Interview with The Spectre Beneath
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
Pete I come from a musical family and I had piano lessons from the age of seven until thirteen. I was playing classical music until I heard Iron Maiden. In fact, it was the song ‘Invaders’ off The Number of the Beast which changed my life, a sentence I reckon no one thought anyone would write. I loved the Smith and Murray combination and wanted to mimic that rather than continue the piano. So, much to my parent’s chagrin because they hated metal, I ditched the Piano and picked up the guitar. My Nan had given me £100 a few months earlier so I decided to user that and purchase a guitar as I knew my parents would never buy me one. My first guitar cost £95 and that included a distortion pedal, a chorus pedal, a curly lead and a book of chords, oh yeah, and a plectrum. If Invaders had not entered my life at that point, I’d probably still want to create but probably more in books and scripts.
Vini: I’ve been attracted to music ever since I was a little kid, I had access to my grandpa’s acoustic when I was 7, but the Guitar classes only started at 9 years old. I was introduced to Rock n Roll at the same period but I really started to get into Metal a few years later when my uncle presented me “Live After Death” Iron Maiden’s Live album, that for sure blew my mind. If I wasn’t musician I would be putting in the first place my second passion, Video Games, I mean pro-competition! I’m ok for now with some ranked matches though.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Pete: I’m an independent author. I like to write horror and thriller stories and I’m currently working on my second whodunit. There’s definitely a correlation between my desire to write dark stories and our lyrical themes.
Vini: I love video games and sometimes I see music writing as a puzzle to be solved, especially when I’m doing it for The Spectre Beneath [laugh], the complex solo writing I did for the songs is similar to fixing puzzles, I have to use my brain, focus, muscle memory in both cases and of course it is very delightful when you accomplish the challenge you put yourself into.
How long has your band been around?
Pete: Since January 2019. I’d just finished an album with my other project, Plague and the Decay in which drummer Consta plays. When I started writing the follow up, the music seemed to be more melodic and a little less thrashy but with just the same amount of turbo charged riffs. It was a slight shift in tone and I thought it would be a good idea to add a female vocal to bring out the melodic side even more. Consta was onboard and then Katy helped write and add nuance to the vocal melodies so they would suit a female voice. I then found L Lockser from an online demo she’d posted and we managed to put our debut album, The Downfall of Judith King, in September of that year.
Katy: Pete and I have worked together for many years. Back in 2008, he found out that I’d worked as a session singer and asked me to help out with some vocals on a concept metal album he was working on. We really enjoyed the process of being in the studio together, in particular working on the harmonies and melodies for the vocal tracks and have just kept on collaborating over the years. In 2019, he asked if I wanted to get involved with The Spectre Beneath and we’ve been writing regularly together ever since.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
Pete We’re based out of the North West of England, not too far from Manchester. It’s quite a working-class region, not very affluent so we’re used to making the best of what we have and not getting too hung up with what we don’t, whether that’s money, gear, studio time etc… It’s influenced our philosophy of ‘getting on with it’, which is why we’re constantly writing and trying to push ourselves in our compositions.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
Katy: It just happened one day. Pete is a big Bond fan and has a hat with the Spectre logo on it which he wears every time he takes his dog out. We thought the word was strong but it needed something else as there are other bands called Spectre. It was the film What Lies Beneath which sealed the deal as it was on television at the time so we put the two together and voila! Something just clicked.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
Pete: I have two memorable shows from a band I used to be in. It was a small place in North of England and we’d played there a couple of months prior and went down really well and the place was full. The second time we went to play it was only a third full. It turns out, while we were playing a huge fight broke out round the back of the venue and someone had their nose bitten off. We didn’t hang around because the atmosphere was quite spikey after that. Another one was when the band was booked to play a pub. We’d brought along a contingent of fans and the place was rocking. However, half way through, the owner of the pub got a message to us stating she didn’t realise we were a metal band and wanted us to stop. Our bass player got on the mic and asked if the audience wanted us to stop to a resounding NO, so we chocked out another half an hour before the owner called the Police.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Pete: The Manchester Ritz. It has a sprung floor so when the crowd is bouncing you can feel it. I’ve seen so many bands there, it’s become my favourite venue.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Vini: Tough question, I have strong feelings for “Wacken Open Air”, but I would love to perform at my Country’s greatest festival, the Brazilian “Rock in Rio” at the main stage with:
Mike Portnoy - Drums
Steven Tyler - Vocals
Billy Sheehan - Bass
Kiko Loureiro - Guitars (The only Brazilian on the list and my highest Guitar Inspiration)
Like that, from the top of my head. If I think too much I could hurt my other idol’s imaginary feelings.
Pete: In regards to bands, Testament, Overkill, Saxon and Visions of Atlantis, the latter being one of the most enjoyable gigs I’ve ever been to, I’d love to be on a bill with them. In regards to band line-ups, I think the one we have is fairly stellar, but, if we’re talking about my favourite musicians, I think Adrian Smith on lead as he was my idol growing up, Jon Oliva and keyboards because he’s a song writing genius, Miho on bass because I love her style and ability, Anna Murphy on vocals because she’s an amazing all round talent and Ron Lipnicki on drums who ignited something in Overkill and I just love his energy.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Vini: For the beginners the key is patience and persistence, especially nowadays when we have fast access to a world of information, you can easily be convinced that you’ll never get there, be careful, be patient and keep it up. To my younger self I would say: Keep Dreaming, Don’t let anyone get you down, You can be whatever you want.
Pete: Take a bit of time to find people you can work with, don’t just join the first band that comes along or invite the first musician who applies. Being in a band is hard work and you need people you can work with as you will need to rely on each other quite a lot. Surround yourself with positive musicians who have that, “yes, let’s try that”, attitude.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Pete: Don’t work with those who repeatedly fail to turn up.
Katy: Don’t be afraid to keep re-writing.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Pete: There are two for me. The Downfall of Judith King from our debut was the first song I wrote for this venture and I had no idea it would get this far, and to have it called a behemoth of a song by one reviewer was a real treat for me. The second is As The Crows Peck At Your Bones also from our debut. It was the first song we recorded and it started off very ropey but then after having a break and coming back to it, something clicked into place. I still don’t know what that moment was, it was just a feeling. I try not to analyse it too much, instead, just accept it.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Pete: Mrs Lovett’s Pies because of its quirky title and frantic nature. Probably Clockwork Heart as well, I love the riffing in that one and the chugging section after Vini’s solo is awesome especially when most people are expecting it to go back to the chorus at that point.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
Katy: I don’t think there is a genre of music that I dislike, which I think influences the vocal melodies greatly. As a child my first musical purchase was The Four Seasons by Nigel Kennedy and I’ve always loved classical music and opera. In a complete contrast to metal I’ve sung on pop and dance tracks and love country artists like Chris Stapleton and Kacey Musgraves. I’m an emotive writer and very much led by heart and soul when it comes to music. Pete and I very much share that reactionary process, whereby if we don’t get goosebumps by listening to something back then it’s likely we’ll be taking another run at it.
Pete: I’m very riff driven so I tend to come up with a bucket load of riffs and then start piecing them together like a jigsaw, similar in a way to how Vini pieces together a solo. I keep rejigging until it feels right and one idea transitions seamlessly into the next. One example is the song The Abduction of Olivia Soams from our debut. There are a lot of ideas in those six minutes but, for me, none of them are jarring and they do all sound as if they should be from the same song. I love the song writing process. The idea of getting a seed of an idea and developing it into a huge track will never get old for me.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
Katy: We don’t tend to have messages, we like our stories, our flash fiction, our tales of Zombies or premature burial or love affairs across time andspce. We’re not very good at the whole messaging thing so we tend to avoid it.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Pete: We don’t have disagreements, just discussions because we know not to get too attached to a specific idea. If something’s not working for someone, they raise it and we work on it until we all feel it’s correct. One instance with our previous singer, we were recording the final song from our second album, The New Identity of Sidney Stone. It’s called ‘The Exhumation’ and it’s a fast power metal track, and I thought the verse melody was strong but when it came to recording the vocal, it simply didn’t sound right. L’s subtle phrasing just didn’t come across with the original fast melody. So, we had a chat and, although I was disappointed to lose the original melody I went away and two days later I came back with another. L preferred the new melody and put her spin on it and it was far better than the original melody that I liked. It is the one that ended up on the recording and it turned out that song ended up in a website’s top 10 songs of the year. So, what do I know about vocal melodies? Ha!
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
Katy: We have another single out at the end of May and a mini-LP out later this year with 6 songs on it. We have the next album planned out and we would say 70% of it is written. After not releasing anything for two and a half years, we’re keen to release more music as we have quite a lot of ideas. After releasing the mini-LP hopefully around July/August time, we’d like to finish writing the new full-length and get it recorded before the end of the year.