Two demos ("Unearthed" – ’96 and "Vile-Ation" – ’97) and a self-financed debut album ("Stench Of The Deceased" from ’99) pretty quickly established this highly talented, brutal bunch from California within the Death Metal underground. Monsieur Laurent Merle of French Listenable Records was obviously impressed in a similar manner. He didn’t hesitate for too long, signed VILE right away and just released the band’s second album "Depopulate", which turned out to be another fine offering of sheer brutality mixed with complex songwriting. Time for us to hook up with guitarist Colin Davis to discuss the whole VILE history a bit more detailed…
You decided to call your band VILE and formed exactly in the same year when CANNIBAL CORPSE released an album of the same name… Pure coincidence or did you get inspired by that in one way or another?
”Well actually it was just a coincidence. We named the band about half a year before. We did like the name though so we decided to keep it after they came out with that album. A lot of people ask this.”
Have you ever had any problems that promoters, radio or magazines mixed up VILE with NILE maybe (due to a simple spelling error or something like that)?
”No not yet. There were other bands called VILE though. One changed their name because we had ours first.”
Unfortunately I never got my hands on original copies of your two demos, but I once read in an interview in UNHOLY TERROR magazine that you added the material of your 1996 demo “Unearthed” to the second demo “Vile-Ation” from 1997… A quite cool idea in order to introduce your entire demo songs to all those people who missed out “Unearthed”… But how did all those people react who had already spent money on “Unearthed” before – weren’t they pissed that everyone else was basically getting it for free from now on?
“Unearthed” did not sound nearly as good as “Stench…”. And it was only 5 dollars anyway. A lot of bands do this in the beginning because they don’t have enough new songs to make an entirely new CD. Tapes are just not accepted as well by labels so we had to make a CD. Nobody cared I don’t think. They were glad to have VILE on CD. The “Stench…” album was all the tracks from both the “Unearthed” and “Vile-Ation” demos plus one new song called ‘Abort (The Fetus)’. They were re-recorded and of course some of the parts were slightly modified or made better. The demos do have a cool underground feel to them. But “Stench…” overall sounds much better I think.”
How did it feel that you already lost two of your founder members to DEEDS OF FLESH (your original guitar player Jim Tkacz, who played with you in your demo days and your original drummer Mike Hamilton)?
”It didn’t feel good! Actually Jimmy was pretty much out of the band for other reasons at that time. So we didn’t mind. And Mike quitting pretty much devastated us for a while. It didn’t matter what band he went to. We were angry because he left at a crucial time in our career.”
But Jim obviously didn’t remain in DEEDS OF FLESH for too long… Do you know the reasons and what he’s up to these days?
”Jim has a family now. He just doesn’t have the time to tour. And the band lives 4 hours from him.”
You financed your debut album "Stench Of The Deceased" completely on your own, even though there’s been talk that Pulverizer Records from Singapore was interested in releasing it. Why didn’t you work with them and instead took the financial risk on your own?
”I consider a label more of a financial risk. It is much safer to own the album yourself than to give it to a label. You just can’t sell it as well. We were going to work with Pulverizer from Chicago, Illinois but they went out of business first.”
The album was recorded at Trident Studio, which is owned by your singer Juan, and he also produced the record together with you… As the result turned out really impressive, I was wondering if you already had gained any experiences in studio work prior to “Stench Of The Deceased” maybe?
”Oh yeah. We are both recording engineers. We had already been doing this for a while. Juan owns Trident and I run Imperial Mastering. We recorded both VILE demos and many other Metal bands before “Stench…”
How many copies did you print up of the album and was it difficult to get the name out internationally?
“Over 2000 copies. It was not hard to get the name out but it took some time. CANNIBAL CORPSE really liked us and the guys were always wearing our shirts. That helped. And when Relapse signed us that helped too. The Relapse deal got crushed after Mike quit though.”
Musically you already got compared to CANNIBAL CORPSE, SUFFOCATION and DEICIDE, which might be justified (especially when it comes to CORPSE), but I was wondering if nobody ever noticed that there’s also a big MORBID ANGEL influence to be found in the writing at the time?!
“Thank You! This is true. There are a few riffs that sound like CANNIBAL, but I don’t think that the first album is very close to them. We have a much bigger MORBID ANGEL influence that CANNIBAL. The way the songs are put together can be similar to MORBID ANGEL I think. There is a big emphasis on song writing here. We want the songs to have solid construction and have memorable sections. We want the music to flow properly. MORBID ANGEL is also very concerned with the way the songs flow. We won’t just put riffs together and call it a song.”
Did (do) you ever play any cover songs in your live / rehearsal set?
“We tried a few years ago to find a cover song that fit but never settled on one. I think eventually we will do a cover. I’m not sure what it will be though.”
Did you ever appear on any compilation and / or tribute albums?
”We appeared on a few comps. An Indonesian tape comp. Also the Relapse Contamination comp. Maybe one other.”
The artwork you used on "Stench Of The Deceased" was done by Jon Zig, who became quite famous within the Death Metal underground in the meantime. How did you find out about him back then? I mean, I suppose that he wasn’t that well known at the time, was he? Was it expensive to use his art?
“No, he was not as popular for cover art at the time. That painting we used is my favourite by him. He is mainly a tattoo artist. He has a shop called Alliance Body Art in Austin, Texas. I was referred to him by Hound from “Corpse Gristle” who is also a tattoo artist. Jonzig also drew our logo which I love. And he designed the word “Depopulate” on the new album. I think that it was only natural that he would eventually do many more band’s art. He is very reasonable with pricing.”
It seems that you’re playing out live as often as you can as you already supported a lot of well known acts in your area (like MORBID ANGEL, SUFFOCATION, CANNIBAL CORPSE, DEICIDE and so on) and also toured the U.S. twice (with DEEDS OF FLESH and with CEPHALIC CARNAGE). How did you manage to get all those gigs? Do you have a management backing you up or do you sit on the phone the whole days trying to book shows on your own?
“We’re not playing as much now, but we did back then. DEEDS booked our first tour with them and we worked with CEPHALIC on the second. Most of the times when we played with big acts, it was when they played in our area. We would get one of the opening slots.”
To quote a statement from your website: “VILE has recently signed with the infamous American underground label Relapse Records! A release is tentatively set for fall 2000…” Well, as the new album “Depopulate” recently got released by French Listenable Records, something obviously changed… Would you mind telling us whatever happened to the Relapse deal and when and how you ended up on Listenable instead?
“Yes, that info is old. We’re working on the new website now. We signed with Relapse just before Mike quit the band. And it took us so long to find a new drummer that Relapse changed their plans. It took us a while also to find Listenable, but I’m really glad we did!”
Did you finance “Depopulate” on your own once again, shipping the finished product to various labels afterwards or was it completely financed upfront from Listenable this time?
“We financed it ourselves. Listenable did advance us some money though. But it was such a long process that it cost quite a bit more than what we got. That’s just the way it is though. We own the studios where it was produced so it was cheaper than going somewhere else.”
Who’s idea was it to use Graal instead of Zig for the visual representation of the album this time and why?
“That was my idea. At first we were going to go with Zig. But after I saw the MUTANT and BEHEMOTH covers that Graal did I changed my mind. Jonzig is awesome but I really like how new and fresh the Graal covers were. He does the entire layout so it even saved us some money. I’m very happy with his work. He is a true artist. Jonzig did design the words “Depopulate” and the logo though. Zig makes awesome logos.”
It seems that you’re still facing some line-up problems when it comes to the bass player… Matt Faivre, who still played with you on your debut album, used to get replaced by Jeff Hughell back then… But nowadays Jeff isn’t in the band anymore and Matt as well as a guy named Lars Von Lowen were responsible for the bass tracks on the new album. Could you clear up this situation a bit? How did you actually find Jeff back then and why didn’t he work out? Is he still involved in music anyhow? And how about Lars? How did you get together with him?
“It’s a long story. Matt has been our friend and has been in bands with me for almost 10 years. He is an awesome player. He is also very in touch with my playing style. The only reason Jeff came in is because Matt decided to get a job where he was not able to tour. Jeff really saved our asses. But I don’t think Jeff was able to concentrate on the VILE gig because he had other bands at the time. I wanted to get the guy who would tour with us to be the guy on the album so I got Lars. Lars is in Juan’s other band MUDSLINGER. He has been a friend for many years as well. But after he started recording the album we both realized that there was a big difference in our styles and the way we work. So, after 5 songs were completed Lars left. I called Matt and he finished the album for us. We still need someone to tour with us and we have several options. Matt will always have first dibs though. We also have a small problem with Tyson our drummer. He can’t tour except in the summer time. There is always something to fuck things up with us!”
Where do you see the main differences (improvements) between "Stench Of The Deceased" and “Depopulate”?
“Ok. The new music is a lot faster. It doesn’t sound anything like CANNIBAL CORPSE! I’d say it’s closer to HATE ETERNAL now. The riffs are more complex and the whole thing is much harder to play. I think the record is more modern sounding. The song construction is still our trademark though. I think the riffs are more original and I think that the music has changed with the times. There is even some Black Metal influence in there too.”
How’s the Death Metal scene in your local area these days? Do you also notice a massive comeback of brutal music over there? Any new, promising bands that appeared on the scene lately?
“The scene is still good but in my area there is a lack of Death Metal bands. There is not much new stuff coming out of the Bay Area now. SEVERED SAVIOR is one new good band. There are other good US bands coming out but I think the scene has hit a plateau. You have to be very good to compete with NILE, HATE ETERNAL and bands like this. Most musicians just can’t play this well. So it’s hard for people to put together world-class Death Metal. I really struggle to get the guys to make this music happen.”
Any concrete plans on how you will promote the release of “Depopulation”? Is there already a tour in the making maybe? Will the European audiences also get a chance to see VILE live on stage in the near future?
“Yes, I’m planning a European tour for early next year. And a US tour next spring or summer. I may have to use a couple new musicians though. Also Unique Leader is the North American distributor for VILE. They will handle US promotion. We’re working on a new website now and I will post all tour info there. www.vilestench.com is the address. See you on tour!”