Ol Drake - Uber Rock Interview Exclusive Print E-mail
Written by Eamon O'Neill   
Sunday, 05 July 2015 03:00

oldrake jsharrock 2466


Having quit music seemingly for good less than two years ago, former Evile guitarist Oliver ‘Ol’ Drake has made an unlikely return. Having announced his shock departure from the Huddersfield Thrashers in late 2013 after years of hard slog and gruelling scheduling, the Yorkshireman was entirely prepared to quietly retire from music. However when Earache offered him a deal for a solo guitar album, he found it difficult to refuse. Back with killer instrumental album ‘Old Rake’ - a blistering release that instantly recalls genre greats Steve Vai and Joe Satriani – it’s a reflective Drake that greets Uber Rock; “It’s my hobby now”, says a much happier guitarist than that which left the band he formed with his brother over a decade ago. Here he talks about the new album, the unsung virtues of ‘Load’-era Metallica, and the Evile split. Entering the grave: Eamon O’Neill.


Hi Ol, how are you today?


I’m not bad. I’ve been at work so I’m just enjoying sitting down.


You are gearing up for the release of your first solo album. Are you excited to get it out?


Yeah. It took me about a year and a half to do. I guess the end of 2013 was when I started writing it, and I just want to get it out now. I want people to hear it!


The album is an instrumental guitar affair. What made you decide to go down this route after playing Thrash Metal for so many years with Evile?


I think it was a combination of things. Firstly, I didn’t really want to do vocals because I’m not really a great singer; I can sing, but I don’t have a brilliant voice or anything. Another thing was I was spending so much time writing the music that I didn’t have time to write the lyrics or vocal melodies, so it was just a lot simpler to keep the main focus on the guitar.


There are some very obvious influences that you’ve not been afraid to reference on this album, one of which is Joe Satriani on the fantastically named ‘Spaceship Janitor’.


That one wasn’t intentional, but I realised halfway through doing it that; “oh crap, this does sound a lot like ‘Surfing With The Alien’!”, so I just rolled with it anyway. I thought, why not? People do it; Evile’s influences are quite obvious, so you know, why not?


There’s also a strong Eddie Van Halen influence too, particularly on the opening ‘Han Valen’.  


It was just the ‘Eruption’ thing that was intentional with that one. When I was like sixteen I wrote that part when I was teaching a friend of mine. That was the only Van Halen bit in the song, but it just happened to be that the ‘Hot For Teacher’ beat that was put to it. When Mike [Heller] did the drums it was like; “on my god, that sounds just like it!”. That was unintentional, but yeah, it’s definitely similar.



It does seem to come from a place whereby you’re paying homage to those players.


The approach is similar, but it’s my style. I will never be able to play like Steve Vai or Satriani, so I can’t rip them off. They’re in the premier league and I’m like in a local football team! But a lot of the approach to the song writing I’ve learned a lot from them, just like Metallica taught me to do Evile stuff. I think hiding it is stupid, because when it’s obvious to listen to as fans of the music, it’s better to just admit it.


Was doing a guitar instrumental album a natural progression for you?


I did want to focus on guitar, but I originally set out to do ‘Metal’ instrumental guitar stuff. But the more I did it, it either sounded like the tracks were becoming like Evile songs, or it just sounded really forced and cliché. I didn’t want it to be technically heavy brutal riffs with shredding over it for no reason, and I didn’t want it to be constant shredding all the time; I wanted to actually write songs. So I just thought I’ll just try ‘Rock’ and it just kind of worked.


The first single ‘Guitarists Playing Guitars’ features a few guest appearances, including Slayer and Exodus guitarist Gary Holt. What was it like working with him?


It was amazing. I was speaking to Gary on email just completely unrelated, and I mentioned that I’d got an album coming out. And I think it was him who suggested it himself, saying “you should get me to lay a solo down”, and I thought; there’s no way I’m saying no to that! So I worked on that song as quickly as possible and sent it to him, and he sent his parts over and that was it; wow, amazing! James Murphy as well was amazing, because I grew up listening to Death, Testament and Obituary, and the sixteen year old in me was like shitting himself!


You’ve transcribed the album for release as a tablature book. Is this because you are sick of seeing tab books that get it wrong?


Yeah, basically. Well there are two reasons, that and because I’ve got OCD. I grew up with Metallica tab books, and I started out learning from that. Then when I started learning things by ear I’d play what I thought was right from what I’d learned in the books, and I’d be hearing things that were very wrong. The official tab books that were authorised were wrong. There was so much wrong with them that I just wanted to at least have a tab book out there that is correct, because I know exactly what’s been played.



It’s not the first time you’ve written a tab book. You’ve transcribed some of Annihilator’s catalogue in the past.


I spent basically six years learning Annihilator’s back catalogue up to a time, and the time you have to spend learning something isn’t just overnight; you have to spend months upon months on one song, just to get all the notes and structures right. Even now I look back on the Annihilator tab that I did, and there are mistakes in there because I was learning to do it as I was working on it. So even me thinking that I was right, looking back, I can hear a few notes out, here and there. Unless the person who wrote it is doing it themselves it’s never going to be one hundred percent correct. But I’ve known Jeff Watters [Annihilator band leader] for a long time, and I think he’s one of the best guitarists there is in metal.


Back to ‘Old Drake’, and there are some fantastic song titles on the album. Is it important to you to retain a sense of humour?


I think so. I learned that from Evile. When you’ve been on tour, if you don’t have a sense of humour then there’s just no point. We bumped into a lot of bands who were deadly serious about metal, and it’s just boring for me. I’d rather have fun and have a laugh than be all serious. So yeah, it’s really important for me to not take things too seriously. I don’t take myself seriously at all; I’ve never said “do you know who I am?”. Well I have as a joke; “do you know who I think I am?”!


I’ve heard that you are a huge Metallica fan, and a staunch defender of their ‘Load’ / ‘Reload’ period.


Yeah, I am. When I was first getting into Metallica I heard ‘Load’, and then I subsequently heard the older stuff, and I’ll admit that I thought, yeah, this is the stuff. But the older I got, I was listening to a lot of different stuff from old Genesis to Cannibal Corpse, and I stopped thinking in metal terms like; “oh, Metallica should sound like ‘this’”, and listed to it more in terms of song writing structure, and ‘Load’ and ‘Reload’ to me really have some well written songs on them. I mean, I wish they’d have continued down that ‘dark’ route. After Reload I was disappointed that they didn’t continue on that road.    


Can you defend St. Anger?


No. The only thing I can say in its defence is, when they released it there was a digipack, and it came with a DVD of them playing through the whole album in the rehearsal room, and it sounded a lot better, just raw and live in that context of just bashing it out. But on CD I just can’t listen to it. I saw them playing - I’m not sure what year it was - but they played ‘Frantic’, and in a different context, I actually quite enjoyed it. It’s not a very good album, but it’s also built up a hype of negativity as well. It’s that thing where the more popular something gets, the more that people knock it just because it’s the thing to do.


Ol with a rake


Are you planning to tour the solo album?


No, I won’t be touring because I just don’t enjoy it anymore. I did two weeks with Destruction as a guitar tech for them, and it was great hanging with them and seeing them again but, a couple of days into it, it just reminded me of why I didn’t like it anymore. So I don’t think I’ll be doing it. Maybe if I get some offers for some guitar clinics or one-off shows I’ll do that. A lot of people don’t understand that you don’t earn money being in a band unless you’re Metallica or Megadeth, and I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve got a job.


Was the financial aspect part of your motivation for leaving Evile, or was it purely down to being fed up with touring?


It was both really. I didn’t like leaving home anymore and I just wasn’t happy. I mean, there is no financial security in it anymore. All my time was literally Evile, it was twenty-four seven. I was either writing the next album, or we were touring, or I was arranging things or emailing, so I had no time for anything else. When you do that, you have no income, and my focus was just getting Evile out there, getting Evile successful and making a career out of it. But to me it was just going downhill so I thought this doesn’t make sense to do it anymore.


So music for you now is something that you do as a passion, rather than a day-to-day thing?


Yes, it’s a hobby now basically. The job I’ve got now is my job, and the music is a hobby. Before it was the other way around, and it just didn’t work. So if I get to do a few clinics or a few shows, that’s great, but its second priority now.    


Do you think your former bandmates understand your reasons for leaving Evile?


Yes, I think they do. It’s all amicable and I still see them and I still speak to them. They’re carrying on, they’ve just supported Testament in France. I asked Matt [Drake, Ol’s brother and Evile guitarist and vocalist] the other day if they’re going to be writing some new stuff, and he said yeah, definitely. It won’t be until next year, as they’re going to rehearse and get a hundred percent tight with the new guy. Everything’s fine, there’s no problem at all.


Finally, what are your hopes for this album release?


When I left Evile I didn’t plan to do any more music at all, except for myself. I sent an email to Earache just thanking them for everything they’d done, and they just said that they’d like to carry on working with me. I said that I wasn’t interested in touring and they said that was fine and offered me an album of guitar stuff. It wasn’t a plan, so I’m not sure what I want from it. If people get it and listen to it, that’s great. It would be great if they bought it, but I guess if people enjoy it that would be good.  





Ol Drake photographs courtesy of James Sharrock


To pick up your copy of 'Old Rake' - CLICK HERE