Asinhell - Interview
I guess almost everybody who listens to heavy metal knows Volbeat and the iconic voice behind this band, namely Michael Poulsen. But maybe not everybody knows about his musical past where he did some fantastic death metal albums with Dominus in the mid 90s. Now Michael is back with a new band called Asinhell where he doesn't do the vocals (this is Marc Grewe) but does the guitar and has gone back to his death metal roots. On September 29th their debut album "Impii Hora" (read review here) will be released via Metal Blade Records and so I took the chance to have a nice chat via Zoom with Michael. Enjoy reading!
Hi Michael, thanks for taking time for the interview. How are you doing?
I'm all good. I'm striking a little bit to talk as you probably can hear, my throat is a little bit sore. I'm going to the hospital in a few weeks because I might get through an operation again but besides that I'm doing really really well. I just came home from the US and Canada being there for a month touring with Volbeat. Now I'm home with my family and my kids and doing some promo work for Asinhell.
A lot of people only know you from Volbeat. I don't because I knew the first Dominus album you released back in 95 and to that time it completely blew me away. Why didn't you just reform that band instead of founding Asinhell?
I never really had in mind reforming Dominus. That was never on my radar because the thing was when I started Volbeat, I never really had the time to have a second band because I became so extremely busy in Volbeat writing music, being in studio but mostly that constant touring that there was no time for a second project. Even though that I am more busy than ever, still being very active in Volbeat and having two kids, I guess there is just the time for everything. Of course, I think like everybody else during the pandemic having the time and being at home, settle down a little bit and reflect on your life and your work and what you wanted to do and what not, maybe that gave me a little bit more air to actually find the time to be inspired and to have a band like Asinhell. You know, it kind of happened out of nowhere because even though I've been listening to extreme metal since I was thirteen and listening to classic heavy metal since I was ten years old and started playing death metal when I was fifteen the desire for death and thrash metal has been there ever since. It's just that I became so extremely busy in Volbeat that there wasn't time for this second band but still a lot of time to listen to the music. I've always been listening to the music and these days Volbeat aren't playing as many shows as we did in the past and that's very strategical, that's a plan that the booking agency and the promoters are figuring out so you don't overexposure yourself because we're basically constant on the road. So we scaled down the amount of shows which means that you will be more at home and that means more air to the brain so you can think about what you want to do. So even with being so busy and having my kids and releasing liquor and everything, there was actually some time to sit down and being inspired by these old school death metal again and how this actually happened was before we went into the studio with "Servant Of The Mind", I had a phone call from LG Petrov from Entombed. We all know that he sadly passed away and I couldn't pick up the phone because I was at the supermarket paying for my groceries. The next time he called it was during the night and I was sleeping so I didn't pick up. The next thing I heard was that he passed away and I was very sad about that because I had a feeling for the reason why he was calling: because he knew where everything was going. So when we were in the studio to record "Servant Of The Mind" and we were about to record the song "Becoming" we had this opening riff that is very much inspired by Entombed. We put this amazing ugly sounding Boss pedal that makes this Swedish sound signature on top of it and alter on we decided to dedicate this track to LG and Entombed. That kind of started something. I was definitely very much inspired and when we went on tour with Volbeat, I believe we were somewhere in the US, Tue my guitar tech tooled to find the Boss pedal on the net so I could sit down and start making some riffs backstage. He said: "Are you going to start that death metal thing now?" and I said "no, I can't really see the time to do that." Just as we were talking about that my mind started automatically playing the track "Full Of Hell" and I was hearing LG screaming "I'm full of heeeellll". So I thought that's a sign from my great friend LG telling "Michael, it's time to do that death metal thing again!". I was thinking that this time I am picking this up and doing it. Tus became so emotional inspired by that happening that as soon as I came home; I basically started writing and it was just like jumping on your bike again and here we go. Very quickly I had a lot of material so that was kind of how it started.
Why did you ask Marc Grewe to join as vocalist – I mean there are many death metal vocalists on Earth?
A very simple answer to that is because he is the best and he is one of my very very good friends. Me and Marc go way back to when I was in Dominus and he was in Morgoth. We had the same distributor in Denmark so by that coincidence we kind of started contact and talked a little. Later on when he formed Insidious Disease we started being in contact again, I was also his best man at his wedding. We've always been in very good contact and became good friends and we often sat down and talked about old school death metal and that one day we go together and do something about it. I believe that Marc was a little bit skeptical because he knew my busy schedule in Volbeat so he said that this is probably not gonna happen because I was too busy. But suddenly I called him up and said: "you know what? I've been in a very small garage with my friend Morton who is the drummer of Raunchy and we actually have a lot of old school death metal songs. So are you ready? He said: "Hell yeah I'm ready! Just send it over". So I asked him how he wanted to listen to it and he said that I just should record it on my iPhone and so I did (laughs). It sounded like a big fucking ugly mess! He said it sounds perfect and that's how it should be. So that's what we did just to give Marc some direction on how I was figuring out the vocals. I put down some demo vocals, I was just screaming and yelling down to my iPhone in the garage so I had something to be inspired by. A very simple end to that, Marc is the best death metal growler of all time. My all-time favorite is Chuck Schuldiner but I also believe that Marc he has that same kind of tone as Chuck Schuldiner and by time he manages to get the song signature sound so I always had him in mind. Thinking about Dominus it didn't make sense to have Marc as front man because I was the frontman and I had no plans on reforming Dominus. That never crossed my mind. I knew when I came back to death metal it would be under a new name, new members and Marc was always the one whom I wanted as a front man.
I remember when Marc told me about the band just before you signed with Metal Blade – was everything already recorded when you signed with them or did you do a pretty fast job after signing?
Everything was recorded and I was actually just about to establish my own label to get it with our management Q Prime. We wanted to release it by ourselves but then, because Q Prime is very good friends with Brian Slagel from Metal Blade, by coincidence they were talking about this new death metal band and Brian wanted to hear it. So he heard what we recorded in the studio and said that he wanted to release that. When I got the news I was like "oh my God, this is perfect! This is the right label, being on Metal Blade with legendary Brian Slagel, come on, it doesn't get any better than that". It was kind of a dream come true because we never really thought about trying to shop the record or get any deal, I was just about to establish my own label but suddenly hearing that Brian Slagel was interested, it all just came together and I said "alright, let's do it!". Now on the 29th of September our debut album "Impii Hora" is gonna be out on Metal Blade.
The death metal on "Impii Hora" is pretty much old school with a lot of influences from Autopsy to Death or Bolt Thrower but there are also some typical Volbeat trademarks to find. What are the biggest influences for it?
Well, the influences I'm aware of are definitely Death, Autopsy, Bolt Thrower, Grave, Entombed, Dismember, Gorefest, early Darkthrone. That's the bands that come to mind when I think of Asinhell.
I know that you're a death metal maniac but was it difficult to write a full death metal album after all the years?
No, it happened quite fast. As I said it was just like jumping on your bike again. Not too much to think about it. I've been playing death metal as you know before Dominus for a very long time so it came to me quite easy. If I'm inspired it's not a problem. So no, that was pretty easy.
9 of 10 tracks are really great but what was the intention of "Föj For Helvede"?
(Laughs). Well, that's my daughter and "Föj For Helvede" is a Danish line. "Föj" is when something is really really disgusting and "For Helvede" means "in hell". So it's something we say when we taste something that's so disgusting that you cannot really imagine it. Or when you see something with your eyes you cannot barely look at it so you say "Föj For Helvede". Something is so ugly or disgusting so that you say that. Or you hear something that is so disturbing that you say that (laughs). So I thought that it fits pretty well for the whole record (laughs). So we just recorded this very short song in the studio and I kindly asked her when I picked her up from school if she could say "Föj For Helvede" down to my iPhone. She just looked at me and said "why?". I said "I'm gonna put you on daddies new record" and she was totally up in the air about it and the only concern she had about it was "but daddy, I'm not supposed to swear!". So I said that she could do that for the next ten seconds. So that's what she did and we all had a lot of fun!
What are the lyrics about? Are they just some gory stories like in "Trophies" or do they have a deeper meaning, maybe a common thread?
Well, it's a question that you should ask Marc because this time I'm not the lyricist but the demos that I did with my vocals on top I was improvising a lot of words. Marc and his friend Frank who did the lyrics used some those words to get to the topics of what we wanted to write about. For us it was just important that the lyrics have to be very dark and they have to fit the metal output in the music and at the same time there has to be some sarcasm, some irony, really dark humor combined to it. I think Marc and Frank really balanced that all quite well. I think it's very excellent lyrics and it totally fits our personalities and our humor.
Do you consider Asinhell more as a one time-project or do you think it is a "real" band with future releases?
It is definitely a band with future releases. We definitely have plans for more recordings and more albums and I already have a couple of things we will start working on. So absolutely this is not just a one record, there are more records to come.
Are there any plans to promote the album live? And do we get some re-issues of old Dominus albums in the future?
Yes, the plan is to go out and play shows next year since Volbeat will not be touring next year because the plan is to write and record the next Volbeat album next year and at the same time I will be out playing shows with Asinhell in 24. So yeah, this is definitely the plan!
Do we get some re-releases of some Dominus albums?
Well, the idea is to release some old Dominus records on vinyl and I guess also on those fancy pantsy medias so people can stream and download it. When that's gonna happen I'm not quite sure, now we just want the Asinhell record to come out but 100% for sure the Dominus releases are closer than ever to being considered being released. I could have released them way back because I have the ownership for all the recordings but I wanted to release them at a time where I thought it would be fun to release them, where it's fun to talk about it and where it kinda makes sense. Now that I have this new death metal thing going on it makes more sense than ever to re-release those recordings so yes, that's definitely something that's gonna happen!
Thank you very much for the interview!!
It was an honor! Thank you so much for your interest and your time, it's really appreciated.
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