- Hello, Martin! Let’s start with the origins, how did you get involved into Death Metal? What were the first bands that you thought were different from the others?
- I got into death metal when I first heard the demos of bands like Repulsion, Death and Death Strike. Their music was a welcome change from the typical 80s metal sound and much closer to punk and hardcore, which I liked a lot and still do.
- What can you say about the early Austrian underground? Do you remember any local metal bands? How often did you go to the shows? Do you remember any of the first ones?
- There wasn’t much of an underground scene going on, back in the days. Disharmony Orchestra were around and a handful of other bands, but they were spread all over Austria and shows were a rare beast, then.
We used to travel to other countries, in order to see our favorite bands, because Austria was such lame place. Almost everything happened in the local punk scene and that’s were our roots are. The whole DIY approach of doing concerts, zines, merchandise and recordings, was a big part of the early death metal scene and I’m still a advocate of doing things this way.
- Pungent Stench was born in 1988. So, how did it happen? Who came up with that name? Did you have any other versions?
- Me and Alex were playing in a band called Carnage, which broke up in 1987, so we decided to start a new band and started looking for a bass player. In early 1988, we recorded a rehearsal demo and played our first show in spring. We still didn’t have a name, so we collected ideas and mixed them up, until we settled on Pungent Stench. No other versions, as far as I remember.
- What was your first rehearsal place? Was it the one where you recorded your first demo, “Mucous Secretion”? Do you remember when and where your first concert took place?
- We shared a little basement with a band called Overreaction O.C. and their bass player was a guy named Jacek Perkowski, who also became our third member. We recorded our first demo in this room, using an old beat up ghetto blaster and our first show took place in Wolfsberg (in the south of Austria) on April 16th 1988.
- In 1990 you released your debut album, “For God your Soul…for me your Flesh”. It wasn't your first time working at Masterplan Studios. So, tell us about the recording sessions. How did it go? Did you face any obstacles?
- It was our second recording session at Masterplan, where we also recorded our split LP with Disharmonic Orchestra. We didn’t have much time or experience, so the session was rather chaotic and we had to mix the whole album in one day. I hated the album and it took me a month or two, before I could actually listen to it, again. I wish we had some extra days, but the budget was tight and so we had to stick with it. We also produced it ourselves, although we had no idea what we were doing. I do like the songs, though, and we still play many of them live.
- For the re-release of this album in 1993, you had to re-record 3 tracks, because the originals were lost. How did it happen? You also did another remix and mastering of the material, so which version do you prefer?
- Everything was recorded to 2“ tape, which was a pricey recording medium and the reels were often used for more productions. And that’s what happened to one of the reels, which contained the missing tracks. Nuclear Blast wanted to remix the album for the US market and that’s why we had to re-record the missing tracks, too. The remixed version sounds slightly better, but I haven’t listen to either album in many years (decades?), so my memory might be flawed. Maybe it’s the other way around.
- There was also used another cover version, why did you decide to do it? Was it you once again who came up with the idea of the artwork? And the same question here: which one do you think fits more with the content of the album?
- That was also the idea of our label, since it should also be visible that it’s a different version. The new artwork is done by the same guy (Stefan Weber), who also provided the photos for „Dirty Rhymes…“ and „Club Mondo Bizarre…“. I still prefer the original cover, though. It just fits better to the album title, too.
- Alright, let's get back on track. In 1991 you released the following album, "Been Caught Buttering". The music has changed a bit, introducing new rhythms and melodies. While composing that material, what was your main goal? How could you describe your works on this album?
- We never had any goals while writing music - it just came naturally and we tried to think outside the box. That’s why you hear influences from 70’s rock to doom metal on this album. The recordings were even more chaotic than on „For God…“, because we booked a studio in Austria, that wasn’t even ready, when we started the session, so we quickly had to find a substitute. Once we found another studio, we started recording and ran into tons of technical problems, since the equipment was rather old and not so well maintained. We also didn’t have an engineer, so it was DIY again. With all these difficulties, it’s really surprising that this became our best selling album.
- To promote the new material you released 2 videos on "Shrunken and Mummified Bitch", and "Sick Bizarre Defaced Creation". Who was the sick butcher from the first video? And who came up with the script? Could you share any memories about the filming process?
- He’s a Viennese artist who used to hang out at the record store Alex and I worked at, so we asked him to star in our video. He turned out to be a great choice, as he played his role very convincing, because he enjoyed „molesting“ the female actors, a lot! The script was written by the director of the clip and filmed at several locations. I wasn’t even present when they shot the forrest scenes and most of the dungeon parts, so I can’t share any interesting stories about this. The „Sick Bizarre…“ clip is just some live footage and put together by the same guys.
- Once again you decided to use Joel Peter Witkin's photo as your cover. How did you find out about this artist? I think you were the first band to use such art for the cover. Was it difficult to negotiate with him about the publication rights?
- I think Alex read an article about Witkin and brought that magazine to rehearsal. We instantly fell in love with it, but I can’t tell you anything about the negotiations, since I’ve never talked to or met him. His work is stunning and perfectly fit to our sense of estethics, so we new we had to use his photographs for an album cover or two!
- In 1994 you released your most experimental full-length, "Club Mondo Bizarre" for Members Only. Where does this title come from? How tight does it go together with the lyrics?
- I think it came from the lyrical topics we used on this album, which was very much related to bizarre sex, such as s&m. We also did a photo shooting at a real dungeon and the lovely lady in the pictures was the head mistress there. Musically, we were a bit bored from the usual death metal styles of these times, therefore we tried to cover new bases, without dismissing our our roots. Some of the tracks are pretty catchy and the high tempo of past releases got replaced by more groove oriented music. If you enjoy dancing, but still like death metal, than that’s your album right there.
- What influenced your play-style and music in general? Have you discussed with Nuclear Blast or within the band some possible negative reaction from your fans?
- Mostly rock music from the 60s - 80s. Classic rock, hard and heavy, punk, hardcore and even gangster rap. Nuclear Blast often tried to talk us out of printing our lyrics or using different artwork for albums and even tour posters, but we never complied and stuck with our gut feel. After all, this was what made us different and unique in a saturated music marked. Of course, we made some bad decisions too, but business and success were never the motivation for our music. Whereas a label mainly cares about sales, so we had quite a few arguments with Nuclear Blast, back in the days. In the end, they did what we wanted and that’s why we stuck with them for our entire career.
- And after that you split-up for the first time. What was the reason for it? And what conditions did you come back in 2001? Who was the main initiator of your reunion?
- I guess everybody had it’s own reason to call it quits, but it started to become such a routine, that I had to move on before it all became stale. We even had written an entire album, which never was recorded. We wanted to do this right after our US tour, but decided against it, since we didn’t want do another tour, afterwards. Some years later, Nuclear Blast wanted to re-release some of our old albums and asked for bonus material that could be included. Unfortunately, we released every rare track on „Praise The Names Of The Musical Assassins“, so there was nothing left, anymore. I talked to Alex about writing some new songs for these albums and when we started to rehearse again, we decided to do another album.
- "Masters of Moral - Servants of Sin", released the same year, was a very powerful release. Tell us, how long have you been working on that material? Do you have your favorite tracks from this CD?
- The song writing took a few months and then we went to a studio, that Nuclear Blast recommended to us. Looking back now, this wasn’t the best decision, since the studio was mainly working with dance, pop or heavy metal acts and the results are way too polished for my liking. I also think we should have done a reunion tour first and the start writing new material. You know, just to get a taste of the old spirit.
- That was the first album recorded without Jacek Perkowski. Why didn't he want to be part of the band once again? And how did you find his replacement, Mario Klausner?
- Jacek completely lost his interest in playing heavy music and that’s why we had to find a new guy. Mario was the bass player of Belphegor, back then, and since we wanted a musician with both, live and studio experience, we asked him to join us. He stayed with us for the most part of our reunion phase.
- On this album you decided to develop some other stories than you did on your previous albums. Could you tell us a bit about the lyrics? And what actually influenced your choice of topics? Can you say that it was a conceptual album?
- Although, I wouldn’t call it a conceptual album, it’s main topic was the Christian Church and it’s role in present and past history. There have been quite a few cases of sexual abuse in the news, which naturally triggered our interest and found it’s way into our lyrics. The cover artwork was a band photo and although there wasn’t anything in the booklet, that was typical death metal, it left many viewers feeling uneasy and even shocked.
- In 2004, once again, but sadly for the last time, you surprised your fans with a new, and very solid album "Ampeauty". First of all, how did you come with that title? As I understand, it's a combination of Amputation and Beauty words?
- Once again, the album title fits the cover artwork and lyrical main theme and yes, it’s a combination of these two words you mentioned. Gerhard Aba, the photographer of the pictures in the album booklet is a devotee of women with missing limbs and the pictures and stories he told us, were a big inspiration for the lyrics. We also shot a video clip for „The Amp Hymn“, which was denied by Nuclear Blast to be featured on their DVDs. Some of their employees apparently even left the screening room feeling all nauseous, haha!
- Tell us about the recording sessions, how did it go? How did it happen that you had to record all the bass lines too? How long did it take you to write down the whole material?
- This was the first Pungent Stench album we recorded in my own studio. Working without time pressure was the biggest advantage of doing it this way. Of course, it was a bit of a drag when you’re the sound engineer and the musician, since you have to concentrate on two completely different things, at the same time. But it worked and the result isn’t too shabby either. During the recordings, we switched bass players, because Mario wanted to focus more on his family. That’s why I played it myself, instead of waiting for a substitute musician.
- So, why did you break up once again? And there were also some rumors, that you actually to record another album, but never released it. Is that true?
- We broke up for personal and financial reasons right in the middle of mixing another album. Fortunately, it looks like it will be released in the near future, after all.
- Tell us about the current state of the band. Now you perform as Schirenc Plays Pungent Stench, before that it was The Church of Pungent Stench. Why did you have to change the title? What is the future of this band?
- Well, Pungent Stench is history and I’m playing our old material with 2 new musicians. On drums I have Mike Gröger, who’s been the Hollenthon drummer for many years and on bass I recruited a crazy Swede named Dan Vall. He used to be in bands like Genocide Superstars or The Accidents, amongst many others. He lives in Vienna and we’ve been friends for a while, before I asked him to join. At first, I called the band „The Church Of Pungent Stench“, but for legal reasons, I couldn’t stick with it, so I changed it to „Schirenc Plays Pungent Stench“. The future of the band depends on my will to continue doing this and of course on the people that come to our shows. As long as there’s a demand, I’ll probably keep going on.
- Besides that, do you have any news about Hollenton? Your last record was in 2009, "Tyrants and Wraiths" EP. Can we expect anything new anytime soon?
- I’ve planned doing another album for years, but can’t find the time for pulling it through. But there will be another album, probably when you least expect it, though.
- Thank you very much for this interview. Do you have anything to add in the end?
- Thank you and all the loyal fans who still keep coming to hear the music of Pungent Stench, after all these years! They’re the reason why I’m doing this and probably will continue doing, until I drop dead!
Pre-order your copy now!
GET YOUR COPY
OF THE NEW ISSUE