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Uphill Battle

Let's welcome a new Relapse battlefield: Uphill Battle is their name and blistering hardcore-grinding metal is their fame. They've just released their second album 'Wreck Of Nerves' upon our poor ears. Let's see what their spokesman Danny Walker – drummer, co-composer and co-founder – has to say about his band that was founded at the dusk of the previous century. About future plans, inspiration sources and a vegetarian life in the bloody meat machinery of gore grinders Exhumed.

By: Evil Dr. Smith | Archive under

Hello Danny. My first question deals with another band, Exhumed. You helped them out on the drums on their European tour last year. To my surprise you gave a drum solo during the show. That's quite an uncommon thing in death/grind metal. And for a hired drummer it's even more remarkable. The guys from Exhumed showed they had a lot of faith and trust in your skills.

Yeah, we just wanted to add a little extra to the show, make it a little bit more interesting.

For me, normally when a drummer is giving a drum solo – in the more traditional hard rock and metal genres – it's time for me to take a piss or to get another drink. It's boring! But not with your solo: I was pretty impressed with your Animal-show.

Hehehe, thank you. Yeah, I did it every night on the tour. I just did something at the top of my head. Pure improvisation. And it's kinda weird, cause when I give a drum solo in Europe the reactions from the crowd are really good. Everyone was really into it. But if we want to do something like this in The States, it'll be looked upon as something totally not cool. People in the US are not into drum solos as much as they are in Europe.

Let's go to Uphill Battle. Your new and second album 'Wreck Of Nerves' is my first nerve-wrecking experience with this band. Are there any differences between this album and your previous album 'Uphill Battle'?

I think there are some differences between the albums. On the first album we had a different bass player and lead guitar player. They didn't do as much writing songs as Adi (Tejada, the singer) and I. But Adi and I are the key members from the band; we are in the band from day one. The production on the record is a little rawer and the music a little more spastic. If I would compare these two albums, then this new album is definitely more diverse. There's more breakdown, there are a lot of fast parts and there's more varied vocals, because we use on this album three different vocals: our bass player Joe Gonzalez, Adi and me. On the first one it was mainly Adi who sang and I used to do back-up vocals while I drummed. There are some clean guitars playing on it as well, which you can hear in those interludes.

Those interludes, which connects several songs to each other, was that an idea from Matt Boyles (known from bands like Isis and Neurosis), who mixed the album?

All what Matt Boyles did was mix our record. We recorded it locally with a friend of ours, Martin Ayala, and it was pretty much our idea to do those interludes. Yes, Martin is a friend of ours and has never recorded any big band before us. No big producers, no big time studio work. We listen to the same type of music and he knows exactly how to get the sound that we want. So we may go back to him for our next release. Then, after the recording, we sent the record to Matt, he mixed it, after that it was sent to Scott Hull (guitarist from Pig Destroyer) for the mastering the album. So the record went through a lot of people. There might be a few things I would have changed, but overall it sounds good. It sounds a lot better than our first album. The guitar tone is a lot heavier; certain parts of the drums are more prominent. Matt goes for a real organic approach and it definitely has that feel to it.

You wrote thirteen songs, but only eleven ended up on 'Wreck Of Nerves'. What'll happen with the other two?

Yeah, we didn't want the album to be too long. That's one thing I just can't stand: albums that are too long. That's why we left out two songs to keep the album between the 30 and 35 minutes. But I don't know what we going to do with those songs. Relapse is talking about doing a special Japanese release of the album, showcasing those two extra songs. I like those two songs also very much, so personally I would like to use those songs for an EP or a seven inch record or something, so that everyone has access to reaching those songs.

I really don't know how popular or big your type of music style is. How big/popular are those bands like Exhumed, Nasum, Gadget. Your album is now released several weeks in the States (and is released a few weeks later in Europe, 15th March): What kind of sales from your cd can or may I expect?

I have no idea. That's completely blank for me too. We'll probably have to wait a little while till the album is out for several months and then we might get to see record scans. And actually, we're still waiting to get a statement that tells us how many records we sold from our first album. We haven't received it yet. So I couldn't really tell you, but I have a feeling that this album is going to do a lot better. As for the bands you've mentioned, I think Exhumed is really big. They've been around for over ten years and constantly going to Europe, they've been to Japan. I'm actually going to Japan with them again, after we do the US tour. And we might be coming back to Europe pretty soon as well for some festivals in Germany and the Czech Republic.

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Isn't that a problem for Uphill Battle if you're constantly on the road with Exhumed?

Not really. After our tour with Exhumed (Uphill Battle is now touring with Exhumed through The States, and yes: Danny is working his ass off, EDS), Uphill Battle is going to take a break, cause with our inside lives – jobs and everything and so – we need to get our stuff together. Settle down for a little bit. I mean, we love to come to Europe, that's what we are working on and that's why I'm talking to more European press like you for interviews and stuff. I really like to come out there with Uphill Battle.

Of course. You mentioned job lives and so. So it's not that you're a professional drummer? I mean: you play in Uphill Battle, Exhumed and also in a band that's called Cinema Strange.

Cinema Strange is some kinda ethereal death rock band. I really don't know how to describe it: it's very strange, weird music. Like a circus, but really dark, bizarre and theatric. I've been playing with this band on and off for a couple of years now and I'm officially a band member now. So all this bands take a lot of my time. That makes it hard to hold the jobs for a steady income and be able to tour with these bands. Right now I'm jobless. That's why I'm anxious to go on the road. We're going to be living on the road soon and that's the only thing that saves me. And when I'm come back, I'll have some money and I'll just have to look for another job. Rock and roll doesn't always the bills.

Who and what are your heroes and inspirations?

As far as drummers go, I mean.. Wow, there are so many! I listen to so many varied styles of music: funk, jazz, fusion, metal, punk, surf rock, classical music, you name it. But if you want to know who inspired me when it comes to drummers in the metal-community it'll be Dave Lombardo from Slayer, Gene Hoglan from Dark Angel and Death (now in Strapping Young Lad, EDS), Tomas Haake from Meshuggah is another amazing drummer…but there are so many great drummers. You get older and you start widening your horizons. I listen to styles, pick up ideas, kinda blend things together and do my own thing. I'm 22 years old now; I started drumming when I was eight years old, picking up things from records. After that I took lessons for about seven years to learn how to read and write music: that helped out a lot.

What about the hard rock stars from the seventies like John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Neil Peart (Rush).

Of course. Definitely an influence. You see, that's the cool thing, cause all those guys have a very unique style and they've inspired so many drummers.

What about other metal drumgods from the eighties? Besides Lombardo and Hoglan we have Lars Ulrich, Nicko McBrain, Pete Sandoval…

Oh, of course Pete Sandoval! He's definitely one of them! I mean, that guy is a machine. He's so precise; he's like a human metronome. I know that he practices to a click-track and that helps. I recommend that to any drummer who wants to keep steady. When I rehearse with Uphill Battle or with other bands I'll play to a click-track as well. Actually some of the songs on the new album where done to a click. Just to make sure that's everything is really, really precise.

What about non-metal inspirers?

I have to start with Dave Weckl. He is a jazz/fusion drummer. Has nothing to do with metal, but the guy is completely precise and he's one of the cleanest players that I have ever heard in my live. He's so fluid. Everything is so tasteful. There are just no mistakes. I give him ten out of ten, hands-down. And another jazz guy who I can recommend is Alvin Jones. He's a very extreme hard hitter and he totally breaks the rules. I mean, that guy just don't care, he's a shredding jazz drummer. Billy Cobham you're saying? Oh, amazing! I was just listening to a record from the Mahavishnu Orchestra with him playing on it yesterday.

Before Uphill Battle you played in a band called Destroy Babylon. Did I miss something by not knowing anything about this band?

It was a band that was more punk influenced. I don't know if you're familiar with the crusty kinda thrash grindcore like Discharge, Mob 47 and a lot of those Finnish bands from the eighties. It was just a band I started with when I was a kid. It didn't go too far: we played a lot of local shows but that was about it. Political differences? No, it was not due to political differences that Destroy Babylon split up. They hadn't their stuff together and I moved on to play with a better band you could say. And you could say that pretty much about Uphill Battle too: we get into politics mildly. In our lyrics we're not complaining about issues, we just tell it how it is. Telling the story like this is the kinda shit everyone faces in our lives. Another thing is that we are all vegetarian. That's a bit of a weird thing, cause about everyone that has been in our band (they already changed several times from bass and guitar players, EDS) has been vegetarian. But it's not something we look for: purely coincidental. It's a big issue, it's just our personal diet. And we never have written a song about the slaughtering of animals or so.

Do you also write the lyrics?

Our main lyricist is Adi. On this album I contributed a little bit as well. I wrote the lyrics for 'Conceptual Frame', 'Self Inflicted' and 'Threshold'. Not stuff that I'm particularly proud of: it's just that something's on your mind at a time you get out through pen and paper. 'Self Inflicted' is pretty self-explanatory. It's like any kind of damage to yourself and to do something with the knowledge that you're hurting yourself, but you still don't change it. Continuing to hurt yourself, even when you know you shouldn't be doing that, but for some reason you keep doing it. It could possibly be about drug abuse, but it's not. It could be anything. I like lyrics to not be so blunt, but more ambiguous.

One of my favorite songs is the short, but explosive 'Wreck Of Nerves'.

'Wreck Of Nerves' is basically about stress. And that could be anything. Hopefully, anyone can look at that and think about the stress they may have in their lives, and that's what it is. Just anything that's building up inside you and is pissing you off.

I saw on the Internet that your singer Adi is a colleague of mine. He writes album reviews on sites as Heartattack and Level-Plane.

Oh yeah, that's right. But I don't think he's doing that anymore. He hasn't done that for a while. But he used to do record reviews for Heartattack, which is a zine put out by a label called Ambulition. They put out a bunch of political, hardcore punk stuff and Adi helps those guys out for a while.

Would you like to add something funny, annoying or provoking?

I could give some compliments instead. I gotta say that Holland is one of the finest places I've ever been and I hope specifically that Uphill Battle can come to the Netherlands and play. And I hope to see Inhume again, cause with Exhumed we toured with those guys and they are a great band and were really cool.

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