DESPONDENCY, maybe the most extreme Death Metal band in the East Frisian / Oldenburgian (Germany) scene, has made a first step to fame and therefore immortality from the deepest underground to a record deal with an underground label. Time to contact guitar player Steffen Ilm via email (he just lives too far from my place, probably more than 5 miles!!!). Unfortunately, singer Konni wasn’t interested in answering any questions about his Black Metal past (I won’t say anything now so he doesn’t beat me up) but Steffen showed some professionalism: after we accidentally met in Oldenburg I persuaded him to do the interview nevertheless. The next day I found it in my inbox. That’s the way I like it, baby! Alright now, finally I’m going to shut up and leave the talking to Steffen.
Do you remember the reason why you formed DESPONDENCY? What were your favorite bands back then and did that change over the years? When exactly did you found the band?
"Hi there! Dirk and I founded the band in spring 1999 to play just the music we liked and still like most: Death Metal! It was just like, hey, we play instruments, let’s start a band in this style to be as cool as Suffocation, Deeds of Flesh or Cryptopsy, simply like that! These were the bands we were mostly into back then, nothing wrong with them even nowadays although the focus of some band members has switched more into the new school Death Metal corner over the last years."
How did you get together? Who was in the first DESPONDENCY line up – how and when did you meet everyone? Please introduce your bandmates and yourself to us briefly, e. g.: former bands, function in DESPONDENCY apart from the instruments, etc. Wasn’t Konni in a still active Black Metal band called FUNERAL PROCESSION as well? How did he sound in those days?
"The first line-up wasn’t very different from the actual one: I and my buddy Dirk then asked Patrick Schwarz if he would be interested in playing the bass. Patrick was in contact with a guy called Heiko who instantly became the other guitarist. And last we got to know Konni, vocalist for FUNERAL PROCESSION and GALLERY OF DARKNESS (R.I.P.), who joined us due to his increasing lack of interest in Kiddy Black Metal. Well, how did he sound at that time, how a Death Metal shouter has to sound like of course: a veeeerrrry deep voice similar to Ross Dolan and Joe Ptacek. He was also able of doing these high pitched Helheim / Burzum cries, but that’s now history. The line-up changed in the end of 2000 as Patrick had to leave, therefore Heiko picked up the bass and a long time after Mike joined as a new guitar player. So DESPONDENCY now consists of: Me (Steffen) on the first guitar. I’m a student and way of a manager for the band. Dirk, drummer and first aid man. Also played a short time in Funeral Procession (studio job) and much longer in OF TREES AND ORCHIDS / INGURGITATING OBLIVION. Konstantin (Konni), vocalist and metal worker. Also sang in FUNERAL PROCESSION and GALLERY OF DARKNESS. Mike, other guitarplayer. Was active in BANISHED, DEFORMED and VENESECTION. Works as a car mechanic. Heiko, bassplayer and also student. Played also in some kind of Party band years ago."
How did you find a name for the band? What made you despondent? Didn’t you listen to MANOWAR in those days? Courage, brother, courage!
"I came up with the band name because the proposals of the other guys were gay, hehe. We are despondent when we look at the deeds of humankind and the condition of this planet. Man’s stupidity has just no limits… I’ve to admit that I don’t get your hint with MANOWAR (I’m not sure if I wanted to express something with this, either – Ramon) but I feel it’s the right time to state once and for all and public that I liked them as a young teenager and now like them again and that I don’t longer want to hide this passion. Now I feel better."
At least on "Extinction" the song titles seem to carry deeper thoughts than the usual hack and slay cliché. As there are no lyrics printed in the booklet (purposely or due to lack of money?), could Konni comment on the lyrics on that CD?
"Yeah, lack of money and no interest in getting them public, at that time and still today. As for the lyrical contents, the songs are about our view on mankind’s misery and that what will happen for sure in our opinion -> the failure of the human race, what we think about stupid humans who deny that, religious faggots , their ideology and what’s left of real virtues and qualities. Thus it’s very angry stuff. Sorry, the vocalist is temporarily unattainable because of heavy body building sessions combined with a nearly total rejection of food not of coffee, so these few sentences concerning the lyrics have to suffice."
Song titles such as ‘Womb Of Shit’ or ‘9mm Headfuck’ on the new promo sound more superficial. Does that imply a change of direction or what are the songs about, Konni?
"It’s me, so no in depth comments possible again. But I think the quintessence of the songs has not changed but mere modified into a more angry and hateful, thus also more direct and explicit direction. Still antihuman feelings expressed in a more gory way."
What inspires the lyrics to the songs and how important are they for the band and for Konni? I remember talking to him some time ago and he regretted having published his lyrics for GALLERY OF DARKNESS (R. I. P.). What’s the reason for it? Don’t you think they’re good enough or would you rather prefer some mystery around that? Is that still your opinion and will there never be lyrics in the upcoming CDs’ booklets?
"As far as I remember Konni is heavily inspired by some novels he read but I don’t know the titles anymore, so this "mystery" is my fault at the moment. Also everyday life and thoughts on humankind’s developments may contribute to the lyrics. I just could assume he regretted that because he could have better used the lyrics for DESPONDENCY very soon. But don’t nail me on the aforementioned statements because I’m not responsible for the lyrics and just can state what I remember and know about Konni and his considerations. By the way, the lyrics won’t be printed in the booklet of the upcoming full length, either."
As far as I know your drummer Dirk created the DESPONDENCY logo. He doesn’t have a computer, right? So that means he drew it by hand? Did he do other logos as well? Can other bands contact him for making a logo for them as well?
"Haha, no he doesn’t own such a crazy box! He is talented in drawing so as we needed a logo he drew one and it was OK for it’s time. His logo recently was modified and transferred into the virtual worlds by Thomas of Necromaniac zine, also a highly talented guy regarding drawings and covers (except for the horns, goats and penises, haha). Dirk made some rough drafts of logos for thought-of side projects as far as I know but I don’t think he has the time to draw for other bands. But I don’t know really, in case of interest just ask him."
Dirk used to play in OF TREES AND ORCHIDS (now INGURGITATING OBLIVION) as well. What was the reason for him to concentrate on DESPONDENCY? Do the guys from INGURGITATING still speak to you?
"The reason was simply that he had to choose for one band due to his lack of time. Both bands demand full devotion and commitment, so he concentrated on his ever main band DESPONDENCY. Don’t know if there were other influences on his decision. As far as I experience it there are no hard feelings between the two bands, they have always supported each other and so it should be. We are also friends with some of the INGURGITATING guys for a long time now."
How did your collaboration with F. Cthulhu E. (INGURGITATING) for that sick solo in ‘Dogmatic Stranglehold’ ("Extinction" mini CD) come to life? Did Dirk ask him? How do you handle that part in live situations nowadays? Maybe I should have listened more carefully at your last gig
"As said, he supported and encouraged us since the beginning and after the departure of Patrick also agreed to help us out on the bass on four tracks during the "Extinction" recording sessions. If I remember right he asked us if he could do a solo for the MCD which we didn’t refuse. No more solos neither in the studio nor live anymore, just concentration on the basics of brutal music. Were only two in our songs so far, though."
Was "Extinction" your first recording ever or did you release any other demos before? How many copies of that CD did you sell and how many did you send out to labels? Did you get any response from the business side? How did the Death Metal fans respond?
"Yes, the "Extinction" MCD was our first recording ever. It was financed, recorded and promoted all by ourselves. The 500 copies were send to some labels in Germany and also abroad, as well as to mailorders, distributors and zines and are sold out for a long time now. We even got one or two offers from labels but that was nothing we searched for so we refused and kept composing and waiting. The response from our contacts from all over the globe was hardly believable for us, we had never expected such overwhelming feedback on our first output!"
Where does that strange intro for ‘Mocking The Blind’ come from and how does it fit into the record? Does that mean you’re mentally disturbed?
"Konni and I are fascinated by the TV series and movie "Twin Peaks" by David Lynch, so we surfed the net and found two nice samples to use for the MCD. The third one is Charles Mason stating some unusual motto. I think the samples are just weird and interesting and aren’t specially linked to the respective track. Just crazy stuff! And if we wouldn’t be mentally disturbed in a way or another we wouldn’t be into extreme Death Metal, would we?"
You recorded the "Womb Of Shit" promo at the Soundlodge studio again, just like your debut mini CD. Did you consider other options as well or was this your No. 1 choice? Some call Jörg Uken the Peter Tägtgren of the underground as his productions always sound good but a little faceless. Are you satisfied with his job and will you record your first full length there as well?
"Jörg Uken was always our first choice so far. He’s reliable, has good equipment, passion and knows how to handle his knobs. Not to mention the fair prices. Regarding his productions I can only say tastes differ. We were always satisfied with the Sound of our records at the time we recorded them and got them produced, and so we recorded our first full length CD there again in late June. Expect the heaviest sound we got so far!"
The cover artwork for "Extinction" was created by the Clockwork Wizards – Tim from SENESCENCE, so to speak – whereas Thomas Westphal (Necromaniac zine) is responsible for the "Womb Of Shit" cover. How come? Weren’t you satisfied with Tim’s work or didn’t he have the time? Who will create your next cover?
"Tim did a great job for our first offering but then moved to New Zealand soon after having layouted our stuff. Thomas is also a great artist and did a great job, too, although a bit different in style and expression. For both records we came up with the concept and main ideas for cover and layout and Tim and Thomas then experimented and put it together. Deather from Czech "In Deed Hell" zine made the cover for our upcoming "God On Acid" album, a stunning work as always and as we expected it from him."
I already mentioned your upcoming full length album. It will be released by Revenge Productions. How did you get the deal? What was your strategy? Was this your only offer or was there more response? How many demos did you send out? Why did you take the Revenge offer?
"We sent the "Womb Of Shit" Promo CD-R we recorded in October 2002 to numerous zines and labels again and got roundabout fifteen offers for cooperation back. Dani´s offer was one of the best but what was most decisive finally was the fact that he’s situated in Germany so we have a better control over what he’s doing. We did a few trades and he showed interest in us, also invited DESPONDENCY to his Ludwigshafen Deathfest last year where we talked and negotiated about our expectations. Dani has a good reputation in the worldwide underground and countless contacts due to his long time presence in the scene and his underground work, so at last we decided to cooperate with Revenge Prod.. Other interested labels were United Guttural, CDN and Deepsend Records among others."
You already played 2 new songs of that upcoming release live. Will there be any old material on it, what can you tell us about that CD today? Do you already have a name for it? When will it be published? I guess it won’t be out on vinyl? Does anybody in the band have a special relation to vinyl or do you prefer the CD?
"‘God On Acid’ will be out in late September 2003 and will consist of nine songs / ca. 33 minutes of hyper fast, brutal and heavy Death Metal in the most American way. The three Promo tracks will be included again in new versions because they weren’t published officially; we only sold some Promos on our concerts to cover our expenses. There will also appear a new version of ‘Highest Form Of Brutality’ from the "Extinction" MCD so you get five "new" tracks, although to most people all songs will be totally unknown of course. As mentioned, Deather was responsible for the cover, Thomas Westphal again for the layout and both did a hell of a good job! There will also be an on 500 copies limited vinyl version of the album out on Harry´s Autopsy Stench Records from Germany! We are very proud of that albeit (here: "although" – I already looked up this word as a service for our readers, haha – Ramon) we don’t have a very special relationship to LPs and normally prefer CDs, I think that’s because of our rather young age. But it will be a very special feeling to hold my own LP album in my hands for sure!"
By the way, you’ve become a lot better in live situations over the last 15 months: Konni looks more self-confident and aggressive and you move a lot more (although it could be even better). When did you drop your despondency? And what about a decent tour? There were people from Holland at your gig in Leer!
"Thanks for your kind words, that’s since the Ludwigshafen Deathfest I think, there we did a great show ´cause we had rehearsed a lot before. There was a little tour planned throughout Europe this autumn which unfortunately didn’t work out, but Dani tries to organize something for next year. We try to play some festivals again next spring and summer, we already got offers regarding that, and we will definitely try to get to the US next year to play some shows! So time will tell, we try everything. Next gigs are at the NRW Deathfest on September 20th, Ludwigshafen again on October 25th and the Gothenburg Deathfest on November 1st."
With people like Dirk and Konni in your band I’m sure you have a funny story for us?
"Mike and Dirk always talking silly shit in "Arschkrampen" style (a German comedy), I mean when they’re not discussing about pussies at the moment. Konni permanently adores himself and his strength and states his abilities as a lover and Heiko hardly says anything. I feel like the only intelligent person on earth standing inbetween this show and try to get through the rehearsal as quick as possible to finally come under people with brains again, hehe (remember who’s doing this intie!)."
Famous last words?
"Thanks for this interview with very special and unusual questions Ramon, and the space and support in the world famous Voices mag! Hope my English didn’t drive you crazy. All the fans of brutal and fast US style Death Metal should check us out on the web www.despondency.de and leave a note in the guestbook! Also check out our upcoming album on Revenge Prod. in late September, you won’t regret it! And there are T-shirts available! Just contact DESPONDENCY at: Steffen Ilm, Pferdemarkt 16 3/09, 26121 Oldenburg, Germany, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.despondency.de, www.revengeproductions.de Cheerz, Steffen / Despondency!"
Interview & pics: Ramon Claassen