Providence, Rhode Island based crossover-hardcore-thrash metal. Heavily influenced by 80’s and 90’s metal and hardcore. Current and past members of Dropdead, Ratstab, Ulcer, Paindriver, Straight to Hell, Hard Drug, Neon Bitches.
Aaron aka “Badger” – Vocals
Brian – Drums
John – Guitar
Shawn – Bass
INTERVIEW WITH HELL BENT
(Interview conducted and written by Connor Sullivan)
Q: Can you touch on some lyrical themes?
Badger: Anti-religion and the collapse of modern society are the main two. In the vaguest sense, you could say I’m not a fan of people forcing other people how to behave. I actually grew up in an atheist family that was surrounded by much more religious families. I guess I have some residual anger towards dogmatic people that comes across in the lyrics.
Q: Do you think you deconstruct religion — or, more specifically, religious factions — in your music?
Badger: I used to be kind of a militant atheist, and still don’t believe in anything supernatural. There are people out there that are willing to kill others for their beliefs. And in the 21st century, that’s a tragic state of affairs. But there are only a couple of songs that attack that ideology. As for the occult, there are also a few songs that contain occult imagery, but I don’t believe in anything occult or Satanic. And nobody else does in the band.
John: Satanism is just as silly and stupid as any organized religion.
Badger: You’ve got to throw the gauntlet down on the whole thing. I don’t need any organized group of people telling me anything.
Q: Do the songs have more of an anti-authority bent than an anti-religion bent? Is punk a central influence for Hell Bent?
Badger: Yeah, we’re all punk rockers so that definitely comes across in the music.
John: When it comes down to it, we all essentially grew up on punk. But very few people stay with the same group of bands from their teens to their twenties to their thirties, so our influences really vary.
Badger: That first wave of punk was influential, yeah. But it was also a lot of glue-huffing and puppy-kicking, and that’s not what we’re about at all as a band. Brian and I were more into 80’s hardcore.
Q: So like Black Flag and Dead Kennedys?
Badger: Absolutely, as well as stuff like Minor Threat. We’re coming from that angle more than the Sex Pistols or The Damned.
Q: Any contemporary hardcore or speed metal bands you guys consider influences?
Shawn: I just saw this band Antichrist from Sweden. They really embodied a style I consider influential, at least as far as songwriting goes.
Q: Is there a synergy present with other Providence-based hardcore bands?
Badger: Of course. I mean, Rhode Island’s such a small state, after all.
John: It’s a very close community. You see the same bands playing every weekend, and everyone’s centralized in Providence. No one’s going to shows in Warwick.
Brian: And shows in Pawtucket aren’t exactly taking off. We played a show in Warwick at the Elk’s Lodge in like 2002, and that’s like it.
Shawn: It’s not like Boston in that respect, which has a Somerville scene, an Allston scene, and so forth.
John: Newport is doing a lot of shows though, especially at the Parlor. But there are so many barriers for playing shows there — particularly the bridge. And people from Newport do not leave Newport.
Q: Foo Fest is set to have a wide range of ages in the audience, including lots of kids. Do you think small children will be polarized by your brand of hardcore?
John: They definitely don’t have to be. Our previous band played a show at Governor’s Island in NYC. And there were a lot of foreigners there that had never seen a hardcore show before, so they were propping their children up on their shoulders to get pictures. Those kids didn’t seem to mind, ha ha.
Badger: I’m probably gonna have to keep the potty talk to the minimum between songs, though. But at this point, we’re a couple generations into controversial music. Soon, there’ll even be punk rock grandparents. So I don’t really view it as a problem.
John: At the same time, if you have children and bring them to an outdoor event like a festival, you’re probably comfortable with them being there. At that point, it’s just walking on eggshells.
Badger: We’re not very theatrical either, so it’s not like I’m gonna be smashing crucifixes on stage. Or getting blood on me. I don’t want to make us sound boring, but we probably got a pretty solid PG rating.
Q: Are there any improvisational aspects to a Hell Bent live show?
Badger: Nah. Maybe at the end of songs. We practice a lot, so we’re actually pretty regimented. Which is good, since I’ve been in a lot of bands that play much more loosely. Like I’ve been worried about bass players drinking too much whiskey before going on-stage. I’m glad that’s not a problem with this group.
Q: What’s the protocol for rehearsals?
John: We rehearse on Sundays and Tuesdays at 7pm. We get in, tune up, banter for about five minutes, and play through songs.
Shawn: If we have a show coming up, we usually run through the set. If not, we work on new material, usually.
Brian: If you don’t keep practicing all the time, you lose that muscle memory.
Shawn: Most of our material is written ahead of time and we exchange voice memos and stuff. So there’s not a lot of jamming; we just come in and do it. It’s the best and most feasible way to get things done.
Q: Do you think basement thrash shows and thrown-together outdoor shows are less prevalent now? What about zine and tape-trading culture?
Badger: When I was touring in other bands in the late 90s and early noughts, those were definitely still a thing and must’ve occupied at least half the tour venues. Sometimes those can be really awesome, and I don’t mind if I’m only driving like ten minutes to go to one. They definitely don’t really happen anymore though.
John: It makes you wonder how stuff like that can still happen at The Funky Jungle. No one shut it down, and it’s cool that it still exists and that the cops don’t go there. If I was doing that at my house, the cops would be there in a New York minute.
Badger: There are more gigs in legit venues now, with people actually going to them, which is cool. Brian and I remember seeing the punk scene going two directions in the 90s. One, there was the straight-edge, tough jock guy, metalcore stuff. And then there was the real melodic, poppy stuff. But Brian and I were into thrash. So if you liked really fast, aggressive, political style hardcore, there would only be like ten of us at shows.
Brian: And half those people were just the bandmates’ friends and girlfriends. It’s cool to see some of those bands being well-regarded, in retrospect. Other than those ten New Englanders that would go to shows, the only people I knew interested in that kind of thrash and hardcore were pen pals that would write me from Finland and Mexico and Japan. You found them through zines, and that was the only way you knew how.
Shawn: That tape-trading aspect of the culture was so important for metal back in the 80s, too — that’s how you discovered new bands. In the late 80s, this guy would dub radio shows that would play on RIU. He would hit record when the radio started, and he’d give me the tape of it. That introduced me to Dead Kennedys and everything.
John: Tapes are how I got into it all, anyway. I sure as hell didn’t have money for records. Friends would make me tapes and put 45 minutes on one side and 45 minutes on the other side. They would write the band names on it — and, if I was lucky, the track list too. That was our only exposure to shit we didn’t know. Napster was the next step, I think — before everyone was stealing everything.