Battalions: Exclusive Interview with Phil Wilkinson

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Hullensian quartet Battalions will release their third album “Forever Marching Backwards” on 30th November. We recently dropped the title track as a single and video, and it has gone down a storm with fans and critics alike. The album will see the light of day on vinyl (a limited edition blue one as well as a standard black), digipak CD and digital download – and there’s a sexy t-shirt and CD bundle version as well.

It’s taken nine years of hard work for Battalions to get to the cusp of bigger things, which must surely now be just round the corner for them. APF Records signed the band last autumn, having foolishly passed on releasing their staggering “Moonburn” record a few months before. We all make mistakes, and that was a big one. But the band now have the full force of the label (and their PR partner Hold Tight!) behind them as the three month campaign to promote the album begins.

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We caught up with vocalist Phil Wilkinson for a chinwag about past, present and future.

APF: You’ve been around for a while. There seems to be a rising wave of love for Battalions right now. Have you noticed it, and if so what do you think has caused it?

Phil: We have been around for a while! Closing in on 9 years of the band now, which is insane when I think about it. The love for the band has never been bigger, and I think that’s through hard work and sticking at it for as long as we have. Over the past few years we’ve stepped up our game in terms of writing, recording and playing live further afield. On top of this we are completely lovable idiots and people seem to warm to us, which certainly helps.

APF: How was the writing of Forever Marching Backwards? Was it easy pulling the 8 songs together, or like pulling teeth?

Phil: We started writing pretty much the moment we finished recording “Moonburn” last year. We had the majority of the album written, but in the months coming up to recording it we still had a few songs to finish and one to write to make the full record. Luckily, we have Pete ‘The Riff’ Cross in our employ, so we set him to task and he pulled those riffs out of his many hiding holes in those riff-filled layers he constantly wears.

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APF: How was your week recording at Skyhammer? For those who haven’t been, what’s so great about it and why did you choose it?

Phil: This was actually our 3rd time there, choosing to return to Skyhammer was a no-brainer. Chris Fielding is an absolute gent to work with, and the studio is top notch. He knows us and we know him, with each of the previous albums being a step up in production values as he’s gotten to know the band better, and this time out he has well and truly knocked it out of the park. It’s always one of the band ‘holidays’ in the calendar for us, as well as tours, as you stay in the accommodation at the studio. It can get a little claustrophobic at times as you’re all on top of each other for days on end, but in the main it’s a completely fun experience for us, especially the end-of-recording blow out!

APF: What’s your personal favourite track on the album and why?

Phil: Honestly, it’s hard for me to choose, which is strange because personally I’ve had a song on the previous albums that I’ve preferred above all others. I guess if I was put on the spot, I would choose “Devil’s Footsteps”. The groove in that just gets me moving!

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APF: Tell us about the making of the Forever Marching Backwards video.

(You can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/G65bVLXtzns)

Phil: It was one of the hottest days of the year, a Sunday morning following another awesome Humber Street Sesh we were involved with playing. The day started with a trip out to a well-known derelict building in Hull – Lord Line – breaking in and filming all the walking shots. This was followed by us all meeting up at our practice room and turning one of the rooms into a mini studio for the second half of the video. I was ridiculously hungover and throwing up all day, one of the first shots I had to film was me screaming into the protagonist’s face, in full fear that it may include accidental vomit. Luckily this didn’t happen.

The video’s protagonist is no other than Kris Barford, our original drummer and key architect in forming the band. It was great to have him involved as we’re all still great friends and he is now gracing the cover of the album!

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APF: When you look back over your ten years in Battalions, what shows stand out as being your favourites?

Phil: Well, not quite 10 years yet, closing in on 9 years this January haha. But still, this is by far the longest I have ever been part of a band and I can’t imagine life without Battalions these days. There have been hundreds of shows and it’s hard to pick. However, since I have to, here are some of my favourites:

Bloodstock Festival 2017

Headline Slot at Humber Street Sesh 2017

Supporting The Ocean, Sworn Enemy and Church of Misery (twice!)

The whole tour with Pist

The whole tour with 1968 / Ritual King

Any show we play at Rebellion in Manchester

Tech-fest 2018

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APF: There are stresses and strains in being an underground band, but also in being a successful one. If Battalions ever became big do you think you could cope with the fame and attention?

Phil: There are times when I want to scream with dealing with a band and having no management. But when it all comes off it’s the best feeling in the world. I’d have no qualms with stepping up and gaining more fame, I don’t think any of us would change, that’s the working class northerner in us all!

APF: You’re an integral part of the APF Records family? Which other bands on the label do you have a particular affinity with, personally or musically?

Phil: Thanks! We certainly feel a part of the APF Family now, even before we signed we felt a part of the wider APF community. Obviously, we are best buds with Pist following our tour together earlier this year, so much so that Dave and John feature on the new album, although maybe not in the way we initially intended in John’s case. We just like hanging out with other APF bands when we get a chance, the Barbarian Hermit boys have been good to us recently, I think being signed and releasing albums around the same time has given us a shared goal and we both want each other to succeed.

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APF: What’s your highlight of 2018 so far?

Phil: It’s got to be getting the album recorded, artwork completed, and everything ready to go before the deadlines. We just cannot wait for this record to be out and for people to hear the rest of the record. The feedback we’ve had so far from the release of the single has been mind-blowing, and if people are reacting like this to just one song, I can’t wait for the rest of the album to get a listen and hear what people think because we couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve achieved with this one.

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APF: Who’s the biggest bellend in Battalions?

Phil: We’re all bellends in our own way. But, without a doubt, it’s (Bassist) Dennett. The man doesn’t have an “off” button and is, as I have said to him many a time, ‘unnecessarily loud, all of the time’. He’s a bellend in the most lovable way though, and we’re usually in hysterics laughing at him being an idiot, sometimes even laughing with him and not at him…….

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Forever Marching Backwards is available to pre-order now from:

https://apfrecords.bigcartel.com/

https://apfrecords.bandcamp.com/

 

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Battalions – Forever Marching Backwards

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BATTALIONS

“Forever Marching Backwards”
For fans of Iron Monkey, Eyehategod, Weedeater, Black Sabbath, Clutch, Scissorfight
BATTALIONS, belligerent champions of the UK DIY underground scene, revered by fans worldwide, lauded by the press and hairier than a bucket of black bears. The band are back with a meaty, confrontational-as-fuck new album entitled Forever Marching Backwards which is released by APF Records on November 30th.

Recorded and mixed by Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studios in the UK, the resulting album is a danger-fuelled 30 minutes of Battalions own brand of bleak, swaggering, riff-infused groove metal-meets-harsh-punk sound. To quote the band, this is ‘pure Humber sludge’.

Comments vocalist Phillip Wilkinson: “Since beginning writing, pretty much straight after the recording of our 2017 album Moonburn, the new slimmed-down lineup has enabled us to let Pete’s riffs shine through and has given us the chance to grow as a band to make what we believe is by far the most accomplished album of our career. If you’ve followed Battalions for the last few albums you can expect a tighter production, bigger riffs, more of a focus on structure and song writing along with the usual self-depreciating humour peppered throughout. The album itself is based around lead single Forever Marching Backwards from which the album takes its name, essentially an allegory about how society seems to be hardwired to follow blindly without the majority questioning motives. The blind leading the blind.“

Watch the video for Forever Marching Backwards here: 

https://youtu.be/G65bVLXtzns

Forever Marching Backwards is the follow up to the band’s 2017 release Moonburn and brings to the table a tighter, punchier, dirtier sound with bigger riffs and extra swagger. The whole album is littered with Phil Wilkinson’s trademark bile-encrusted vocals which envelope the absolutely crushing, corroding heaviness of the music. Across eight tracks the band exorcise a wide array of sorrow and raw human emotions. But then there’s also a song (Tyskie Vampire) about being on tour with their label mates Pist, dropping cans of strong Polish lager on the floor and having to suck them dry when they split open. So it’s swings and roundabouts – heavy human emotions versus songs about touring and sucking your beer off the floor. Typically BATTALIONS.

This is their third album in three years and they show no sign of slowing down, with each album becoming a little more ‘BATTALIONS’ in style and flavour but more than that, showing a band working on a formidable musical output. Forever Marching Backwards is certainly an excellent sign for the future, it’ll leave you wanting more, possibly with the urge to grow a beard, definitely with the need to catch them in a live setting. It’s their most hook-packed collection of fury and hirsuteness yet.  We are truly living in an age of wonder.

“Forever Marching Backwards” is now available to pre-order on limited edition (of 100) transparent blue vinyl, black vinyl, digipak CD and T-Shirt & CD bundle. The vinyl will include a digital download code, with a guarantee that you will own it at least a week before it is available in HMV, on Amazon and in other record shops.

Track listing:

A1: Forever Marching Backwards
A2: Cities Of Ruin
A3: Goat Feeder
A4: Vaseline (G)Love

B1: Tyskie Vampire
B2: Infinite Void
B3; Brick Hole
B4: Devil’s Footsteps

Battalions is:

Phil Wilkinson – vocals
Peter Cross – guitar
Matthew Dennett – bass
Matt Walker – drums

Recorded, Mixed and Mastered by Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studio
Artwork by Blair Shaw at Daggersforteeth
Photo by JWA Photography

 

PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY OF BATTALIONS “Forever Marching Backwards” NOW:

https://apfrecords.bigcartel.com/



 

APF Showcase Interviews: The Final One

It’s been ace talking to members of the 14 bands playing the APF Records Showcase at The Bread Shed this Saturday. Wrapping things up, we pinned down Matt Walker from Battalions, Elliot Cole of Desert Storm, The Hyena Kill’s Steven Dobb and Ba’al frontman Steffan Benham for a few final words.

APF: What was your highlight of 2017?

Elliot: Well getting to tour Europe again was great. We always have a great time and it’s always fun going back to cities we have played before as well as playing new places. 2017 was also the 10th anniversary of the band, so playing a sold out hometown show for that occasion was also pretty special. It was nice to play a lot of old songs from our first couple of albums again, because they rarely get played live anymore.

Dobb: It has to be playing 2000 Trees festival. The line up was killer.

Steffan: For me personally it was putting out our EP into the world. It was the first time I had been in a band that put a record out, and to have it released through APF Records was the icing on the cake. With the record release show on the same day with so many people there was definitely a high point. Also we never expected the reaction that we’ve received.

Mott: I reckon it’s gotta be playing Bloodstock, such an amazing experience and we had an amazing time over the full weekend.

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APF: As a member of your band what’s your proudest achievement so far?

Elliot: For me, I would have to say my proudest achievement so far would be playing Bloodstock Festival on the Sophie Lancaster Stage in 2016. That was definitely the biggest festival we have played. Just being on the same line up as bands such as Mastodon and Slayer was amazing.

Dobb: I think, not killing each other. Doing the debut album was really special and was a definite milestone for us. Getting it mastered at Abbey Road and going down for the day was class. We got properly shitfaced in Camden after.

Steffan: Coming this far I’d say. Since we started we have worked so hard to become a known band. We’ve had to play gig after gig and sacrifice so much that making it to this point now has made it all worth while.

Mott: Signing to APF records is probably the proudest moment so far, we can’t wait to get our 3rd album recorded and out there for people to hear.

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APF: Which of your label mates are you most looking forward to seeing at the 3rd February APF Records Showcase, and why?

Elliot: Ahhh man that is a tough question. I really like all the bands that are playing so I am looking forward to seeing everyone! 

Dobb: Under and Tronald. I fucking love them guys. They make weird as fuck music and they just nail it every time. Sexual grooves and just utter filth all round.

Steffan: I’ll be honest and say a lot of as some I’ve not been able to see live yet. But Under will always be a highlight if they’re playing a show.

Mott: All of them are amazing bands. Pist and Bongers are always outstanding live so I’m looking forward to seeing them again.

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APF: What’s the best gig you’ve ever played?

Elliot: Either Bloodstock Festival, Or the first Desertfest we played in London in 2012. Those gigs were a lot of fun!

Dobb: Supporting Max and Igor Cavalera at Kentish Town Forum. That was a belting gig. They were doing the Roots album in full.

Steffan: Our record release show in November for me. Not only was it an opportunity to show the tracks from the EP in their true form, but also to be able to play some old material for the people that have been with us from the start. And the fact that the place was rammed.

Mott: Our headline set at Hull’s Humber Street Sesh was pretty special for us as it’s our hometown and the crowd was mental. Chunk and Lottie’s birthday gig was one of my favourites too, probably the most fun set I’ve ever played. We had our old guitarist Clatch play a song with us as well as John from Pist which was real good fun.

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APF: What are your plans for 2018?

Elliot: 2018 looks like it will be a busy year for us. Our new album ‘Sentinels’ gets released on 16th March, and we plan to tour that album heavily in the UK and throughout Europe. We also have a lot of festivals confirmed such as HRH Stoner vs Doom in Sheffield and Riff Fest in Bolton which will be great! 

Dobb: To release our brand new EP ‘Spun’ on 23rd April and tour the fuck out of it.

Steffan: Make more smart decisions for the band’s future. Continue to write material that proves we deserve the praise we have received and get in front of people we have not yet had the chance to.

Mott: We’ve got a 7 day tour booked with Pist which is gonna be pretty special and if we manage to survive that we have album number three set for release in summer as well as a couple of other tours in the pipeline.

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APF: Tell us something we don’t know about you or your band?

Elliot: Well me and my brother Ryan who plays guitar in Desert Storm are twins…

Dobb: When we first started we were a three piece but our bass player fucked it off so we carried on.

Steffan: Our pre gig ritual is telling each other what band shirt we are wearing on stage, as we all have the same shirts.

Mott: I once drank 6 bottles of Buckfast and shit my pants.

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APF: Anything to declare?

Elliot: Nope.

Dobb: Sleep when you’re dead, don’t eat nowt bigger than your head.

Steffan: I’m a diva and my band deserve a medal for dealing with my shit.

Mott: I fucking love your label.

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