Holocaust, NWOBHM, john mortimer, interview

N.W.O.B.H.M. legends, Holocaust have just released their new album and return to Greece for 3 live shows in Athens, Thessaloniki and Larissa. Excellent timing for a chat with their leader John Mortimer analyzing the track by track record in an interview that the tantric sex and Lady Gaga combined beautifully with N.W.O.B.H.M. ..

Hi John, I’m really glad talking with you about your new album and the upcoming Greek tour. It’s been more than 2 years since the “Expander” EP, why did we have to wait so long until the full length album? I was afraid we have to wait another 10 years as we did from “Primal”…

Two reasons. First of all, John Mayer, the guy who owned Phoenix Records in 1980, which released the “Heavy Metal Mania” 12” and the early albums got back in touch with us when he realized that we were active again. John saw the Live work we had been doing all round Europe and the “Expander” EP and got quite excited about the prospect of maybe resurrecting Phoenix in some form and promoting Holocaust again. Obviously this was an exciting prospect for us also and we spent months meeting with him and formulating plans and negotiating all kinds of deals. Unfortunately it was not right for us…..sometimes you have to use your head before your heart. That whole situation diverted us for months.

The second reason was that it took a long time to find the right record deal. We had serious interest from three labels but we were very careful. What we have here now with Holocaust is a great and valuable thing and we did not want to be getting involved with someone who was not genuinely committed to what the band is about. What we found was that the labels I mentioned, (I am not going to name names), just wanted to have a “classic N.W.O.B.H.M. act” in their catalogue almost like a collector’s item. None of them could seriously envisage Holocaust becoming a bigger and bigger band in the future. Because we were careful, many more months passed in finding the right deal.

In addition to all of that, we also had to finish the “Predator” album to our satisfaction.

You are using all 3 songs from Expander, something that shows to me confidence to the new material, but how do you feel about your new work?

For me it represents the beginning of a new era for Holocaust. The songs were all written between 2011 and 2014 by a band that has actually been in existence as a three-piece since 2004. I worked with Scott Wallace and Mark McGrath on a big concept album project, (not a Holocaust album), up to May 2011. They are incredibly talented people. We decided to reform Holocaust in 2011 and it has been a total thrill for me all the way. I have never been so proud of an album as this one. I have never felt so secure and stable in any previous incarnation of Holocaust. This band has everyone contributing equally – everyone driven by the same energy and thinking the same way, with years and years of writing and playing together but the enthusiasm is always fresh. The “Predator” album represents Holocaust reborn, stronger than ever before.

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Can you tell us a few words about the new tracks one by one? What are the lyrics about?

The first track is the title track, “Predator”, and it is the most simple, straightforward song on the album. The song is about the Life Force as it manifests as sexual energy. The “Predator” concept relates to how this Life Force devours sexual repression. “Expander” refers to that force within us that drives the expansion of consciousness. For me these days the expansion of consciousness is all-important. Without the expansion of consciousness, life is not worth living. It is a fearless, life affirming song.

“Can’t Go Wrong With You” is my tribute to Lady Gaga for the inner revolution she caused in me. Holocaust would not have been active since 2011 had it not been for the effect that woman has had on me. I know it sounds surprising but when I seriously connected with her work and her persona in May 2011 I was blown apart inside. On the surface she may seem like just another pop queen, (even if bizzare), but when I really got involved with that “pop-cultural religion”, as she calls her community, it caused me to understand that I had been supressing my true self. It suddenly became clear to me that the band Holocaust is what I am about….and I must become a full-time performing artist. No compromise, no doubts, no further questions….it must happen and it is happening. The lyrics of the middle section sum up the whole song:

“When I see all the changes that have taken place inside of me all because of you, what else can I do? I just want to say how I feel about you – I adore you”.

From one Lady to another haha! “Lady Babalon” is named after an occult figure, who was made known to the public by Aleister Crowley in his writings. Let me say at this point, I am not a disciple of Crowley. I have studied his work carefully and I greatly admire him on many levels but he was actually a “Right Hand Path” individual, which I am not.

Lady Babalon is the “Whore Of Babylon” in the Apocalypse of the Bible. For me, she is a symbolic representation of a very real goddess, namely Astoreth. Astoreth is my goddess. She was mythically represented as the goddess Ishtar in ancient Babylon and as the goddess Inanna to the Sumerians.

The guitar solo in this song means more to me than any previous solo. The last section of the song features the triumphant, “Summer is a-coming in – Hail!”, which is derived from a very old English pagan song. That song was featured in the closing scenes of the original movie, “The Wicker Man”.

We will be playing this song Live for the first time ever at the Athens gig on 02-Dec and that will be a very special moment for me!

“Observer One” is an instrumental that was written while I was still in the midst of the total euphoria of the Gaga experience. The “Observer” aspect comes from the ability to suddenly SEE all kinds of negative self-limiting crap in your thoughts and feelings that you don’t need any more – and then the feeling of freedom in letting that all go. The “One” comes from the fact that even as I wrote the thing I got the feeling there would be more short instrumentals forthcoming, forming a series. The band is currently working on “Observer Five”!

Track-5, “Shiva” is named after the Hindu god. In my mind it forms a pair with the track-7 song “Revival”, because “Revival” features the Hindu goddess Shakti, who is the consort of Shiva in the Hindu tradition. This is a tantric song. Sexual energy is important in the Tantra and Shiva represents the masculine sexual energy. Shiva also represents the masculine aspect of consciousness, the power and creativity of consciousness.

“Shine Out” is another song that was written whilst on the Gaga high. It celebrates the liberty of recognizing that what we essentially are is consciousness. In addition to being a celebration, this is also a rebellious song rejecting anything that limits freedom of the individual.

“Revival” is the Shakti consort of “Shiva”. This song is about the feminine aspect of consciousness, by which I mean dynamic manifestation. In the lyrics, “Maha Shakti” is a Hindu term that basically means “Mega” or “Great” Shakti. It is about the Divine Feminine. Revival is what happens when the Divine Masculine, the Power, comes together with the Glory of the Divine Feminine.

“What I Live For” is about the Holocaust fans. The song is me expressing the fact that I am irrevocably committed to this band and I will never give it up. It is to the Holocaust fans I can truly say, “I am in your hands and you are in my heart”, for without Holocaust fans there is no meaning to the band. So also I say to them, “You are giving me back my life – you are what I live for. Without you I’m dead.

How did you end up signing a contract with Sleazy Rider?

The label owner, Tolis, was recommended to us by a Greek friend who understood what were looking for. It turned out that Tolis and Sleaszy Rider were exactly what we were looking for! This deal is an ambitious partnership, which already is a friendship also. We are very glad now that we took our time in finding the right label and the right deal.

Is there any thought for releasing any or even all your back catalogue?

Unfortunately that is not in my hands at this time and there will probably have to be legal action with regard to that in the future.

Beside the Greek tour what other plans you have for promoting “Predator”?

Certainly a lot of Live work. There are various things being discussed at the moment but I don’t want to say anything before formal announcements.

In the Greek Tour there’s a bonus cd included to the price of ticket. I find it a great idea due to financial problems we are dealing the last five years, any idea what it includes?

Right now I don’t know. This is an initiative by Tolis – and he is thinking of many different options for promoting the band, so I wouldn’t like to second guess him.

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How close are you to new bands? Especially to the ones that refer to you as their influence or even their heroes? Is there any other metal sub-genre that you have followed all over these years?

I have followed most of the sub-genres over the years. Black Metal is what I have been giving most attention to recently. As for the new bands – yes, we know many via Facebook and have become friendly with some, having met them. I am continually feeling honoured by the number of talented musicians and songwriters in Metal who regard me as an influence. I love how international it is…..there are bands doing Holocaust cover versions from Greece, the USA, Canada, Germany, Holland, Italy,  Ecuador, (even India!). I have probably missed some countries….

In what ways do you believe that Holocaust has changed and in what have stayed the same over your career?

Change has been a constant factor thus far. The N.W.O.B.H.M. era was all too brief, due to other band members and record company people not really getting what the new genre was about. The era from “The Sound Of Souls” to “Primal” was very unsettled and chaotic basically because I was unsettled and chaotic, going through some terrible times. That doesn’t mean those albums are bad. In fact there are many Holocaust fans who like the “second era” albums the best and I totally understand that. Instability and chaos can be radically creative.

This new third era sees a reconnection with the N.W.O.B.H.M. roots at the same time as bringing forward the best of the radical elements from the second era……but this time there is stability with strength and unity. And having said all that, the third era will be its own unique thing. I will never be afraid of change but I will always be that same guy who wrote “Heavy Metal Mania”.

I believe that you’re no “one hit wonder” band and most people know you from “Nightcomers”. Actually many have never heard some really fine albums you have released from 1992 to 2003. Which is your personal favorite and which is the best seller album (please tell me “Covenant” as the best album you have ever recorded!!!) -*”Covenant” was reviewed in 1997 with 5 out 6 skulls in 1997 by Andreas Stasinopoulos our editor in chief back then and still in our crew-

It would be like saying which is your favourite child…

They all mean a lot to me. “Covenant” is a very emotional album, very intense. The double trilogy of books by Stephen R Donaldson which inspired the album contained many emotional aspects that I personally related to at the time. Whenever I hear those albums now I feel like going back in time and congratulating myself back then for having the determination and ability to produce such work whilst going through very difficult, horrible times. I am glad things are different now. We do “Dance Into The Vortex” from “The Sound Of Souls” Live and also “Iron Will” from “Primal”. There are many songs from that era would be great Live but very few people know them.

I’m really glad that your one and only “Heavy Metal Mania” or “Nightcomers” have a reasonable (and rather low) price among collectors. How would you react if any of your back catalogue release some day has an enormous price?

It’s a crazy world we live in!

The closing is yours…any message to your Greek friends?

Greece is right at the very heart of what Holocaust is doing now because of the Sleaszy Rider deal. But also, when Holocaust relaunched and played Live for the first time in ten years it wasn’t in our homeland of Scotland, it was in Greece and Cyprus. We have had so much support and encoragement from Greece that it truly is our home from home. See you soon!

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