“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.”
First of all, how do you 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. 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!