It definitely took me a lot longer than usual to fully appreciate the music of German Death / Thrashers DEW-SCENTED… Not because I didn’t like what I heard, but simply because I never really found the time to check out the majority of their later albums. Ok, I’ve seen several DEW-SCENTED live shows in those years and already noticed that something was definitely going on with them in terms of a more matured songwriting and that they had become a rather experienced live act due to their constant gigging. But when vocalist Leif Jensen kindly supplied me with their newest full length "Intermination" I was not only very surprised by its overall high quality in general, but totally blown away by the musical progression that these guys had gone through. A new interview seemed a logical decision, since we haven’t given those guys the deserved support in all those years (the last interview already dates back to our print era). So, here it is, a long overdue fresh in-depth DEW-SCENTED feature that should’ve been done several years earlier already… Enjoy!
Greetings Leif… first of all congratulations to your amazing tenth full length album "Intermination", which after all those years turned me into a real DEW-SCENTED fan as well now… So, how’s the response been on the album in general and did you get any similar reactions like mine, that people who previously already liked you still consider "Intermination" a very big step forward in every way?
"Thank you very much for the kind words, Frank! Coming from you and since we both go a long way back, I truly know to appreciate that! The response for “Intermination” has been great and I think those who like this style of music as well as those who have followed through what DEW-SCENTED are all about have certainly given us really positive feedback. I think we have re-established the band well in these past years and for the new chapter we opened up starting with “Icarus” in 2012. It’s the same band and attitude really, just a little different, I guess… haha! To some others DEW-SCENTED probably will always sound the same and we wouldn’t make them change their general opinion if this is “not for them”, overall. But if you look and listen closer, I would like to agree with you and say that we continue to push the envelope in order to progress as musicians and as entity. We are trying to keep things entertaining and upwards for ourselves, therefore the positive response is definitely a nice extra!"
Apart from the great songwriting I was totally blown away by the great production on the album and really surprised when I found out that it wasn’t even recorded in one of those established studios with a well-known producer… How did you manage to achieve such an impressive result anyway? Who came up with the idea to record in that studio? Has any of you guys experiences in recording technology or was it simply the result of years of experiences?
"Cool to hear you enjoyed the production too! Yes, indeed, we tried something else on this side of things as well for “Intermination”. We had reached the point to experiment a bit in terms of recordings after a few albums done together with Jörg Uken at Soundlodge Studios. Not that we ever were unhappy with the results of our co-operation with Jörg, but much like also with Andy Classen’s Stage One Studio (where we did “Inwards”, “Impact” and “Issue VI”), we thought that after “Incinerate” (which was actually mixed by Andy Sneap though…), “Invocation” and “Icarus”, we would be ready to be more hands-on ourselves. We actually began this process by self-recording the 3 new tracks on the “Insurgent” anniversary compilation release in 2013, but still had those tracks (as well as the complimentary live-tracks) mixed by Jörg. But we learnt a lot from that effort and then decided to try a full album in self-production duties for “Intermination”. Basically it was thanks to drummer Koen Herfst, who was setting up an own studio with solid recording facilities around that time, for which he invested into new equipment and mentioned to be eager to give this a shot on our own. The rest of the guys all have solid home-recording set-ups, so that we discussed with our old friend Dan Swanö about getting him on board for the final mix. He gave us some input and guidance also for the recording process and settings, so that we delivered the right type of material for him to finalize. I added the vocals at Beatpoint Studios, which is the hub of our longtime soundman Klaus Spangenberg. Basically we took a much longer time than usual for the tracks to be completed this way, but it was certainly worth it and a very interesting project. After so many years and releases with DEW-SCENTED, we basically know what we are after and what our style sonically demands. Mr. Swanö was an awesome partner on our quest to achieve a more dynamic and natural sound for the individual instruments. We wanted to sound heavy and extreme, but at the same also organic. All in all, we are super happy with how this album turned out and I like to say that since the general style of our music doesn’t change much, we sometimes need to change the periphery, haha!"
I remember that you once mentioned in an interview that the most important thing for a band is to write good riffs and that too many bands are lacking exactly in that… When I listen to "Intermination" I can only agree with that 100%! Apart from the great production the album definitely lives a lot off the fantastic riffs which not only have the classic SLAYER vibe, in a song like ‘Means To An End’ for example I also traced some EXODUS "Fabulous Disaster" similarities… So, who’s the main riff master in DEW-SCENTED, Marvin or Rory? And which guitarists are their main influences?
"Indeed, that attitude has never changed for us. No riffs = no song! A lot of contemporary bands seem to miss that point and consequently end up with pretty lame results, where nothing really sticks out, even after several listening runs. I personally prefer a good riff to take on the driving seat of a song. You know, even for such extreme playing, when I can hum along to the riffs then it’s all good. The riffs inspire and challenge me to add some strong vocals, which are the next and final rhythmical layer in our sound. So yes, the old school of great Bay Area playing and especially riffing mastery are elements that will always influence us. I never really thought of DEW-SCENTED to be very SLAYER – styled, even though we have been of course inspired by their heaviness and efficient songwriting. But we also have other takes to things in there too. For “Intermination”, it was a solid and fair mix of various writers. While again Marvin took the leading role for creating the album, we now for the first time also had Rory (guitars) contribute 3 songs (‘On A Collision Course’, ‘Demon Seed’ and ‘Those Who Will Not See’) to the record and even Joost (bass) composed 3 pieces (‘Ode To Extinction’, ‘Atavistic’ and the ‘Declaration Of Intent’ intro). I think this helped the diversity of the album and kept everyone working on full steam. But let me pass over to Marvin for some more insight…"
Marvin: "Me and Rory are both responsible for the riffs on offer on “Intermination”. ‘Means To An End’ is one of the songs I wrote. I was really going for the “Impact” – era, SLAYER – type DEW-SCENTED song but with a Bay Area approach to it. I’m a really big fan of Bay Area Thrash Metal. Not the retro / fun Thrash, but the darker kind. Albums like TESTAMENT’s “The New Order”, FORBIDDEN’s “Twisted Into Form” or the aforementioned “Fabulous Disaster”, or “Oppressing The Masses” by VIO-LENCE. That kind of stuff really had a lot of impact on me. And the quality of those albums still remains timeless to me. As far as my main influences as a guitarist, the first that come to mind are Yngwie Malmsteen, Erik Rutan, Tommy Vetterli, James Murphy, Al di Meola and Alex Skolnick. But there are so many others! And these are mainly lead-players. Rhythm-guitarists played maybe an even bigger part. Guys like Jeff Hanneman, Greg Fulton, James Hetfield, Kirk Windstein or Anders Björler have mastered the power of the riff."
For you as a vocalist, with such an aggressive singing style, it must be pretty difficult to improve your skills in the same way as a guitarist or drummer for example, and I can imagine that die hard fans of the band would probably pretty much dislike any twists and turns that you might try out in order to sound more matured… So, do you feel a bit limited in your position sometimes?
"Yeah, pretty good point here! I never thought of myself as a great vocalist and I always knew I would be the love/hate factor for DEW-SCENTED. You know, if we had someone like FORBIDDEN’s Russ Anderson, TESTAMENT’s Chuck Billy or even early days Max Cavalera (SEPULTURA), the band’s compositions would come across pretty differently. But DEW-SCENTED was meant to be about Thrash / Death Metal and my particular vocals are a part of the trademark sound, I guess. We wouldn’t wanna change that at all, so we have to work with it and sometimes around it, haha. I feel there is a ton of detail that one can improve on all levels, even with such extreme vocals. The punchiness of the lines, the lyrics or also the clear accentuation of the shouts (which is an important element to me!) could all always be taken a step further. I am personally really happy with how the vocal were pre-produced (by Klaus) and mixed (by Dan) on “Intermination”. There are also albums where I was not so happy with my performance or final mixing result in the past, so you always learn there too. I like to think of our vocals as the “icing on the cake” for the music as well as cementing glue for the instruments and overall frequencies of the sound. Other than that my role in the band is being the frontman and I am not very musical anyhow, so I have taken the role to be the critical fan as well as the trouble-shooting manager for DEW-SCENTED. And that’s quite a task sometimes as well, hahaha. But coming back to your question… no, I don’t feel limited at all. This is exactly what I always envisioned DEW-SCENTED to be and as long as we still have fresh and powerful ideas as well as the impression that we are able to up the ante for the band with a new release, we will stay on our path. If someone feels he needs to have different musical output to stay entertained, then there are always other band options, guest features and side-project possibilities one could pursue. All of the DEW-SCENTED members actually also play with other bands (even I am doing a fun thing on the side with some friends right now…) because of that. DEW-SCENTED’s style and goal is pre-set and we can always still become better writers and performers within the “boundaries” of our sound. But to me “boundaries” doesn’t have to be a negative term here… we simply know what we want and what we are after with DEW-SCENTED. Too many other bands have "lost their way" because they felt trapped in a musical corner and imagined they needed to be more original or go for a different perspective within their music. That’s ok with me if that’s what they think they believe in, but I also saw many bands “return to what they do best” or whatever their audience appreciated the most after having failed with such shifting of styles. I am very comfortable with my role in the band and with DEW-SCENTED’s approach overall. And as I said many times before, as long as it’s fun and we have room to grow, why would we change things?"
Singing in a brutal style like that must be pretty tough when you’re on stage every evening during a longer tour, especially when you’re getting older. So, have you already noticed that it’s getting more and more exhausting? How do you deal with this?
"It is demanding, but always feels rather spontaneous and almost normal. I think the adrenaline and the power by the music help make it happen, unconsciously. I am usually a rather quiet guy, so this is like an explosion for me and I go a little bit out of character, but there is some routine to it by now. The good thing is that I’m always a bit nervous before shows, which helps the thrill. I have not really noticed a problem with age, but you obviously have to watch yourself (and your body) better, the older you get. And also we play longer shows sometimes these days, so it’s a different type of pressure for the vocals when doing 60 – 75 minutes sets as compared to shorter gigs of 30 – 45 minutes when supporting. A lot of sleep on tour usually helps and also I don’t drink before shows in order to maintain full control over the voice and performance. I wasn’t smoking for many years and I noticed that helped breathing and endurance a lot. But I still don’t do good warm up’s and also have no real technique, so I definitely need to watch out a bit. I feel the voice is getting better with age actually, maybe due to things being more reflected upon and more maturity involved with what we do?! I always disliked it when personal (vocally, but also musically!) heroes of mine got less aggressive or safer over time. I seriously hope that doesn’t happen to us as well. But so far, so good…"
You’ve already had quite an impressive list of rather famous guest musicians on your albums and "Intermination" is no exception either (the duet on ‘Reborn’ with Kyle from EXHORDER is simply awesome!)… Would you mind telling us how you always convince those guys to work together with DEW-SCENTED? Maybe you can also tell us how things usually develop once you have someone in mind for a certain part? Do you usually send them a finished song and tell them which verse / chorus part should be (re-)sung by them or do they also have any creative input themselves?
"Well, it’s mostly personal invites to guest on our albums and those involve people we respect a lot or that have been a direct influence on DEW-SCENTED. We have had a great list of people appear on our albums: Jeff Waters (ANNIHILATOR), Gus G. (FIREWIND & OZZY OSBOURNE), Mille Petrozza (KREATOR), Rob Urbinati (SACRIFICE), Dan Swanö (WITHERSCAPE, EDGE OF SANITY) and now Kyle Thomas (EXHORDER, TROUBLE). Normally I just reach out and ask if they would be up for the feature, as easy as that. To be honest, we try and ask people where we feel it could lead to an interesting result and also, where it’s not the most usual choice. With Kyle, I basically recorded a scratch demo vocal and sent it over to him, where he recorded his parts in a local studio in New Orleans. I actually think his part came out killer and I love the spill and relentless pitch of his voice. I went out to see and meet Kyle at a local show of TROUBLE (one of my eternal fave bands…), who he sings with now. He told me again how much he enjoyed doing the track and also said it was the first time in long years he even recorded such screams. It’s definitely very humbling and a way of coming full circle to have inspirational artists appearing on our releases. Whenever we should have a fun idea for such a feature in the future, we will most likely do it again…"
Did you ever get the chance to perform one of those songs live together with any of the guys (maybe at bigger festivals or something)?
"No, actually that never happened. Could be fun, but so far it’s been mainly restricted to studio work! I have done guest vocals on many albums by other bands throughout the years as well and also joined a few of them on stage for renditions of the tracks though…"
The band already went through many line-up changes throughout the years. What have been the main reasons for them and did you always part on good terms or is there any bad blood between you and some ex-members? Are you completely satisfied with the current line-up now? Maybe you can introduce the current line-up and their musical past a bit more to our readers?
"It’s a ton of different reasons and I have tried to see the band’s history in different chapters as the result from those changes. Our first line-up was a gathering of local friends in Walsrode / SFA, in the North of Germany. It was members from other local bands (SLOW DECAY, FREEDOM BEGINS, MIND PEPPERS) that were going through changes and eventually started out a new group, for which they needed a singer. In this line up (Jörg Szittnick – guitars, Ralf “Shotte” Klein – guitars, both formerly in SLOW DECAY, Patrick Heims – bass, formerly with MIND PEPPERS, Tarek Stinshoff – drums, formerly in FREEDOM BEGINS and then myself as new singer) we recoded our “Symbolization” demo tape in 1993 as well as the debut album “Immortelle” in 1994, even though it only came out in 1996. We started gigging and soon realized that some of the guys were unfortunately not able to bring up the needed time for travels and moving a step further with DEW-SCENTED. We got a very eager and newly started guitarist named Florian Müller in and also Uwe Werning on drums, who also played with MIND PEPPERS around that time. This was the line-up for the next tours and for the second album “Innoscent” in 1998, when we also re-located to Nienburg for rehearsals. And with Shotte moving to Braunschweig for studies around that time, we noticed that we also needed a second guitarist. After a few live-session guys, we ended up recording our 1999 album “Ill-Natured” as a 4-piece and even the “Inwards” album (our proper debut for Nuclear Blast Records) was written that way, even though we found Hendrik Bache as second guitarist around that time. With Flo and Hendrik being located in the Braunschweig area around that time, we also decided to start rehearsing there and had a next line-up change when Patrick was showing less and less interest in being out on the road too. Around 2002 Alexander Pahl (OBSCENITY) joined us as new bassist, initially only to play live but he soon became a full member, even though Hendrik recorded the bass on the “Impact” album in 2003. We were playing out more and more, which sometimes caused friction and for while Flo was replaced by Marvin Vriesde (who first helped us out in 1996 as live-session member) and even though Flo had still written about half of the material, we did the recordings of the 2005 album “Issue VI” as four-piece, with Marvin joining for some lead-guitar parts, the video clip for ‘Turn To Ash’ as well as following worldwide touring. We nevertheless happened to give it another shot with Flo and worked on the 2007 album “Incinerate”, aware of the fact that this would be Uwe’s final recordings due to work / family related matters. We had been using live-session drummers for a while already for Uwe, but now needed a proper new member. We found Andi Jechow as new drummer and he immediately debuted when we taped the video clip for ‘That’s Why I Despise You’ and pretty much directly hit the road again to promote the new album. Around this time, we realized that the band was falling apart and it became tougher to work together in that line-up, which resulted in me and bass-player Alex moving forwards with a start from scratch bringing in 3 new members for a next demo, which eventually got us signed to Metal Blade Records for Europe and Prosthetic Records for North America. Despite some good start, this line-up collapsed again in the summer of 2011 and I was prepared to bury the band for good, when I casually spoke to my old buddie Marvin on the phone and he mentioned the possibility of re-grouping with some local friends of his in Den Haag, The Netherlands. We gave it a shot with the “Icarus” album in 2012, basically starting from scratch and felt it lead to a refreshing new vibe, where everyone knew what and why he was doing something in this new formation. We quickly followed up with an EP entitled “Insurgent” in 2013, which also acted as compilation of live material and rare B-sides to showcase this new chapter of the band, before moving on for the 2015 album “Intermination”, which is where we are at now. You know, time happens to fly when you stay busy and motivated, so I sometimes didn’t even seem to think about anything else but “moving on”, to be honest. I felt if the fire inside the band was there, with a fair chance of keeping the quality level up and creating challenging new material, we might as well carry forwards, regardless of the exact line-up. There was never really any major personal issue between most of the members, apart from 1-2 cases in all of this time. It was simply “life getting in between”. It’s hard to work with full intensity and focus on such a band, when it’s always semi-professional, while it easily feels like a full time thing. Some people get along with others better, some click worse. That can affect the band majorly, so you always need to keep a good chemistry within the line-up. I really enjoy the vibe of this current shape of the band and we have a pretty relaxed and focused attitude towards how we approach things, while still being totally into the music and interested in always taking things to the next level. I think you can easily hear that in the resulting songs and the good time we are having together for rehearsals as well as on the road?! The current line-up consists of Marvin Vriesde – guitars, Rory Hansen – guitars and Joost van der Graaf – bass. We are right now between drummers as Koen Herfst had to leave a while ago in order to focus on other musical projects, so we have had Michiel van der Plicht (GOD DETHRONED) as well as most recently even Uwe Werning handling the drums for us at shows. Obviously Marvin is an old friend of mine and somehow an integral part of DEW-SCENTED for almost 20 years by now, on and off. He used to play with MANIFEST and BLO.TORCH back in the day, who we shared stages with various times. And then after a tour we did supporting CANNIBAL CORPSE in 2002, he eventually joined Death Metallers SEVERE TORTURE (who were playing before us and sharing bus with us), who he’s still a member of. Rory and Joost have last been playing together in a really cool Death Metal band called I CHAOS (with Koen on drums too…) and funnily enough Rory was the replacement for Marvin back in the band in BLO.TORCH. That’s how small the world can be sometimes! Anyhow, yes, very happy to have found these guys and Marvin deserves the credit for keeping things alive. We are actually already working on a next album and with everyone involved with the songwriting right now, I’m sure it will be a blast to compile and record the ideas!"
From what I recall you don’t play any instruments yourself, so how do you manage to keep DEW-SCENTED going with all those different kinds of members yet maintaining the original DEW-SCENTED style? Do you write any songs yourself or do you participate in the songwriting in any way?
"Hmm, good question! Indeed, I don’t play any instrument, but I have always been pretty involved with the musical “quality control” for DEW-SCENTED. Basically coaching the stylistic approach and making sure we stay on course. I have always seen myself as a coach for the band, in a way. Next to handling management and booking duties as well as all of the promotional work, I guess my task was to make sure that line-up changes possibly even help us to become stronger, instead of destroying the band. So yes, obviously we always tried to turn to people that were either fans of what we were doing or who understood what the band was all about, in order to seamlessly be able to continue our path. We usually bounce instrumental ideas for new songs around before we commit to a certain song and then start rehearsing it with everyone until it feels worthy of being added to the final list of material for a next recording session. And yes, the answer here would be that if we don’t consider the idea for the song strong enough or maybe even a bit too different than what DEW-SCENTED is all about, then we simply don’t continue working on it. Every one of us has various musical outlets (bands, projects, session work, etc.) so we tend to know what best fits DEW-SCENTED. And if it’s a cool idea but simply not right for DEW-SCENTED, then one of the other outlets will be happy to grab it, I suppose…"
By the way: is DEW-SCENTED still a band that regularly gets together in a smelly rehearsal place full of empty beer cans and cold cigarette ends or do you send back and forth music files over the internet when you work on new material?
"Yes, very much so. That’s the essence of our style of music. The jamming together and making the songs tight enough for a live performance is a main part of the whole process and will always be. We however, tend to rehearse in a stricter and more focused way these days, as our spare time is limited. We usually either get together as whole group for new songwriting sessions or when we shape a new setlist up for a next touring journey. For new ideas, we obviously prepare and send files around online, so everyone can get familiar with the material and do his homework. The times of sitting around in the rehearsal room for half a day to see who has what great idea after lunch are long gone, haha. And also we don’t really have empty beer cans and cold cigarette ends in the room/s anymore…we have learnt from our mistakes, hahahaha!"
You personally listen to a lot of new music yourself, so are there any bands or albums that you discovered lately that also influenced you musically or lyrically in DEW-SCENTED in one way or another?
"Not sure, to be truly honest. I suppose everything we listen to in daily life will have a certain degree of impact and influence on us. But it doesn’t need to directly show in our music and affect our aim. I think sometimes it simply helps kick ourselves in the ass somehow, when we hear some killer new bands. Like the whole Thrash Metal resurrection with new young bands coming out in the early 2000’s… that was a very welcome movement, which probably motivated all of the older bands work harder again. I also have a lot of respect for serious and musically impressing reunions by classic bands or simply bands that are great to watch with intense shows as well as super tight playing. Like DEATH ANGEL on the tour we did together in 2013 or ANGELUS APATRIDA on the 2015 tour. That can be of great influence. And yes, I listen to a lot of music (in many different styles), so I would be crazy to try and start a list here, but let me mention some bands I have been enjoying lately: VEKTOR, HORRENDOUS, TRAP THEM, GOJIRA, TRIBULATION, DEAD LORD, IMPLORE, POWER TRIP, LEPROUS, MORBUS CHRON, RAISED FIST, DEATHRITE, OATHBREAKER, ALCEST and many more. That said, I also still like most of the records I have liked for like 25 years now, haha. And more established bands like FATES WARNING, TESTAMENT, KREATOR or also NAPALM DEATH have been putting out awesome new albums as well. I also keep a blog called “Silent Sunday” on www.facebook.com/dewscented where I highlight either rare old music or new discoveries on a weekly basis. Check that out if you care!?"
Your albums often get released with bonus tracks on different editions and it might be pretty difficult for a fan to keep up with that. So, I appreciate the idea to include a collection of various bonus tracks on a bonus disc, like you did on the "Incinerate" album from 2007 or the 2013 released compilation "Insurgent"… Will we see other collections like that sometime in the future maybe?
"Yeah, that’s what we were trying with those releases, in order to offer a chance for people to complete their collection. I actually believe we pretty much emptied our archives with “Insurgent” and wanted to use that release not only to celebrate some +20 years of DEW-SCENTED but also to fill the gap between old and new that way. We did some b-sides again for “Intermination” and probably one day when the songs add up, we might as well gather them again for a bonus disc format. I always appreciate it myself when other bands do so…"
Is it still a sales argument for certain territories to include exclusive bonus tracks? Since you’re a fan of other bands yourself, I was wondering about your personal opinion about that?
"Yeah, I guess for Japan it is because of the higher pricing for domestic releases instead of cheaper imports. That said we didn’t have out latest album/s released over there anymore, so I guess our intention was always to create as much good material as possible and then allow our business partner (record labels, etc.) to use the tracks in best interest the release’s success. I usually prefer to prepare and deliver 1-2 songs extra to make sure we can weed out something that (for whatever reason) didn’t turn out too strong, or is less needed to make a compact album. It’s always good to have a solid pool to choose from instead of putting out an album with a couple of not that awesome songs, like I tend to hear quite often these days with bands that have quick output. I personally don’t mind seeing different versions for a new album by a band. I mean, there is always the basic album for everyone. Some people think "more is more", some others prefer a cheaper or even online format these days, etc. I think offering various options for people to choose from according to their individual interests and wishes are a nice thing. You can’t make it right for anyone anyways… I remember it opened my eyes with the CD format coming into place in the 90s when some people started saying “the album is too long”…really?! Wow…hahaha!"
All of your album titles start with the letter "i"… Who came up with that idea? Did you plan to do so right from the debut full length? Have you ever regretted that decision?
"I guess I would be the one to blame for that, hahaha! It started out as a semi-smart idea after our demo tape “Symbolization” to give some togetherness to our first and second album. They even had the enigmatic titles “Immortelle” (which used to be the name of a demo track we then switched to ‘Thirst For Sun’) and then “Innoscent” (yeah, to be read as “In-No-Scent”). Eventually we continued the thread, not knowing we would last this long, haha. We have by now created 10 studio albums (and some sidekick releases) with said pattern and it hasn’t been easy to follow up with excusably strong and fully suitable ideas all of the time. Luckily we always managed to find some term that represented a next record as well as its lyrical theme and artwork in a sold way after all, else we probably would have already dropped the thread. I really don’t have much regrets about anything, really. It’s all part of what brought us here and what shaped us in the way we are. I mean, do I regret choosing the rather misleading and highly confusing name DEW-SCENTED for a heavy Thrash metal band? Yeah, maybe… but what can be done about it now? We have tried to ride on its originality, making sure to establish a sound and attitude that people would easily recognize of what the name stands for. I mean, I always thought it was better than calling yourself some ultra-brutal name and then being caught up in that scheme forever, even though it doesn’t fit your taste and vision anymore. Having said that, no decision has been made yet about the next album’s title for DEW-SCENTED… It’s not like we keep a list or something. We always start anew with “Indecision”, hahaha! The only thing I have said before, is that if some record label does a cheap “best of” release for us, they better call it “Insolvency”, hahaha!"
Apart from the letter "i" and the guest musicians another DEW-SCENTED tradition is to record cover songs. Is it difficult to find bands that you can collectively agree on or is it mostly you to choose the songs you cover and the other guys in the band just rehearse and record them afterwards?
"True! Sometimes I just have an idea with me for a long time and will drop the bomb on the others when I feel the time is right, but some other times, it’s actually input by the others too. I remember we started a shortlist a few years ago and then everyone could mention a few candidates. For the “Icarus” sessions the covers of PRONG and INSIDE OUT were my ideas and then JUDGE and WASTED YOUTH were Marvin’s. Covering ‘Sadistic Sinner’ by INCUBUS is something I had wanted to do for a very long time, as “Serpent Temptation” is one of my favourite Thrash / Death Metal releases of all time. Fortunately the other guys didn’t object (even though it was tough one to learn…) and “Insurgent” was a great point of time to work on that one. For our latest album “Intermination” we recorded 3 covers, SOLSTICE (US), REPULSION and VIO-LENCE. It’s all clear fave bands of mine and definitely influential for DEW-SCENTED, so we wanted to have those covers as bonus track options. ‘Radiation Sickness’ ended up being a great choice to close off the album and has been played live here and there too. VIO-LENCE’s ‘World In A World’ was actually Marvin’s idea and a rough one for my style of vocals, but I really liked how it came out. The power of those riffs… What an amazing band that was! And it was a nice special track to put on the split 7” EP we released with ANGELUS APATRIDA for the tour we did together in 2015. It somehow blows my mind how many cool covers we have already assembled in the turn of the years… and hopefully the list will continue to grow, as I still have some nice and rather obscure ideas here, hahaha!"
The band’s name DEW-SCENTED has been a quite unusual / controversial choice for a Thrash band, so do you still get questions about it after all those years or have people started to accept it in the meantime? Could you imagine that it also turned off a few people who never gave you a chance because you didn’t really fit in between all their CRUSH, KILL, DESTROY type favorites?
"See, there we go with that question, which I believe I already partly attended earlier in this interview. Yes, we do get those questions… look at yourself, haha! I think for plenty of people it’s just a fact by now and they have grown accustomed to the fact that even though it’s an odd name, they know by now that it’s a Thrash Metal band from Germany (and The Netherlands now too, haha). But we sometimes also see “newbies” to the band mentioning the oddity of the name for our sound when they review or comment on a new album. I suppose the internet never shuts up anyhow, so I am not losing any sleep over it. And yes, it has turned off quite some people. We keep hearing that story of how someone wouldn’t really check out the band enough because of the soft, atmospheric and weird name, but the later on hearing the music or seeing us at some show, the impression changed majorly. Oh well, what could you do… I personally try not to judge a book by its cover, even though I totally understand how in these fast-living times, people could look past us because of the name. But yeah, it’s almost 25 years old news by now… and interesting to see it’s still a topic for talk, haha! I guess we must have made something wrong in a pretty right way there, hahaha!"
Right from the beginning DEW-SCENTED has been a band that played a lot of shows, so I was wondering if you still recall how many gigs you have played in total in your career up til now? Have you ever made a list of the entire DEW-SCENTED touring history?
"Yes, we always considered DEW-SCENTED as a live band, first and foremost! I used to keep a list of shows but then slipped some years, so no… I really have no exact idea. But it must have been a lot, hahaha."
Which countries have you already been to with DEW-SCENTED and where did you get the best response from the crowds? Are there any places around the world that you haven’t played yet, that you still would like to go to someday, for one reason or another?
"That’s a pretty tough question, to be honest. We have had a great time all over the place, since we enjoy traveling and seeing places as well as meeting people. We have been around lot and covered most of Europe, North America and we also went to Japan three times. I think a first time in each new country is always special somehow, so we are looking forward to adding more spots to our map of activity. And yes, there is a ton of places I would still like to go to, especially Mexico and South America, as I have strong personal bonds there (I grew up and lived in Colombia myself…) but for whatever reasons, no tour has materialized so far, despite various offers and attempts throughout the years. It’s also interesting to play out with bands of different styles, as oftentimes crowds and venues differ in such cases, so it never gets boring. I definitely feel very privileged from having being able to see a lot of awesome places because of the band and making a ton of friends along the way. That’s priceless!"
You’ve already shared the stage with countless bands over the years, so have there been any real gig highlights among them for you? What about the shitty ones… would you mind revealing the worst DEW-SCENTED gig ever for us?
"Funnily enough it’s mainly good memories! And we have been fortunate enough to share stages with several bands in very special moments of their careers. A tour with NEVERMORE in 2005 for “This Godless Endeavor” comes to mind… the band was simply mind-blowing! Playing with ARCH ENEMY on their “Black Earth” debut album beginnings or with EUCHARIST for “Mirrorworlds” was truly special as well. Or even the fact one of our first tours was supporting EDGE OF SANITY in 1996 on “Crimson” and how we came full circle with having Dan Swanö appear on guest vocals for the “Icarus” album and even mixing down “Intermination” (after he had already done us a favour with “Innoscent” in 1998). We also supported KREATOR, SODOM and DESTRUCTION for some shows back in 2002. That felt like a knightly accolade, haha. And also the tours in the recent years with bands like TESTAMENT, SACRED REICH and DEATH ANGEL have been pretty awesome. But as always, let’s see what the future still brings…"
In the early days of DEW-SCENTED you’ve booked a lot of shows yourself… do you still take care of that these days or do you work with an outside booking agency in the meantime?
"True, I did promote shows in the early days and even did most of the booking myself throughout the years. However, we have realized that for some of our activities it is better and most efficient to work with a dedicated agent that can handle the worktime as part of his full time job. We are now working with Continental Concerts, who currently also take care of bands like SODOM, ACCEPT, AMORPHIS, DEATH ANGEL, INSOMNIUM, KRISIUN and many more. See here: www.continental-concerts.de."
"Intermination" is already your tenth full length album, so I can imagine that it gets more and more difficult to compile the setlists for your live sets… Do you face similar problems as all the other established acts that people simply expect you to play certain "classics"? Which songs have become DEW-SCENTED essentials and do you still play songs from all your albums?
"Correct, with about 120 own tracks to choose from, it’s not an easy task to compile a setlist anymore. But then again, some of the songs never made it into live-sets, even when their respective records came out. We tend to find an agreement between whatever songs we feel work best in our live-set and also what we enjoy most to play. Sometimes we try to look at adding new-old catalogue tracks, but if they don’t feel right, we simply don’t bother. I mean, it’s pretty extreme music and we usually play sets between 40 – 60 minutes, so we can only fit so much. The oldest album we seem to consider is “Inwards” (so the second chapter of the band…) and somehow we usually play a large/r number of songs off “Impact” because those have the strongest live-punch in terms of dynamics and heaviness. And then we obviously try to keep things fresh by playing a selection of new/er tracks that we like best. So yeah, it’s mixed, but not necessarily as in “it must be mixed”. I mean, it’s a bit weird, because unlike most Thrash or Death Metal bands, we didn’t have any cult classic album or super hit-single with our first 3 albums. So we usually have a bit more freedom where to choose from. We try and play the best songs in the best version we can. As easy as that…"
Do you have a personal favorite DEW-SCENTED song and album?
"Again, tough one! I naturally can dig most of our releases for one special reason or another. Sometimes it reminds you of great times to re-visit the material, but apart from rehearsing older songs, I don’t tend to go back and listen to our previous albums a lot. All in all, from the older albums, I probably like “Inwards” and “Impact” the most because of how compact and direct the songs were. I also like several songs on “Ill-Natured” a lot (if only the production was better…) and I can dig large parts of “Issue VI”, even though I am not sure if that was my brightest vocal performance moment, recording-wise. I really dig ‘Conceptual End’ on that album, but that song never got the attention it deserved. But yeah, I usually tend to be concerned more with the present or actually the future, than with the past. We are working on new songs for our next album right now, so I am pretty excited about those…"
Would you say that your constant touring has helped the band in order to gain a bigger following? Did it have any effect on the album sales? Have sales become stronger over the years?
"Oh yeah, absolutely. That’s really the only way to go with this style of music. I feel Thrash really best comes alive in concert room and with audience response. A lot of “modern music” isn’t written to be performed live and is so clinical in theory, that I personally lack interest in it. I am all about the live experience and the power of the riffs in a concert setting. And yes, I feel we have worked up a good reputation because of our relentless live activity throughout the past years and that’s probably the main reason for staying alive, really. I think we have brought the music out to people in a pretty reliable way. As far as sales… that’s a different beast. I don’t know many traditional or long-running bands where sales have become stronger over the years, as the scene and especially the industry has changed so much in the last years. It’s not so much about only selling records anymore, but spreading the music, following up with live campaigns / merchandising and generally staying in the attention of people. But fortunately, DEW-SCENTED are fairly established by now, which allows us to do what we wanna do (recordings and touring) on a pretty solid level of quality. And that’s what matters the most. I would never complain about where we are at with the band, because I know to appreciate the breaks and opportunities we have been given throughout the years. I mean, I always hoped for a fulfilling longterm career, rather than a quick success and then fading out. So yeah, all things considered, we are more than satisfied with how things played out…"
Since the release of your debut album you had the pleasure to work with three rather big and experienced labels (SPV, Nuclear Blast and currently Metal Blade Records)… Without mentioning any names, have they all fulfilled your expectations or would you say that sometimes a more underground based company would’ve been a better option?
"Hmmm, what could I say here that doesn’t sound too wrong?! I mean, we had our share of shakiness as well. Our first deal we actually signed with Major Records back then, but they closed doors before our debut managed to come out. So Steamhammer / SPV took the album over a while later, but also I don’t think they managed to give us enough time and attention to grow with them, so they parted ways pretty quickly again after “Immortelle”. The next two albums were actually released on a small label called Grind Syndicate Media, which was the imprint our manager back then had via Radiation / Nuclear Blast Distribution. It was also that way how “Inwards” was upgraded to come out directly on Nuclear Blast when people there heard the final record, which then lead to a direct co-operation for the coming years (and 4 albums). However, the label kept growing and we realized we were commercially getting too small for them with “Incinerate”, so we ended up looking for a new partner after a while. I think Metal Blade and Prosthetic suit us very well and we are pretty satisfied with how things are going with them, so no worries. As far as underground, I have a bit of a weird theory here. I mean, we did the do it yourself set up all the way with a demo, trading tapes, booking own shows, exchange tours, paying for our own expenses on projects etc. That said, we always got caught up with weird timing, as we were “the odd Thrash Metal band” when everyone was leaving that ride in the 90s and then later on when Thrash had a comeback it obviously helped us a lot as well, but then we were not the young / fresh name anymore. For the current scene, we are not retro or (oc)cult enough, so I felt we have oftentimes not fit a certain movement that labels were looking for. But that’s fine, it really only made us work harder and with more determination. I think we owe a lot of our longevity to the fact that it wasn’t as easy as people might think…"
Your one and only demo tape, "Symbolization" from 1993, has been re-released as bonus tracks on the Metal Mind Records re-issue of your debut full length in 2010, while albums number 2 and 3 ("Innoscent" and "Ill-Natured" respectively) saw a re-release as a double CD… Have all those releases been out of print or what was the reason for that? Any other re-issues in the pipeline?
"Well, Metal Mind actually did a re-release of the whole catalogue owned by Nuclear Blast back in 2010 as digipaks and each album including all available bonus tracks for the respective session. When that project came into motion, we told Metal Mind that we had the rights back for “Immortelle” ourselves and since that one had been tough to find for a while, we decided to allow them to re-release it as well, with the demo tape as bonus. It also allowed us to fix the initial artwork to be more of what we originally had in mind. In regards to “Innoscent” and “Ill-Natured”… well, the original CD versions by GSM had been sold out for a while, so when we did “Impact” around 2003, we had Nuclear Blast release those 2 albums together with new artwork on one disc (not as double CD… they fit on a single disc!) as “Ill-Natured & Innoscent”, which is also the version Metal Mind now put up again as digipak. Actually all of the Metal Mind re-releases came out great, not only because of the bonus tracks, but also we were fully involved with layouts and also added pretty extensive liner-notes. Right now we don’t have any more stuff to re-release, but I was remembering the other day that none of the first three albums has ever been out on vinyl. I mean, not sure if there is enough demand, but it could be pretty cool to see that happen one day. Or even some new edition for “Inwards” or also “Impact” as those only came out as 2-LP back then in a very limited run. Oh well, we shall see… when there is a will there is a way!"
Looking back on the cover artwork of your debut album "Immortelle": would you still release it with the same artwork nowadays?
"I hear you saying you don’t like it?! Hahaha, no worries. I have heard that before, but personally always liked that drawing, which was actually done by Marco Gemmet from Switzerland, who also painted our logo/s. But… do you mean the initial version of the SPV release or the artwork you now see on the Metal Mind re-release? The SPV version had some pretty extreme pink colouring and a really ugly yellow logo, but most annoying of all was that it only featured a fragment of the actual design (it’s first and foremost this strange colouring that I personally couldn’t really understand – Frank). On the re-release we re-worked the original cover (which I still had here in my files!) in terms of colouring and finally made justice to that piece. And you know what… I really like that version. You think of a Thrash / Death / Doom / Hardcore band and the title “Immortelle”, which is a paper-flower, and then this is what you should see, hahaha."
What are your plans for 2016? Any more tours or festival shows coming up for DEW-SCENTED?
"Well, since I took such a long time to reply to this interview (I was trying to break some record here, Frank – I hope you know that!?) (yeah… you definitely succeeded in that – but hey, what are 7 months anyway? Hahaha – Frank), most of the year has gone by as I type this. Our goals this very year were a bit more modest, as we didn’t have such a large window of availability for touring due to various reasons as well as the fact that we were between drummers again. We therefore decided to start working on new songs right away and have already collected more than a handful of really strong tunes. We had some festivals shows, but mainly dedicated our attention to non DEW-SCENTED matters otherwise. However, we have just recently confirmed a first bunch of festivals for 2017 and also a European tour with FLOTSAM AND JETSAM in March / April 2017, which should be fun. Next to that, we obviously will be wrapping up work for the new album in 2017 as well, so I am sure it will be quite a busy year again. I know you weren’t specifically asking, but I can also tell you about another project band I am involved with which launched this year. It’s called PHANTOM CORPORATION and even though it’s a lot rawer than DEW-SCENTED and somehow more on the D-Beat side of things, I bet people who know that I dig that style might find it interesting to check out?! We just launched our first mini-album entitled “First Commandment” and also just played out debut live-shows a couple of days ago. The band features former DEW-SCENTED drummer Marc-Andree as well as other friends, which has been great fun. We recorded / mixed with longtime DEW-SCENTED live engineer Klaus Spangenberg at Beatpoint Studios and then had Dan Swanö master the release. It’s a 6-track effort that also features Jason / MISERY INDEX on some guest vocals and artwork by Michel “Away” Langevin of VOIVOD. You can get some more info here: www.facebook.com/pc2016official and also check out the songs as well order from here: https://phantomcorporation.bandcamp.com. We have cool logo shirts too and some more shows coming for 2017. No rest for the wicked…"
Ok Leif, thanks a lot for taking the time. All the best to you and DEW-SCENTED. The closing words are yours…
"Thanks for your time and restless support, Frank. I indeed appreciate the patience you were having with me returning the answers for this interview! It means a lot for me to have this feature done for VFTD, as this magazine was a large part of my introduction to the (underground) scene in the early 90s and it paved my upbringing in all things Metal. I mean, that was even before DEW-SCENTED as you might remember?! So many great memories from seeing the amazing VFTD book a while ago! Thanks for re-discovering DEW-SCENTED and for the kind words about our evolution, Frank! For any further updates, please look to www.facebook.com/dewscented or www.dew-scented.net I suppose we will meet again in January in Hamburg at the SADISTIC INTENT show, huh?! Until then… keep it heavy!!!"
Interview & live pics: Frank Stöver
additional interview questions: Tina Ehmke