Interview with Karl Willetts of Memoriam/Bolt Thrower
I always felt like Bolt Thrower was more successful and influential in Europe than in the US. Is that really the case?
Karl Willets:: Yes, Bolt Thrower had a larger following in Europe.
Agoraphobic News: A lot of melodic bands nowadays sound as if they are pop bands. How hard was it for a band like Bolt Thrower to be melodic and brutal at the same time?
Karl Willets:: The sound came naturally, we didn’t have to work hard at it – it evolved over time and once we found what worked we stuck to it.
Agoraphobic News: Bolt Thrower is like the AC/DC of death metal. Do you agree with me?
Karl Willets:: I know what you mean – the 2 guitars make that powerful wall of sound similar to what AC/DC create.
Agoraphobic News: Are there some movies that were an inspiration for some of your lyrics?
Karl Willets:: Not really – I have never really been inspired by films.
Agoraphobic News: The name of Bolt Thrower comes from the Warhammer universe. So my question is what songs were inspired by Warhammer?
Karl Willets:: No – the name Bolt Thrower relates to a medieval weapon of war. There was an influence on the album Realm of Chaos obviously.
Agoraphobic News: Ronald Reagan was responsible for the rise of hardcore and thrash metal in US. Was that the case with Margaret Thatcher in the UK?
Karl Willets:: Not really – she was a figure head of the establishment – as was Reagan, our ethos can be considered to be fairly anti establishment from the hardcore anarcho punk movement influenced by bands like Crass, Discharge etc.
Agoraphobic News: Speaking of the Iron Lady, is that her on the album cover of In Battle There Is No Law on the left? (haha)
Karl Willets:: No it is not.
Agoraphobic News: Forgotten Existence and As the World Burns are about Nuclear Annihilation and .... Are you still optimistic about the possible outcome of such event?
Karl Willets:: We grew up in the 1980’s when the threat of nuclear war was real – I think that tat period of time has now passed and there are other threats to world peace that have replaced this.
Agoraphobic News: In Bolt Thrower , but also in other metal bands’ lyrics there is a motif of technological „downward spiral” that leads to destruction of mankind by robots and machines (like in a song Profane Creation for instance). What is, in your opinion, a bigger threat and more likely to happen, robotic or nuclear apocalypse?
Karl Willets:: I think that the biggest threat is mankind itself.
Agoraphobic News: I was always curious about The IVth Crusade. Was there some concept behind it?
Karl Willets:: No.
Agoraphobic News: is a really awesome tune! Have you ever considered the possibility of writing Through the Ages pt. II (you know, to fill the gap between 1991-2017)?
Karl Willets:: Yes I have – may record one with Memoriam.
Agoraphobic News: What war scared you the most during your time and is there any war that you’re especially interested as a lyricist?
Karl Willets:: All wars are particularly scary – however also remote and viewed on the TV from a distance. WWI is a war that particularly interests me- the rise of modernity and the use of machinery in mass destruction is a theme that I often cover with my lyrics.
Agoraphobic News: Do you receive letters from soldiers who are fans of Bolt Thrower?
Karl Willets:: Yes quite often. They get it.
Agoraphobic News: World Eater+>Cenotaph+Embers+PowderBurns and Killchain on the same bill?
Karl Willets:: No, that would take up half the set and played back to back would be exhausting!
Agoraphobic News: What is the current status of Bolt Thrower?
Karl Willets:: The band split up.
Agoraphobic News: And what is the idea behind Memoriam's To the Fallen?
Karl Willets:: A tribute to the dead.