SLAUGHTERDAY from East Frisia (Germany) received quite some attention for their first releases, the "Cosmic Horror" tape and their debut album "Nightmare Vortex". The present looks good, the future seems bright but for ancient death one has to dig up the dark past as well. Here is what Jens and Bernd, the core of SLAUGHTERDAY, shared with us…
As far as I know you met because of Marc Dieken, the drummer you shared with OBSCENITY and BK49. Bernd even shared a flat with Marc and Arne (former BK49 guitar player) in the late 1990s / early 2000s. Do you remember the day you met and / or any crazy Metal parties from those days (please share)? Would you have thought you’d end up playing in a band together back then? Which other guys hung out at that infamous party place back in the day?
Jens: "To be honest, the first time we really talked to each other was when we both had a seminar in university about Metal music (!) together. Marc and me had to do a presentation about Death Metal and in the course of that we discussed a lot. I don’t really remember crazy Metal parties… ; -)"
Bernd: "Yeah, I totally remember all the crazy parties back then. Our flat used to be the perfect place for meeting and celebrating Heavy Metal with some serious drinking, singing, fistbanging and worshipping. Back then I also became friends with Christian Pfeil and Ulli Kreienbrink who belong to our live line-up now. Many of the people who showed up at the parties are still good friends and involved in different local bands today like MONSTER or WEAKASIDE. I can truly say that I have never spent more time listening to music than back in the days."
How and when did BK49 fall apart and why did Jens leave OBSCENITY?
Bernd: "I’m not quite sure, but I believe BK49 called it quits in 2005. We were very exhausted, because the recordings for our record “Join The Dead” took far too long and getting along with the producer was very difficult. In addition we were without a drummer and I remember that we tried to continue using a drum machine during rehearsals. Finally we completely lost our musical direction and the last songs we wrote sounded terrible. They sounded like a LAIBACH remix of a MORBID ANGEL or IMMOLATION song."
Jens: "In 2009 I think we decided to have a one year break because all of us had the feeling the fun was lacking. After that one year, Henne called and wanted to go on. But I felt quite good without OBSCENITY, so I decided to quit. It was not an easy decision fo me, since I had been in that band for 16 years. But now I am very happy with that: I’ve never had so much fun writing songs than now."
Which unearthly evocation summoned SLAUGHTERDAY to this plane of existence?
Bernd: "At the end of 2005 I moved to the same town and close to the place where Jens lives. We started hanging out again and visited some festivals together. During that time we have always talked about starting a new project together. As we are old farts it was supposed to be old school Death Metal, but without the technical edge and speed of our old bands. Our aim was to go back to the very beginning of Death Metal of the late 80s and early 90s: no bullshit blasting around, just classic songwriting, cool riffs and memorable songs. It was at the Party San Festival when AUTOPSY was playing and Chris Reifert made a mistake by announcing the song ‘Slaughterday’ a second time, although they had already played the song. That was our sign to start. But it wasn’t until summer 2011 when we started rehearsing and writing songs."
Instead of crawling in secrecy for a long time you were signed by F.D.A. Records even before you had recorded your demo by posting a rehearsal track on the internet. How exactly did that happen?
Jens: "For us it was really weird, because right from the start we thought that it would be cool to release something on F.D.A. Records, because we’ve really liked their work and the bands they’ve released. After having finished one of our rehearsal songs (‘Abyss Of Nameless Fear’) we set up a bandcamp page and after that posted the information in the forum of the well-known German Rock Hard Magazine. Rico from F.D.A. Records immediately got in touch with us and was excited to hear some more material. So after having heard two more of our rehearsal tracks, he decided to work with us and offered us a deal. Up to now the cooperation and communication with Rico have been absolutely great and we are really happy about the deal with F.D.A. Records."
Without quality songwriting there might not have been a deal. So what’s your formula to create the cosmic horror of a SLAUGHTERDAY incantation? Who is responsible for music and lyrics? Which abysses of nameless fear are there except for AUTOPSY and Lovecraft?
Jens: "Mostly I come up with the riffs and then we arrange the songs together. The lyrics are all done by Bernd."
Bernd: "As I’ve already said, we are mainly inspired by the true pioneers of Death Metal: old DEATH, MASSACRE, AUTOPSY, MASTER, etc. But our sound has also traits of classic Doom like BLACK SABBATH, TROUBLE and PENTAGRAM and some Finnish Death Metal bands like DEMILICH, ABHORRENCE, DEMIGOD or HOODED MENACE. These are the three pillars of our sound. The works of H.P. Lovecraft deliver the madness for the lyrical incantations. Me and Jens complement each other perfectly in terms of songwriting and we both share the same musical vision. Our songs have a simple, classic structure with verse, chorus and bridge. As we don’t use too many riffs in one song, everything has to be well chosen. People often underestimate how difficult it is to write a catchy tune."
So you got your record deal and released a four track tape called "Cosmic Horror", limited to 166 pieces – already a collector’s item sold on eBay for quite some money. Was it officially available or did you just send it to magazines and record labels? Why did you go for tape instead of CD or vinyl?
Jens: "It was Rico’s idea to release it as tape, virtually as a teaser for the upcoming album. He has made some good experiences before the release with tapes from other bands like CHAPEL OF DISEASE for example. It was officially available but sold out quite fast. Now it’s only available as digital download via bandcamp and some other platforms."
The tape’s artwork was created by Thomas Westphal (Necromaniac zine). Do you remember when you first met that grave addict? Why did you choose him for the tape cover? Did he also design your logo? How did your collaboration start exactly?
Bernd: "To be honest, I don’t remember exactly when I first met Thomas. It must have been about 15 years ago at one of the many local gigs back then and we used to hang out together from time to time. Before we started SLAUGHTERDAY we hadn’t talked for about 5 years I think, but after Thomas heard our rehearsal songs on the internet, he contacted me and we have phoned quite regularly after that. For the tape cover we wanted a primitive and obscure drawing in the style of the old Death Metal demos of the 90s, so Thomas with his unique style and crazy ideas was the right man for this job. It’s true that he also designed our logo as well as the bandphotos for the demo and it was fun working with a good friend of ours at the very beginning of SLAUGHTERDAY."
What happened between the release of "Cosmic Horror" and the recording of "Nightmare Vortex"? Writing songs? Playing live? Life? How much time did you have? Was there already some pressure involved regarding the expectations people had from "Cosmic Horror" or the time?
Jens: "Most of the songs were already written by the time we recorded "Cosmic Horror", but we still wrote some more songs in the meantime. We had absolutely no pressure, but of course we wanted a better sound for the full length, which Jörg managed quite well, I think."
So for "Nightmare Vortex" you entered the Soundlodge Studios again. Jörg Uken’s production sounds phantastic, much more old school than many recordings you hear nowadays. Tell us some details about your work with Jörg and if you can imagine an alternative.
Jens: "Some people think you can’t do an old school sounding product with digital recording tools. That’s bullshit! It depends on how you use that stuff and Jörg knows what he’s doing, so the reasons why we used this studio again are quite obvious. Jörg is a great producer and we get along very well, the equipment in the Studio is excellent and it’s just 30 minutes away from our hometown. I don’t think that there’s a comparable alternative to that."
Bernd: "I think it’s no problem to get an old school sounding digital recording if you stick to certain rules. Rule no.1: don’t use any drum triggers. Rule no.2: don’t use a click track for the recordings, if you don’t want to sound like a machine. Rule no.3: ignore small mistakes as it makes the recording sound more lively. That’s it!"
For your debut album "Nightmare Vortex" you abandoned the HM2 guitar effect which had made some people think of Swedish Death Metal. To me it seemed like a clever idea or a niche: American old school Death Metal compositions with a Swedish old school Death Metal sound. Why the change?
Jens: "When we recorded the demo we didn’t think of a special niche or regarded it as a clever idea. I just wanted a totally different guitar sound than I used before after I left OBSCENITY. I still like the HM2 sound, but I wanted to try something different again and so I came up with the JCM 800, which in my opinion fits better to the music and makes you able to hear more details. Some reviews for "Cosmic Horror" characterized us as a DISMEMBER clone, which I still don’t understand. I guess they just heard the HM2 sound and for them the case was clear. Maybe that also had some effect on my decision to use a different amp. I wonder what kind of amp I will use next time."
How did you get in touch with "Nightmare Vortex" cover designer Marc Cooper? Did you get to know him personally? Somehow his cryptic desolation seem to perfectly represent your ululations.
Jens: "We needed a cover artwork quite quickly, so I surfed the internet for a few hours trying to find an artwork to buy. Luckily I found this great piece of art and some other drawings by Marc. A few hours later, Bernd and me were happy owners of this artwork. The cover expresses everything SLAUGHTERDAY is about, musically and lyrically. It represents an inhuman, surreal, dark and evil landscape. The evocation of subliminal horror, a real nightmare…"
Did you record any tracks that didn’t make it onto "Cosmic Horror" or "Nightmare Vortex"? If so, will they be on the next recording?
Jens: "Yes, we recorded 4 more songs, but they won’t be on the next album. We’re planning to release them in a different way. At the moment we think of a mini album, but it’s not ready for decision."
The band’s core is Jens and Bernd. You write and record the songs as a duo which seems to work out just fine. For someone who learned to play the drums only recently, one couldn’t be happier with Bernd’s performance and for someone known as a guitar player, there are some excellent bass lines to be discovered. What’s your philosophy behind this?
Jens: "In my opinion it’s easier the way we do it and everything’s more effective. I experienced all the problems that come up when you write and record songs with 4 other people. Bernd and I share the same vision of how the songs should sound like and get along with each other perfectly."
Bernd: "We are no students anymore. At our age, everyone is busy with his job, family and children. I think, if we had four or five people in the band, everything would take too much time and be too complicated with the result that we would soon lose the fun and motivation to carry on with SLAUGHTERDAY. Time is so valuable these days, that we can’t waste it with useless discussions in the rehearsal room and studio, rehearsal date agreements or breaks for a smoke. With five people in a band you can be sure that one of them turns out to be a bad egg. I’ve heard so many local bands complaining about people being unreliable or too lazy to rehearse."
How did you get in touch with your live wrecking crew who all happen to be former members of INGURGITATING OBLIVION? When did you find out they were obsessed with the undead, just like you? How frequently do you rehearse with and without the three of them?
Bernd: "We came to the point to think about a possible recruitment for our live line-up and it was very difficult as most of our friends are busy playing in other bands and as I said before, time is rare these days. I got to know Christian and Ulrich at university about 14 years ago and we used to hang out quite often back then. During the last years we’ve only met each other from time to time, but when Jens and I started SLAUGHTERDAY we got in touch again, wrote emails and so on. Finally I visited Christian and told him about our plans to put a live line-up together. Christian, Ulrich and Ingo officially still played together in a band called INGURGITATING OBLIVION, so we asked them to join us for our live activities. We had a barbecue, drank some beers and so it was decided. These guys are great musicians and it’s always fun to hang out with them. We usually rehearse with them about three or four times before a gig. Me and Jens try to rehearse at least once a week."
How many gigs did you play live already and what’s planned for spreading the Cult of the Dreaming Dead among us live?
Bernd: "Up to now we have played three gigs after the release of “Nightmare Vortex”, but more live activities are planned for the future. We will play in Oberhausen at the “Unholy Metal Mayhem Festival” in April and in June we will play at the “Grind The Nazi Scum Festival” in Leipzig. We hope to be able to play some more gigs till the end of the year."
There has been some amazing feedback about SLAUGHTERDAY already, not only by fanzines but you also made it among the best ten albums of the month in Rock Hard magazine and on a promotional picture Aad of SINISTER is posing clad in one of your morbid shrouds of sickness. What else happened, what will happen and when are you going to hit the stage in Japan? How do you cope?
Bernd: "All I can say that all these reactions are overwhelming. Our only plans at the beginning were to write and put out a record again so everything that happened after that is a bonus for us. It’s great to have all these positive reactions and that there are people out there who enjoy what we do and like our music. I’m not quite sure if we will ever make it to Japan though."
Finally, please list a handful of albums that helped make you who you are AND as we just released our VOICES favourite albums of 2013, please tell us which releases you worshipped in 2013.
Bernd: "All-time classics: AUTOPSY – "Mental Funeral", REPULSION – "Horrified", DEMILICH – "Nesphite", VOIVOD – "Nothingface", DEATH – "Scream Bloody Gore", RIGOR MORTIS – "Rigor Mortis", KREATOR – "Pleasure To Kill", DEATHROW – "Deception Ignored", IRON MAIDEN – "Killers", DESTRUCTION – "Release From Agony". Faves in 2013: AUTOPSY – "The Headless Ritual", VOIVOD – "Target Earth", OBLITERATION – "Black Death Horizon", SATAN – "Life Sentence", SORCERY – "Arrival At Six", GORGUTS – "Colored Sands", TORMENTED – "Death Awaits", FARSCAPE – "Primitive Blitzkrieg"."
Jens: "(All-time) classics: AUTOPSY – all, OZZY – "Blizzard Of Ozz", MASSACRE – "From Beyond", DIO – "The Last In Line", SLAYER – "Reign In Blood", METALLICA – "Master Of Puppets", IRON MAIDEN – "Powerslave", KISS – "Alive 2", BLACK SABBATH – "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", MANOWAR – "Battle Hymns". Faves in 2013: AUTOPSY – "The Headless Ritual", PROCESSION – "To Reap Heavens Apart", OBLITERATION – "Black Death Horizon", GHOST – "Infestissumam", KRYPTS – "Unending Degradation", TORMENTED – "Death Awaits", TROUBLE – "The Distortion Field"."
Any last words?
Bernd: "Thank you Ramon for giving us the opportunity to an interview for Voices From The Darkside and especially for your patience to wait for the answers. Keep supporting old school Death Metal… the nightmare continues!"