|Here in the US we have 50 states. One of the best known states is New York, which is often confused by non-New Yorkers with New York City. If I'm
abroad or across this country and I mention that I'm from New York, most people assume I'm from New York City, or that New York State is nothing
but one big slab of concrete with masses of people rushing around like some sort of human white-water-rappids.
It's funny how people perceive this state, but that is a discussion for another topic.
If we talk about music, New York is definitely a state that most people will associate with metal. We got the whole “New York Hardcore” thing along
with the fact that artists like Cannibal Corpse, Mastodon, Ronnie James Dio, and a myriad of others have their roots in New York one way or another.
Other states that would easily be in the conversation are Florida (Death Metal Capital), California (Bay Area Thrash), Texas (Pantera Country) to
name a few.
But one state that most of us wouldn't think about so much is Montana. With it's vast landscapes and rugged terrain, it's probably safe to say that,
with very few exceptions, Montana doesn't ring a lot of bells in the minds of metalheads around the world.
Being from New York I'm struck by the fact that Montana is nearly 3 times the size of NY, but with a population of somewhere close to 1/20th of NY.
I would probably not have given a very long look at MT in a search of any bands.
But they are there, and they are loud, with music as rugged and massive as the state itself.
I had an opportunity to talk to the guys in a band called “AT HOME IN HELL”.
On the official "At Home In Hell" FaceBook page they describe themselves like this;
“Hailing from the cold, mysterious mountain scape of western Montana, At Home In Hell blends an abundance of musical stimulus into a brutally
deranged onslaught of chugging riffs and hard hitting catches, mixing influences from east coast hardcore, west coast thrash and southern power
groove while topping it all with a bit of industrial metal.”
Ben Epperle - Lead Vocals, Bass, Piano
Paul Epperle - Drums
Chris Nygard - Samples, Keyboards, Backing Vocals, Bass
Kevin George - Guitars, Vocals
So let’s start with the song you submitted,
What can you tell us about this song?
(Ben) Threshold is about cheating, but more
than that it is about the feelings and thoughts
you endure during the 1st time you try it...from
the excitement to the regret and the balance
you force yourself to find. It ends on being too
scared to leave the person you're with (for
whatever reason...financial or emotional, etc)
but lacking something you're still trying to find in
someone (typically sexaul in nature) and you
just decide you don't give a fuck about repercussions and go for it. But it can be taken other ways as well.
It could end with you realizing your mistress isn't someone you want to build a relationship with and decide going
back to your wife is a better choice and you just don't give a fuck about anyone else's feelings but your own.
It could also be about cheating and becoming obsessed about your mistress and saying “fuck it” to the life you’ve
built to run off with your new lover. It is entirely open for interpretation but that is the basic premise.
What was the process like for creating the album "In Home Hell"?
(Kevin) Recording “In Home Hell” was quite the endeavor. I was brought in to record the album around May of
2010. Right after we started, the guitar player quit. Ben and Paul were worried about what to do with that
happening, since he quit before his parts could be tracked, so I volunteered to take over on guitar (initially just
for the CD, eventually joining the band). Not long after we had tracked everything, I was asked to play guitar on a
tour for the band Hemlock, so everything got put on hold. While I was on tour, I got divorced, so I ended up
joining the band Martriden and moving to Spokane, WA.
Around this time, Chris (Samples/Lights) also had to leave the band. We continued to work on the album via a lot of emails back and forth, with an eventual trip for Ben and his
girlfriend over from MT to help me finish the mixing in person. In the end, the whole process took nearly 2 years to complete. The big issue after that was that we took almost a
5 year break after it’s release before really getting out and doing proper promo for it. So, for a lot of people, it’s a new thing...but in reality, we’ve been hangin with it for a few
We are quite satisfied with it, considering the response we are receiving now. Hard to say whether it’s because we spent so much time developing a stage show to go with our
performances, but we feel we spent a bit of time making sure we had the right live sound and chemistry down instead of rushing into doing shows.
This has enabled us to do shows with Soulfly and Max/Igor Cavalera, Suffocation, Battlecross, Abnormality, Immolation, Act Of Defiance, Bobaflex, and more.
Tell us about the album you are currently working on for a possible
(Kevin) We started the beginnings of writing the current material we are
working on back in 2013. I had some downtime from an injury at work on the
Psych Ward, so I came over to Great Falls for a stretch and we began
coming up with some stuff. All I can divulge right now is that it’s a concept
album, but it’s going to be a bit different than anything people have really
seen before. Because of the nature of what we are developing, and with half
of the band living in different cities, it’s been a little slower than we’d like
progress to be but it’s still coming together. Lots of Facebook Messenger
and Dropbox exchanges with this band.
(Ben) Whatever we write in this period of time that doesn’t end up on the concept album will go towards a second album.
So, ultimately, there will be 2 albums to come out...hopefully by the end of the year.
Montana is not a place that comes to mind very often for most metal heads
residing pretty much everywhere else in the world.
What is the metal scene in your area like?
(Kevin) The metal scene in Montana is an animal of it’s own. Where some people talk
heavily of their local scene in a big city, we have that same vibe across the entire 4th
largest state in the US.
Whether we play one end of the state or the other, it’s always kinda like a brotherhood. At the same time, we are trying to make a
mark and represent our state wherever we can go, and we have plans to do some touring this year that will help us get out quite a
As vast as the state seems to be and how broad our “scene” is, I’ve done a bit of reaching out on my own to get us a little more reach.
I currently play bass in the black metal band Age Of Nefilim in Spokane, and I came very close to playing bass for Abigail Williams on
tour when they went out with Fleshgod Apocalypse...had to turn it down for school.
My time in Martriden, which was originally a Montana band that transplanted to Denver after working with Dave Otero (Cephalic
Carnage/Cattle Decapitation/etc) also gave a little bit of exposure into what we have here in MT.
The scene here doesn’t have an incredible amount of presence outside the state, so sometimes you have to put yourself out there
beyond it to get a little more notoriety for the projects you are involved in...in my opinion.
(Paul) It’s a little difficult with as big of a state as we live in to do much touring. If we lived in a more densely populated area, we could get
around quite a bit more. Due to that, we’ve grown a bond over several years with the bands that we often share the bill with.
Bands like Walking Corpse Syndrome (Missoula), EndEver (Billings) and Switch Off Safety (Great Falls). Being a part of the scene for 11 years now, we've made a lot of bonds
with bands that have come and gone along the way in Montana.
Is there a message or theme in your music in general? (aside from the fact that you are working on a
(Ben) Our main theme is living in a shitty situation but being comfortable with it. We sing some very real and
fucked up songs but we all have so much fun doing so.
We all live very fucked up lives but wouldn't trade it for the world or any sort of "do-over".
Being AHIH is simply being content with ones’ shitty situation.
Sounds like quite a process to put an album together with all the things going on and distances
between members, however, not unheard of for sure. What is the song writing process like for At
Home In Hell?
(Ben) It has been a huge challenge working apart. We went from a practice 2 or 3 times a week band to a
practice once every 2 or 3 month band...
It has taken a lot of time to adapt a method for working long distance but we are learning as we go and everyone
has been doing their part to contribute to that...
(Kevin) Right now, it’s down to me writing a lot of riffs and some song structures at home in Butte.
I then upload them to a dropbox folder. The rest of the guys check out what I send, give me feedback.
We then occasionally meet up and start compiling things together as song structures, see how much of a puzzle we can put together with what I’ve come up with. It’s probably a
little slower than bands who have more access to it’s members from being all in the same location, but we make the best of the resources we have available.
I would like to go back in time a bit and talk about the beginnings of this band and its members. How did you guys
all meet and what were the circumstances of this bands origins.
(Ben) Where we began and where we are now are two different beasts. Only 2 original members survived the 11 year process
but everyone who participated left their own interpretation of what life in hell meant to them. We've lost 3 guitar players, 1
light/sample guy and 2 bass players (only because I switched to just doing vocals and the first guy who took over on bass failed
to meet our expectations). We were a very different band back then. The overall theme has held strong but the show and
dynamics have changed immensely. We used to wear masks and costumes, performing with blacklights and a bunch of other
stuff. We have and always will be a band who likes to change things up a bit. We don't like looking the same and presenting our
theme the same every time you see us. We started as a band ready for change and always will be a band willing to change for
the entertainment of our fans.
Going back even further, how did each of you come into playing music?
Who were your influences?
Can you tell us of a particular moment when you realised you wanted to be a metal musician?
(Ben) I bloomed late in the metal genre. I always loved music and my 1st favorite artists as a child were Billy Ocean and Micheal
Jackson. It wasn't till my freshman year I heard Fear Factory's “Obsolete” album and it changed everything for me.
Soon after I was listening to Soulfly, Slipknot and Static X. By my senior year I was discovering Pantera and Slayer and Anthrax and pretty much all metal from the 80's and
beyond. I decided metal was my passion the first time I sang into a mic. Instead of singing clearly I went straight for the “Soul of a New Machine” Burton attack and I was hooked.
I was 17 then recording a song for junior science class about evolution and I straight growled that shit...hahaha
(Paul) I always wanted to be a drummer since I was a little kid and often resorted to beating on everything because we definitely
didn't have enough money to get any drums. When I was in high school I was in band just for the fact that I could play the kit
everyday after school if I wanted and I did and eventually got my own drums and never looked back from there.
My musical influences have a wide range since I grew up as a kid in the 80s and a teen in the 90s.
My first favorite band was Twisted Sister cuz my mom listened to all the hair metal of the 80s (along with classic rock of course).
In my early teens I went through a big Kiss phase and 70s rock/metal Sabbath, Zeppelin ect. But mostly Kiss
(around the time "Dazed and Confused " came out every stoner my age went through that phase lol) but when I was about 16
I wanted heavier, at the time around 94-95 a lot of awesome stuff was goin on: Pantera (Far Beyond Driven), White Zombie
(La Sexoristo and Astro Creep), Sepultura (Chaos AD) & Danzig 4!
I started listening to everything metal, past and present, all genres and loved it!
I've come to love thrash metal the most and Slayer is my favorite band, the drummers I learned from at first (cuz I was mostly self
taught) were Peter Criss/ Eric Carr, Tommy Lee and Lars Ulrich, and then it branched on to Dave Lombardo, Charlie Benante
and Igor Cavalera in my later teens. Slap all those together and add a little east coast hardcore and bam, you got my style.
(Kevin) I grew up on a healthy diet of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motorhead, Metallica, Megadeth, and Black Sabbath, so I was
already pointed down the path as a child.
I started playing music when I was around 10, after hijacking my dad’s guitar (still have it) and trying to figure out how to play
what I thought was the most awesome thing at the time...specifically, Metallica’s “One”. After a couple years of just dorking
around with learning little riffs here and there and maybe having a friend over to jam with, I decided to take classical guitar
lessons when I found an ad in the paper, and my favorite guitarist at the time was Randy Rhoads so I felt like that was the right
thing to do. It was pretty much all Metallica/Slayer/Megadeth/ Pantera/Sabbath for me for a good while.
Eventually got brought into a band when I was 16 (the other guys were all twice my age), got kicked out and brought into another
one called G.O.Y.A. that was kinda known around Tucson, where I grew up.
They turned me from an N.W.O.B.H./thrash kid to a more diverse player, getting me into a lot of stuff from every genre from power metal, melodic death, black metal, power
groove, stoner rock, hardcore: they turned me onto everything.
Definitely a healthy diet of Nuclear Blast/Century Media bands at the time. After moving to Montana in 2001, when I was 18, I started playing consistently in cover bands and
honing my chops through learning a bit of everything else...blues, classic rock, etc. Pretty much been up from there.
(Jake) What inspired me to be a musician was growing up living with my mom and she was always making me listen to country music, but I wasn’t into it at all.
Every 6 months, I’d go stay with my dad in Wyoming for a couple weeks. When we’d be driving, he’d show me all this stuff like Led Zepplin, Peter Frampton, etc.
He wouldn’t just show it to me, but he’d also test me on it and make me figure out who it was based on what I was listening to.
It was a whole new world, not just having something on to hear but actually being forced to invest in paying attention to the music and what was going on.
That was the best memory of my dad, jamming out music together. Later on in life, he wasn’t available to me, so I felt that playing music would kinda help link up the feelings I had
with my dad when we were listening to music together. This was a very influential part of my life, and it eventually drove me to becoming a musician.
What are your long term plans beyond the project your are currently
(Ben) "Total Global Economic Domination" or maybe 10 years of albums and
touring before my drummer dies from heart failure. haha
(Kevin) None of us have any illusions at this point of getting signed or making
a million dollars. We do this because we belong to it, and it’s not gonna change
for us anytime soon.
That being said, there’s no reason why not to push as hard as possible and see
what opportunities may come.
It’s all up from here, and we're going to be proud of ourselves no matter how far
If you could choose one person in the world to collaborate with, who
would it be and why?
(Ben) Max Cavalera and Burton C. Bell. Why? Because my voice would sound
awesome with theirs.
(Paul) I’d love to work with Scott Ian, we’d write all kinds of cool shit.
Otherwise, I’d like to work with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons so I could have
a lucrative career as a musician.
(Kevin) Vogg (Decapitated), as I’d really like to get a better insight on his writing style. There’s already some stuff Decapitated does that I’ve incorporated into At Home In Hell,
from an inspirational standpoint. Also, when I met him in 2014, I asked him about his custom Iceman 7 string and he just handed it to me and let me check it out.
Such a cool dude, and he’s been an influence of mine for a number of years now. Either Vogg, or maybe Dino Cazares. Fear Factory are the biggest influence on this band.
(Jake) Ville Vallo. Because he was the first person to teach me that it’s ok to be depressed and transfer it into pissed off metal music.
HIM, especially their really old stuff, made it easy for me to realize that you can channel your anger and sadness into positive music and deal with your shit that way.
|Interview by Dave Henninger