Bloody Hammers’ Anders Manga: “We’ve Never Been In A Studio…We Don’t Work Outside of the Cabin”

When it comes to the horror life, Bloody Hammers are the real deal. While plenty of artists try really hard to look like some undead monster dwelling in an old castle, the North Carolina husband-and-wife duo live like one, making all of their music out of their isolated cabin home. But it might be this focused introvert lifestyle that has led the band to be both as single-minded and experimental as they’ve become. No two Bloody Hammers albums sound the same, and the band feel no obligation to adhere to any attitude or atmosphere — they’re just drawn to the dark on their own time.

“You know how you hear KISS and people from the ‘70s say the moment they wanted to play music was when they saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show? Mine was Alice Cooper on The Muppet Show, when I was like five!” laughs frontman Anders Manga. “I don’t remember much from five, but I remember that! I remember Kermit coming out and saying, ‘We have the most horrifying performer of all time,’ and I’m like, “OH SHIT.’ Alice comes out of the coffin, he’s got the big Hammer Horror-looking set, and I was like, ‘I don’t understand this, but damn it’s cool!’”

Bloody Hammers’ latest, Songs of Unspeakable Terror, is proof that this isolation can actually be healthy for a band’s growth and diversity. While 2019’s The Summoning was a chugging goth metal juggernaut, Songs… packs much more bounce, its sound blatantly inspired by acts like The Misfits and Plasmatics. The horror-punk vibe thereon definitely feels like a pivot from the band’s previous, more shadowy material — which makes sense, given that Anders originally wrote the album without Bloody Hammers, or any existing band, in mind.

“I was just thinking, I wanna do something kind of horror punk,” explains Manga. “Worst case scenario, I’ll put it out under a new name — if Napalm [Records] don’t want anything, I’ll just put it out on Bandcamp. I wrote and had six mixes done, and I knew it was coming on time to put it somewhere, do something with it. So I sent it to my A&R guy [at Napalm Records] and he said, ‘No, no, no, this is DEFINITELY a Bloody Hammers album! We should put this out with Bloody Hammers!'”

What inspired that shift from the goth metal of The Summoning to the street metal/horror punk vibe of Songs of Unspeakable Terror?

We’d just put out The Summoning six months prior to COVID lockdown. And I knew from working with Napalm for the last eight years that they like to do an album every two years, so I didn’t think I’d be working on a Bloody Hammers album. So I just started writing songs. It was in March and April, when COVID was really terrifying, when no one knew what it was and it was killing tons of people in New York City. I’d lived in New York City around 2001, so I have a liiittle bit of it in me — I’m from North Carolina, but you get a little bit of it when you live there! I started thinking about people who I knew there, the history, all my favorite bands from that area. I follow Marky Ramone on Instagram, and Kembra Fahler from The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, and they both looked weary and worried. Marky Ramone was like, ‘Wear your fucking mask!’ That’s how it came about — it was inspired by fear, and New York City! 

It’s cool that Bloody Hammers aren’t shackled to a specific type of sound, the way a band like, say, Judas Priest sometimes feels — you can do whatever you want.

Yeah. When we signed with Napalm, they sought us out — they found us on Bandcamp — and I told them right from the beginning, I never want to be locked down to a specific genre. It’s not a business like Judas Priest is. They’re never going to go off and do some weird doom metal album — it wouldn’t be Judas Priest if they did. At our level, it’s not a big deal with we piss off a couple of people. I grew up on Queen, Alice Cooper, all these bands where you didn’t know what you were gonna get from album to album. I liked that element of surprise. I just do whatever I feel like, wherever my inspiration takes me.

I remember you mentioning that The Summoning, though horror-oriented, confronted some real-world topics, like the opioid crisis. It’s interesting to hear that Songs… does the same. How do you translate real-world issues through horror?

It’s sort of a stream of consciousness. I don’t really get inspired by horror movies — the nostalgia of horror movies when I was younger, yeah, but I think my horror influence comes from being a huge Misfits fan, Roky Erickson fan — all these horror rockers that came before. That’s probably where it comes from. But when it comes to something like, let’s say, the opioid crisis — my mom and sister died from opioids — I kind of mix it in there, maybe where I know it’s there but no one else would. I try to write things where it’s not so obvious. Maybe it’s obvious to me but not other people. 

Do you ever feel the need to add more elements in one direction or the other, to make it a Bloody Hammers song officially?

I think that I just do that anyway, no matter what. I’m always going towards that darker side of things. It’s just kind of natural for me in that way. That said, when I try to fit in something, like on “When Sleeping Corpses Lie” — my sister had just died, and I was kind of talking about letting things go, carrying on, that kind of thing…but also tied it into an old British horror movie! That’s just how I think, I guess.

I’m sorry to hear about your mom and sister.

Thanks. My dad died when I was five or six — he got ran over by a drunk driver. He was pulled over, helping someone on the side of the road change a tire, and some guy who’s drunk runs him over. He was one of those guys — a firefighter, a boxer, in the paper all the time because he ran a boxing studio where he taught inner-city kids how to box. A really good samaritan. That’s why I never drive drinking — well, obviously, you shouldn’t anyway, but that’s always in the back of my head.

Did you ever box growing up?

[My dad] wanted me to, but I was just a little too young. Before he died, I remember vaguely being on the floor, him trying to teach me — I was five and stupid! I’d rather play the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots than actually box. After he died, my uncle and everyone else told me, You have to box, you have to box. But all the kids at his center were so much faster. I knew it wasn’t for me. I knew I was a music person. He liked to help people. I’m the opposite — I’m an introvert.

Along those lines, every band I talk to these days is dying to get out, tour, see people again — but it sounds like that’s not the case for you.

I was inspired by worrying about other people, like with the whole NYC thing. My inspiration was more sadness and fear — I’m in the mountains of North Carolina, and at the time there wasn’t much to worry about. I’m pretty isolated here. We’re not a touring band — I mean, we have toured, but I live cheap, man. Some of these bands, I feel bad because they live in LA and New York, these really expensive cities, but I knew that if I wanted to make music, I needed to live somewhere within my means, cheap. Other bands are freaking out, because they have ridiculous LA rent and can’t tour. I was talking with my booking agent, and he was like, ‘Do you want to go out?’ And I thought, ‘Man, I don’t want to be taking up space when other bands need it more.’

That’s really rare — most bands have that ‘Kill or be killed’ attitude, where they want it all. Not many musicians want to make sure other artists with stupid-high rents get to eat.

Yeah, man. I got a tiny cabin in the woods. I’ve just been laying low. For me, inspiration is pretty organic. I told Napalm early on that to me, whenever it’s a financial issue with anything musically, I feel like it puts pressure on me and I would suck more. When there’s people relying on me, tour guys and roadies…these guys have enough of a burden. I feel like if I was under that kind of pressure, I’d write a lot worse. We don’t have no managers or any crew, it’s just me and my wife. When we tour, we try to find people in other bands who want to help us out, but we do everything in our house. We do all our recordings and videos in our basement. We’ve never been in a studio — it’s just me trying to learn better. We don’t work outside of the cabin. Sometimes these little melodies and things pop into my head at two in the morning. Like, “Hands of the Ripper” — I’m just playing my drums in the middle of the night, doing a little shuffle, and this melody pops into my head. I don’t need to ask anybody.

That’s kind of the dream — no one’s coming into rehearsal saying, ‘Yeah, cool idea, but I just heard this record, so we sound like this now.’

Yeah, I lived through that. In my early teenage years, I was in bands trying to write with other people. You have that one guy who comes in with a song that they think is ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ and it’s terrible, and no one wants to tell him. I just can’t work like that! It’s just not my scene, to be in that awkward creative soup.

Bloody Hammers’ Songs of Unspeakable Terror comes out Friday, January 15th via Napalm Records, and is available for preorder.

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Words by Chris Krovatin