The Australian metal scene has grown so much over the last ten years. On top of this, the calibre and professionalism of bands has become world class. HAZMAT are one of those bands. They have honed their craft through sheer hard work and a never say die attitude. They have been fortunate enough (disclaimer: hard working bands make their own luck) to support some amazing international acts and they have played so many awesome shows alongside their Aussie peers over a long period of time. The thing that strikes me about them is their sheer sincerity and passion for the metal scene. When you see these guys live there is never a hint of pretention or arrogance, and if you ever speak with them away from the stage they are all great blokes.
The release of their second album, Atonement (our review here), has seen the band grow in both musicianship and songwriting. On the strength of this album, they have secured a distribution deal in Europe through Metal Blast Records, and the band are currently planning their first European onslaught. The band recently secured the support for Over Kill’s upcoming tour in March and so I caught up with Jay (lead vocals/guitar) to get the low down on the HAZMAT machine.
Jay congratulations on the release of Atonement, can you talk us through how it has been received?
“Cheers Mark! As far as pressings go it has topped any of our other releases. But ultimately, I can only judge how a song is received when we are fortunate enough to play it in front of people. When we were working some of the songs off Atonement into the set we decided to hold a few back just for the album as this was the first release that had non-road-tested songs on it. So we can’t say for sure yet but it is doing real well.”
How do you guys go about the writing process, are things written in isolation or do you write tracks as a band?
“This is where I feel extremely fortunate. As a writer I have the best co-writers and editors in the world. I am definitely one that needs to feel the story and the riff to make it palatable to me, but every member brings their own to every song and this is what makes it great. We have not settled on a formula yet and we never will. It’s about the song and the song plays itself out as we work together as a band.”
Are there any new songs in the works or is the focus currently still on supporting the new album?
“We are well into the writing of the next album, I would conservatively say three quarters through with keepers.”
I know there has been some talk around you guys heading overseas soon, is there any update on this?
“We are off to Europe in July and we can’t wait. We have toured in NZ and the Philippines before so it’s not our first step off the island, but wow! We are excited. We have an awesome scene in Australia, thanks to a lot of music pioneers and some awesome selfless off the stage promoters. I think I am old enough now to say that these doors are open because of those that have put in the yards, and for that I am forever grateful”
On top of this I know that you have secured a recent distribution deal with Metal Blast Records, how did this come about?
“This came about talking to Steve King after a show of ours. He had just come back from a Euro tour and I asked, ‘Do you think we could get over there?’ To which he replied, ‘Yeah mate you guys will love it! Book one show, play 5, I know a bloke that’s got a metal label in Germany.’ Basically things happened from there.”
“Long story short Tobias from Metal Blast said send me your album I’ll check it out. Then he sent me a million page to the letter contract about him repressing and distributing the album. I said I’m not comfortable signing anything but if you wanna do this let’s do it. True to his word, multiple pressings and a re-release of the remaster. Metal Blast gets my respect.”
You guys have played with some amazing bands over the last few years, are there any that stand out?
“I have had the honour of supporting idols and playing with great bands new and legendary here and abroad, but not to diminish any, the stand out was the Blaze/Dianno tour. We travelled and lived in close quarters and Paul Mario Day (original Iron Maiden vocalist) completed the trilogy on the tour. It was every metal fan’s dream. But for mine, I can honestly say that not one in the list of supports we have done has let me down. I think that speaks volumes for metal.”
Now Jay you have been at the helm of HAZMAT forever, talk us through how the band came about?
“There is a massive backstory to the history of what was to become HAZMAT and not enough time to tell it. Duck (original guitarist) and I have played together for years and we were in Neophobia amongst other things. But basically, after a phone call we wound up in a pub in Canley Heights and agreed we should have another go and it really seems like yesterday. That’s the short version anyway.”
The Australian metal scene is so strong at the moment with so many strong bands what is your take on the scene currently?
“There are so many great musicians these days in Australia. I’m constantly blown away by the talent of the young bands coming through in the metal scene and I am so proud to be a part of it.”
To finish let’s focus on your Over Kill support coming up next month, you must be pumped?
“Pumped! Mate in year 7 I had a hessian bag that had their name in paint pen along with patches and everything. What an honour Mark, we are so proud.”
It’s been great chatting mate and thank you for the opportunity, see you at Overkill.
HAZMAT are one of the hardest working metal bands in Australia currently and they deserve the success and all of the accolades that they receive. I am looking forward to their set next month, opening for Over Kill, and I wish them nothing but the best for the first European tour later this year.
Interview by Mark Snedden
HAZMAT (Opening for Over Kill)
Saturday March 3rd @ Factory Theatre, Sydney