DISCHARGE – Hatebombs
Stoke-On-Trent, England-based hardcore punk outfit Discharge recruited Jeff ‘JJ’ Janiak to its ranks during 2014, Janiak replacing the departing Tony ‘Rat’ Martin following his 11-year tenure at the helm. Sixth studio Disensitise, issued during August 2008, was the lone studio full-length affair to feature Rat.
“I was already in the band Broken Bones with Bones (Tony ‘Bones’ Roberts) and Tezz (Terry ‘Tezz’ Roberts), so I was already familiar with working with them,” JJ remembers with respect to his joining. “It was actually six years ago when they first asked me to join, though. We talked about it but things always just fell through, so we just lost contact, really, I just continued on with Broken Bones, but as soon as Rat was gone, I was expecting to get a phone call. Sure enough, I did get the phone call asking about singing for Discharge. So, I did it.”
Shortly prior to the frontman’s entry into the Discharge ranks, Terry ‘Tezz’ Roberts returned to the fold. Previously stepping behind the drumkit, Tezz now handles rhythm guitar duties. “Basically, having Tezz on rhythm guitar just fills things out as far as live shows,” he observes. “Discharge was always known for having a big sound, so having a second guitar in there just fills it out. Aside from that, Tezz didn’t really want to play the drums any more, so he just came back on guitar. It seems to work.”
On November 4th, 2015, it was disclosed that Discharge had inked a record contract with Nuclear Blast. “Once we got the line-up together, we started working on some new songs,” JJ shares. “We basically wanted to get some stuff recorded and get it out there, so people would hear what the new line-up is like. So, we recorded three tracks, one of them being ‘New World Order’. A friend of ours, a guy named Darren Green, just offered to make a video for us. He filmed us when we played in Stoke-On-Trent, which is where we’re from. So, it was a good gig for us. He filmed that, and then we just stuck it out there on YouTube so that people have an idea of what the new line-up is like. We planned on doing a full album, and then we got contacted by Nuclear Blast. They said they wanted to work with us, and so we went with it.”
The making of April 2016 full-length End Of Days – their seventh overall – was “fairly simple,” the lyricist submits. “We’d basically just book a practice in a freezing cold studio, just freezing our arses off, and we’d practice for maybe two or three hours at a time. After each practice session, we’d usually have one or two songs. It was fairly simple. All the music was done first, Basically, the music gets put together first. Once I heard the music, I had a better idea of how to write the lyrics and how to fit the words into the songs.
“Normally, I would come up with the choruses first. When I would hear the chorus, I would kind of get maybe like a phrase or a title pop into my head that would fit in with the chorus. After we’d finish a song at rehearsals, we’d record it on a little shitty tape recorder just so we wouldn’t forget it. By the time we went into the studio to record it, all of the lyrics were literally written just minutes before going into recording – all of the verses and stuff – and then I pretty much had the choruses. All of the verses were done literally minutes before I went to record, though.”
End Of Days’ lyrical topics are social and political in nature. “The lyrics are a reflection of the world that we’re living in today – just stuff that’s happening,” JJ divulges. “There are a lot of fucked up things going on. Of course, there’s still always the threat of nuclear war – that is talked about. There are a lot of different topics; stuff like false flag operations, stuff like that. Stuff like the Boston bombing, 9/11, 7/7 – there’s just all sorts of topics. ‘New World Order’ speaks for itself, really, talking about what’s happening around the world today; drones, police spying on people, corruption, all sorts. This is the world that we live in, and it doesn’t really seem to be getting any better.
“I wrote all of the lyrics on the album, except ‘Accessories By Molotov (Part 2)’, which was done by Cal (former vocalist Kevin ‘Cal’ Morris). ‘Accessories By Molotov’ was a song off of the 2002 self-titled album. We basically took the end riff of that song, and started messing around with that. We were planning on actually making it another song, but we just decided to keep it as ‘Accessories By Molotov’. We kept the lyrics to that, and continued with it but just made it a bit faster.”
Musically speaking, End Of Days opts not to deviate too much from previous outings. “As far as the music, we just do what we do,” the composer reckons. “The only real plan we had for the album musically was just to keep it short and simple, really. Just no fucking around with it at all, and just short songs, fast songs. As far as any kind of plans though, there was really no… We didn’t sit around a table and discuss how we wanted the album to sound. We didn’t discuss what we wanted the topics to be about; we went in to practice, and the riffs we came up with were what we got.”
End Of Days bears a greater resemblance to Discharge’s earlier days, JJ views. “It’s more like the earlier stuff which is, like I said, just really short,” he tells. “Yeah, I think it stands up against a lot of the stuff. Discharge did have a run of bad albums in the mid-to-late 80s, and even into the early 90s. It’s not the most memorable stuff, and so I definitely think this stands above that period of Discharge.”
A range of Discharge studio records figure among the vocalist’s favourites. “Definitely the Why album (1981) was great, and Hear Nothing (Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing, 1982) was great,” he lists. “All of it, really. I’d say that even the stuff after Bones left like ‘The More I See’, even though it has a different feel, I do still like that stuff. I’d say pretty much everything up to Grave New World (1986), really.”
As earlier referenced, End Of Days was inaugurated courtesy of a trio of compositions. “The first session we did was with ‘New World Order’, ‘Population Control’, and ‘The Broken Law’,” JJ augments. “Those three songs were actually intended to be demos, but when they were finished, they came out really well. They sounded too good to be demos, so we just decided to keep them for the album. Then the rest of the album was done over a period of a week.
“There was nothing to it. We just went in, and it was a shitty little studio in the town next to us. It’s a town called Newcastle-Under-Lyme, which is right next to Stoke-On-Trent. It’s a place called Tremolo Recording Studio, which is just a local studio. It wasn’t anything… we didn’t go into any kind of big recording studio – it’s nothing fancy.
“It took just a couple of hours a day, really. We’d go in one day and maybe do just a song or two, go home, go in the next day, and that was pretty much it, really. It was just small sessions, as far as recording – just going in and nailing them. A lot of it was done in one take, really. We went in there and froze our arses off recording it, and that’s what we got. We didn’t have any producers doing it, or anything. We just produced it ourselves; we all knew how we wanted to sound individually, and we all put our input into it. It was just fairly simple, really. There was nothing to it.
“We had a few issues in the end, as far as mixing the bass. We had some problems with the bass – it sounded like it was a bit all over the place on the songs. Eventually, it was sent off to Peter Tägtgren in Sweden. He ended up doing the final mix for us, just levelling everything out, so it sounded like it was all on the same album rather than like a compilation of songs. That’s how it sounded after we recorded it; it sounded like it was from a bunch of different sessions, really. The mixing bit was probably the longest in the end – that probably took a couple of weeks – but as far as recording the actual music, it took no time.”
No leftover tracks remain from recording sessions for End Of Days. “There were a few tracks that we weren’t sure that we were gonna keep or not, but in the end, we decided to put them on the album,” the singer confirms. “So, that’s it as far as these sessions go. The only thing we do have really are different mixes; some of the mixes sound completely different from the album. It almost sounds like a completely different session, really. It would be interesting maybe to use them as some bonus tracks because as I said, it does sound a lot different than what you can hear on the album.”
JJ’s approach towards his vocal work was relatively straightforward. “I just do what I do,” he reasons. “I knew as far as going in to record the vocals, I pretty much already had the song titles and the choruses – and I left all of the verses to the songs fairly short, anyway. I left it all literally to just before I was going to record them, though; I just sat there with a notepad and wrote some thoughts down, wrote some things down, and that’s what we got on the album. I didn’t want to do them too far in advance. Otherwise, I’d sit there over and over again, reading it in my head. I’d then kind of second guess myself, and maybe decide I wanted to change it or something like that. So, what I wrote before going in to record it is what we got.”
The frontman is conscious of placing his stamp on Discharge’s musical sound, however minute. “The thing is, me and Cal vocally are very similar,” he recognises. “It’s just the same kind of gruff voice, although like I said, all I have is my voice. If it sounds like Cal, then it sounds like Cal – there’s nothing I can do about that. All I have is my voice, but it fits the mould of the band.
“Normally, the voice of the band is a defining part of the band, and the voice is what makes Discharge Discharge. The same with the guitar work; you can kind of pick out Bones’ guitar. It’s a big stamp on the band and it’s what makes it that band, and that goes for every band. Every band has got their own unique stamp, and so if you go in sounding completely different from how fans know the band to sound, then it no longer sounds like that band. So, we just put our stamp on it, really.”
Performing live, JJ respects the source material. “As far as playing live and playing the old tracks, I just sing them the way they were sung,” he explains. “If you change it, it doesn’t sound like the same song any more. If I came into the band as a guitarist playing the guitar, I’d have to play the same notes, wouldn’t I? Otherwise, if you play something else, it’s not that song – it becomes something else. As far as vocally, I just sing it the way it’s supposed to be sung as far as the classic stuff and playing live.”
And as well, a range of Discharge tracks figure among the wordsmith’s favourites. “It’s funny, because some of my favourite Discharge songs aren’t necessarily my favourite ones to sing,” he notes. “There’s quite a few I like to do live though, like ‘A Hell On Earth’. ‘Cries Of Help’, I love doing that. ‘Corpse Of Decadence’, ‘Never Again’, ‘Fight Back’. A lot of them I do enjoy playing live.”
Several tracks from End Of Days will emerge in Discharge’s live setlist. “We’re gonna go for about five, probably,” JJ figures. “We’re on our way there (laughs). We’re still working on getting them perfect, as far as playing live. We’re gonna see what feels best as far as playing the songs live. We’ll still do ‘New World Order’, and ‘Hatebomb’ of course. We’re gonna be doing ‘Raped And Pillaged’, and possibly ‘Meet Your Maker’ and ‘Infected’. Sometimes the songs that sound good recorded on the album aren’t always the easiest or the best to play live, so we’re going to go into rehearsals and see how we feel really.”
Future plans within the Discharge camp aren’t crystal clear, at the time of writing. “We don’t really make big plans with this band,” the songwriter surmises. “We just kind of see where things take us. As far as shows, gigs, and tours, we’ll see what we get offered. If we can do it, we’ll do it. If we can’t do it, then we can’t do it for whatever reason. We just take things as they come, really.”
Meanwhile, Broken Bones has embarked on a hiatus. “At the minute, Broken Bones has been put on the back-burner,” JJ concurs. “We’ve got too much happening with Discharge at the moment, so Broken Bones was just kind of put on the side. If things die down with Discharge, maybe we’ll do some Broken Bones gigs again. At the moment, we’re a bit busy with Discharge though, so that’s what we’re focusing on.”
End Of Days was released on April 29th, 2016 in Europe and subsequently on May 13th in North America, all via Nuclear Blast Records.
Interview published in May 2016. All promotional photographs by Fabiola Santini.
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