Hammer Fight


Pic by Hammer Fight


For many of us there was a period of mourning after Lemmy died, a few months or more when nothing got played but Motörhead. It seemed as if, with Lemmy, the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll had died, too, and there really wasn’t a lot of point in listening to anything else. That changed – as it should and eventually would – upon hearing a band called Hammer Fight from New Jersey and their then new album Profound And Profane, on Napalm Records. Here, the very essence of rock ‘n’ roll was very much alive and kicking, in a thunderous, life-affirming racket that took in such influences as Slayer, Venom, Zeke, Blood For Blood, and, of course, Motörhead

A little poking online revealed that the band were formed in 2011, and had another album, Chug Of War, released in November 2013, a self-titled EP from 2011, and some cool videos on YouTube. The line-up consists of vocalist/bassist Drew Murphy, guitarists Dan Higgins and Todd Stern, and drummer Justin Spaeth, but there wasn’t really a great deal more information. Clearly it’s time to find out more.

“I haven’t updated our bio in a while,” admits Drew, when asked how the band got together. “We got together because we were all in other bands, two of us in one band, and two in another band. Our paths always crossed when we were playing on the regional scene, so Todd and Justin were the first guys I approached. Then the next time I saw them, at a show in Jersey, I was like, “are you guys gonna be in our band or what?”, and they were like, “fuck yeah!”

The influences listed on your bio seem pretty accurate, with maybe some Entombed thrown in…

“Entombed is one that I hear from people,” says Drew, “but I’ve honesty never spent too much time with their music, personally. But Slayer, Motörhead, and Blood For Blood is definitely accurate.”

You also mention Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy, which is more apparent in the technical elements of the music.

“Yeah, I grew up playing bass, wanting to be a virtuoso,” agrees Drew. “But then at some point I was like, “I wanna write proper riffs that rock, and I wanna keep a little bit of the technical flair here and there.” Iron Maiden is the perfect influence for that. I like simple rock songs with really sick guitar harmony parts. Motörhead was the biggest influence, at least for me. We first played together in this band right around the time the Lemmy movie came out on DVD and it was just perfect timing. Motörhead’s been constant on my playlist for most of my life, but more so in the past decade.”

Despite Drew protesting that there’s “only three songs about drinking”, it’s some of the booze-fuelled tunes that stand out the most, not least the brilliant I Didn’t Feel Like Drinking (Until I Started Drinking) from Chug Of War, a glorious testament to the fact that sometimes the only way to get rid of a hangover is by fighting fire with fire and drinking more alcohol!

“Yeah, the first verse of that song is actually about when I first demoed the music for that song,” says Drew. “I sat down with my guitar, had a couple of drinks, and before I knew it the song was done, but it was four o’clock in the morning and I was hammered!”

Presumably you have some good drinking stories?

“Well, it’s hard when you get put on the spot to get a picture in your head, especially of the ones you want to tell in public!” laughs Drew. “There’s one about Todd, and I know it’s safe cos we just put a video out on YouTube of him telling the story of the band photo on our first EP, him passed out on the toilet! He passed out with his cock in his hand! We were touring with another band and he got drunk, went to the bathroom and tried to jerk off, and fell asleep before he was done! So of course we took that picture!”

What are your other lyrics about?

“Most of it is just about life, I guess,” says Drew, “which for the first full length was sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, because that’s where my head was at. There’s a couple that are fictional stories; I don’t usually do monsters and stuff, but once in a while I’ll get ideas that are for movies or for a comic book that a friend of ours did. Into The Dark, on the new album, was written for a movie, but the producers dropped it, and that song’s about werewolves and shit. There’s also some stuff on the newer album that has political overtones, but we don’t wanna be overtly political. We don’t really wanna turn anyone off, we want everyone to like us regardless of whatever dumb ideas they might have as far as how things should run.”

There’s also a line – ahem – in one of the lyrics about scoring some blow. You don’t seem shy about that kinda thing, when a lot of bands are scared to mention drugs these days.

“Yeah, whatever,” shrugs Drew. “People don’t know how to have fun! My girlfriend was like, “I know what it’s like”, and I was like, “no you don’t!” Shit is so boring! People don’t do party shit like all the stories back in the day. You go backstage – if there’s a backstage – and you’re gonna see some long-haired nerd on a laptop playing video games! And if we’re there you’re gonna see us drinking all of the booze! I was teching for a band before and they had at least once case of beer every night, but only one guy in the band drank, so it was like, “I guess it’s me and you!”

Touring, for Hammer Fight, is kept on a mostly regional basis at the moment, due to having to work – Drew just started his own merch company Colossal Customs – and the need to keep the mileage down, because “you never know how much money you’re gonna be making”. They’ve done a full US tour and Mexico, but their aim is to get to Europe, and meanwhile have been writing more new material than they know what to do with. They just came off the road two months ago and are already keen to get back out there. Certainly, if the videos are anything to go by, the shows look like a hell of a good time!

“Well, it’s rock ‘n’ roll, that’s the idea, right?” laughs Drew. “We take writing and playing seriously because we wanna do it right and we love doing it, but we love doing it because it’s so much fucking fun! We bring that attitude to the stage. Lots of people take themselves too seriously and get all dark and gloomy, but if we were doing that we would be lying to you!”

Having written for Kerrang! magazine since 1989, I started shooting for them, pretty much by accident, in the early 90’s when all their photographers refused to go on tour with my favourite punk band Poison Idea. With pretensions of being as good as Mark Leialoha and taller than Ross Halfin, I shot everyone from Ozzy Osbourne, Slayer and Slipknot to The Prodigy and was published all around the world (full-ish list in the ‘published in’ section) before stumbling into fetish and pin up photography in 2006 when I married Masuimi Max. I quit Kerrang! in 2008 and now shoot the rock stuff for Metal Hammer and Terrorizer.