I got into West of Hell on the recommendation of Natalie over at Adrenaline PR. Based on my tastes she told me I would love them, and she was right. So of course I put in for an interview with someone from the band, and I wound up having a pretty cool conversation with guitarist Sean Parkinson. He told me all about leaving New Zealand and moving across the world to slug it out in Vancouver, a move that has paid off in spades, resulting in vocalist Chris “The Heathen” Valagao joining a few years ago. Things are happening for this band, and I’m very grateful to Natalie for turning me onto these guys. Observe:
Sean: Yeah, thanks very much. We shared your review on our website, and we got some great feedback. So, thanks very much, glad you liked it.
Amps: Talk to me about the production. It’s crisp, and it’s clear. Every cymbal hit is just right there, and the whole thing is so balanced.
Sean: That’s pretty much all down to Rob Shallcross. He’s the mastermind behind engineering our sound for the album. We really wanted to go for a more organic sounding album, not too polished. We wanted to stand out, so you could hear what’s going on, and have it be enjoyable for the listener, so that’s pretty much what we ended up with.
Amps: I have to ask you, was it a big adjustment, moving from New Zealand to Vancouver?
Sean: Oh yeah. In the sense of uprooting our lives and moving away, that was a big step for us. But the Canadian sort of lifestyle is sort of similar to the New Zealand, especially in BC (British Columbia) here. It was easy to adjust, but in the whole scheme of things it was very difficult being away from friends, family, that kind of thing, and set up life in a new city where you just don’t know anybody. But we found the people here very easy to get along with, and once we started playing shows, mixing in with the local metal scene it was cool.
Amps: I keep hearing again and again how great the metal scene is up there in Vancouver.
Sean: I love the local scene here! There’s so many good bands, so many talented players that it keeps you on your toes, and it’s good to get out. I’m going to local shows almost every weekend.
Amps: I know you just finished up your Canadian run. What’s going on for a tour here in the US?
Sean: We have plans to definitely hit up the U.S. It’s not as easy as I would like, there’s a lot of paperwork to organize, entertainment visas, and getting all that above board before we even attempt to cross the border. It’s a matter of booking shows and promoters having faith in us. We really wanna get down there stateside.
Amps: Is there a timetable for the next record?
Sean: Certainly we’re working towards nailing down a time. We’re still in the writing process at the moment, but as we get enough material together we’ll look at recording. It won’t be this year; it’ll certainly be next year at some stage. We just have to see what comes next. It all comes down to funding and hashing out a schedule.
Amps: How does that work? Who does most of the writing?
Sean: It’s certainly a collective. We try to spend as much time in a room together hashing out our ideas as possible. Everybody goes home and figures out parts themselves, and then we all bring it to the table and put it together. Sometimes someone night come in with a whole song and it just works out that it’s good. Other times the song can be a complete rehash of ideas thrown together.
Amps: Tell me about The Heathen. How’d you find him?
Sean: We moved to Vancouver in 2009, and we started playing shows as a four-piece and we were playing an old venue called The Cobalt, and some guy was watching us in 2010, and he called him up while we were playing and said, “You gotta check these guys out and join this band”. So he checked us out online and next thing you know we’re having a jam. One jam and he was in!
Amps: What’s your guitar of choice, and what do you play through?
Sean: At the moment my number one Guitar is a Jackson Kelly, pretty much the same guitar Marty Friedman used to use. I love that thing, that’s my baby. I also have an Ibanez Joe Satriani Signature Series that needs a bit of work. There’s also a Gibson Les Paul that stays at home. And I use Engl amps.
Amps: What are you listening to these days?
Sean: I’m really digging Revocation. They’ve got a new record out that’s pretty killer. We keep a pretty healthy diet of the classics on the road, a lot of DIO for sure. I just went and saw Fleshgod Apocalypse last night, and that was really cool. We played a few shows with Holy Grail a few weeks back, and they’re a great band!
Amps: I agree! Looking ahead a little bit, what’s next for West of Hell?
Sean: Lots more touring. We wanna get out and play as many places as we can, hit up the U.S. and Europe as well, put out another record. A lot of the songs on Spiral Empire are ones we’ve been playing for a few years now, so we definitely wanna get something new out there. And we hope to get on a tour with some of the bigger bands.
Amps: Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans when this goes to print?
Sean: I just wanna say thank you so much for all your support. Check out our stuff online, we’ve got a video for “Water of Sorcery” on YouTube, and our Facebook page needs some love. That’s all we can ask of fans, give us a LIKE, and give our video a view, and hopefully we can come out and thank you personally on the road.
Amps: Hey Sean, thanks for putting out a great record, and I hope we see you in the U.S. soon!
Sean: Thank you for calling, Damian. I appreciate it.
This was fun. Sean Parkinson was really fucking cool, and when I told him that he and the boys could crash here if they got some Texas dates he lit up and promised to take me up on it. Can you imagine? Five guys from Vancover/New Zealand at my house?? Hell yes, I say!!!