Interview with James Balcombe of Osmium Guillotine

Album cover

James Balcombe of Osmium Guillotine chatted to us shortly before the release of his band’s self-titled debut album on MGR Records. 

1)      That’s quite a band name! Could you tell us the story behind it?

Yeah, quite simply it came from combining two potential band names; ‘Osmium’ literally means heavy metal, it’s an element on the periodic table, and ‘Guillotine’ is a medieval execution device. As both names had been taken, we put them together, creating something that takes your head off with heavy metal!

2)      You have just signed to the MGR label and are releasing your debut album through them this month, how does it feel to have taken this important step?

We hope that having the backing from MGR will help to give us the additional exposure that we likely would not have been able to achieve as easily on our own merits. Part of the reason we haven’t released a full length record before now is that we wanted to make sure we’d have the ability to get it out to a larger number of people, rather than make the effort and only have a handful of people knowing about it! Now seems like the right time for the band.

3)      Like other MGR bands you describe your sound as being evocative of a more classic era, does this reflect a simple love of the old school or do you feel that modern heavy music should be taking a more old school approach overall?

My personal tastes in metal have always been primarily rooted in the “old school”, specifically the early heavy rock bands of the 70’s, the NWOBHM scene and the early thrash bands of the 80’s; to me that’s heavy metal at its purest and that has influenced our overall sound. I like lots of different types of music and there’s plenty of room for all types of modern artists doing their own thing, but it’s great for me to see the recent revival of newer bands playing that more classic sound.

4)      Your classic cocktail includes a few diverse ingredients: ‘80s metal, classic rock, the original punk movement and according to your Facebook page “a light twist of doom”. Is there a common element to each of these which you try to showcase in your music?

As I mentioned, I like a variety of styles, so the one thing we’ve always tried to avoid is ‘pigeonholing’ ourselves to one specific genre, certainly on the new album there’s traditional heavy metal alongside doom, punk, groove, thrash and even elements of folk. It all still sounds like us, but I think it’s good for us to be open-minded from a song writing perspective, it’s less limiting if you’re not constantly trying to stick to one formula.

5)      On your upcoming debut album what aspects of classic heavy music do you feel really stand out? And what did you do to establish your own unique sound? 

Most notable is of course the guitar work, there’s a very ‘classic’ element to the solos and dual-guitar harmonies which was a staple of that NWOBHM scene, our vocalist Pete also sings in a cleaner, more melodic style than a lot of modern metal bands.

6)      Do you plan to tour this album in the near future?

We’re always talking about touring, but honestly it’s all dependent on our budget, as touring certainly doesn’t come cheap unless you’re lucky enough to get paid for every gig, which is a rarity for underground bands! We will of course be gigging around as much as possible to promote the album and play to new people; if all goes to plan we may have a UK tour in 2015.

7)      The band has seen a fair bit of member turnover; do you feel that this is the line-up with whom you can really take off?

As of June 2014, the band will have been going 5 years since its initial conception, we’ve only had 3 official member changes in that time, which I think is pretty common for a band first starting out. The first line-up was essentially a pub band, playing metal and punk covers and performing at jam nights just to get that experience of playing live together, over the time we’ve had a few member changes and focused on our own original material, the band’s current incarnation has been together since the start of 2013 and it certainly feels like this is the definitive line-up with which to release our debut album and focus on growing as a band.

8)      In my research I came across an interesting testimonial that you wrote for the website Worst Promoter Ever, could you sum up that experience for our readers, and since it’s been nearly a year since you wrote it, has the experience been topped?

I think we all agree that gig was still our worst gigging experience! I won’t name names as the promoter in question is unsurprisingly no longer putting on gigs at that London venue, but it was one of those cases where they messaged our Facebook page offering us a ‘great gigging opportunity’, but even after we’d agreed to play the gig, they were very hesitant to give us any information regarding the night, the other bands on the bill or even a copy of the event poster to share around. We ended up playing last on the bill, after 3 acoustic acts and 3 indie/pop-rock bands had played (the band on prior to us had been billed as the ‘headliner’) and then we went on stage; not only after the headline band had played, but after the bar had closed and a large proportion of the crowd had left the venue, either not knowing there was even another band on, or clearly not being fans of heavy metal. The whole thing was a big learning curve for us not to trust dodgy promoters who won’t even tell you who else is playing on the same night, they even wanted us to sell the gig tickets for them, surely that’s the whole point of a promoter?!

9)      Finally do you have a message for our readers at Get Your Rock Out?

Thanks for reading & keep supporting your local and underground music scene – You might just discover your new favourite band!


Interviewer: Michael Dodd

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