Since this Welsh four-piece changed their name from Jeff Killed John to Bullet For My Valentine in 2003, they’ve risen from local metal act to national favourites, and ultimately to one of the biggest modern metal bands on the international scene. A decade on from their debut album, ‘The Poison’, which fans revere like Catholics worship the Pope, the band will return to their roots on ‘Venom’. Their fifth full-length to date is a heavier and darker affair than their last, the widely panned ‘Temper Temper’. Before ‘Venom’ drops like an Atom bomb, we spoke with drummer Michael “Moose” Thomas about their newest album, and returning to their old sound.
Hey there Michael, what are you up today man?
Hey mate. We just finished up our show with Slipknot, so I’m drinking a cold one now in the car park.
(Laughs) nice. How was the show by the way?
It was good. Today was awesome, it’s been like 20,00 people a night. You can’t really complain, as it’s good publicity before the album comes out, you know?
Oh, of course. With playing to 20,000 people, ten years ago when you guys released ‘The Poison’, when you weren’t really playing shows to not even a quarter of that. The past decade must have been such a huge lifestyle change for yourself?
Yeah, I was actually thinking about this today. Whenever I come out here, I think, “Oh yeah, this is cool”. Only today did it hit me that this is my job, this is what I do for a living, and it’s only taken like 11 years to sink in. So it’s not bad too, isn’t it?
You’re doing well man. ‘Venom’ is about to drop this Friday (August 14) for us Australians, and you guys have spent about a year or so working on it instead of just knocking it out like ‘Temper Temper’. So do you now have this euphoric feeling of “Yes! It’s finally coming out”.
I just want it to be released right now. I’ve been listening to it since February, when we finished writing it. It was good to take the time with this, as I thought our last one was not our best effort, but because of that album, we’ve taken the time to really concentrate on this record.
So you think if you hadn’t of written ‘Temper Temper’ and gone straight from ‘Fever’ to ‘Venom’, do you think ‘Venom’ would be very different from what it is now?
Yes, Temper Temper had to happen for us to realise what we were in the first place. We’re kind of glad it happened, as it made us realise what we had, and what we want to continue to have in the future.
Good to hear brother. Do you think all of the extra work you guys put in has really made it as good as it is now?
Definitely. When we had talks about this album, I said “No way! You’ve gotta spend time with the songs, have them for a week, and you’ll have a new idea and want to go back in and change them.” So I’m definitely glad we did it this way. Looking at the first album, we had all the time to write that and that’s everyone’s favourite so we figured we’d take that extra bit more time with this record.
From what I’ve heard so far, this album seems to really harken back to the Hand of Blood EP and the first two albums. Do you think that’s something that the fan base has been really wanting and to an extent demanding?
We read all the comments on Facebook and such, and we want to please everyone. When you get to a big level, you have all of these record labels and producers pushing you into what sells, and you think maybe you could try that too. When you don’t put 100% in, when you don’t do it for yourself, it shows in the work, so with Venom we told everyone to fuck off and that we’d go back to the way we were.
The video for ‘You Want A Battle’ is quite striking and I was glued to the screen the whole way through, and I got a strong vibe of the old videos for ‘All These Things I Hate’, ‘Waking The Demon’ and ‘Tears Don’t Fall’, do you think that kind of story telling was a little lost on later songs and even by your peers?
We felt that the story and the lyrics of the song were about things like that. Abuse happens to a lot of people in real life, to women, to men or to kids. We really wanted to strike a nerve with those who watch it, as it does need to be addressed.
I agree with you man, abuse is just wrong. With those lyrics, how does the band feel about Matt (Tuck, guitars/vocals) reining in on those darker themes and more cathartic ideas?
I’m all about the darker, the better. I love it when there’s something, and I don’t really like it when everything is going okay and perfect. When he was writing these lyrics, I thought it was perfect. With the music we were writing, the lyrics just worked perfectly.
With ‘The Poison’, which came out over ten years ago, have you guys ever thought about doing something special to commemorate what is Bullet’s debut album?
You know, we’ve talked about it, but we’re so happy with ‘Venom’, we’re not doing anything right now. We’re just going to let it lay in the depths of heavy metal history (chuckles).
From playing guitar when the band started, and learning drums as the band went forward, what has been the most challenging or the most rewarding thing you’ve learned from your playing over the years?
If I’ve learnt anything, it’s more about what I’ve learned through life. From the end of ‘Fever’ to ‘Temper Temper’, I was drinking heavily and I quickly learned I couldn’t play drums as good (laughs).
Yeah, drunk drumming isn’t the best (laughs). My drumming-side wants to know why you’ve stuck with Pearl drums and Zildjian (cymbals) for so long now?
I’ve stuck with them as they were the ones who believed in me when the band was up and coming. I’ve had heaps of drum companies approach me and asked if wanted to switch, but Pearl and that have been so good to me there’s no point in leaving. It’d be like kicking dust in their faces, you know?
That would be a dick move. Well finally mate, I’ve always been curious about this, how did you get the nickname Moose?
Oh, that’s just what my father and my old friends used to call me, and it just stuck. When we first started out touring the U.S. back on The Poison, I would tell the women that it was because I was hung like a moose (laughs).
(Laughs) holy shit. Did that ever work as a good pick up line?
Fuck yeah man!
(Laughs) classy man, classy. Well thank you for your time today Michael, it’s been great to speak with you.
No worries mate, thanks for doing this. We’ll be out there in February or January maybe.
‘Venom’ is out August 14th through Sony Music Australia.