It’s been little more than two years since UK Metallers BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE released their debut album ‘The Poison’ skyrocketing them to mainstream international success. The band’s second and heavier offering ‘Scream, Aim, Fire’ has proved even stronger with the album’s title track scoring Number 1 on the UK Rock charts. NZRock’s Dave Borgioli-Jones caught up with BFMV bassist Jason “Jay” James before the band’s performance to a sold out crowd at Auckland’s Town Hall along with ATREYU and AVENGED SEVENFOLD…
So how does it feel to be where you’re at now, world famous, releasing albums and travelling the world?
As you can imagine it’s amazing haha! For something that was your hobby to turn into your choice of work and to be doing it all the time is not easy so yeah, it’s the best thing ever.
Your new album ‘Scream Aim Fire’ is heavier than your debut ‘The Poison’. Was that the intention?
We never really have any sort of goal or intention as much as to make it heavier or softer or whatever. Obviously we want to make a better album than we did before otherwise you’re just not going to progress in music. But the way we write is, whatever song we write, we just write the song to the best of its ability given what it needs and then that’s just BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE. We didn’t think “we have to be heavier in this song” or “we have to be a bit more mellower”, we just wrote a bunch of songs, added to all the quality of it and just released the album just like we did with the first album. We haven’t changed any of the writing or recording processes since we started because you know, if it’s not broke don’t fix it. That’s all we’ve been doing and that’s how ‘Scream Aim Fire’ turned out.
I read somewhere that the riff for ‘Tears Dont Fall’ was written in like 15 minutes. Did everything come to the band that easily when writing for ‘Scream Aim Fire’?
Yeah well ‘Scream Aim Fire’ was kinda the same really. ‘Tears Dont Fall’, that was an old riff that’d been hanging about for years your know so we brought that riff out, added a few different riffs and organised it. So it came together quite quickly. ‘Hand Of Blood’ took 10 minutes to write and that was one of our biggest songs. And then ‘Scream Aim Fire’ was the same thing too. It was in a recording studio in Brixton, London. We had like 7 or 8 songs ready to go, already written and then one day we sat down together ‘Scream Aim Fire’ came up, it was just like “wow, look at this riff we’ve put together”. We finished the song in literally 10 minutes and that just changed the whole direction of the album. We just had to scrap everything that we had – those 7 or 8 songs – and we just wrote from that point on. And that’s why we gave the album the name ‘Scream Aim Fire’. We thought it deserved it because that was when we knew right, this is where we need to go.
It must take a special knack though to get the songs together that fast.
Not all the songs do come like that but it’s really cool when some of them do. Some songs, they’ll be hanging about for the whole writing and recording process, that’s like months. And then one day you’ll think of a riff and remember that song and think that’ll be cool there. Songs like ‘Scream Aim Fire’, the riff will tell it where to go next and the next chord will come because that’s just what needs to be there for some reason. Matt has got a really good head for putting songs together. He’s really good with song structure, it just comes naturally to him for some reason.
Has there ever been a time when the band has been stricken with writers block?
If we’re in a writing rehearsal scheduled back home and in the practise rooms and we’ll be like right, we have to write some songs and we’ve a certain riff and it’s just like what can we put next, we’ll just jam it out to that point see what happens. It’ll be like an hour where we’re just all together and it’s just chaos – we dont try so hard on that then, we’ll leave that song and start on it fresh a couple of months later when we think we’ve got something that’ll fit it. We dont just try and push a song for the sake of it. As far as lyrics go, yeah Matt had kind of a block with lyrics last year and we all came together to help him out with that one. He was depressed because he thought he was going to lose his voice because he had all the operation stuff, but he turned that into productive content, he wrote a song about that as well. I actually sat down with him when he had this block and I myself write lots of lyrics so we brought up all my lyrics and all his lyrics and we got the songs together and sang through the songs. We just made up lyrics and what we thought the songs needed. Everyone gets writing blocks but I think the reason for it is that you’re trying too hard on that one particular part of the song or lyric. You’ve just got to leave it, try something else and come back fresh.
After Matt had surgery did you guys have fears that he wouldnt be able to stay with BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE?
Yeah it was a very very stressful time for us all. From the day that we got signed it was like things happened so fast for us. We went from like nothing to being on MTV and the front cover of magazines. It was like oh my God, we just shot to the top and our feet didn’t touch the floor. So as you can imagine we were like touring, touring, touring, and we didnt even have time to think wow, this is happening to us, this is the level that we’re at, look how big we’re getting until we started seeing shows that were just getting bigger and bigger and then we were seeing ourselves on TV. So it wasn’t until we had to stop for Matt to go into hospital and then when he came into practice and he couldn’t sing that we all sat down and thought, “we’ve just stopped”. We stopped and we had to recap. It all dawned on us then: what we had, what we’d accomplished and what we might’ve lost. It was a big kick in the teeth for us. So we helped him, tried to get him through it because I didnt want to see him put himself down and stuff. We even talked about getting someone else in to actually sing and Matt just play guitar. None of us wanted that and the label didnt want that. So we all helped him through it. I physically made him stay in his house. I went round to his house and made him get his guitar out and sing the songs he was having trouble with, over and over again until he was pissed off haha! I would not give up on him man. And then one day he had it again. Basically he had some of his throat actually taken away from him. He had to relearn how to sing and do it properly. So he had to get coaches in from all over the world helping him and thank God, we actually got through it. We did actually think at one point that we were going to lose him.
Has that whole experience brought you guys together even more as a band?
Yeah it definitely has. We’re a lot stronger unit now. We’ve been friends since we were like four years old so we’re tight anyway as mates. We’re like brothers or family you could call us. But as far as our spirit on the road, it’s definitely got stronger since that situation.
What ever became of the band’s former bassist Nick Crandle?
He hasn’t been around for about six years. This always comes up in different interviews and stuff. There’s even an interview I just read from America which is like from this year. It says about ‘Scream Aim Fire’ and then names the band members and I’m not even in it. I was like wow. But the deal with all that was, there were two bands from the same village where we live. I was in a band called NUKE (now called AS SILENCE FALLS) and they were in a band called JEFF KILLED JOHN. I dont know exactly what happend but one day I turned up for my band’s practice because I was the lead vocalist too and they said that I’m not in the band anymore. So I was like OK and like these guys (JKJ) asked me to join because something happend with them and Nick. They argued over something and fell out. So they (JKJ) asked me to help out and fill in, my band got jealous that I was helping them out. And I found out that while I was helping JEFF KILLED JOHN out that their bassist had joined my band. So I asked if I could join full time and they said yeah so we just swapped. Nick’s not with them anymore, he’s just disappeared and I think he’s living some place horrible now but I’m not sure. But I’ve been in this band for about four and a half to five years now – it was about six months after we swapped bands. And we wrote a whole new bunch of songs, scrapped all their old stuff and had a fresh start with me because I was an extra vocalist too. So we had three frontmen then, we just fused really well and we just got signed from there. So Nick is not in the scene anymore, he’s nothing, absolutely nothing to do with this band.
When you were doing ‘The Poison’ album you first recorded the whole album with Canadian producer Garth “GGGarth” Richardson then scrapped those recordings and re-recorded it with Colin Richardson (GGGarth produced a #1 New Zealand album, SHIHAD’s ‘General Electric’ in 1999) What went wrong with GGGarth’s set of recordings?
I think it was a label idea. With Colin Richardson he’s very particular sonically about his music and everything. He wont rest until every single tom, every string, everything is sounding the best it can sound. He only releases an album if its better than his last sound. So he’ll take as long as it takes to produce this amazing new magnificant sound, right. So he was taking a little long and crunch time was coming so the label was like “why dont we try this guy from Canada, Garth.” He’s supposed to be this really big producer. So they were like “do you want to go over and give it a go?” And we were like “no we dont”. And they said “but that’s all you’ve known is Colin Richardson, why dont you give somebody else a go?” So we were like “ok if that’s what you want”, they said they’d pay for it and everything so we went over and did like four songs or something, and we didn’t have any input into the songs. He just took them, changed them all around, took all the parts out and made them sound completely different. We didnt even get a playback until he was finished so when we listened to the CD on the way to the airport we were nearly in tears, it was horrible, it was absolutely horrible. The end of ‘The Poison’ the song, at the end, if you listened to what he’d done to it, it was just unbelievably weird. It was like the middle-eight was at the end and stuff and some parts were taken out and our voices were put in different places. It was like woah, this doesnt even make sense. I think just because of his name he was just trying to do something you know. With Colin Richardson we’d take a preproduced song to him and he’d be like, “there’s nothing that I really want to do with the structure, that’s done” but he would add a little harmony here and now, little bass notes here and there, little drum fills in places that we’ve already put them, to make them sound bigger, but he has never had to mess with the structure of our songs and he’s just such a cool guy with the sound and everything. So yeah, Garth Richardson was a really bad experience for us and I don’t think we’ll ever work with him ever again. Honest to God, he wasn’t even turning up to our recording sessions, it was just all his technicians. He’d turn up with a Coke, look at everyone and then just walk out. And we’d be like “arent you going to come and listen to what we’re putting down?” It just didn’t work for us at all.
How did BFMV celebrate when the song ‘Scream Aim Fire’ hit Number 1 on the UK Rock charts?
Um, I think we were on tour were we? We definitely had a drink. Our management came to one of our shows and cracked a bottle of wine. I think it was Brixton actually. We actually did celebrate that because we were on tour of the UK and Europe at the time and we were in Brixton Academy and the label turned up with all big bottles of champagne, awards and all these little plaques saying stuff and I opened a bottle of champagne all over the crowd. So yeah, we were on tour and we had this kinda kick ass party in like the venue after the show, got rediclously drunk and I went home for a day and played my home town and I havent been home since really.
You guys have done a lot of touring, do you ever get sick of it or is this living the dream?
This is our dream. We never argue or get sick of eachother. I mean there are times when things get stale and we need to have our own space in a hotel, like we used to share but now we dont because we’re all grown men. Sometimes you can have enough of being with your own best friend cant you, you know. But I dont think we’ll ever get sick of it. The only thing that’s a bit daunting and can get a bit upsetting is just your family, me and Moose have children you know, so like not seeing them grow up and having to miss their birthday, all these things is quite bad but hopefully I think that as long as we put the effort for the next few coming years we’ll just be able to do one world tour consisting of five to six months and then have the rest of the year off like IRON MAIDEN and METALLICA do now you know. Hopefully we’ll get to that stage to where we can have some time out.
Back in the day some Rock / Metal band’s were releasing one album a year, do you guys reckon you could physically do that if you wanted to?
Now we can yeah. If songs just come like that now, it’s insane. We’ve already started writing album number three. We’ve got about four or five riffs kicking around and they sound like they’re the start of something massive. Again it sounds like, wow! So yeah, we’re toying with loads of ideas. Matt’s just been producing riffs like you wont believe. He’ll be sitting at the back of the lounge and he’ll be like “listen to this” and we’ll all be like “wow, put that bit there”. So you know, before no, I don’t think we could. We had all the time in the world to write ‘The Poison’ because we had like 10 years experience in bands so we had lots of old riffs and ideas kicking around so that was easy. When we got signed I myself said to the boys, “right, next year boys, they’re going to want another album so I think…” and it was the next day after ‘The Poison’ was released I said “let’s start writing that one now.” So all year we were just banging out riffs and by the time that they needed it we had eight songs already done at Sonic Ranch. We wrote about four or five there in the seven weeks. All the music was done and then the rest of the year, we had to go on tour actually to Australia and Japan, so we had a break from that, all the music was done, we were about to take a break and go back to Whales to do the vocals but then Matt had the thing with his voice, we had to cancel our shows in Europe and stuff. So then because of that and losing his voice and him getting better again, that led up to last November/December and that’s when we actually finished the vocals. That’s why it took a year to release this one. Because it would’ve been released in February.
Have you got any working titles for the new material?
You wouldn’t believe how raw and rough they are, they’re not even songs yet. It’s just like six or seven big riffs. They’re so raw that they’re on my camera. I videoed them on my camera drunk one night, that’s how raw they are at the moment so we haven’t got anything yet.
Regarding the bands that have influenced you like METALLICA, TESTAMENT etc, do you have a big record collection?
I’ve got a few IRON MAIDEN ones but I’ve been pretty slack in my youth growing up and all that. I couldn’t really afford much to be honest with you. I did once have all the collections of all of them. But then the iPod came out and everything and I was moving house. I lost a few CDs, my friends borrowed them and I forgot who borrowed them so I’ve got hardly anything left but it’s all on my iPod you know what I mean. Moose will buy like three or four albums a week and he’s done that for years so he’s got fucking thousands of albums.
The new album ‘Scream Aim Fire’ was released on CD, vinyl and even a special USB edition in the shape of a bullet which is cool. Does the band have a say in the formats you release on?
Yeah we have most of the input into everything that we release really. All the artwork for the t-shirts we go to meetings for them and say yes or no. Any ideas that the label have they’ll put it to us and we’ll say yes. Some things though it’s like no, this needs to happen. Like we just released ‘Waking The Demon’ in America on TV and they said there’s no screaming to go on it. And we were like “but we like the screaming” and they were like “there needs to be singing” so we had to re-record that with the singing. It does sound pretty good without the screaming but it’s not what we wanted. But sometimes you’ve just got to meet in the middle. But yeah, they never mess with the songwriting, they never mess with anything like that, it’s just we do that and they do that which is pretty cool. We have a really, really good relationship with these guys.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever been given by a fan?
The weirdest thing that I have ever been given by a fan happened to me actually this year and I’m glad it did because I’d never actually been given anything weird before haha! I was outside a venue in Manchester or Newcastle and I’d been out there previously in the day to have a cigarette and gone back in and every time I’d been out this one boy was still there “Hey Jay, can I talk to you again, can I have something else signed” he was pretty hardcore. So the last time I went out to my tour bus he said “can you sign this for me” …I turned around and he had my fag butt haha! So I signed my fag butt and gave it to him. That’s the weirdest thing I’ve had.