stuff always changes and it gets better when we get chance to do it as a full band.
Chris: We’re playing some new songs tonight.
Tom: Three new ones.
Chris: Not that anyone will know any of them anyway!
Tom: I don’t know, I think there’s about three people who have come who know us.
Mabh: Well, I had a look on Spotify and you’ve got some followers on Spotify.
Tom: Do we? I didn’t even know that! I’ll have to check that out.
Chris: We’ve had under 1000 plays on Spotify I think.
Mabh: You mean ‘we’ve had nearly 1000 plays on Spotify!’
Chris: Sorry, I’m shit at this marketing lark. Well over 900 plays!
Tom: I know that well over 500 people have illegally downloaded the album on Rock Box which is awesome. I wish there were 10000 people who downloaded it on Rock Box. I don’t care if we don’t sell any of them.
Mabh: So that’s at least 1400 people who have heard the new album. That’s quite a following.
Tom: It would be if we had people that actually went places and came to the shows, then we could do gigs on our own more often. We usually want to be on a line up with an appropriate headliner so we can make an impression on people who have never heard us. Usually there’s just a few people that turn up. But it’s amazing when they do. We’re always so thrilled when people turn up. The other week we had the first person that when I started playing one of the songs, he shouted ‘Yes!!’. I was like, ‘What?? Shit, somebody knows what this is!’ That was a bit of a surreal moment.
Mabh: Do you ever see anyone singing along, knowing all the words?
Tom: I don’t think anyone knows the words. Let’s not get mental now. Crikey. Basically me and JT know the words. Chris knows some of the words…
Chris: I make them up. I make up replacement words to make them comical.
Mabh: How did you get signed on for the all-dayer today, Einherjar?
Tom: Rick [Millington, Einherjar organiser] is mates with Gaz and they’re in a band together called Hryre, quite aggressive black metally stuff. I think that’s basically how it came about. We were approached, which was nice. Rick really likes us. He’ll be there watching us!
Chris: Hopefully, if he’s not drunk and out here like he has been all night.
Mabh: What’s the furthest afield that you’ve played so far?
Tom: Edinburgh probably.
Tom: Brighton, yeah.
Chris: We went on a week tour with Wodensthrone and A Forest of Stars. It was quite a good experience; on the road, sleeping at other people’s houses.
Tom: We had a few moments though. Mostly my fault.
Chris: It was good though. We had some great gigs.
Tom: Not the Brighton one though! There were 4 people there, and when we got there they told us they had this crazy and really strict curfew so all the bands could only play 20 minutes. Meaning A Forest of Stars played one song. And they were headlining! Everyone was so pissed off; everyone just got on the stage and started going ‘raaaaaarrr!’ so that was quite fun!
Chris: I think the Leeds show was definitely the best.
Tom: Leeds was amazing.
Chris: Probably the best show we’ve ever played.
Tom: Ben Corkhill, the promoter in Leeds: awesome.
Mabh: For which venue?
Tom: It was The Library.
Chris: It was upstairs. it was huge.
Tom: It was this awesome venue and there were loads of people and we got proper cheers afterwards. It was pretty surreal and awesome. The sound was incredible. The sound guy’s a fucking wizard.
Mabh: What’s coming up next after today? Any more gigs?
Tom: We’re trying our best to really knuckle down. I mean we’ll take any gigs that come but we’re possibly not looking absolutely 100% all the time; obviously we’ll play as many shows as crop up without actually, physically going mental looking for loads of shows.
Chris: Plus we need to get the second album sorted.
Tom: Yeah, we’re really trying to get this second album done, so we can think about recording at some point. Before this next band collapses and we have to find an entire new group again! Hopefully that won’t happen. So we want to do that. Also I’m speaking to a very good friend of mine who’s in a reasonably big band in the UK who does promotional stuff, so hopefully we’ll get some management going which means we’ll start to get some more shows. Part of the problem is, with organising and finding these shows, it’s very difficult when you’re doing it on your own. There’s a lot of legwork involved.
Mabh: Fitting it in around your everyday life can be tricky.
Tom: For me, every time something crops up I’ve got to text everyone, ‘Are you free on this day?’, and poor old Gaz, he works like a dog. He works for W H Smiths. Fuck you W H Smiths! They’re really mean to him. He’s always doing really crap shifts.
Mabh: Well, their sales may be going down after this interview.
Tom: Yeah, their share price is going to take a dive! ‘That band that was on the front page of that paper recently were dissing them, I heard’.
Mabh: Nobody’s going to buy Metal Hammer there any more at least. For people who want to come and see Acolyte, what can we expect from an Acolyte stage show?
Tom: Yeah, groove. And quite a lot of melody, actually. There’s a bit of disagreement because people keep saying we’re black metal, which was where we were coming from initially, and many of the bands we are inspired by are black metal bands. But predominantly there’s a lot of rock n roll; a classic rock sort of vibe. There’s some nice clean sections with jazzy bits and stuff. I really think it cuts us off from potential people who would like it by saying ‘It’s Black Metal’. It’s not really. There’s moments where it is quite intense but predominantly it’s quite melodic. Not in a melodic metal kind of way, but in a genuinely (we hope) interesting kind of way. That’s hopefully what we’re going for. Without doing a horrible dirty bum wank over ourselves.