Slaughterday - Interview
The North German band Slaughterday released their third album "Ancient Death Triumph" in November. Since it's not possible to travel to the North Sea at the moment, I took the chance to have a beer with Jens Finger and Bernd Reiners via Skype and chat with them in Bernd's kitchen. A really funny interview, but it became way too long, and I had to shorten it a bit. But read it yourself and above all, listen to the album!
Hey! Everything good with you?
B + J: Yes, sure!!
When I listen to your new album, I have a feeling that you are getting a bit more mellow with age. The new album is a bit more melodic; the cover is a bit brighter...
B: (Laughs) Age mellow...no one has said that either. Yeah, I don't know...hard to say. So, I hope that on the next album you'll say that was such a little bit of a swerve. I think that the songs will sound a little bit different then again, but mellow, I don't know, I wouldn't say so. If you mean the melodic punch, then yes, it's more melodic than the predecessors.
Seriously, I think you guys show some more influences that you couldn't tell before like that. This time around, I find that the Autopsy influence has been scaled back a bit, but Carcass and Death are at the forefront. Apart from that, I can hear Black Sabbath subliminally.
J: Yeah, you summed that up perfectly. But it wasn't really planned that way. You know how it is. You hear one or the other band more or less and of course that influences you. And somehow it came that way. It's not like I said, I have to play more guitar now, I want to show what I've got. Not at all. Mostly the ideas always come from Bernd, who says: "Put in a melody there" or something like that. It just came that way. Of course, we also noticed that it sounds like Carcass, but then it's like, fuck it. Of course, we always had Autopsy influences, we still do and this time we just listened more to Carcass and Death.
B: Yeah, we were just up for it. We always had this 80s background anyway, because those are the things we grew up with. That's when it started with the metal socialization and this time we were in the mood for the melodic stuff. The classical influences came out more, but with the next album it can be completely different again.
J: Whereby I must say that melodic is not always the same as melodic. Many people always imagine something soft, but this is not melodic death metal or such crap. Our music is not funny or cheesy, …though cheesy sometimes.
B: It's also quite cool to have the contrast. In many new death metal bands this uniformity annoys me, that's why the contrast in our songs. When it's melodic and then it's rough again, that it also thrills you when you have this change, the dynamic. That's better than playing a song at full throttle for three minutes. That can also be cool, but we have done that from the beginning, you can already hear it on the first album, that there are tempo changes and it is also melodic in parts. The melody is always the icing on the cake.
J: We often sit in the rehearsal room and when we write a new song, we think about what is missing in the song. Some gimmick that is not typical for death metal and that you don't expect. We often think of these ¾ Mercyful Fate parts, which we have relatively often, or these slightly swingy parts that Autopsy also often have, or Black Sabbath things. Things that could also be found in normal heavy metal songs with normal tuned guitars. We find that interesting to incorporate, because with the sound, the voice and down-tuned guitars, it still sounds like death metal.
What are the current lyrical influences? I have already read that you are away from the Lovecraft theme, therefore no tentacles in the logo and now goes more in the direction of horror. What exactly?
B: It can be anything, it has to be inspiring. When I write lyrics, I need a basic idea somehow. It can be just a scene from a movie, I don't like to tell whole movies like King Diamond. Then I have some kind of images in my head - it can also be paintings, something that impressed me or something I read, that I found particularly morbid. Something that triggers some kind of images in me, when I'm writing texts. In the beginning it was Lovecraft, because at the time we started the band I discovered the books for myself and was inspired by them. But I also never wanted to write "Ia Cthulhu"- lyrics or about the Demons and Old Ones, I always avoided that. At some point, though, the topic was through and I had said all I had to say about it. Now, of course, I look for inspiration and try to keep the lyrics somewhat abstract and also a bit figurative, so that you don't read the text and think that this is a silly story. There should always be a bit of room for interpretation. I myself know what it's about, of course, but the lyrics should also somehow fit with the music and the artwork. That's how it used to be with me, when I was younger. You'd come out of school and put on a record, look at the cover, read through the lyrics, listen to the music and get lost in a world. If people now experience that in a similar way when they listen to our music, then I think that's great. The lyrics are also a supporting factor for that. Of course, they are not lyrics with political messages, but I take it very seriously that they sound cool on the one hand and create atmosphere on the other.
J: The voice is also an instrument in itself and what I like about Bernd's lyrics is that he has a perfect balance. On the one hand I think the phrasing is very important, because you don't have melodies and every syllable is on the right note, I think that's perfect with Bernd. But also, the word choice, the right word that sounds cool in the right place. I always find that very impressive and it strikes me even more now that I'm singing with Temple of Dread, how important words are that don't necessarily come from normal language usage either, but that fit into this death metal construction kit. Bernd manages that perfectly without telling too much story or revealing too much, but you always have this room for interpretation and it always seems intelligent (both laugh).
B: Yes, I put more work into it than you might think when you read it. You might think that you write 8 lines in half an hour, but it's really the case that I sometimes sit at the computer in the afternoon and maybe only a single line comes out, where I've thought about it for a long time, but I still sit at it for one or two hours. A text always takes time. Sometimes it's quick, but it can also sometimes take 2 or 3 days and I have the melodies and riffs in my head all day and think about what else fits how.
J: From a musician's point of view, I think it's important that the stuff has a recognition value and that applies especially to the choruses. Bernd always manages to do that quite well and our 80s background also benefits here. We didn't only listen to 2000s death and metalcore, ultra-brutal death metal and so on, but also the thrash, hair and heavy metal bands of the 80s.
That's why the Anvil cover "Thumb Hang".
J + B: Yes well, that has several reasons.
B: First of all, we had the great luck to meet the guys personally. They recorded twice at Jörg Uken's Soundlodge studio, as we always do, and that was an opportunity for us to drop by there more often. We had a barbecue with the guys in the evening and of course we also know the Anvil documentary and could convince ourselves that the guys are exactly like they are portrayed in the film. That was really bizarre. Jens and our live guitarist Tobi (Tobias Koops; M.) also picked them up from the airport the second time. Of course, there is a connection, because we liked Anvil before, the old records. The first three are real classics, but there are also some cool albums or at least some cool songs from their back catalog. And this song is also the subject of the documentary and it's probably the first official Anvil song. We heard the riffs and thought that it fits great and in the death metal robe we could imagine it very well. Also, as a tribute to Anvil, so several factors came into it.
J: We have a cover version on every album, and we want to keep it that way. It's a bit of a characteristic of us that we always do that, and we think that it's important that we take songs that are not really typical death metal, except for the Acheron song on the EP and Amorphis...
B: ...but there are criteria. We don't say it has to be something that isn´t death metal that we transform, a lot of different things come together. Most of the time we sit there and think, the song, we can imagine it incredibly well in the Slaughterday robe. Often it's some riff or a certain groove that the song has, and we've heard quite often that the cover versions all fit well into the overall picture of the album. Some people didn't even know they were cover versions and then I think you got some things right. Some things we would never dare to do, Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden, where the vocals are already so concise, I keep the fingers off. You always have to imagine it and give it your own touch. Some songs turned out better, some less, but in the end we do it for our own pleasure.
You have live musicians, are they involved in any way in the creation process or are they more like extras?
B: Well, I would never call them extras.
J: No! Never!
B: But we'll get to that in a minute. They are not involved in the songwriting because we started with two people and maybe we would have had the option to bring additional people into the band, but we realized after the first album at the latest that we don't need additional people at all and that it's just so incredibly effective and easy when you only have two people to decide everything. For example, when it comes to rehearsing, it's uncomplicated. All of them have their jobs and families and some of them live somewhere else, so it would be incredibly complicated. Someone would always have no time. The songwriting was always in our hands and the guys all have their own projects as well, so we don't have to have a bad conscience at all, and we find it quite relaxed to play the songs that are already there. But they are not extras because they were always people we knew as well. We never hired anyone, no one applied, but we always had a personal connection to the people. Especially now with Bünne (Markus Bünnemeyer; M), who plays with Jörg (Üken; M) in Tempel of Dread, that came about through Slaughterday and it's like a huge family, we know each other by now. I've known our current live drummer since school, so for ages. I also lived with him during my studies, they're all really good friends that you like to spend the weekends with.
J: Yes, and I played with him for years in Obscenity, Jörg, our previous live drummer and producer, I've known for 30 years and with Tobi (Tobias Koops; M) I did sports together. They are all buddies and acquaintances.
B: Yes, we are really lucky there. The people fit well together, and we all have the same humor and the same background. When you go somewhere, and you have to drive 6 to 8 hours to Southern Germany for example, and you spend a weekend together, it's good to do it with good friends. And of course, with the live stuff, they can put their own stamp on it.
J: As far as songwriting goes, we quickly realized that it works out pretty well that way and we don't need any additional input. We're not 18 anymore and we're realists. We know that songwriting is difficult, there are always differences with so many people involved. That can go well, but it can also be extremely annoying. And with almost all bands where there are five people on the cover and they are also successful, one or two people still write the songs.
B: When we are playing live somewhere, it feels like a complete band. Then we are five guys and the others also know how to have fun and we are not the center of attention there, because the others are also known through their bands.
It took you about 4 years to make the new album. Why do you always need so long until you bring out a new album? There are bands that manage to do double the workload in such a period of time.
J: We also had the EPs in between.
Haha, they don't count here!!!
J: But it honestly didn't seem that long to us. On the EP, sure you can say they don't count, there were also four new songs and two cover versions on there and of course those want to be written first (laughs). But I honestly don't know. After Laws of the Occult we played a few concerts and had to rehearse new people. That took some time.
B: It's also that we didn't rehearse after the second album. Then we only met before the concerts to rehearse. After the Abattoir EP it was different, we kept writing in parallel while we met with the others then. Now it's also faster. Somehow there was always something, first the 7', then the EP, which was also planned as an EP, new band members, concerts. And it's also a kind of hobby for us. We meet and don't sit in the rehearsal room for five hours and practice. Especially now in Corona times we first talk about everything that annoys us and drink a beer. And then we get going. But because of the lockdown we have more time to rehearse at the moment and I think the next album will be made faster.
You are also releasing a lot of re-releases on vinyl etc. right now. Are you satisfied with F.D.A. Records?
B: Yes, definitely. Of course, you have to see in which order of magnitude you move and F.D.A. has always done a good job with us. Of course, there are always things where you say that it could have been a little better, but we are also in exchange with other bands who tell us how it goes with them and you also get a lot. And you notice that on a certain level it's not a big difference. Rico (Unglaube, boss of F.D:A.; M.) has never disappointed us and especially with the last album he really pitched in and made a lot of things possible for us. The communication is also good, he responds to our wishes and we are actually very satisfied with the label.
J: You have to be honest. Of course, we would have liked to take the next step and get a bigger company. We also renewed our contract with F.D.A. relatively quickly. Of course, we could have looked for a bigger label, but honestly, we don't have any ambitions to conquer the world somehow and Rico didn't disappoint us. It's our hobby and everything has worked out so far and he did a great job with the new album. And I think for a band of our size it's all okay. Of course, we see other bands that have grown up faster, but it's not a competition and we don't begrudge the others and we are super happy with what we have. We are completely satisfied when we get encouragement via Instagram or Facebook and the sales figures are also completely okay. The LP was sold out after two or three days.
B: Maybe that has something to do with Corona, too, that people are now supporting the bands more and investing the money they usually spend at festivals in vinyl and merchandise. We also feel that we have made a certain name for ourselves over the years. When we first started playing, our dream was to release an album under the name "Slaughterday" and everything that has come out of that is really an added bonus. We collaborated with different artists, like Adam Burke for our new cover or Martin van Drunen wearing our shirt on the livestream. Those are the kind of things where you think everything went great for us and we really can't complain.
J: I remember when we started rehearsing and thinking about what band name to take. At PartySan we looked at Autopsy and said "Slaughterday, cool band name, that's what we do!!!". A few weeks later I met Henne (Hendrik Bruns; M.), the guitarist of Obscenity and told him about it. He asked what it was going to be and I said, "let's see but it would be cool if we got an offer from F.D.A. at some point". At that point I thought F.D.A. - awesome company, they had just released the demo of Chapel of Disease, Sulphur Aeon and Skeletal Remains. It was perfect that Rico contacted us two weeks later and wanted to hear our songs.
Looking back, would you change anything on your albums or are you still completely satisfied with the results?
B: Maybe some small things in the sound, but that's what the albums live on somehow. I don't know anything where I would say in retrospect that it annoys me. Of course, we have developed further, also in terms of drumming if you compare it with the first albums, but that was also due to the fact that I didn't play for long at that time. I was just drumming, and I never had my own drum set and when we started with Slaughterday, I bought the old kit from our current live drummer that he had in his garage. So, from my side, there's nothing I would change in any way. I still like to listen to everything, from the demo to the new album, always being the most satisfied with the new album as well. All the albums have their charm and also with the decisions we made, there is nothing I regret either.
J: Everything has its time and when we recorded the demo we were still using the HM-2 sound and I really wanted that at the time because at that time that sound was new and not yet as washed-out as it is today. Since I had been playing with Obscenity for 16 years at that point, I thought I had to change something completely. But then I also finished that with the demo and relatively quickly said that the HM-2 sound limits us too much and everyone does that.
B: Then you are immediately compared with Entombed or Dismember and with HM-2 sound you can also play pop music or punk and people still compare you with those bands.
J: That's when it was written that we were a Dismember copy and I was just wondering where to hear that. Looking back, sure, there are one or two Swedish riffs on there, but I still didn't think it sounded like Dismember. That's why we decided not to use it on the first album.
B: I think especially with the demo and the first album you notice that we threw all kinds of ideas into one pot. There you can really hear some Swedish sound and also other influences. On the second album our sound is clearly recognizable for the first time.
Who had the great idea with the Slaughterbeer shirt? That's very cool, especially as I see that you like to drink Köstritzer! (https://www.facebook.com/slaughterdayofficial/photos/)
J: The idea came up when we were sitting at Jörg's place drinking beer in the evening and there was also Cliff sitting there, who made the design for the shirt. I looked at the label of the bottle and said that looks pretty cool, especially since the beer is also very tasty. And that as a Slaughterday death metal logo would also look very cool. We just kind of philosophered about it for fun and the next day we got a design from Cliff without being asked.
B: Exactly. He sent it in the evening or at night and we changed it a little bit, for example the city coat of arms of Leer instead of the state coat of arms of Thuringia and then we made it. We have always thought a little bit that we wanted to make this as a shirt and that has then taken on a life of its own. Actually, we only wanted to make a few, but they were sold out super-fast and then we made some more. And now Martin van Drunen has advertised again and now everybody wants to have the shirt again. We can also use the money for the band budget and it's also a funny action. And we've always said that it's all changed so that Köstritzer can't come at us with legal things and meanwhile they're even liking our Instagram posts and stuff, so they can't be seriously mad at us, haha.
Why don't you do a gig at the Köstritzer Brauhaus in Weimar?
B: That would be cool, of course! Actually, we would have to do a brewery tour there and then make a YouTube video out of it, haha!!
Which albums that have come out recently can you recommend?
J: That's difficult, because honestly, we're not that interested in newer stuff. And new death metal even less.
B: Yeah, what you need is all the old stuff. The stuff from the 90s you have in your closet, there are some newer bands....
J: Oh, you have to have the new Asphyx, of course.
B: There are some new albums sometimes, but if I'm honest, I always buy old stuff more than anything else. I'm still discovering old stuff that I kind of missed at the time. For newer stuff, I thought the last Repuked album was good because it was a good mix of groove, punk and death metal.
A friend asked me to ask about your favorite Bolt Thrower album. We talk about it so often....
B: I would say "...for Victory", that's the most perfect. Almost everything is right. Actually, all the albums are good, although I don't think the Dave Ingram album is that strong. But "...for Victory" is their "Reign in Blood", I think.
J: I think "The 4th Crusade" and "Mercenary" are good.
And which five albums would have to go with you to a lonely island?
-Autopsy - "Mental Funeral".
- Death - "Scream Bloody Gore
- Massacre - "From Beyond
- Entombed - "Clandestine"
- Iron Maiden - "Live after Death"
- Autopsy - "Mental Funeral"
- Repulsion - "Horrified"
- Rigor Mortis - "Rigor Mortis"
- Kreator - "Pleasure to Kill"
- Iron Maiden - "Somewhere in Time," "Seventh Son..." or "Piece of Mind." Quite Difficult.
J: I could just take a USB stick with me, haha!!!
B: Nah, that's not allowed!!!
Thank you so much for this great interview; hope to see you at a concert soon!!!!
B + J: Thank you for making the interview!!!
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