Hellripper - Interview

The year 2023 so far had a solid start for extreme metal, and more great releases are along the way. One of the most anticipated albums of this year which in over the course of 24 hours successfully managed to captivate metalheads around the world and is still going strong more than few weeks later with all the positive reactions and reviews, is Hellripper's third album "Warlocks Grim And Withered Hags". For this occasion, I've decided to share a few words with none other than the man himself, James McBain.


Greetings James! First of all, I'd like to wish you a warm welcome on behalf of the MetalBite crew.

Hello, and thank you for taking the time to ask some questions!

"Warlocks Grim And Withered Hags" has 'exploded' within the metal community and won over so many listeners in such a short period of time. It seems that the attention towards Hellripper has shifted drastically since the album's release. What is your take on this? Has Hellripper become even bigger within the world of extreme metal now that "Warlocks Grim And Withered Hags" is officially released?

It has indeed received a lot more attention than I initially expected, and I'm glad that the reception to the album has been largely positive! This album has certainly reached a lot of new people, but it's difficult to say exactly how different things are since it's only been a week or so since the release, and I've been very busy packing orders, replying to messages, doing promo, organizing shows etc. I'll see things more clearly in a short while I think.

But looking at initial sales/streams/social media and the general response, things are looking great! There's been a large increase on all fronts compared to the previous album, so we'll see what happens! I'm very happy with how everything is going right now, and I'm very grateful for the support "Warlocks Grim…" has received so far.

The songwriting on this album is very rich and done with immense care, without an inch of lackluster songwriting and no filler moments to be found on any song. When working on this album, were there any tasks of crucial importance that you've set for yourself in order to make every second of music matter? Did any of those tasks pose a great challenge?

Thank you very much first of all! I don't really aim for specific things while writing songs; I just try to do things that come naturally. This time around though, I tried to bring different elements into the music that I hadn't yet explored with Hellripper. I imposed less limitations on myself, and the only real rule I had was that the music had to remain black/speed or black/thrash metal at its core.

There were a lot of ideas that I had that were challenging to implement, but it was the most fun that I've ever had while recording and probably the happiest I've been with the result. Bringing in some influence from non-metal bands and making it work in a black metal context without diluting the end result was quite difficult in some circumstances, and I wanted to try a lot of new production techniques, so that required a lot of learning and a lot of trial and error!

The addition of bagpipes was quite the surprise and I must admit that it's probably one of the main reasons why I love the title track the most. Apart from the fact that it is a traditional Scottish instrument and a large part of your culture, what inspired you to put bagpipes in your music and will they be used more frequently in future Hellripper songs?

It fits the song and it fits the melody. The melody written was very much inspired by 2000's Iron Maiden and I thought that including the bagpipes would enhance the section, and would bring something different to the sound. They would not be included however if the song had a different lyrical theme - it made sense for me to include them because of the nature of the lyrics.

Bagpipes may feature in more Hellripper songs in the future, but only if it makes sense to include them. I won't include things just for the sake of it, or just because I can. If it improves a track, and fits the track (both lyrically and musically), then sure!

One thing that is specific about Hellripper's music is that besides leaning more on "first wave of black metal", it takes the listener back to the roots of 80's heavy metal, speed metal and thrash metal, which altogether make for a better listening experience. What is your opinion on modern-day black metal artists? Do you think that many of them are too afraid to experiment their approach to songwriting by combining elements of other metal sub-genres and thus become lazy?

I don't think that is the case. I think there are a lot of bands in black metal (and metal in general) that are doing something different. I think there are great bands doing more "conventional" stuff, and there are great bands doing something different. If the music is good, then that is all that should matter.

Some bands are more willing to experiment than others; it depends on their nature. If a band feels comfortable trying something different, then that's great. Bands should do what comes naturally to them. Again, if the music is good, then that's all that matters.

I am curious to know, were there any comments from other well-known metal musicians or fellow colleagues that have heard the album? If so, which ones are they and how do they see the album as a whole?

I've had a few positive comments from people I admire, bands I like and friends of mine which is great! I won't say who they are, but it's nice to have feedback from these people!

I know it's usually not a nice question to ask an artist about their favorite song from the album, but do you perhaps have a favorite song from the new album and if so, why have you chosen that song specifically?

I have a few favorites for different reasons. A lot of my opinions come from how the writing/recording experience was. The title track, and 'Mester Stoor Worm' are favorites of mine because I had fun trying something different with them. They were quite challenging to write and record since I had all of these ideas in my head that I had to figure out how to translate into something that worked! 'The Nuckelavee' is probably my favorite song musically, and I have said a few times before that it is the song that I think best represents the album as a whole.

Where do you feel more comfortable with Hellripper? I.e., do you prefer working on new songs or when doing live shows? Which of the two is more "you" so to speak?

I much prefer writing and recording music. It's my passion and it's my favorite thing to do. If I'm at home, there's a large chance that I'm creating new music. I just love the creative process.

Have there been many requests recently for new shows, where is the highest demand for audiences to see Hellripper live? Are there any plans for a worldwide European tour?

We're in the middle of planning quite a lot of things, so that's exciting. I can't really say anything about them since nothing is confirmed or announced but yes, we will be playing a lot of shows throughout Europe in 2023 and 2024. We've been in talks about getting over to North America and to Australia for a while now but we just haven't been able to make it happen for whatever reason.

Have you envisioned having Hellripper perform on a much larger stage one day in front of a bigger audience? If you ever had the opportunity to make that kind of a concert spectacle, what would you love to have on stage besides your usual equipment?

We've played on some big stages, and we'll be playing on some big stages during our upcoming shows/tours, but yes it would be great to play a large festival stage or something like that. I think the nature of Hellripper's music and show works best in a smaller, more intimate setting, but it's always good to experience something new! It'd be cool to have some sort of stage show but I've never really given it much thought. Just a 20 foot flaming goat head (or 2) or something like that - not much to ask.

I know this might sound like a funny thing to ask, but do you think that Hellripper will one day become Scotland's national treasure and get its own beer like Iron Maiden? If that ever happens, what do you think will be the name for the beer?

We just released a beer actually in collaboration with Black Iris Brewery, but of course not at the scale of Iron Maiden. It's called 'Goat Juice' and it's excellent! I think becoming Scotland's national treasure might be a tough ask though!

Once again James, thank you for doing this interview with me. I congratulate you on your success with "Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags". Are there any final words you'd like to leave to your fans?

Thank you very much for your time also! I appreciate it! Thanks to all for reading, go check out the new album "Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags" wherever you listen to music, and check out Hellripper on whatever social media platforms you use! All hail the goat!

Entered: 3/1/2023 8:22:00 AM

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