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INTERVIEW: Steve Tovey – The King Is Blind

THE KING IS BLIND have had one hell of a year. Releasing their debut record, Our Father, to rave reviews and storming performances at this year’s Download Festival and Bloodstock Festival, the UK death metallers are rising high in the UK metal scene. As their supporting role to AKERCOCKE drew to a close in Manchester (read our review here) we caught up with vocalist Steve Tovey to talk about their year, the progress of their second record and keeping the momentum going alongside a discussion on the state of the UK metal scene.

So tonight is the last show on the tour with AKERCOCKE how has the tour been for THE KING IS BLIND?

Steve: Really good! I think we were trying to figure out which band we wanted to go out and play with and when we were offered this it felt like a great fit for us. A band that is from death metal but expands in all sorts of different directions, and the fact they are returning after a several year break so yeah it is a great fit! It kicked off in London really really well, the show at the Underworld was sold out, a lot of people didn’t know us but they really got into it. The other shows, as we expected, people didn’t really necessarily know us but it is a great opportunity to win them over and every single one has been a success. Out of the four shows we’ve done so far we’ve come away knowing we’ve won people over so it is great! For us, on our first album, that is what it is all about, finding an audience that don’t know you but should like you.

THE KING IS BLIND have had a hell of a year, you’ve played Bloodstock, you’ve played Download, your debut record has had a very good reception. Have you been blown away by how well this year has been for you?

Steve: Yeah! I’m still grinning now, we are like ten months down, nine months after the album came out, and it’s still unbelievable. We’ve had loads of confidence that it was a great album but you never know. Sometimes things come out and they can be brilliant but nobody pays any attention to it but the fact that all of the reviews were glowing. The people who had heard it genuinely felt excited by it so it’s been great! I can’t stop grinning, it’s been really rewarding.

With Our Father being your debut, have you already started looking ahead to the next album?

Steve: We’ve always got something going creatively, there are always songs on the back-burner or bits that we are piecing together, so we’re probably about two thirds of the way through writing the second album already. I think it helps we decided early to do it, a concept album that follows on from the concept album of the first, so it is like a natural thing to keep writing. In between writing the album and recording it, we wrote the first three songs for this album, one of which we were album to record and put forward for Music For Nations on their Speed Kills compilation which marks their re-launch. We had a song that is quite thrashy and that fit the Speed Kills vibe and we just kept going since then, we tend to write batches of two or three songs at a time so we are now about seven songs into the album and we’re hoping to further that out by the end of the year and record early end year. Just keeping the momentum going, we don’t see the point in sitting around and waiting six months when we don’t need to. If we are in the zone, if you like, we’re feeling energised and creatively strong and on the back of the first album and the reception its had, it is like a confidence boost! And we are taking it out and seeing what works best, it then gives you an idea of where to take things, so we’re not really writing to a perception of how album two should sound but all of that does subconsciously build into it.

A lot of bands seem to be in the cycle of releasing a record, touring it for two to three years then record the follow up. With THE KING IS BLIND, is it just about keeping the momentum going?

Steve: Absolutely, I think when it comes to release it will be out of our hands slightly because the album deal we had with Cacophonous Records was a one album deal so we have to think where we go with the second record. So it could be with Cacophonous for the second album, we’re talking to them about that, but it could be somewhere else so the options are open. It is why we are thinking to record the album regardless of what is happening with the label situation because we want to keep that momentum going and then as soon as we sort out the boring stuff it is ready to go and we are ready to go with it.

With your style as well, because it is death metal but there is a heavy doom influence, I’m interested to know are your influences a very broad range of everything that is considered extreme metal?

Steve: Yeah, well it was partly the label’s suggestion to start doing things like playlists online so when we’ve been on this tour driving around, we’re sticking a playlist up on Deezer of what we are listening to. It goes from NAPALM DEATH to WHITESNAKE and everything in between. There’s 45 years plus of metal so why limit yourself? It all seems to be like bands that want to sound like ENTOMBED or BLACK BREATH but why limit it? For us we’ve been looking at the reviews at what people picked from it and I think there are some names that come up regularly which is bands like BOLT THROWER, of course, CELTIC FROST. They seem to be the two bands that come up the most, but then added to that we have a list that is probably about 70 bands that get mentioned as a influence, even bands we’ve not heard! We’re all old enough to grow into metal when it wasn’t all about sub-genres, it was just about liking the whole lot.

THE KING IS BLIND have really come about where UK death metal and the UK metal scene in general is really having a resurgence. Do you think the scene is in a good place at the moment?

Steve: Yes and no. I think creatively yes, absolutely. It’s been not so long since I heard the VOICES album and I think it one of the best things I’ve heard in the last few years. There’s a lot of really good, intelligent, British heavy metal. What I think is lacking, if you look at the British metal scene in the 90s you had NAPALM DEATH, CARCASS. They took that extra step up and were headlining the bills with bands underneath them. I think if you look at a tour like this, we’ve been very luck that AKERCOCKE have come back and it is a band of a status and a profile that we can tour with. But I think that looking at putting gigs and tours together there is a lack of headline bands for this type of music. It’s not necessarily a bad thing but in terms of giving bands like VOICES or ABHORRENT DECIMATION that are doing some really intelligent and good stuff that extra push and that extra profile. I think that is whats lacking, I don’t think there is a lack of people who are into it, I don’t think there is a lack of bands, I just think the two haven’t come together.

You sometimes see on forums with British festivals that there is a complaint that they recycle the headliners. Do you feel that when these older and iconic bands call it a day that festivals will have to force their hand and take a gamble?

Steve: Well the festivals in the UK have been fantastic for us but I think it is interesting to see the continued success of something like Damnation where they take chances on their headliners and Bloodstock seem to be mixing up their headliners and it is increasing year on year. I think with the larger festivals they have a pool of bands they go back to, it will be great to see them take a chance now as I’m pretty sure they are still going to sell their 50,000 tickets. But it will give some of the bands that extra exposure to headline. I don’t know! I think the continued success of Bloodstock has shown that actually you don’t need a band like METALLICA to have a great festival, you can have KING DIAMOND, you can have LAMB OF GOD, MACHINE HEAD, and it’s still going to be a great festival! People still want to see the big bands though and I’m the same! I’m going to go see IRON MAIDEN next year and if GUNS N ROSES do play Download I’ll go!

Yeah, I think it’s a very interesting period we are in, these bands are getting older but it seems that no newer bands have quite stepped up yet…

Steve: No, they haven’t and bands you think are going to haven’t. I’m a huge MACHINE HEAD fan but they seemed to have hit a plateau and they aren’t going to be one of the next headliners of one of these things and I think it’s a shame because musically, they deserve it. They are a big influence on us, it might not always come through, but it is just not broken for them. They are still a big influential band. It is an interesting one and I think it will end up scaling down a bit.

And really my final question for you is after this tour, what else does THE KING IS BLIND have planned for the rest of this year?

Steve: Well we’ve always been quite deliberate about our live approach and we are aware that we’d rather not play too much because then hopefully people will want to see it. So we’ve been luck that we’ve been able to do a couple of profile shows earlier in the year with SYLOSIS and DECAPITATED, we then had Bloodstock and Download which was great, and then this just feels like a natural end to the album cycle. This is a nice natural end to the Our Father cycle so after this we’re going to go away and finish album two and look to record it January time. Then just sort out the label situation and see where 2017 takes us! I think we’ve been luck that we’ve been able to do Download and Bloodstock in the same year, both festivals are off limits for us next year but then there are a couple of options for us to look at what we want to do. I want us to be as selective as possible around live shows, to align with bands we respect and that we like. Bands like WINTERFYLLETH and VOICES was great for us last year, AKERCOCKE has been perfect this year and DECAPITATED in between. Bands that we hugely respect and that we think benefits us to play with so it’s a similar strategy for next year. To see what bands are out there touring that want to have us and doing the same thing. Looking at the smaller festivals, it’s a shame that Temples has gone, but hopefully Damnation will have us back, something like that would be ideal!

Well brilliant, best of luck for the new album and thanks to talking to Distorted Sound!

Steve: Cheers, thank you!

Our Father is out now via Cacophonous Records.

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