This interview with guitarist Gavin Ward of Bolt Thrower was done face to face by Boris Van Berlo on May 3rd, 2006.

Bolt Thrower should not need any special introduction. Being one of the godfathers of death metal, they celebrate their 20 years of existence with a killer new album and a huge European tour. Tartarean Desire caught up with the friendly lads just before their final show on the second leg of the ‘Those Once Loyal’ Euro-tour.

In the last few months we were able to see Bolt Thrower live two times. So we got spoiled. How come the two legs of the tour followed each other up so closely? Or what were the reasons you divided them up?
We just thought that after a four year break it might be quite hard to do sixty dates straight with no days off. The only days off were going to be travel days, so we thought it would be best to split it into two phases. Which as it happened, at the end of phase one we could have rolled straight in, but it was already being booked at a later date, because we didn’t know how the first thirty would be.

There is also a difference between the locations on the second leg. Scandinavia is only covered in the second leg.
Yeah, we haven’t played Sweden or Denmark for twelve years, and in Norway and Finland we never played before, so we wanted to look for them territories. We never played in Spain or Portugal before either, quite a few countries. Same as we did in the first tour we did Croatia and Italy what we haven’t done before. Yeah, we are looking for some new territories. Our first tour was pretty much our A tour while this is more of a B tour while looking at new territories.

Our editor was very pleased that you visited Sweden again!
Yeah yeah. I think we did five gigs in Sweden, two in Finland, Inferno Fest in Norway which was good, and Denmark.

And how was the experience over there…
…well, good…

…because I recall some stories from long ago…
There was a dull one off that we did, which wasn’t such a clever one (laughs). But other than that Scandinavia was always pretty good. Sweden overall was probably averaging to pretty good. Finland was exceptionally good in Helsinki, and Norway’s Inferno Fest was a killer too. We’ve never been to Norway so we were looking forward to that.

Can we expect a different set-list in the countries you play again this second leg?
No, it will be quite a similar set. We shuffled a few songs, nothing to serious. It’s technically the same tour just split into two parts, so…

And is it hard for you to pick out songs for a set considering your large back catalogue?
Yeah it is, exactly because of that. When we will play the Rock Hard festival in June we’ll probably vary the set again a bit. It’s always hard to pick cause people still want to hear the old material as well of course. We still want to play old material and work some of the old stuff out and will vary the set.

You already mentioned that you split the tour into two because you did not know how the impact of a long tour would be?
Well the impact on people as they are getting older (laughs). Of course, you could have played 60 dates and you could have been well washed out, or it could be after 15 gigs. You just don’t know.

I thought that maybe jobs or other obligations were the reason.
No, it was more a split, you just don’t know how you’re going to react on the first 30 gigs. We haven’t been out for a long period of time and 60 days is a lot. A lot of travelling so you don’t have real days off on tour, and sixty dates straight on would be quite hard.

Am I mistaken if I assume that some of the band members have regular jobs next to Bolt Thrower? Is picking up holidays an issue?
Some do now and again, some just pick up jobs and lose jobs or are unemployed. It’s probably not that easy cause there are still families and kids to think of for some of the members.

Finding a support band for this leg was quite a hassle. Is there anything to tell about that?
Not really, it just didn’t work out. I think Gorefest probably wanted a bit too much for the position they were going to get. Kataklysm had come on just to sort of fill the gap, then God Dethroned came back on cause we started with God Dethroned. It’s been more varied than in January with the first tour, where we took out a straight package with four bands rolling. This time we did have a shuffle main support and we did use more local bands from the areas which I think is positive.

I read on the website that this was done intentionally to support the local scenes.
Of course. On most tours like this they would have to buy on, which they didn’t have to do now.

To end up all the touring issues, I was wondering if you are planning to do any festivals this summer?
We got offered them all but we are only playing Rock Hard this summer.

And is this deliberately?
Yeah, just one.

A question about the way Bolt Thrower writes and releases new albums. There were always breaks or pauses of a few years between the albums…
…It takes time to get the album right. We’ve had the album roughly after two years but didn’t think it was good enough. We re-wrote until the third year and then about four months to record it and with pre-production it just turned into four years. We’ve had a four year gap before. We are not going to release it until we think it’s ready and we think its good enough! We could fire out one a year because we got no restrictions on when to record, close or long, it just got to be right.

There will always be fans complaining, but on the other hand it makes the anticipation for a new album and tour even a bigger thing to look forward to.
Yeah, in some ways, but it has more to do that it’s got to be right. We’ve got to be happy with it and think its right for us to do and it takes a lot of re-writing. For that last album we had 25 songs, we actually had to much material so you got to sort of filter that down into the 10 best songs.

For ‘Those Once Loyal’ you teamed up again with Karl Willetts, the original singer.
We teamed up just a bit before ‘Those Once Loyal’ and went in and recorded ‘Honour Valour Pride’ again with his vocals, just to test Karl out and so it seamed to work pretty good and then Karl re-joined.

And standing back on stage with him, how does that feel?
It feels the best, like it was always.

Does everyone feel ten years younger again?
Well it feels good. Dave’s band supported us in Denmark (David Ingram, ex-Benediction and vocals on ‘Honour Valour Pride - BVB), Dave’s new band, so that was good too. Haven’t seen him in a while.

Some critics would say that every Bolt Thrower album sounds the same. Do you have any opinion on recognisable band-sounds or experimenting in general?
We experiment but a lot of people don’t hear the experimentations. They hear exactly what we put out. If something is not right we just don’t use it pretty much even if people came up with it and you’ve heard it. So we do experiment but we are still looking into perfectioning our own sound. As far as the critics care, who cares about them? It wasn’t really about them. It was the style that we wanted to play and the music we wanted to play. Hopefully other people like it too.

I agree: you are experimenting in your own way. Experimentation is something that has different meanings for different people.
As you’re still perfectioning one sound you are still looking for the ultimate album. Maybe you’ve had it, maybe you haven’t? We’ll find it out at a later date.

The ever so famous Bolt-Thrower intro melody from ‘Cenotaph’, you use it in various songs and on various albums. Is there a special idea behind it?
They are all linked together. They are all interlinked in one song and sometimes we lock them in live, and sometimes we don’t. Right now we’ve locked in the start of ‘World Eater’ into ‘Cenotaph’, ‘Cenotaph’ into ‘The Killchain’, ‘Killchain’ into ‘Powder Burns’. And ‘Embers’ is locked in too. So it is all bound.

And is it mainly musically bound?
Just knowing that it will carry on if it rolls in through some albums.

Another thing I noticed is a numerical reference on you albums like the obvious ‘The IVth Crusade’ on your forth album, or ‘A Symbol of Eight’ as the bonus track on ‘Those Once Loyal’, album number 8. Checking backwards there is also ‘7th Offensive’, ‘Sixth Chapter’…
…obviously in ‘For Victory’, V is number 5 in roman numerals.

… he he he… I wanted to ask you why it is not on every album. But like you mentioned the V for 5… I missed that one...
… (laughs) that’s what a lot of people do. It’s just tagging the numbers, not really a joke just numerals.

Is there someone in the band who has something with numbers or combinations of numbers? Like tomorrow May 4th at 01:02h and 3 seconds you will have on an alarm clock.
No, not like that. We just want to have a number within it.

War is a returning element in the music, concept and artwork of Bolt-Thrower. So I was wondering if you have time on tour to visit some historical or symbolic war-related sites? Because now here in Flanders you are not that far away from some World War I key sites.
Sometimes in some places but not a lot. Right now we probably have a quite skeleton crew on the road. There is a lot more to do per person anyway. We go on our time off but the days meant to be days off are travelling days. Sometimes you’re not stopping, or you stop in the middle of somewhere just to eat a taco or a curry. Sometimes it locks down to what you are doing.

Finishing up the interview I wanted to ask you what the future plans are for the band?
Next half a year we expect to tour some more, maybe America or South America. We’ve been offered so much gigs now in so many countries. We’ll just see what works well for us but we see this year as really a touring year. That’s why we split this into two phases so we could visit a few more places on the tour this year and then next year maybe start writing again and see how long that takes.

Do you get bugged by the label or someone else to release a live album or a DVD?
Well they want everything but they don’t get anything. We’ve got the choice if we want to bring it out or not.

Is a DVD something you would want to do?
Well of course, you want to do every format some day. A DVD would be nice into the future cause we’ve got so much footage over the years but a lot of the times you just don’t allow DVD’s to go out, or live footage. We’ll just see if it’s good enough.

I’ll leave you the opportunity to send out any last words if you want for your fans and our readers.
To our fans: Thanks for your support over the years. To the readers: Hello and thank you for the interview.

You’re welcome, thank you.
No problem.

Links of interest:

Bolt Thrower
Metal Blade Records