Hi,I’m J.R. Preston and with me today is Kyle Harcott of the up and coming heavy metal band Hexripper. I enjoy their demo quite a bit, so I wanted to have a chat with one of ’em. To describe Hexripper in the right way, I’d have to tell you to go listen to Black Sabbath with Dio and then after that listen to Venom. When you’ve finished listening to those bands, put on Mercyful Fate and then at the same time play a Judas Priest record. Listen to them at the same time and the resulting cacophony may drive you insane. That’s perfect. Now you’re ready to listen to Motorhead. Lastly, put on some Bathory.

I forgot to add, you should be drinking beer the whole time.

By the time you’re finished, you will be drunk and unruly, and then, you’ll be in a prime listening state for Hexripper.

Kyle, you’re the singer, but you are not known for your vocals. You were in a really good metal band Device, in which you played drums. I have two Device CDs and like them a lot. How did Device start and what were you trying to convey musically?

Kyle Harcött
Kyle Harcött

I joined Device in 2009 as the drummer (after an eight-year dry spell without a band), and they’d been trying to make a go of it for a year or two prior to me joining. When I came on board, things started to come together. We started off as a cover band – but we got to originals eventually, for a couple albums, anyway. Eight years together, it was a good run. We shoulda played live more, but that’s on me. I had no input on songwriting other than drum parts. The riffs were all Marc & Lloyd, the lyrics all Marc. As far as what we were trying to convey? I’d say a lot of Ronnie Dio worship, mostly.

So what happened? Did someone steal your drums? You couldn’t afford new drums so you bought a microphone? Why exactly did Device break up?

Funny enough, I started out playing drums because they were cheaper –i.e., free – than renting a saxophone every month for band class, so my parents were all for it. Of course that would backfire a few months later when I got my first drum kit and made everyone within earshot miserable. But it was a hilarious twist of fate.

The fate of Device boils down to the sad reality of real estate in Vancouver. Device’s leader, Marc, came from Atlantic Canada and had been in Vancouver ten years. He and his wife wanted to buy a home and that’s – sadly – a much more realistic goal in eastern Canada than it is in Vancouver. They returned to their home province of New Brunswick in early 2017, and are doing real well.

So when Device split, I was faced with the prospect of “what the fuck am I gonna do now?” I had enjoyed being the drummer in Device, but I also had a lot of my own shit to say. I also knew I wanted my next band to skirt the territories of black’n’roll. The two bands I think are the most important foundations in what would become heavy metal are, without question, Motörhead and Venom. There are a lot of bands I love and worship, but those two are the cornerstones, in my opinion. So I wanted whatever I was going to do next, to head in that direction.

I lucked into my new bandmates. Like, completely. Our drummer Mule I first met around 2010 through writing for a metal website called Hellbound, and we became fast friends. One day, a few summers ago, he texts me out of the blue and tells me he has some friends who are liquidating their sizeable record collection, and would I like to come along and have a pick through? It’s a poorly kept secret that I never turn down an opportunity to sniff out metal LPs, and this collection was LEGENDARY. So this is how I met the brothers, Sox &Master, who play guitars in Hexripper. Sox and Master and Mule had played together in bands going back thirty-odd years to their teens.

So I kept in touch with Sox, and when Device broke up, I asked him about putting something together. He brought in our bass player Lyle, and then after a few hiccups we finally solidified the lineup with Mule & Master. We started out playing Motörhead and Venom covers – but Sox had so many incredible riffs in his vault, we quickly realized covers weren’t gonna cut it much longer. We still do the odd Venom number and we’ll probably trot one out for our longer set.

I know you sang on a song during Device’s last recording session and it was a disgusting, immoral, reprehensible song. I loved it! Is this where you first thought “I should be doing vocals”?

Hahahaha, I’m glad you enjoyed that filth. My little ode to El Duce. However, I disavow any knowledge of said alleged song, hahahaha.

I always wanted to do vocals. I love playing drums, but from an early age, there was always a part of me that not-so-secretly wanted to be the guy writing and presenting the lyrics. I don’t play anything other than drums, so for live assaults I’m gonna have to work on my Ozzy-jump-claps, or maybe get a cowbell like Vince Neil.

Who came up with the name Hexripper? It’s fucking fantastic, but how does one go about ripping a hex? Hexes aren’t exactly farts, or paper. Not too easy to rip.

This is going to sound nerdy as shit, but I literally keep a spreadsheet of words that I think belong in metal band names. Similarly to William Burroughs’s “cut-up” technique, I played around with these words making list after list, in different combinations, to determine which combinations of these words would make the right band name. After literal months of back-and-forth deliberation across bandmates old and new, HEXRIPPER was finally the first one where everybody in the lineup said, “Yeah, okay, I like that.” I must admit, it does have a certain ring to it.

Ripping hexes sho ‘nuff ain’t easy, that’s for sure, but when you manage to rip a good one, you never forget it.

“Night of the Witches Rune” starts with a Bathory sounding riff and goes straight into a Venom sound. I’m not sure Quorthon would approve of the mixture, but I sure do. What the fuck is the Witches’ Rune exactly?

I didn’t know this either! Sox, who writes all the riffs, this was one he wrote back in the day and he wrote the original lyrics, which I rearranged and added to when I came on board. It turns out, in addition to being defined as Nordic mystery language ”rune” was also another name for a poem, song, or dance, in the old Norse language.

The breakdown in “Rune”. Intentional Venom worship or just something that came naturally?

The riffs were all written before I came along to the band, but I’ll assume it was a natural occurrence. That said, though – it’s no secret Venom is a prime influence on this band.

The guitar solo in “Witches Rune” is reminiscent of Thin Lizzy but I believe most people would say it sounds more like Iron Maiden. Are you guys Lizzy fans? I hear no Thin Lizzy influence elsewhere in this demo but it sure stands out during that solo.

I think we’re all pretty huge Lizzy fans. We’re all old enough to come from an era when hard-rocking motherfuckers were king, and any twin-guitar attack worth its salt should at least have one passable Lizzy rip under its belt at some point. We have a couple in our arsenal.

“Patient Wolf” begins with this riff that wouldn’t be out of place on “Mob Rules” by Black Sabbath. Total 80s Sabbath and then the song turns into Motorhead with Iommi on guitar. This song is about chicks. I – kind of – named this song. Tell everyone how I helped you name this song the proper title, and give me lots of praise to pump my ego.

Nice breakdown and Fate Meets Iommi guitar solo in this song, by the way.

That’s right, you were the one who told me to change it to “wolf” in the singular, I had originally titled it “Patient Wolves”. Shit, that was right after one of our very first jams too! It was the right decision, so thank you, once again.

What I don’t get is, what are you trying to say with these fucking lyrics?Are you saying here that men are werewolves? Men are just out to get in women’s pants? Or maybe you are trying to warn women that most men can become lame domesticated wolves that die out due to gluttony, starvation or overpopulation.

As far as the lyrics… I heard a saying that struck me, “A gentleman is simply a patient wolf.” And it spoke volumes to me. I consider myself a gentle man, and a gentleman, but I’m still a patient wolf inasmuch as I have a biological heterosexual imperative, and I’m not going to apologize for that, even though it seems to be all the rage to do so.

“Soldiers of Satan” is one of the best songs on the demo in my humble and probably uninformed opinion. I know that people are going to hear Venom here but once again I hear Bathory. It brings me back to the 80s. Even with the Bathory that I’m hearing here, Cronos would have sang these same lyrics. It’s like you channeled him. I’m a sucker for Satan lyrics. The old crusty Venom tune “Sons of Satan” comes to mind immediately, naturally. Who wrote the lyrics to this song? Are you guys practicing Satanists?

Thank you for the kind words. I’m hugely honored to have anything I’m involved with even mentioned in the same breath as Bathory or Venom.As far as I’m concerned, they lit the torch.

SoldiersOf Satan” was another one that existed years before my new ass joined the band. To my knowledge, I do believe brother Sox wrote this one as well – lyrics too. When I joined the band, I altered and added a few phrases here and there — put a little of my own stamp on it. See if you can guess which ones. They’ll tell you all you need to know about my practices.

There is a nice sounding bass breakdown with a Judas Priest sounding lead on this song. How much of a Priest influence is present in this band? This would be a good time to ask: What are the favorite metal bands of each member? I mean, it’s obvious that the bands I’ve already stated are favorites of yours collectively, but individually,what is each guy listening to?

We’re all metalheads in our forties and fifties, so we’re certainly of an age where Judas Priest reigned supreme across our collective heavy metal youth.

Individually, we all have pretty eclectic tastes in our metal – ranging the gamut from blackthrash, sleaze, noise rock, doom, prog and old school heavy metal — but for Hexripper, we unite under the banner of dirty old sleaze metal in the vein of Motorhead and Venom. But even with that said, we have elements of doom, and hints of black metal in some of the newer songs not on the first demo.

“Light The Way” is total Motorhead worship. Am I correct in my assessment? Also there is a breakdown riff in this song that reminds me of Mercyful Fate’s “Return of the Vampire.” I’m interested to know if that just flowed out during rehearsals and writing, or was it an intentional thing of “Let’s put a Mercyful Fate style thing here”?

These riffs all spring from the fingers of Sox – most of these are songs dating back over the years of the three of them (Sox, Master, Mule) jamming together. So in that sense it’s a resurrection of the music they crafted, and I came along and put lyrics and vocals to a bunch of them. Fate are absolutely an influence on all of us, so whether or not that was conscious, I can’t say – but the Denner/Shermann influence is absolutely there in the front of our minds.

As so many of us did, I grew up on songs like “Motorbreath” and“Whiplash” and “Bonded By Blood” – and in my eyes, every good metal band worth its salt has a song written in homage to the genre that spawned it. The lyrics are my love letter to heavy metal, and to all of my brothers and sisters who lit the torch and shone alight in the dark for me as a metalhead from an early age. Because this is not a form of music you get into for a few years, and then abandon once you finish college. If you’re a metalhead, you’re a fucking lifer. And I’m proud to be.

On to “Hexripper”. “Desecration of Souls” hammer-ons in the beginning! I start to think the lead guitarist is a Fate mark. When taking notes I wrote down “Fate with Cronos Lemmy singing.” I’m hearing a lot of Mercyful Fate here, and I love it. Why not try some King style falsettos? Did you think, during recording or just songwriting, about maybe throwing in some King-y vocal lines here and there?

Oh yeah, Denner & Shermann are certainly spiritual forefathers for this band, absolutely. And while I worship the King’s vocals as a fan, I don’t know that I’d ever attempt to emulate them – out of respect! I have a pretty limited range as a vocalist so I stick to my strengths – guttural and more guttural. Though, never say never…

When will you record the album proper? You may find this insane, but I’ve made a list of production notes as I have decided that I am your producer now. I don’t care what you think about that, you really have no say in the matter. But what do you think about that? J.R.Preston, producer. Yeah, that sounds really good to me…

We’d love to get in the studio, but, like most independent bands, we are hampered by time and money constraints. I know it’s the vogue thing nowadays to go on kickstarter and beg for people to give you money for a recording budget, or for tour support, or so you don’t have to have a day job or whatever – but we’re old school.

For now, I’m perfectly content with what our drummer is capturing for live demos. They have that raw spirit and sense of urgency and spontaneity that I cherish a lot. Who knows, maybe we’ll turn that into something more studio-based. Having a recording wizard within our ranks is a massive gift.

That said – hells’ bells, if there was a way to get you to produce our first studio outing, I’d be all for it! I’m insanely honored that you made production notes for us and I’m dying to hear what your suggestions are.

Kyle, plug some bands that you are into, and tell us when I can get a Hexripper t-shirt. Thanks for doing this interview, and thanks for being my friend for a long, long time, you old fucking bastard.

The honor is mine. The first time I heard Blood Cult’s We Are The Cult Of The Plains, I knew I was hearing something completely unique and special – and look what it kicked off. You are a dear friend, and I cherish your counsel and camaraderie endlessly. As soon as we get Hexripper shirts, you get the first one. That’s a promise.

I’m a simple caveman. I like big dumb riffs, thrashy drums, guttural vocals, and lyrics about devils, occults, and werewolfy shit. Blackmetal bands who aren’t afraid to wear their rock influences on their sleeves are right up my alley. Bands who understand that KISS was an integral part of what became black metal. Those are the bands I want to listen to.

Thank you for this interview, J.R. Eternal hails to Tjolgtjar, Blood Cult, and to you.