Noise Pollution recently had the chance to chat with John Allen of the Northern Irish hard rock band Baleful Creed. Shayne and John chat about the “Norn Iron” scene, the Baleful Creed origin story and the importance of social media in the current music industry.
Tell us about how Baleful Creed came to be?
Fin (Vocals/Guitar) and myself have been friends for a long time. For about two years in the early 90’s, I had my first and only band on the go, ‘Memento Mori’. When it was falling apart, Fin tried out for the vocals for the new project ‘Baleful Creed’. One practice/rehearsal and we never got any further! It just fizzled out and I didn’t play guitar again for nearly 12 odd years. Fast forward to late 2005, and Fin suggested we form a band together, which came out of nowhere and I laughed at him as I hadn’t played guitar for so long, and as I had only been playing for about a year or two back in the 90’s before stopping, I had treated it as a phase that never took off. So after a bit of coaxing by Fin, we finally got together to play some pretty easy rock songs to match our skill levels and also what suited his voice – which I discovered had changed greatly over the missing decade. After a year or two of being in ‘Unleashed’, Fin tired of playing covers and took about a year out to write some songs with a band called ‘Lotus Kane’. At that point, I wasn’t interested in writing songs, hence Fin needing to stretch his wings elsewhere. However, Fin always loved the name ‘Baleful Creed’ and also the guitar sound we had developed together during our ‘Unleashed’ days and I think he knew it was going to suit his new collection of songs, which he wrote after leaving ‘Lotus Kane’. So he asked me to form ‘Baleful Creed’ and this time I went along for the ride – so that was early 2009 and here we are ten years later – not knowing where the time has gone.
I’m always fascinated with the stories behind band names, so where did the name come from?
When my first band ‘Memento Mori’ was splitting up a friend suggested Baleful Creed to me and said that it means a dark and sinister set of beliefs. He explained that it’s a way of living that you will do anything to be top dog – with no foul means out of bounds, including murdering your rivals. As long as you’re the top of the pile by any means. I thought that’s a bloody cool band name then!
What got you in to music to begin with, and what prompted you to decide you had to be in a band?
Growing up in the 80’s I really hated the music that was presented to me via radio and TV. Every now and then a wee gem would prick my ears up and it was mostly a rock song or two. But I never delved any deeper. But thanks to getting a Sony Walkman, I then needed to seek out a few tapes to play in it – I’ll let anyone Google what a tape is if they don’t know.. So a few Classic Rock collections were ‘taped’ for use in the Walkman. But I eventually took the plunge to buy an album after getting my first job, and as Queen were in the charts at the time with One Vision and A Kind Of Magic, it was that LP that I was drawn too. That started a Queen fascination and expanding the collection to other rock bands. Then about two years later a few friend pointed me into the direction of heavy metal and I lapped that up. From there, as a few of those friends were now in bands, I thought that must be the cool thing to do, so bought a guitar but only half heartedly played it. Forming my first band was just by chance – a young lead player had one week’s work experience in my work and by the end of it – we had formed ‘Memento Mori’. I really enjoyed the time in the band, but once it fizzled out, I went back to not caring about playing guitar. Then Fin came along to sort me out.
Tell us about Baleful Creeds musical influences.
When Fin and I started the band we laid down a simple set of core influences to draw from – Black Sabbath, Danzig and Fireball Ministry. Three bands we both loved and wanted to try and capture a bit of their magic. We do bring in other elements of course, and both Davy Greer (bass/vocal/keyboards) and David Jeffers (drums/blues harp) have very different influence pools to tap into – so each song hopefully has something different to it.
What about lyrical influences. Do you write about real experiences, or do you use film or literature to influence you?
This is mostly Fin’s department, but we have all developed up sets of lyrics over the course of the 2 albums and debut EP. A lot of it is from real experiences, or a comment on what’s happening in the world. Some written from a fictional point of view as thankfully we haven’t experienced it depending on the subject matter.
How would you describe the Baleful Creed sound?
The goal was always to have a massive sound – two guitars providing the beef to what we hoped would be chunky, head nodding tunes. It’s a mix of old school Classic Heavy Rock, with some Stoner Rock and Metal in there to give it the usual genre labels – at its heart is a Blues Rock core, just downtuned and bringing in our band influences I mentioned earlier.
3 EPS and 2 albums in, how has that sound developed or evolved?
Just so you know, EP’s two and three became album number one. We could only afford to record in five song sessions in the first couple of years. The first two EP’s were then just home printed and burned onto CD by me – until my printer died. It was at that point I thought it was better if we took the two latest EP’s as they were both recorded in Manor Park by Neal Calderwood as let them form the first proper debut album for us.
A change in the engine room of the band in 2014 definitely took the band in another direction. Not massively – or I don’t hear the difference, being too close to all the tunes – maybe that’s more a question for a listener to our albums? But we are working on a new album now and I hope it really catches the listeners ears as still being clearly Baleful Creed, but just has a little something different about it.
How have your releases been received by fans and critics?
Ah it’s been incredible – really positive support and praise, and extremely favourable reviews. It’s kinda mind blowing how it’s all taken off. The project was only meant to be a bit of fun to get us out of the house one night a week and just blast the guitars and everything up loud. I never really expected taking it out of the practice room to be fair – but now – I’m keen to see how far we can roll with it.
Speaking of those releases, where are they available?
Best spot for us as a band (paying less fees to hosting platforms) at our own store at Big Cartel. We have just sold out of both first pressing of the albums and have new second pressings just released:
If you have never heard of us before – then take a free stream on our Bandcamp site:
I have heard that you’re the band salesman, so what other merchandise do you have to plug, and where can we find it?I seemed to have gained a ‘Del Boy’ tag from the famous character – and I can’t deny my dining room resembles a certain flat in Nelson Mandela Towers in Peckham HAHA.
Without singing the theme tune….. We have tee shirts, hip flasks, beanies and CD’s. Also patches for cut off’s, car window stickers and hoodies on occasions. Again everything is available in our Big Cartel store, although I do the odd exclusive merch preorder and it’s done through our Baleful Creed Global Family group on Facebook. We’d love to see you join:
Baleful Creed seems to have a pretty large and loyal social media following. How integral has that been to the bands growth?
If it wasn’t for social media I doubt you would have heard of us. It’s been one of the key tools in getting our music out there – being able to reach new ears and definitely helping us break out of our hometown onto new places. I reckon without it, we would have dried up as a band within a year or two as you really do need to stretch your wings out of your hometown to keep expanding and growing. Social media has been that door to opening the way forward for us. The supporters we have gained over the course of the band have been incredibly loyal as you say – we really couldn’t have asked for a better set of friends and fans – I think that’s why we set up our supporters group as the BC Global Family – as they really love the band, but they look out for each other and some great friendships have developed thanks to it all.
You are very active on the social network pages. Is that something you enjoy getting involved with, or is it just what has to be done in this current music industry climate?
Oh it’s something I really enjoy. There is great banter with so many people on the different platforms, and their support is also gratefully appreciated. But I suppose on the other hand, if the work wasn’t done on the social networking side, we wouldn’t have the great connections that we have with our supporters and with promoters to get us the gigs we are chasing after.
I’ve heard a great deal of music from Northern Ireland over the years (Trucker Diablo, Million Dollar Reload, Last Known Addiction, Envisage) so from my outside perspective, it’s a thriving scene. What’s the N.I scene like currently?
For a small place I’d say it’s doing exceptionally well. Certainly many many great bands here. Sadly a few of the ones you have listed are now defunct or have morphed into new incarnations and rebadged themselves. I could add so many more bands to the list and that’s only in the Rock and Metal side of things, so we’re pretty healthy here. But the problem is getting more folk in to support those bands. There is an amazing group of music lovers that will go to the local gigs but a massive gap to those that only go to theatre and arena sized shows – it’s pulling in those fans that is key to keeping the local scene going and growing. In fact once you dip into the local scene – many love it so much they hold back on paying the massive prices to see the bands in those bigger venues. I have to thank Stone Broken for having a local support band at each of their UK dates, and for Belfast that was us – which give us the chance to play to a wider audience than can sometimes be the case.
Your fan base seems to be scattered all over the world, so has Baleful Creed ventured outside of Northern Ireland on tour at all?
It’s thanks to the reach of social media and being played on international internet rock radio shows that our reach has gone outside of the Emerald Isle. It would have been a totally different story pre-internet and we would certainly be only a ‘Norn Iron’ only band if it wasn’t for that. Gigging wise we have been to all the Home Nations of Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales with a few more trips planned later this year.
What areas would you like to play eventually?
There are no boundaries – he says pre-Brexit LOL. If we can afford to fund it – we’ll play anywhere.
Your last album was released in 2017. Have you commenced writing the follow up just yet?
Oh yes and we have just finished close to half the album being recorded. We have to do it in chunks and write and then drop into the studio over a weekend to lay down what we can – and return to fill in whatever bits or add in another song. So five new tunes are done. Both previous albums had ten songs on them each, so to keep my OCD in check – I guess the third album will need ten songs again – so time to get the heads down and write those next five.
Where to next for Baleful Creed?
I like that we are doing this under our own steam – no one looking over our shoulders with either deadlines or invoices to pay – so we just roll along at our own pace, which makes it all the more enjoyable, tinkering at new songs and playing the gigs, hopefully reaching new areas and ears all the time. So there isn’t a goal post to reach as such – we’re just seeing where this takes us on the ride.
Thanks so much for taking the time to make this happen. We really appreciate it, and look forward to hearing more from you in the future.
Thank you so much – really enjoyed the chat with you today! Appreciate the support you have given us.