To Hell and Back

An Interview With Andy Sneap of Hell

by Adrien Begrand

12 June 2011

Andy Sneap 

So what was it that drew the young Andy Sneap to hell’s music in the first place? “Obviously I’d started having lessons with Dave and I’d been aware of his other band Race Against Time, but I wasn’t aware of this new band Hell he was putting together,” he reminisces. “It was a friend who had introduced me to him, a lad in the year above me at school took me to one of his shows, and it was just amazing. It was in the back room of this pub, there was all these fireworks going off, smoke, it was like a full-on arena show going on in the back of this pub. It was amazing.

“They were on such a tight budget that there was so much attention to detail and professionalism for a band that was just playing pubs and local clubs. They stood out from the rest, and the actual quality of the songwriting, the ideas behind the songs, it was so, so professional for a band that wasn’t professional, they didn’t have the resources, everything was done on such a cheap scale but with a professional outlook.

“It was a good work ethic, it was a good thing to see. And it still stands up, even knowing the guys now, dealing with them now, although I’ve had an awfully lot more experience in the music business than they have, they’re still very easy to get along with and very professional, they’ll do anything. They’re very serious about what they want to do. More so than the guys in Sabbat, who have had years of experience,” he laughs. “It’s great fun to play with a group of guys that I get along well with, who have got that sort of attitude.”

As for the process of re-recording those old songs, Sneap says the arrangements were hardly tweaked at all, a testament to the timelessness of the songs we hear on Human Remains. Even Sneap’s production, which has always been on the sleek and crisp side, tones things down in an effort to not detract from the impact of the material. “We’ve streamlined one or two little riffs, cut them down a little bit, and just changed a couple of the vocal melodies just to help with Dave a little bit, but it’s pretty much 90 percent true to what they were doing back in the day,” he says.

“It does sound fresh, especially in today’s metal climate. Basically we’ve just taken songs from 25 years ago, nothing’s influenced it. We deliberately tried not even think about modernizing it too much. We just wanted an honest recording of these songs that was valid today. We didn’t want it to sound retro either, we just wanted to give it a bit of a modern sound without being too overly polished.”

Human Remains is a nice little capper to what’s been a remarkable period for Sneap. In addition to bringing back Hell for everyone to hear, he’s played a major role in the comeback of German metal greats Accept, helping the band get back to its classic sound of the 1980s and remain true to it. “It’s almost like I’m re-living my childhood again, I’ve got all these bands coming back in my life that I was into back when I was 15, 16,” he says.

“There’s just something about it. I don’t know if it was the way the music scene was in the ‘80s, but there was a vibe to it that I miss now. These old school guys, no one could touch them. Kids are actually getting better at playing, the bar’s been raised on the actual playing level, but I think the actual songwriting talent is getting watered down. When you listen to Accept, they have proper songs. They think about the melodies, about the arrangements, they don’t just jam it all together. It was great working with those guys…They’re world class. When you sit there and watch them play, it’s effortless to them.

With the current incarnation of Hell fully formed, it’s been a slow but steady process getting Bower, Speakman, and Bowler back into the swing of things over the course of three years, but the band is now fully prepared, and this summer’s European festival tour is in full swing. As for Sneap, he’s glad to finally be back onstage again, and to do so as a member of his all-time favorite band is perfect.

“I’ve never been more prepared to record an album than this one,” he enthuses. “I’ve been listening to the songs for 25 years on cassette, so I kind of knew the songs inside-out…I’ve been doing the same thing now for 15, 16 years, and as much as I love my job and the people I work with, and all the bands are great, we always have a good laugh, it’s time for a little bit of a change for me.”

“I’ve done the same thing day in and day out, and I’ve always wanted to be a guitar player, that’s why I formed a band with Sabbat originally, it was my dream,” he adds. “So for me to do this record for all the right reasons, to put Dave’s name out there, to help these guys out as well, then to get asked to play in the band, it’s a dream come true for me as well. It’s something different for me to do, I’ve actually got another chance at this, to go out there and play live with a group of guys I get along with.

“I’m actually in a band now where everyone’s pushing for the same thing, there’s no one out there for their own well-doing, everyone just wants the band to do well. It’s refreshing and very cool at the same time.”

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