Ahead of the launch their ‘Green Eyes’ 7″ single at Belfast’s Voodoo on Saturday night (January 16), Belfast metallers Rabid Bitch of the North chat to Liam Doyle about the progression of their sound, releasing music on tape and what it means to support local music.
Can you tell us how Rabid Bitch of the North got started?
It’s pretty much the same old story of a garage band that started in our school years. Gerry Mulholland (our guitarist) and me (Joe McDonnell) started what would become Rabid Bitch Of The North while still at school. Gerry got a guitar for a Christmas gift one year, and I decided I would get a bass and we started a band together. At the time we were with other schoolmates trying to start something but nothing was too serious. A few other band names other than RBOTN floated about between the members. “Skeletal Damage” and “Death Mask” are two memorable ones. I even remember painting a “Death Mask” image which was pretty much a Jason Voorhees rip off. We were obsessed, and still are with horror movies. After a few years of not really doing much other than writing bits of songs and lyrics (never covering other bands weirdly) we eventually got Chris Condie to join on drums. This was after the school days. Chris had been in other bands, had his own kit, a garage to practice in and had played one or two actual gigs, so he was ideal. With a drummer now it felt real and we wrote and practiced every week. Early tunes “we don’t go to school”, “Bitch”, “Terror of the streets”, “Too drunk” (all on our new compilation CD) were the beginnings of what is now Rabid Bitch Of The North.
We started as a 3 piece in the early 2000’s but never gigged. I left the band and re-joined in 2006 to find they had become a 4 piece. I re-joined as the vocalist, a job I hadn’t taken too serious until then. Another member Connor was on Bass, and they had fired the previous vocalist for being shit, and a time waster. I was on crutches singing at the time, after a drunken accident at Metallica’s ‘20 year Master Of Puppets anniversary’ gig in Dublin. So this 4 piece line up played RBOTN’s first gig in November 2006 at The Front Page Belfast. The Front Page gig was a punk/rock audience of about 15 people at most. A Rough Start in a rough bar. That bars now a gay bar called ‘Maverick’ of all things!
2016 works out as RBOTN’s 10 year live anniversary.
How was your sound received on the live stage? Were you playing with bands of the same ilk, or were you on your own in that respect?
At the start, and for a long while no one got what we were about. We were playing with Death Metal bands, pub rock bands, punk bands, and Nu Metal bands, for what felt too long. The audience were there to see those types of bands the majority of times and we had to really break a sweat to impress. There were no traditional/classic/real “Heavy Metal” bands playing Northern Ireland other than us as far as we knew. The majority of times that underdog feeling probably fuelled us to wanting to outplay the headliners or make the crowd remember us. We just wrote songs as we wanted to hear them, and still do. There was never a “let’s write an Iron Maiden riff”, or “I’m going to sing like Udo Dirkschneider in this one” discussion. That probably comes from never learning other bands songs or playing covers. Like most bands that last a long time, it took a good bit of crafting and experimenting to find what has become our sound. It has all fell nicely into place over time. The same 3 long haired fellows have been making loud noise in a room together for a long time, and now it’s sounding like something we love.
We had a punky edge to our material at the start I think. Maybe that was down to the types of venues or just not deciding on a specific sound. Gerry is always experimenting and changing sounds so it leads to us experimenting and the songs evolving. On the CD we have out “From the kennel to the castle”, you can hear the big difference from the first demos in 2006/2007, and our current 7” single “Green Eyes”. Gerry’s guitar work gives everything its own flavour in each song.
Why did you decide to release your music on tape? Do you think the medium has made a comeback in recent years?
We simply went with the cassette format in 2014 because we were asked by the Dublin Label “Sarlacc Productions” to do it. It seemed the right time to do it and popular enough to actually sell. Tapes still seem popular and collectible which is great to see. Vinyl LP, EP, and Cassette Tape are the formats to release on at the moment. In underground heavy metal anyway. This year we have released a Vinyl 7” and will be releasing the album on 12”.
What is it about the NWOBHM generation of artists that appeals to you over the plethora of rock and metal genres?
NWOBHM was simply the beginning of it all for Heavy Metal. The music that came out of it was real, exciting and new, and there was no bullshit. As the bands were unknowingly creating a movement of music, they experimented and created genuinely inspiring sounds. We call it a big influence because we listen to so many of those bands from that time. We also never set out to sound like anything specific other than Heavy Metal. Like NWOBHM we were similar in that we we’re just a band that liked heavy guitars. The NWOBHM also had great song titles that spoke to me as a teenager. Bands like Saxon were singing about riding motorbikes and street fighting and war. The American trashy metal bands singing about girls and sex and drugs didn’t appeal as much and always seemed fake. The Leather Jacket, bullet belts, and denim jeans look of NWOBHM has lasted through every sub-genre of metal, and hasn’t dated. Just like the real NWOBHM metal sound has lasted, while other bollocks fads like Nu Metal have come and gone never to be seen again.
strong> What artists from that period do you admire the most?
There are so many!! Raven, Tank, Saxon, Blitzkrieg, Grim Reaper, Satan, Angel Witch, Warfare, Tyson Dog, Hell, Quartz. That’s just a few. We’ve been lucky enough to share the stage with a good lot of those bands too.
The power-trio format for metal is very old school, in line with bands like Venom, Tank, Raven, Motorhead etc. It’s not something you see very often these days. Was this a conscious decision to bring things back to basics, or just a circumstance?
I’d say honestly, circumstance. We needed a bassist. I was just singing at the time. We advertised and auditioned bassists for a long time but no one fitted. So the logical thing was just for myself to take the bass up again and sing. The plan was just for one or two gigs at first. I learnt the set for a Christmas gig with ‘The Dangerfields’ in Auntie Annies, Belfast. The gig went so well that we agreed that we didn’t need to hunt anymore. The same 3 lads from the early 2000’s noisy garage days were back to being a 3-piece.
Do you think that the raw production value is an important factor in your music?
Gerry’s really the man to speak to about our production as he’s also our producer. The “raw” sound we have recorded on the “Defending Two Castles” single was purely down to how we recorded. The tape is 100% live in our own studio. Mics set up on the kit and guitar amp, the bass and vocals plugged in directly. It was plug in and press record. 3 tracks recorded over a couple of weekends. A live mix and very little after production. I think we should’ve probably made a bigger point of that on the tape information as some reviewers didn’t get that it was live and slated the production for being too raw.
Are there any plans for a full-length album? Is a full-length really necessary to “seal the deal” with listeners?
The New full album is already on its way! We started recording it before Christmas 2015. We have finished writing all but one song, so now we are starting to lay tracks down. This one won’t be live in the studio. It’s already full of memorable solid numbers. We have a single out at the minute called “Green Eyes” on Alone Records. It has two tracks that have never been recorded before and won’t be on the album. It’s a stepping stone between the previous single “Defending Two Castles” and the album out this year. There’s no album title but loads of Rabid Bitch style song subjects.
Is there anything you’d like to say to the fans?
I would say don’t be a fan, be a supporter. Be a supporter of local music and go see more live local music. That’s where the real bands and real talents live. We’ve never been a bedroom band recording album after album, we are a live performing band that want to play in front of as many people as possible. To anyone that has come to our shows, broken a sweat and sang “Trapped in 1999” with us, or bought our shirts and patches and wears them promoting our band, you are fucking legends! We like to think our song “Us Against Them” is for those that understand us and appreciate what we do at our gigs. So at our next gig sing it with us, as it’s for you! Thanks for all your support so far, we couldn’t have gotten this far without you.