Hell : Interview with Andy Sneap

One of the main driving forces behind the recent reformation of Hell was producer / guitarist / all round good egg Andy Sneap. CackBlabbath caught up with him after the band’s recent festival warm up gig to find out more about his involvement in the project…

You’ve been instrumental in the reformation of Accept, Sabbat and now Hell. You on a one man crusade to bring back proper heavy metal ?

I’m really doing projects that I enjoy rather than taking the pay cheque. I’ve got really really bored by what’s out there recently to the point of thinking fuck it, I want to enjoy music again.
I’m in the fortunate position where I haven’t been stupid with money and I don’t lead an expensive lifestyle so I can afford to sit back a little and work with bands I want to. But my heart is in the bands you mentioned, plus a lot of the 80’s thrash bands I work with so it doesn’t feel like work.

News of the Hell reunion first started to circulate in 2008 with Martin Walkyier handling the vocal duties. Has it been a difficult process getting from the original idea to the final product ?

A little. The main problem was finding time, I was in the US a lot when we started this, so that was awkward. Finding Dave Bower was a godsend tho, as soon as I heard him sing I put the brakes on, reversed and started again with the vocals. We’d already spent a lot of time with Martin doing vocals but it had to be done this way. We didn’t have any deadline but I was convinced we had to get this right and it all eventually fell into place with Dave and the right deal coming along.

It’s surprising that so many of the original demos have survived. How difficult was it to get the them cleaned up to the condition you hear on the bonus CD ?

Fortunately I’d borrowed Dave’s cassettes from his sister about 12 years ago and copied them then. I have them again now and they are showing signs of age. I transferred everything, including all the Race Against Time demos, over the last few months but they really aren’t going to clean up any better than you hear on the bonus disc. These were, after all, not really meant for release, it was more just for the bands own listening.

David Bower is a stunningly good front man. Given that he was originally only going to record some voiceovers for the album how did he end up landing the vocalist gig ?

I heard the potential and upon getting to know Dave, it was instantly apparent how talented he was. I  have a lot of time for Dave, he has a great work ethic, is very humble and works hard at what he does. He also has a warped sense of humour, which fits right in with this band. He has the same high register to his voice as Dave Halliday had and I feel this gives the band a unique sound and feel, something that is so lacking in today’s metal scene.

What was the atmosphere like in the studio when the band, who hadn’t played together for 25 years, started to rehearse ?

The first few rehearsals were a little sloppy, then Tim went and broke his arm while ice skating on his drive putting the rubbish out one night. So to begin with we were rehearsing to drum backing tracks from the album. This actually helped because we got the tempos a little more sorted and within 6 weeks I’d say we were all firing on all cylinders. Its got to a point now where I think only a run of gigs is going to make a real difference.

The buzz round this release has been like nothing I’ve seen for ages. Obviously you were never going to do this half-arsed, but at what point did you start to think that something really special was being created ?

I always knew these songs and the band were special. I think a lot of us locals did who witnessed the whole “HELL” experience live. I think I knew we were onto something great as soon as Dave came into the picture. He was the missing part of the puzzle and it just felt “right” and “complete” with him on board. I have to give props to Kev tho, he’s a twisted musical genius in his own right, I really enjoy the relationship in this band. Its a good balance, everyone has their part to play.

How much do you think having your name attached to the project has helped open doors, for example with landing the Nuclear Blast deal or the string of European festival dates ?

Well it helps obviously, but the guys at Nuclear Blast were into Hell and the Nuclear Blast connection has opened a lot of doors also. That’s kind of how the business works. Once one person believes in you, someone else sits up and before you know it everyone wants to be a part of something that’s growing, which is great. But having my name involved has definitely open a few doors and I’m fine with that, whatever it takes really, the main goal is to get Hell out there to the general public.

How was the launch gig for you ? Speaking to Kev, he thought everyone was too focused on not making any mistakes to relax and enjoy the experience although I can’t say that showed from out front.

No that’s Kev speaking for himself, I was pretty relaxed, one or two bum notes but we did call it a warm up gig so that’s my get out clause. Gigging takes time and it always takes time for a band to knit and gel live. Give us ten gigs and we will be on fire, just like Kev’s face when he was fire breathing the other night. I must say he looked quite awake after that incident. Even less eyebrows than normal!

A lot of thought clearly went in to the theatrical design and presentation, how much work was it to get the show looking “right” ?

We took a lot of ideas from old Hell. The pulpit was a last minute idea which had diy Kev out in his garage in full joiner action, but we feel its really important. The whole image and presentation just makes the songs hit home with more of an impact. How dull would it be if we just wandered onstage in jeans, t shirts and bullet belts trying to look 1980’s? Very fuckin dull if you ask me.

For you, is Hell a one off project or are there longer term plans ?

No this is long term, we have the second album pretty much mapped out and the third wont be a problem either. At the moment we are concentrating on live ideas tho , one step at a time, we really want to get out to Europe by Autumn and also Japan and the US before we think about the next record. I can’t wait to get out to Europe next week and get playing these shows on a bigger stage.

Finally, there was a real lump in the throat moment when David dedicated Bedtime to Hell’s late frontman Dave Halliday. What do you think he would have made of the band today, with an album out and a slot at Donington ?

Yeah my bottom lip was going in the set then, its tough to stay focused when there’s so much emotion involved, last Friday was difficult because of all the old faces, people I’d not seen since Dave’s funeral, but like Dave Bower said, we should be happy we knew him. He’s right, but we all have moment where its difficult. Knowing Dave, he’d love this but it really frustrates me and makes me angry he’s not here to do this himself. Its one of those “if only” moments, but that’s life isn’t it.