An Interview with Sergeant Thunderhoof
In this special guest post, our friend Boss The Ross interviews English stoner rock band Sergeant Thunderhoof.
Sergeant Thunderhoof. Say it again and let it roll around in your mind.
When I first discovered this band, the name is what really stuck with me. And you, like me, probably want to know who or what Sergeant Thunderhoof is exactly.
Turns out Sergeant Thunderhoof is a 4-piece Stoner Rock band from Bath, England consisting of drummer Darren Ashman, bassist Jim Camp, vocalist Dan Flitcroft and guitarist Mark Sayer. Shortly after my mid-December Record Swap with the Mighty Karhu, I contacted the band about an interview and, lo and behold, guitarist Mark Sayer was gracious enough to play along with my nerdy questions.
How would you describe your music?
Hard call man. We seem to have found a stoner groove as a band since we’ve been together, though elements of Psyched out Doom creep in. It’s not conscious, it just happens. But we are happy with the Stoner Rock tag as it encompasses a wide range of emotions.
Your first release, Zigurat, was put out as an EP even though it pushes the 40 minute mark, an LP length. Why the decision made to keep it an EP?
Naivety? The fear that saying it was album but been laughed at for its brevity? Or just a plain blaggard attempt at re-writing what should be the length of an EP?!? Who knows, next!
A year and a half later, Ride of the Hoof is released and already there is an apparent change in song writing and structure within the band. There seems to be more emphasis on passages within a song and their transitions. Was this a conscious decision or just a natural progression?
You grow and appreciate different mood movements or trips a song can take you on, sometimes this is the repeating of themes or riffs, tempo changes or all together. I think we just wanted to tell a story with each and make the transitions as fluid as possible. Also having bonded together as musicians we trust each other’s ideas that we bring to the table, and are able to arrange these movements in the best possible way. So to answer your question… a naturally conscious decision to grow our music (insert assholes here…)
The band’s lyrics have a slightly esoteric quality to them, talking about societal and religious themes as well. Who is the songwriter for the band? And what is your goal when developing the stories you tell?
Dan writes the lyrics, though Jim & Darren have some input though more so on Zigurat. We build the songs musically first, Dan will find melodies by using lyrics from other songs to centre his mind. The songs have working titles based on what pops out of our mouths at the time; very rarely do these working titles survive on to the finished piece. “Goat Mushroom” and “Planet Hoof” were the only ones on this album to do so. I think that “Planet Hoof” as a title reflects direct reference to the title but “Goat Mushroom” is just the overall vibe… We had a working title for the album of “David Icke: Everything you’ve wanted to know and more”, for shits & giggles. We like the Esoteric and the imagery of control that organised religion sets on the biogram. Writing about real life can be mundane, so step into your subconscious and take a ride…
In “Planet Hoof” you build a background for the Thunderhoof character and use a first person point of view throughout the rest of the album. Is this all from the Sergeant’s perspective?
Pretty much. We wanted to give him some flesh, and liked the idea of a tongue in cheek concept album. Dan originally came up with the concept and we all added our six pence worth as to how he would develop. We are all pleased this saviour Dan has given us, the things he has achieved across the cosmos, repelled lizard women advances even with their breasts of size and finally saving us, the poor human race. Amazing.
In addition to your lyrics, your album artwork helps convey “unknown space” themes and imagery, utilizing minimal color palettes, but a lot of color. Did the art come from the band, and what were the ideas behind it?
We are really lucky with our Artist, Sara-Jane Swettenham. Once the lyrics & concept were finalised we talked with Sara-Jane about our vision. She came back to us with some proofs in various colour ways and then bang. It was done. Like we said, very lucky to commission her.
Going back to the music, I played “Reptilian Woman” for an older fellow I work with; we commenced in instant head nodding with, “Oh yeah, I like that” thrown in. The music has a definite groove. What is it about “the groove” that makes it such a crucial element to your sound?
Similar to question 3 really. The groove is all. We want to feel how it moves, plays with your head, takes you to another place whilst making time stay still and journey through the cosmos at the same time. Cheesy, but doesn’t every band want this. We jam riffs out, change tempo or feel. It grows with each session until it’s ready. Perfectly baked, or perfect to get baked too…
“Enter the Zigurat” has some very interesting musical phrasing, and there are a variety of different styles I can hear in many of your other songs that all tie together to form your sound. What is the band’s musical background? And what are some influences that could be considered “out of the norm” for your style?
We come from different backgrounds and have shared these different influences to create Sergeant Thunderhoof; we are very lucky that it jelled and that we jelled as musicians. Dan, Jim & Darren played in a band together for years, Indica. It was a very progressive band founded in 1999, more than Nu-Metal, Metalcore or any other tags from that era. They were very heavily influenced by Faith no More, this influence they share with Mark, who is a little older and comes from a Thrash Metal background. He played in bands from the Devon scene back in the early ‘90s. We all have outside influences that revolve around just great tunes from a myriad of genres. Usual story, pop, punk, funk, EDM. Everything. You can be passionate about one style of music, but you can’t close your mind or ears to all the wonderful sonic variations out there.
A decent amount of comments from the Record Swap article I was a part of commended the vocal delivery, soaring high above the low and heavy riffs. What was the cause of utilizing this technique?
Dan has a great sense of dynamic when building melodies, he knows how each of us can add to the bigger, kick you in the ass picture by complimenting each other rather than been four solo artists trying to show off. Then, just jamming the tunes out in a room until you blow your own minds. And of course he had one bollock removed so he can hit the high notes like a castrato but has the remaining ball in reserve to delve into the deepest regions of the universe.
Another cincher for my enjoyment of the band is the tone. Being a musician myself, I am interested to know what gear the band uses?
Whoa there nelly! Aren’t these supposed to be carefully guarded secrets?!? Ha! Well Jim is favouring a Fender Classic Precision Bass fitted with a bare knuckle pickup, heavy gauge flatwounds, running through a Boss Bass Overdrive, vintage Vox Bass head going through whatever cabs he hasn’t destroyed with his lowend thuddery. Mark is using a mid ‘90s Cort MGM-1 guitar with Mighty Mite pickups into a Boss GT-8 (using analogue setings bar delay) into a heavily modded early ‘00s Marshall JCM2000 TSL in to a custom stage 2 cab running 4ohms. Darren keeps his tubs very secret. He maintains and wraps them himself, keeping them perfectly tuned. Pop to a show and he may divulge the make. Dan uses a TC-Helicon VoiceLive Touch 2 live to enable real time control over delays and reverb.
And finally, as a bit of fun, are any of you Manowar fans? And if so, what is your favorite album?
Of course we are fans but lacking the credentials to name-drop a favourite album. They play with honour and glory, and have the best costume & LP cover art department ever. But you’ve inspired us to get in touch with our inner Manowar-ness!
And a big thanks to Boss the Ross for conducting the interview!