Arbitrater interview

– Who founded the band? I know that you joined later, but maybe you can tell us something about how it begun.

– As far as I know it was Rat (Tony Martin) and Dominic that started the band. They were both in Warwick and Rat had been singing for The Varukers for a while. Although he’s a punk, Tony always loved proper headbanging metal too, so the idea of Arbitrater kind of came out of that I think.

– When did you met with the others? How did you get in contact with them?

– I can’t honestly remember. I think they advertised for a drummer and I answered the ad. Simple as that. Went up for a jam and ended up in the band.

– Were you into Thrash Metal at that time?

– I was, although not a slave to it. Same as I am now. I remember when thrash first came into existence (yes….I am THAT old) and to me it was just all metal. I never really even liked the term because it just started all kinds of stupid arguments about what was, and what wasn’t thrash. The kind of fights you get in when it seems to matter at the age of 15 or whatever! To some people a band had to be a million miles an hour all the time to fit the ‘thrash’ tag, which was rubbish. Even ‘Angel of Death’ has slow bits. To me it’s all just ‘metal’. Plus, a lot of people wouldn’t give a band a chance if they were labelled a thrash band, thinking that it was all flailing away at guitar and drums with no musicianship, which is, of course, bullshit. But then maybe it’s a thing from when you grow up. When I was a kid and the NWOBHM was coming out there were older guys who had grown up listening to Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple who used to laugh at the way we clung to the label ‘Heavy Metal’….so maybe it’s the same kind of thing. To me I like bands that range from AC/DC to Sepultura….and it’s all just metal in my eyes.

– You were the drummer on the 2nd album „Darkened Reality”. How do you remember for those days?

– It was good fun. We’d pile into whatever crapheap of a van we had access to and roll around the UK for gigs. But there was a lot of apathy from audiences. You see, when that album came out the latest thing was that kind of ‘Funk-style metal’ like Rage Against The Machine that was popular in the UK, which is a country that very much runs on fashion. Personally, I hate 99% of that shit so it was difficult in that sense. I’d rather watch Motörhead than any of those funking rap things. Often the audiences would hide in the corner until after you had played and then went the jukebox came on with RATM then they would come up and dance around like fairies. Used to piss me off !

– Who came up with the music and with the lyrics? What were the lyrics about?

Dominic wrote 99% of the music and Rat did the lyrics. It was all jammed into place in rehearsals but that seems to be how it worked best.

– What do you think, Arbitrater was a well-known band or just followed by locally, in the Warwick area?

– We had little pockets of fans around the place, but like I say, a lot of general interest was more in the funk style of things. The other bands that were big at the time were like Wolfsbane and The Atom Seed, both nowhere near the thrash style we were doing. But there were places that we went down very well. Other places….nothing. We played one gig in Wales where the audience (which was a pretty big one) all sat in the other room while we played! And then they said that they really enjoyed it!! It was a very strange period.

– Can you tell me something about Cyclone Records? I can’t find any more releases by this label, only the Arbitrater full-lengths.

– Cyclone was Rat’s own label. Everything was self-produced. We got the albums printed ourselves and then distributed through Plastic Head who were a very small operation at the time. So there weren’t ever any other releases that I knew of.

– How often did you play live and where? I heard that you played together with such famous UK bands like Bolt Thrower and Xentrix way back in time!

– We played as often as we could. But probably not as often as we should have. There were some people that seemed to dislike gigging more and more as time went on. But the lack of audience response did get soul-destroying after a while.
We did play with Bolt Thrower and Xentrix. I really liked Xentrix. Not only were they nice guys but they were a bloody great band. Saw them live lots of times. But you knew that something was wrong with the state of the British music business when they ended up disappearing into oblivion. They were doing really well until they got picked up by a major label. And then it was disastrous. Same things happened with Wolfsbane really. But Xentrix were bloody brilliant.

Do you remember what was the reason why Arbitrater split-up?

– Lack of interest I guess. The enthusiasm just died as the audiences disappeared. It was hard to remind yourself why you were doing it when you’d driven for five hours to a gig where nobody was there and you didn’t get paid. Some of the guys in the band were fading off into different styles as well, whether hardcore or funk….so Arbitrater just basically knocked it on the head.

At that time when the band was active, did the local media (fanzines, radios) support you?

– Some fanzines were very supportive, but that was about it. Once again, the music scene was ill. It was full of big fish in an insignificant pond. I remember when the singer from Napalm Death was sent by Kerrang to review a gig we were playing with a bunch of bands in Birmingham. He was a mate of Rat’s; he arrived after we’d played and then wrote in his review that we were ‘okay’. What a load of bollocks. He hadn’t even seen us play! There were too many people wandering about obsessed with their own importance and that kind of seemed to outnumber the hard-core of fanzine people who actually cared about the music.

– What do you know about the other members? Are you still in connection?

– Not really. I heard from Grant (bass) a while ago and he was doing well. Dom I haven’t heard from at all, and Rat is now singing for Discharge, which is cool. That’s him – totally suits him.

– Did you ever talked about a reunion?

– No. Don’t think there will ever be the demand for one ;-). I did get Rat to do some vocals on a demo for a band that I knocked together for fun called Chimera back in the 90s. We did three tracks, the opening one was called ‘The Wicker Man’. Ha ha!

Who owns the rights for those albums? Maybe a reissue someday?

– Probably Rat. He did most of the tiny amount of paperwork that we did. So he probably has the masters and the copyright information.

– How many copies have been sold of your albums?

– No idea I’m afraid. We were terrible at accounting! I don’t think that many were sold, probably not much more than a thousand or so.

– Do you still get questions about this band? Do you remember any interview request from abroad?

– It does come up from time to time. In fact we played a gig a while ago and this guy came running up shouting my name. Sure enough he was a big Arbitrater fan. That was cool. It was a good band when we were firing on all cylinders.

– You are originated in New Zealand, right? When did you move to the UK and why?

– I moved to the UK in 1988. Iron Maiden had cancelled two tours of New Zealand (1985 and 1987) and I thought ‘Fuck it! If they won’t come to me, I’ll go to them!’ I wanted to push the drumming further than was possible in New Zealand anyway and so arrived in time for Donington where Maiden headlined. Because my grandparents were British I was allowed to stay and…voila! I did move around a bit, lived in France for two years, Grenada for two years, Malta, Cyprus and round about, but always ended up back in England.

– You are still active in Blaze Bayley’s band and in Chokehold. How busy is your life?

– Very. I’ve quit Chokehold, who don’t seem to be doing much anymore (part of the reason I quit), but Blaze is getting busier and busier. It’s a great band and we’ve got a lot going on in 2009. In fact I’m pretty sure we’re playing in Budapest on 13 April. The new album is something we’re all proud of and we’ve just filmed a DVD in Switzerland. So, yeah, it’s pretty busy.

– I just realized that you are a plentiful writer! You presented many books about the U-Boots! Could you tell me more about this theme? Why did you choose the U-Boots?

– I’ve always been interested in history, World War Two in particular. Both my grandfathers fought in the wars, one in the First World War and one in the Second. For some reason I developed an extreme interest in the Axis forces, particularly the Germans. The Waffen SS was always very interesting, but when I lived in France I was teaching scuba diving and diving on the wrecks of some German Kriegsmarine patrol boats, blockade breakers and U-boats. So it just came about that I started writing about them. I find it a humbling experience to talk to men who lived through the wars….they’ve experienced things I can’t even imagine, and yet they then just got on with their lives. No bitching and whining. THAT’s strength of character. While I find the politics of the period very interesting as well — as everybody should, because if you forget history, it happens again…..look around! — it is the humanity of it that staggers me. People are capable of acts of extreme selflessness and bravery and extreme horror. And you will never know what you would do unless you were there.

– Well, thanks a lot for the answers! We hope that you will play in Hungary someday!

– Thanks to you too….and like I said, I’m pretty sure we’re there in April

– What would be your message to our Hungarian readers?

-Keep the faith! Metal is forever! Come and see Blaze Bayley!
Plus….if you’re a drummer…..don’t use triggers. They suck 😉

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