Leper Colony - Interview
With Leper Colony Marc Grewe (ex-Morgoth, Insidious Disease) together with Rogga Johannsson has brought a flawless old school death metal album, which (at least for me) is already one of the highlights of the year. It was reason enough to chat with him a bit about the band and the album via cell phone and not only concerning Leper Colony but also some other cool bands he's in, which will release new albums this year (or later) and one or the other will probably provide a big surprise (but I won't tell you more). I hope you'll have as much fun reading this as I had during the interview!!!
Hi Marc, how are you?
Hi, I'm doing well so far (laughs). However, in the first half of this year there is quite a lot happening with me, I just released an album with Leper Colony and what is coming are all albums that I recorded in Pandemic. All the record companies of course want to release it all now and so unfortunately almost everything comes out in parallel. Besides Leper Colony, which was released in January, Discreation is coming out at the end of March and then I have another thrash metal project called Deimo's Dawn. That's being released through MDD Records, which is a label in southern Germany. That album is also coming out in mid-April and then I'm going into the studio with Insidious Disease starting in April and I have another project called As In Hell, for that I'm going to Denmark this weekend and recording something. So I'm a bit tied up at the moment and I'm still active professionally as a social worker and then I'm also a family man with two relatively young children. So there is a lot to do at the moment (laughs).
If you look at the whole thing over the course of the year all the bands are more like a full-time job, or does it happen on the side?
Marc Wüstenhagen has a studio named "Daily Hero Recordings" in Berlin and he's a buddy of mine and I record a lot of stuff with him. I also often get requests for guest vocal contributions and if I like that, then I like to do that. I always do that at Mike's place, which is kind of my house and home studio for vocal recordings in Berlin. During the pandemic there were a few more things, for example with Rogga (Johannsson; M.), who had written to me and with whom I have been in contact for several years. We've talked a lot about how cool it would be to do an album together and I had already done guest vocals for Paganizer and he asked me if I was interested in doing it. He wrote the songs for me, like he said (laughs), it's not the typical Paganizer death metal that he composed, it's a bit different than what you know from him. That was then a thing that has emerged in 2020/21 and by the fact that now everything relaxes again, now also be released.
The album has become quite old-school and reminds me a lot of old Morgoth, Death and newer Slayer like on "Perdition's End" - did he really tailor it to your voice?
Yes, the guitars are not tuned quite as low as in his other projects, by the fact that I simply do not growl as low as other death metal singers, but I would say that my voice is a bit higher. Accordingly, he put the guitars a little higher. Many have written that it is more death thrash. In the 90s they would have said it's flawless death metal, nowadays they say it's death thrash. Due to the fact that the guitars have been tuned lower and lower over the last 20 years, it's probably considered that way (laughs). Of course, the parallels to the late 80's and early 90's death metal bands are also intentional and therefore also somehow a homage to that time, I would say.
Haha, yes, if In Flames is death metal....
Haha, yes, I always have to smile, what is death metal nowadays. In Flames were never death metal for me, that was always more Iron Maiden with heavier vocals. For me death metal is old school death metal and it stays that way! There are so many pigeonholes nowadays, you can't see through them anymore. But I'm probably too old to get it right.
Were you involved in the songwriting?
Musically he did it all, but the vocal melodies are of course mine. There were no guidelines as to how I should sing on it and so it's our collaborative work, but of course I didn't write any riffs or make any suggestions as to what could be done, but he came around the corner relatively quickly with songs where I said it's all pretty good already. I don't know if, before I even said yes, he was already working on it and already suspected that. At first the plan was that it would just be an EP, but then everyone including the label liked it so much and then they asked if you could make a full-length album out of it and then within two weeks there were three or four more songs (laughs). So he has quite a pace in terms of songwriting, you can say what you want about him, but what he does is really quality, he's really fast and has a good nose for songwriting. I think the songs all have a hand and a foot and aren't anything where you think they're too long or too short, it's all to the point. The record is only a little over 30 minutes long, but it's a punch in the face and done. You don't have to artificially add three songs to it so you have 45 minutes, it's a short statement and that's how it should be (laughs).
Was this just a one-time project, or can we expect more?
No, we've already talked about it, that it's not a one-time thing, but it's also not like we're going to put out the next album next year. We like to do something again, but when is not yet exactly defined. We have in any case both are down for it and therefore there will also be a repetition.
When I hear your voice, it still sounds as aggressive and fresh as it did at the beginning of your career. Is it hard for you to still put that power into it, or is it rather easy for you?
I have to say that it has actually become easier over time (laughs), because on the one hand I have more experience and on the other hand I have acquired the singing technique over the years. When you used to drag me to the studio, I remember on "Cursed" for example, I couldn't talk for two weeks afterwards. That's not the case today at all. I think the important thing was that in the mid-90s I had 3 years of singing lessons with a teacher in Essen who did jazz. I went there every week and internalized intonation, breathing exercises and so on. The teacher sang a lot on many Century Media releases in the 90s, after I told them I knew a jazz teacher who could also sing well on some Moonspell or Tiamat stuff. Birgit Zacher.
Oh, that one. Yes, she sang along with Moonspell's "Irreligious"!
Yeah, I then got her into this Century Media bubble after I had the vocal lessons with her. She taught me a lot and since then, I have to say, I've never had any great problems with the voice, it's really amazing. You used to think that you should scream and yell and be done, but if you have a good technique and know what you can put your voice through, then that definitely helps. I also don't think, when I compare it, that my voice has changed a lot, I think I can still reproduce what I put on record in earlier years. But it's probably also due to the fact that I've trained my voice over the years in such a way that I can continue to do that without any problems.
You are also the new singer in Discreation - how did that come about?
That came more or less through a mutual acquaintance of ours, Dani (Lipka; M.) from RockHard. She is a good friend and neighbor in Berlin. She asked me once and said that Sebastian Schilling, who also writes for the RockHard, was probably looking for a new singer and if she should suggest me. I told her that she could do that and that's how it came about. He then wrote to me at some point and sent me the songs they had and it reminded me of really old Morgoth stuff from the demo days. I thought that was cool and interesting and then I said we'll give it a try.
In March "Iron Times", your debut with the guys, will be released - so can we expect some old Morgoth stuff?
I don't know if that's the case. It reminded me of it, but I don't know if other people see it that way. Nowadays you would probably say that it's even black metal riffs on there, but when we started with Morgoth, for me it was rudimentary thrash riffs (laughs). Today a lot of people say it's more blackened thrash. Anyway, for me it was something like Morgoth used to be and that's why I said I want to try this and the guys were really into it.
I also read the other day that Insidious Disease is writing new stuff - can you tell us more about that?
There will be a new album and the new songs will be a bit, progressive is always a difficult word, but some will have a middle part where you think it's rather a bit unusual. In the meantime we have 10 songs that we are recording in England with Russ Russell starting in April. When the album will be released is not yet clear, but the recordings start in mid-April at Parlour Studio, where the last Memoriam was recorded, Napalm Death and so also record there, so this is a connection that we also had with the last album and the first album was also mixed by Russ.
Let's go back to the beginning - you come from a very quiet town in the Sauerland. How did people react to you back then? It's always a thing in the village, I know that from my own youth....
Being a metal fan in the Sauerland in the 80s was something absolutely antisocial and (laughs) disgusting. At that time I did my first apprenticeship as a wholesale and foreign trade merchant and that was a wholesaler for plumbing and electrical. When I then had to stand in for the fancy truck driver from time to time with my young 18 years, drive with a 7.5 ton truck through the Sauerland and distribute the toilet bowls to the sanitary retailers and was sometimes subjected to slogans, something like "we don't let a gay long-haired girl deliver any goods to us!" or was called up at the boss, what kind of guy that was, who delivered the goods and where I think that you could report such guys for discrimination nowadays. Then the boss came in the morning and said that tomorrow my hair had to come off or I would be fired. But then I also said that I wouldn't do that, then I'd just be fired...but then he didn't dare do that either. But that was the time. Meschede has about 30000 inhabitants and I come from a village that is much smaller, with about 200 inhabitants. So we were with Morgoth at that time the only metal fans and then there were a handful of punks and we were at that time virtually the lepers of the Meschede society (laughs). With our black clothes, T-shirts and hair. Not everyone was like that, but Meschede is quite a CDU (a conservative party; M.) stronghold and creatures like us were eyed suspiciously.
Can we see you live with any of the bands soon? I know Discreation will play at End Of Days in Oberhausen this year....
I already told you, Deimo's Dawn, they are buddies from Berlin and with them I recorded a thrash album, the whole thing was produced by Andy Brings, the ex-Sodom guitarist, and with them I play at the Nord or the Turock Open Air in Essen, I don't know exactly at which one. But I think that I will be seen live with the band more often. Then the thing, "As In Hell", which I'm recording in Denmark, I think that will also cause a bit of a stir, because that's with musicians you don't expect to hear a death metal album. So I think the album will come out in the fall and surprise some people!
Cool, I'm curious about that! Thank you very much for the interview!
Thank you too!
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