Jack Simmons, guitar player and main composer of the russian/english band Slaughter To Prevail answered my questions about the band’s new album, called Kostolom.
Hello Jack, how are you?
Jack Simmons (guitar): I’m very well, thank you!
So first of all, thank you very much for your time! How could you describe Slaughter To Prevail’s music without using the word Deathcore?
Jack: Oh okay haha! Aggressive, pissed-off, violent… Intricate in a way! I think we just have a vision we want to achieve, you know? For us this is a journey to the pinnacle point that we managed to plan, and we’re just trying to ignore genres and trends, we just do what we want, and what we want to hear! Which is just angry music and that’s what made us fall in love with Metal!
Where does the name of the band come from?
Jack: We were just thinking of ideas, Alex (Alex Terrible, singe, ed.) came up with it… to be fair I don’t even remember how we decided to have this one, at the beginning we were called Horrible Flesh, and we didn’t release anything under this name. We just started with a name then felt like “no, let’s change it”. So we were thinking about something different. Alex came with it, and it just sounded better to us.
Your new album, Kostolom, will be out in august, is there a story behind it?
Jack: Not so much a story, I mean we have a kind of anger… The album is about getting through those tough times. Every person has some mental or psychological difficulties in their life, and they must overcome! This album is about pushing yourself to become better, to become what you want to be! Kostolom translates to “bone breaker”, or “to break bone”. We have some songs who are about those rough experiences, about sometimes when we even experience bad experiences or fake people you know, music industry and stuff like that… so yeah, it’s about that!
How does the composition process happen?
Jack: I write pretty much everything with Alex. I just came up with an idea, it can be just one riff. It’s just one riff I like, it can be catchy or heavy and we exchange about it back and forth with Alex, and it goes to its finish form, so we have a finished demo and we send it to our drummer who just re-write the drums part. And then we work it and we record it.
On this album, we have pure Deathcore as well as some softer influences, like the catchy chorus on Baba Yaga, how did you mix everything together?
Jack: It’s just sort of a natural way to be honest! Often we sit down and we talk about what we wanna do. Well for example the Baba Yaga chorus, we had a much heavier version, but Alex come up with this melodic singing and we just loved it! We were singing it and we really enjoyed it so it came up very naturally to dark sounds. It was never about “shall we put clean singing or not?”, it’s more “is the song complete? Do we enjoy this sound better?”. And on this album we sometimes had clean singing and we replaced it. Sometimes it just doesn’t match the song. We do not plan to try to make something a little bit softer or something more like pure Deathcore or heavy.
Baba Yaga video clip has been elected the “most Russian music video in history”, what was the guideline behind it?
Jack: Represent Russia I guess? (laughs) Yeah, I think… Well, I’m not from Russia, I’m from England obviously. We were talking about what we wanna do to represent the band, and I’m very familiar with eastern european culture, and I really want the band to explore further. And with our new-new music, after Kostolom we will explore further in eastern European sounds and melodies, and to come back to the video, we just wanted to make something that would be over the top. We are bored of videos in a warehouse, etc… you want to watch the video and you want to listen to the music. It’s like two different things in one!
I also felt some Old School Death Metal roots on I Killed a Man, is also one of your influences?
Jack: Yes, I grew up on that! I listened to a lot of Death Metal before, and also a lot of Deathcore as well. I was learning guitar while playing some Nile and even earlier some Cannibal Corpse, the first album I had from Cannibal Corpse was Kill, it was in… 2004 maybe? I just like the riffs, so it naturally comes through on several tracks, for sure.
Years ago Alex created the “kid of darkness” masks that you use in the band, where did this idea come from?
Jack: Alex is very concerned about his image and his brand, so he first brought the idea of masks to us in a way of building something more than just music, you know? Of course we want the music to be the main point, but we also want the image of the band and everything around it. So for the masks, I remember there was few changes before this, and at the time we also had some member changes so we were like “okay, let’s wear those masks on, let’s dress in a certain way and let’s do this!”. And it grew from that! Very naturally, then we put it more into the merchandise, in the album cover, we really incorporated it to our identity and stuff.
When did you learn guitar? Did you have some lessons, or did you learn by yourself?
Jack: I am from a very small village in England. There’s about… 25 people here. So there was one guy who played guitar. When I was 10 years old, my parents bought me a very cheap guitar just to play a bit. So I just fell in love with it, and I took some lessons, learning more and more, and what I was interested in was songs, and I still am! Instead of technical playing, I just like good riffs, catchy melodies and all those things. That’s kind of what I want to focus on, more than the technical aspect of the music.
Last year, Covid 19 fucked a lot of things up, how did the band face the situation?
Jack: We… we just tried to survive it actually! There was not so much we could really do, but at the same time for us it’s really expensive to tour, so… We tour less than all the other bands typically do. We don’t really have like a “home” for touring. We have Russia, but it’s really difficult to tour and make money in Russia and we have England, but the guys have to get visas to England, so we don’t really have a continent to tour on without visas, and it makes a difference for us. We’re of course open to opportunities for tours that come, but we just took that time to sit down, write some music and finishing Kostolom, and to be honest I feel like we used that time very well. But we don’t tour as much as we thought we would need to…
So you talked about tour opportunities?
Jack: Yeah, we had a couple of tours we are planning to do, but they were cancelled because of the situation.
Maybe you know if they’re only postponed, or fully cancelled?
Jack: I guess they’re cancelled. But we still have opportunities now, we are looking for coming to Europe early next year, also coming to American for sure, there are still some shows in Russia, also UK… So we will be touring massively next year, in the future, maybe America and Europe next year. So about the past shows we can always try to reschedule in any way.
Is it accepted to be in a Metal band in Russia?
Jack: No! It’s really not! The band faced some difficulties recently so… there were some shows in Russia that get cancelled by the police. The police came up to the shows and accused the band of spreading violent propaganda, to the lyrical content and things like that. And I think it will get… worse. Because the band grows, and especially in Russia the band is popular, and we can gather one, two or three thousand people every night, it brings a lot of attention to the local community and the local police and… we are getting more and more attention over there. I don’t live that, but spoken to Alex massively about that, he does feel that: it’s still not accepted as it could be in Europe or America but hopefully things start changing and progressing, so we will see where it goes! We have seen many problems here too! Behemoth were in prison, Batushka had troubles so… we will see!
Let’s hope for the best! Do you have hobbies aside from music? Maybe you also have a day job?
Jack: (he shows the background) Yeah, I run a merch company! We are Rising Merch, we work for bands, there’s all kind of shirts… anything! That’s why I do this as well as the band, I help bands to make money, we just… we pay merch company who work very hard to make your band have a really healthy stream of revenue and you can think about music! Merchandise and clothes are always loved, so it’s a lot of fun! It really is!
What do you love about your music that you cannot find in other band’s music?
Jack: It’s a difficult question! (laughs) I would say that we have a style of extreme Metal that is… catchy, I think that most songs are catchier than the other bands, all songs are a lot more drive to them, there are reminiscences of Nu Metal and… traditional Metal from early 2000 you know, we love bands like Chimaira, Slipknot and all there bands. All we try to do is to put an energy to extreme Metal to… to just make it fun! I think there’s a lot of bands who just don’t want to have fun anymore. You can still be serious! Our music is meant to be fun! About our music, just put it on at a gym, anywhere you’re doing something, even driving! It’s heavy and it’s fun.
Do you remember your first contact with the Deathcore or extreme Metal universe?
Jack: Yeah, I mean for Deathcore, I heard Suicide Silence on Myspace. Back then! And immediately I loved it!
Do you also listen to some other styles than Deathcore, or Metal in general?
Jack: Yeah, you know, for me I love Björk. Björk is fantastic, I listen to a lot of Hip-Hop, a lot of Rap, a lot of Hardcore… things like that… To be honest, when I came to my late twenty I just said “okay, I listen to everything”, I don’t think I could have a whole day or evening listening to just one style, it’s a constant way of changing, to be always inspired.
Do you think it’s important as a musician to listen to many styles?
Jack: Yeah, I think so! I think it’s the only way to do something different! My favorite bands who play Metal always pick into other genres and pour a bit in. I think that’s important to me as a musician to understand you could do something different, you can create something new, do some experiment and not being restricted to… like Deathcore or Death Metal or Black Metal… you can do something different, being creative and still pay respect to the genre!
What is your best and your worst experience as a musician ever?
Jack: Hmm… you know I think the worst experiences for a musician is… just the distractions from everything. It’s not so much one’s experience you know, but I assume when you do music there’s a lot of distraction. Comments… not just comments but people try to understand what you do and maybe get it wrong, but there’s so much more than just playing music. You have to maintain social medias, all those different aspects, and we love to do it! But there’s a lot of things to do… sometimes we just want a break and go back home, and it’s difficult. I think the best one is just people having emotions from your music. But to answer your question with only two experiences I would say… the best one would be a show we played in America. In North Carolina. It was just a great show in one of the smaller venue, it was packed, great vibes and we would have play for hours if we were allowed to, you know? One of the worst experiences… sleeping in a van, on the same tour, waking up starving, being crap, no money, nothing and then you go on stage and there was not so many people in the crowd… I think that’s the two faces of the same coin!
It’s interesting it happened on the same tour!
Jack: Yeah, in America!
Maybe you already heard about the french Metal scene? Which french bands do you know?
Jack: Yeah actually! I used to listen to… As They Burn? It’s French Deathcore if I remember well! From Siege of Amida, their label. It was great, also Betraying the Martyrs I like them. I’ve not heard too many of them. Oh yeah, also Gojira! Fantastic band!
What if I ask you to compare Slaughter To Prevail’s music with an english dish? Which one and why?
Jack: Hahaha! Okay! I have to think about this! Well I’ll go with a full English breakfast! You’re just waking up, and there are so many different things! Kostolom is a bit like the full English breakfast, you have different stuff, it’s tasty and after that you’re ready for the day!
With which band would you love to tour with?
Jack: Hmm… I would say Rammstein. Rammstein are… see a band of this level, playing every night! I’d love to see that, and I’d also love to perform in front of such audience you know? I also think they can be fun guys to party with!
Is there maybe some musicians you would like to collaborate with?
Jack: Yeah for sure! I would love to collaborate with some rappers, or something a little bit different than just Metal bands and stuff. For us, we would love to collaborate with bands like Gojira or sort of massive bands you know, and we could see what happens! That could be interesting!
That was the last question for me! Thanks a lot for your time, last words are yours!
Jack: Thank you so much! Kostolom comes out on friday the 13th, in August! Pick it up, it’s really aggressive! Check it out on risingmerch.com or russianhate.com and go support the album! Let us know what you think! And thank you so much for the support!