Rockers Digest caught up with Onslaught bassist James Hinder, just before the band took to the stage at their reunion gig in Bristol.

A review and photos from the gig can be found here… Live Review

What have you been up to since Onslaught?
I`ve done no music whatsoever. I jacked in music in December 1990 and I didn`t pick a guitar up in anger until October 2004. The other guys, Steve (Grice, drums) & Nigel (Rockett, guitar) did Frankenstein for a while after the band split then I believe Nige carried on with a band called Power Junkies for a while who were power metal with a sleazier kind of edge. Sy (Keeler, vocals) did the Mirror Mirror thing. That again faded out in the 1990s and he didn`t do anything after that.

Alan Jordan (new guitarist) was in Mirror Mirror wasn`t he?
Yes, Alan was. They supported us on the last Onslaught tour. Alan was I believe in the Power Junkies for a while with Nige. It`s quite an incestuous thing going on there. The last thing Steven did was Frankenstein, he didn`t play after that. So we basically took a decade off music and did other stuff, did our own lives. We all do different things now. I`m a systems analyst, Steve is a director of a marketing, media, design company, Nige has his own building firm, Simon works in the laminating business and Alan works as a manager of a distribution centre. So we`ve all got our own lives, that most people do these days. So we do this as a fairly serious and committed hobby really at the moment. To be honest, in many ways that suits me where we are at the moment. My employers are very good, very flexible. You know I`m certainly not in a position where I want to go and pretend to be a pop star again. That`s when things start to implode and start to go wrong. Perspective is the key to everything really.

So what made you want to reform then?
Nige & Steven have known each other for years, they`ve known each other for 20 plus years and they were friends after the band split up and they live very close to one another in Bristol. They became aware of the fact that a label had released, unbeknown to ourselves, Power From Hell & The Force and they were selling. They weren`t selling huge quantities, probably selling a couple of thousand copies a year whatever, but obviously somebody was making some remuneration from that. So they were scratching their heads as to what was going on with this. Anyway, Steven received a royalty statement, I can`t remember which company, but he received a royalty statement for five pence! He sat and thought, this is silly, because somebody somewhere is taking the piss here. So he got together with Nige and they thought about it for a while and thought why don`t we ask Simon and Jim. So with Sy, apparently there was one of these classic moments. Steven used to do some printing work for Sy. So they were at Sy`s place of work and Steve asked can you do this job for me and by the way do you fancy getting Onslaught back together? Simon apparently got up and made a cup of tea and came back and said, Course I would you f**king idiot!

Steven rang me, I was up in the flat living in Cheltenham at the time and I received this call one day expecting someone harassing me from work or whatever, slammed my laptop down, picked the phone up and shouted Yes! And it was Gricey. He said Hello you alright? How do you fancy getting the band back together? and I said What the f**k are you on you twat!", but he said, no seriously.

Anyway, we got together in a pub, we all sat round a table the four of us, we laid down the ground rules for what we were trying to achieve. And the great contrast of what we have now is that this band is a 100% democracy. None of us need it, with a capital N, we do it because we want to do it and we do it because we love it. But nobody in the band needs it or, I don`t know, everything that goes with being on a major label, you know, all the kind of idiots that are telling you you`re the greatest thing since sliced bread and all the rest of it. There`s a difference, a shift now, more of an inner confidence and I think it`s reflecting on the new tunes we are coming out with. They`re very, I think, representative of the genre and very competent I believe. I`ll leave for other people to say what they`re like, but I`m very happy with what we`re doing and I`ll leave it at that. I get my own internal satisfaction out of it.

Did Sy have any reservations about rejoining having been fired and replaced by Steve Grimmett?
Obviously, you can make a choice can`t you. Simon had a choice, he could say, you guys f**ked me over 15 years ago, you shat on me f**k off and Onslaught wouldn`t have got back together. It`s simple, there`s no point getting Onslaught back together with Tony (O`Hara, former vocalist) or Steve because, great singers that they are, both of them, they are not the singer for this band. There is only one singer for Onslaught and that`s Sy Keeler. I think the guy is one of the loveliest human beings I`ve ever met in my life. He`s a fantastic man and he`s showed immense dignity and decorum in the way in which he`s conducted himself.

You know we`ve talked about things and he`s expressed his sentiments. He was obviously very hurt. We`ve acknowledged out culpability in that regard. There`s no point in us turning round and saying oh yeah it was the record company. Bollocks to that, we chose to do it, I mean the band as individuals, we were going in different directions at the time and there was this pressure from the record company, they wanted a big commercial success. They put hundreds of thousands of pounds into the band and they didn`t have a f**king clue what thrash metal was all about. They saw the big mega hair metal bands and they immediately thought that we were in the same category as that and the rest is history. Getting a guy like Stephan Galfas again you can`t knock Stephan Galfas for the hair metal production he did. Phenomenal, phenomenal production on some of those Stryper albums, but it`s not an Onslaught production, it`s not a thrash metal production. So we were finding ourselves going down a certain path and not having the circumspection to understand really what we were doing and all of a sudden you realize Sy`s out of the band and somebody else is in the band. Again, I will not say a bad word against Steve Grimmett or Tony, I mean Tony`s doing our sound tonight. Both lovely, lovely guys. Steve Grimmett, I think, my personal opinion is that he has the best classic rock voice that the UK has ever produced bar none. There is nobody better, so I will not here a bad word against him. But they were not the right people for the band.
You learn the lessons from it. You learn positive things from the negative things that occur.

There`s been quite a lot of thrash reformations recently and I thought that might have influenced your decision to reform the band, but it seems more to do with this label releasing your albums.
It was the catalyst, but it`s not the thing that this is all about, like Christ we need to make the money. To be absolutely frank with you I knew nothing about the state of British heavy metal. It`s only really in the last year that I`ve got back into metal. You know I listened to the odd bit of metal obviously, but my main musical tastes have gravitated away quite dramatically. I`m listening to a lot of dance music, ambient music, mainly those two genres. I`m into Ozric Tentacles, Eat Static, The Orb, Aphex Twin and acts like that. Certainly underground shit, I don`t like commercial stuff, I never will. But I do like James Blunt, (laughs) that`s another kind of issue! But honestly I had no idea that these bands had got back together. Hadn`t a clue.

I was wondering how the last 14 years of musical influences would effect where Onslaught intend to drop in with the new album and whether it will be a continuation of where you left of.
I think there`s an element of that. Certainly you`ll hear a couple of songs tonight and we are picking up where the The Force left of, but we`re not trying to write The Force part 2. But what I noticed when we started playing again, apart from the fact that it was an awful cacophony when we began. We took a good two or three months, probably two as Alan joined us three months into this, there was a certain element of we don`t really know what kind of music we`re making, you know what I mean, we`re trying to find our feet musically and it was only really within the last six months that it`s really started to gel. I mean Destroyer of Worlds, which we`ll play later on is a good tune. That was the one when we really thought, hang on, you know. You can play around with musical styles and the rest of it but when it feels correct, it feels correct and if five people in a room are grinning like Cheshire cats after a song has been played you know you`re playing the right thing. I know I get that from all the new material. There`ll be five new tunes tonight and all those songs I`m well in to, some more than others but there`s not a duffer there. No fillers, I don`t want a single filler on this album.

It`s interesting that you`re going straight back in with new stuff. A lot of reformed bands have tended to tour they`re back catalogue.
We are all amazingly aware of the fact that we f**ked up with Onslaught. We were on the cusp of something potentially quite big and we had the ability but we f**ked up. For various reasons things went wrong. Now we have an opportunity from our perspective to readdress that and to do the album that we should have made. I want somebody who sits there who like Power From Hell, they like The Force, the may think that In Search Of Sanity is a piece of, but they think the new LP is phenomenal. That`s genuinely what I want to achieve. At the end of the day I think In Search Of Sanity is a fine, fine album.

Being a thrasher at the time didn`t seem to fit
There was an organic progression from Power Of Hell to The Force and then there was a 270 degree about face in the third album. It was inappropriate.

Digging it out again now and sticking it on the album it actually makes more sense to me now.
You reckon?

I think if it had been given a more thrash production.
I think that some of the songs were overlong. We repeat the riffs to many times, blah, blah, blah. We do a couple tonight, we do Lightning War and Shellshock.

Of course Sy sang on those before.
He sang on the album didn`t he. Sy recorded the album and then the album was rejected by London on the basis of Sy`s vocals and they were redone by Steve. So he is aware of the songs. But Sy`s vocals originally on Sanity, versus the vocals that Sy`s coming up with now are two different beasts. You`ll hear it tonight.

Are you shopping anything to labels yet?
We have talked to some labels and we have some interest from labels. We have some reasonably firm interest but again we`re in the demos, sort of doing the rounds and get together the best polished package.

You got on the Exodus Xmas Fest, how did that come about?
We`re old friends with Johan, the promoter from Metallysse. I think it was when you Mo (former vocalist & bassist Paul Mahoney had entered the room) was in the band that Johan was promoting some of the festivals.

Mo: I remember nothing (laughter)

You don`t remember anything, it`s all a blur, haha!

It`s funny I was going to ask you if any of the Onslaught extended family were coming tonight?
Quite a few. Jase (Stallard, former bassist) is doing the lights. Mo`s here obviously. Tony`s doing the sound. Its f**king bizarre. The only person we`re missing is Grimmett. We can`t get hold of him, we tried to.

What about Rob Trotman?
He`s coming yes. He lives in London and he`s coming down for the night.

So there`s not going to be a big finale of Onslaught members on stage?
(Laughter) no, no. It`s not big enough that stage haha.

I read somewhere that Nige & Alan would be using 7 string guitars, is that just on the album?
Yes, but we`ve taken a couple of the Sanity songs and they do those with seven strings. People have this immediate reaction, the old school thrash community, say oh your gonna sound like f**king Korn. No we`re not. Listen and see what you think. I like them. It does things to your rectum now some of the music, some of the frequencies. We`re not quite in the drone sort of area, but we`re messing with lower end kind of stuff.

And your recording the show tonight on audio and video.
I believe so. It will be committed to celluloid and whatever this evening or to digital format, but what ultimately ends up being released, maybe something as a B-side, don`t know at the moment.

Is it like taking things a day at a time at the moment then?
It`s certainly more than that. At the end of the day it`s a hell of a commitment from everybody in the band. Alan travels 100 miles to get to rehearsal, I travel 50 miles, so a 100 mile round trip for me to rehearse three times a week and with a partner and everything else. I`m the only guy in the band that doesn`t have children. Simon, Alan, Steve and Nigel all have children and all have relationships, you know it`s a hell of a commitment so it has to be a little more than one day at a time, you need that level of commitment.

Has it surprised you the reaction? Press interest, venue sold out…
Unbelievable. We should have played a bigger venue it sounds like we should have done the Bierkeller.

Your website biography is very comprehensive so I didn`t really want to focus too much on the past in the interview.
Sort of wax lyrical about the past. It`s not really what we`re about. It might sound slightly contrived to say, oh yeah, we`re doing it for the new material, but we genuinely are. We`re into what we`re doing. There`s a genuine awareness and understanding that we could have done something and we didn`t do it and we`d certainly like to redress that. But you can`t ignore that with the past we`re going to get places at shows.

Maybe the climate is better for you now. Even without the issues, grunge arrived.
Things all happen for a reason, you know mate.

So you`re not going to play Let There Be Rock tonight?
(Silence, followed by laughter)
F**king hell, you didn`t hear the backing vocals that Galfas tried to get us to do on there! Jesus f**king hell, shocking.

I wasn`t going to mention it.
I was actually reading a fanzine interview with Tom G Warrior of Celtic Frost and his sentiments regarding Cold Lake are exactly the same as mine with Let There Be Rock. To do the first one was a bit of fun, but all of a sudden, you know.

I think Xentrix got into the same thing with Ghostbusters.
Yeah, and probably when they ever reform, and hopefully they would do at some point, they won`t ever play that again. I hope not.