Featuring members of TANTRUM and HAUNT, OATH Sc might have just have just knocked out its best release yet. OMM guest writer GRIMSLATH treks to the highlands to catch up with solo artist Steve Waddell for an inspirational chat.
INTERVIEW BY GRIMSLATH
Scotland’s Oath sc is the NWOBHM-inspired solo project of Steve Waddell, guitarist of NWOTHM outfit Tantrum. The sophomore full-length album, Computer Warrior, was recently unleashed with the axe-wielding Scotsman joined by the renowned Trevor William Church (Haunt) on drums and production.
Hi Steve, so what sparked the creation of Oath sc?
– I can remember getting a split EP tape with Hellripper and Fetid Zombie, death/black/speed metal and after some research discovered that they were both one man band set ups using digital drum programming techniques. I was sort of aware of Bathory I guess but the idea of a metal band without a drummer was kind of inconceivable until I heard that EP, that kind of set me on the path towards wanting to achieve some kind of individual musical vision.
Do you ever find it difficult to balance time and creativity between Oath sc and Tantrum?
-Not really, especially recently with the lockdown and restrictions making it near impossible for bands to get together and play. When your the only guy in the band and your rehearsal space is your living room its been pretty easy to focus mainly on Oath sc. hopefully things will take on some form of normality soon and we can get back to making a racket in a practice room again.
The music and entertainment industry around the world is reeling at the moment due to the pandemic and of course in the UK we have the second hammer blow of Brexit about to fall. Can you see a way back to a semblance of normality for musicians and how important do you think the metal scene will be in helping us through these testing times?
– Honestly I believe it will thrive. Hard times are nothing new, people have suffered worse things than what we are dealing with now and music has never gone away, i think 2020 has forced musicians to think very differently about how they do things and the smart ones have found creative ways to make the most of the situation. Computer Warrior would probably have never happened without it to be honest, I had so much extra time to devote to writing and recording. Things may be different from here on in but I for one see it as an opportunity and choose to see the positives, its taken many bands off the road and got them writing and recording new music, maybe it will flip the industry on its head and musicians will start earning money from record sales again! I hope it has made people see how important supporting local venues is and perhaps that will see an increase in attendances for the grass roots music scene. Metal will always be there and it has always helped people get through tough times, its like a cockroach, you can’t kill it! There will ALWAYS be kids who are drawn to loud guitars, and they will always form metal bands, so it is written so it shall be done!
Going back to the beginning, the Legion EP was very well received by the metal underground. How long had you been working on those songs and were you at all surprised by the reaction to it?
– I started writing it in about August 2018 and it was out by the October so not really very long at all! I was surprised for sure, it was really just an experiment you know? I wanted to see what I could achieve with very little equipment, the gear I had to hand was my Les Paul, an old Marshall amp (the first one i ever owned) and my iPhone – no mics, no drums, nothing! the guitar was plugged into the phone directly and i just sang straight into the phone, you don’t GET any more underground than that! TRUE CULT!! I hope that inspires people as well, like you don’t need the expensive gear, getting more stuff wont make you creative, use what you have to hand and allow the limitations to spark your creativity and find ways round the obstacles you face. LIMITATIONS = INSPIRATIONS! Now more than ever the DIY ethic is paramount and although Legion may sound a bit ropey I’m super proud of it for what it achieved on zero budget.
Your lyrics are generally based in reality than most bands in this genre and this was especially true on both full lengths. Do you think you’ll ever revisit fantasy themes as you did on Legion or do you prefer to write more gritty, experience-based lyrics?
– Nah, I think the fantasy stuff is cool if your really into it and your fully immersed in it but that’s not really me, I don’t even watch Game of Thrones man….I’m at a point in life where I need to leave a legacy (pun intended) behind, I need to express how I see the world around me, sometimes its beautiful and sometimes its bloody awful but I have to try and reflect that as best I can. My hope is always that people will listen to the lyrics and get something from them that will inspire them or help them through a hard time or even just allow them to relate to it in some way. My aim is to create a movie in your head, that’s a hard thing to achieve. Fish (Scottish solo artist) is an absolute master at this and that’s the kind of songwriter I aspire to be, just with neck snapping riffs involved. You know there’s a million trad heavy metal bands singing about dragons and warriors with biceps of steel and maidens with eyes aflame lusting for the power of the ether crystal….all the while the lord of darkness sits astride a throne of skulls raining lightning bolts down upon us all, turning the land into a sea of fire and remorse!!…ahem….you have to be REALLY good if your gonna do it convincingly, if I did it i would sound like a twat. There not that many trad bands singing about the stuff I do so hopefully it helps me stand out a bit.
Legacy was quite an uplifting record and you’ve stated how the songs are a kind of life guide for your sons. Did the emotion of what you were writing ever get too much? What do your sons think of the songs?
– Well I’m a Scottish man and we have our emotions removed at birth so I was unable to feel any overload of emotions due my tear ducts being sealed up with Bostik. Those little dudes just want to listen to Machine Gun Kelly, the youngest did bang his head to Caged though…they don’t wanna listen to the old man spouting his thoughts over a minor harmonic riff….but they will one day, probably when they’re older and have kids of their own, I think they will get it you know? I hope so. That’s why its called Legacy, it will be there forever long after I’m gone and they can read the lyrics I wrote for them and use them for guidance.
In contrast, Computer Warrior seems like a much more angry record. What led to this, dare I say, more bitter direction with the lyrics?
-Legacy looked inward, Computer Warrior looks outward a little more and observes what’s going on in the world around me. I allowed my little corner of the world to seep into my songwriting, where I live was pretty much devastated in the 70s/80s when the coal mines closed and although its kind of on the up and up now there’s still a lack of opportunity for young people, at risk of sounding pretentious I really wanted to try and tell the story of the disenfranchised folks in small towns that are struggling and have been pretty much forgotten about by the establishment and left to just find their way the best they can. I’m trying to get across a sense of frustration with that situation, I think it teeters on the age of being political but not saying “this side is good this side is bad” more just talking about the aftermath of political decisions and how it affects normal people and their everyday lives. Lyrics for the NEXT record are even more scathing I can promise you, no punches are getting pulled!
The new album started life as an EP. At what point did you decide to go for a full length? Which songs did you already have ready?
-I had Computer Warrior and Confess (which was originally called Tale of Endless Suffering) and Trevor called me up one Saturday night as I was eating a Chinese Takeaway and watching a Jason Statham movie and told me how much he dug Confess and asked what my plan was. Well I had no plan really but after an hour on the phone chatting we agreed to do an EP and that Trevor would drum on it (he loved Confess but hated the fake drums) We loosely spoke about releasing it on vinyl through Church recordings and I set off writing two more songs and Trev went off to work on the Flashback record he had coming out. In the meantime I ended up with an extra song so I hit Trevor up and told him I had five tunes good to go. He called and was like “so if you can write five you can do eight write? lets just do an album” so I got to work and frantically wrote another three tunes.
Computer Warrior sees you working with another musician for the first time as part of Oath Sc. Was it at all difficult to relinquish the 100% creative control that you had with the first two releases? How much do you think Trevor’s involvement helped you to improve as a home recording artist?
– well I didn’t give anything up at all creatively, Trevor very much let me do my own thing, he made a couple of editing decisions with a couple of songs, shortening solo sections etc…its hard to do that on your own because you’re so close to the music that its hard to be objective, having another set of ears was a massive help. His involvement was like a huge learning curve for me, we had lots of phone calls and after every one I had learned five new things, he would call and be like “umm why did you do it this way?” and of course I’m no bullshitter so I just told him “cos I have no clue what I’m doing. I’m winging it..” and he goes “yep, thought so!” and then goes on to explain that he fixed it but then also tells me how to avoid making the same mistake again. That kind of advice is worth a fortune, I learned so much about recording but also about how the business side works. The whole experience was completely positive and taught me so much. Trevor is mega busy of course but we are gonna work together again for sure and I’d also be open to collaborating with other musicians in the future.
From your pictures and posts on Facebook you’ve had to be creative with microphone stands and such! Any tips for other budding DIY bands? Pitfalls to avoid?
-Just don’t let anything get in your way, power through and find a way round issues like budget or lack of knowledge, they can all be overcome if you have the passion to do it. Always remember that people connect emotionally to great songs not great production values.
Following the improved sound on Computer Warrior you’ve expressed an interest to re-record Legion and Legacy with real drums. At first I admit I was a little sceptical but after thinking about it I’m definitely more supportive and think Legacy in particular could be made to sound even better. Is the re-recording definitely something you’d like to do or is your focus on new material? Do you think any re-recorded albums have ever been better than the originals?
– Interesting! Glad you’ve come around! It will be a new album first before I think about re-recording so it will be a while down the line. I can’t think of any that are better! I don’t even like when bands remaster shit, I’m a total hypocrite..I need to do it for me but I don’t want fans to feel cheated so I need to make sure I go about it the right way.
How do you write songs? Is it usually a riff first? Lyrics? A solo idea?
– Nine times out of ten I get a chorus first, usually the words and vocal melody come at the same time and then its just a case of working the rest of the song around that, I’m a big chorus fan, traditional songwriting really, verse, chorus, verse ,chorus, middle, solo, end! I do have 3 songs for the next record that are just lyrics so now I have to build the song around it.
How long have you been playing guitar and how did you get into metal? Who are your biggest musical influences?
-I started at around 13 I think, inspired by Maiden initially and then worked backwards into my dad’s record collection where I discovered Deep Purple, Led Zep, Alex Harvey and Thin Lizzy – the Lizzy harmony guitars made a lasting impact on me, Def Leppard were a big early influence too, I thin that’s where my fondness for a good chorus comes from. Maiden will always be my all time favourites and biggest influence, I’m always being influenced by guitar players though, a guy like Steve Clarke is a great player to study because he always did the right thing for the song, Mike Amott is the same. I always liked Adrian Smith the most because he looked cool, was a great player and most importantly wrote great songs.
What albums have you been playing a lot lately?
– Oh wow, ok, here goes – Haunt – Flashback,Marillion – Fugazi, Seven Sisters – Campfire tales and The Cauldron and the Cross, Wytch Haze – Sojurn, Spell – Oppulent Decay , Hallas – Conundrum, Darkthrone – Old Star, Angel Witch – Angel of Light, Journey – Raised on Radio, Boston – self titled
You recently asked if you were to ever play live, which bands would your fans like to see you with. Lets flip that… which bands would you most like to play a show with? What songs would you definitely put on the setlist? Finally, would you be comfortable handling vocals and guitar or would you draft in a singer?
– UK tour with Haunt and Seven Sisters. Set list is hard man but hows this for a first draft – half hour set, 8 songs 1 – Gatekeeper 2 – Blinded by the sun 3 – No Regrets 4 – Mean Streets 5 – Stay Strong 6 – Caged 7 – A Dream of Solitude 8 – Carpathian If I’m gonna do it it has to be singing, it would be crazy to have anyone else on those songs.
I’ve noticed a Raiders badge on a few of your pics. Are you a big fan of the NFL? Any other hobbies and interests outside of music?
– Nah I just like the hoody and the logo! I Honestly have no time for any other hobbies outside of music, with a full time job and 3 kids I’m pretty busy? if i had the time I would draw more, and I don’t read anywhere near as much as I would like to.
What is your dream guitar?
– Tough one but Fender did a signature of Dave Murrays original black strat, I’ve never been able to find one!