ENEMO-J (from l-r): Craig Hartwell (vocals), Haydn Edwards (guitar), Mike Wyke (bass), Jake Withers (drums), Josh Hatfield (guitar)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
West Midlands outfit Enemo-J have had 33 line-up changes since forming back in 2000, but all that upheaval has not stopped them from perfectly executing a sound that, whilst predominantly metal, can fit easily into a multitude of genres, most notably hip-hop.
The quintet were in Uttoxeter recently, supporting local collective King Abyss, and there, they spoke to me about such things as their origins, highly-energetic, boundary-pushing live sets, experiences of playing at Bloodstock and Download, as well as what can be expected from the band’s seventh album, ‘Decorum’, coming out later next month.
How did the band form?
HAYDN EDWARDS (guitar): Craig, take it away.
CRAIG HARTWELL (vocals): Back in the last century…
JOSH HATFIELD (guitar): Literally.
CRAIG: …I really wanted to be on stage, and at the time, I was a huge hip-hop fan, but then, I also saw Deftones, Korn, rock bands that had a hip-hop vibe to them. I decided I wanted to form a band with a similar style, so I offered production and recording facilities to a band I saw locally, and we went from there.
How did the name Enemo-J come about?
MIKE WYKE (bass): We made a video about that, didn’t we? (laughs)
CRAIG: Yeah. The name came from a snuff film we watched by a South African terrorist group that had a similar name, where they were bayoneting someone in the face.
MIKE: And you thought, “Hey, that would make a great band name!” (laughs)
CRAIG: So we took their name, and changed it to Enemo-J to make it more unique.
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
HAYDN: We’re very organic as a band, and one of us will come into our lock-up with an idea for a riff, and we’ll take it from there.
We try to blend all of our inspirations into one, because every one of us is influenced by a different style of metal, Josh is more into the heavier stuff, for example, bands like Thy Art Is Murder, I was brought up on prog-rock and thrash metal, Craig with his hip-hop…
MIKE: I’m “Vanilla Joe”!
HADYN: “Vanilla Joe”, yeah.
JAKE WITHERS (drums): And I listen to a bit of everything, from classical to blues, ZZ Top to Alexisonfire.
HAYDN: When it comes to our sound, we’ll always try to include as many elements as possible.
What inspires the band lyrically?
HAYDN: Our last album, ‘Miley Virus’, was very political, as we wrote songs about police brutality in America, as well as past experiences. We like to think we write songs about what’s currently going on in the world, things that should be resolved, but at the same time, we don’t try to limit ourselves, we’ll write about anything.
MIKE: The new album that’s coming out, ‘Decorum’, there will be very personal songs on there.
CRAIG: There’s a song on it called ‘Five Regrets Before Goodbye’, and it’s about somebody having five regrets while they are on their deathbed, it’s quite emotional.
Speaking of ‘Decorum’, out later next month, how has the recording process been for that?
MIKE: We recorded it all two years ago.
CRAIG: Since then, we’ve swapped the drums around, Jake has re-joined us, and Josh has moved to guitar. In that time we had, we reinvented ourselves. The reason why the new album has been sitting on the shelf for two years was that we’ve only just got the funds together, because in our industry, everything is about money.
After ‘Decorum’, we’re actually going to be recording another album, with some of the guys from SikTh.
And what can your fan base expect from the upcoming album?
CRAIG: Well, I always find it strange when a band or artist say that they’re going to be bringing out a new album that doesn’t sound anything like their old stuff, because we like them having the same sort of style, so we’ve got elements…we always have heavy songs, strictly metal songs, hip-hop metal, groove metal, everything like that. We don’t try to run away from a genre, we embrace it.
On ‘Decorum’, we have some brilliant guest appearances, some of them are friends of ours, but we also have some like (hed) p.e., who didn’t just guest with us for a track, they also helped with the album’s soundtrack.
(hed) p.e. are a band you’ve played with, and you’ve also supported the likes of Sylosis and Korn, as well as playing Bloodstock and Download. How were they as experiences?
CRAIG: Download used to be really good. When I played there for the first time, it was the best day of my life, then I met my partner, then my son was born. When we played Bloodstock, we actually got ourselves banned from playing there again.
How did you get banned from Bloodstock?
CRAIG: It’s a long story, but basically, there was a power cut, and we had signed a contract beforehand with the organisers, saying that if something went wrong, such as a power cut, then they were held responsible.
They were responsible, and they told us to come back and play again the following year, but they never fulfilled that promise. We protested against it, and they banned us. When we had played Bloodstock, I tried shouting into the microphone during our set, “What’s up, Bloodstock?“, but it wasn’t working.
We then played Download, which was a much better organised festival, and when we went on stage, the first thing I said to the crowd was, “Download this fucking noise!“, and the noise they gave back, it made me fucking shiver.
There was, like, so many people in the tent we were playing in. It was fucking phenomenal!
And how is the overall experience, for the band, of playing live?
CRAIG: I’ll let Jake answer that.
JAKE: The way I’d describe playing live is that it’s a whirlwind of melody and brutality, that’s what I think, and that’s about it.
CRAIG: If I could put our live experiences in a nutshell, if you love us or hate us, you will damn well remember us.
What tips would you all give to any emerging bands/artists out there?
CRAIG: Like I said earlier, everything in this game is about money.
MIKE: Don’t ever give up, just keep going, really work at it, and have a good time. If you do fail, take that as a positive rather than as a negative.
HADYN: If I could give out any tips, a few years back, I met one of my idols, Steve Hackett, who used to be in Genesis, and he told me to just keep enjoying myself, and when you find yourself not enjoying it anymore, then the time is right to quit.
Personally, I would say try your absolute hardest, but at the same time, don’t stress yourself out, and also, prove any doubters wrong.
CRAIG: Don’t stick to this week’s genre, be as diverse as you can. Tonight, we’re playing here, supporting King Abyss, and from what I can see, it’s fucking awesome. Those lads really are amazing at what they do.
If you’re playing a small venue and expect Rick Rubin to just walk in, it ain’t going to happen. Just get out there as much as you can. Don’t let your mates record you, and make sure you know your fucking skill, and work with someone who truly knows their stuff.
‘DECORUM’, THE SEVENTH ALBUM FROM ENEMO-J, WILL BE RELEASED ON MAY 26.
THE BAND WILL BE PLAYING AN ALBUM RELEASE SHOW AT THE 02 ACADEMY IN BIRMINGHAM THAT EVENING. FURTHER DETAILS CAN BE FOUND BELOW:
MORE INFO ON ENEMO-J CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES: