Blackhole are back and still doing it for themselves

Five years ago one of the brightest sparks in British hardcore hung up their playing boots in what came as a surprise to fans everywhere. No farewell tour, no final release, just a message on social media calling it a day. Now, they’re back with new music and a new attitude. Exactly five years to the day that Blackhole called it quits, we chat to frontman Richard Carter about why now is the right time, why it ended so abruptly and what it’s like to be back.

**What has happened in the past five years since you guys have been away?
**“I got this job, that’s what happened for me. Just before we stopped I realised I had to get a job and start paying my way, I wasn’t a teenager any more so I got a job here [at ASOS] and been working ever since and moving my way up through the company. We’ve all become adults. We’ve all stayed within music quite a lot; I play guitar in my brother Stephen’s band Ghost Riders In The Sky, the other guys formed a new band, so we’ve all stayed within music but not as heavily as we’d have wanted to.”

When you did call it a day, it came as a shock as things seemed to be going well. Was it hard to decide to become an adult?
“There were many reasons about why we stopped the first time. We were a young band who didn’t really know what we were doing, and we were just promised absolutely everything in the world. Then we went from having everything to a week later being a DIY punk band which we’d never actually been. We’d never learnt how to be a band that doesn’t have management, doesn’t have backing. Because we got so much attention when we first started we got signed to a management company really quickly, they helped with our album, we got put on great tours ‘cause we had a great booking agent, and we ended up losing all of that really quickly. And our original drummer snapped a ligament in his knee; everything happened at exactly the same time. So it was like ‘This isn’t fun, let’s just stop.’ We decided to save our friendship over killing each other in a band. Now we’ve sort of come back to it, everyone is loving it again.”

Were you expecting the response to your return to be so positive?
“I was expected people to just be ‘Oh cool, here they come again.’ When we were around before, we had people that liked us but there was kind of a negative response to us which was like ‘You’re only doing these tours because of your family’ and that stuff. I hated not doing that band, the one thing that’s kept me going is the thought that I will do music again. When we announced we were doing the tour, we instantly had a massive reaction which has been breathtaking for us. I’ve been working in an office for the past five years, becoming part of the furniture, and every show we’ve done on the [Frank Carter & The] Rattlesnakes tour we’ve had people coming up to us and saying thank you for coming back, which is mind-blowing in itself ‘cause we’re only doing it for us.”

What was the catalyst that made you as a band want to do it again?
“I think it’s a culmination of things where the right thing happened for the right person to make it happen again. I asked the band every year on the year for the past five years because we never did a farewell show, we just did a post on Facebook. So every year I’d get in touch with the guys saying ‘Let’s do a show, just one single show’. Then my brother threw it out there to me, saying ‘Get Blackhole together and do the tour’. I thought it was a bit early but I’ll ask anyway. I sent a group message on WhatsApp saying we’d been asked to do the tour and it was a total ‘Yes, I need to break the mundane life that I’m in, let’s go on tour and have the best time ever.’

How did it feel to get back onstage, five years in the making?
“Terrifying. When we were practicing for the tour, I had to re-listen to all of the songs and write them out again ‘cause I just couldn’t remember them. Then we’d be playing and there’d be a couple of times where I’d almost pass out and have to stop singing ‘cause I just lost my breath and couldn’t do it. It was kind of worrying like, ‘Are we going to be able to last on tour, playing shows every night, doing what we did when we were 1617?’ But then the first show happened and it was like I put on the most comfortable pair of shoes that I forgot I had. It just felt right, which is a recurring thought throughout the band.”

**The new songs sound like they could have been written back in the Dead Hearts sessions, was this a conscious effort?
**“No, it just happened. Lustrum was actually a song written for our second album, we had a load of songs written for that, and then we got back in the studio to practice the old ones and we just got bored. But we had these old songs so we thought we’d see if we could finish them. We started working on Lustrum and finished it really quickly, we changed the structure round, and the guys are just better musicians now. I rewrote the lyrics completely, scrapped the original ones and wrote it about what’s happening now. And then Andreas [Yiasoumi] came to practice one day and said he’d written a riff, he played it and it was pretty much Ghosts from start to finish. I said ‘That’s not a riff dude, you’ve just written our best song.’ The whole thing just came really naturally, it was just writing with my friends which is perfect.”

**Both of the new songs, lyrically, seem like you’re coming back swinging. Is that where you’re at now? Are you trying to prove a point that you’re as good as people believe you can be?
**“I never try to write anything that conveys a message to anyone else, I always just write a personal thing for me. Lustrum is about how over the past five years I’ve just lost myself, it’s about not actually believing in myself to do what I want, and now Blackhole is back again I’ve got my voice back. It’s about how shitty the past five years have been. And then Ghosts is along the same sort of theme but not so personal, it’s more about he band as a whole. The songs are a bit more grown-up… I think. I’m not writing about ex-girlfriends when I was 16 any more.”

**Any songs you look back at now and don’t want to perform live?
**“It’s not that I don’t want to do them live, I’ll happily play any song that we have ‘cause I love the songs, but the emotion behind them isn’t there any more. Forever, for example, I sing that now and I don’t sing it with the same hatred I wrote it with because what that song was written about is nine years old now. I was 16 when I wrote those lyrics, I don’t know those people any more. It’s kind of impossible to sing it with meaning but at the shows it’s been really easy to because loads of people are still singing it with meaning, which has given all the old songs a bit of a rebirth.”

**In the time you’ve been away, UK hardcore has evolved immensely, what can you see as the main difference since you were here?
**“People don’t by small shirts any more ha ha! I found that out. Everything on this tour has been done by us, so I bought the blank t-shirts and took them to my friend that prints. I bought small, medium and large, and sold out of larges in the first couple of days. I think I sold four smalls on the whole tour! When we toured before everything was youth medium and youth large. And as a music fan it seems like people are more interested in ease, now. Before people would really travel for a show, on this tour people did travel a long way, but there were complaints about not playing certain towns. It’s just like ‘Get a train, like the rest of us do.‘”

**So what are the plans for new material?
**“We don’t have anything in place, we don’t have a plan. While most bands nowadays will have a manager or a small label or whatever, they’ve got their next 12 months sorted. The next 12 months for us is hang out and having fun. The two songs we recorded we weren’t going to put out before the tour, it was a really last minute decision. Then we got the mixes and it was like ‘Yeah let’s put it online, let’s put it out there and play ‘em on the tour’ just because we could. Now it’s just a case of having fun. I’m pretty sure there will be more music.”

**And hopefully some relentless touring…
**“We’re not going to be able to tour relentlessly. I guess we’re doing the whole ‘being in a band’ thing really badly ha ha. We don’t have a plan, we can’t tour relentlessly, there’s nothing behind us apart from our bank accounts, and the desire to have fun. There will be shows and there will be small tours, as and when we can make them happen.”

Blackhole headline the Barfly in London on 18 December. Get your tickets here.

Luke Morton joined Metal Hammer as Online Editor in 2014, having previously worked as News Editor at popular (but now sadly defunct) alternative lifestyle magazine, Front. As well as helming the Metal Hammer website for the four years that followed, Luke also helped relaunch the Metal Hammer podcast in early 2018, producing, scripting and presenting the relaunched show during its early days. He also wrote regular features for the magazine, including a 2018 cover feature for his very favourite band in the world, Slipknot, discussing their turbulent 2008 album, All Hope Is Gone.