- Hello, Jason! Let's talk a bit about your latest release "The Killing Gods". It was your first full-length with the new guitarist Darrin Morris. Why did John Voyles leave the band and how did you find a replacement for him?
- John "Sparky" Voyles left abruptly in 2010, he was not happy with things, and he let us know one day he was not interested in working with the band anymore. We are still friends and its all cool, he even has a side band with Adam called Fulgora now, so everything is fine and moving on.
- Working with Darrin on the new material, did it influence somehow on your usual way of composing songs? Did this line-up update bring a breath of fresh air into the band?
- Darin certainly was a nice addition, he has a more traditional classical approach to metal guitar that really tighten up our sound and gave us a new tool to work with when writing songs. For example his solo work really compliments Mark's songwriting on the "Faust" tracks (the first few on the album) and he also wrote a few songs himself, in his own style, which is kind of a death-thrash type approach. He also does a lot of production work for the band, recording our demos and preproduction in his home studio.
- Probably, for the first time you stepped back from your usual social/political topics in your songs and focused on the Faust story. Could you comment on this change?
- Well, while it might not appear to have any relationship to real-world events, it sort of does, it's just a non-traditional interpretation, that uses the Faust story as a parable for the dark side of modernity...the main character is this sort of hyper-individualistic almost megalomaniacal representation, who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for total knowledge, In turn he uses that power to upend and destroy both people and planet in the name of blind progress. So to me, Faust represents excessive rational-modernity itself, where progress is bound up with technology and capitalism, to the point that there is this constant "creative" destruction and conquering of space in order to keep the machine of the economy going. So we are all sort of on this train and we do not know how to stop it, because all we know is produce/consume/repeat and its tearing apart the planet, as well as our sense of place and culture, yet there is no braking the train, if it stops - everything falls apart. So, in a way, Faust embodies this narrative of destruction, we just wanted to go about telling the story differently.
- By any chance, have you seen Jan Svankmajer's version of "Faust"? As you wrote the lyrics, did you make any researches on the subject of Faust's personality or his position in Goethe's tragedy?
- I have not seen that version, although I have heard of it. I did research the Faust tragedy, and I found that Part 2 was the more compelling story that "fit" best with theme we wanted to present (as described above). It was inspired first by this book from Marshall Bermann called "All That is Solid Melts Into Air," where he makes the explicit connection between Goethe's Faust as a parable for modernity. Once I found some key passages, I forwarded them to Mark, and Mark actually wrote the lyrics to all the Faust tracks.
- You had enough time to work on this album, what was the song-writing process like?
- It was a 2 year intensive writing session; we all were just brainstorming riffs and then recording them, and over time, it all came together. We mostly write separately, and then Adam will come in and review what we have and start writing drum parts to the songs, which sort of puts the 'flesh on the bones' and gives them actual structure. So it was a slow, gradual building up of ideas, constantly refining them, until we were happy. Once we had about 40 minutes of material, we set the recording dates.
- How long were you staying in the studio recording all the material? Usually, do you come to the studio already fully prepared with all the songs ready to be recorded or does it happen that at some point you decide to rewrite certain riffs or even complete song parts?
- Almost everything was ready to go by the time we recorded. Adam actually did the drums a month or two before everything else. He got a window to record them with Scott Hull (who he is in Pig Destroyer with) so he tracked with him over two weeks or so, when their schedules aligned. After that we all met up and did the guitars/vox over a few weeks, and then spent a month mixing and mastering. A lot of it was done on weekends and when we had free time. Some songs did not have lyrics when we were recording, but most of them were ready to go, aside from some minor in-studio changes.
- Do you have any songs which you've been working on for too long, infinitely rewriting or adding different elements? You know, it happened that Beatles had to record one song about 70 times to choose then only one version.
- We have some songs demoed that were tracked years ago, that we like elements of, yet we have not yet found a way to make them work with anything. They are mostly just riffs, and partial songs that are laying around in our riff-bank. They might appear sometime, someday...we will see.
- Your band has always had good labels: Nuclear Blast first, then Relapse and now Season of Mist. Could you please tell us why did you leave Relapse and how did you join your current label?
- Well, we simply got a better offer from Season of Mist. They made an offer that gave us more options when it came to recording the kind of album we wanted...and the length it is (about 45 minutes +) cost a good amount. Also, certain contractual elements were more to our liking. We still are on great terms with Relapse, maybe it did not work out this time, but we are all one big extended family anyway, so no hard feelings.
- Last year you had a big European tour in support of your new CD. How did it go? Did you have any show in particular to remember of?
- Yes, we did a few summer runs in Europe when all of our schedules aligned, and they were mostly around festivals. The first tour was with Gorguts, which was a lot of fun, and the second was more of a headlining club run, that featured festival shows on the weekends. Some shows that really stood out were the Party San festival (always a blast) the Ieper fest in Belgium, and the headlining shows we did in Berlin (the footage will be featured in our next video for the Harrowing) and also the show we did in Stockholm was a real crusher.
- Have you ever happened to suddenly forget the lyrics or how the next riff starts during a live show?
- Yes, every now and then it happens..its rare...mostly a line of the lyrics might get repeated or I might space on it and just growl something indecipherable...in death metal you can get away with mistakes like that a bit easier. But, its rare...when you play the same songs every night they get quite engrained in your head.
- Not so long time ago you published your book "Extremity Retained: Notes From the Death Metal Underground". Could you please share any information about it? Was it your first book-writing experience?
- Yes, it was my first. It was a blast, but tedious and time consuming. I did the research for it over about 3 years, and then it finally came together in 2013 or so. It's a 480 oral history of the death metal underground, that features over 100 contributors reminiscing and telling stories about everything from how death metal came to be its own underground scene in the late 1980s, to how the recording techniques were figured out, to tour stories and even a sort of 'then vs now' bookend to it all, that looks back on how things have changed over the last 25 years. It is on its second pressing now, and I have about 500 copies left of that, and a digital version is actually going up this month. You can get it here
- How long did it take you to complete all the research for the book and gather all the necessary material? Is it planned to have it translated into any other languages? Are you planning to write any other books?
- I started it in the fall of 2010 and it was done about fall of 2013, and then it came out in April of 2014. There is an Italian translation going into production soon, and hopefully more after that, we will see. If I write another book it will be on a different topic, I feel like I made my contribution to death metal, so perhaps another area or subject next time....
- Thank you, Jason. Would you like to say anything to in the end of this interview?
- Thanks for the interview! Check out our new new video for the Harrowing in a few weeks, and look for an EP later this year, or early next...