Throughout the Covid crisis, we’ve been speaking to different artists, whose ability to do what they do has been changed, fundamentally, by the ongoing circumstances. This much holds true for Cork metal, already a tight-knit community brought together by a grá for various sonic extremes.
It’s within this community that Hashmaker came together in late 2019 - brought together by a love of hazy, bluesy stoner metal and childhood faves like System of a Down and Deftones. Guitarist Jim Spillane talks about how it all happened, blissfully unaware of what was to come.
“Yeah, I think it was about two or three months before we all had to have The Big Stay Inside. I knew Josh (Langford - drums) for years, like. He used to be in Dirty Casuals (punk band) with me, but he kind-of dropped off for a little bit to focus on himself for a while.
“Brian (Twohig - guitarist) is from Tipp - I knew his brother, but didn't even know he existed! We started meeting up, and we watched the documentary Desert Age, the Queens of the Stone Age one, and he just kind of turned to me, he's like, 'this is brilliant, we need to do something like that'. So we got on to Josh, who was really interested, he brought up Conor, who was the bass player at the start.
“Then we just kind of started messing and going on from there, and then lockdown happened. And it was just a case of, y'know, from the moment we started, everyone was really interested, just like meeting up with your friends, going to the pub - but with this band dynamic behind it, like everyone adores being in each other's company.”
On the other side of that long and uncertain period, the band have pulled together their debut EP, ‘Attack of the 50ft Lobsters’, written and recorded in fits and starts over the course of the last 16 months.
It’s come in for a warm reception from Irish metal press and beyond, but more to the point - Spillane says it’s the record they’d wanted to make.
“I love how it turned out. It's very rare for me to listen back to stuff I've put out before, and be fully happy with everything. This is something I'm just over the moon with, and everyone seems to be giving nice little comparisons, and picking up on like some of the things we kind-of threw in there.
“We're just getting back the, 'oh my god, you guys are absolutely stone-mad, like' from people, and it's really good, people are really, really kind.”
A grand bit of storytelling, and the result of a spot of bullsh*tting among friends, which exemplifies the way the band’s constituent parts play off each other, and their city.
“I mean, Adam (Graham - vocals) just puts a more Cork spin on a lot of things.
“Then there are certain sections that we were having a bit of trouble with, so we just decided that what would be better than actual lyrics is just, y'know, that sound of lads just shouting over each other at a session.”
There are some disparate, wider influences within the band, as mentioned, sitting between nu-metal’s groovy sensibilities and the heft and texture of sludge, stoner and doom - an interesting halfway-house, even amid some of Cork metal’s tendencies toward cross-pollinating influences.
Spillane talks about reconciling all the different tendencies in the band when coming together to jam.
“Our approach generally is that nothing gets unused, and if something isn't liked, we'd explain why, and maybe how we could apply our own twist on it there and then. There's a lot of the drummer communicating with us through toms, like he wants to change the rhythm to it a bit.
“Sometimes we just come in with a full tune, and we'll go through it once this way, then if we don't like it, we'll address what we need to change and no-one's really ever too put out by something getting changed.
“I've put forward riffs and then they've become something else but I'm still happy that what I brought got used in some regard anyway. No one's ever really too salty, everyone just wants everyone to enjoy it, and that's the main thing.”
The record’s artwork itself is amazing - the result of a quick confab with Cork-based artist and graphic designer Colin Bolger, also of Tipp sludge-metal outfit zh0ra.
It’s at once an immediately-recognisable vision of Cork’s underbelly and a vivid tip of the hat to sci-fi and disaster horror flicks - albeit not (currently) an officially-licensed product of Fred Zeppelin’s!
“The initial inspiration was something in the vein of '50s and '60s B-movies. 'Attack of the 50 Ft Woman', 'Creature from the Black Lagoon', and we found so many of those movies, and we watched quite a few of them. We just wanted something like the posters for those films.
“So we came up with the idea, then, 'how about, it's just us running from Fredz after stealing the last of the Buckfast?'. You can see the little bottles in our hands.
“I put it all in an email to Colin, 'look, here's what we're going for'. He just went ahead and did it, and we didn't get an update until two days before it was done, and it was only a sneak peek. He sent us the final version, no complaints whatsoever.
“He really has an eye for detail on these things, and he's said himself, this is a little bit different from his usual style. We didn't get on to Tom (Keating - Fredz proprietor) about it (laughs). There might be licensing issues there!”
Attack of the 50 Ft. Lobsters is available for streaming and download from https://hashmakerireland.bandcamp.com/releases. You can also get T-shirts of the Fredz artwork, in black, white or brown.