Harrowing hardcore contingent BAPTIZED IN BLOOD have just released their self-titled Roadrunner Records debut, and as they embark on their mission to bring dirty back, we caught up with frontman Johl Fendley to find out more about where this band comes from. While it’s been highly publicized that the London, Ontario-based quintet have some serious heavyweights in their corner, like co-manager Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, graphic designer Mike D’Antonio of Killswitch Engage and famed producer Zeuss, the story of how they formed and honed their craft goes back to 2004 – the year that hockey went on hiatus. From that winter of boredom, the band was born, and now in 2010, they’re making their mark on heavy music. To put it in perspective, frontman Johl Fendley asserts, “Blood, sweat, and tears and a lot of time and effort have gone into this band.” Read on to see what else he had to say about the formation of Baptized in Blood, the honor of having so many names stand up for his music, and much, much more.
Tell us the story of how you were bored when hockey was suspended, and so you started a band…
Yeah, yeah — what had happened was that I was a huge hockey fan and a bunch of the other guys in the band were in another band and not really doing a whole lot. We were sort of like well, let’s do something fun and I decided to start a metal band and everyone was like, ‘yeah let’s do it, why not?’ And actually more and more people started showing up to the shows and I was able to convince the other guys that it was probably in their best interest to continue with this as their full time gig. So everyone was able to come through on that and realize this was the project to do and it worked out awesome for us. It really snowballed, and we never really saw it getting to this point but we’re definitely pleased we’re here right now doing what we’re doing.
When you say you ‘just decided to put a metal band together,’ how did you have all the working parts necessary?
You know what, London’s a hotbed for amazing talent and it just so happened that the people that I surrounded myself with when I moved to London were all big into music and playing music and being skilled at it. And it’s not too often that you can dip into your group of friends to find the next member of your band but that’s how it went for us for the good first 3 years of our existence. People come and go but we never looked outside of our group of friends to find a replacement for that other person so it was pretty awesome. I’ve always loved music and everybody else in the band does too and it’s cool when you can just form a project solely based on being friends and singing about what you love. Which is partying, and chilling with your friends, right?
So how did you decide on your sound? You mentioned you’re all into music, but what made you go in the hardcore/metal direction in the first place?
Well, we left it open because originally, we wanted to do it for fun, so to have fun doing something especially in music you want to write music to make yourself happy. And that’s sort of what we intended on doing from the get-go and you know, we have arrangements I was a classic rock nut and also I was militant hardcore kid for a long time and also come from skate punk background, I’m pretty diverse in my influences but so is everybody else in the band. We listen to everything from like Necrophagist to Huey Lewis. We just love having fun and making music that we like and it’s awesome that it caught on the way it has. It’s what we wanted to do and it’s what we intended to do and we’re having fun and we like what we’re putting out.
How did you come to name yourselves Baptized in Blood?
We were trying to come up with names for the band and we just wanted to make it as metal as possible. So the first couple were like ‘Prison of Frost’ and ‘Frozen Ocean,’ and stuff like that, and it was just like, you know this is not cutting it. And I think someone brought up baptized, like Baptized by Fire. And at the end of the day [we got] Baptized in Blood and that’s it. One of my favorite bands is Death and they happen to have a bootleg EP and a song called “Baptized in Blood.” So we’re just keeping in the metal community really.
Your record cover is a favorite around our office. In our interview with Mike D. who designed the cover, he explained how you knew what you didn’t want, and the shark was just an idea he had based on your parameters. But how did you know when you saw it that this was it?
Yeah when we met up with Mike D we knew exactly what we didn’t want to see but we weren’t exactly sure what we wanted for the album. So it was sort of an arduous process — especially for him more so than us – just going back and forth, trying to figure out what was going to work properly and speak volumes for our band. A good few months passed going back and forth with artwork stuff and logos and what not and we were able to agree that the shark was just the coolest thing that we’ve seen so we went with it, and yeah we love it too. It’s something that’s different and something you don’t normally see in metal art. So we’re stoked about it.
You mentioned some of the bands you listen to and how you have an eclectic pallet. But who are some of your specific influences?
Personally I listen to a lot of metal like Black Dahlia Murder and I love Anthrax and I love Death and super fast stuff and not overly technical but anything that’s got a good ring to it. I also bring a lot of influence from my hardcore roots like Madball and Death Threat and stuff like that. Really coming from the heart about what I believe in and that’s sorta how I portray things from a lyrical aspect.
Tell us a little more about what you’re singing about, what’s your message?
It’s very simple really, the singing is basically about life experiences. That’s what I know best and that’s what I’m passionate about so that’s what gets my blood flowing. I really don’t like to move out of the realm of that and go into things that I’m unsure about unless it is a song that is sort of questioning something. Because I find that a lot of the passion is lost singing about stuff you know nothing about. You know not to count out people who sing about killing zombies or fantasy things like what DragonForce is all about because I do listen to stuff like that but at the end of the day I’m writing music for myself and for me I’m passionate about what I know, and what I know just so happens to be drugs, sex, partying – you know the key components to a fun life.
You have Dave Mustaine in your corner, you have Mike D from Killswitch, Zeuss producing, Roadrunner as your label — as a music fan, having all these big names being a part of your project, what is that like? How does that feel?
It’s humbling. It’s really humbling. When we started this project we never ever imagined it getting to this point. To have things to sorta fall into place like that is unbelievable. Signing the record deal with Roadrunner was a dream come true right then and there and really past that, any expectations we had for the band was just to tour… Tour and try and go from there, and it seems like everyday we wake up it’s another mindf*ck it’s just something new, something else that’s come our way that we never expected. So I’m taking each day as it comes, and that’s how I always wanted to live my life. And it’s really exciting and we’re honored and privileged and just humbled to be working with the team we have behind us. Never in my wildest dreams would I ever imagine Dave Mustaine being on board with us or getting artwork done by Mike D and even working with Zeuss in the studio. He did the Madball album, he did Hatebreed albums, he did Shadwos Fall — It’s amazing; it’s just truly amazing.
Tell us more about working with Zeuss. What did he bring out of you in the studio?
Yeah, Zeuss pushed us to the absolute brink. He really was exactly what we were looking for as a producer. We didn’t want someone who just wanted to record the album. We wanted someone who was willing to give input and who had the experience necessary to bring out the best in a band. And Zeus is known worldwide for being that guy who really pushing the limits of the band’s fixtures and putting out exactly the product that they want to hear at the end of the day. He’s sorta like a drill sergeant but he’s one of our good buddies and he pushed us to really bring out what we had on this record. And that’s exactly what we were looking for. So job well done to him. And I hope he’s doing justice, you know.
Since this is technically your second album but to many people, it’s kind of your first. How does it work as an introduction to who Baptized in Blood are?
We took a couple tracks off our independent release that we did and then wrote 8 fresh new songs that really display a range of skill and song writing and really shows off exactly who we are as a band. And its pretty amazing to be able to just write anything and have it be Baptized in Blood where as a lot of other bands are limited to being able to write a song for lack of better words that may sound like complete sh*t. For us it’s like there are no limitations on what we can do or what we’re allowed to do as a band because no one’s really set that bar for us and told us that we have to go a certain way with it. So we’re always happy to be able to take reverse outlook on things and keep on writing exactly what we want to write and I think that people will be really excited to know that there are no expectations or limitations and that you’ll constantly hear something new and exciting on the album.
For people who haven’t heard you guys yet, how do you sum up who Baptized in Blood is and why they should listen?
Oh gosh, how do I sum it up? Blood, sweat, and tears and a lot of time and effort have gone into this band. A lot of bands come about it these days sort of really quick and they just blow up huge really quick and they also fade away really quick. For us it’s been a long time of fighting and a lot of dedication and a lot of heartache but then also a lot of ups. I’d say if you want to hear something new and exciting that sort of pushes the boundaries of what metal is today then give it a shot because you never know you might end up liking it, who knows maybe your parents will like it. Just give it a whirl and if you dig it that’s rad because we dig it.