Biffy Clyro's Simon Neil reveals his initial aim for grindcore side project Empire State Bastard: "No melodies, just f***ing mayhem"

Empire State Bastard
(Image credit: Gavin Smart)

Biffy Clyro's Simon Neil has opened up on the thinking behind his extreme metal side project Empire State Bastard, and admitted to Kerrang! “I’ve been needing to make a record like this for a long time.”

Empire State Bastard sees Neil joined by former Oceansize frontman Mike Vennart (also Biffy Clyro's touring guitarist) and drum god Dave Lombardo (Mr. Bungle, Dead Cross, Misfits, ex-Slayer), with bassist Naomi MacLeod [Bitch Falcon] joining the trio for live work. All riffs on the group's forthcoming debut album, Rivers Of Heresy, were written and performed by Vennart, as Neil maintains that “as soon as I pick up a guitar, it’s going to sound like fucking Biffy.”

Mike Vennart states: “I set about making the most fucking poisonous vile music I possibly could, just unabridged hatred in musical form.”

“We wanted to push that extremity and get ourselves into the right headspace for it,”  Neil tells Kerrang! “I know I’ve been needing to make a record like this for a long time. This is where I’m almost trying to be provocative. I said to Mike that I don’t want to sing any melodies – although there are a few melodies on the record, which is me following the service of the song – but my intention was no melody at all. Just fucking mayhem. We wanted people to feel that they’d almost struggle to get to the end of the first song.”

Rivers of Heresy is described as "a collection of songs which adventurously probes slamming hardcore in the vein of Siege; the frenetic, visceral thrash of Slayer; the claustrophobic sludge of Melvins; the freeform vocal dexterity of Mike Patton; and the gargantuan stoner riffs of Sleep.”

Simon Neil says that the project harks back to the bands who inspired him to make music as a teenager.

“When you don’t know how to express yourself properly as a young man, which is quite common, discovering something that expresses your rage in a way that’s non-articulate, that’s something you need,” he tells Kerrang! “I felt that I was a bit of an angry young man who needed to bond with music that helps you get angry.”

“This is a living breathing thing,” he adds.

Listen to new Empire State Bastard song Stutter below:

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.