DRAWN AND QUARTERED from Seattle, WA are one of the brightest hopes for blasphemous and extremely brutal Death Metal these days! With all of their releases so far they always managed to deliver this very IMMOLATION / INCANTATION – like dark feel, which unfortunately has become very rarely nowadays. In that respect the band’s newest full length "Return Of The Black Death" could easily be judged as their most impressive and best work so far! So, it really became time for us to finally value the talent of this unholy four piece with a way bigger feature… Vocalist Herb Burke kindly answered all our questions, so read on, enjoy and make sure to give them your support!
You guys originally started out back in 1993 as PLAGUE BEARER. Was it already the same line-up that later became DRAWN AND QUARTERED or was there a big change of members that lead to the name change?
"PLAGUE BEARER, in the beginning, was really more of a project of guitarist K.S. Kuciemba, in part due to the difficulty of finding like-minded musicians capable of performing in a band. I joined in 1993, when the line-up was still pretty fluid. In 1994, Matt Cason joined us on drums, and that was a turning point of sorts – K.S., Matt and I became the core of what would become DRAWN AND QUARTERED."
You recorded a demo tape entitled "Bubonic Death" the same year already. Was that still under the PLAGUE BEARER moniker or already as DRAWN AND QUARTERED?
"Bubonic Death" was recorded in the late summer of ’93 under the PLAGUE BEARER name. K.S. and I were joined by Dave Procopio on drums and Danny Hodge (who also appeared on the first DRAWN AND QUARTERED demo)."
Tell us a little bit more about that demo, like which songs appeared on it, how many copies got spread and so on!
"We never re-recorded any of the "Bubonic Death" numbers. They were more or less discarded once we began composing new material for DRAWN AND QUARTERED. The demo was fairly derivative of older NAPALM DEATH, INCANTATION and stuff, although it had a good sound. I’m not certain just how many copies were distributed. It was circulated somewhat through the underground, and distributed also through the Moribund Cult, which has supported us since our inception."
What actually lead to the already mentioned name change shortly after and what inspired the name DRAWN AND QUARTERED?
"As the material we composed became more and more crushing, we felt the need to adopt a more brutal moniker. There was also the matter of the old BOLT THROWER song titled ‘Plague Bearer’, though not as many people remember that now! DRAWN AND QUARTERED was one of a very long list of potential names we compiled when we decided we needed a change. I came up with it reading through a book on torture. We liked that name because it was a little out of the ordinary, and it doesn’t seem like a totally brutal name… until you consider what being drawn and quartered entails…"
According to the info sheet that I have, it took the band about three years until you finally returned to the scene with a new, self-titled demo. What had caused this long "break", what do you do in between the release of those two demos?
"Well, as I mentioned before, PLAGUE BEARER was more of a project, so it was a recording put together quickly, with a line-up put together fairly quickly, of songs that K.S. already had written. With DRAWN AND QUARTERED, it took a lot of time trying to find an adequate bassist – we actually didn’t get Greg in the band until after the first DRAWN AND QUARTERED demo was released, and a lot of time composing new material – the self-titled demo had eight songs."
DRAWN AND QUARTERED is a band from Seattle, a city which musically worldwide became most famous for the Grunge movement. Did you guys (like many other Metal acts) have to suffer from that musical trend as well in one way or another?
"I’d probably say yes, just in the sense that Seattle is completely oversaturated with bands. You can’t turn around without hitting a new club that books live music, or another crappy band of newcomers hoping to follow in someone’s crusty footsteps. The Metal scene in Seattle is actually in a lot better shape than in past years, but Metal bands from Seattle are still utterly ignored by local media – and to an extent, will also be forever categorized as a “local band.”
As far as I know you played out live very often in your pre-album days already. Was it just single shows or did you already play full tours as well?
"Prior to the release of "To Kill Is Human", we only played individual concerts, although we did get the opportunity to perform outside of our local area, such as in Portland, Oregon."
Still being just a demo band, how did you actually get the opportunity to support all those bigger acts, such as MORBID ANGEL, OBITUARY, NILE, DEICIDE, IMMOLATION, INCANTATION, MONSTROSITY and so on?
"A lot of persistence and a bit of luck! It was a mixed bag, some were easier than others. Some of our earlier support slots, like the OBITUARY show, were due in part to the scarcity of active local bands, so there wasn’t a lot of competition for such slots. We got the MORBID ANGEL / NILE gig because I pestered the club booker for months until he finally gave us a show! John from INCANTATION has supported DRAWN AND QUARTERED from the early days. The IMMOLATION, DEICIDE and MONSTROSITY gigs actually came after the first album."
Would you say that playing shows with such experienced and highly respected acts did influence DRAWN AND QUARTERED’s musical evolution in any way?
"I don’t know that it was an influence on our evolution, exactly – by the time we started playing live as DRAWN AND QUARTERED, we had pretty well established the style of music we play. But it was a huge influence on our development as players, as a performing band – when you work real hard to go onstage and deliver what you consider to be a strong set, and then watch a band like MORBID ANGEL or IMMOLATION come out and just destroy everything, seemingly without effort, you really start to understand how far you have to go – what you’re up against, if you will…"
It once again took you quite a couple of years until you finally released your debut full length album "To Kill Is Human". Were you guys such slow songwriters or simply too busy playing all those aforementioned shows between 1996 and 1999?
"Well, once we completed the demo, we circulated that around the underground, wrote some new material, and played a number of shows around the area. We actually went into the studio in August of 1998 and recorded the material which ended up comprising the debut. We distributed some four-song promo cassettes in hopes of interesting someone in releasing the full-length, but without success. So we decided to release it ourselves, and the finished product was completed in 1999."
Why did you release "To Kill Is Human" on your own? I mean, there must’ve been labels willing to work with you guys at the time already, so what made you choose the more risky and difficult path anyway?
"Actually, at the time, there were no labels interested in releasing "To Kill Is Human", or at least none that seemed even remotely beneficial to us – I think there were a couple small labels that would have put it out, but not with any kind of promotion or distribution. Odin at Moribund would have put it out initially, but at that time his resources were tied up in other projects. He did agree to distribute the CD for us, but we financed the first pressing ourselves."
How many copies did you press of "To Kill Is Human" and what kind of response did you get on it from fans, zines and labels?
"First pressing was 1000. The Death Metal die-hards ate it up, fans dug it since it was our best release to date. Reviews usually compared us to our early influences – some would suggest the CD showed promise, while others (largely those who dislike brutal Death Metal) just dismissed it as ‘generic.’"
When did Moribund step into the picture to take over the distribution of the album?
"Moribund has supported us since the PLAGUE BEARER days. As I mentioned, when we recorded "To Kill Is Human", Odin wasn’t really in a position to put it out as a Moribund release. But he agreed to distro the CD from the beginning, so we put the ‘distributed by’ and the Moribund logo on the release. His distribution and promotion of the debut has been an incredible help to us. Moribund did take care of subsequent pressings of the release."
Shortly after the release of "To Kill Is Human" your drummer Matt Cason got replaced by Dario Derna. What happened? Did Matt leave the band in order to join SERPENS AEON? How did you hook up with Dario? Has he played in any bands before already?
"The (very) short answer to that question is, yes, he left to play full time in SERPENS AEON. Matt actually was with the band through early 2002. He performed with us on the two tours we did after "To Kill Is Human" was released. He had also been playing with SERPENS AEON for a year or two (in fact we did a number of shows with both bands). It was when we started to concentrate really hard on writing material for the second album that we started having problems. The old “musical and personal differences” had been accumulating for a little while, and when we were trying to put new songs together quickly, those problems really came to the fore. We had never really written songs quickly and easily in the past, but at this time it was even worse, and after a couple practices degenerated into shouting matches, it was obviously time for a change. Around the same time, we found out (through Moribund) that Dario had moved back into town, and was looking for a band to play with. We actually sort of knew him from the PLAGUE BEARER days, when he played drums for INFESTER (whose only album was one of Moribund’s earliest releases) – INFESTER and PLAGUE BEARER actually played a show together back in 1993! But INFESTER split, and Dario moved to the East Coast, where he played guitar / vox in ABAZAGORATH and keys in EVOKEN among others. Dario’s a talented motherfucker — he also does KROHM, performing all instruments and vocals. Anyway, when we became aware that Dario was available, we had a couple discussions with Matt, and we basically all came to the conclusion that he should step down, since no one was really happy with the existing situation. We got Dario in the band, and two months later, we had a recording completed of five new songs."
Next came your five song mini CD "Crusaders Of Blasphemy", which I unfortunately never got to hear, but which is being described as the first DRAWN AND QUARTERED release to feature your "new", more brutal musical approach. You once again did that completely on your own, but as far as I’ve understood, basically for promotional purposes. Tell us a bit more about it, like how many copies were made, which songs appeared on it and so on!
"Crusaders Of Blasphemy" was recorded largely just for promotion, and really more so for Moribund. We recorded it in our rehearsal space on an 8-track, and as we were fairly satisfied with the end result, we did press up a limited number of copies, to get our name back out in circulation. Unfortunately there was a problem with the pressing, so we just ended up giving most of the copies away at a couple of shows. The good news is that "Crusaders…" is getting an official release as we speak! It is being issued on cassette, along with two additional tracks, ‘Bloodbath Communion’ and ‘Slaughter The Disciples’ (which we recorded for a split 7-inch release that fell through) by Ancient Spirit Terror Productions out of Deutschland… hail to them!"
Did that mini CD impress Moribund Records so much that they offered you a real deal after all?
"Heh, it was actually kind of the reverse! By this time, we had actually accomplished quite a lot after the debut. Odin had expressed to us that he would be interested in putting out the next DRAWN AND QUARTERED release, although of course he wanted to hear some of the new material. He just asked us for a rehearsal tape, but since we had the means, we did an actual recording of the new songs."
The album, which was about to follow next (and which finally introduced DRAWN AND QUARTERED to me) came out in 2003 and was entitled "Extermination Revelry". In direct comparison it was a big step forward from "To Kill Is Human", so where do you see the main differences between both albums?
"Well, the main difference is that "Extermination Revelry" is a million times better than the debut! Better songs, better performance, better production, better everything. A lot of material from "To Kill Is Human" is quite old now. We were already playing most of those songs live in ’96-’97, and a couple songs, like ‘Christian Extinction’, date back to the PLAGUE BEARER days, so those are more than a decade old! We started composing songs for the second release around 2000, so the "Extermination Revelry" material represents years of improvement as a band, as musicians and songwriters."
A big plus of "Extermination Revelry" obviously is the way better, more upfront heavy guitar sound. Did you achieve that simply due to an overall better production or did you furthermore tune down a little bit as well?
"Much better production. I’m pretty sure the tuning is the same. We decided to record "Extermination Revelry" at the Autopsy Room in Tacoma (about 45 minutes from Seattle) partly for convenience, so we didn’t have to take time off work or whatever, and also a couple other local bands had come out of there with some pretty heavy-sounding recordings. We had recorded "To Kill Is Human" at another place in town which was chosen for its low cost. Unfortunately, the studio’s typical output was garage bands, so the engineer really had that kind of approach to sound, and we had very little studio experience at that time. So the end product really sounded kind of crappy! We still consider remixing the album from time to time, although I’m not sure it will happen unless we can get it done without spending a lot of money."
You once mentioned in another interview that you re-recorded four songs for "Extermination Revelry". Two of them are supposed to be on the album, so which ones did you re-do for it and which haven’t been used yet? Are there still plans to use them in the future maybe?
“’Kill For My Master’ and ‘Worshippers Of Total Death’ both appeared on "Crusaders Of Blasphemy". Those were the two songs that we really wanted to use for the next album, but we also decided to re-record two others, ‘Show No Mercy’ and ‘Vengeance Of The Unholy Inquisition’, to use as bonus tracks or whatever. The title track from the promo is the only one we didn’t re-use."
What actually was the intention of the bonus track ‘Show No Mercy’? I mean, are there really any releases around without that song?
"Haha, no there aren’t! That was actually a bit of a marketing gimmick gone awry. As I mentioned, we had that song and ‘Vengeance…’ left over when we put together the track list for "Extermination Revelry". Moribund had advised us to have a bonus track of some kind, as a bit of an incentive for licensing deals in other regions. We actually ended up with two extra tracks, so in a fit of retarded brilliance, we decided to use one for the U.S. release – so the U.S. fans also got a bonus — and the other for any licensing deals. Problem is it was never really licensed, just distributed. So every copy in existence has the ‘U.S. bonus track,’ and ‘Vengeance…’ is still unused. Personally, I don’t care much for the ‘bonus track’ concept (unless it’s a vinyl-only bonus, heh heh!). Why should you get less music on one format than the other… unless you are trying to force the listener to buy a specific format, and that’s corporate bullshit."
You also recorded a cover of SODOM’s ‘Nuclear Winter’ at some point, which I found pretty unusual, because SODOM is not necessarily a band I would associate with what DRAWN AND QUARTERED are influenced by, so what made you do so? Was that already released somewhere in the meantime?
"SODOM is definitely an influence on DRAWN AND QUARTERED! They may not directly influence the style we play, but SODOM is one of many bands (along with shit like DEATH, POSSESSED, DESTRUCION, SLAYER, KREATOR, etc etc!) we enjoyed – and still do – before the first MORBID ANGEL and IMMOLATION albums came out and changed the face of Death Metal. "In The Sign Of Evil" has been one of my favorites for the last 20 years! Damn I’m getting old… We learned ‘Nuclear Winter’ when Dario joined the band, and have played it live a lot – it’s a fucking blast to play! We recorded it during the "Return Of The Black Death" sessions. So far it has only been released on the compilation CD produced for the Northwest Deathfest (in March ’04) which is hard to find, but it will also be released as a bonus track on the upcoming LP pressing of "Return Of The Black Death". Our version is totally faithful to the original, you’ll get to hear my best Tom Angelripper impersonation!"
It’s pretty obvious that you have become a lot more brutal and intense over the years, so have your influences changed along the way maybe? I mean, it’s pretty obvious that you’re pretty close in style and feeling to the masters of unholy death, IMMOLATION and INCANTATION nowadays, so is that a direction you aimed for?
"Yes, definitely. You said it best yourself, “masters of unholy death!”… "Onward To Golgotha" is one of the single biggest influences – from day one – on guitarist K.S. The first IMMOLATION album is another monumental Death Metal recording, and definitely my personal favorite! I wouldn’t really say our influences have changed. In the early days, we probably took a bit of influence from the other Death Metal bands prominent at the time, but the idea of dark, brutal music such as that created by IMMOLATION and INCANTATION was always our primary aim. You could say perhaps that we have refined our style over the years. There is also the consideration of personnel – when Matt was in the band, he brought more of a CANNIBAL CORPSE influence to the music."
That finally leads us to your newest album, "Return Of The Black Death", which was finished and released a lot quicker than I expected it from you guys. Does that mean that DRAWN AND QUARTERED is finally working full force, the way you always wanted it to be?
"Absolutely! We write much faster with our current line-up than we used to before. And actually, we put together most of the material for "Return Of The Black Death" very quickly indeed. Due to a couple different circumstances, we were in a bit of a situation where we had to either record when we did, or it might have been months before we had another opportunity. So we just scheduled recording time, giving us a deadline by which we had to complete everything. In some ways I think this may have helped, being under pressure can sometimes help drive you toward your goals. Of course there are a few things that we might have liked to re-work had we had the time, but that’s almost always the case anyway. Also, some of the songs were already being written at the time we recorded "Extermination Revelry". We actually came pretty close to including an earlier version of the song which became ‘Predatory Strangulation’ on that album. We are already writing new material as well, and if the new songs are any indication, the fourth album will be darker and more intense than anything that has come before!"
Were do you see the album’s major improvements in direct comparison to "Extermination Revelry"?
"I can list the typical adjectives: faster, tighter, heavier, better! Stronger songs, better production, improved performance. In one way, I view them a bit as companion releases, since the two albums are basically the result of a more or less continuous string of compositions. In another way, "Return Of The Black Death" is undoubtedly the pinnacle of our achievements to date. On "Extermination Revelry", some of the songs we had begun writing when Matt was in the band – in fact, we were playing ‘Incinerated Faithful’ live in 2000. Then the rest of the material was completed when Dario joined. Whereas on "Return…", all material was composed by the current line-up, which maybe helps contribute a better sense of continuity to the new album."
Is there a lyrical concept about the plague connected to the album’s title maybe?
"Only the title track really. It is kind of a play on words, in that it is a return to the theme of the first PLAGUE BEARER demo. "Bubonic Death" had a plague theme throughout the lyrics, so it was a theme I didn’t bother to revisit right away in DRAWN AND QUARTERED, until I had to come up with a number of concepts for the new album in a fairly short period of time, and the idea was still kicking around. I actually even re-used a couple lines from old PLAGUE BEARER lyrics! There is also the much more obvious allusion to Black / Death Metal, so you could take it in that sense too, although I consider us Death Metal, not anything with a slash in it. But if other people want to label us Black / Death Metal, I can’t stop them…"
Unfortunately I only own a promo version of it so far, which is lacking in the necessary info (but thanx to Odin / Moribund that has changed by now – you rule man!! – Frank), so did you record the album at the "Autopsy Room" with Jesse O’Donnell again?
"Yes. We were pretty happy with the result of "Extermination Revelry" — much as it’s got its flaws, I think the right flawed production can really add a killer atmosphere to a recording. It worked out well for us to go back there, and we were able to draw on our previous experience to come up with a better sounding recording this time around, although we still tried to keep things dark and not too polished."
How did you hook up with James Murphy for the mastering of "Extermination Revelry"? Do you know anything about how he’s doing these days or did you maybe even work with him on the new album again?
"That was actually a Moribund connection. I think K.S. has spoken with him, but we’ve never met otherwise. The recording was sent to him because the master that came out of Autopsy Room was a little fucked up. At the time, Jesse still hadn’t mastered mastering (haha) so we went to James. No doubt the connection to his name has helped us, but I think it gets a little overplayed considering that his role was fairly minimal. "Return Of The Black Death" was all done at Autopsy Room. From what I’ve heard, James Murphy is doing ok, but I think he has to keep taking medication to stay that way… but I don’t know this for sure, so don’t quote me as any sort of knowledgeable source!"
What can you tell us about your cover artist Gabriel Byrne, who has become a trademark for the band in the meantime. How did you guys get together?
"Gabriel used to play in a couple bands around the Seattle area, so we basically knew him from the local scene. He had done a couple of other covers, such as BLOOD RITUAL’s "At The Mountains Of Madness", so we approached him about doing work for us. The end result was the artwork we used for "To Kill Is Human". We were very impressed, so we have continued to work with him since."
How important is the internet for you guys? I noticed that your website is pretty dated in terms of fresh information already, so does that mean that you don’t care too much about it?
"Exactly…! No, really, the internet is an important resource, although hardly the most important. Basically, being broke musicians, we have not invested any money in a website, rather we’ve had someone help us out for free. Recently (or not too recently) he’s seemed to drop off the face of the earth, meaning no new info on the site. I don’t think it even has any mention of "Extermination Revelry", let alone the new one. I’m sure we’ll ultimately get that updated, or get a new site, but we’ve had other priorities so far. The internet is a bit of a double-edged sword, I think, in that it really gives anyone and everyone the chance to express him / herself. Not that this is necessarily a good thing – since the world is full of fucking idiots, now every opinionated jackass can share their opinion as though it’s something more important than just that…"
Will you be on the road again in support of "Return Of The Black Death" sometime soon? Are there any plans for Europe this time as well?
"Hopefully! We have a couple of possibilities for some U.S. touring in the works, but nothing certain at this time. Since things have a habit of falling through, I don’t ever get my hopes up until we’re actually on the way out of town! We would love to get out of this stupid country and tour elsewhere. Europe in particular – I visited the continent in ’91, and got to see Massacre, Morgoth and Immolation play at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, and ever since then, my biggest goal in life has been to return and perform on that stage myself…"
Well, I’m running out of questions, so feel free to end this interview in any way you like. If there’s anything of importance we might have forgotten to mention or anything you’d like to add, just go ahead. Thanx a lot and all the best to all of you!
"VIELEN DANK for the killer support! DRAWN AND QUARTERED will never be stopped! Nothing will withstand our onslaught of unholy bloodsoaked Death Metal! Hail to all of our fans and all those who support the true underground! Kill!!!!!!"
DRAWN AND QUARTERED website: www.geocities.com/drawn_an_quartered
Label contact: www.moribundcult.com