They’re creepy and they’re kooky mysterious and spooky. Nope let’s not go down that route even if their world is a little on the strange and horrific side. Bloody Hammers consist of Anders Magna and Devallia who pass their time making dark, gothic doom music, watching horror films and as we discover constructing ouija boards in their spare time. Obviously they attracted kindred spirits as much to their own surprise they have no shortage of fans. We had a pow-wow about their world and found out all sorts of interesting facts.
Greetings and congratulations on your recent album and new EP, before we dip into these let’s head back into your past as musicians
AN: Prior to the band I believe Anders had some success with a self-named project as well as being involved in bands such as The Traumatics and The Dogwoods. Tell us a bit about how you started out and what styles of music you were playing and developing at the time?
I grew up in High Point, NC and back then in my teens, I was mostly in cover bands. It was difficult to find people who wanted to play or write original music. Most of the clubs around there in the late 80s, early 90s only wanted cover bands. So we played Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Bauhaus and stuff like that. It was fun, but I wanted to write songs, so I moved on eventually. After several tries with multiple bands, I gave up. For several years I wrote songs, but wasn’t really interested in getting in a band situation again.
I couldn’t afford expensive gear or recording equipment but I bought a PC in the mid/late 90s that came with a free install of Cakewalk, which is now known as Sonar. I found some free synth VSTs and learned how to record at home. I was no great recording engineer, but I knew enough to get the songs into some decent, listenable form.
I didn’t have any physical gear. No guitars, synths, drums, nothing physical. Everything was free VSTs. By 2004 I self-released an album called “One Up for the Dying” online, all of which was done in my living room on a shitty Compaq PC. It crashed constantly in the process. I used the mic on my home video camera to record the vocals. I mean, I had no proper equipment haha.
Anyway, I didn’t do CDs or anything, I just put it online digitally. Suddenly it really caught on by itself with goth Djs and fans of classic dark wave. It was being played all over the world at goth clubs. There was such a demand that I had to get CDs made. This was before vinyl made a comeback. I guess it was dancy enough to work in a club. To me, I was just doing something for fun that was classic Gary Numan inspired, but the goth scene really took me under their wing back then.
We were invited to play at goth clubs and festivals so I found some proper musicians, including Devallia on synths/keys (in 2005 which is also the year we were married) and we went out and played places like Bar Sinister in Los Angeles, Dracula’s Ball in Philadelphia… some other festivals, etc. We were invited to play ‘Whitby Goth Weekend’ over on your side of the pond, but sadly couldn’t afford the trip.
A massive TV show in the USA called ‘Vampire Diaries’ contacted wanting to use one of my songs on the show, which was great exposure. However, by 2007-2008 the financial crash happened. This affected everything. Many of the goth clubs/nights closed, and honestly I was getting a little tired of electronic music. I never really liked EBM much, and that was what the clubs wanted. My taste in electronic music was more like I said, Gary Numan, Tangerine Dream, John Carpenter, Goblin, and Devallia really turned me on to Coil… stuff like that. I missed heavy fuzz guitars and the power of hard rock/metal. My final ‘Anders Manga’ album was 2009 and was released in Germany only via Danse Macabre Records.
I went away for a few years and in the meantime, slowly started buying equipment for my house to record rock music. Guitars, amps, proper mics, etc. – Around 2011, I started writing and recording what was to become the 1st Bloody Hammers album in a hot finished room over my garage.
AN: Same question to Devallia, were you in any other bands prior to the formation of Bloody Hammers? Tell us a little bit about your musical upbringing please?
Devallia: As a small child I liked to ‘play’ my grandmother’s piano, much to her dismay. A few years later I got a Casio sampling keyboard as a gift from my father. I never had the opportunity as a child to take proper lessons, but became familiar with all the keys and learned how to play some songs. In my teenage years, I bought an old Les Paul recording bass with a crack in the neck from my uncle’s pawn shop for $60, because it was all I could afford at the time. My cracked bass and I spent a brief time in a garage band, but for various reasons, I did not continue. When Anders and I first met many years later, I did not tell him about any of this, because I did not consider it relevant to what he was doing musically at the time. When he eventually found out, he bought me a bass and a keyboard, and encouraged me to get back into playing music.
AN: So Bloody Hammers formed around 2012 I believe. First thing that intrigues is the name, it’s a little graphic and on seeing it one might think you were a grindcore band likely to play with the likes of Nails (bad pun, sorry). However on listening to you I get the sense that this hammer is wielded by an evil clown and is rubber and it does fit in with the somewhat mischievous nature the band exudes. Care to discuss?
Well I had all the songs recorded and done that were on the 1st Bloody Hammers album, but I didn’t have a band name or any idea what I was going to do with them. Devallia and I kicked around several terrible names until one day, we were driving along listening to Roky Erickson. His song, ‘Bloody Hammer’ came on and I thought… “hey how about that?”. It wasn’t a big deal to me, I just wanted to call it something and get it up on bandcamp. I never thought it would go anywhere really.
Devallia shot some pics of her friend wearing this demonic mask we bought from our friend Christopher Lee from http://screwbiter.net . I was looking through the shots and thought, well this is clearly the album cover haha. So we used Devallia’s pic, called it Bloody Hammers and went about our day.
I sometimes regret the name because many people do assume it’s some death metal band. However there is a side of me who enjoys being a little confusing.
AN: With your first couple of albums you were immediately signed by Soulseller Records which for an outsider looking in seems a dream come true. It must have been a much harder slog though leading up to this but how did this come about, hard work sending tracks around, luck, or did you put a spell on them?
We didn’t do anything, I was past the age of trying to be a rock star. I just wanted to write songs for my own amusement. I figured we were done with the project once we uploaded it to bandcamp. However, the next day I got an email from SoulSeller records wanting to put it out on vinyl. I thought, wow that was quick. So Jorn pressed up 300 copies and they sold out before street date. We’re about to do a 3rd pressing of that album.
AN: I guess at the time you had a bit of a Gothic Doom sort of tag that many would have placed upon you. I am assuming this spanned over from your earlier solo work. Tell us a bit about your influences and musical tastes?
My first few records that spun relentlessly on my cheap and horrible sounding Superman turntable as a tiny child were ‘Alice Cooper Goes to Hell’, ‘Black Sabbath – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ & Gary Numan’s ‘The Pleasure Principle’. I think if you put these 3 records in a blender than you probably might get some idea of what my music sounds like. I like all kinds of stuff and never understood these elitist types. I’ve known metal elitists, goth elitists, etc. It seems they’re either lying or just really narrow minded. My favorite music is the stuff I grew up with, and stuff from the past I’ve discovered later. Other than the ones I already mentioned, I love so much stuff… Sisters of Mercy, Popol Vuh, Fabio Frizzi, Slayer, The Cramps, Claudio Simonetti, Misfits, Piero Piccioni, Tom Waits, Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds … Metallica was the Led Zeppelin of my generation, and had a huge impact on me as a teenager. My first concert was the ‘And Justice for All’ tour. Mind blowing…
AN: Home is Charlotte, North Carolina I believe and I can’t get the impression out of my head of you living in some sort of Munsters like manse. Tell us a bit about your environment and how it inspires you musically. Of course many may remember the city from the film The Crow and I am sure it has a gritty underbelly going far beyond the mere macabre?
We lived in Charlotte for 10 years but for the past 4 we’ve been in the mountains of Transylvania County, NC. It’s a mountain cabin but it’s where I make all my music, with lots of help from my wife Devallia. We decorate our house with the weird stuff we make here at our home shop. We have an online store called Drab Haus http://drabhaus.com where we sell quite a bit of our woodworking décor, which we have fun with. We make Ouija Boards and all kinds of strange wall hangings.
AN: You are married, how does this work when it comes to composing the music and forming ideas. Is it a complete collaborative process and do you both contribute to the lyrics and narrative themes of the songs? I guess it could be a lot of fun putting the ideas together but do you ever find yourself disagreeing on things?
I write the songs but Devallia acts as my in house producer. She lets me know if I’ve recorded a part to the best of my ability, maybe I could have hit a note better or try a different key. She helps with mixing a lot and arranging. She helps with my lyrics, if something could be better, etc. She helps with everything from music, art, etc. Just really everything overall, but we rarely disagree because we’re so like-minded.
AN: By 2014 album Under Satan’s Sun your third you had moved label to Napalm Records and seem a perfect fit amidst the varied groups on the Austrian label. I take it this was considered quite a step up for you and probably got you wider recognition. How did this come about and were other labels considered?
They hit me up early, right after our first album. Some other labels that you’ve heard of did as well, but I felt like you said, their varied roster would be a better fit for us. They have W.A.S.P, Moonspell, Delain, Sirenia… they’re all over the place like we are. Their fans are really open-minded to all kinds of stuff.
AN: With the last album 2016 release ‘Lovely Sort Of Death’ you kind of threw a bit of a curveball at your listeners. Although still rooted in the style of doom and gothic music a much more darkwave, electronic and even synth-pop tone took over. Again citing the likes of Gary Numan and score of other artists many from the 80’s (and the UK) it kind of struck as a perfect side step from what you normally do. Did you want to basically just do something a bit different rather than see it as a complete change of direction?
I don’t think bands can shock audiences anymore, but it’s still possible to confuse them, and I’ve done my share of this haha. I didn’t do this on purpose though. I just honestly released the songs that I liked that came to me when I was writing songs.
Some fans of David Bowie would be frustrated when his next album would sound different than his others. He went from hard rock, to pop, to industrial, experimental, etc. I actually enjoyed that. I was always in suspense to where he would go. This is interesting to me. Alice Cooper has been all over the place too. This is unlike say, AC/DC where you always know what you’re going to get from album to album.
AN: I guess it also proves that you are artists who will not be pigeonholed and your fans should perhaps be prepared to expect the unexpected; would that be a fair assumption?
Yeah…. I write songs for me first, and hope our fans will follow. Most of them have enjoyed the various directions, but others just want the first album over and over again. I have to be honest as an artist and do whatever mood comes to me. This isn’t a business either, so I don’t feel financially pressured to do what the fans want over and over to keep everyone happy, like Kiss or Aerosmith.
AN: How do you think your fans and indeed critics feel about this now that you have had time to take in any feedback? Obviously it worked just fine for me as it is a musical era that I grew up amidst and fell in love with at the time but do you think there were people who simply didn’t get where you were coming from here?
Many folks in the metal community, including writers for big metal magazines and websites have told me ‘Lovely Sort of Death’ was their favorite album and a breath of fresh air from all the metal records they get in. However, many said they couldn’t promote it big because it didn’t quite fit their format. Or basically it wasn’t all heavy enough. At the same time it was too dark for many mainstream sites… well, come to think of it, Vice’s Noisey covered it nicely. Like I said man, I just do what I do to fulfil my creative itch. Not very many bands are making money these days so I don’t feel a financial pressure to keep everyone happy by never changing or trying something different. Whatever I do will always be dark… just maybe not always super heavy. I love heavy but I also love dark moody atmosphere.
AN: EP The Horrific Case Of Bloody Hammers suggests musically a bit of a return towards what you were doing before enmeshed with this direction. I mentioned everything from Type O Negative to Tubeway Army dissecting it. It feels largely like you are just enjoying combining the elements of what you enjoy together here, would you agree?
Yeah man it’s lots of different moods. If something sounds cool, I go with it. I never stop myself when writing and go… “well, I can’t do that because the metal elitists might call me a pussy” haha.
AN: The other element of course is a love of horror films which had not gone unnoticed in the past with tracks such as ‘The Town That Dreaded Sunset’ and ‘Color Me Blood Red’ I bet it was great fun to geek out over some of your favourite movies?
Definitely. I always write with horror movies flickering on in the background. It just gives a little more inspiration. With Terrortron, my other project, I do soundtracks to movies that don’t exist. I’ve been doing that for a few years, but it has a completely different fan base. Well… actually many Bloody Hammers fans have crossed over and like it but it’s mostly soundtrack collectors and synthwave fans. I have lots of fun doing that. It can be heard here http://terrortron.bandcamp.com
AN: Lucio Fulci gets 2 tributes here and obviously with him and a previous name-check to Godfather Of Gore HG Lewis you don’t shy away from the claret in the slightest. I assume you have a love of everything from early more innocent terrors to the excessive splatter films of the 80’s?
Oh yes of course. Hammer, Jess Franco, Jean Rollin, Lucio Fulci, Joe D’Amato, John Carpenter, Umberto Lenzi.. love all that stuff! The weirder the better!
AN: I must admit if it was indeed a tribute to The Beyond (and I have not seen the lyrics) that you chose to represent that one in more of a ballad form musically. It is an excessive carnage strewn zombie flick at kind of odds with that sort of mood unless one looks at its dark and sinister ending perhaps. Tell us a bit more about that?
Yeah I just borrowed some titles but re-imagined the story or subject matter. My ‘The Beyond’ is based more around an alien in an intolerant land. It may vaguely be some social commentary on the current refugee crisis. I try to understand both sides. All these people want to escape the violent madness, but end up in a place where many don’t want them there. I can also understand the fear that there may be wolves among the sheep and the culture clash. It’s a horrible situation. I think most of these people just want to go back to their home, the way it was before all the violence. Nobody wants to be a refugee. I normally stay clear of social commentary but that one just floated out there.
AN: Nice to see the likes of Sergio Martino get a look in too with ‘All The Colors Of The Dark.’ Is it the Satanic overtures of that particular film that drew you to it or are you completely into all Italian Giallos?
I’m into most all the Giallo films but have a particular fondness for the occult and witchcraft themed classics. Stuff like ‘All the Colors of the Dark’, ‘The Mephisto Waltz’, ‘The Perfume Of The Lady In Black’, ‘Mark of the Devil’, ‘Jess Franco’s Les Demons’ and of course Ken Russell’s ‘The Devils’, etc, etc….
AN: Vultures Circle Overland does not particularly allude to any specific film unless I’m mistaken but it immediately put images of some dusky desert town besieged by a vampire clan or inbred family of mutants, care to fill in the gaps on this particular story?
That song is an ancient Viking bloody war revenge story haha. Seems a little random but that’s what came to me when writing. Napalm should send lyrics with these promos hah.
AN: Personally I love extreme cinema and wondered if there is a certain level that goes too far for you? Are there any particular films that you have seen that you consider the line should be drawn at?
No, I’m not into any censorship, but there have been some moments I’ve been WTF creeped out. ‘Salò, or the 120 Days Of Sodom’ comes to mind as disturbing, but not in a good way.
AN: Are you actual avid film collectors, if so what are your prized possessions
When I moved, I actually packed up or sold most of my collection. I ripped a lot of them before I sold them though and have them on a hard drive. I also have Shudder, which is a great horror on demand TV app… plus Amazon prime has some great classic trash. I am a big vinyl collector… specifically soundtracks. I listen to soundtracks more than metal probably.
AN: I am guessing that like your musical tastes your film ones too derive mainly from the last century. What do you think of recent horror films, any shining lights, any hope for the genre or is it all about the remakes and plundering ideas from the past and indeed filmmakers from places like Asia?
No, I like a lot of it… The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Don’t Breathe, House of the Devil, Starry Eyes, It Follows, The VVitch… lots of this century stuff I really liked. The Greasy Strangler & Dead Snow 2 were hilariously brilliant….
AN: I was reminded the other night that you had played London before and kicked myself for missing it. Any plans to take the show on the road in the near future? I guess it’s not that easy to get over to Europe without a great deal of support very often?
Yeah we’re just a small weird rock band with a small, but loyal fanbase. It’s financially hell to tour these days. We do hope one day we’ll be able to make it happen. UK is the best! We played Download Festival, Underworld in London and Cardiff. All the gigs were packed with enthusiastic fans that I had no idea we had. I was thinking, ‘are these people really here to see us?’ We had so much fun in the UK.
AN: Thanks for the chat, I could talk about horror till the bats come back to roost but think I may have got carried away and asked plenty. Any comments to wrap things up?
Just thanks for taking the time to write good questions. I get some terrible canned questions for some sites that I never answer haha. Also thanks so much to the great fans who are listening and collecting our music!! It’s very humbling to see folks posting our albums on their turntable and such.
(Interview Pete Woods)