Active since 1993, DRAWN AND QUARTERED released their seventh full length album entitled “The One Who Lurks” in 2018. An immediate success in the underground: a prime example of pure old school Death Metal, considered by many as one of the best albums of the last year and with good reason. We had an interesting chat with the guitarist Kelly Shane Kuciemba, who told us about the past, the present and the future of the band…
Your last album “The One Who Lurks” was released in June 2018 by Krucyator Productions. I had the chance to review it for Voices From The Darkside and I think that is one of the best Death Metal releases of 2018. Tell us something more about the genesis of this new album. A pretty lengthy process of songwriting, I guess, because it is nearly six years since the release of its predecessor “Feeding Hell’s Furnace”. Can you explain us your current method of composing and arranging new songs? How long did it take to complete the whole album? Do you rehearse on a regular basis or only when you have to prepare a show or to compose new songs?
"We were pleasantly surprised by the response to this record. This wasn’t the record I was planning to make. It’s the perfect example of "life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans". That’s a John Lennon quote. It’s funny to see the BEATLES hate lately from the Metal community. None of this happens without what came before. It might seem corny, simplistic, old fashioned, etc. But if you weren’t there you don’t know, some just wont get it. I was impressed by VOICES FROM THE DARKSIDE having 5 reviews of "The One Who Lurks", that is quite an honor! The genesis of this album goes back to 2011 probably, when we were composing for a follow up to "Feeding Hells’ Furnace". The first rack from "Lurks…" is called ‘Nefarious Rites’. This song contains all of the riffs I had contributed to a DRAWN AND QUARTERED composition that was one of our first demos for our next proposed record. About half way into writing the record, our drummer left the band, that particular composition went unused. I found a recording and shared it on YouTube. Eventually I decided to take the parts I had written and came up with this slower song, pretty uncharacteristic for us. It took five minutes to arrange and we all learned the song almost instantly. I wanted a simple song for a recording experiment, that ended up being this record. Two other songs were left over from writing sessions that went from 2012-2015. These are ‘Horned Shadows Rise’ and ‘Deliverance To The Worms’. Those were probably our least favorite tracks from the writing sessions. In 2015-16 we recorded 10 songs that ended up being released in demo form, first on an 8 song tape then later a remastered for a 10 song CD ("Proliferation Of Disease"). I wanted to attempt this process again, but with slightly better production. Still it was to be created on my Tascam 4 track cassette recorder. This would be the last project on this old recording console and I would use no overdubs, just 4 tracks recorded as simply as possible. To do so I needed a track of just bass guitar and drums. It had been harder and harder to get rehearsals or writing sessions with our drummer so I attempted something we had done on the "Proliferation…" demo. Learning a song and recording it spontaneously. We had done this with ‘Age Of Ignorance’ from the "Proliferation…" sessions. Creating music the way a real band would have done it like the BEATLES in the 60s. Due to scheduling, logistics and my lack of time or patience I would perform bass along with Simon on drums and record these songs in one take. And that’s how we started the first half of the record. We recorded the 2 songs we had left over, the re-arranged song from years before and a new song that wasn’t to difficult to learn, we now call ‘Ravage The Cadaver’. Each song took less than an hour to learn and record. Now I needed the rest of an album. We had a record deal with Vault Of Dried Bones at the time, and were given 100 shirts to sell to finance the record. Not knowing how long it would take to get that to happen, I decided to go with another home made recording. Since the first half went so well, I didn’t want to squander the momentum I took some compositions I had started for a slightly more involved record that would be entirely in Drop A with experimental compositions etc, intended for one of my bands maybe PLAGUE BEARER. Instead of completing the project I took those songs and ideas and arranged them quickly so we could continue the 4 track recording and get a new record out soon. I hadn’t written bass parts for the Drop A material so I had to play guitar. I even got Herb to come play bass for some of these sessions. Ultimately my 4 track stopped working properly, so I had to transfer the tracks to a new recording console. Eventually everything was re-done for better quality. I ended up playing bass on the tracks, because I have the recorder in my basement, and wasn’t sure if we had time to rehearse the music enough for Herb to record an album worth of material in enough time to get a record out in a timely fashion. This all came about because we weren’t really rehearsing much, except for shows. So in this case the songwriting was an after thought, it was really the line-up shifts and logistics that made it such a lengthy project. It took over 2 years to complete the record and get it released. Mixing and slotting into a release date took almost half of that time, also some re-recording. I had an entirely written full length record the whole time, and even wrote 4 more songs in the Drop A style before the record was even finished. I’m still waiting for the band to get prepared for recording these for our next releases of a full length and split CD. At this time we have begun rehearsing again to get the new material recorded. In the past we spent months even years writing in the rehearsal studio, only recently did we try another way. The next few releases will be more rehearsed and composed than the "Lurks…" record."
“The One Who Lurks” really impressed me for many factors. It has everything: brutality, old school vibe and top quality musicianship. The songs are a perfect mixture of brutal accelerations and morbid slowdowns with some very rotten melodies. Your style has remained intact over the years, but, if I had to compare “The One Who Lurks” to your previous works, I would say that this last effort has reached an higher level of maturity.
""The One Who Lurks" benefits from a diverse selection of compositions and a conscious effort to experiment and try different things. Influences from travelling and doing shows and Fests over the least half a dozen years play a part in this. I wrote the 3rd and 4th song as a response to comments and suggestions made by band members at the time. ‘Deliverance To The Worms’ started off as a more technical composition that we hadn’t quite perfected or think highly enough of to utilize previously, and ‘Horned Shadows Rise’ was inspired by Mozart and suggestions that our drummer needed something he could play through and just crush. It is basically arranged in a way similar to some other Black Metal type songs we’ve done in our side bands previously, since we weren’t playing those any more it is like a re-written composition similar to ‘In The Name Of Satan’ from our side band WINDS OF PESTILENCE. ‘Ravage The Cadaver’ was a song I came up with off the top of my head. It was intended for another band I thought I might join, but devolved into a slower heavy DRAWN AND QUARTERED tune that reminds me of old INCANTATION, and 90s Death Metal. The second half is the real experimental stuff with some strange, cinematic riffs. The fast parts are total chaos. Overall the record features many more mid-tempo and even slower parts than we usually employ. I think this made it an easy listen. Not enough riffs for some, too much cavernous reverb and delay. That atmosphere really lends itself to the music and makes it work. Some people don’t like this sound at all and it is not an indication of our current musical direction. It is really cool though and I fully want to explore this cavernous obscurity in the future and take it too another level for a DRAWN AND QUARTERED recording. The arrangement of the record was very organic, basically in the order we recorded them. One song got left off, so we included two versions of the same song with different endings, lyrics, vocal placement, and titles. The second version finishes the record with a new perspective of the subjects of this half of the recording."
Please, explain us the lyrical and visual concept behind “The One Who Lurks”. The cover artwork is fantastic, who did draw it?
"In an effort to allow the work of art to be interpreted by the listener I don’t try to explain the concept of this record that mainly resides in the last half of the recording. It was conceived in Drop A tuning from B standard, inspired by eerie soundtracks from very old, obscure horror movies. It is an observation of how ancient rituals are methods of communication and manifestations that result form this. Our long-time artist and collaborator Gabriel T. Byrne painted this work of art and has done so for our previous 6 "studio" albums. I had many discussions with the artist and he is also knowledgeable and intuitive enough to channel forth amazing work. The entire record and painting, recording, production was done as a group effort including previous band members who were with us during the compositions of the music. This an organic experience, relying less on pre-planning and more on spontaneously manifesting art with the guidance of years of experience and capable of instant growth amongst those who contributed to the production of this project."
How did you get the deal with Krucyator Productions? Is it only for one album or does it include the option of releasing other titles?
"I ordered a tape from Krucyator and we began a dialogue. I don’t buy that much music these days, typically just from the bands we play shows with. Something compelled me to buy that tape. I’m compelled to do many things. I go with it, sometimes it doesn’t see like a good idea. My actions trigger other actions and I find a way to make it work towards my goals of creating and releasing music. My relationships are more organic than merely transactional, they must be symbiotic to be sustained. I was fortunate enough to find some one with a lot of motivation and capable of stretching. We have collaborated on several re-issues including a tape version of "Feeding Hells’ Furnace", LP version of "Hail Infernal Darkness", "The One Who Lurks" CD and re-issues of "To Kill Is Human" and "Proliferation Of Disease". We have also released a demo compilation for PLAGUE BEARER called "Winds Of Pestilence", because it includes a demo from PLAGUE BEARER and another band we did called WINDS OF PESTILENCE. We are currently recording a PLAGUE BEARER record for possible release on Krucyator. We are starting a full length for DRAWN AND QUARTERED intended for Krucyator. We are not restricted with any contracts, so I have other label partners and self released projects too. We will space out the releases as needed."
The production is another high point of the album. It’s dark and claustrophobic in the slow parts, intense and powerful in the fastest ones. All enriched by a fantastic guitar tone and a killer drum sound. Please, tell us something more about the recording, the mixing and the mastering sessions. Where and when was the album recorded? Who was involved in this studio session?
"I agree, the sound of he record really makes it gel. The credit is due to Loic Fontaine putting in a lot of work to produce this. The record is based around the scratch tracks we originally recorded on my 4 track. Those became the guide tracks to make this record. I ended up re-doing everything. The drums were re-recorded by Chris Manino remotely with Simon, but everything else including original tracks were recorded in my basement "studio". Studio would be a generous description. Just me an a few microphones in the basement of my house, where we recorded "Proliferation Of Disease". It is much more convenient. I don’t spend much more time than I normally would to record, but I have the option of re-doing things if I don’t like the sound. Next time we’ll try re-amping to save time, but I would just re-record the entire tracks for a particular instrument for a different tone. Normally you travel to a studio, spend 10 – 12 hours and unless it’s a complete disaster you are keeping the tracks you did and making it all work. You have to be rehearsed and it is pretty stressful, especially when you are the lone guitarist for music that requires two people to play properly. So I would usually get sick from exhaustion trying to come in under budget. Now we have our own console, I have no excuse to not be making the best records of life, starting from here forward. Until then we have this unusual "The One Who Lurks" product out, but this is just the beginning for a new era of record production for me under the name of of Plague Pit Productions. I didn’t put much effort into the production or worry about perfect takes, I did a lot of punches especially with the bass, I’m not a bass player obviously. I recorded all the main guitar rhythms on a small Randall practice amp with an 8" speaker through an old BC Rich Mockingbird neck through early 80s NJ series with a fixed bridge and a Seymour Duncan Invader pick-up. I was really going for an old school sound like DARKTHRONE or something. I was asked not to do that again! The additional guitars were done louder through my Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier using my main guitar a Blackhart Pustulous Maximus Signature Warghoul. I may have done some of the second half solos on the Randall with the Mockingbird. The mixing and mastering was a challenge and was done by group emails and such. Detailed instructions and suggestions helped shape the end results. We were stunned at how powerful it came out. It is very encouraging. I’m going crazy because I can’t wait to unleash a proper record now that we have the momentum and machinery in place to make records. I’ll do a better job producing, composing, performing and recording the guitars. I’ll spend some quality time recording the vocals. This experiment will have to suffice for now. For "Lurks…", Herb and I hammered out the vocal recordings pretty quickly, usually full takes with a punch here or there."
You’re active since 1993. What equipment did you use to play in those years and has your gear changed over time? What about your playing techniques, are they still the same after 26 years or do you think that the passing of time and new technologies have helped to improve them? Just out of curiosity: are you self-taught or did you study music?
"Herb and I were rehearsing and making demos in the early 1990s. By 1993 we had joined forces to work on a recording project and eventually did some shows as well. I was using a Peavy Solid State Amp then trade to a 50 W Marshall that wasn’t loud enough and eventually moved to a Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier. I’ve never really had any good cabinets and I should try to get one soon! I will usually borrow cabs. I am not as concerned about my sound as I should be, but I try not to have loud bussing going on! It’s a challenge sometimes borrowing gear. It just seems ridiculous for 3 – 5 bands to bring that many amps and cabinets. I have tried various guitars. I really got going with an old Rave II BC Rich Class Act Warlock and used it for the first album, with a stock pick-up straight through my Marshall. It was dry and muddy at the same time. From there I tried active pick-ups and slightly better guitars. I used a Speed Loader BC Rich Ironbird with a passive pick-up for most of the later records. I was using various pedals, and studio effects. More recently I went back to some heavier gauge strings again after retiring the Ironbird and the Seymour Duncan Blackouts in my Blackhart are a game changer. I use a very compact and I good sounding Zoom G3 for ease of use now, and sometimes a Crate 150 Watt portable amp or borrow an amp and cabs. My sound mainly comes from the Zoom and it can simulate amps and cabs as well as provide a little reverb delay and I’ve been using a Phaser instead of my old JIMI HENDRIX overdrive wah, I might start pulling out again for the next record. I have also utilized a Holy Grail reverb, Boss stereo digital delay and Metal Zone, Arion Metal pedal, Art III effects processor, Ratt distortion, and Jackson Guitars Kelly and Rhoads V bolt-on import guitars. I’ve sold off many of my older BC Rich imports and the Jacksons. I have a Blackhart Infernus 7 string a Warghoul and an ASG Walking Dead Alex Ross edition EMG loaded guitar for the Drop A songs. As far as techniques go, we were pretty stagnant in style from 1994 – 2001 so I started doing PLAGUE BEARER again as a side band to allow me an opportunity to grow a little with songwriting and wrote some solo sections to help compose and improvise on more than I was in DRAWN AND QUARTERED at the time. I was attempting to play MORBID ANGEL, IMMOLATION and INCANTATION with a few CANNIBAL CORPSE, DISMEMBER, DEICIDE and CARCASS ideas mixed in. There was also a bit of NAPALM DEATH influence. PLAGUE BEARER allowed me to dabble with more Thrash and Black Metal techniques. I was in pretty good form when Dario joined in 2002 and we spent the next few years writing prolifically as a band. Each project lead to the next continuously shifting and improving, After "Hail Infernal Darkness" we got less technical, more organic and rehearsed less over the course of time. I quit doing side projects after 2008 for quite a few years. My playing since then hasn’t been as good, but we’ve written some great songs. I’m working on getting back to my best playing, by playing, rehearsing, writing and recording a lot again. The guitar I use mainly has really helped, it really suits my style and facilitates a much smother playing experience for me. I stopped trying to improve quite a few years ago, but I have recently been working on my playing again, and it will benefit the next records we make. I’m not so much trying to change my techniques, just find new creative ways to apply the ones I have always used for a better or more interesting result."
Are there any live shows in the plans, in order to promote your last album? When were your last tour or live performance? Will you come to play in Europe?
"We will be promoting this album throughout the year with a few small tours. We have appearances In Mexico and Germany and a few small tours based around these. I have a few local appearances for DRAWN AND QUARTERED and filling in with PLAGUE BEARER more and more to promote the 2 CDs we released last year compiling all of the recordings I’ve collected over the years and we were using to play live in the last couple years. Most recently DRAWN AND QUARTERED has played in Seattle, Tacoma and Portland as well as a small tour of Japan. I’m certain that our next record will be of sufficient quality to allow us more and different opportunities to travel and perform. I will continue to establish PLAGUE BEARER as time and schedules permit, and pursue other music projects for recording and performing in the coming years."
This is your first full length with Simon Dorfman behind the drum kit. He already did a killer work on the “Proliferation Of Disease” demo from 2016. A very raw and brutal little gem recently re-released by Krucyator. I was very curious to listen to Simon’s skills on a more professional recording and I can say that on “The One Who Lurks” he proves to be one of the best Death Metal drummer currently active in the American underground. I had the chance to see some videos of your rehearsal sessions and he plays exactly like on the album. When did he join the band? Nowadays it’s pretty rare to find a band that doesn’t overproduce the drums and the overall sound in the studio. DRAWN AND QUARTERED is one of the few bands still able to keep alive the old school sound. Do you agree?
"Our long-time friend and fellow musician Beau Galloway helped us continue DRAWN AND QUARTERED at the end of 2012 as a drummer. Simon lived near where we were rehearsing, it was agreed that he should join us and Beau would play guitar. This was 2013 if I remember correctly. We worked on new material and eventually a set to play live that year or the next. Simon always makes a band sound really good, I noticed this every time we played with one of his bands. It is great to have that in our band, really driving us and inspiring the best from Herb and I. We are all very happy with each other. Working with Simon is very easy you just need to have your own parts down, in fact his playing facilitates my ability. I have to keep up on my personal practicing to be able to keep up, there are sometimes live you will be quite screwed if you aren’t on your toes. Our next recording should be quite a bit better, we will be using click tracks and actually rehearse and learn the songs first. I hope to release it later this years, but who knows. I might take longer. We don’t have a deadline. I just know that the sooner we make an actual record that I can really let Simon shine on the more likely we are to achieving more of our career goals. We have spent time producing the drums in the past, but this was before the kind of productions you hear now. We always went for a old school sound for the drums. Herb will not allow that, he is truly the defender of the faith. We’ll shall see how the next records play out but over produced drums are not likely."
Simon replaced another killer drummer: Dario Derna. When did he leave the band and why?
"Dario got married has had two children and has moved around for jobs and resides in the UK the last I heard. We are still in touch. He had a great off and moved to San Francisco for work in 2012. He is a great friend, musician and collaborator and has continued with RITUAL CHAMBER releasing 2 records so far. We stopped touring because he didn’t want to. This band became a hobby for a few years there. I was ok with that and had other things I worked on like Miniature War Games. When Simon joined he was interested in travelling and doing some touring, so we have gradually worked our way out of hobby status to a touring, headlining band again."
You released five albums with Moribund Records and one with Nuclear Winter. When and why did you stop to work with these labels?
"We did not stop working with the labels. In fact we still maintain business relations. There are no complaints or bad feelings. We chose to be independent after recording 4 records under contract. I was able to get those records produced and released in a short amount of time. It took a bit of work to get the machinery in place; financial backing, a working studio situation, the right producer, proper marketing and distribution. Once we did we made the most of it propelling us from obscurity to a Death Metal contender. We are still a contender, now with some momentum from the last few years of hard work. Nuclear Winter is a casual deal of licensing, we get a percentage of copies manufactured and retain our rights to our music and art. This is how we are working with all of our label partners now, with Moribund still owning 4 of our records. We continue to work on various re-issues of those records in conjunction with both those labels."
Talking about your vocals, the deep and guttural growlings have always been one of your trademarks. One of the few bands that are able to relive the obscure atmospheres of the legendary INCANTATION albums with Craig Pillard. Which are your main musical influences?
"Our vocals are grounded in the INCANTATION, IMMOLATION. Other influences are DISMEMBER, EMPEROR, DARKTHRONE, CARCASS, NAPALM DEATH, MONSTROSITY, SINISTER, VADER, CANNIBAL CORPSE, DEICIDE, SLAYER, SODOM, much like the guitar playing."
What do you think about the new wave of old school Death Metal? I think that it was born as an act of rebellion against trendy, modern and overproduced bands, but now has become itself a trend with too many clones and few interesting names. Do you agree? Don’t you think that is getting boring? Any new bands that impressed you?
"I think it is great. I like all the bands. Bands are all good now, no crap. Very few bands come out and suck. It makes everyone even more motivated to one up the next guy driving a mostly independent music scene worldwide. It’s difficult to keep up with all the new styles and off shoots. I like to borrow from different styles, but a lot of bands specialize in these styles. I’m seeing a ton of Brutal Tech, Slam stuff going on worldwide. The old school thing has been building in its current form for over a decade. Its all great, hopefully there is enough enthusiasm to keep up with the amount of products available. Only the best of the best will really stand out, so the bar is set quite high. I really feel the need to up our game, especially with the last 2 releases of ours not being near the level of production modern Metal bands put into their records now."
What about PLAGUE BEARER? The last recording session was the “Rise Of The Goat” EP in 2006, right? Will you resurrect the band someday?
"PLAGUE BEARER has been active for a couple of years now, we did the first performance of the band since 1994 last year at Famine Fest Seattle 2018. We have done a few local shows, have a small Northwest Tour this spring and have released 2 CD compilations of all the recordings from 1993 – 2008 including as our band WINDS OF PESTILENCE (2004 – 2008). "Rise Of The Bubonic Death" on Vomit Records and "Winds Of Pestilence" on Krucyator Productions. We have a PLAGUE BEARER record featuring our current line-up on these older compositions. I’m working on new material for the bands well."
Ok man, thank you very much for this very interesting talk. Last but not least, where can our readers buy your albums and merchandise? Which titles are currently available?
"Thanks for those fans reading this! You can find our records on Bandcamp, YouTube, all digital outlets and through the labels Moribund, Krucyator, Vomit, Nuclear Winter, End Of Music, Nameless Grave, Dead Tapes and more soon as well as many distributors! Hail Infernal Darkness!!!!"