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Escape Velocity

Sheffield's Black Spiders Eat Thunder And Shit Lightning
Mark Eglinton , May 28th, 2009 12:45

Quietus rock mobster Mark Eglinton speaks to steel city rock marauders Black Spiders. Photo: Steve Gullick

With large and rather nasty riffs and the sort of swagger usually exhibited by dogs with twin cocks; Sheffield’s Black Spiders certainly live up to their unofficial motto of ‘Eat thunder, shit lightning’. Melded from the molten remnants of Groop Dogdrill among others, their triple-pronged guitar front summons images of epic, boys- own adventure while at the same time crudely tap-dancing on your testicles. A recent European tour slot supporting Aussie rockers Airbourne, served ample notice that the advance of the Black Spiders is simply inexorable. Singer, guitarist and band talisman Peter Spiby puts us right.

Hi Peter, It would be fair to say that classic rock has undergone something of a rebirth of late. I take it you guys very much endorse all that then?
Pete Spiby: “I suppose so but British music generally moves so fast from one genre to the next that something like classic rock always seems to get lost. That meant that it became almost ironic to like it, then after that it was post-ironic and so on ... The Black Sabbath and Cathedral influences are there no doubt, but there have always been loads of American bands out there doing classic rock stuff, and the stoner rock movement meant there were more still. In all honesty The Darkness killed the movement off for a while in this country because it just became too much of a joke."

Because they satirised it all?
PS: “Yes exactly, I was never really sure who they were doing it all for either but they were certainly very good at what they did. You couldn’t compare them to Spinal Tap either because with them it was all completely dead-pan; but as soon as they ( The Darkness) started supporting people like Robbie Williams it was obvious that they were becoming successful and in fact they turned a lot of people back on to bands like Queen and AC/DC. I am glad we didn’t come out at the same time though as people would have been asking where all the comedy was. We prefer a bit of subtlety; we like a laugh for sure but not as a gimmick and the music always comes first”.

You personally have spread yourself quite thin musically over the years. Is Black Spiders the focus from now on?
PS: ”I suppose that’s true. With Groop Dogdrill, things came to a fairly natural end. We had a few unfortunate problems which meant that in 1999/2000 we were basically on our own with no management or label behind us. We also spent a lot of time looking for the right drummer too, which took almost eight months. On a wider scale, nu-metal had arrived and we didn’t really fit in to that so in all it was a logical time to move on. So yes, Black Spiders is the total focus. It has been eight years since Dogdrill now and I have been detoured a little in my role as a manager and a musician so it’s good to be focusing on just one band musically."

What motivated the formation of the band? I‘d heard it was originally a tribute to the passing of a friend, right?
PS: ”More the passing of youth actually.[laughs] It was actually for ‘Boz’ the roadie for Groop Dogdrill. We got together with his better half with a view to playing some of his favourite songs and we all enjoyed it so much because it felt good to just play rock songs. As it happened, some of the band members were involved in projects at that time which maybe lacked a little direction so the timing was good in that respect. It was very hard to find the right bass player too and in fact for our first gig in Doncaster we didn’t have one at all. So yes, it started as a project but turned into something else. In many ways my own momentum carries the rest of the band and my experience and guidance is necessary to advance the cause of Black Spiders."

Going out on tour with Airbourne was great publicity surely? How did that umm...take off?
PS: “It helps that we got a manager and an agent to get us that support slot and all we wanted to do was steal as many hearts and minds as possible. If I remember correctly it was either us or Sons of Albion who were up for it but they pulled out. Then I looked at the costs, and then my bank balance and we decided to do it. The publicity and the opportunity to build some band momentum was too good to turn down."

I guess you would have done it for free though?
PS: ”Probably.[laughs] We couldn’t ignore the fact that we would get the chance to play to up to 1,200 or so people every show. We turned up for our first show in Strasbourg in front of 900 people and that was such an amazing start, even though the drives between each show were totally hellish. Airbourne as a band are amazing to work with too. Their AC/DC comparisons are what everyone has heard about but generally they are big fans of rock music. Their lead singer Joel is born to be in a band and frankly their stuff is as good as anything AC/DC have done since maybe Back in Black. Not just that, they have done loads of touring and are extremely professional. The fact that they had a stage set up in their house since they were kids probably helps too. As a result of all of this, they have gone down well in the States and that makes a huge difference.”

The new EP is due out soon, do you have more material on the way too?
PS: ”We’ve basically been recording for around eight months now and have demos for about twelve songs which could in theory contribute towards an album. The EP is due out on June 22nd and will consist of 4 tracks, of which a couple would have gone on an album. We sacrificed them in the end to make the EP as good as it can be but it’s not an issue because we have lots of new stuff coming anyway. I think what’s in our favour is that we are not a bunch of twenty two year olds, we’re mature and have all been doing this for a long time. I think in many ways that makes us attractive to labels and there are already a few who really like what we’re doing. Combine that with the fact that we have a slot at Download coming and the potential of some airplay from the 'St Peter' video, and things are moving in the right direction”

You sound remarkably laid back about all this sir!?
PS: [laughs]"I suppose I just don’t want to get ahead of myself and I want to enjoy it.”

Is that a new concept?
PS: “I suppose it is in a way. The old days were really frustrating at times. I have seen a lot of changes too as a result of being involved in management and there is such a heavy saturation of bands out there. Not just that, a lot of them feel the need to give the fans something for free. Some people will inevitably be of the opinion though that if it’s for free it isn’t any good. We prefer the physical side of things and that’s why 'St Peter' was released on the traditional 7 inch single format. We also want our album, when it does come out to have a lot of genuine depth as a rock record. We also would like to retain a kind of air of mystery in that people take different things out of what we do.”

That’s good because I hear a lot of ZZ Top, and by that I mean early ZZ Top, not ‘Sharp Dressed Man‘, before you get the wrong idea...
PS: [Laughs]"I know what you mean and I am glad you mentioned that one because it hasn’t been mentioned but it’s certainly there. I really want people to find different influences in there. When people think of Black Sabbath, they think ‘riffs’, but we don’t want to limit our sphere of influence to just that. Our overall direction is forwards and outwards and an encouraging thing is that we are dividing critics as to what they hear in our sound.”

Sound is one thing, lyrics are another; there seems to be an almost theological leaning on some of your ideas. Is that intentional?
PS: “Our take on theology is intended to be a humorous one. Also there are a lot of sexual overtones in there too, dressed up as something else. We try to do it in a way where there is a lot of double-entendre. We also like the old Hammer Horror films as well as mythical characters like Thor and that’s all part of our inspiration.”

You mentioned earlier you had quite a strict Catholic upbringing which you ultimately resisted, do you think that’s why these themes have appeared now?
PS: “You know I had never considered that, but I actually think that you may be right there. I don’t think it’s been a conscious thing though, maybe just something in the background. Lyrics themselves can evolve in different ways; either straight away or at the last minute. Mostly though there is a theme and it just needs built on. With 'St Peter' I had been listening to a lot of American folk music and other stuff at the earliest origins of the blues. My partner is also a big fan of 1940s swing music and she dances to that stuff, so maybe that came out in the sound too.”

The manic laughter you hear in ‘St Peter’ has an Ozzy feel to it though doesn’t it?
PS:” yeah it does I know but it honestly wasn’t intentional. That actually came about when we were rehearsing the song and our drummer totally missed his timing and I laughed. When we heard it, we liked it and left it in the final version. The other tracks on the EP have a bit of a spiritual theme to them too ('Undertaker' and 'I’ll Be The Judge' for example) and overall it ties together really well we think. They always say that rock & roll is the devil's music, but I’m not convinced that’s true.”

What else do you listen to of an evening?
PS: ”Hmm...loads of different stuff actually. Guns n'Roses lately...”

Surely not the new stuff?
PS: “Yes actually, it’s not too bad really, although it’s incredibly glossy with maybe too much emphasis on the epic stuff of the past. I’ve also been catching up on a lot of Pearl Jam and listening to newer stuff like Gallows and White Denim. I’ve heard quite a bit of what I would call lifestyle bands, particularly American rock acts. It seems in those cases that there is a huge difference between being talented and being ambitious. Being just talented doesn’t guarantee success these days; the ruthlessly ambitious people seem to get an even better reception.”

To check out music by Black Spiders visit their myspace page.