Heck, formerly known as Baby Godzilla, are punk rock phoenixes, rising from the ashes of their doomed contest with the real Godzilla. The atomic lizard may have won the battle to stop them using its name, but Heck seem a stronger and more resilient band for it. On the back of the release of their debut album, Instructions, Nick Palmer catches up with lead singer Matt Reynolds to find out what the Heck the band has been up to.
The band formed in 2009 in Nottingham under the name of Baby Godzilla, a decision they would come to regret six years later. The rest of the band is Johnny Hall on guitar, on bass is Paul Shelly and Tom Marsh bangs the drums. It’s only Matt here today, though. He moans slightly: “We’re all hungover and I drew the short straw.”
They released a string of EPs in 2010, 2012 and 2013, each highlighted by critics for their harsh sound and frantic energy. Through these and their infamously chaotic live shows, the band built up a solid fan base in Nottingham, where they are based. They have a quirky DIY side to them, too, since they released 100 copies of 2013 EP Knockout Machine on CDs each with individual artwork and brewed their own beer, Bullhorn (a seasonal IPA with hints of citrus and pine, apparently), to help promote it.
Also, in the video for their single, The Great Hardcore Swindle, each band member was given £25 to construct their own weapons and armour to compete in a Scrapheap Challenge-style battle royale. Matt admits: “I got nasty bash on the head with Johnny’s death mace. It was very dumb, but a lot of fun.”
The fun looked set to stop though, when their bandcamp page vanished with no warning in July 2015. “It was really odd. The merchandise we had on a website also disappeared overnight. We found out a couple weeks later that Toho, the company that owns Godzilla, were not happy with our name. They’d sent a document, but to an old email address we didn’t use anymore, so we missed the deadline they gave us. It really sucks, because we didn’t even think about our name when we chose it. Our ex-guitarist’s dad gave it to us. He said it was a name he’d wanted to use for a band back in the 80s, but never got round to actually having a band.”
Toho Co Ltd are notorious for having a team of lawyers far scarier than Godzilla, Mechagodzilla and Son of Godzilla all rolled into one. They forced a California winery in 2002 to stop selling a Cabernet Sauvignon called Cabzilla and in 2008 they stomped on an Arizona band called Asshole Godzilla. When the crushing feet of Godzilla came down upon the heads of Matt and his band it was an enormous setback. “That’s actually been one of the main things that prohibited us from having this album out already and being half way across the world touring it. It initially felt like the big wigs had essentially gone out of their way to pull the rug from under our feet. We could feel the futility of all we had worked for creeping in, but in reality, it’s been a blessing in disguise. It’s rejuvenated our fire. It has shifted our attitudes. New name, new album, come at us world!”
Last Friday (March 11), their debut Instructions came out and they played a celebratory release party at Nottingham’s own Rescue Rooms. So how does Matt feel now that his band are finally getting an LP out? “To be honest it’s a huge relief. We’ve been working towards an album for at least the last four years, putting tracks together, pulling them apart again, re-writing. Our timing has never seemed right. If we could, we’d be on album number six already by now.”
It usually takes bands a long time to finish a debut album, especially if early singles have set the bar high. Heck, contrary to the chaotic image their live shows appear to lend them, are perfectionists and would never release something they did not deem good enough. “We started writing for Instructions all the way back in 2013 and recorded in the summer of 2014 with a view to release this time last year. The process has been pretty drawn out but I’m extremely proud of the result,” says Matt. “We were recording right in the middle of our first ever real festival season, so we were already learning a lot about what we could achieve live, it was just the challenge of channeling that and capturing it on record.”
Heck are a band who appear to be have overcome two big humps in the road, a total change in branding and the production of a great first album. The only thing left to do is celebrate with a string of shows stretching from Swansea to London. “We’re going to hit the road and tour this album hard!” says Matt. “We’ve never really been the type of band to turn down a gig and we really want to force this album onto the world.”