Interview: Karl Willetts (Bolt Thrower)

Do you love to hear about war? Do you love oldschool Death Metal? If you can answer both of these question with yes, then you must love Bolt Thrower, one of the most popular and influential British Death Metal acts of all time.

Bolt Thrower always stood for quality which was manifested when the band decided not to record a follow-up to their 8th album ‘Those Once Loyal,’ because, to them (and many others), this album was the “perfect” Bolt Thrower album.

I got to interview Bolt Thrower vocalist and mastermind Karl Willetts recently. Check out the interview after the jump.

Dose of Metal: 

Hello Karl, thanks for agreeing to do this interview. How is it going in the Bolt Thrower camp?

Karl Willetts: Sir – you insult me – this is no boy scouts outing here – in strictly military terms it is a bivouac!!! All is good – the fires are still burning – the drums of war are calling.
And another thing Mr. Guido – There is nothing camp with Bolt Thrower.

DoM: You’ve been back in the band for 7 years now. You originally left the band to go back to university and then got a degree in Cultural Studies. Does your knowledge in this matter help you in writing lyrics for Bolt Thrower?

KW: I think it most definitely helped to formulate a post modernistic deconstructive method of writing. It also taught me the importance of research – reading books.
It also left me with a fucking massive debt which I am still paying off!

DoM: ‘Those Once Loyal’ was supposed to be the last Bolt Thrower album as your goal was to stop after releasing “the perfect Bolt Thrower album”. In my opinion, it was indeed the perfect Bolt Thrower album and it would be very hard to top that. Word has been that you’re working on new material anyway, can you tell us a little bit more about that?

KW: It’s a tough cookie to beat – there lies the issue. We always set our standards high – so if we release another album it’s got to feel and sound better than the last. Therefore we are far from releasing another album. However we have not written a new album totally out of the equation. If we get some good shit going on we’ll definitely lay it down and roll with it man.

Bolt Thrower – CenotaphDoM: Death Metal has been hitting new heights in the last couple of years, mainly because of the commercial success of Deathcore and younger audiences getting into this genre. As one of the biggest British Death Metal acts, have you noticed any kind of change in your audience in the last couple of years?

KW: There is definitely a much more diverse crowd at gigs. Lots more ladies than there used to be which a nice thing. It’s cool, we have whole generations of families coming to see us now – we should offer family tickets to our shows at a discounted rate.

It’s great to have the younger crowd they have more energy than us older ones who prefer to stand at the back and watch these days!

DoM: Jo Bench, your bass player, is still one of just a few women in Death Metal. Do you think, with her being in the band, you attracted more females to your shows than regular all-male Death Metal bands?

KW: Yeah possibly – she is an inspirational individual and has inspired many other females to get into bands. I always thought that it was my stunning charismatic good looks that attracted the women to our shows but now you put it that way…I am undone.

DoM: It’s been 6 years since your latest release but you’re still touring a lot. How have these latest tours been?

KW: I wouldn’t say that we are touring a lot. We played about 20 shows last year which was a mini tour kind of. The gigs where amazing our first time in Greece was incredible!

Karl Willetts. All around cool guy.

DoM: What was the funniest thing to happen to you during a tour?

KW: You’re talking 25 years of funny here- so many Spinal Tap moments over the years – I suppose our brawl with a gang of Nazi skinheads at one of our gigs when we played in New Jersey is high on the list. Converting an old greyhound coach to tour America was funny especially when the brakes failed in the mountains as I directed the bus on a ‘shortcut on the map’ through the mountains.


And what was the worst thing to happen to you during a tour?

KW: Our roadie Spike got killed in a road traffic accident in East Germany, whilst driving our backline van in 1992.

Spot the serious shit.

DoM: Last night, I woke up and saw a pretty small spider running over my bed away from me. Scared as fuck, I jumped out of the bed and couldn’t go back to sleep for a whole hour. What is a Death Metal vocalist, like yourself, who sings about war and death, scared of?

KW: I am not scared of anything – Nothing. If you let fear rot within your soul – it will fester and destroy you from the inside.

No fear.

I am petrified by the sound of a vacuum cleaner or hairdryer.


Lyrically you have been influenced by Warhammer 40,000 a lot. Some other bands, like Germany’s Debauchery, took the same influences. Do you think you helped boost interest in the game, as you also worked a lot together with Games Workshop for album artworks and such?

KW: Not too sure on that – it definitely worked for us as we got some killer artwork – vastly superior to the quality of artwork around at that time in my opinion – which put us on the map – and got us some interest in the Games Workshop community.

I’m not sure that many metalheads that liked our music got into gaming as a result of listening to us. Strategy and tactics are cool.

Bolt Thrower – Those Once LoyalDoM: 

Do you still play the game?

KW: No. I am 44.

DoM: During your off-time from Bolt Thrower, you worked in insurance. Now that you’re back in the band, does touring pay the bills or do you have another job as well?

KW: Hell no. we all have a main source of income to live off – I advice artists and musicians how to run a business for a living. The money made from Bolt Thrower is always invested wisely into fast cars.

DoM: When you worked in insurance, did people recognize you as the vocalist of Bolt Thrower?

KW: No, I used to write cars off and argue with people about the price – man that was a shit job – did it for 2 years – nearly killed me – had to drink off the misery. This was in a time in space which I refer to as the wasteland years – Devoid of identity – I can’t remember much.
Maybe I should have argued the price with the vocal style and delivery of Bolt Thrower – I envisage no arguments – but a lot of complaints!

DoM: Did you check out our website and, if so, what do you think of it?

KW: Yes, I did. I try not to think too much about stuff generally, I often find that too much thinking about stuff can lead to indecision and inevitably lack of action. It was good.


 Any last words for your readers at doseofmetal.com?

KW: Nice 1.

Most Amusing.

The End.

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