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Escape Velocity

Soul Metal Outfit Invasion On The Power Of Motown, Metallica And Magic
Mark Eglinton , August 18th, 2009 10:47

Mountain bagging Hibernian man of rock Mark Eglinton speaks to Marek Steven of lava hot soul metal trio Invasion

To many, the rather incongruous concept of Motown and metal fused together simply does not compute. Don't be telling London trio Invasion that though, because their bewildering sound is founded on a bedrock of stoner grooves and thrash riffs decorated with the soaring Motor City soul holler of Chantal Brown; who is generally found to be adorned in a brightly coloured caftan on stage. Behind it all and beneath a seething, sweaty mass of red hair sits drummer Zel Kaute, hammering hell out of her kit (when she's not drinking you and I into total oblivion that is). They're one of those bands that you hear and don't forget in hurry, and following a dream tour slot supporting The Sword, rabid responses to their own live shows in London have followed suit. Invasion release their hastily assembled debut (which took just four days to record!) The Master Alchemist in early October, so expect all hell to break loose when it lands. Guitarist, and self-confessed "proper geek" Marek Steven does all the talking, while we listen. . . .

Can you tell me a bit about how the band Invasion came to be; it's an unusual mixture of sounds, right?

Marek Steven: Well I've personally been playing this kind of stuff since about 1994 and did quite well, but I was probably wasting a bit of time if I'm honest ,and being quite lazy about it. Zel, our current drummer arrived as a result of a Gumtree advert I placed. She came along to try out and fucking nailed everything she was asked to play – a bit like John Bonham in the body of a 23 year old girl. Our current singer Chan had already been in, among other bands Do me bad things, who split up in 2006 and she was basically looking for a new heavy band to be in. We had an existing girl singer but she was becoming increasingly tricky to work with so when Chan said she could improve on what we'd been doing she joined the band in I think January of 2007.

So she brings the Motown then?

MS: Yes she does. In fact she was born in America and is related to soul singer PP Arnold so has sung all her life. She has a really distinctive voice which I think really complements our heaviness.

You don't have a bass player— was that an intentional decision to be 'stripped-down'?

MS: Not initially because our development was quite slow but when a bass player leaves it's no bad thing sometimes to limit yourself by not getting another one. I suppose we have been subconsciously influenced by stripped-down bands like say Lightning Bolt and we thought “Fuck it, if they can survive doing it, surely we can too.” Part of me would like to have a bass player in the band and I'm sure it's something we'll look at again in the future.

How do you find being the only guy in the band?

MS: It's always fun being in bands with other guys but it can sometimes get a bit competitive. Three is actually a good number for making decisions and works fine but I would say that we'd be one of the moodier bands around - and you can definitely include me in that. [laughs] It's certainly not a gender issue though and I'd actually say that I'm really proud of our status as a heavy band with females in the line-up— Zel, for example, is a complete party girl to the point that she'd drink the average metal guy under the table, and probably beat them up too.

You quote so many influences; what genre would you say is at the core of your sound?

MS: Basically our aim is to go out there and be as heavy as humanly possible while trying to keep the songs reasonably short; which itself is maybe a little unusual within our genre. Personally I love thrash albums like Metallica's ...And justice for all as well as stoner rock like Kyuss and Monster Magnet. Stylistically I have basically spent my entire life trying to rip-off Josh Homme, which I accept isn't that hard a thing to do, but he was a major influence. I had an epiphany when I heard Blues for the Red Sun and from that point on his style was the one I wanted to mould myself on. Zel is more into some contemporary metal and really technical drumming, but she also likes a bit of dance music too. Chan has the Motown head and really understands the art of singing, but also loves heavy music like the rest of us – Sabbath etc.

Do you listen to a lot of current metal then?

MS: I've listened to a fair bit of current stuff and I get depressed by the amount of crap metal that's out there just now. Killswitch Engage and the whole metalcore thing has been absolutely done and although everyone is saying that Mastodon's album is the best album ever; it isn't even THEIR best record! At least they are trying to take that style of music in a good direction though but to me the vocals still suck. We're still pretty slow here to pick up on metal though.

Do you find the song-writing process relatively easy?

MS: We certainly don't rehearse enough because we're pretty lazy on that front. We tend to rely on playing live instead. As far as writing songs go I prefer to not give the process too much thought and just let it come from the gut— I think you get better results that way. Songs pretty much come by having just one riff and maybe a drum pattern and then develops from there. After we have that much, Chan writes the lyrics and comes up with most of the song titles.

Do you all share a fascination with acts of Wizardry then?

MS: Yeah we're all into that stuff. For me personally it's something I've always been fascinated with. My older brother used to play a lot of early Judas Priest stuff and that got me interested in the whole Dungeons & Dragons thing.

Isn't that quite geeky?

MS: Maybe but then again I have until recently been a proper geek. [laughs] The only reason I'm not any more is because the things that made me a geek have strangely become cool again. Things like fantasy and wizards and all that. I do think that fantasy is a key part of metal and rock and I think that connection has always been a pretty important one for me. Playing fantasy games also had a social element to it in that you did it with your mates and in some ways it's a bit like being in a band.

Do people still play these games?

MS: I haven't played for a while and I'm sure that nowadays it can all be done on a computer game but fantasy games will always be popular.

Fellow magic lovers The Sword would be an ideal band to tour with then. How did that support slot become available?

MS: It came about purely because we were on the agency at the time but it worked great because a lot of their influences are the same as ours. They also take pretty much the same attitude to their music do in that they play pretty much whatever they want. All in all it was a dream come true for us and they were really cool and bright guys.

Did they have any Metallica stories to tell you?

MS: It seems that Lars totally took them under his wing in a way that only he could. They told us Lars once said [adopts Lars's voice] 'You guys can just come on tour with us for as long as you like want”. I got the impression he was a little controlling and he did mad things like suddenly decide they were all going to a strip-club in Camden at 3 o'clock in the morning even though The Sword guys had to leave town the next day. James Hetfield kept himself to himself though apparently and I'm pretty sure that despite Lars's offer, The Sword were pretty relieved when their tour with Metallica came to an end!”

You have an album on the way?

MS: First of all we have a headline show at The Underworld in Camden on the 26th of August which will be totally amazing. Then our album The Master Alchemist will come out on October 4th. It took four days to do and it's basically a glimpse of exactly where we were on those four days! We're keen to do some more new stuff too and the intention is for it to be even more 'true metal' with some seriously chuggy riffs. But for now I'm just really proud of the fact that we're doing what we want to do.