Master's Call - Interview

Master's Call isn't a newcomer in the real sense of the meaning but after a couple of years of dwelling in the British underground they have released a superb debut album called "A Journey For The Damned" last year (read review here). Although they clearly orient themselves on bands like Necrophobic and such they still found a very unique way to present their music and because this was one of my highlights in '23, I had to have a talk with the guys. So James Williams (drums) and Dave Powell (guitar) and I had a very relaxed chat via Zoom on a cold Friday evening with some drinks and a lot of fun.


Hey, thanks for taking the time to do an interview – how are you guys doing?

J: We're doing very well, thank you! It's a little bit chilly but it's all good!

D: We've been busy, I mean we're always busy and we're getting ready for things to come. And it's freezing and cold, but all fine!

Master's Call has existed for over ten years already but you just released an EP called "Morbid Black Trinity" back in 2019 and your debut album "A Journey For The Damned" last November. Maybe you can introduce the band a little bit more to us all?

D: We started in, erm….. we don't even know when we officially started… I think Metal Archives decided that (laughs)…

2013, I think…

D: Yeah, okay, that's when we started then (laughs). I don't necessarily remember that. It started off with me and John (vocals) forming the band. We didn't even really form it as a band, we just sort of sat in a bedroom and started writing songs. We used to be in a previous band together called 'Necrotize' until we ended up at one point not being in the same band. Then later on we wanted to be in the same band again but we wanted to do our own thing as a side thing. That's how it started. Just a two man-project to write some riffs, write some stuff. We liked what we came up with and we thought to keep going and make it a band. I think it was 2016 when James joined on drums.

J: Yeah, that's correct cause what happened was that John basically posted on Facebook that they're looking for a drummer for Master's Call. I'd never heard of Master's Call ever, so I carried on scrolling by. I was trying to start my own band with no success because of the same issues with line-up problems, people leaving. A few weeks later I remembered the post from John as I knew him from 'Funeral Throne' so I decided to message him and ask if he was still looking for a drummer. He PM'ed me and we arranged from there that I had to learn a couple of songs and that was the beginning for me.

D: And from there we got a bassist - at the time, that was Adam - John knew him and then we looked for a vocalist. The vocalist at the time was attending a gig with John's other band and he talked to him there. So it went on from there. Eventually we were writing a lot of songs and most of them were thrown away (laughs). The very first song we worked on was 'The Spire Cranes' which is on the debut EP. We initially didn't think to do that kind of chorusy-thing, it was just like "let's just write the most extreme black/death metal thing and make it evil" but then we had that chorus "in the name of the father….." and I think we initially thought it was "wrong" to do that but we liked this kind of vibe (laughs). And then we thought to do more of that. But that one has been a hard song to top because of that chorus and was why we threw so many songs away. They sounded good but not as good as this one. Over time we got a few songs that we liked and we decided to record an EP. But the three tracks on the EP didn't include some of the songs that we'd already written because we were saving them for the album. There are a few tracks on this album that we'd written at the very beginning. So from our point of view they're old and we think of them as being the "old" songs. Even though they've only been out a few months now, they've actually been around for like 10 years (laughs). It's a bit of a mix of us writing everything we had ideas for but then ending up with a family of songs that worked better on the EP and a family of songs that worked better on the album.

J: At least two of the songs on the album we've been playing live pretty much since our first gig anyway. 'All Hope In Fire' and 'Pathways'.

D: Yeah, 'All Hope In Fire' was the first song we played live and that was in 2017. It's a strange one to not release it for that long. And from our point of view we were getting sick of this song, but most people are hearing it for the first time now. It's weird but it does reinvigorate it for us when people react and comment on the song.

You were signed by the aspiring German label Fireflash Records where many other pretty well-known bands are signed, too. Did they stumble over you or did you send them a demo so they got aware of you?

We didn't actually send a demo. We were actually suggested to him by an associate and he messaged us. It was kind of unexpected. We even did not want to release it on a label but rather self-release it. But there were obviously things that were a bit out of our reach for us that the label was able to offer. So it made sense and it was the right thing at that time. I mean, it's expensive to put stuff on vinyl and that was definitely something we really wanted to do. It was pretty much an avenue for that and more. So we never sent a demo ourselves which was interesting in that it was the result of a recommendation.

I think it's pretty cool that you were signed by them. For example Schizophrenia from Belgium, they are doing all their stuff independently and have a lot of issues distributing all their stuff on their own.

J: Yeah, I think that's part of the benefit of the label because there are some certain things and a certain reach they have, connections they have. Doing it independently it's a lot harder to achieve.

I like the brutal but very melodic approach that you have in your music. I think it is a challenging tightrope walk to combine both black and death metal elements so that it doesn't appear to be too artificial. What's your formula to be real?

D: Well, we listen to a lot of real bands I suppose (laughs). We write what we like listening to. You can say that it makes us probably not original but that was sort of the thing we like. We like black metal, we like death metal and we also like old school stuff such as Judas Priest and Sabbath as well because we are from that area. We are always trying to put a little bit of that in there like a nod to the old school - whether that's in a solo or something like that. I mean it combines a sound that is just very natural, we don't feel that we're forcing anything. In the beginning when we threw a lot of our songs away, it wasn't that they were bad songs but they didn't have that special 'thing'. We needed some more influences. We were just writing like the previous bands we were in basically, so we wanted to come to have more of our own kind of sound. For me personally writing a lot of the guitar stuff on the melodies is one of the things that evolved over the time. I don't really know why, perhaps in 10 years stuff just has evolved and I listen to other bands I didn't listen to ten years ago. It's a constant evolution.

J: I mean I've come from a background of bands like old school thrash, melodic death metal to black metal. So all those influences were there within the band in some way.

This leads to my next question. In my review I wrote that some of the guitar solos might be written by Sebastian Ramstedt / Necrophobic. Are they some kind of role model for you and what other musical inspirations do you have? Concerning the vocals I'd guess out of the blue that Cronos and Athenar (Midnight) might be some…

D: Vocals obviously is Johns' department. With vocals it's one of those things because that's kind of your own sound anyways. I know John does like those bands but I wouldn't say that necessarily gave him the vocal tone he has, that's just how he sounds. He's got quite a good range, he can go high and low and his natural voice is in the middle somewhere. We all like Necrophobic, that's for sure and I can definitely say there is some influence in the leads I've written and John has written. Believe it or not, John wrote some parts on guitar because he was a guitarist at one point in this band, and still is. Just for live he is the vocalist. So yeah we all like Necrophobic but some of that kind of style feels kind of natural to write for us anyway. It's not like we're intentionally trying to do it, but when you put it all together it can sound like them in places. People have pointed out a lot of bands we sound like and they are all correct. I mean, some people have even said that it's all Behemoth - well, it's not all Behemoth (laughs), or all Necrophobic. Some of it is but not all of it. It's just funny some of the reviews or comments where someone's saying this is completely Dimmu Borgir or this is completely Behemoth or Watain etc. Cuz those bands don't really sound alike so how can we be 100% any of those bands (laughs)? But sure they are all definitely there, I guess you hear what's most prominently recognizable to you.

Lyrically you deal with hopelessness, darkness and you also use some occult symbols. What is the philosophy or religion behind this?

D: Well, again most of that is in John's lyric writing and he takes his inspiration from the world, spiritually and physically. But not in the necessarily religious type of point of view. We certainly play into it but we're not a religion-type-of-thing ourselves. It is more of a commentary on those aspects. John does have that symbol on his mask which is a modified sulphur symbol, and I believe his intention there was to be symbolic of the fire coming out of his mouth in the lyrics. There's a lot of anger and fire in them. But I guess he would be the better one to answer that question!

J: Lyrically I guess it is like darkness and chaos on a kind of human level in such a way, and not so much of the microcosm over the macrocosm. It's a bit of misanthropic maybe, we're just talking about the darkness of humanity and the chaos that ensues with all that.

D: Obviously there is a bit of the spiritual aspect to it. 'The Serpent's Rise' is about the serpent poisoning the world and you've got those spiritual aspects like in 'Blood On The Altar' sacrificing yourself for some higher power. Well, it's a lot of journeying through a world of chaos towards death at the end. So, it's grim (laughs).

I watched behind the scenes of 'Damnation's Black Winds' on YouTube. What the hell went wrong there, haha?

D + J: Haha!!!!

That was filmed in this countryside place in the UK. It was like an abandoned quarry. It looks like it was asking for us to do a video there. It was public land as well so it wasn't like we had to trespass or anything like that. Not that we wouldn't have necessarily not done that (laughs). So we had to pick a cold month to do it, obviously. We'd only done two videos and the third one was scheduled for release so we had to get on with it. It was very windy which didn't help with our concept of using fire. And there was a lot of sheep shit everywhere. It was really everywhere, it was ridiculous.

J: Sheep shit, dog walkers, people looking at what the hell was going on here (laughs).

D: Especially when we were playing the drums in the middle of this open field.

J: Yeah there wasn't backing music played out loud, it was just in my ear phones. So I was just playing drums, the other parts that people couldn't hear- just the live drums. They can't hear any of the music or anything.

D: While I was going back to the car to get stuff out, you could just hear these toms from miles away (laughs). It was like some kind of ritual was going on over there. There definitely was a ritual going on by the end of it with burning bibles and stuff in the fire (laughs).

You appear to be pretty much old-school, especially when I took a look at the booklet of the album. And then I saw these QR codes on the last page of it for Spotify, Bandcamp and AppleMusic, haha! That was kind of contrary. Do you think it is necessary at least as a newcomer to work with the new digital platforms to survive?

D: I think so, it's a necessary evil. I mean we know that Spotify doesn't really pay anyone underground. Anybody trying to make money on Spotify, especially in metal you're definitely going down the wrong avenue, but it's a good discovery tool. It's a good way to get people to listen to you. A lot of the time people will somehow listen to your music before they buy it. I think that's generally how it is nowadays, they wanna try before they buy it. People just wanna listen to it right now for free. If I support you, I'll buy the CD. That's generally how it goes. I'm probably the least old school one in the band cause I do listen primarily to my music on Spotify and that way I have discovered so many bands I would never have heard of in my life. I can't even tell you the names of all the bands I've found over time because it's just…. I like a song, so I hit the "like" button. I have also been to gigs of the bands I probably would have never known about, or checked them out at some festivals because they were on my "like" list. I mean live is another way how people discover you but that's a little bit more inconvenient, I suppose (laughs). So, yes, digital is a necessary evil even if it ruins the artwork of your album inlay (laughs).

J: I mean, the thing is, I think it's the world we're living nowadays, like it or not. A lot of "true" black metal bands go "we release our albums on tape, that's it!". So if you have a tape player, you have it and you can listen to the band. But like Dave said, if you want to reach some more people, you should embrace the modern digital era.

Next month you are going on tour with Power From Hell. Do you know the guys already and what are you hoping for on this tour?

Well, we didn't know them personally before this tour came to us. But when we played Oberhausen "Odyssey To Blasphemy" in '22 we played as a three-piece with two missing members. It was me, James and John, the other two had passport problems or something like that. We had one guitar, one drums and the vocalist was playing bass. We tried to make it work and it did. It was fine, we went Motörhead style, it was pure rock n'roll and we got on with the organizer Ana. And Power From Hell played the same festival the following year, and then later on they wanted to do a tour and asked Ana if they can recommend someone who would make a tour work with them. She recommended us. Obviously we must have done a decent enough job and must have been reliable enough to have still made it into Europe. So that's how that happened, it's a bit of a DIY thing because Ana had not really booked a full tour before. We don't really know what to expect because we're all doing this kind of thing for the first time. Power From Hell has obviously toured the EU before but from our point of view, we don't really know what to expect. We know the venue list and we know where we play. I don't know, I guess we do what we did before. We just turn up and go rock n'roll and see what happens.

J: My expectation is a bit of exposure. We are in countries we haven't played before so if there's only one or two people that pick up on something and they have got the right connections, it can only be a good thing.

Entered: 3/20/2024 4:32:21 PM

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