At the point of no return, Karl Willetts from MEMORIAM18 min read
First thinking about Karl Willetts is that we´re talking with ex-BOLT THROWER singer, and that´s a mistake, because KARL WILLETTS is the singer of MEMORIAM, and this is the real thing, because he demonstrates that he´s alive and writing songs for the next album, the fifth with MEMORIAM, and they gonna start to play live this year at the unique and very English festival of BLOODSTOCK OPEN AIR 2021, which will take part of the lineup in this August, from 11-15th Catton Park, Derbyshire, and this gonna be the third time for the band.
We love the glorious past of Karl, but we love the people that look forwards, and KARL is the kind of person that makes music for today and for the next generations. We have the pleasure to share this interview with you all, read it or watch it on our YouTube channel, you´ll won´t regret!
Congratulations to your last MEMORIAM album that is awesome, I think the best so far under MEMORIAM you are released, don´t you?
I would add agree with you on that it’s definitely it’s a big step in the right direction for us, I think we’ve got to that point now in our careers where we kind of like have found our identity and the blueprint that works for us which was predominantly going to Parlour Studios and working with Russ Russell, I’ve always wanted to work with him but we didn’t really ever get the option or the chance to do that until the last album “Requiem for Mankind” and that’s where we kind of established, I think we established what they bought with evil from what the MEMORIAM sound was all about up to that point we always had that comparison of the previous band, but I think we’ve really, with the third album, we started to define ourselves as a band and come up with our own true identity and what we’ve done is just built on that you know and that’s what the success of the last album is the success of the last album was really based on progressing from the map, it could have easily gone out and did another “Requiem for Mankind” part two, but we were all about trying to try out new ideas and progressing and being creative with what we’re doing absolutely glory and having the freedom to be able to do that so and that’s what makes “To the End” the album that it is definitely by far the best album that we have done. Good night! (haha).
Do you see any similarities between BOLT TROWER and MEMORIAM?
Not really, of course some of the members were the same (in the first trilogy, the drummer were Andy Whale, ex-BOLT THROWER), but different dynamics, totally all about war we’ve got different aspects to what we do, so as there’s some science similarities there as we’ll be, but we’re trying hard to push beyond those because we get a bit sick and tired and bored of that comparison after five years, so we are now pushing on and a former formalizing our own identity and no more questions about it, thank you, haha.
First of all is touring something that you guys are hoping to do with the new album? and second of all how have you spent the last year in lockdown and in the coronavirus situation?
Very good, touring is something that’s not really on our agenda, hasn’t ever been when we first started doing MEMORIAM we kind of sat down thought what do you want to achieve with this and we pretty much do it on our own, so not saying that we are not busy, we have got gigs lined up virtually every other weekend across the year but we do at weekends, we do it to fit in with our own social, we’ve all got jobs we’ve got kids, and we’ve got different responsibilities that we work the band around, so the band is kind of like secondary really to our lifestyle, hobby really in many respects which is quite nice, so we are busy. The whole concept of jumping on top of us traveling around Europe for six to eight weeks and playing off the ice end of Germany on Tuesday night to 30 people doesn’t really hold any kind of like glory or expectation for me at this point in my life, I´ve been there got the t-shirt don’t need to do it again so we’re pretty much a fly-in fly-out, we’ll maybe do two or three things on the chat over a weekend that’s when everyone goes to geeks people because I think a lot of people that come to see us are pretty much in the same situation as us as well they’ve all got jobs they’ve got kids and so the weekends are always better they always have been traditionally so we do that, as I say 2020 was pretty stacked we had a whole year’s worth of gigs lined up to promote the third album “Requiem for Mankind” which we started on that track in January and February we played a great show in London then we moved in March we did a couple of really great shows in Denmark and then it all came to a grinding halt with the whole impact of covid, so we were pretty much forced to sit back with the no ability to do shows so we were given this big massive space in which to concentrate on writing album number four, which we embraced that time and we took kind of like used it really well, I think not just us because every other band on the planet within the same position, I think that’s what everyone’s doing you’re starting to see a lot of really, really good albums coming out at the moment from loads of balance virtually every week there’s a new absolutely killer album coming out, it’s because all these bands had so much time on their hands they’ve had nothing else to do apart from concentrate on writing music and I think the positive output of that outcome of that is that there’s some great new music coming out and that’s just as a pure result of Covid, so it might have killed millions across the planet very bad thing but the positive outcome of it there’s some great music coming out across from lots of bands so normally speaking it’s like we’re so busy with our touring expect not touring the digging schedule that we kind of gig every weekend as I said, and then almost going into the studio to record an album becomes a bit of a back burner so we don’t actually concentrate on doing that until maybe six to eight weeks before we supposed to go in there do it but I say we had six to eight months to focus and write this album so that’s another reason why this album is as strong as it is, so there you go that’s what we did with our time, we wrote a killer album. I think a lot of people and we’ve all learned from that, I think it’s been a such a positive impact on what we do but I think rather than us and we’re still going to make trying to maintain this fast pace of putting albums out, we’ve done four albums in five years and we’re still gonna kind of keep that, but we’re gonna try and retain a bit of balance and maybe spin it out and spend more time on the writing process with the next album, so we’ve started already only these albums only just come out we’ve got two or three songs which you’ve got worked out ready for the next album already, so we’ve got the songwriting process, he’s now coming a bit more to the full what we’re doing, well we haven’t got any gigs to do and because this is the whole Hong Kong thing he’s still he hasn’t gone away it’s still there we’ve got a few gigs lined up in the UK between September, August and December but all our European shows they’re kind of up in the air at the moment with this third wave that’s going along and travel restrictions are in place so we’re not sure what’s going on in that respect so we’ve still got a bit of time on our hands to concentrate on a writing album number five.
Did you tour enough with the MEMORIAM albums or not enough?
I’ll say we do it what we want to do we’re never going to be a balance going to go out there I’m too big long tours that’s just not what we wanted to do and financially, because we do it that way, we’re not in reality, we are our main source of income from shows and on that main territory that we concentrate on is central Europe that’s really where our main fan base are, and logistically and financially it’s the only kind of territory that we can really concentrate on, so the harsh reality of it that it’s very unlikely that we are going to ever get to North or South America and we’ve had plenty of offers, but it would mean we have to go we have to fly there we have to do at least a week’s worth of the show to make it commercially viable, so it’s like almost a two-week stint out of our schedule and we just can’t justify that time scale for the amount of income that we generate from doing it, just doesn’t make it worthwhile so the reality is we are just doing what we want to do on our own terms and enjoying what we are doing while we can. We’ve been here for 30 years now and the traveling bit of what we do is the thing that kills each other, so we just get too old for that haha, our first gig will be at Bloodstock and you couldn’t get any closer to home than that it takes us three quarters an hour to get there so we can, in theory, play and then we’ll be back in bed for 12 hours in your home.
Are you quite tired of the business?
No, not in that respect, I’m not tired of it but we just have to pick and choose what’s commercially viable for us and makes it financially worthwhile doing, we do it 30 years now, so I’m not really going to do it just for the sheer joy of doing it, I mean you just have to have some kind of financial justification to do it, and I have to justify why I’m going away for a period of time to my misses and the kids, haha, and it just we’ve done, I’ve done American tours in the past, we’ve played Australian tours and things like that with my fault, they were great brilliant we had a good time definitely need to do it again you know things have changed life is life is different, my responsibilities now are very different from what they were like 20 or 30 years ago, so we just pick and choose and do things on our own terms and that kind of suits us fine.
Right it’s very interesting because we interviewed a lot of bands and some bands are so pissed because they can’t play live, meanwhile we have several other bands that they´re not interested at all in playing live.
I think they’re going to find a balance between the two, we’re kind of pretty much in the middle ground there it’s not like we’re going to go off and do six to eight week tours never do but we are still very busy we have got a pretty hectic schedule lined up, well we did have, but even saying that we’ve still got six or seven shows lined up in the UK between August and December, so that’s kind of like going to keep us active whilst writing the new album and then in January or February who knows hopefully there’s going to be the whole European show that’s coming back on the map and that will keep us very busy because we do two or three shows, we’ve probably about four or five shows every month, so across the year we´d probably play about 40 or 50 shows which is fine, I think any more than that probably kill us at our age, haha, so it’s fine, I think everyone has to find their own kind of right balance what keeps them engaged with the process, I love playing gigs I really enjoy that but I don’t think I would be able to do more than two or three shows on the truck because it would physically and mentally probably ripped me apart, so it’s great to be able to do it and great to be able to be in a position where we can pick and choose what we do, I think what through doing it for 30 years we are in that privileged point in our career where we do get offered a lot of things but we do turn down probably about 80 or 90 per cent of it and just choose and select to do the things that we want to do and that works well and we’re happy with that and long may it continue hopefully it’s going to keep on keeping on for another two or three years at least, well now I’ve completed committing the band to do another trilogy of albums he’s gonna have to, so haha.
How is it for you personally when you go on stage, it’s still a thriller, still anxious or it’s just routine? It’s an incredible burst it always has been, it’s unlike any kind of addiction that you can ever have and it still excites me and I still live for that kind of feeling nothing else really touches it I’d say I don’t get nervous anymore because I’ve been dead for such a long time but I’m pretty sure that because of this extended long break that we’ve had I haven’t played again since march 2020 I’m pretty sure when I’m warming up and getting ready to go on stage in August and play at Bloodstock I’m pretty sure that the nerves and anticipation will be there, but our audience are very supportive the people that are behind us and have followed us and understand what we do and our fans, followers, friends, whatever people what they want to call themselves all very understanding, so I’m pretty sure even if we’re absolutely terrible they’ll love it haha, and that is the key to why we are rehearsing to make sure that we are tight, we’ve got a new drummer as well obviously, so we’ve got to get him in up to speed with the old songs as well he’s great at the new songs that we’ve just recorded but of course he’s got all these other new old new songs for him to learn so we’re busy preparing getting ourselves back up to match fitness and we’re looking forward to getting back out and doing some shows as I say on a limited basis UK only we have got some European shows penciled in still at the end of September which haven’t been cancelled yet, some small club shows which we really enjoy doing small club shows like 200 or 300 people and I preferred than do the big festivals because it’s so much more intimate and personal and face-to-face and the sound’s always more controlled and better. Still haven’t got good lineup in Belgium, Holland and Germany in late September so they haven’t been postponed they’ve been cancelled yet but we are waiting to see what happens with the travel restrictions that are still in place which are constantly changing due to the science that’s out there and what have happened so we are all in a state of flux at the moment.
How did you develop your voice?
I don’t know it just kind fell out like that, I never really practiced doing it never happened really apart from when we do rehearsals but prior to that it’s just I think it’s a matter of confidence really and just seeing what kind of like it gets it’s just a kind of a physical reaction to the music, that’s kind of comes out and it just I think the more you do it, the more confident you get with it, and the more that your ability gets on and you need to work out and try different things and try to try out different ideas but it’s something that I didn’t really think about it, really kind of something along the Death Metal kind of thing it’s back then, it just was okay I’ve been a vocalist have a go at doing this here’s the words give it a shout see how it comes out, I mean there wasn’t that many people doing it back then so there was no real blueprint to work to suppose we recreated the blueprint in many respects.
It’s a weird thing, it’s not really I wouldn’t have said that accomplished vocalist but I think it’s more that it’s the way that you engage with the people in the audience I think it’s more being a frontman and that kind of ability to engage with people is equally as important as your ability to shout loudly, I call it rhythmical shouting that’s what it is basically it’s just shouting in a rhythmical manner and that’s what kind of works for me and it’s a strange thing because it comes from down there (point his chest) there’s been a few times on gigs and on tours where I’ve lost my voice, I haven’t actually physically been able to talk which that’s the battle I’ll probably say that’s a good thing haha, but be able to talk she’s quite worried really when I can’t actually communicate as a vocalist or frontman and so and then you go on stage and it comes from a different place it comes from more down here more kind of like down here it’s a very strange phenomenon, if you actually do it now without music I couldn’t do it, I can’t, but it’s something that kind of comes instinctively and naturally along with the musical input that’s there, that’s put in, so strange, it’s a strange one really.
That confidence is what really kind of helps you put it out there?
I think that’s the key to it, you can’t really give a fuck about what other people think about, if you show any kind of sign of discomfort or not being sure yourself then that you kind of get shot down in flames, so it’s all about confidence and I think I learned it from an early stage in my life.
I was 12 years old when I had my first experience performing with massive people, well the first time in public was just kind of as a deputy headquarters and I was terrible haha, but for saying that it kind of gave me that taste, that kind of my idea of public performance I grew up in an environment where my brothers were involved in bands in the 60s and that, so I’ve seen that, and them doing it as well so it was almost like a normalized thing to do it was it was a thing that people did so a lot of people in their lives that opportunity that kind of like way of life or mindset just isn’t open to them they don’t think that’s normal whereas I know that was kind of a normalized process for me as I was growing up so I think doing it and kind of like you know kind of like getting out there and kind of doing a future time on a small scale and you build it up you build it up your confidence grows as the band grows and people kind of like appreciate you and grow with you I think that’s what’s happened with my career so and it’s been great I’ve had a great time and I’m gonna continue to do so for as long as I can to there.
I mean this is it we live in a very negative time there’s a world around of negativity and darkness and people saying shits about things all the time and I do very much and kind of adhere to that sense of positivity if you’re not going to say we can, say anything good about things or nice about things then don’t bother saying anything about it at all, and just say good things about the things that you can, there’s plenty of things out there that are good that you can talk up rather than talk down you know accentuate the positive that’s what you need to do.
As you´re writing music and do just a few gigs. Are you enjoying these days at your home?
Yes, I mean that’s it it’s purely on our own terms you know and it’s great for me to be able to write music that’s kind of pretty open I’m not kind of restricted in any kind of form so what I can write about these this MEMORIAM I’ve got pretty much an open textbook as to what I can write about so I do like take a look about the world that we live in write about things that I think are wrong with the world certainly that social cultural political whatever social economic I will write about those topics which is something I’ve never really done before I have to a certain extent but it’s all been caged or been kind of like masked by the whole theme and topic of war which is something I’m known for which is fine it worked really well for 20 or 30 years but just get a bit off after a while, so it’s quite nice that if you have an open kind of like textbook for me to blank canvas to write about what I really enjoy or thinks important about, obviously I’m gonna write about these things are I’ve got social political kind of content to them I always will write the songs about war because that’s what I’ve always done and it’s in my kind of life, like my thoughts people expect me to do and it’s a topic that I always maintain to keep that kind of continuity of theme going but at this point in my life which is probably something I never did 20 or 30 years ago here’s right songs which are about experience and life in general, because I have had some experience in life in general, so example of the last album such as the epic doom and metal song each deck one were close to the grave that’s got lots of content about life in general as my heart grows cold again another classic example of songs about life, I remember the majority a lot of the songs are all that kind of that lyrical content to them which is something that only comes with age and experience and confidence and those are things that I have got age experience and confidence and I’ve got them by the bucket load so those are the things that I tend to write about these days which gives me a lot of joy to do that and I think a lot of people can actually they can relate to them people related just our fan base have grown with us over 30 years probably.
Any musical memory career that you want to share with us?
It’s always special whenever you usually do the first time, I remember hearing the BOLT THROWER demos before I was even in the band on the John Peel Sessions hearing that was special, hearing the first album when that was special going to Australia and playing over there and thinking well our music from a little island in the middle of nowhere has been transposed to the across the planet in 1993, just these little moments within, there’s the history of it and it’s always usually the first time you do something that’s makes it special and there’s been a hell of a lot of them and thanks for your support!!
You can follow MEMORIAM:
Official web: www.memoriam.uk.com
You can buy: https://memoriam.bigcartel.com/products
If you want to go to BOA and see live MEMORIAM gig (Saturday 14th), buy your ticket here: https://bloodstock.seetickets.com/event/bloodstock/catton-park-walton-on-trent/1417975?#op1