Few bands have helped shape the landscape of Memphis metal over the past years like Evil Army. As the landlord of the Armory, Rob Wilkerson opened up the one-car garage in his house to bands that likely weren't welcome anywhere else. Evil Army were on nearly every bill. And while the Armory closed long ago, its rough-around-the-edges spirit lives on in Evil Army. After dropping their incredible self-titled record in 2006 through Get Revenge Records, Evil Army gained a national following, one that grew even greater when Hells Headbangers rereleased the album to a much larger audience.
That's when things got weird. After a few run-ins with the law and a questionable record deal offered by Housecore Records (Phil Anselmo's vanity label), Evil Army sort of disappeared. The band never broke up, but they certainly took a hiatus, occasionally selling homemade CD-Rs and singles in between sporadic live performances. I caught up with Wilkerson to learn more about the history between the band and Housecore Records, and to shed some light on the release show for the band's first non-single release in nine years, the aptly titled Violence and War EP.
The Memphis Flyer: Other than a couple limited singles, there hasn't been an Evil Army 12-inch release since 2006. Why has it taken so long for you to put out another?
Rob Wilkerson: I'm not legally allowed to release another full-length unless Phil Anselmo releases it, because of the contract I signed. That's the only reason we haven't released another album. We have plenty of new songs to record, and we've been trying to get out of that contract for years. The first label that put out our record was called Get Revenge, and that guy helped us get a few shows on the West Coast, but when it came time to re-press it, he said he would rather give it to Hells Headbangers instead of re-pressing it himself.
So that's how you linked up with the label Hells Headbangers from Cleveland. How is it OK for you to work with them if you're still under contract at Housecore?
Legally, I'm not supposed to do anything with another label, but I don't think either label is worried about it, honestly. I've emailed Phil [Anselmo] plenty of times being like "let's do the record, we are ready," but I never hear back from him. Last time I heard from him, I was buying copies of our first album from him, and I told him that my brother was out of jail now and wanted to do the record, but he just ignored that part. Hells Headbangers is a great label, and if I can ever get out from under this contract with Phil, they will do a proper full-length.
How many full-lengths was Phil Anselmo supposed to get from Evil Army?
The contract was only for one record, but it still hasn't been completed. I only signed that contract because I was in a position where I really needed the money. It was supposed to be a one-album deal, but when Hells Headbangers re-pressed the first record, Phil told me we had breached the contract. He's been holding that over my head ever since, even though he told me originally that it was cool. I'm hoping to get out of the contract. I have lawyers looking at it right now. I mean, one of the guys who signed that contract is dead now.
We actually attempted to record the full-length for Housecore long ago. We went down to Folsom, Louisiana, to record, and a hurricane hit, and we had to cancel recording the album. Then about a month later, our bassist, Bones, died.
So the record could have been done, and all this could have been behind you if it wasn't for a hurricane?
We were only down there for a couple days recording for Housecore when we had to stop. Hurricane Gustav wasn't supposed to be that bad, but we ended up having to evacuate the city. We haven't been back down there since then.
How many records have you done with Hells Headbangers at this point?
Well, they have re-pressed the first full-length like three or four times, and they did the "Under Attack" seven-inch and the "I, Commander" seven-inch. I think that's all, but we also have those first two singles that Alicja Trout put out.
You've been recording a lot of the newer Evil Army stuff yourself, did you record Violence and War?
Yep, I've been recording everything myself for a while now. It might not sound as good as going to a professional studio, but I also know exactly what I want to get out of a recording. I'm definitely getting better, but I still have a lot to learn. I learned a lot from Jay [Reatard] when he was still alive, but I never really knew how tiring recording could be until I started doing it myself.
Now that the new record is out, how often are you trying to tour?
We were pretty much just waiting on the new record to come out before hitting the road again. We played Hells Headbash Part 2, and that was really cool. There were metal bands there from all over the world. That was in September, when Violence and War was supposed to come out, but our record got pushed back because every pressing plant in the world is backed up right now. I'm working on a Midwest and East Coast tour, and I have someone working on a West Coast tour. I didn't want to book all these shows on just a seven-inch, but now with the new EP out, we are ready to hit the road.