When spilling the beans about their critically acclaimed second album London (Candlelight), Voices guitarist Sam Loynes walked Ghost Cult through his own metal journey, and then onto how Voices was spawned from the ashes of the empire that was Akercocke…
Where did the journey to Voices and current album London start from?
The band that got me into heavy metal, the band that got me to being a long-haired teenage twat smoking draw way too young was Metallica. No two ways about that. Metallica and Megadeth. I remember when I first heard ‘Blackened’ and ‘One’, at the time it was as extreme as anything I’d ever heard! In the same way that a few years later when I heard Akercocke and thought “This is the most extreme thing ever”, so ‘One’ did that for me then. After that, Master of Puppets is the most important record in my heavy metal upbringing prior to going into left-field stuff, then definitely Emperor and Death as the gateway, the ones that got me into extreme music and what I then went into.
I can hear a fair bit of Schuldiner in your riffs – the off time, the note patterns and structures…
That’s awesome man, thank you. Death are as close to an acute influence on my playing and Dave (Gray – drums)’s playing as it gets. There are other choice bands we try to emulate but without copying or assuming we can get anywhere near creating songs those guys did.
Have you heard the new Napalm (Death)? The fucking sound of that new Napalm is amazing. Have you seen them live before? I don’t know what it is, but they just blow everyone else off stage when it comes to extremity, and I was trying to realize what it was, to tap into it, and it’s fucking conviction. They play a headline show with a bunch of other bands supporting them, younger bands, and they may be technically better, or they may be faster, or whatever, but it just doesn’t come across. Soon as you hear Napalm Daeth, the punk rock influence elevates it to an unrivalled level of extremity. Totally unrivalled. There’s only a few others, perhaps, maybe Converge can do it, but fucking Napalm Death live is the best thing ever. Oh, mate, you must check them out.
Coming on from your influences, you joined your current band mates Dave Gray and Pete Benjamin in Akercocke as their line up changed. First up, I’ve heard many different pronunciations of the “old band”, so, horse’s mouth, what is it…?
Ack – er – cock – err is how we pronounced it in the band
It’s an association that will always exist for Voices, but does the retained interest in Akercocke continue to surprise you?
I’m just a fan of the band. I was lucky enough to play with them in their last wave, though I’d known them for a number of years, but I was just a fan of the band like everyone else. But the legacy, the fact that people hark back to the Akercocke and say our sound is reminiscent of it sometimes, is all complimentary to me. They’re still an influence on me, particularly Jason’s playing and singing, so I only see the association as a positive thing, but we take that legacy and are looking to move forward with Voices. We are trying to establish ourselves with our own identity, which is happening.
So, what happened with the transition to Voices, and the unwinding of Akercocke?
Unwinding is the right word, the best way to describe it. There wasn’t any specific moment or thing that led to it. Myself, Dave and Pete wanted to continue jamming whilst Jason (Mendonca – guitars/vocals) was in a position where, well, life took over. It got to the stage where we were trying to meet up weekly (with Jason) and it wasn’t happening, so we thought “While we’re here, let’s get some music together”. There was no intention to bring it into a band scenario, but between the three of us, some songs started to form. We realized it had serious legs to it and we wanted to pursue it while seeing if Akercocke would continue, because we didn’t know what would happen there because Akercocke is Jason’s thing.
What we were doing, organically became songs and then within a couple of months a whole album. It happened like that, quick but naturally and organically. There was a general idea to do something more minimal and primal, moving away from the progressive metal that Akercocke was steeped within. We wanted to strip it back and do a cold, harsh black metal band, but at the same time, not shy away from the disposition that Ak always had of doing something a little punky, a little avant-garde, and being open minded, while stripping it back from the complexities that Akercocke pursued.
We were definitely comfortable having played with each other for a number of years and in the same rehearsal space, but it wasn’t like we were looking to do material that would be the next Akercocke, because obviously Jason’s the man when it comes to Ak. So it was “let’s do something a bit different and see where it goes from there”. There was no attempt to re-do Akercocke, and there’s no way we could have done that as they were such an idiosyncratic band, but we have a musical language and understanding between us, which was why it was so fruitious in the early stages.
Do you think Akercocke is an entity that will be revisited?
I don’t have the authority to say one way or the other, but you just never know. Jason’s still a great musician who loves to play, Dave still loves to play, so it all depends on life and if it’s something they want to revisit, or just leave it with the legacy it has. I say, never say never, but right now, Voices is what’s happening and it seems unlikely Ak is going to return anytime soon. But like most other people, I’m saying fingers crossed for some point.
Words by STEVE TOVEY