Interview with Lock Up vocalist Kevin Sharp | By Hutch
Birmingham, England’s Lock Up started in 1998 as one of many side projects for Napalm Death bassist Shane Embury. In 2017, Lock Up have been reconfigured due to the 2006 passing of OG guitarist Jesse Pintado—also of Terrorizor, Napalm Death, and Brujeria—and the amicable 2014 exit of longtime frontman Tomas Lindberg—also of At The Gates and The Crown. Beast drummer Nicholas Barker—of Cradle Of Filth and Dimmu Borgir—and demented riff-wrangler Anton Reisenegger—of Brujeria and Criminal—now round out Lock Up, but who could replace an icon such as Lindberg? Embury recruited his Venomous Concept bandmate—and the screamer for legendary grinders, Brutal Truth—Kevin Sharp.
Legendary party propagator and raging maniacal vocal supplier, Sharp is glad to discuss Lock Up’s new album, Demonization—released March 10 on Listenable Records—but when he answers the phone, he is busy “getting dinner ready. My daughter is having a sleepover,” he shares. His daughter is nearing 11 years old. “Dad production,” he explains. His wife reaps the rewards of his culinary skills as well. “I’m cooking her a steak,” he relates. “I’m a vegan. So, I’m having asparagus, onions, mushrooms, beets, and broccoli.” A wild Friday night, indeed! Sharp returns a chuckle, admitting, “I used to be a wild one.”
Sharp explains how his fit into Lock Up’s vocal position was natural and organic, since Brutal Truth had toured with Lock Up in Japan. But it goes deeper. “I’ve known those guys since forever,” he says. “Shane since the ‘80s, Barker since the early ‘90s.” As Sharp puts it, many people inquire, “‘How come you are in 5,000 bands with Shane?’ Well, if you worked in a warehouse, you would want to get your friend a job. We grew up together. He is like a brother, but he lives in Birmingham. So, this way, we get to make to music together.”
Demonization is just that: demonic. Sharp calls it “dark Hell metal.” The nuances between their many death metal-influenced grind bands stick out to Embury and Sharp. “Venomous Concept has a looser feel. Lock Up is more metallic, more arrangement oriented,” Sharp notes. “I hear a ton of differences. If you follow all the projects Shane works on, he has an incredible ability to switch gears.”
With members located in Chile, England, and the U.S., Lock Up’s logistics are an undeniable obstacle. Despite Sharp’s 30 years of writing in physical proximity to his bandmates, Demonization demanded technology. “We wrote and recorded for three days straight,” he recalls. “With the internet, we could prepare ahead. That was a new experience for me. It was pretty cool.” Embury joined Reisenegger for a demo process, then they brought the songs to Barker, who is “really good at arranging stuff,” Sharp states. “Finally, Shane and Barker sat down and mapped out the songs.”
Sharp walked into his new role as vocalist modest, but eager. Embury and Sharp each wrote half of the album’s lyrics, which deal with corruption, consumerism, and the public’s struggle to resist in this penurious political climate. “We were scrambling,” Sharp admits. “You plan and prepare for about 70 percent of [the recording], then all types of shit happens in the studio that you have to run with.”
As Sharp continues his calm but excited explanation of working across time zones, cans audibly tumble out of a cabinet and stove burners click before ignition in the background. “All of Lock Up are out now doing Brujeria dates, wrapping up in Puerto Rico,” he notes. “So, they are coming over [to Atlanta] to hang out for a couple days. I have a studio I built for the guys in Mastodon. Everybody has a handful of riffs.” However, Sharp is not referring to new Lock Up material. “We were going to start recording with a few other musicians,” he says, meaning yet another new project with Embury.
Even after acknowledging the nuances of Lock Up when contrasted with Venomous Concept, Brutal Truth, Napalm Death, and others, one has to wonder about the repetition in sonic fulfillment. Sharp dismisses that notion easily, asserting, “Lock Up is a different mindset. I’ve always recorded different [sounding] bands. It’s like a different folder in my hard drive. I can access it quickly.”
Demonization is a thick, furious slab of confrontation with a big, metallic sound. The slower, mid-tempo parts are gargantuan, embellished with thick breakdowns. Embury and Reisenegger’s frenetic riffs keep the main parts of songs moving, antagonizing. Barker’s drum work brings a bigger sound, filling arenas as easily as house speakers. Sharp’s voice remains calm as he half-focuses on his ingredients. He explains things as a dad would. When he asks what I think of the record, he humbly lays out that I do not need to “blow him up or anything.”
The work of producer Russ Russell creates a symbiotic fusion with Lock Up’s sound. Russell—who is also in the band, Evile—has produced Venomous Concept, Evile, and Napalm Death, and has done live sound for Napalm Death for years as well. “He really kicked it in this time,” Sharp lauds.
Sharp is hesitant to discuss touring. Plans do include a possible tour with Finnish grind slayers, Rotten Sound, but Sharp adds, “Organizing is more complicated than you think. It may get moved back.” When he’s not playing grindcore, Sharp builds studios. He is a contractor. “I finished a massive rehearsal studio for Mastodon, who bought a warehouse,” he reiterates.
His schedule is enough for three men. “Yeah, I juggle a bunch of bands, parenting, and building,” he concedes, but being a touring dad has its cultural benefits. Sharp reports that his daughter met him in Spain and came to Japan with him. She is in an international school’s gifted program, headed to France this semester.
His daughter’s impression of one of the fiercest and most infamous vocalists in metal? Sharp says, “It doesn’t matter if you’re the king of grind, your daughter’s always going to think you’re a dork.”