About Me

Interview with Hellripper

Picture a union between Motörhead and Bathory, hence Hellripper is born from the devilish highlands of Scotland.
James McBain is the backbone of the Black & Speed Metal band that packs almost a decade of shredding albums, EPs and one compilation. Metal Imperium had the opportunity to learn more about the mastermind behind Hellripper, knowing his musical and historical influences, and what’s the secret ingredient to make a one-man band keep working.
Hellripper released his latest album Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags a year ago, and the reception is quite promising. McBain never lets down, and this album is the solid evidence that the band is the perfect culmination of Scottish folklore with Heavy Metal.

M.I. -  How’re you doing? The last interview was four years ago, and a lot has happened in the meantime.

I’m doing well, thank you very much! Yes, a lot has happened since then - new music and quite a lot of touring has taken place in the meantime! It’s been quite a busy couple of years - this past year especially with the release of ‘Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags’ and the following promo cycle.

M.I. -  How did you end up being a metal musician, especially Black Metal?

I just love music and I love playing guitar. I discovered early on that I preferred writing my own stuff rather than learning things by other people and so I’ve been coming up with stuff by myself since I started playing. Something about metal resonates with me and it’s my favourite style of music and so naturally I wanted to create my own songs inspired by the bands that I like most.

M.I. -  Being a one-man band allows you to be your own boss. Nevertheless, what are the hardest parts of being in a solo band?

I much prefer working on my own as opposed to being in a band setting and enjoy almost every part of it. I take care of almost everything related to the band and so it is sometimes difficult balancing and finding the time to do everything required to keep the band going.

M.I. -  You’re living in Fort William, the Atlas highlands in Scotland. Aside from astonishing landscapes, is Hellripper part of the culture?

Outside of the metal scene, I don’t think many people in Scotland are aware of Hellripper’s existence!

M.I. -  You’re known for combining Thrash, Speed, and Black Metal. Could we say it’s a blend between Motörhead and Bathory or Venom?

You could say that! There are hundreds of bands and things that I draw inspiration from, but those three bands certainly influence the “core” sound of the band.

M.I. -  Even though it encompasses those metal genres, you’re not afraid to experiment and incorporate a bit of traditional Heavy Metal, Rock & Roll, and some melodic parts.

Not at all. I don’t like to limit myself when writing music and it keeps things interesting for me at least. I listen to all sorts of things whether it be Death Metal or 60’s Pop music and so naturally an influence from elsewhere will creep in somewhere somehow.

M.I. -  It’s often labeled that Thrash and Speed Metal are somewhat old. When writing music for Hellripper, even as a one-man band, do you feel the “obligation” to work around this stereotype and keep improving?

I don’t really think about that sort of thing when writing at all to be honest. Speed and Thrash metal are my favourite styles of music and so they are at the “core” of the band’s sound. But I have fun incorporating other elements around that.
I don’t feel any obligation to sound a certain way or write songs with a certain sound. If I started thinking that way, then things would sound forced and I just would not enjoy the process. The best way for me to work is just to write what comes naturally to me and go from there.

M.I. -  Your first EP, The Manifestation of Evil (2015), came out almost ten years ago. Talking to the McBain back then, would he believe he’d be right here and right now with Peaceville Records shredding amazing records?

Absolutely not! I had almost zero expectations when I was writing ‘The Manifestation of Evil’. I had some songs that I wanted to record and had no band to do that with and so I recorded the EP alone in my bedroom with the hopes that maybe 10 people from my local scene in Aberdeen at the time would like it. It’s crazy how far things have come and I’m very grateful for it!

M.I. -  One year after the new album, Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags (2023) was released, so far, how’s the reception?

The reception has been great overall! It’s definitely the album of mine that has had the best response which is amazing to see. I, myself, am very proud of the album and I had a great time recording it. It’s my favourite album of mine to date and I think it’s the best overall, so it is nice to hear people sharing that opinion!

M.I. -  As it is quite a tradition in Hellripper, the Scottish history and lore are embedded in your songs. What were your influences when creating your latest album?

I moved to the Highlands just before I started writing this album and the surrounding scenery/landscapes inspired me to look further into things like Scottish folklore and the darker side of Scottish history.
Each song on the album is inspired by Scotland in some way, whether that be folklore on tracks like “The Nuckelavee” and “Mester Stoor Worm”, Shakespeare’s MacBeth on “I, The Deceiver” or the works of Robert Burns on the title track for example.

M.I. -  The song “The Nuckelavee” refers to a hellish horse. Can we say that the band discards the traditional history of kings and queens and focus much more on the darker side?

Yes, it makes more sense for me to focus on things of the like that fit the music and aesthetic of Hellripper. The lyrical themes on this album are very similar to what I have explored on the previous releases, but this time they have a Scottish edge to them.

M.I. -  Even the video is quite ominous. Is this the same mythological beast in the album’s cover?

The album cover was done by Adam Burke and was completed completely separately from the album (and a couple of years before the album was completed I believe). I was scrolling through Adam Burke’s page online as I have been a fan of his for a number of years and I came across the piece that would eventually become the cover art for ‘Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags’. It was exactly what I had envisioned for the front cover and I immediately set about licensing the piece for the album!

M.I. -  Mythology is quite big in this album. The same goes for the killer song “Mester Stoor Worm”?

Yes, like I mentioned, I find that that type of thing fits very well with Hellripper’s music and there are a lot of stories that can be told! For a track like “Mester Stoor Worm” that is something like 8 minutes long, it makes more sense to tell some sort of story through both the music and lyrics.

M.I. -  “I, The Deceiver” is undoubtedly epic! Does the intro have an Iron Maiden/ NWOBHM touch?

Thank you! I guess it does if you hear that! Megadeth (‘Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying’ in particular) provided the bulk of inspiration for that intro with the little lead guitar parts scattered throughout!

M.I. -  You toured with Abbath, from Immortal. Have you ever been in Portugal before? How was your experience both in Porto and Lisbon?

We visited Portugal a couple of years ago for Amplifest and had a great time and so we were looking forward to returning - we actually returned to that same venue in Porto this time around! I enjoyed both shows a lot - Lisbon in particular was a wild night in a more intimate venue with a rowdy crowd!

M.I. -  What are Hellripper’s future plans?

We have a lot of live shows planned for the remainder of 2024 and into 2025. And I will continue writing new music in between! Hopefully the next album will be released in 2025 sometime.

M.I. -  Thank you very much for this interview! Would you like to share any last messages with our readers?

Thank you very much for the support! You can find Hellripper online at all the usual places and you can hear the latest album, ‘Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags’ on all streaming platforms! All Hail the Goat!

Listen to Hellripper, on Spotify

For Portuguese version, click here

Questions by André Neves