– Hello, lots of thanks for answering our interview. How is everything going into the EXHUMED’s camp right now?
Things are going really well, we’re in Italy wrapping up our three-month European tour. I think we’ve done something like 50 shows so far and have 10 more to go. Somehow we’re all managing to still get along and have a good time, so shit is good.
– You will soon relese your new album so, how are the first reactions being? You have already toured so, how were accepted live some of the tunes you played off the new record?
Live, the new stuff seems to be going down really well. We’re not playing too much stuff because of YouTube, etc. The reviews seem to be pretty positive so far, which is nice. I mean it’s not something we pay too much attention to, but it’s cool to see. Kids have already started asking for “Coins Upon The Eyes” which Relapse put a video together for on YouTube, so that’s a good sign.
– This new opus is entitled «Necrocracy», a strong title that gives an idea of what do lyrics on it deal with. What was the main inspiration behind it?
I wrote the lyrics last year during the US election cycle, so that played into things quite a bit. Of course, everything is still done through the gore / splatter motif, so it’s all in metaphor, but there’s a lot more socio-political stuff on this one. Just like “Anatomy is Destiny” was centered around existentialism, this record is lyrically centered around politics and specifically that the US government is one that is by, of and for corporations – which are technically people, but are not alive – hence “Necrocracy” – or rule by the dead.
– Lyrics on this opus are quite social but, could you please tell us what are some of the topics covered this time around?
Well, the songs touch on a bunch of different stuff. “Coins Upon The Eyes” is about how the complete privatization and over-taxation of everything in the US ends up creating a system where the individual citizen ends up owning nothing, simply because of property taxes, interest rates, mortgage rates, etc. make it so the things that people used to own, they’re now simply borrowing from the bank for a while. I’ve seen my grandparents get older and seen their financial situations dwindle due to all of these factors and especially the exorbitant cost of health care in the US. So not only are they dealing with their deteriorating health as they near death, they get to live to see their life’s work and savings drained away as well. So yeah, it’s a real upper of a song, haha! “The Shape of Deaths To Come” is about the paradox of working and increasing the profits of the same companies that make water un-drinkable, air un-breatheable, and constantly undermine employee benefits and wages. If you work for a large corporation, chances are that in some way, you’re working against your own self-interest in the long run. I compared it to working in a casket factory, where you ultimately build your own coffin. “Ravening” is about the insane level of voracious greed that it takes to create a society where pollution, perpetual warfare, homelessness, and gaping wealth inequality are somehow accepted as normal. The greed of the few is dragging the many into a world that I personally don’t want to be a part of. But not everything ties into the overarching concept, “Sickened” is just about a guy who gets the bubonic plague, and “Carrion Call” is about coming out to the show and rocking out – almost like a NWOBHM lyric, but done in our style of course. And everything is heavily allegorical, so peopl aren’t getting hit in the head with some “message” – we don’t want to indoctrinate people, we want to entertain them. This is just the stuff that I think about, so that’s where I get my inspiration from.
– Musically «Necrocracy» is a really straight-forward album, still a bit technical but more simple than some of your previous releases. Was this the approach you wanted for the album or did you just let things flow naturally?
Musically, we just knew that we wanted something with more groove than the last album. We never consider ourselves a technical band or anything, we just try to keep things catchy. I also wanted a bit more variation between songs than we had on the last one, and I think we succeeded there as well. On “All Guts…” everything was so fast it ended up getting a little same-y. This one, all the songs stick out from each other and now that we have a full-time line-up, we had the confidence and trust in each other to try a few things that were slightly different, some really dissonant passages, some more melodic stuff, heavier stuff, etc. etc.
– In production terms I could say «Necrocracy» sounds pretty updated, which contrasts with an album of really traditional structures. Was this the sound you wanted to get? How did the whole production process go?
We recorded everything in the same studios (Trench studios in Orange County, California for the drums, Arcane digital recording in Phoenix, Arizona for everything else) that we used for “All Guts…” so it was a very natural process. We had a little more time to work in the studio this time as well, so that helped keep things stress-free. It was still a lot of work, 9-11 hour days most days, but it was nice being able to finally get to some stuff that usually gets cut due to time. That had a lot to do with the vocals coming out a lot better this time around. We used a different mix engineer and a different approach this time, which was definitely deliberate. I thought the mix on “All Guts…” was awesome and was really happy with it, but I don’t want our album to all sound the same or ever have a cookie-cutter feel. I think Will at the Machine Shop in Jersey did a really good job of getting a more spacious, separated mix that is both modern and really raw and live sounding, which was kind of a cool surprise. As far as the traditional structures, that’s exactly what we were going for. To me, the heaviness and aggression of the music is challenging enough, and using really labyrinthine arrangements just muddies the waters. Bud and I especially are into studying songwriting theory, and are big on incorporating a lot of pop music devices into our songs – modulation, extended measures before choruses, etc. I listen to all kinds of music, but one thing that runs throughout most of the music I listen to again and again is hooky structures and catchy choruses. The whole album is more song-oriented than any of our other records which I’m really proud of.
– There aren’t just traditional structures, but guitar solos have a strong old school/heavy metal feeling as well. Maybe Bud’s return had something to do with this? Does he write his own guitar lines?
Bud is definitely more of a heavy / thrash metal oriented lead guitar guy, so I’m sure that had something to do with it. He, Rob and I are all way more likely to be listening to Judas Priest, Mercyful Fate or Maiden than goregrind or something like that. Bud came in and just nailed his leads, which was cool, because it pushed me to step up my solos as well. Bud was also a big help working out harmonies and stuff in the studio which really brought a lot of the riffs to life.
– If I’m not mistaken, for «All Guts, No Glory» yourself and Wes split 50/50 the music but, how was the songwriting process for «Necrocracy»?
Yeah, on “All Guts…” basically every other song is one of mine and one of Wes’. It was kind of a forced thing, but it worked out well for that album. On this one I wrote the riffs and came up with the basic structures, then Mike, Rob and I fleshed things out in the jam room before the recording. “The Rotting” was something that we came up with in the jam room, where we also wrote the bonus track “ Chewed Up, Spit Out” and worked out the vinyl outro “E Pluribus Mortem”.
– As I said earlier, for this album Bud is back in the band. How did everything arise?
Well, as we kept touring with Wes on guitar, it became clear that he wasn’t happy with things as far as how the band was being run, the conditions on the road and other stuff. It became a case of three people having a lot of fun and enjoying things and one person, Wes, being miserable. It just kind of infected the dynamic and started bumming everyone out. We really tried to keep working with him, because he’s a killer riff-writer, but it just became not worth it. Bud was playing in his country band, The Wiggle Wagons, but that was kind of winding down. I talked to him a few different times about coming back on board, and I finally wore him down and got him back in the van. As soon as he came on board it was like the last piece of the puzzle had fallen into place, almost like he had been there all along.
– And this is also your first album with Bob and Michael. How have they fitted in?
They’ve been in the band now for a couple of years, touring non-stop, so the chemistry we’ve developed is really fucking cool. I feel like their influence has really allowed “Necrocracy” to have a lot more rhythmic feel than our previous records, which I’m really excited about. It’s cool to be able to have more bass and drum breaks and stuff because we have a steady rhythm section. Personally we all get along really well and it comes out onstage and on the recordings I think. I see a lot of bands that are always arguing and shit, and we just don’t do that, which is awesome. I’m a believer that the best results come from everyone moving with the flow in the same direction, not a bunch of needless clashes. A lot of that comes from being older and shit and also being honest enough to be able to say “Hey man, that idea sucks” and being objective enough to admit that not every idea is great, some of them really suck. So it’s not that we never disagree, it’s that we don’t have a problem accepting criticism because we like and respect each other.
– Throughout your career you have been through several line-up changes but, has this affected the band’s sound in any way? You have aways kept your own identity, is it something to get with so many line-up changes?
Well, when Col (Jones, our original drummer) started the band, we always had a vision for what we wanted to do. That vision evolved for a few years, but by ’94/’95 we pretty much figured out the direction that we wanted to go in. We’re both very stubborn people and have hewed really close to that ever since. One thing I learned when the band split up is that Exhumed exists independently of any of the band members or anything – it has become it’s own thing, and I respect that. Anyone playing in the band knows the deal from the word go – it’s just part of the deal. One really positive thing about having a lot of line-up changes is that you learn a lot from the people you play with, whether it’s what works or what doesn’t, it’s all part of the process. I’ve been lucky to play with some really talented people along the way, and the current line-up we have is the strongest in the band’s history. That said, I really hope that it stays together, because we do all get along so well and know and trust each other musically. I think we have a really good chemistry together that shows through on the record and especially onstage.
– For instance since your comeback album, «All Guts, No Glory», it seems you are delivering even more energy with each new album, maybe the new blood on EXHUMED helps getting this?
I think the difference between “All Guts…” and “Necrocracy” is a new level of confidence that’s been instilled from the success of the last record and all the shows and tours we’ve done in between. We were able to stretch out a little bit on this record because we have a great band dynamic and that’s developed the confidence we needed to expand our sound and trust each other to build something that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Mike (Hamilton drums) is such a “death metal guy” that he keeps pushing the tempos up and keeps things really tight and intense, and Bud has such a great sense of melody that he infuses the songs with, the whole thing is really due to all of us. Whether I’m the lyricist or primary riff-writer, what you’re hearing is the result of everyone together.
– Talking about such, is it easy yo keep that energy alive after so many years? Or maybe the hiatus you took also helped getting that feeling back?
The hiatus was really necessary for me to gain some perspective and to get excited about the band again. Now that I have that perspective, it’s become more a case of keeping the momentum that we gathered from the last album and keeping the ball rolling. We just felt like the band was on a good run with “All Guts…” and we wanted to continue that and build on it and just keep it going.
– When we interviewed you in support of your previous release, you told us you would have liked to take more time with your vocals but, is there anything this time around you would have liked to change or done differently? Are you fully satisfied with your vocal work on «Necrocracy»?
Yeah, we were able to double all the vocals (as most bands do) which got a much stronger sounding vocal track this time around. Also, when I did the vocals for “All Guts…” I hadn’t done those kind of vocals for years, and this time around I’ve been doing it on tour for quite a while again, so my voice just sounds better in general, I think. Plus we were able to do some group backing vocals and stuff which I really wanted to do on the last one, but again, we ran out of time.
– You have already published a video for «Coins upon the Eyes», which I think, both musically and lyrically, is a nice description of what is «Necrocracy» all about but, what could you comment on both the video as well as choosing this track for it?
We felt it was the most immediate song on the album, and had the feel of what people really wanted to hear in an Exhumed song right off the bat, hence it being the first song on the record and the first thing posted on YouTube and shit. The video was something that Relapse put together, at first it was mostly older clips, all the WWII and Cold War stuff, but I asked them to work in Bush and Obama as well, because it all kind of ties in with the concept of the album and such. I wanted to make sure that both Obama and Bush were present so that people know that what we’re talking about isn’t a “left-wing” or “right-wing” thing, it’s something much broader than that. We’re not endorsing any of these fuckwads.
– All this about «Necrocracy» being said; how could you describe it in just 3 words?
Oh man, that’s too easy: Gore Fucking Metal.
– Throughout your long musical career you have been involved with different bands, but now besides EXHUMED the only band you are still in is DEKAPITATOR, though you have been silent for some years now. I guess your focus is on EXHUMED but, are there any plans with DEKAPITATOR?
I have some stuff written, it’s been a bit difficult to coordinate with our drummer, since he’s busy in Repulsion and Cretin, as well as having a career, wife, house and all that adult shit. I’m really hoping to get something going with the band again, now that the retro-thrash trend has died down and we can just make a record for ourselves and shit.
– And finally, what are your near-future plans after the release of the album?
We have a US / Canadian tour with Dying Fetus coming up in October, and we have some more stuff in the works that will hopefully come together pretty soon. I’m sure there will be a lot of extensive road work ahead as usual, a lot of beers, a lot of partying, so pretty much more of the same for us, haha!
– That’s all, thank you once more for answering our questions. If you want to add some final words; feel free to do it.
Thanks for the interview and the support, we really appreciate it. To anyone reading this, we look forward to seeing all you mutants on the road again soon – Cheers!