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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John Nicholson of Pist: Pre-Tour Interview

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Q: APF has just rereleased your debut EP “Riffology” and first album “Rhythm & Booze” as “68OFO”. What was the thinking behind this release?

John: They both sold out real quick and we’ve not had any in stock for ages. A lot of people were asking if we’ll be getting more and when, so it was a bit of a no brainer to combine the two and add some new artwork/packaging in there to mix it up a bit!

Q: You’re about to go on tour with Battalions. How did hooking up with them come about?

John: We all met up at Bloodstock last year and sunk many beers together, battered each other on bumper cars and had a right laugh. They understood our bullshit banter all weekend so decided we should do a tour. And.. they’re fucking mint.

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Q: It’s a decent length tour. Any shows you’re particularly looking forward to, and why?

John: It’s tough to pick one because a bunch of mates’ bands have jumped on each date to support us and I can’t wait to see them all. I’m really looking forward to seeing the Drug Vulture debut in Manchester, I’ve heard some of the tunes.. you’re all in for a treat! I can’t wait for Edinburgh because it’s my favourite place in the UK and Bannermans is class, plus a bunch of people are coming up to celebrate Biscuit’s (BongCauldron) 30th so its gonna get messy!

Q: What’s your favourite tour story?

John: There’s a lot we can’t mention but here’s a few in a nutshell: Corky from BongCauldron pouring a 5L bottle of mixed piss out the window all over the M1 at 70 mph. It was funnier than it sounds. Dave shitting himself before we got to the first venue. Drinking 68 beers between Edinburgh and Glasgow. The whiskey thief from Birmingham leaving in an ambulance cos he couldn’t hack it. Me turning up so pissed in Coventry I thought our soundcheck was our set and told everyone we already played. We could write a book on tour stories alone.

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Q: Which is the most annoying member of Pist on tour?

John: We’re all pretty annoying, but whoever doesn’t help load in/load out and just goes straight to the bar…. no names mentioned.

Q: When you look back on the last four years, what’s been the highs and lows of being in Pist?

John: Highs are definitely releasing Rhythm & Booze and playing Bloodstock 2015. HRH Doom V Stoner was pretty up there and confirming for Desertfest, I’ve wanted PIST on that since the band started. Lows are just how much money it can cost, we know everyone goes through that though, it’s just part of being in a band. It’s also pretty stressful booking a tour and you sometimes feel like giving up but it worked out pretty well in the end.

Q: Looking forward to Desertfest? Who else are you excited about seeing on that lineup?

John: I can’t fucking wait! It’s my first Desertfest and I’ll be there all weekend! So many bands to look forward to but top 3 are probably ASG, Eyehategod and Elder.

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Q: Congrats on your Blackstar endorsement. How did that come about? And why them?

John: I used one when I played Bloodstock in a previous band and it blew me away, so I bought one shortly after. Then I noticed my mate Josh from Bloodshot Dawn recently got endorsed so I got some advice from him, sent them an email and they said yes! Didn’t expect anything to be honest.

Q: You’re working on a new Pist album for APF. Give us an update on how that’s progressing.

John: We’re a couple of songs away from finishing it but it’s a huge improvement on previous releases. It’s more a mix of styles which may throw people off but we all think it works really well. We’re playing a handful on this tour so come hear it!

Q: What will it say on your gravestone?

John: 68 OFObag

Pist’s 68OFO is out now and available to buy from apfrecords.bigcartel.com

Catch them on their UK tour:

30th March – Liverpool EBGBs

31st March – Edinburgh Bannermans

1st April – Leeds Temple of Boom

2nd April – Nottingham The Chameleon

3rd April – Hull Gorilla Studios

4th April – Manchester The Peer Hat

5th April – Huddersfield The Parish

6th April – London The Dev

7th April – Coventry The Phoenix

 

APF Records Showcase Interviews: John Nicholson of Pist

When putting stage times together only an idiot would Pist on after 4pm in the afternoon. We are those idiots. The Bury quartet will be performing at the APF Records Showcase on 3rd February at The Bread Shed in Manchester during the early part of the evening. It will be a sight and sound to behold.

In advance of the show John talked to APF and was coherent, incisive, sensible and revealing. What is going on?!

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APF: What was your highlight of 2017?

John: Definitely HRH Doom V Stoner in Sheffield. That gig was everything I could have hoped for, the room was packed, constant pits, crowd-surfing and stage dives, absolute chaos. We played real well and I even got an onstage kiss from your Andrew Field. What a day! Also signing to APF and seeing us grow as a band by consistently writing better songs has been awesome.

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

John: Proudest achievement has to be when we played Bloodstock 2015 at 11am on the Sophie Lancaster Stage. The turn out and crowd reaction was overwhelming, especially at that time of day. Hopefully we can do that again soon. Nice one to Simon Hall for making that happen! I’m still really proud of our debut album ‘Rhythm & Booze” and EP ‘Riffology” too, and I’m pretty sure our new stuff will exceed that. 

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

John: That’s a tough one. Its a solid line up, but I have to say the obvious choice.. BongCauldron. ‘Binge’ is a great album and I can’t wait to hear some of them tunes live, plus I haven’t seen them play for ages! After spending 9 days in a van together a few years back, having the time of our lives on tour, its always good when we’re all in the same room again. I’m excited to hear new stuff from Battalions and Under too, and catch up with Diesel King. RedEye Revival are always incredible. Also The Hyena Kill rule and I was too fucked to remember it last time I saw em.. not that this will be any different.

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

John: I’m gonna say HRH Doom V Stoner last year, just because I feel like it summed up what our live show is all about and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was special because It was rammed and felt like all the crowd were on the same level as us, loving it just as much as we were. Best atmosphere, best crowd, best gig. The HRH crew were all great too. Bloodstock 2015 has to be a close 2nd just because it was the biggest show we’ve ever played and I never thought it would go as well as it did.

APF: What was your favourite release of 2017? What are you looking forward to hearing in 2018?

John: Power Trip – “Nightmare Logic” = hardcore/thrash crossover. Riffs for days: I’ve listened to that album at least twice a day for the past month and I’m still not sick of it. Saw ’em support Napalm Death at Rebellion not too long ago and I’ve been hooked ever since. Also the the single Video Nasties put out called “Transvoltum” is the best thing I’ve heard in a while! I don’t even know whats coming out this year but I’m looking forward to anything APF put out. And.. if Bast or Elephant Tree put out new albums this year I’m all over it!

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APF: What are your plans for 2018? Personally and professionally.

John: ‘Professionally” we’re getting stuck into writing album 2 and will hopefully have it finished and recorded sooner rather than later. We’ll be debuting a new one from it at the APF Showcase, its a bit different.. especially towards the end, so I’m looking forward to seeing what people make of it. APF Records have something in store for you before then though haha. Details to follow.

Then we head out on tour for 9 days with Battalions, shortly followed by Desertfest London. Pretty exciting year for us already, looking to head into Europe too if possible.

Personally, I’m trying to sort my life out a bit. Learning to drive and paying off debts. I’ve recently joined the gym and started taking care of myself a bit more, so I can hopefully bench Diesel King one day.

I’ll still be the same annoying drunk you love to hate though, just not as often.

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

John: Half of us got banned from Bury for 48 hours… Alcohol. Good job Ramsbottom is only up the road. We also look great dressed as women.

APF: Anything to declare?

John: RIP Fast Eddie

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The APF Records Showcase takes place at The Bread Shed in Manchester on 3rd February. Tickets available from: wegottickets.com/event/418903

Event information: facebook.com/events/791925504312658/

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