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Interview conducted June 03 2015
Interview published June 21 2015

A couple of hours before Hell's performance at Sweden Rock Festival, Metal Covenant took the opportunity to have a chat with guitarist and renowned producer Andy Sneap about the band's current and coming activities and also about his often quite impressive studio work.

Tobbe: It's been over 1.5 years since you released your latest album, Curse & Chapter, and if you at this point look back at it, is there anything you wish or could have done differently with that album?

Andy: No, not at all. I mean, I'm actually really happy with it. I think, with both albums, you know, it was a good measure of where the band was. I think we opened the game on the second album. I think it definitely sounds more of a band with the second record as well, so now I'm really happy with it.

Tobbe: So do you have any new material for a forthcoming release at this point?

Andy: We've got a few tough ideas that we just started banging around. Probably sort of 3 or 4 rough ideas. Kev's [Bower, guitar] gathering stuff at home and I've been putting riffs down in the studio and Dave's [Bower, vocals] got some lyrics written. It's the kind of thing that we're gonna start putting together over the next couple of months and trying to get it shaped up.

Tobbe: So when will the next album eventually be released?

Andy: We're hoping to have it recorded probably by the end of January and probably out in April or May next year. That's what we're aiming at.

Tobbe: On the 2 previous records you used some old stuff. Is there any material still left in the vaults that you intend to use?

Andy: Not really. There's a few riffs, 'cause the songs that were left, like Where Angels Fear To Tread, In Depths Of Despair and a few others, where the songs, I don't think, are good enough, but it's the odd little jam in there, so we might sort of cherry pick a riff out.

Tobbe: But if you should use that stuff, it's just for the occasion or something…

Andy: Yeah.

Tobbe: …but you don't really have to use that stuff?

Andy: No, no, but there's a couple of bits that we kind of like the vibe of, so we might pick them out.

Tobbe: How will you, together as a band, approach songwriting?

Andy: With the way we've done it before. It seems to work, you know. Kev will have like a rough demo or something. Same with me. I'll put a structure together and then we sort of rehearse it and we'll throw ideas into the pot, you know. And if there's an idea around some keyboard parts or something else, Kev, you know, trying the middle 8 from there, - "So have you got anything at this tempo that you think is gonna fit?". A lot of the time with the vocals, I'll have like a melody idea or a timing pattern. I'm not good with lyrics, but I'll sit down with Dave and just show him the actual rhythm that I've got, and the pattern. Then he'll go away and trying to put things into it and I'll give him a yes or a no.

Tobbe: Do you think that the next album will be a little different or will it be quite similar to the 2 previous releases?

Andy: I think when you look at the songs that we wrote, like Something Wicked This Way Comes and Darkhangel, you can hear it's still got that progressive sort of vibe, so I think it'll be a bit more in that direction. It will be quite twisted in places, I think. I think we wanna keep that Hell weirdness going on. We know what we need to do and we know the character that we need to put into the songs. Yeah, it will feel like the next step forward.

Tobbe: When Hell was revived a few years ago, were you guys in some way prepared for a possible negative response or did you just look at things in a good way?

Andy: When we did it originally, we didn't really even do it to get a record label. We did it, really as a group of friends getting back together again, 'cause I hadn't seen Kev for 20 odd years. And it was really just a bit of fun, you know, 'cause the guys hadn't even played. And just to get together again and hearing those riffs properly. All I'd got were these crappy cassettes with the songs and I was dying to hear the songs properly. It's just a bit of fun really. Just getting together over a couple of years and recording these 2 albums. Obviously I've got the studio where we could do it. And then it just kept going and going and going and we've just gone with it and enjoyed it, you know.

Tobbe: Is there anything you actually can do to develop yourselves at this point?

Andy: Well, we've always got odd ideas. I mean, we wanna do more touring really, I think. It's a live band really and I think it's one of our strengths. You know, to do a headline club tour in the U.K. and trying to get out to Europe as well. That's the aim really, but it just hasn't really materialized on this album unfortunately. We wanted to do it, but it's tough just trying to get the shows and get it to fit timing-wise with what I am doing, you know.

Tobbe: So how much time will you actually need to make Hell a bigger band?

Andy: I don't know. I mean, we're quite realistic about it. You know, we've always said that out lives outside of Hell actually come first and Hell will fit in with things. It's a bit of a weekend warrior attitude. If Hell, you know, took off, we'd love that. I mean, everyone is so into it. You know, all you can do is put your best into it and see where it's going really.

Tobbe: Are you personally in complete charge of the recordings, considering your name is the only one mentioned as a producer and engineering?

Andy: Oh yeah, I mean, I am really. I mean, obviously the other guys have got ideas, you know. Kev's got a lot of keyboard ideas and stuff, but I'm the one cracking the rope whip during the recording, you know.

Tobbe: How do you try to adapt to new technology nowadays?

Andy: Well, I always have. I mean, from when I was using 2 inch tape, when ADATs came out, to, you know, Pro Tools came. I've always been totally into gear, so I just go with it. There's always new gear coming out, so it's always interesting to see how you can apply it.

Tobbe: That job is obviously your first priority, but on what occasions are Hell your first choice?

Andy: I'll always try and make the two work together if I can. I mean, there's been one or two incidents where I've put Hell first. Obviously, if I'm in the middle of a big album, then that has to take priority, you know, from a financial aspect more than anything. You know, I'll always try and fit Hell in there if I can. I'm doing the Saxon record at the moment, but I'm taking time out to come and do this now. You can make it work, you know. When you're your own boss, you can make it work.

Tobbe: Most of your work is usually highly acclaimed, so which are your key factors to success?

Andy: I don't know. I think I always put it down to just getting on with people. If you can have a good rapport with the artist, so to speak, then I think you're gonna get on well. But I think it's 'cause I'm a guitarist as well. I kind of know the way the studio works and how musicians think really, so I always fit it in in that manner. I'm always like the extra guy in the band really.

Tobbe: What can you actually bring to the table that the bands can't?

Andy: An unbias point of view, I think. I think that's the producer's role; to steer the ship. That's what a lot of bands look for; someone who just focus the whole thing, especially if you've got a couple of songwriters squabbling a little bit.

Tobbe: Do you personally think that you get the recognition you deserve? In this case as a producer.

Andy: Yeah, I think so. Yeah, yeah. The role of the producer is looked at quite highly now, I think. People always talk about "Who's produced this?". Yeah, I get enough credit. Definitely yeah.

Tobbe: You have a few bands that you work with quite a lot. Will you continue to work with, like Accept, and those guys you work regularly with?

Andy: I mean, I always say you can sort of do, sort of 2 or 3, or 3 or 4 albums with a band. I mean, if a band does move on, I'm never offended by it, because I think at some times it's time, you know. For me as well. You know, when you spend 3 months in the studio with a band, it's a long time, and it's a lot of frustrations there in that time. I mean, it's hard work and sometimes it's best to say "Look guys. I think it's time for you to try something else.". I've done that with bands before.

Tobbe: I guess there's quite a long line in wait for your services as well?

Andy: Well, I mean, it's always nice when fresh things come up. You know, this year I've done the Kataklysm guys. I've not worked with them before. I'm doing Amon Amarth again. That last album was the first album I've done with them. It seems, you know, there's a few of us, like Jens Bogren, myself and Colin Richardson. We sort of switch bands, you know. [Laughs]

See also: review of the gig the same day

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