Anyone into oldschool Thrashin’ Death Metal? Well, then you gotta make sure to check out the highly impressive debut by California’s new hopefuls DEKAPITATOR "We Will Destroy… You Will Obey!!!" The following interview with vocalist Matt Har… ehhh Hellfiend was done to give you a little taster of what to expect from the guys…
I was very surprised when I found out that the very first DEKAPITATOR interview ever appeared in Germany’s TALES OF THE MACABRE fanzine… So, how long has the band been together at the time and was your pretty unnoticed situation up till then due to lack of interest from the media or were you simply too lazy to promote the band yourselves?
"Yeah, we were really surprised to get in there as well. "Tales" is one of my favorite magazines and to get our first interview in there told me that we were doing something right with the band. As far as being unnoticed, DEKAPITATOR hasn’t really tried too hard to promote itself so far – it cuts into our drinking time! The whole thing with this band is that everything has just kind of come together so far. When we started fucking around with riffs and ideas, we had no idea how far it could go, but one thing led to another and another, so here we are. So far we have remained pretty much totally underground, and that’s fine with us, but the next album will hopefully be more widely distributed, etc. so we can become humongous rock stars and sit on our asses all day!"
As you are located in California, I suppose you already had several possibilities to play out live. Tell us a bit about your most memorable shows so far (good or bad) and with whom you already shared the stage?
"We have played a handful of shows, supporting bands like Sadistic Intent and Dark Funeral. We had one show supporting Immortal, but they cancelled – we played anyway of course! We just played in LA for the first time at the "November To Dismember" fest where bands like Agent Steel, DRI, Testament, Enslaved, Dark Funeral, The Haunted, Witchery, Deceased, etc. also appeared. Most of our shows have gone really well, surprisingly enough. Even if the crowds haven’t been huge, they’ve been very supportive at all our shows, so we have no complaints."
How’s it like to play this old styled form of Thrashin’ Death Metal in Bryte? Do you have a scene for this type of music in your area? Any cool clubs, bands, promoters, magazines or whatever? By the way, I never heard of Bryte before, so I suppose it’s a rather small city, isn’t it? Any bigger cities near you that people might be more familiar with outside the US?
"There’s a reason you’ve never heard of Bryte. It’s a piece of shit! None of us actually live in Bryte (thankfully!), that’s just where our PO Box is located. Andy Maniac and I live in San Jose (near San Francisco or Oakland) and Dan Bulldoze and Wes Blackwulf live in Sacramento (Bryte is a suburb of Sacramento). The scene in the Bay Area is not too bad, there are only a handful of places to play, but there is a core legion of die-hards that support Metal 100%. John Cobbet is a great promoter that does a weekly Metal Show that supports all the bands in the area, which is definitely cool. As far as bands, there’s some good ones, but none that really are in the same vein as Dekapitator. Some local bands that are great though are Plutocracy, Benumb, Vulgar Pigeons, Deadbodieseverywhere, Falling Over Drunk, Impaled, Weakling (RIP), Prevail, and a few others that I can’t think of right now…"
You are so heavily influenced by the old Death / Thrash Metal gods of the 80’s that I suppose that you are all a little bit older already and that DEKAPITATOR wasn’t the first band for all of you… So, what have you guys all been up to until you finally formed DEKAPITATOR?
"Our drummer and I have been playing together for 10 years now, mostly in the band Exhumed, (in case you’re wondering, Col is his middle name, Andy is his first name), and we met Dan, our bassist in the early 90’s when he was playing in a Death Metal band called Colostomy. Around ’97 or so we started hanging out a lot, and Dan wasn’t in a band at the time, and since we were always going out record shopping and shit, and looking for all the old stuff, it seemed like a natural thing to do. Wes spent some time in jail before joining the band, but he has split now to work with me and Col on a new project called Cadaverizer."
What exactly lead to the origin and how does DEKAPITATOR differ from any possible previous bands of yours? When exactly did you start with DEKAPITATOR?
"Dekapitator is obviously a lot different than Exhumed, which more like old Earache style Death Metal / Grindcore. Dekapitator just kind of grew gradually from about ’97 on. At one point we were considering the name Hammerfall, but then these fucking Swedes came along and… We really had no aim as far as doing a record or anything, we were just getting together, getting wasted and playing the music we liked. ‘Attack With Mayhem’ was the first song, taken from a leftover riff from an old project band we had. Then came ‘Faceripper’, ‘Make Them Die’ and ‘Haunted By Evil’."
Even though the oldschool influences in your songwriting are quite obvious to recognize, you luckily never sound as stupid and pathetic as all those fuckin’ retro Thrash bands that used to pop up over the last couple of years. So, how do you manage to deliver this honest feel? Which bands actually had the biggest influence on DEKAPITATOR’s style?
"Hmm… I guest the obvious ones would be Exodus, Possessed, Exorcist, Kreator, Bathory, Venom, Slayer, Assassin, shit like that. I think the first 7" is more in the Bathory vein and the album is more similar to Exodus / Kreator. We don’t believe in stealing riffs, like Inferno or Aura Noir. That’s fucking weak… We are in the same vein as the old stuff, but we’re here to continue that sound and add to it, not just replicate it. One of the inspirations for the band was hearing shit like Inferno and thinking, "fuck we could do WAY better than that!" One thing that I want to say just to set the record straight – the skull in the logo was entirely the label’s idea, and we were never asked if it was Ok – it’s the only stolen thing about the album!"
In DEKAPITATOR you all decided not to use your real surnames, but typical cliché ones instead. Don’t you think that people might easily connect you with the retro movement because of that even more?
"We never really gave a fuck if people do or don’t connect us with the retro movement, the real reason we used the names is to distance the band from Exhumed, because it’s a totally different thing. And since Andy and I have fake last names, it would sound stupid for Dan and Wes not to as well. I know a lot of people have dismissed us because they think we’re part of that, but I guess I really don’t care if people don’t like the band – they can fuck off! There are other bands out there that are doing Thrash correctly, not just bullshit Norwegian crap like Desekrator or Aura Noir – Hypnosia, Maze of Torment and Serpent Obscene are all fucking great bands that people don’t take as seriously as they should because of all the retro-garbage that’s come out. It pisses me off that a few assholes should just make crappy records and then when people who really care about the music do something, the press and fans automatically assume it sucks, just because of all the shitty project bands on Osmose that came out a while back!"
How long did it take until you managed to record the material for the split 7" with NUNSLAUGHTER? Was that your first release or did you spread any demo- and / or rehearsal tapes previously already?
"We never did a demo or rehearsal tape. We were hanging out with Wes at the time (this is before he joined), and he was planning on doing a Nunslaughter / Derketa split 7", but there were a lot of delays for the Derketa side, so he asked us if we wanted to do it. We said, "sure, what the fuck?!? Fucking Nunslaughter!" and the rest is history. We had about 4 or 5 songs written at that point, and we chose the two that fit together the best. If you notice, the end of the 7" has a fadeout of the beginning of ‘Faceripper’, letting you know that was only the beginning…"
How did you actually get together with NUNSLAUGHTER for this release? Did you know the guys already and how did the whole project exactly come to live then? Was that EP a limited edition? By the way, I never heard of Midnight Records before, so maybe you can tell us a little bit more about them as well?!
"We had never met Nunslaughter before, but we knew about them and had heard their "Face Of Evil" demo, so we knew the split would be sick. That EP was limited to 1.000, and if you have any extra copies send me one – I traded my last 7" for something (probably alcohol) and I don’t even have one myself! Wes did Midnight Records, and I think that that’s the first and last release he’s ever doing. He just wanted to do a cult release that would be quality. He is one of my closest friends, so he just asked us to do it and of course we said yes. It all came about extremely casually and naturally, which is what we like!"
Those songs on that split EP (‘Make Them Die’ and ‘Haunted By Evil’) also appeared on your debut full length album "We Will Destroy… You Will Obey!!!", so were they recorded in the same session already or did you re-record them for the album?
"We re-recorded them for the album, to get a better sound, and to get them tighter. Plus, the 7" was already becoming hard to find at that point, so we thought we should re-record the songs just to have them out there. The version of ‘Haunted by Evil’ on the 7" is actually better, though… It’s got a more sick and evil feeling to it. The faster stuff, like ‘Make Them Die’ turned out a lot better on the album, though."
The album originally was supposed to come out on Extreme Subterranea Records, but it ended up on Black Metal.Com… What was the reason for that? Or was it just a name change of the label?
"It’s the same company, just different name. They had put out a couple of other records under Extreme Subterranea, so we figured they would use that name, because "BlackMetal.com Records" sounds kind of dumb… Oh well."
With James Murphy you hooked up with an experienced and quite known musician for the production of "We Will Destroy… You Will Obey!!!" – how did you get together with him and did you never have any doubts that he (being a pure Death Metal musician in the first place) might misunderstood what kind of sound you really need for DEKAPITATOR?
"We knew James from mixing the first Exhumed album, so we knew he was totally into Destruction, EXE, Indestructible Noise Command, Exciter, and other shit so it worked out great. I talked him about the album well before hand and he knew what we were looking for. He also gave us a GREAT deal, so how could we not use the guy? I think the sound is great – almost perfect for the album. He also pushed me personally as a guitar player so that was a big plus."
Did you get along with him well? I mean, he’s got a very weird reputation, so…
"James is a very weird dude, hence the reputation. He’s a great engineer and a brilliant guitarist, just kind of disorganized and scatterbrained. He also has one of the goofiest senses of humor out of anyone I’ve met in the scene. Working with him can be stressful, but in our case it turned out fine. I know that some other people have had some problems with him, but he did a great job for us on this album."
How did you get Frederik Soderberg of Sweden’s DAWN to do some back-up vocals on the album? Is he living in the USA nowadays?
"He was here on holiday and staying with me for a couple nights, so being a total Thrash maniac, he came down to the studio a couple of times, so we figured why not?"
There was also talk about some possible compilation appearances of DEKAPITATOR… Tell us more about that, like which compilations you are (supposed to be) on, with which songs and so on.
"We recorded a different version of the song ‘Hell’s Metal’ for the "Thrashing Holocaust" compilation for Necropolis. It was recorded before we did the album and has a much rawer sound, for sure! We also recorded a Destruction song for a tribute album that will never come out – ‘Invincible Force’. No plans for any other compilation appearances right now, but we won’t rule anything out either."
It seems that you’re pretty close to the EXHUMED guys and as far as I know you (Matt) also play with them, so how did that situation evolve?
"Andy and I have both been in Exhumed since the beginning, and before we got a hold of records from bands like Carnage, Terrorizer, and Repulsion, we were listening to stuff like Dark Angel, SOD, Possessed, Voivod, etc. so when the Death Metal scene took a shit in the mid 90’s, we rediscovered all the stuff we had been listening to at age 12-13 – all the Thrash stuff. We have always had a lot of ideas for different bands, but Dekapitator is the first one that we actually made a real band."
On your album there is a dedication to SENTINEL BEAST… Is that the old band from the 80’s? Are they still around? What made you dedicate the album to them?
"Wes sent out a dedication to all the bands from his hometown, Sacramento, like Sentinel Beast and Rabid. Both bands have been inactive for years, though. We are all into the West Coast Thrash movement, esp. the Bay Area bands like Sadus, Vio-lence, Kaos, Epidemic, Exodus, Testament, Horde of Torment, Death Angel (the first album), Hexx, Piranha, Laaz Rockit, etc. It’s important to us that we try to bring the image of the Bay Area back to something other than Machine Head and Skinlab poser shit…"
You also sent greetings to BLOODFEAST… Are they back together again?
"They got back together for one show in New Jersey and it was fucking awesome!! They played right before the Whiplash reunion which was fucking great as well! Wes and I are both in touch with Kevin Kuzma (Bloodfeast drummer) and he is totally into Dekapitator, which is a fucking honor for me…"
"We Will Destroy… You Will Obey!!!" came out back in 1999 already, so I suppose that you have written some new material already. Tell us more about it, like how it sounds like compared to your debut album, name some new songtitles and when we can expect a new DEKAPITATOR release…
"The new stuff that we’re working on is definitely faster and more aggressive so far, with more intense crunchy breaks for moshing! Mostly it’s just a lot faster, meaner, and more technical so far. We still plan on keeping the "Exciter-speed" songs like ‘Release The Dogs’, which are more rooted in traditional Metal, but more of the all-out speed stuff. The new songs will also deal more with a post-apocalyptic world, and technological violence, etc. and less about Satanism and things like that. Some of the titles we have so far: ‘Screams From The Holocaust’, ‘Earthscorcher’, ‘No Turning Back’, and ‘Caught In The Crosshairs’. We hope to record a new album by next summer, but that all depends…"
Will you continue to work with Black Metal.Com in the future? I mean, their distribution overhere in Germany seems to be pretty poor as almost no mail-order knew about DEKAPITATOR’s existence when I personally was trying to get your album, so… So, were you at least satisfied with their work in the US?
"We are currently looking to sort out a new record deal. The thing with Blackmetal.com is that they are friends of ours and just wanted to do the album as a favor, nothing too serious, so we weren’t really expecting too much in the way of promotion, etc. It was just intended to be a small, cult release. They financed the recording and artwork, which was great as well. Again, they just casually asked us if we wanted to record an album, and no one else had approached us about it, so we just went for it. It’s a very informal agreement and everything else, so weren’t really expecting to headline Wacken or anything. But now that the album is out and people seem to really like it (if they can find it!), we want to go for something better next time, with proper distribution and promotion so we can get out and tour, etc."
Anything else you’d like to add to this interview?
"Thanxxx for the interview Frank – a true fuckin’ rivet-head! Posers beware, and the rest of you train your fucking necks for the day when the Headsplitting Metal of Dekapitator annihilates your town! In the words of the mighty Nifelheim – FUCK OFF!! You can order the album at www.blackmetal.com or visit our still under construction website at www.vacantgrave.com. Also check download live videos of us live in Los Angeles at www.loudnet.com."