KILL THE MASTERS (from l-r): Rebecca Broughton (drums), Oli (vocals/guitar), Sam Cummins (bass/vocals)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
From Bolton, a small Lancashire town just north of the city of Manchester, Kill The Masters initially formed with the intention of becoming a serious political band, rallying against the right-wing establishment with a punk sound that also contains an assortment of ska, hardcore, rap, and any other genre they can fit in.
However, even though that is still the ultimate aim, the emerging three-piece are gaining a reputation for being more fun-oriented.
Having unveiled their debut EP, ‘Everything Hurts’, in the run-up to last Christmas, the collective spoke to me in-depth about that, the experience of supporting Crazy Town last summer, and much more.
How did the band form?
OLI (vocals/guitar): Me and Sam were friends at school, and we were in punk bands together as teenagers, which never materialised too much, and Sam continued to play in several other bands, while I stopped playing guitar music for a few years, and tried to learn how to produce electronic stuff (which I failed, as it was too hard).
As we’re both very interested in left-wing politics, the dragging of mainstream political discourse even further to the right in recent years both offended and inspired us, so we resolved to go back to our roots, start a political punk band, and put the world to rights.
SAM CUMMINS (bass/vocals): Yeah, Oli was actually in my first ever band, the wonderfully named Massive Head Trauma, when we were both about 13, but that fizzled out after we went to college, uni, etc, and once I got back to Bolton, we were talking about doing something together for a good year or two before it actually happened.
As for Broughts (Rebecca Broughton, drums), I met her in a nightclub in Bolton, and she ended up joining one of my bands from uni, mediocre pop-punks We Were Kings, and as soon as Oli and I started getting serious, she was my go-to to fill the drum throne.
REBECCA BROUGHTON (drums): Yeah, Sam has already explained how we met, and he introduced me to Oli a few years back after mentioning starting up a new band, as I had been out of practice for about a year, and I was looking for any reason to start playing again, so here we are. Worked out pretty well, I think.
How did the name Kill The Masters come about?
OLI: We spent a long time coming up with different ideas, but nothing really seemed to suit us.
Again, the intention was to form a political punk band, and our politics revolves around the removal of pre-existing power structures in favour of horizontally-organised, worker-led systems, and we felt that it was important that the name represented the message we wanted to put out there.
In the end, we took the name from Game of Thrones, from the series where the slave army rises up and overthrow their masters, and there’s a scene prior to the rebellion where there’s some agitation scrawled in blood on the wall, “Kill The Masters“.
SAM: I actually thought Kill The Masters was a stroke of genius entirely down to Oli, and it was only a few months later, when I actually watched Game of Thrones, that I realised he’d stolen it. I should’ve known, really!
What would you say was the band’s main musical influences?
OLI: I’m a massive fan of Streetlight Manifesto, and whilst we’re not a ska band, we definitely incorporate elements of ska punk.
Lyrically, I’m mainly inspired by rap music, particularly Akala, he’s a great rapper, socially conscious, and so intelligent, and far and beyond my favourite lyricist is Tomas Kalnoky, who I wish I could write more like.
Musically, my main inspirations include Rise Against, The Clash, Leftover Crack, AFI, and Jaya the Cat.
SAM: Broadly similar to Oli, although my first ventures into punk and ska was more the British bands of the late 70s/early 80s, with bands like Stiff Little Fingers and the Specials being huge influences growing up.
I’m also a shameless fan of the sleazier American glam-punk bands like Motley Crue and Guns N Roses, and, like Oli, I’m partial to both British and US hip-hop, with Kendrick, Ocean Wisdom, Akala, and Lowkey being some of my favourites.
I’d like to give a shout out to Enter Shikari too, who I firmly believe to be the most innovative British band of my generation. I don’t think we’ll ever sound like them, but they blow my mind with how much they’ve spanned genres and sounds over the years.
You initially formed with the intention of becoming a serious political punk band, yet you are becoming known for having a more fun-oriented sound. What made you switch to that?
We wanted to get gigging as soon as we could, so we basically spent the first few months nailing as many songs as we could without taking too much time over the songs.
Our plan was to get gigging, and then get more into the serious political side when we’d established ourselves a bit. I’d say we’re at this point now, so the next lot of songs will be more on the serious side, whether that be political or social.
That said, we are pretty stupid, so I’d be surprised if we left the fun stuff behind entirely.
SAM: I feel like we’ve got something to say for ourselves politically, hence tunes like ‘No Apologies’, but we’ve never been good enough musicians or songwriters to take ourselves too seriously, as for every angry political song, there’ll be one about how much I love my toolbox, or something daft like that.
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
OLI: It varies. Me and Sam have written all of our songs so far, but Broughton has some in the pipeline.
Usually, I’ll write the lyrics and guitar on acoustic, and then get the whole structure sorted along with a simple bassline, which I’ll then take to practice and show the others, and then, they’ll sort their own parts out. I can’t write bass or drums anywhere near as good as they can, so that works well.
On ‘No Apologies’, I wrote the music to Sam’s lyrics, and on ‘Drugs in the Sun’, I wrote the lyrics to Sam’s melody, so there’s no real set system, but generally, one of us will bring in a song that’s nearly done, and then we will work together to turn it into a full ensemble.
SAM: Yeah, Oli has pretty much covered it there. One of us will have an idea for a riff, melody, or a set of lyrics, and we tend to build on that from there.
From my point of view, being a bass player, I don’t have the same ear for melodies that Oli does, so I do tend to give him a lot of my lyrics for him to work into pieces of music, but it doesn’t always turn out that way.
REBECCA: As a drummer, I’ve mostly been adding to other people’s work in rehearsals, as I’ve only recently got into songwriting after being involved with the band, and being inspired by some of the subjects the lads have touched upon.
I tend to get an idea of a topic, and start writing some lyrics down, before working on any kind of melody or chord structure. My skills on guitar are pretty limited, but I’m hoping the lads will be able to guide me with the creation of these new tunes.
It’ll be a new experience for me writing songs, and it’s great that the lads are being so supportive in me getting more hands-on in regards to the the songwriting for the band.
Towards the end of last year, the band unveiled their debut EP, ‘Everything Hurts’. How was the recording process for that?
OLI: We recorded it with Dave at Red City Recordings, and he was fantastic, a truly awesome guy who is amazing at his craft. We loved every minute of the process, and if I could do that every day for a job, I’d jump at the chance.
SAM: I loved it. Dave was great to work with, he was able to make us sound way better than we actually are, and I got to catch up on loads of sleep while the other two recorded their parts.
What stood out for me was how much Dave pushed us into getting things perfect, because I’d think that I had nailed a take, and he’d come back with “Do that again, but better...”.
It certainly got the best out of us, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
REBECCA: We had an amazing time working with Dave, and I enjoyed being pushed for each and every take for each song. I definitely crushed it harder than both the lads, though, so I guess they need to put a bit more practice in.
And how has the reaction been to the EP so far?
SAM: I like it, my mates like it, and even my mum doesn’t hate it, so that’ll do for me, and anything else will just be a massive bonus.
REBECCA: Yeah, my mum also mentioned enjoying it, as well, which was pretty great.
Up to now, you have mainly performed live in your home town of Bolton. How is the music scene there currently, in your opinion?
OLI: It was amazing a few years ago, as there were a massive variety of local bands, full of sound people, but now, we’ve only got one venue left, to be honest, and the people who are trying to keep it alive are ace, but the scene has really suffered over the past few years.
We love the venue that is left, but the other real institution in our town tragically closed down, leaving a lot of the less heavy bands without any real home.
SAM: Having been in a couple of Bolton bands over the years, the scene has certainly declined, mainly due to the lack of venues.
There are still some great bands doing bits, but you see a lot of overspill these days from and to other towns, but stuff like that tends to move in cycles, though, as bands and venues will always come and go.
Last summer, the band supported Crazy Town in Bolton. That must have been quite an experience for you all.
SAM: It was an honour. I was blown away by their set, which, with the greatest of respect to them, I wasn’t expecting.
REBECCA: It was probably the best experience I’ve had being a part of a band. The whole night was loads of fun, and sharing the stage with a band that have literally had a smash hit was amazing. We all had a proper decent night together as a band, and as mates, as well.
Also, how is it overall, for the band, playing on stage?
OLI: Good, but I’m not much of a performer, so there’s a lot of room for improvement in my opinion. We have a lot of ambitions to improve the show in the future, in order to make it more than just us playing a bunch of songs.
SAM: At the risk of disappearing up my own arse, it’s my happy place, as there’s nothing else in the world that comes close. I’ve been in and around the live music scene for the best part of a decade now, and it never gets old or boring.
It can be a slog, though, dragging yourself down to Sheffield, or up to Lancaster to play a set, especially when you have a raging hangover, but the minute we play that first note, it’s worth it a million times over.
REBECCA: It’s a dream playing with Sam and Oli, and I’ve always enjoyed sharing a stage with Sam, as we really work well together performance-wise. It’s nice watching Oli go for it as well, and I would like to say to him that he’s doing great, and is also a real sweetie.
And finally, what are your plans for the year ahead?
OLI: Another EP, I think, which we’re in the planning stages for right now. We also want to try and get gigs outside of the North West, so we can get our name further out there.
REBECCA: Gigs, gigs, and more gigs. I’m gonna start having some drum tuition again this year, as well, and I’ll see if I can get down a 250bpm hardcore beat down, so wish me luck!
‘EVERYTHING HURTS’, THE DEBUT EP FROM KILL THE MASTERS, IS AVAILABLE NOW.
FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES: