Skip to content

International Blastbeat Celebration Day coming!

1474514_588182004571029_797466192_nIt started off as a joke: A while ago, I posted HEART ATTACK’s “Keep your Distance” 12″EP with what I believe is the first recorded (and fastest & cleanest) blastbeat. It dates from January 29 1983.
I soon came to realize that a Wikipedia article picked this up and put a link to the post. Two weeks ago, a renowned music journalist from the UK, Alexis Petridis, approached me on the subject. Now it seems like the joke (it was more than a joke, really) has created its own reality: Read more on the International Blastbeat Celebration Day in the the online version of UK’s Guardian newspaper.

PS: Here’s the interview in full:

How would you describe a blastbeat to someone who had never heard one?
Erich Keller: It’d be very prosaic and just say it’s very, very fast drumming. One bass kick follows one snare hit. Then I’d have the someone have a seat and pull out some examples from my music collection. I wouldn’t try and use a lot of violence by giving it a too restrictive definition. You hear what a blast beat is, with a little experience, you don’t measure it. Arts, not mathematics.

Where did the sound originate? Is there a recognised first ever blastbeat track/band?
Erich Keller:
To my knowledge, the first ever recorded song with a distinctive blast beat appeal would be Heart Attack’s “From what I see”. It’s a song from the band’s second release, a 12″EP entitled “Keep your Distance”. Heart Attack was a Hardcore Band from the first wave. They got quite well known for the song “God is dead”, the title number from a highly collectable 7″EP that made it onto the groundbreaking “New York T(h)rash” Cassette only compilation. The 7″ was a blast, but the followup 12″ had the beat too. “From what I see” is extremely fast, tight and incredibly clean. There were other very fast Hardcore bands around at the same time, best known would be DRI who released their crazy 22 track 7″ in 1983. DRI’s EP however sounded fast, whereas Heart Attack’s blast beat track was fast. The whole “Keep your Distance” 12″ by Heart Attack was recorded in one day, January 29 of course, in the year of 1983. Until further notice, I’d say that was the day the first “real” blast beat song got laid down.

What is it about the sound that you personally find so exciting?
Erich Keller: To me, blast beats had a strange fascination when I first heard one (that must have been in early 1984 and it was, of course, “From what I see”). I mean, I remember so well the days when Metallica, Slayer, Hawaii or Exciter released their debuts. 1983 was a year that changed the face of music forever. You had these clean sounding, razor sharp metal bands and on the Hardcore side of things, a whole flood of countless demos, EPs and a few LPs that had been released since 1979/79 (when the Hardcore sound was born in the LA area by bands like Black Flag, Middle Class and Germs) kinda came together. I grew up as a metal head and I remember thinking Punk and Hardcore was Pop Music for the rich – but in 1983 it all started making sense to me. From there on, things kept escalating. The speed of the music was one facor and maybe the most important one. I remember, when I sat on the train one day in 1983 or 84 and head the walkman headphons on, playing “Final Command” from Slayer, a guy asked me if he could have a listen too. I borrowed him the headphones for a couple seconds and watched his face turn pale. “That’s soo fast”, he said. On my music blog, I’m trying to document the as of yet unwritten histories (there isn’t a single one, of course) of these exciting times. But the first blast beat experience on a more personal level was, when I heard my band’s drummer, Osi Oswald, play his incredibly fast and powerful beats. That was not the wimpy double bass & trigger shit you hear nowadays – it was just one skinny man and his shitty drum kit. And lots of physical power, aggression. Much like Mick Harris of Napalm Death, a friend of ours in 1986/87 – these guys ripped shit apart. THAT was it.
Why did you call for an International Blastbeat Day? Do you think as a sound its importance has been overlooked? Or are you just having a laugh?
Erich Keller: As always, I was having a bit of a laugh when I wrote this in my presentation of the Heart Attack blast beat record. On the other hand, it made me sad to see that so little is known about the “origins” of extreme music and so little is cared about it. Blast beats were not a Metal innovation, nor can you say it was a pure Hardcore thing. It came across when these scenes came across and it rose to an important stylish ingredient of extreme music pretty late actually, in the 90s, when this kind of music (Death Metal, Grindcore) got big. Hardcore had vanished by then, or rather yet, turned into a ludicrous jockorama. And no, it was not Repulsion (as much as I love them) and of course not Terrorizer and not even Napalm Death who first recorded a blast beat, it was a forgotten Hardcore band from New York.
Greatest ever use of blastbeats? Why?
Erich Keller: Let me put it like this: The greatest use of it is actually a gap in history. Check out the wonderful Repulsion double CD on Relapse. There, you’ll find the incredible January 26 (ha!) 1986 (three years after Heart Attack!) WFBE demo and of course the legendary “Horrified” album, recorded June 1986, a couple months later. What I love is this gap in between. The demo is very fast – and the later session is a bit faster: blastbeat-fast. I always loved these gaps, voids, spaces, breaks, dicontinuities in history.

PS II: For the record: I’m historian and not a literature student.