Following last year’s full-length album Built For War, Hammercult return with the EP Legends Never Die. It includes covers of songs originally done by Accept, Motorhead, Running Wild, GG Allin and Slayer along with three original tracks. I caught up with vocalist Yakir Shochat, who fills us in on the EP, tour plans, Lemmy’s legacy, his recent move from Israel to Germany and other topics.
Heavy Music Headquarters: What inspired the idea to release Legends Never Die?
Yakir Shochat: Lemmy’s death. After Lemmy passed away, in a period where many metal icons have been passing, it felt like a good time to have a tribute to their legacy. They are all legends, and as the title states: Legends Never Die.
Were all the cover songs previously recorded, or did you do any specifically for the EP?
All of the songs were recorded in the past, but never released anywhere outside Japan. We used them as bonus tracks for the Japanese versions of our albums. In Europe and the U.S., nobody has heard these cover versions before.
How did you balance being true to the originals while still putting your own take on the songs?
It is the biggest challenge when doing a cover song. In all of the songs we tried to give our style, with respect to the original artist and composer. It has to be our style, but still loyal to the core of the songs, and that’s very important to us. I really hate it when some bands record covers and they simply butcher the songs to a point you can no longer recognize them. In Hammercult we will never do it.
”Evil Has No Boundaries” is not one of Slayer’s best known songs. What drew you to that one?
It is the first Slayer song that the world officially heard, the first Slayer song ever officially released, as it is the opening track on Show No Mercy, Slayer’s debut album. In 1983, everyone who got a copy of this album and played it heard this song for the first time and it was their introduction to Slayer. I think it’s very symbolic, and we chose to work on their first official track ever.
GG Allin was a controversial figure. Did he influence you at all?
Very controversial. I enjoy the music and his antics and lifestyle marked him as an underground legend within the rock n’ roll universe. What I did appreciate about him was that he was true to what he was. He took stuff to the extreme. Not a role model for sure, as I live a very healthy lifestyle, but his choices were his choices: pedal to the metal and no turning back. I find it fascinating.
“Ace Of Spades” is Motorhead’s most iconic song. What do you think the legacy of the late, great Lemmy is?
I can talk and talk about Lemmy for hours, and it still won’t be enough. His legacy in a few words is rock n’ roll, the stage, the lights and the lifestyle. There will never be another Lemmy. Not even close. Not even in 1000 years.
Now that Built For War has been out for several months, are you satisfied with the response to it?
It is by far our most successful album to date. The response was nothing but incredible and it opened up a lot of doors for us. After our second album Steelcrusher, I was not sure how we could top it, but we did, as Built For War turned out to be a very unique album with its own style and magic.
What are your upcoming tour plans?
In a few weeks we will go on a tour with Municipal Waste in Europe following some festival shows including With Full Force Festival in Germany. Some European shows with Napalm Death are already booked for August along with a headline tour in October.
What has been your most memorable Hammercult live show or tour?
Hard to say. I’ve performed at huge festivals such as Wacken Open Air in front of 10,000 people, but sometimes the shows I had the most fun doing were in front of 100 people in a small club. For me every show is memorable and it’s a celebration that the crowd and me are celebrating every time we hit the stage. I can’t pick; they all mean the world to me, and I’ll keep on doing that until there are no metal fans left in the world.
Where haven’t you played live that you’d still like to get to?
The United States is an obvious answer. After performing in more than 20 countries, none of the shows have been in the United States, and that’s mostly because our core fan base lives in Europe. I’m still looking forward to have my first tour over in the U.S., hopefully in 2017.
Do you have any plans to do a live album or DVD?
We released a live DVD in the limited edition version of Built for War. I guess that it’s likely that we will make another DVD next year at one of the upcoming festival shows. There is a great new lineup which I strongly believe that Hammercult need to showcase live with video footage!
What led you to recently move from Israel to Germany?
Great question. I’ve decided with my wife that life is too short to live in struggles, conflict and a political burning ground. Before we start a family, we want to consider our options in another place, and Germany seems to be the right choice.
What has been the biggest adjustment for you to living there?
That would be the language by far. It’s extremely complicated and really difficult to learn from scratch. All the horror stories’ you hear about the German language are true.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
I would like to thank everybody who supported us so far. I’m talking about the metalheads. We really appreciate all of your support which keeps the fire in Hammercult burning! Keep the flame alive! See you next tour!
(interview published June 2016)