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So, how do you like your metal? Fast and aggressive? Mixed with a bit of electronics? Comparable to a bukkake contest? Meet Needleye. Since formation in 1998, the London-based industrial metal outfit has been scoring accolades in the UK scene and gaining a reputation for explosive live shows. Currently recording their first full-length release, vocalist Duncan, drummer Jair and guitarists James and Dr Fletch discuss the road to metal success -- and why they can't seem to win over the Portuguese...

Rock Star Journalism: Your music has been described as a combination of genres, including industrial, metal, techno and gothic. How would you describe Needleye to someone who has never heard the band?

Duncan: Gothic? Shit! I don't understand that one. Oh well. In a word: "Metal." In a phrase: "Pure aggression that will take your face off." In an advertising slogan: "Metal with a twist of Lime." Oh yes, and gothic? As long as you like your goth at 180bpm with lots of shouting and double-kick drums.

Dr Fletch: It is an uncompromising assault on your senses, full-on and unstoppable. A bit like a bukkake contest.

James: Heavy as fuck. Descriptions never really seem to do the music justice, so I just tell people to come and see us play.

Jair: Ambient industrial with heavy riffs, technical drumming, with heavy metal influences.

RSJ: Do you find that people often attempt to pigeonhole you into one category or another? What's the most frustrating thing about being attached to any of these scenes?

Duncan: Being described as Gothic! Nah, seriously, I would say that any band needs to be at least loosely pigeonholed in order to be marketed by a label and placed on the right gigs. I find it more amusing than frustrating as most people who review the band end up with a description which uses two or three pigeonholing names. Maybe we should come up with a new pigeonhole just for us.

Dr Fletch: We are one of a kind, the problem with being pigeonholed is a group of people will write you off without hearing you, so you miss out on people hearing your stuff.

James: Where the Gothic tag comes from, God knows. We've always maintained we're a metal band, but for some reason certain people seem determined to squish our rather ugly collective shape into a lovely smooth hole. The potential for disaster is quite high because we can often end up on the wrong type of bills, but normally we manage to win the crowd over regardless of their tastes.

Jair: Yes, we get pigeonholed, but as we tend to play with a variety of musically different bands, people get to see who we really are anyway so it doesn't really matter to me.

RSJ: You've been through several changes, both to your sound and the line-up. How do you think your music has evolved since the MachineFedMalory demo?

Duncan: Christ, there's a question! The music has changed almost as much as the band. The original demo was a solo recording project which I did mainly to see what I could churn out when locked in a room by myself. The original idea behind Needleye was to create something which used metal guitars and vocals, but still relied heavily on sampling and sequencing -- something similar to Misery Loves Co and Nailbomb but with the desire to take it further. The material now is a lot heavier and a lot more band orientated. Our tracks still use a drum machine, but they are written now so that Jair can add his own parts on top, as if we had two drummers. The material now is written to use the strengths of the band, as opposed to the band simply reproducing the strengths of a sequencer.

James: Strangely, we seem to be heading back towards a more traditional metal sound as time goes by. It's not really a conscious decision, just a natural direction the band seems to move in. We never try to sound like a particular style; things just happen a certain way and we let them, although we would stop it from getting out of hand if yodelling or skat started making an appearance. Mongolian fertility-rites chanting is, however, perfectly acceptable.

RSJ: How would you like to see the band progress musically in the future?

Duncan: At the moment I'd simply like to see us to continue to progress as we currently are. Since the current line-up was finalized only two years ago, we've taken playing and performing to a new level. The gigs we do now are completely focused on the show.

James: We're starting to incorporate more depth and diversity within songs, especially the ways the guitars and bass play off each other and develop, which is rewarding to pull off at a show. It's important to constantly push yourself with your chosen discipline or else there's no point -- one thing I don't want is to look back and find we've made 10 albums that all sound the same.

Dr Fletch: I would like to see Needleye rule the world. I honestly believe we are one of the greatest bands around. If you can go for a week humming the songs without practicing, then there is something special there.

Jair: I would like to see a more distinctive guitar presence within the music, moving more towards a more organic sound.
RSJ: You've emphasized the importance of "intensity" in previous interviews. What does this word mean to you? Is it something that's strictly defined by the type of music you play, or does it include other aspects of being in a band?

James: It drives me fucking insane when I go to a gig and the guys are just standing there playing like zombies. It also drives me fucking insane when the band are jumping around like madmen but playing shit that's wetter than a paedophile's jockstrap. Rule 1: If you play wanky tra-la-la music, don't be intense on stage; you look shit. Rule 2: If you play fucking heavy music then you have to show what it's doing to your mind. Fucking move; make it physical.

Duncan: To me, it simply means we step out with the intention of being the best band on the bill and that we won't be pulling any punches.

Dr Fletch: I take that as when people see you play they can't take their eyes off you. That's what I do in the band -- I provide something (pretty) to look at. There's nothing worse than watching a band who just stand there.

RSJ: Since you are such a genre-crossing band, you've been able to play a wide variety of shows, from metal-oriented gigs to the industrial focused Black Celebration festival. What's been the most enjoyable show for you to play?

Dr Fletch: All of 'em because we're playing. Once you're bitten by the bug, it's impossible to resist. It is the best high ever.

James: I'm lucky enough to have lots of good memories that make it hard to choose the best. I'd have to say Black Celebration, but it only wins because it was the first time we got to play the Astoria, which is a real benchmark for us.

Duncan: In terms of venue, I would have to say the Astoria, but in terms of the actual show it would have to be supporting Breed 77 at the Underworld. The first band over-ran, which consequently meant that our set was two minutes too long -- literally. Rather than let us finish the last song and then say the set was over, our sound guy was told to cut my mic in the hope that we would stop playing. So, like any good frontman, I grabbed Jim's mic and carried on! This was then cut, as were the guitars. I looked behind me and saw that the guys were still playing with their amps nice and loud, so I thought "fuck it" and jumped into the crowd. Being in the moshpit for the end of one of our own sets was definitely one of my best memories with the band.

RSJ: On the other side, what was the most difficult live show you've played?

James: A thousand people in Portugal whose metal scene was about 10 years behind ours. They all came along in their Bon Jovi and Def Leppard T-shirts and stared at us for 45 minutes like we were shitting on stage instead of playing. 45 minutes is a long time when 1000 people are silently watching you.

Dr Fletch: I think it was the HIM fan show. I came straight from work and went on stage. Playing full on sober is hard; you need to have a couple of beers to relax and get into what you're playing. I'm not advocating becoming an alcoholic, but I need a couple to get in the mood. Playing stone cold sober, you tend to think about what you're doing a lot more, and that's when you fuck up because you overcompensate. You need to go onto autopilot and go with the flow...I sound like a surfer...Dude.

RSJ: How did the actual performance at the HIM party go? That seems like it would be a slightly different crowd than what you might be used to.

James: Good -- we thought the crowd might be an issue, but they turned out to be up for anything pretty much, except the fisting. They didn't like the fisting.

RSJ: What type of crowd do you get the best reaction from?

Dr Fletch: Anyone and everyone. It doesn't seem to matter; they all tend to love us in the end.

James: Anyone not Portuguese.

RSJ: You've mentioned the importance of imagery to how a band presents itself. How would you say your visual presentation complements your music?

Dr Fletch: I think these go hand in hand -- we look good, we sound good, I am good! (Laughing)

RSJ: Duncan, you once referred to having an alter ego while on stage. How would you say your on-stage persona differs from the norm?

Dr Fletch: He's nice on stage.

Duncan: I shout a bit less during the day. All I meant when I said this was that the moment we get on stage we operate as a solid unit. We play each show as if it were our last and give it everything we've got. We're not naive enough to think everyone is going to like what we do, but love us or loathe us, we want you to go home knowing who you've just seen and feeling like you've just been bludgeoned round the head.

RSJ: Having been a band since 1998, why haven't you yet released a full-length recording?

Duncan: The idea of Needleye has indeed been around for a few years, but it's only now that I think we are ready to commit to the first Needleye album. The sound and line-up has been a constantly evolving thing, always trying to find the right balance. Needleye now is a fully-fledged, experienced band, and the sets we have now are the first to really capture the idea behind Needleye.

James: It's been really hard trying to faithfully record our sound and feel. We'll get there eventually.

RSJ: When do you foresee the next release from Needleye?

James: 2032

Duncan: If we told you that we'd have to kill you. Seriously, all going well we should have the finished album in a few months.

RSJ: Since most of the positive feedback you've received has been due to your live shows, would a live album be of interest to you? Do you think something like that would be more representative of what you do than your studio work?

Dr Fletch: No, a studio album will come over better. The live feed from a mixing desk is ok for fans, but it is unlikely to win over many new supporters.


RSJ: Over the past few years, bands like Dillinger Escape Plan have made the use of electronics more prevalent in the US hardcore scene. Is this something you've noticed in the UK scene as well?

Dr Fletch: Not really, they either use it as a crutch or it sounds like really crap Prodigy samples, not that I'm saying The Prodigy is crap. We use it in a different way.

RSJ: Are you interested in finding US distribution or playing shows in the States?

Duncan: Definitely. I've always wanted to play Niagara Falls and if I get my way we'll be doing album signings in all the KFC outlets across America.

RSJ: What have you found to be the best way to promote the band?

Jair: Playing bigger shows means more people to convert.

James: Hanging around outside schools in a dodgy mac, flyers folded like little wraps. Goes down a storm with the PTA.

RSJ: I saw that you've got some interesting t-shirts on your site. Who came up with the Cunt design?

Duncan: That's a stroke of genius that one! It was a collective effort between myself, our manager and our very good mate Neil Hester of Downcast and The Sepia. It's amazing what you can come up with when drunk in Soho.

Dr Fletch: We have 6000 monkeys chained to desks and they do the designs. That design was drawn by an orangutan called Cyril. However, when the design was finished he stuck his head up a chimp's ass and subsequently had to be put down. We ate like kings that night.

RSJ: Finally, what would need to occur for you to feel that Needleye is a success?

Jair: To play music until our arms and legs fall off.

Dr Fletch: People need to give us a chance. We are the nicest people you could meet; we will talk to you, get pissed with you, then you can join the Needleye family. Why support a band that doesn't care, when we have more than enough love for everyone!

Duncan: I've already heard people say we are among their favourite bands, and I've even seen other bands site Needleye as one of their influences, so after that, God knows! I guess the final thing would be driving along the road in my own Batmobile whilst Commissioner Gordon shines the Needleye logo high in the sky.

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