Democratus Interview: Interview With Steve Jenkins By Paul Hutchings
With a month to go until we return to Catton Hall and the most exciting four days of the metal calendar, it’s time to start the build up with some interviews from the bands who will be melting our faces. First up, Paul caught up with Metal To The Masses South Wales winners Democratus and their frontman Steve Jenkins.
Many of you reading this will be aware of Democratus. They gig hard around South Wales and are fronted by the tireless energetic promoter of not only the band but metal in South Wales, Steve Jenkins. Steve has been around the local scene for the past ten years and with Democratus we think he’s finally got the line-up to a tee. A thrilling M2TM final in Cardiff in early June saw the band earn their spot on the New Blood Stage and the opportunity to gain musical exposure to the entire metal world. I began by asking Steve for a quick history of the band and to introduce us to the current line-up.
“We formed at the back end of 2014 and started gigging in Feb 2015. Line-up changes and dramas didn't stop the band powering on, but we basically cemented what I personally consider “the one” at the start of 2017. We are now: Steve - Vocals, Joey - Guitar, Kerrin - Guitar, Spoon - Bass and Zak - Drums. After getting Zak in, the game just naturally changed. We became tighter, more focused, more positive. Spoon, Kerrin and Zak are multi instrumentalists so song writing immediately became free flowing. Inspiring me to work on lyrical content I felt had to match the new material on offer. Joey now is much more confident in his abilities (when he auditioned he hadn't played guitar for several years) and is also beginning to contribute to writing processes too.
With a sound that cannot be easily pigeon holed but which is often labelled melodic death metal, how does Steve describe the Democratus sound? “It's a tough one that” he says. “We don't box ourselves in. There are songs that we think are straight up earworm type anthems like Damnation and Life For A Life. There are also the heavier hitting beasts like BTK and Deity. We write what we like to hear. If others enjoy our noise it's a total bonus!”
So, given that the band do indeed play a range of styles, who are the main influences for the band? Steve acknowledged a wide range and if you know their music you wouldn’t be surprised to hear his response: “They include but aren't limited to, Soilwork, Insomnium, Amon Amarth, Iron Maiden, Opeth, Devin Townsend. The list could go on for days!” So what about a surprise? I asked Steve to surprise us with something he also likes. The guilty pleasure? “Haha, I can only speak for me, but I went through school playing clarinet in orchestras and big bands. I'm also a fiend for pre-2000 dance n trance!” Personally, I think there is a deficiency of clarinet in metal so maybe the next EP will reveal Steve’s hidden talent!
The obvious place to go next was the South Wales M2TM shows. Although the band worked damn Having worked hard to get through to the final of the M2TM South Wales this year, some of you may not know that Democratus also got to the final last year, missing out to Malum Sky. How did that disappointment get channelled into this year’s assault? “I'm not gonna lie” says Steve, “I'm competitive. So, losing last year was a blow, but, we didn't mope or moan. We knuckled down, worked on new songs and improving the show. We did toy with the idea of not entering this year's competition. But, as well as sending our EP to Simon Hall, we covered all bases and entered again. Thankfully our perseverance paid off and we’re eternally grateful to all who supported us!” Indeed it did and as we’ve covered elsewhere, the atmosphere for this year’s semi-final and final was intense and better than I’d seen for a long time.
Did Democratus feel confident that you could get to the final? “We’ve always got confidence in our show. We knew we were good enough to do it. But at the same time, we never took it for granted. No one had to show up for us. No one had to vote for us, no one had to judge us good enough. But they did. We couldn't have done this without the amazing support, love and help from our fans, friends and family”. And that’s one of the great things about Democratus; they are a humble outfit who are genuinely pleased when they get support and praise. No egos here. Well, maybe a small one or two! But back to the final, which was an evening full of magical moments with four bands giving it all. I asked Steve to tell us about the build-up, and how the band managed to balance gaining support whilst avoiding saturating everyone?
“Ah, that final is gonna be a lifetime memory. Four bands of friends who’ve worked their asses off to be at the top of their game. I was gonna be happy whoever went through. But I also do not do well in these processes! I was anxious as hell. Not to mention I'd come down with a blood infection that gave me serious hot and cold flushes! But we did what we could. I felt the extra additions to the show added a little more to make us stand out. The thought process was basically giving whoever judged us, no reason to not put us through. In terms of gaining support, it was simply saying to our fans, without you we get nowhere. Ten years I've been a Bloodstock punter, and this is the dream to play it. It was honest, but hopefully not nagging!”
The culmination of the evening was of course, that winning moment and when Rob Bannister announced you were through it was something special. I’m sure there were a range of emotions going through but how did it feel? Steve explains “the biggest feeling was one of accomplishment. Like we finally completed the task of getting to a bigger stage. Then came relief that I never have to enter another band battle! We all agreed this M2TMs was the last time we do it! Then all in the split second came the happy, joy, excitement and thankfulness that our nearest and dearest helped us get there! Also, a fair bit of sympathy for our friends that didn't make it this year. Their time will come!” We can but hope, as Blind Divide and Incursion showed enough steel to make a real assault on the title next year, should they choose.
Away from M2TM, Democratus have played with a number of decent bands in the past. What are the highlights so far? Steve has no doubt about which one lives in the memory. “Suffocation in Bristol was definitely the biggest … until this August. It was also the gig we debuted BTK live! The Eradication Festival slots have always been killer. Skiltron, Bloodshot Dawn, Chaos Fest. We’re in a great time for metal bands right now. The quality for all genres is huge and attitudes between the bands seem genuine and positive. I hope it continues!” Having been at many of those gigs, I can vouch for the ferocity of the Suffocation gig, where the death metal legends delivered a masterclass.
Inevitably, it was then back to Bloodstock 2018. Democratus has a Friday slot on the New Blood Stage. I’d say that is a score but are you happy with that? Steve laughs. “Easiest question of the lot, we’re on the same day as Judas freakin’ Priest! Playing a stage less than 200 yards away from them to the biggest potential crowd I've ever pestered to see us. Yes, we’re more than a little bit happy!” And of course, BOA is a bit of a Welsh invasion this year with the guys from Sodomised Cadaver and Cranial Separation also there. It should be a good vibe. I think Steve is looking forward to it. “Indeed, it shall! We’re already arranging a Welsh Death Crew Party while we’re there! Add in our Bristolian neighbours of Bloodshot Dawn, Onslaught and Body Harvest … it's gonna get messy!”
So for that 30 minutes of pure joy on the New Blood Stage, the main question is what can we expect from you guys? Why should those who are undecided come and watch? I think Steve is giving the whole weekend 110% “You can expect Thursday afternoon acoustic renditions of The End Of Heartache around the camps as I hope it'll jog memories of last year's karaoke fun! Then on the Friday Bloodstock will be well and truly DEMOCRATIZED”. If you don’t know what that means, you’ll have to get to the New Blood Stage on the Friday to see for yourself. You won’t be disappointed though.
As a veteran of the Bloodstock Festival, I thought it was useful to get Steve’s take on the event. For anyone who has yet to experience Bloodstock, why should you go? “It’s hands down the most friendly, accommodating and accessible festival in the country. Everyone from the top down are approachable and helpful. Then there's the small point of the music! It's diverse, it's heavy and it's a celebration of the best music in the world!” There you are. If you haven’t got your ticket, then you know what to do.
Finally, time to find out a bit more about life after BOA. The band have plenty of UK gigs lined-up in the next few months. What does the future for Democratus look like? Steve is ruthless on this. “EP number 2 is being mixed by our Kerrin, and capitalising on our new title of M2TMs winners to continue our Democratization of the planet!”
So, there you have it. Friday 10th August 2018. The New Blood Stage. 30 minutes of solid heavy metal from the winners from South Wales. You’ll have to work hard to find a more enjoyable and honest band over the entire weekend. Make sure you get Democratised. It’ll be better than finding a tenner in a pair of jeans you haven’t worn for weeks. Yeah, that damn good. See you in the pit!