Thursday, October 2, 2014

Afterbirth Interview

Afterbirth interview. Questions answered by Cody Drasser, guitarist and founding member of the band.

1.Can you give us an update on what has been going on with the band since the recording and release of the new demo?

We’re mostly concerned with the writing process and creating new material, along with the 4 demo songs, that will eventually appear on our debut full-length album that we plan on recording early in 2015.

The band practices a lot to keep steadily moving forward with the creation of new material and to also stay tight as a unit. It’s massively important to us that we communicate well as friends and musicians within the band. Writing cohesive songs that don’t sound like just a bunch of riffs thrown into a blender is a crucial aspect of how we approach the writing process.

Longtime fans and new fans alike should be able to hear that we are well rehearsed and attentive to the new songs that we’re promoting both on the demo and in the live arena. Speaking of which, we’ve been playing a few shows here and there to spread the word that we’re back playing the old songs as well as showcasing our new direction.

Since the demo we’ve had to eject our vocalist from the band for various reasons. Vocally and interpersonally he wasn’t a good fit for the band anymore. We’re continuing on without him (or any other vocalist for that matter) as an instrumental death metal band. To some it might seem strange that we would not jump right into finding another vocalist, but to us it doesn’t make sense to do so. There are no more original vocal styles out there and we feel that vocals would cover up some of the more interesting parts of our new direction. In spite of some confusion from fans, its been mainly very positive feedback about our decision and has opened up a lot of musical possibilities for us. We’re pleased with the terrain we’ve been exploring since we’ve been reduced to a three piece.

2.In July you had released a new demo, how would you describe the musical sound that is presented on the recording and also how does it differ from the stuff you have released in the past?

Yes, we released a new demo a few months ago, the first new material in over 20 years. It’s been very exciting for us to reveal our new songs and the new direction we’ve taken since reforming.

The new sound is still rooted in our brutal/slam origins but since maturing as people and musicians, we’ve been able to convey more innovative musical ideas alongside our older sound.

We aren’t interested in blasting away at a million miles a minute for 4-minutes, we want to keep the music interesting. I think there’s a greater degree of technicality at work on the new demo, but not the sort of flashy virtuosity seen in many modern death metal bands.

The difference between then and now is that we’re now starting to move in a more progressive direction that sounds modern and complex without being overwhelming to the listener. We still have the groove and catchiness of our older sound but we can actually play our instruments a hell of a lot better than we used to as kids! Because of that, we’re able to bring a whole new dimension to what we were doing in the past. I think it works rather well together, this blending of the old and new sounds.

3.The band was broken up for 20 years, what was the cause of the split and also the decision to reform?

We essentially started the bands as teenagers and as most people at that age, we were going through lots of intense things and feeling very strong-willed about our individuals ideas about what the band should or should not be doing. Things like getting out into the world, getting our first jobs, falling in love for the first time, still living at home, going off to college, etc. all vied for the band’s attention. Something eventually had to give.

While we loved what we were doing, it never seemed to be a long term, goal-oriented thing for any one of us. We just didn’t have the mental capacity at the time to see beyond the moment. In hindsight, I see how we could have gotten along better and promoted and marketed the band in such a way that we would have become more viable and able to exist beyond our small and limited world view. Oh well, that obviously didn’t happen.

The band was able to hold it together for a couple of years but it couldn’t last much beyond that. Our egos, strong personalities and other outside forces were constantly colliding and butting heads, eventually leading to a ‘critical mass’ stage where we basically imploded and faded away without a lot of fanfare.

4.When I listened to the older material you had a sound that was very brutal for the time and had a vocal style that did not become a common for death metal up until the mid 2000's, do you feel you have been a huge influence on the slam and brutal death metal genres?

I see that it might the case where our sound and early material possibly influenced some individuals and bands within the growing death metal scene at the time of its release. It’s hard to say if we’ve been a huge influence, but I can say with some certainty that we must have had at least some measure of influence in the scene and culture. On who and how far is up to speculation.

It’s important for me to point out once again that we were just teenagers who came together with a unified desire to create some form of brutal, heavy and groovy death metal. We didn’t consciously sit down and discuss what direction we should take and how we should go about the writing process; we got together and certain sounds emerged naturally when we played our instruments, it was as simple as that. It was all very natural and uncontrived, which was crucial to our sound development.

It just so happened that our ‘sound’ became a big thing in later years and we were slightly ahead of the time, unaware of what we were doing exactly. It’s kind of cool to look back on how it all began but it some way I am happy we had no idea how big our unique take on death metal would eventually become. It probably would have gone to our heads and put tremendous stress on our already tumultuous and stressed out young minds.

5.What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects the band explores with the newer material?

New material strays very far away from early topics of gore and fetuses I think. We did that already, no need to do that again. Plus, seems like every brutal/slam/gore grind band in existence now latches onto such topics, don’t they? Let them have it I say, that’s fine with us, but we’ve moved on to different realms of thought. It’s the only way to keep the band fresh and momentum positive and unhampered by anything we’ve already done. The idea is to continually progress, not stagnate. There’s way too much of that in the current death metal scene nowadays.

Human suffering, the end of life on earth, disgusting religious/spiritual lies are some newer ideas we’re now exploring. Of course, death resides at the very heart of all of these ideas, so it’s very much still death metal but it isn’t obviously or gratuitously gory. I’m just not into the gore thing anymore.

I think we can articulate ourselves much better and have something to say about the state of the world. Perhaps these ideas themselves also are nothing new, but they go beyond superficial levels of gore and comic book horror. I guess you could say we’re looking for a bit more realism and subtlety in the newer ideas.

6.What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Afterbirth'?

I believe the name came from our ex-vocalist’s father somehow. I don’t think it was a very complimentary thing for him to say about his son but I guess that notion always stuck with him and he introduced the name as one of many for the band. It seemed simple and effective enough at the time considering our style and lyrical content so we went with it. Afterbirth, while being a natural thing in childbirth can always be pretty gross I suppose, so it seemed like a powerful name to choose for a band that singing about killing babies and nasty stuff like that.

Looking at the name now I sometimes wish that we had gone with something different but it speaks to a certain youthful period in death metal when simple names like ours were more commonplace so I suppose it still has some meaning and power behind it.

7.What are some of the best shows that the band has played over the years and also how would you describe your stage performance?

Early on we shared the stage with many well-known death metal that I need not name-check here (too many to mention.) That was always a blast, playing with these major bands that had influenced us, and so many others within the scene at the time. That always felt like a tremendous sense of accomplishment, you know? To play on the same stage as these hugely worshipped bands that people went nuts for. The fans went nuts for us, too, which was just too cool.

No particular show stands out for me personally as there was actually many, many moments that seem to be frozen in time in my mind about those younger days. Great times all around, even when it was challenging work to get to the gigs and deal with the nervousness that accompanies live performances.

What I will point out is the energy, the vibe of those early days, that’s what seemed most memorable to me; when every show, no matter who was playing the stage, seemed to be filled-to-capacity. The fans raged for every band, even the lesser-known opening acts just as much as they flipped for the headlining acts. You don’t see that so much anymore, at least not in America. The opening bands rarely get the attention or respect they deserve the way they used to. I don’t know though, death metal seems to be on the uptick again, perhaps we’ll see a return to that energy in some way. A band can dream can’t they?

8.Do you have any touring or show plans for the future?

We’ve been playing out here and there. It’s a bit sporadic at the moment, but we’re taking what we can get, trying to network once more and begin to put our names in the minds of the people once more; the overall response to be very favorable. People seem to be super-excited that we’re making music once again!

Our next scheduled show is on November 15th, 2014 in Brooklyn at a venue called The Gutter. We’re playing with some other NY acts; Grey Skies Fallen and Buckshot Facelift.

One thing that makes playing live shows tricky right now is that our bass player (Dave Case) is also the bass player for legendary NY band Helmet and he’s often out on the road with them. Our time with him is somewhat compressed and we do what we can when he’s in town before he’s off on another tour. We have to work with what we’ve been given and Dave’s an integral part of our sound. In that way, it might take us a little longer to write songs and get out there, but we’re committed to this band and take opportunities as they arise. We might not be able to tour or play as frequently as our counterparts, but we still get out there when we can.

We were just contacted by a promoter in Russia about touring there in the spring of 2015 but that’s not been confirmed yet. There’s a lot of logistics to touring overseas that need to be worked out in advance and we’ve never been over there yet as a band so it’s a bit complicated at the moment, especially when you don’t have a management team working out all of those details for you. I hope that the tour can work out, or maybe some other tour that gets us to Europe at some point. That’s really one of the band’s main goals and dreams. Fingers crossed that it all works out somehow!

9.Recently Pathos Productions released all of your 90's stuff on a compilation, can you tell us a little bit more about this label?

Pathos Productions, run by John T. Dwyer is one-man operation out of Rhode Island that’s been supporting the scene since it began. John’s been a huge supporter of death metal music for a very long time, since the late 80’s, and his label has put out a few album and reissues of classic, cult bands. Bands like Pyrexia, Dehumanized, Embrionic Death and many more have worked with him and put out albums/compilations. He’s very dedicated and folks should definitely check out his label and distro shop.

John contacted me early in 2012 and we entered into discussions about putting out our early material on one disc for all to hear. At the time, Afterbirth had been a very distant memory for me and the other guys. I hadn’t really even talked to the drummer or vocalist since we split in 1995. That’s a very long time to go without speaking to one another, and I felt a little trepidation about how things might go. We didn’t get along so well at the end and there was some real animosity between group member.

That being said, I felt that it would be a wise move to put the music out, but not without the consent of all the band members. I eventually got in contact with them again and they were happy to hear that there was interest in our music still. It was a mutual agreement to say yes to the opportunity. We had nothing to lose, so why not, right!?

10.On a worldwide level how has the feedback been to your reunion by fans of brutal death metal?

This by far has been one of the most rewarding and unexpected aspects about the reunion, our reissue and new demo. People seem to be really excited to see us back in action once again.

The four of us really had no idea how much the band had come to be revered by old school and new school fans alike. As I said above, Afterbirth was a distant memory for us as we had all moved on and never really looked back after we disbanded. To see that not only was there not only some small interest from the region of NY, but that fans all over the globe were chomping at the bit to know we were together once again has made this endeavor a very fulfilling one.

It was at the time of the reunion that we discovered how widespread our demo had influenced a whole generation of bands and how some were calling us innovators, visionaries and being a band way ahead of our time. If we had only known about this, maybe we would have gotten back together sooner (or maybe never broken up to begin with.) But, everything has a reason for happening I suppose. Just as there were reasons we broke up, there seems to be as many equally mysterious reasons for us to have found one another again.

11.When can we expect a full-length album and also where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?

Like I mentioned in the beginning of the interview, we have tentative plans to record our debut full-length in the early point of 2015. Now, this is not set in stone, so it may happen earlier or it may happen later, but it WILL happen in 2015. It’s fate.

Musically we are exploring ever more complex and ambitious territory with our music. We all have deep roots in the early death metal scene, and that will never change, it’s in our blood but we are forging ahead into new territory. We personally think it’s a more modern and progressive take on an old familiar style.

We’re not really interested in stagnating our rehashing everything we’ve done before. I know some bands that are reforming after having been broken up for a while are interested in remaining close to exactly the same in terms of original style, and that’s fine with me, but we feel a natural need to push ourselves harder than we did in the past and have fun while doing it.

What’s most important is that we love it and are happy with our new direction. But, people that have heard the demo and seen us perform new material live have responded very favorably.

12.What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your newer music and also what are you listening to nowadays?

Hmm, well, we still enjoy the old death metal/thrash favorites such as Slayer, Suffocation, Dying Fetus, etc. but as far as newer music, it’s all over the map. Some newer death metal, ambient, classic rock, progressive rock and metal, jazz, etc. are all musical styles that we listen to and draw inspiration from in some way.

Perhaps it doesn’t all make its way into our sound, but a person can’t remain completely unchanged when they broaden their musical horizons to such a high degree. I personally try to keep things fresh in our music while keeping it grounded somewhat familiar. A bit of the old and the sprinkling of the new to bring about something totally different yet not so far removed as to be totally out of left field.

13.What are some of your non-musical interests?

Personally speaking, I enjoy a lot of physical activities such as walking, biking, hiking, practicing yoga and meditation. Actually, I’m a yoga teacher by trade nowadays. I’m also an illustrator and graphic designer. Hmmm, I also like to drink beer and am a big fan of sleep!

A lot of my work is spread through word of mouth these days, but I do have a website for my art and art services. Even though I haven’t updated my site to include many of my new stuff, I still encourage people to check it out and contact me if they are interested in me working on art or layout for their musical (or non-musical) projects:

I’ve also got a new book out full of art that I created during my early days in Afterbirth and being involved in the death metal scene. It’s also got some newer, never before seen pieces as well. All in all, it’s over 40 pages of artwork for a very cheap price. Folks can check that out here and purchase it directly from me, I think a lot of people will be really into it. Anybody that orders the book from me directly also gets a personally created illustration made just for them:

14.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?

I want to thank you for taking the time to interview me and give the band a forum to communicate to the world. This support means so much, to me, and the rest of the band.

To the reader and potential fan (or committed fan) I say this: Please like our Facebook page, visit our website and purchase something from our bandcamp page. Make your voices heard about how much you want us to tour near you and how much you want to hear new material from the band. Your support is one huge way we can keep this band alive and moving forward.

We’re really hoping that we’ll gain label support and recognition to help us spread our album (when it’s recorded eventually) and help us get out on the road to tour the states and hopefully also over to Europe at some point.

We hope to see and interact with everyone out there that enjoys our music. Thanks again!

No comments:

Post a Comment