Interview with:
Jo Bench
Interview by:
Carlos Rodríguez
December, 2005

When we talk about death metal, there are a lot of bands that come to mind before the British Bolt Thrower, but that doesn’t mean this band is not one of death metal’s best and most loyal exponents. Bolt Thrower has suffered from a lack of attention from the media and many metal fans, but like bass player Jo Bench told us “I’m very grateful that Bolt Thrower have never been the media darlings” she makes this remarks not out of despise but believing that a band should be recognize and appreciated by the music not by the promotion or other publicity stunts.
Bolt Thrower is back, and they bring back and old and familiar face with them, singer Karl Willetts re joins the band after sometime apart for personal reasons, they also launched this year their latest production “Those Once Loyal” a record that already seems like one of the best albums released in 2005.
Bolt Thrower is one of those few bands that have always being loyal to their roots, to play aggressive high quality death metal; its true that in some of their albums they experimented with a few extra sounds and effects, but they have never leave the road they decided to travel a long time ago. It’s like Bench told us at the conclusion of this interview “In a world of compromise…some don’t”
Honour - Valour - Pride
...For Victory
IVth Crusade
Realm of Chaos
In Battle there Is No Law
Line up
Martin Kearns - Drums | Jo Bench - Bass | Gavin Ward - Guitar | Karl Willetts - Vocals | Barry Thompson - Guitar

Pic courtesy of: Bolt Thrower
"We have no high hopes for this album, record sales don’t bother us, we’re just happy that we’ve made a good album"
CR: First of all, how are you?
Jo Bench:
I’m fine thanks how are you?

CR: Fine, fine, thank you. Why don’t we begin by telling our readers about the music proposal of Bolt Thrower? (Not that you need a presentation is just that is nice when a band says, “this is what our music is all about”)
Jo Bench:
We’re just a bunch of 5 friends/musicians who play our own style of heavy, extreme music called Bolt Thrower.

CR: Your new album is “Those Once Loyal”, what are the general reviews about it, what are the critics and the fans saying? What do you want people to notice in this new record more than anything?
Jo Bench:
The reviews have been really great; I don’t think I’ve read a negative one yet. People are obviously happy with the fact Karl is back and they also seem to like the songs. We have no high hopes for this album, record sales don’t bother us, we’re just happy that we’ve made a good album.

CR: From the beginning of this record, I got caught by the well done death metal in this one, a very brutal but at the same time very refined job; is slower in some parts, but generally it’s another trademark Bolt Thrower album, what were your goals in regards of the general sound of the album? The guitars have improved a lot.
Jo Bench:
We wanted to put more work into the overall sound on this album. We bought a lot of new equipment so our individual sounds have also improved. The production was also worked on a lot; we tried to push the volume of the bass and the drums to even out the sound more, without losing the heaviness of the guitars. Overall we’re very happy with what we achieved, although there is always room for improvement.

CR: Karl Willetts is back for this record, it sure sounds like he never left; do you think the album would have had a different result with David Ingram on it?
Jo Bench:
Yes, it would’ve sounded pretty different. Not just in the vocal sound but also the placement and timing of the vocals would’ve been different. No two vocalists would ever write the same lyrics either.

CR: Why only 9 tracks for this one. I think only “In Battle there is No Law” has the same amount of songs, is there any special reason?
Jo Bench:
It was just something that happened. 10 songs were recorded – 9 for the album and an extra track for the digi-pack. We always prefer quality over quantity!!

CR: You change the artwork for “Those Once Loyal”, from your previous well known front cd presentations, why is that, and who did this cover?
Jo Bench:
It was intentional to get away from the fantasy battle style artwork on some of the previous albums. We were looking for a more epic looking cover, something along the lines of the …For Victory cover. We came across a really cool picture of this WW1 artillery scene, which we later found out to be a photo of a plaque on a war memorial in London. We continued looking for artwork but we kept coming back to this picture. We decided to commission a photographer to take some photos of it. These photos were given to Jan Meininghaus (who did the HVP cover) and he put them together and made the cover and booklet. We’re really happy with it, it suits the style and theme of the album and it definitely has the epic feel we were looking for.

CR: Is this album some sort of tribute to those soldiers fallen in World War I? (which by the way is the most underrated war in history, it seems that everybody is interested only in WWII), I say this because of the cover, and some of the songs titles.
Jo Bench:
A couple of the songs are kind of a tribute to the WW1 soldiers – Those Once Loyal and Granite Wall can be interpreted that way. You’re right, it is a very overlooked war, it was one of the toughest and dirtiest battles in modern history, and those soldiers should definitely be remembered for what they did.

CR: Next year looks pretty busy for the band, but you have been doing this for over 20 years now, is every tour totally different in matter of preparations, or being on the road is always pretty much the same?
Jo Bench:
The preparations are pretty similar; we don’t have a manager so there is a lot of work to do behind the scenes. We play a lot of the same venues too, so there is an air of familiarity about the tours. But once we hit the road everything is new all over again. We’re all very excited about playing live again, it’s been a while! Karl hasn’t toured for 10 years so he’s very buzzed about it. It’s going to be great…

CR: Why don’t we talk a little about some previous works of Bolt Thrower? I have always been able (or dare) to divide into two Bolt

Thrower sound, before the “Cenotaph” Ep, when I could hear a lot of punk influence in your music, and after that Ep, when you guys clean a little your sound to become more metal oriented; do you guys think that a band sound can by divided into stages just by listening to their records?
Jo Bench:
I guess so. Some bands are probably easier to divide in stages than others. But you’re probably right, on the first 2 albums we were still finding our sound and learning our instruments, so they probably are a bit punkier. But when we got to Warmaster I think we kind of ‘settled in’ to our sound. We had more of an idea where we wanted to go with it and we continued more along that path, just perfecting our sound a little more with each album.

CR: The albums …For victory and Mercenary are brilliant works on your career, do you agree? If not are there any records of Bolt Thrower you think are definitely the ONES on the bands career?
Jo Bench:
I love all our albums. They all mean something different and each holds great memories for me. As far as song structures and production, I think from IVth Crusade onwards we found we were progressing at the speed we were comfortable with. Now I would say that Those Once Loyal is probably the best album we’ve done so far. It’s definitely the one I’m personally the happiest with anyway.

CR: Can you name the topic of each record, I mean if there is any, like for example: Mercenary was made thinking in the revolution of the afghan people against the Russian invasion.
Jo Bench:
None of the albums are about any specific era or war and the lyrics are not political in any way. They’re written in such a way that they can be interpreted however the listener wants. You see Mercenary as a reference to the Afghan revolution, and that’s great, but I’m sure every other person reads something different from it.

CR: At the end of the track Armageddon Bound, in the album …For Victory, there is big gun shooting sound, do you know what kind of a weapon it is?
Jo Bench:
If I remember right, it’s a Howitzer (field gun).

Pic courtesy of: Bolt Thrower
"we don’t have a manager so there is a lot of work to do behind the scenes. We play a lot of the same venues too, so there is an air of familiarity about the tours. But once we hit the road everything is new all over again"

CR: What happened with the record “In Battle there is No Law” it says that it was released without your permition?
Jo Bench:
No, that’s not entirely true - it was mixed without us being there though. Actually I think there is a bootleg version of the album out there now, we’re just looking into it.

CR: 20 years of existence, I have to ask this clichés. Any regrets? Best moment ever? Best crowd? The best of being more than 30 and in a metal band? And the worst of all I just ask you
Jo Bench:
No, no regrets. We spend too long making decisions to let that happen! Best moment? There are many – getting the Peel Sessions, having the opportunity to tour the world, still being appreciated 20 years on and still being able to be a great band. I could go on. Hmmm, about being over 30 in a metal band? That’s a bit tougher, I guess we’re a bit smarter these days and are a bit pickier in the music we write. But physically it gets harder and we have to take a bit more care of ourselves than we used to!

CR: I discover Bolt Thrower only a year ago, I think that this is one of the classic death metal bands that are out there that never received the appreciation that it disserves, have you ever felt like the media has failed to give Bolt Thrower a worthy position in the charts of death metal history?
Jo Bench:
I’m very grateful that Bolt Thrower have never been the ‘media darlings’, if we were I don’t think we’d have lasted as long as we have. We always said we’ll continue to do our own thing for as long as we can and hopefully people will eventually discover us. And that’s exactly what’s happened. We’re getting new fans all the time and that’s on our own merits and not due to any marketing or hype.

CR: Not many singers have been in the band, but the fact that none of them seem very reliable to many critics has affected the band. Because after some albums, they quit and later come back and then quit…and come back. Do you think that this factor has held the band back? Is there anything good about that situation?
Jo Bench:
No, there’s not really anything good about losing members, but situations/people change and there’s nothing we can do about that. The fact that singers have left could’ve destroyed the band, but Gav, Baz and my self, refused to let that happen. We’ve been lucky in the replacements we chose; they were all strong frontmen and fitted into the band well. The only thing we lost was time. There probably were a couple of years lost while we tried to get the band up and rolling again. The good thing was that we became stronger because of it. Now we’re probably the strongest we’ve ever been and the line-up is probably the best Bolt Thrower has ever had.

CR: David Ingram, left for some health issues, how is he?
Jo Bench:
Apparently he’s fine. He still has a few problems but he’s doing another band and he’s getting back on his feet again. We wish him the best.

CR: You guys didn’t end relationships very well with Earache Records, and you have said at some point that they don’t have any good bands on their roster, is that still you opinion about them? And why did it all ended in a not very friendly way?
Jo Bench:
We hate Earache. They could’ve been a good label but they blew it. To be honest, I don’t want to waste my time typing about them.

CR: Bolt Thrower has always stand by, traditional death metal, nothing more, nothing less, does that concept still rules the bands every decision, or are you guys opening up to do or try different things in your music?
Jo Bench:
We’re never gonna stray too far from the path we’ve set. As long as it sounds like Bolt Thrower then we’re happy. We try the odd thing now and again, but it’s never too extreme. We make no apologies for sounding like Bolt Thrower!

CR: Jo-Anne Bench you have been a big pillar for the band, and have drowned a lot of attention by the media, being one of the first women to be part of a metal band. Did you had to work harder than the other members of the band to be recognize as a colleague?
Jo Bench:
I don’t think I have to work harder than any of the other members, we all work pretty hard, so just as hard is enough. The important thing is to remember that I’m the bassist first, and being female is secondary when it comes to the band. We’ve never promoted the fact I was female, I’ve never done solo photo sessions, or any kind of self-promotion and I think I have gained more respect because of it. I’ve been in the band for 18 years now, so it’s kind of old news…

CR: Lest go to the weird questions now (hope they are!) It is said that the band is focused or fuelled by war (when composing music). Which war was the most novel one ever fought, or the smartest one, or the coolest one, and which one the total opposite of that?
Jo Bench:
I don’t think war could be classed as smart, cool or novel.

CR: What do you think of the hippies no war ideology, what would you say to one if you had to explain the honor, valor and pride of war?
Jo Bench:
Their no war ideology doesn’t seem to reflect reality, does it?
But honor, valour and pride doesn’t have to specifically be about war, it can be about life values too. I don’t think you can teach a hippie new tricks, to be honest.

CR: What is your opinion on the Nu metal scene (Slipknot, Linking Park, Korn) should they be consider metal and play along side bands like Bolt Thrower or Iron Maiden?
Jo Bench:
It’s not my kind of music, and we don’t really have a lot in common with them. There are worse styles of music, but it’s just not for me.

Pic courtesy of: Bolt Thrower
"...that’s something I hate about a lot of these new bands, when the main focus is on the girl in the band. The media love it, it sells magazines, but it makes it harder for the female musicians who don’t want to promote themselves that way "

CR: What do you think of this new era of front women on bands and all the promotion made to make them look better than they are, do you think that could work in Bolt Thrower (after all Jo you are an attractive girl)
Jo Bench:
I’m too old for that shit! Haha… Seriously though, that’s something I hate about a lot of these new bands, when the main focus is on the girl in the band. The media love it, it sells magazines, but it makes it harder for the female musicians who don’t want to promote themselves that way. A band is a band to me, no member is more important than another, whether they’re male or female. We don’t need that kind of promotion, our music is far more important than our image.

CR: What record will you recommend to someone that wants to hear you guys for the first time?
Jo Bench:
Probably the new one - Those Once Loyal. That’s what Bolt Thrower is about in 2005. Then work backwards…

CR: Do you have any comments or a clear position on mp3 sharing software or in trading music via mp3 format with people in a non profit kind of way?
Jo Bench:
I really don’t mind about it. Sure we sell fewer records because of it, but we didn’t form the band purely to make money, we wanted people to hear our music. I don’t like bootlegs, that’s different, that’s about some asshole who doesn’t give a shit about the band trying to make some money. But file sharing really doesn’t bother me. I think it’s a good thing for music, not necessarily the industry but definitely as a way to showcase your music.

CR: Would you guys ever consider playing in Costa Rica?
Jo Bench:
We consider touring anywhere as long as the offer is fair, the promoter is professional, the venue and pa is decent, and we’re guaranteed to play to more than 50 people! If any of those is a problem then it won’t happen and that goes for any country!

CR: Thank you again for your time, and if you would like to add something more, please do.
Jo Bench:
Thanks a lot for the interview. For someone who has only recently discovered Bolt Thrower, the questions were very good!
Just want to say thanks to all the Bolt Thrower fans for your support. We plan to do a lot of touring in 2006, so hopefully we’ll be coming to somewhere near you too. Enjoy the new album!
Cheers, Jo
“In a world of compromise….. some don’t”

Design by Carlos Rodríguez