Arcwielder and Wartooth of BRETWALDAS -interview by Güray Topaç 2020.

English translation: Güray of Johnny Dordevic fanzine tries his best with these two bastards…

Funny you were more into punk and later evelove into some metal liking?

Scott: How did you find that out? Me and Wartooth met indirectly in 86/87 through the Mermaid pub in Birmingham, seeing bands like Napalm Death, Hellbastard, Deviated Instinct, Amebix and so forth. Wartooth also listened to the Tommy Vance rock show and used to pass me tapes of German bands like Cutty Sark. In fact it was him and his brother Swag who slowly got me more into traditional metal.

We finally teamed up to start making something he was describing as ‘norse-core’ in 2001/2 under the name ICELORD, but then we realised it sounded like ‘gaylord’, so we dropped that. Basically it was heavily influenced by archaeology, British history and folklore, Saxon / Viking stuff etc – all the usual heavy metal bollocks, but yeah we had a live punk background– long story, but we were making a break away from that – no, this was going to be studio releases only, straight to the people who were interested. So, BRETWALDAS was born – you can probably work out how our influences shaped us over the years – ‘proper’ punk ( Discharge, Chaos UK, Crude SS etc ), Sabbath, pagan metal, traditional metal, bits of death/doom and black metal. Those genres seem to blend perfectly to us, we never thought it was a big deal or anything.

Yes I listen to a lot of heavy metal now, it’s great to hear so many new albums coming out. İ must confess I still listen to 80s punk with my daughter, who is slowly stealing my record collection, and I can listen to grindcore all day long.

You used to have more songs for an entire album, but you released an EP instead?

Scott: Yeah we had ten ready, but we needed to make some changes. I got tendon problems in my wrist halfway through re-recording the tracks in 2019 – very painful – and that slowed up the drum recordings. You can either have an operation to fix it, or let it heal itself slowly – I opted for the latter, and would encourage anyone else to do the same. In March 2020 it felt better, so I hired a big room and re-re-recorded the drums for half of the ten songs. I’d booked to go back in the following weeks to record the rest, but then Coronavirus lockdown happened and everything was shut. In the end we at least released something, even it was only five tracks. İ worked quickly to get it out. We didn’t want to wait until 2021.

And why it took so much time like almost 10 years after Seven…?

Scott: A combination of things really. Firstly, me and Wartooth were probably burnt out after that album. It sounds effortless and raw when you listen to it, but it actually took a lot of work to craft those songs. We recorded some more stuff for an EP, but I think the working method was exhausted by that point. The 2008 crash meant that I had no job in 2010, so we had to give up the lockup we’d been renting. I had a couple of pointless job interviews ( where they’d clearly already given the job to someone else ), then started to build my own business. That took nearly three years, and all of my time – I even gave up drinking – but I managed to record and release the 2013 crust black metal album ‘Gyddigg’ by SYMBEL, ( to be re-released on Sunshine Ward Recordings this year ) which was quite cathartic, as I was in a foul mood during that period. The year after that, my daughter became ill and needed looking after 24/7 for another two years, so that made things more difficult. She’s ok now though. During this time Wartooth was also having to cope with losing close family. İt wasn’t until I bumped into him at a Discharge gig in 2017 that he said he’d got some new songs, and we slowly started getting things together again. Ten years seems like your whole life when you’re twenty, but it goes past in a flash once you get older, and life becomes more complicated.

The new songs are maybe the most polished ones I heard from you. Do you have a better equipment in your studio or decided to change a bit your sound?

Scott: Circumstances and the need for speed mainly. Wartooth’s songs were more straightforward this time, and the EP sound is plain and clearly presented, like a really good band demo, because I thought the songs were good enough to stand up for themselves without worrying too much about getting an underground atmosphere, which in digital recording most bands achieve anyway by adding effects to clean recordings. As such there’s hardly any reverb on it, whereas the old albums were drenched in it. Just a delay on the vocals. The drum reverb is from the large room it was recorded in. Mid-paced, steady songs also need playing to a click track, which we’ve never done before. Playing steadily and tidily, in fact doing anything steadily and tidily does not come naturally to me, so that was quite a challenge. Wartooth also wrote the songs in standard tuning ( we usually work in D ). As for writing guitar themes and melodies, this time all I could hear was heavy metal. It seemed pointless to fight it. İt was like Wartooth was giving me another Tommy Vance tape. Once I’d written the guitar parts, we needed to move quickly, so I just concentrated on playing everything right. Wartooth liked the leads and the vibe and nodded enthusiastically. And lastly, this was the first time we’d used a professional mastering service. We asked Jack Control if he’d consider it – he did Poison Idea recently. İ had little idea how it would turn out. Normally I mix everything and then bounce a hot signal to tape. İ gave him a very quiet and natural sounding, barely compressed mix. The mastering really brought out the treble – I’ve never heard us sound that detailed, or that loud. Very sharp guitars. Quite a shock really, but lots of people who heard it liked it, and that seems to be what people expect these days. We’ll do the next one slightly differently I think, those songs are a bit heavier so will perhaps need drop tuning again.

The lyrics themes seems to be still same, old times, death and legends. Is this kind of escapism or some kind of pessimism?

Wartooth: Well it’s definitely not escapism. I don’t do any gaming, no prancing about with latex swords – it’s not about fantasy worlds. We both interact with the modern world in a visceral way whether we like it or not. There’s definitely some pessimism involved – anyone considering the human condition can’t really avoid this. ‘Old times, death and legends’ sums it up pretty well.

Is “Kingdom of Killers” a real place referance or something imaginary?

Wartooth: The Kingdom of Killers is a real place – Planet Earth! Competition, greed, base impulses – the history of humanity is a slaughterhouse and the present is no different. Some parts of the world may seem detached from it but the dark truth is always simmering just below the surface.

Do you have any plans to re-issue the previous cds, I need Droner and Bones was only digital release right?. Also any plans for LP releases?

Scott: We’ve released everything in physical formats actually, those old albums have just sold out. Jesse at Sunshine Ward Recordings is re-releasing ‘Battle Staffs…’ on cassette soon, which we’re really pleased about, and Caligari Records have already done ‘Seven Bloodied Ramparts’. We would love to release Bretwaldas on vinyl, maybe we can sort that.

My fave of your releases is Seven Bloodies Ramparts. It is perfect raw and crust and metal all melted together.

Wartooth: Thanks – I was really pleased with that release. The songs were varied but worked well together and the sound was really powerful. Arcwielder did a great job moulding it all together.

A Handful of dust.. is amazing! So strange that no one label or magazine noticed it and flew under the radar. Are you feel some kind of underrated band?

Scott: We did get a bit of interest with that release – we sent it to Metal Hammer and they gave it a good review. Apart from Zero Tolerance Magazine – in which we hold the record for being the first band to actually smile in their inteview photos – we tend not to bother with the underground press, who tend to be a bit small-minded, well from our experience anyway. I don’t know about underrated – being in an underground band is always a trade-off between your everyday life commitments and that of the band, but when you feel you’ve finally done something good, well, that’s sort of a reward in its own way – you’re finally closer to satisfying your biggest critic, yourself – but it’s also great that other people like it. You feel like you’re connecting with other people who get what you’re doing, which is amazing really.

Wartooth: A Handful of Dust is a frenzied track – fighting against the odds, generating power from within. We got some good reviews and Caligari records did a later tape release. There are plenty of good bands that are underrated these days, it’s just the way it goes.

Do you try to promote yourselves or just put the material out and wait someone to be interested?

Scott: Promotion does not come naturally to either us, but it has become a necessary evil these days, what with the millions of bands that now exist, so we did start the Facebook page, which was quite galling. Social media seems to be mainly about chasing likes for the dopamine hit. I’m still not convinced it’s the right thing, but it does make some things easier I guess. Both of us were happy with the old days before broadband came in 2007, just selling CDs to cool people who had discovered our website. We are peripheral types who don’t really like scenes, I guess. It’s much better to be free of all that and connect with like minded people, even if that makes for a reduced fanbase.

Yuo are running a very cool webzine/blog Oldmansmettle. How did you became interested with that? Did you make any xerox fanzines in the past or contribute some other magazines?

Scott: Thanks again. I thought of the name one day when out walking, and liked the idea of people staying relevant as they get older. It seems to me that our western societies obsess over youth, but in an exploitative and insincere way. When you’re young it really benefits you having someone with experience to help you out when you need it. I certainly could have done with that. Of course, you can get very wise teenagers and dumb-as-fuck old people, so it’s not a cut and dried thing. İ dunno, maybe I’m overthinking it. But no, I’ve never done a ‘zine before, and it probably needs an editor, but I decided to just throw myself at it. So, last year when I realised I wasn’t going to be able to be productive musically I bought the domain name, and started reviewing stuff I liked, and interviewing people who seem interesting, particularly older artists. İn that sense it’s quite a niche idea. İ really liked interviewing Stig Miller. He seems wise to me. Running the blog has also taught me that it’s easy to come across as a bit aloof and blunt when you’re being interviewed, it’s just the nature of the dynamics of the relationship. So, sorry to anyone who’s interviewed me over the years and I’ve not read the questions properly. I think you have all the experience here, Guray – and you know how to ask just a few questions for a ‘short’ interview, and get a long response, haha!

Well I think you are an Amebix fan so wonder what do you think about Rob Miller’s opinions in last years, about all those conspiracy theories, holocaust denying etc.

Scott: Guray, that was sneaky, we’d managed to avoid this topic up until now. But yeah..the music will still survive, but I can’t see things being the same, not after that farce. I mean, at least Skrewdriver were honest about their views, and not dressing it up in pseudo-intellectual crap. At this point, İ feel more for Stig really, and it’s a bit sad of course as they are brothers, after all.

Wartooth: I am a massive Amebix fan and have been for many years. I saw them on the Monolith tour and they were awesome. ‘Arise’ is on my turntable right now. Many people I knew were big fans – they were like no other band – music and lyrics were fascinating and have been a big influence on me. I also think that the first Tau Cross release was an amazing piece of work. I think he made an error of judgement mentioning that guy in his thanks list. Up until that point I think he had the respect of everyone and in the blink of an eye it has all turned to shit. However, for me this doesn’t detract from the legacy of Amebix at all.

You also share a common interest into old martial arts and swords etc, right?

Wartooth: Yes – particularly when we were a bit younger we used to be out in the woods battering the crap out of each other and others with swords, axes etc. We did quite a lot of work with wooden staffs – a very interesting and versatile weapon. We’re both quite handy with tools, ancient technologies etc and are still always experimenting and making / building weird shit.

Is Birmingham good place to live and does city and or country life inspires you? If you are just hanging around is it possible to see Geezer Butler or Barney Greenway?

Scott: Yes it’s ok actually these days, as cities go. I do try to get away to the countryside as much as I can though. As for the original Napalm Death (up to 1986 ), well, all the bands used to hang out in the same places in the 80s, so yeah everyone pretty much knows each other, and you’ll occasionally see them for a chat at gigs. We never really knew the later version of Napalm with Barney as they were a global band at tha point, but fair play to them, they worked hard to take that band forward. Sabbath – my mate’s brother was working installing new sump pumps on Tony Iommi’s house around 2011, when he’d come back for cancer treatment and they were in England recording some tracks, and when they got there Ozzy answered the door. He saw their orange overalls and jokingly shouted out ‘help – there’s a couple of convicts at the door!’. Anyway, they worked there for a few days and my mate got them to pass Tony a ‘Seven Bloodied Ramparts’ CD. Apparently Tony was very generous with the tea and biscuits. I guess we’ll never know if he actually played the album though! ( But if you’re reading this Tony, I hope you like it and you probably noticed that we nicked a few of your riffs ).

Wartooth: Yeah, Birmingham is an ok place to live – like all cities some elements of it are terrible, but there is plenty of countryside surrounding it and plenty of decent folk scattered around. The legacy of metal and punk is all around. I have seen Tony Iommi around a few times. As far as Napalm Death go, I was mates with the original band and in my opinion their early demos are the true essence.

So will we wait for another 10 years to hear something else from Bretwaldas Heathen of Doom?

Scott: No, we are definitely going to record again this year. We have five more songs. I don’t know if we will record anything after that. We have something like thirty songs now, so maybe it’s time to just get out there, before we die, and play some of them live. We’ll have to see. I’m touched that people have stuck with us this long and bought our new EP. It really is great to see those same names on brown padded envelopes again, like in 2003 when we first started selling ‘Droner’. People change a lot over seventeen years, especially if they were young to begin with, so that’s amazing. And it’s also great to have new fans and to meet new people such as yourself. Cheers!