"If you want to talk about capturing the feeling of the darkness, or the coldness, or the aggression, that's easy, because I mean all of it and every bit of it is coming out of my hands."
Interview with Jarrett Pritchard
How do you first of all pronounce Pulchra Morte?
Pul.kʰra Mor‧te. Something really funny, I actually wanted to call the album by the phonetic pronunciation of it, like Lynyrd Skynyrd did, if you’ve ever seen the old record from the ‘70s, but we decided not to. But it was definitely on deck, it was definitely discussed. I’ll leave it at that. [laughs]
What exactly is the meaning of Pulchra Morte?
It’s Latin for “Beautiful Death“. The idea was to do something a little more reminiscent of the early ’90s Doom-Scene that we were all so fond of, myself and Clay [Clayton Gore, drummer], and the other members, we really dug Paradise Lost and early My Dying Bride, mostly because it was just different, dark, atmospheric, melodic, still heavy, still brutal. I guess it’s sort of a nod to that era, would be a good way to describe it.
Clay came up with the name, I mean I joined the band late, a couple of the guys had been doing this project for a while, I got the call, Clay asked me if I wouldn’t mind playing the bass on it for his demo. I listened to the songs that they had, of course I said, “sure”, because Clay was the drummer of my first band, Eulogy in the early ’90s, we’ve been friends for a long time, [I said] “Of course I’ll play bass for you, no problem.”
I was just going to do the demo, but then I listened to it and I thought, “fuck, this really is great” — I feel ok saying that, I didn’t write them, so it’s not like I’m being an egotistical prick, but I really like their songs. I was like, “Wow, I’d really like to do this.”
I was running around for tour dates and got back with Clay and I kind of had a discussion with him. I said, “Why are you doing a demo? I make records for a living, it’s what I do.” We had a talk about it, got the things ironed out, decided that I would join the band as a full time member and I would play the bass on the album. They came down here and recorded the album in March in about a week. And as luck would have it, as always, I had to go on tour because you know that’s what I do for a living and I left for like two months, then came back. Clayton came back down here, we worked some more on the record, ironing out some things; no rush, we didn’t have a record deal. We were talking to somebody that looked really promising; we ended up not going that way. We scheduled a rehearsal in Chicago, the entire band went there.
I decided to play guitar because that’s what I actually do and hired Dylan Kilgore [bassist], who I had known from playing in the band Withered, from Georgia. We had toured together a couple of times back when I was mixing Skeletonwitch and he toured with me while doing front of house for 1349 and Marduk and I really liked what Dylan brought to the stage, so I called him in Atlanta and said, “Hey, you want to do this? You want to join us?” I sent him the sheet music and we all showed up in Chicago, played; basically walked in, played the record front-to-back. It’s really, really nice when people do their homework, doing your homework is an amazing thing. Like, do your homework and everybody walks in, jams, that’s how that happens.
You have released a 2 song EP…
We released a single because I knew that I was going to be gone at first, so we released the first song. Then, I ended up going and playing some shows with my buddies from Wolvhammer. We decided– we were basically talking to a label that was really my favorite label and I’ll keep their name out of it, out of being professional even though I’m less than pleased with anyone that wastes 6 months of our time. Everything was on the table, they were really into it and we just couldn’t nail it down. Their communication sucked. I wasn’t comfortable with it, there were long lapses between discussions, they were asking a lot — they wanted to own a lot on a record that they had nothing to do with the production of and I was good with it. I was like, “New band, first record. Yeah, I get it. Whatever, we’ll make sacrifices.”
But the communication wasn’t there. So much time had been wasted. While we were sorting out our next move, we decided that we should go ahead and release a single, and we released the song that had been out. But we also pressed it to vinyl with the B-side, which was a cover of the song “The Painless”, from the second Paradise Lost record, which we all really liked a lot. And actually, I wrote the band — before we ever put it out, I wrote to the band’s management and I asked if it was ok because I wouldn’t play someone else’s song and release it if they weren’t behind it. I just wouldn’t do that even though I could probably buy a license from a publishing company and never consult the band…I care far more about what the people that wrote it feel about what I’m doing than what some label has to do with whatever – you know what I mean?
They were stoked, they liked it. I have toured with Goatwhore forever and I guess Goatwhore saw them in England and they talked about it and the guys were stoked about it. It made me feel really good because we like them a lot too!
I love your song, Soulstench… It’s dark and grim, it has a coldness to it, a sound of despair also…How do you feel that song embodies what Pulchra Morte is all about?
Weirdly, I can’t speak a lot towards it because that’s Jason’s [Barron, vocals] thing, they’re his lyrics. I can tell you that mood-wise, I just felt like it, when we were deciding to release that one as a single, I just felt like it sort of encompassed everything that we were trying to do and as luck would have it, our friend Heather [Dykstra], who had sang on the Eulogy record back in the ’90s, sings on it. I felt like that was a good overview of the album; it had a pretty good glimpse of what the record has to offer.
Also, Pulchra is really interested in still being a Death Metal band like we always have, like myself and Clayton have pretty much always played. But…More like that steamroller effect where it’s just the effect of a locomotive coming at you, as opposed to it being super fast and super technical… We just kind of want to focus a lot more on weight and atmosphere and melody…And you know, I’ve always liked things that are haunting, that are ominous. That’s just where we’re at. And, I like all kinds of stuff. Obviously, I’ve been with 1349 working for them for 10 years and I like super-fast music, don’t get me wrong! We just wanted to do something different, you know what I mean?
Yeah, definitely. Well, I think it sounds incredible. Like I was saying, it’s very dark and cold. I love the melodic nature to it too. What do you feel has contributed the most to your sound so far?
Jeffrey Breden! [laughs] Our other guitar player, Jeff. He wrote all of that. He’s a very talented dude, he lives out in St. Louis, he just came up with it. I think that’s probably his take on a lot of the classics that he’s into. From a producer standpoint, not as a member of the band, I think he’s a superb guitar player. Tracking with him, tracking him, when I was making this record, was…I mean, he’s just one of those guys where it’s in their fingers.
You want to know what I think contributes to the sound? [laughs] Jeff! Jeff being a great writer, being a great arranger, and just in general us, being the three of us – musically speaking, not to discount Jason [Barron, vocals], but I’m speaking strictly about the music… Between Jeff coming up with the ideas and it running through Clay, after arrangement, then running back through me for arrangement, then running back through me for production… It’s just the combination of the three of us. It’s just the way… What Jeff hears when he makes it, then Clay gets a hold of it, and how Clay translates that…And then how I translate what comes from them. it’s just a nice little collaboration I guess which is what contributes to it.
I mean, obviously, influence-wise, we don’t really have any problem wearing it on our sleeve, My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, Candlemass. [laughs] I think Bolt Thrower [laughs] is in there. It’s kind of a tossed salad of just a bunch of different stuff that was going on back then.
That’s the beauty in music is that there are no boundaries and you can take everything and turn it into something– you can take pieces from every single genre if you wanted and turn it into something completely unique, into Metal, Death Metal, or whatever you want. Which it sounds like you guys have done with what you were just saying. And you know as well as I do, there are SO many bands out there and they all sound the same now. [laughs] When I first heard Soulstench, it was refreshing because it does have an old-school Death Metal feel to it, but there is something different about it too.
I would just say, in general. The way that I feel about the whole thing, as a project as a whole I can say this just in general, maybe more speaking as an engineer than as a guitarist right now. You know… Stay home. Make something great. Keep working on it until it’s great. And then, when you really feel like you have it, put it out there. If it’s good, people are going to dig it, people are going to get into it. If it’s different, if it has substance, your audience is going to find it.
Whereas, like you just said, if we’re regurgitating the same thing over and over again and we’re using the same guitar sounds, we’re using the same drum samples, we’re using the same drum beat, eventually you’re not going to be able to tell from one artist to the next. We’re working against what we all set out to do in the first place. If we’re working within the boundaries of what we’re supposed to do, like, it must be a skank beat, it must be a blast beat, it must have ultra-fast doubles, it must have sweeps. If we’re looking at it like that, everyone is doing the same thing.
Speaking as somebody who probably wasn’t there at the beginning, but I definitely lived in Tampa, I was part of the scene from 1988-1995. I would definitely say that that was the genesis of a lot of what’s going on.
I know that people set out to do something different and that early on all of the different bands, who I like to call a the sophomore class, mostly the roster of Earache and Roadrunner at the time – everyone sounded different. Morbid Angel did not sound like Carcass, Carcass did not sound like Terrorizer. None of them sounded like Entombed. Nobody sounded like At The Gates, and Atheist were doing their own thing. It was all clearly Death Metal, but it was all different. I would never… I couldn’t play in a band that was trying to do the same exact thing that everyone else was doing. Maybe people aren’t setting out to do that, but I just would want to do my own thing and still be a peer and a contemporary of people that were doing their own thing. I think it’s really important, especially now more than ever with so much easy access to music, computers that help so much as far as people being able to play, that everybody make a conscious effort to be different. To bring something different to the table. And just to clarify I definitely know the boss we are giving to the past, but PM is definitely us. To a T.
So, going back to what you say, there are so many things that sound alike — I mean, that’s cool, have fun, play, do whatever because it’s supposed to make you happy. Music is supposed to sort out some part of your psyche, some part of your emotions as an outlet or maybe something that you need to solve or maybe you need to open an outlet to get a certain level of creativity out of you. But in order for extreme music to continue to progress, it has to diversify a little bit. I mean, we saw that with rise of Black Metal in the mid ‘90s, where Death Metal basically got very “normal”, very similar, and in some ways, stale. I wouldn’t necessarily say stale, but I’ve heard it put that way. What came out of that were the antithesis of that where people started to look at things with way less production that weren’t trying to be a commercialized version of this extreme music that we’re all a part of, and that’s kind of my opinion of why Black Metal took the reigns. I think it’s the same place where we are now with a lot of people doing the same tricks – you can’t do the same tricks, you have to do the next trick, you’ve got to come up with the new one, you know what I mean? [laughs]
Yeah. I remember reading an interview with Euronymous [Mayhem] where he said that’s exactly what they [Mayhem] were setting out to do. They wanted to be the antagonists of the Death Metal scene because everybody wanted to sound like Cannibal Corpse back then.
Very true. That’s very true. I don’t think that everybody were like that, I think that there were some American Death Metal bands at that time that were great. Immolation, Incantation, all of the stuff that was happening up in the North East was phenomenal. But the point is the same, to be an antagonist when things get stale, when things get too complacent, when they get too simple, when Extreme Music is being sponsored by corporations, it’s kind of time to kick it out a little bit, to make them nervous again.
The fact that you’re an audio engineer and the fact that you’ve worked with so many artists, so many diverse artists at that, because obviously you work with a lot of Black and Death Metal artists, but you’ve also worked with Jazz artists too?
Yeah, Dr. John.
Ok. That’s who it was that I read you worked with. But how do you feel that working with all of the many different artists that you have that it’s impacted your own personal style of playing music and also, how has it impacted the sound of Pulchra Morte as well?
I think I’ll just say, no matter what you’re doing, if your mind is open then you are at the right place, you’re learning from every experience that you have and I always am. I’ve always mixed different kinds of music, everything from symphonies, to television shows, to movies, to whatever came across my desk, I’ve mixed a lot of Hip Hop and Reggae in the late ‘90s, not because that’s my preference for listening to music, although I do like Reggae, it just was where the money was. I mean, it is my job, despite the fact that I like it.
The thing is, I like mixing just as much as playing music in general. I don’t know if it’s something that’s broken in my head — it’s an emotional experience, no matter what. As long as I can connect to where the artist is coming from, it doesn’t matter whether they’re playing Jazz, they’re playing straight Grindcore, as long as there’s something about it that I can connect to and I can kind of-sort of feel where they’re coming from, I think I can translate that pretty well, technically, through a sound system.
How did it help me with Pulchra Morte? I don’t know. I really like the production approach I took on this one. I think with experience in general, all of your experience matters, all your experience influences what you’re doing.
I’m a pretty big fan of Mick Ronson, who was David Bowie’s guitarist from the time he did The Man Who Saved The World all the way up to Aladdin Sane. I like a lot of old Punk Rock music, I like a bunch of weird, ‘80s New Wave music. I like a bunch of Shoegazer music from the ‘90s, like the original stuff, like Slowdive, for instance. I like more eclectic music, closer to Classical music. I mean, I’ve been listening to Dead Can Dance since I was 15 years old. I just like different kinds of music anyway. I think just being exposed to and being fascinated all of that stuff, I think that ultimately it kind of combines together in some sort of strange casserole of taste and comes out as the bands that I’m working on.
Again, that’s the beauty of music. I’ve noticed, especially with a lot of the Heavy Metal artists I’ve interviewed, they tell me that Heavy Metal is actually not what they listen to all the time, they have a deep love for it, but they’ll listen to everything like Jazz, Classical, to Blues, Bluegrass, anything and everything.
I love Heavy Metal, I really do. Of course, I would say a lot of my favorite stuff is Sabbath during the Dio era, a lot of old Iron Maiden. I like crazy stuff that would’ve been considered Heavy Metal at the time, but in retrospect, you’d probably just call it Hard Rock now. I like Triumph, I like Rush of course, and I like bands like April Wine that were like, you don’t really know what they were. I guess now you’d call them Hard Rock. But yeah, I agree with that and I agree with the other musicians who you talked to. I have a deep love for Metal in general, whether it’s Death Metal, Black Metal, or just straight Heavy Metal, but I think you need to have a wide variety of things to listen to or you’ll get bored or you’ll get isolated into a rut with only one way of thinking.
That is a perfect way to describe that. Also, with you being an audio engineer, you have an advantage with getting the exact sound that you want. How do you feel you were able to capture the sound and the energy, the vibe, and everything for Pulchra Morte?
You kind of just said it. I knew what I wanted it to sound like, I had a pretty good plan for how to get there. They came to my studio, so obviously I’ve done a lot of work here, so I know what it does. There were certain things, for instance the drums, I rented a really good drum kit, a DW Collector’s kit and I tuned it to perfect pitches, like I wanted it to be exactly a certain way and I went in there and tuned it. With the guitars, I knew exactly how I wanted to stack that, what I wanted it to do, where I wanted it to growl, I used – I don’t think anyone would be super worried about this, but I used my Marshall and I used a 1997 Dual Rec and I hit the Dual Rectifier with a tube screamer I had modded, I switched channels for leads with a little more gain, I went over to the Marshall stacked that up, then I came back, I added a little bit of HM2, which is a little more Swedish, or Entombed sound and kind of dubbed it up under the natural guitar sound and Jeff was playing a Les Paul. It’s a no-brainer when you’re recording you have a Les Paul and have a good amplifier, it’s going to make a good guitar sound. Now to put a microphone in front of it- play well and there ya go.
I had a plan. [laughs] Sorry, I’m so long winded. I had a plan. I knew what I wanted it to sound like and I thought about it for a good month and a half, before they got down here. Just as soon as they got here, it was almost like executing a plan, if you planned an operation out or something, I basically just executed what I had figured out. Obviously, I had listened along the way. I was in my own studio, so I knew what to expect.
It came out exactly how I wanted it to sound like. I think that it pays homage to the bands that inspired us, that inspired me, that inspired Clayton, who we were back in the day, doing Eulogy stuff. I think it has it’s own sound as well as paying tribute to the people I wanted to pay tribute to. I’m really happy with how it came out.
I cannot wait to hear the entire album. When is that going to be released?
[laughs] You know what. We are, like I said, we thought we had something locked in, people that I really wanted to work with the whole time, we couldn’t get on the same page as far as communication goes. They basically said that they didn’t think they could do it in a timely enough manner that we wanted. I don’t really think that was accurate. I mostly just wanted to be able to announce. We just couldn’t get on the same page. Eventually, for the first record, what we’re trying to do right now, unless something changes, we’re talking to a few friends of ours, we have three different people that are interested in doing it. We’re going to license it.
The record is going to be coming out, unless something changes really drastically, here at the beginning of the year. The reason that we’re waiting, just to be totally honest with everybody, is because with the holidays, people get really busy, publicists and press get really slammed, it’s kind of a public relations void. And I don’t want to release a record that I’ve worked this hard on to nobody, to be perfectly honest with you. I don’t want to release it to a world that’s busy. I’d rather let it get through the holidays and give us some lead time for the people who are working with us, who are doing PR and stuff, so that they can do what they need to do. They have a way of doing things to release a record and drop it in the second half of January or at the beginning of February, when people have their palates clean from the end of the year stuff with Christmas, and they’re ready to hear something new.
That’s basically what we’re looking at. We’re looking at the end of January, early February. I assure you, it’s done. Other than, like I said, just adding little tiny little things to it, only because I have time to. [laughs] It’s like, “Well, I have time, I can just go back and add little things here and there because I have time!” But I could turn it in now, if I had to.
That is very smart on your part. One of my questions I was going to ask later, but since you kind of brought it up, I’ll ask it now. Because you’ve worked in pretty much all sides of the music industry, you’ve seen so much with audio engineering, tour managing, and being in bands like Eulogy and now Pulchra Morte – what do you think is the most important thing – or things – you’ve learned with all of your experiences in the music industry in general?
Gosh. That goes in a couple of different categories. I’ll say that I think probably the most important thing that I’ve always known, that I see it in action constantly is that if you’re playing in a band and you’re traveling around the country and you’re attempting to bring your music to everybody, and you find that you don’t have time for the people that are coming to enjoy your music or that are doing the interviews or that are doing the press or that are all of those things, then you should do something else because without them, there’s no fucking purpose for you to be out on the road in the first place because if they’re not happy, if there are not people jamming to your music, you have no reason to be out there. Your top priorities really, other than doing a good show, really are the people who are paying tribute to you.
I actually had an experience recently where I traveled a few hours away just to interview a band… They very disrespectful and didn’t even complete my interview, they actually drove off right in the middle of it. It was like a slap in the face. So, I completely agree with what you just said.
I would like to say too, that I don’t agree with all of the types of journalism that are going on right now. The certain websites or certain things that are essentially the National Enquirer of Heavy Metal who are just waiting for the first glimmer of a problem within a band to attack and post the dirty laundry of Heavy Metal out on their website. Like, to me, you’re useless. To me, if any of those people are reading, I don’t give a shit if you ever say word one about this band because I have zero respect for that. We’re supposed to be here for music.
You take any group of people, fill them in a large room, sit every single person down in that room, and interview them about their life, you’re going to meet people that have problems, you’re going to meet people that have bad ideas, you’re going to meet people that have not-so-nice opinions. When you put enough people together, the diversity between them is going to become apparent. What we’re here for is music. We’re not here for a dog and pony show, we’re not here to dig up the dirt, we’re not here for people to get their jollies by being negative or shitty online just so they have something to say, I don’t agree with that kind of stuff. I don’t agree with tabloid style shit-stirring, you know? Focus on the music!
Yeah, it really just takes away from the music. Those websites drive me insane too.
I think too, that the bands have to do their parts too to curb some of that stuff. There was a situation with Watain recently where I guess, I don’t pay enough attention to know the details, but from what I understand, somebody in their band did something and everybody was calling them out and Watain, in Watain fashion, [laughs] which made me kind of like them even more, basically said, “No, we’re not. AND FUCK OFF!” And that’s the end of what they’d say about it.
I think sometimes when the bands give power to these tabloid-type sites and are arguing and are trying to justify or trying to explain, I think they’re walking into it. And believe me, I do work as a tour manager, I do see a lot. I see a lot more than a lot of other people do and I see it from a different angle than other people do. Since I went back out on the road, it’s been ten years since I — I mean, I took a break when my kids were born and I stayed home for a lot of years to be a Dad. When they were old enough to understand [what I do], I went back out. It’s been ten years since that happened. I see a lot. I think the bands should just maybe not worry so much about not playing into that.
I don’t remember anybody ever… Like, Death Metal wasn’t a safe environment, neither was Punk Rock. It wasn’t the place to go to drop the kiddies off on a Sunday afternoon, I hate to burst your bubble, you know?
When this all started… First of all, if you listened to this kind of music, or you listened to Punk Rock or early-on, I’ll say Hardcore, and I’m not talking about basketball shirts-Hardcore, I’m talking about something previous to that. If you were into that, you were a leper in the American high school. You were completely outcast. This is not what you got into to fit in.
When we rolled up on the gig on Sunday, you were taking your safety in your own hands while doing that, and I think that part of that was a good thing. I think the reason that Death Metal exploded the way it did was because it was such the antithesis of safe. The notion of Extreme Music basically being purchased by companies. Punk Rock had basically turned into Pop Punk by the end of the 1980s, it was fashion show and little factions. We were so tired of Hair Metal, Grunge, and this, that, and the other…
And out comes Carcass with Reek of Putrefaction, [they] had an entire cover made up of a collage of bodies. Like, they were extreme, everything was extreme in that first wave because it was so alien. That’s what the world needed at the time. The notion that this is all safe and this, that, and the other, I don’t think too much of that, you know? [laughs] But I also don’t think people should act like an asshole. The other part of that is that I think, I’m thinking in the moment, I think you have to govern yourself, you have to govern your own scene. If people within your clique, or your circle, or your scene are being harmful, then they have to be sorted out.
I think it’s important that you don’t expect it to be safe, but I also think it’s important that the people involved in it, they take on a certain responsibility for their own environment. I don’t know anyone that would put up, for instance, with someone being abusive, ‘rapey’ as the internet calls it to women in the scene in any kind of disrespectful or shitty way. That’s the kind of thing that should be sorted out, but I think that the politics should stay out of it, that’s what I’m saying. The short version – don’t be an asshole.
It should. And I’ve also noticed within the last 5-10 years or so, especially within the last 5 years, the so-called “elitists” who listen to music, Death Metal, etc. If it doesn’t have a certain ‘technicality’ to the music, then the ‘elitist’ will disregard the music completely because it’s not good enough, they’ll also rip your music tastes apart. It’s becoming absolutely ridiculous.
[laughs] In the grand scheme of things, you asked me a little while ago about the other kinds of music that I work on. Let me tell you something, we live in a microcosm. Metal, Heavy Metal, Grindcore, Tech-Death, Black Metal, Pagan Metal, whatever – we live in a microcosm. While those things may seem important or someone may have some false sense of ego, like in our world because they can “sweep” faster or “blast” longer…
Trust me when I tell you that the actual functioning, large-scale music scene, where people are making beyond a living, where people are making tremendous sums of money and guaranteed playing for massive audiences every time they play — believe me when I tell you that our weird, little Metal microcosm is an alien-strange funny thing to them that they smirk at. Once you understand how big the industry is and how small we are, anybody that has an elitist attitude, the immediate thing that comes to mind is, “little fish, in a littler pond”.
You’re right, people don’t realize how enormous the music industry really is. I’m seeing more and more of it because of being involved with Guitars For Vets, not just talking to Metal artists, but artists of ALL genres.
I just think within our world, we’re lucky that we have the kind of world we do. We have Heavy Metal, we know where the information is, we know where the shows are in our town, we know how to use a website to look up our favorite bands and find out where they’re going to be. We know how to find other musicians that want to play the kind of music that we do.
Anybody can get on the phone in 2018 and book a tour and get in a van and go play and meet people all over the country. Anyone can do it. It’s a wonderful time. It’s strange. It’s a little harder to break through because everyone has so much accessibility and there’s so much material out there, but compared to a time when you couldn’t do any of that without some big record company behind you — this is a great time to be alive, to play music and be a part of that.
Once you get your head wrapped around that, you kind of figure out that everybody that’s involved in playing Metal and touring and is a part of this – nobody’s above anyone else. Everybody should be getting along and enjoying each other’s company and the fact that we’re all able to do that. That’s just how I feel, and again, not so much as a musician, but as a working professional in this music as well.
Going back to talking about the music… Your background is primarily in Black and Death Metal. What I love so much about those two genres, especially with Black Metal, is that there’s not only a honesty and a very real darkness to it, but also a raw brutality to it that no other style of music has, which you know all too well about, especially working with all of the artists you have. How do you feel that you were able to capture that raw-honesty, that darkness, that brutality with Pulchra Morte and even Eulogy? And also from the perspective of being an audio engineer, where you’re capturing that raw, honesty for artists who aren’t in your band[s]?
I think that it fits into two categories, I’ll split that answer into two parts. When it comes to mixing as an engineer, that is a thing where you need to just try to understand where the person you’re working with is coming from. You just try to be the vehicle for it to get from them to the people they’re trying to reach. For instance, working with 1349 – they want to be what they are, that’s what they are. They paint up and it’s the real deal, it’s not a joke, it’s for real.
Capturing, and understanding, and working hard to do everything I can do to present what it is they’re trying to convey, [that] is my approach to that, that’s how I capture that. Now, as far as — and I would do that with any band.
I kind of have a — what I did with Gruesome, for instance, who are definitely giving a nod to Death and this, that, and the other, I did my very best to sit down and capture that vibe, that thing of what they were looking to do. I knew a bit historically about what would have been used to get those sounds and I went from there. I actually got to talk to Scott Burns and ask him some questions about that time as well, so that kind of helped a bit.
Whereas 1349, they were wanting to do something very different. It’s just a matter of talking to the person you’re working with and trying to understand where they’re coming from and trying to use your technical expertise to translate that into what they want to present to the listener.
Now as far as playing goes, I am a very odd guitar player. I can barely play anybody else’s songs, I’ll tell you that right away. I don’t know how to play covers. At all.
The last piece of music I think I actually actively learned, but I didn’t have to learn to play was when I was probably 16 when I learned every song there was to learn by The Accüsed. I don’t know how to play without being being full-on. So, you talk about capturing it or whatever, I just mean it. [laughs] If the thing is in my hand, I mean it.
For instance, I just played a show with Wolvhammer. I was filling in for one of their guys, I had to learn the songs in like a week, like five days. I played some of the stuff on the record when we made the record together, so I had a better chance of doing it. I learned the stuff, I went out and played it.
It’s easy to capture it because I mean it. If the guitar’s in my hand, I mean it. If you want to talk about capturing the feeling of the darkness, or the coldness, or the aggression, that’s easy, because I mean all of it and every bit of it is coming out of my hands.
Music is a really fascinating thing. You take a feeling when you’re sitting by yourself and then you turn it into a piece of music. The vibe, the groove, you turn it into music. You play that music, you record that music, that music gets heard, that music makes somebody else feel a certain way. So, in reality it’s basically translating human emotion into a language that can be given to someone else and they can feel the same thing, depending on how their translator works. That’s a pretty heavy thing if you think of it like that.
Music is almost a psychic thing, I mean it’s part of the quadrivium, you know? They say that music and its evolution were basically magic coming out of sacred numerology and geometry. And if you think of the universe and everything in it as vibration, whether it’s light, whether it’s sound, whether it’s people, whether it’s emotion, whether it’s drugs, whether it’s meditation.
Everything is based on a vibration. Music is essentially that, because that’s what happens in the air. We’ve essentially figured out how to take something intangible, which is the way you feel, turn it into a vibration that we can give to someone else, that they can translate, feel something similar to what the person who wrote is [feeling]. So, anytime that I bother to play, believe me when I tell you that I mean it.
I truly believe you do. What you just told me, is the most incredible answer I’ve ever heard when I have asked anybody that question before. This is definitely one of my most favorite answers that I’ve ever heard. And it’s so true, so spot-on. That’s what I love so much about music. It truly does have a ‘life’ to it, a vibration as you call it, it just translates those emotions into beautiful songs and it also has healing properties to it. One of the reasons why I work with Guitars For Vets because it helps so many people, especially with Veterans. It helps them take their mind off of things, the music just lifts you up, and it’s just so amazing what it can do.
It is. I think it’s necessary. I don’t know where I would be without it.
I don’t believe I would still be alive without it.
Yeah. I think that anybody that has an emotional connection to it will tell you, that it’s the thing that’s always there. It’s in your room, it’s in your car, it’s in your head. It’s, you know, [there] in the worst times, the thing that will carry you where you need to go. It’s the soundtrack to the happiest times, it’s everything.
It’s also like a time machine too because if you’re listening to a song from 15-20 years ago, in that moment and then you listen to it in the present, it automatically– there’s a nostalgia to it and it automatically brings you back to that time, whether it be one of the greatest times of your life or one of saddest times of your life. It just brings you back to there.
Very true. It does, and it does capture a moment. It captures a moment of time, it can convey everything that was going on at that time. Like if you listen to, for instance, just as an example, say that you threw on Millions of Dead Cops by MDC… If you listen to side one of that record, you can hear the absolute angst and the reaction to a political ‘50s resurgence, you know? To quote a movie, a ‘50s paradigm and the middle class being eliminated, the absolute hatred for a wealth-oriented government, basically eliminating any chance that the average person had at a prosperous life. You can hear the anger, you can hear the climate just in the music. So, it is a time machine. I agree with you 100%.
It’s just so incredible. Even with certain songs, if you listen to one from ten years ago, it had a certain meaning to it, but now as you’re listening to it, you could relate to it totally different from how you did before. That’s really the beauty of it.
I agree completely. I absolutely agree with you. I think that’s how I ended up dealing with all of this stuff. I’ve been involved in music in one way or another since I was a little kid. I’m not really sure what else I would do.
I’m right there with you, I don’t know what else I would do either. It makes me that happiest person just to know I’m back doing what I love again.
I think too, I think that we’ve got some confusion in the industry that I hope gets sorted out. But there’s always going to be people that have something to say that want to convey it through playing music and it’s always going to rise to the top. I think that a lot of the people in the business side of things [laughs] need to watch Jerry McGuire; remember the thing about not taking on so much, but focusing on the things that you have, doing a good job for one or two artists instead of doing a shit job for 20.
That’s everybody else’s issue. That’s just my opinion. I think that, like I said before, Pulchra’s not even signed, we’re on Spotify, anybody who wants to listen to it can, we’re on BandCamp, anybody that wants it can buy it straight from us. But all of that stuff on the internet, the digital, is going to be there for anybody who wants to hear it, anybody who wants to get into it. You can reach right out to a band that you like nowadays. You can be in “Farmville,” Nebraska, which is probably not a real place, but on your cell phone, you can hear something amazing and you can reach right out to the people that made that and kind of take part in it, whether you’re on their website, you can see their tour dates, you figure out if they’re coming close to your home, you can send them a message if you want to, you can be a part of it.
It’s easier for people to be a part of the things that they find fascinates them today, and I think that’s a good thing. And I think that it’s also really empowering to musicians, but I think that the responsibility of it being so easy to get the music out there, I think that people have to kind of have a responsibility to make sure that what they’re putting out there is good.
Of course I’d much rather hear the quality of music, I don’t want to hear the same bands. Like there are some labels out there that, they get one band that is a huge success and then they want to sign 20 bands that sound exactly like them just to water it down and milk it. It takes a lot of substance out of the music.
Very true. Very, very true. It’s certainly been an eye-opening six months for me, that’s for sure.
Ok, now I have to ask…Because of you working with 1349 and you KNOW how much I love them. What do you feel has been, when you were working on Massive Cauldron of Chaos, or ANY of the albums that you worked on with them, what do you feel has been the most raw and honest moment that you did capture with them?
Oh god, every bit of it. I mean, I can just tell you a few things about it that’ll probably explain that. When it was time to record, I got there to Norway, I went out to the middle of nowhere in a studio that’s in the forest, in a little tiny town in the back of a house that I imagine is at least 100 years old, if not older. The studio is nice, I like it a whole lot. I was shown around by the studio assistant. I was given a bedroom in an old farmhouse, like I said, in the middle of nowhere. I had a couple of days to set up and it was time to go.
Your favorite drummer, Mr. Frost, comes into the studio, he starts to stretch his ankles… He has kind of a warm-up routine that he does.
I’ve heard about it!
Then he sits down behind the [drum] kit and he’ll start kicking doubles, like slow [mimics the sound] “dut-dut-dut-dut-dut-dut-dut” and he’ll increase speed, then he’ll start adding a snare to it. The minute that he takes off and starts adding Toms to it, when he’s warming up, that’s when you know it’s time to go.
So, you run to the house, grab Archaon [1349, guitarist], “It’s time to go! Let’s go!” Bring him out [sic], by the time I get him out there and get a guitar on him, Frost is ready to go. OK! They lean into it and they do a few takes of the song, maybe four or five of the song and they lean into it ONE-MILLION-PERCENT.
When they’re done, Frost will come from behind the kit, he comes into the control room, he’s literally standing in a puddle [of sweat]. There’s not a lot of talking going on. And they listen to what they’ve done and they pick the one that they think best represents what they’ve done. But every single bit of it is absolutely 100%. There’s no clinical, like, “We’re going to sit here and look at the notes”, there’s none of that. Like, none of that. They absolutely lean into it.
It’s the same thing with Ravn [1349, vocals], it’s the same thing with Seidemann [1349, bassist]. When they do their part, it’s just 100%. You know, it’s time to work, this is the vibe, this is the feeling. They just do it. They’ll have their sort-of – I want to say ritual, but I don’t want that to be misconceived because it’s Black Metal, but they have their little things that they do to get ready and they’re an intense group of guys. They’re doing it their way. And they’re doing it in a way that pleases them. And I think that’s what they care about the most.
They’re always very true to themselves. I think that, I wasn’t involved with it, but I think that’s how Revelations [of the Black Flame] came to be. I know that a lot of people liked it, a lot of people didn’t like it. That’s just them going, [laughs] “Yeah, we’re going to do whatever we want to do, I hope you’re along for the ride!” I think that’s the most important thing. Talk about how real it is, I’ve had conversations where it’s like, “Oh, maybe you should or shouldn’t do this.” — “I DON’T CARE! We will do what we want.” And I absolutely adore them for it. I also have been with them for ten years now because they’re the most straight up, loyal — they’re the real thing. That’s all I can say, they’re the real thing.
When I first got asked to do that job, thinking about it, and you can print this, I don’t care… I kind of wasn’t that into it. I essentially was pretty sure I quote-unquote said that “I don’t want anything to do with those church burning Norwegians.” And I was told “No”, that they were pretty cool, to give it a shot. And I said, “Alright, if it gets weird, I’m out.” I’m pretty sure I said exactly that. “If it gets weird, I’m out.” Then I went on tour with them. I picked them up at the airport in Boston and it was the Carcass tour back in 2008. It was my first tour out of retirement, my first tour with them.
What I found was three – I hadn’t met Frost yet – very intelligent, well-spoken Norwegian gentlemen, for the most part. They have their things, they enjoy having a little whiskey or whatever, they have their drinks, but they’re very mild-mannered. But 45-minutes to an hour before the show, they all put on the paint and they just turn into somebody else. I don’t even think they spoke to me the first year once they had painted up. It’s the transformation. I was not super fond of that, I just didn’t understand it. And once I understood that it wasn’t a stupid fucking Halloween costume, that it was a real thing, that’s when I started to respect it. It’s because of them.
My first interview with Frost, I still remember the exact date, it was May 3rd, 2010. At the time, I didn’t really like Black Metal, I had always been freaked out by it because of it’s history, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But that interview actually turned out to be my most favorite one that I’ve ever done, so much that I had to do another interview with him on their headline run with Triptykon later that year. Frost was talking about his warm up process, how his paint represents his music, etc – he was so philosophical and so, in a way, poetic with how he was answering all of my questions. It just — something ignited within me that night and I fell in love with Black Metal. I mean, you know how much I love 1349! [laughs]
They’re very intelligent guys. They’re very creative and they have their process. I feel lucky that I’ve been associated with them for the last 10 years, honestly. I feel the same way about Goatwhore. They’re my two longest running clients, and they’re probably the two that I’m the closest to. I feel lucky to be a part of it still. I have the utmost respect for every single person involved in both of those bands.
I love both of them too. I’ve seen Goatwhore many, many times – they’ve toured with 1349 a few times too. When I’m around them [both bands], they always make you feel like you’re part of the family.
I think with both of those bands, they appreciate their people. Having worked with them for a long time, I think they genuinely appreciate the people that are there to support what they’re doing. That’s just always been my take on it, traveling with both for so many years, that they truly enjoy and appreciate the reason that they’re out there doing it.
And I would be the same way. I mean, just talking to you about enjoying our single, like I absolutely can’t explain to you what it’s like when even one person says that they’re into what they’re doing. I personally never go at anything that I create, like thinking about how anyone else is going to receive it, so it’s always a surprise to me when someone likes it. [laughs]
But when they do, it means everything. That’s the full circle of the process. Anybody can dig what your creative meanderings are, that’s the best thing in the world when somebody gets it. You’re speaking a different language, and somebody understood what you were saying. That’s basically what that is.
I only have a couple of questions left. But still speaking about 1349 and Pulchra, Seidemann [1349, bassist] is also featured on your album.
Yeah. He does some backing vocals for us. Seidemann [1349, bassist], Tor, I mostly call him Tor. He, like all of the guys, are good friends. He has a side band that’s really great called Svart Lotus. I’ve done some mixes on both of their records, and I’ve played solos on both of their records. It’s a thing between friends. I hit him up and I said, “Hey, we have a song called Thrown To The Wolves,” and I wrote him, said “Hey, would you do me a favor and sing?” And I wanted specific things that I know that he does. I wanted the voice from the song Nekronatalenheten [Beyond The Apocalypse – 1349] that I really like a lot when he did the backing vocals, and I wanted the voice from the very end of Atomic Chapel [Demonoir – 1349]. The last thing that 1349 usually would say at the end of their American shows, for a long time, Ravn would go [mimics a deep, ominous voice] “ATOMICCC….CHAPELLL!” And Tor, underneath that, would sing [mimics high-pitch Black Metal vocals] “ATOMICCCC CHAPELLL!!!!!” in like a really hideous voice and I wanted those two sounds.
So, I wrote him and asked him to do it. So he sang on it for me, which is really cool. I was really happy that he did it. But you know, it goes back and fourth – like I said, I’ve played on two of his records now because we’re friends. I like it, I like being able to participate.
The other part of my question — what do you feel he was able to bring to the song that he was featured on?
He just had a quality to the voices that he sings that I’m familiar with. There were colors that I wanted to put in the picture, that’s what he brought. He brought his own very unique way of doing things to what I was into, and it was a really nice fit. And like I said, he had some colors that I wanted to put in the picture and I’m glad he did.
I truly cannot wait to hear your entire album, I truly can’t.
I can’t wait for you to hear! [laughs] And get the thing out!
I’m so excited. Like I’ve said throughout this entire interview [laughs] like, there are so many bands that sound the same and when you sent me the lyric video a couple of months ago, it was just refreshing. And I truly, truly enjoyed it. I love it.
I’m glad! I’m happy that you love it, I’m happy that you get it. I mean, we are trying to do something that’s not done as much. I don’t feel like we’re re-writing the book – I’m pretty clear about our influences – but I think we have our own spin on it. I’m really glad people dig it, you know?
The fact that Paradise Lost even heard the cover… To me, that was a huge deal. Even for me, who works with as many different people as I do and meets as many different people as I do, it’s still really special when somebody that you respect acknowledges the work that you’ve done. It means a lot. It’s really cool.
It is. I have one last question. As I’ve told you, I’m a part of Guitars For Vets and we were kind of talking about this earlier, the healing power of music, the power that music has…And that’s what we’re all about, we want to give an escape to the Veterans who are going through PTSD and the traumas they’ve endured. What have been some moments that you’ve had in your life where creating music or even listening to music that has brought you out of a dark mindset or has just helped you get through life?
I’ll give you a real answer to that. Probably the heaviest answer you’re ever going to hear….
I was 16, I left home when I was 15 and I lived kind of out on my own, kind of wandered, this, that and the other. I mean, I was a Punk Rocker, it was the ‘80s, I was doing my own thing. And through a series of events, I got put into a place called Straight Incorporated, you can look it up… Straight Incorporated was absolutely the worst brain washing camp that was endorsed by the Reagan administration, that they put teenagers into, and it is a fucking nightmare.
They sit you in a white room for 12+ hours a day and scream at you about what a piece of shit you are. I was there for 9 days. I escaped, I broke out. That’s how Eulogy started. I basically escaped from the one in Maryland. I ran 20 miles in the snow when I was 16, like ten days after my 16th birthday, and I didn’t freeze to death and I got on the bus, I came back to Florida and I started Eulogy. But your question about the music is… When I was sitting there for those 9 days, I knew immediately what they were trying to do to the people in there. Like I understood it immediately. So, in order to block them out, I literally spent 12 hours a day reciting song lyrics and playing songs back in my head to keep them from fucking my mind up.
WOW. What were some of the songs, the music that was in your head, do you remember?
Samhain, I was into that a lot at the time. Probably Conflict, early Circle Jerks. At that time, it would’ve been 1989, so probably the Bad Brains. Like anybody else in 1989, I liked Metallica a lot, I was just starting to get into Celtic Frost and I basically just played my archive of music back in my mind just to keep them out of my head. That’s probably the biggest one.
I think any time that you’re going through it, or you’re having a shit day, or things just don’t look that good, if you find the right thing to listen to, it can change that. Sometimes it’s things that are aggressive and sometimes it’s things that are upbeat, sometimes there are things that move at a snail’s pace with a lot of weight that help you get through the trudge that you can think up with to trudge through whatever bullshit is bringing you down. I would say that that was the heaviest one.
I honestly write the best music when I’m miserable, to tell the truth! [laughs] Like, when I’m really unhappy, something’s going on that I’m really not stoked about, I probably write the best during that. I think a lot of people do. I think it’s the way we purge unhappiness, the way we purge misery. But it’s always carried me.
I was aware of music when I was a tiny, little kid, when I was 2 years old. I was into KISS when I was 5. I was arguing with my mother about going to Rock concerts as early as 1980, when I was 7 — screaming fits with my mother about not letting me go see The Ramones play at Rogues, at 7 years old. What kind of freako kid was I? I was really into Queen, I liked that. That was the first record I ever bought, but it’s always carried me [through].
There’s a whole article about it on a website called Hardcore Norfolk, but I’ll just reiterate it to you. One day in 1985, somebody gave me a tape. I took it into my bedroom at home, I was just a normal kid – like imagine a normal kid in 1985, divorced parents, the whole nine yards – and I wasn’t that stoked. I started junior high school and I was absolutely certain that I wasn’t cool. I had feathered back hair, parted in the middle, I think I had a rat tail or something equally horrible. [laughs]
Somebody gave me a tape and I went to my bedroom and I put it on and it was Millions of Dead Cops [by MDC] on side 1, and Everything Went Black by Black Flag on side 2. I did the 10 or so minutes it took me to get through side 1 for Millions of Dead Cops and the fifteen minutes it took me to go through part of Black Flag — I changed right there in that room. In an instant, it changed everything. I absolutely didn’t have to be part of your fucking social hierarchy, I didn’t have to be polite, I didn’t have to accept what anyone said as the truth. All I had to do was flip my middle finger up in the air and say “FUCK. YOU.” And I changed, right there in that room, and I haven’t changed very much since.