Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Torturerama interview

TORTURERAMA interview!

Hi there Raf! Damn, it took me a long time to prepare these questions, “Close Encounters of the Morbid Kind” has already been released months ago… so you probably have some distance to the album already, tell me then what do you think of it today? How happy are you with the final result and the reviews this CD is getting around the globe? Hopefully Godeater is doing a fine job also, when speaking of the promotion!?
Hi there Marcin! About “Close Encounters Of The Morbid Kind”, we are still very happy with the end result. Of course there are always things we could have done different but as a whole the record sounds great in our ears. We thank Fredde (from Dirty Bird and Massive Assault / Sledgehammer Nosejob) for that. We are happy with our collaboration with Godeater. We already played some nice gigs and we have some cool ones scheduled.

Awesome! But I wanna start with a bit of the past… and first ask about the bandname! Ha, I wonder who came up with this moniker? I mean when I heard of Torturerama for the first time, I used to confuse it with Terrorama a lot haha! Stupid I am! 
Well it was kind of a joke and actually had nothing to do with Terrorama. At one point in the beginning we were sitting in our rehearsal dungeon brainstorming about a band name and this is what we came up with. Belgian beer is pretty strong you know!

The band was formed in 2008 and back then this whole explosion of new wave of old school death metal wasn’t so popular, although few bands were doing it for some time and with a killer result (bands like Repugnant, Kaamos, Necrovation, Verminous, Paganizer, etc). It got really crazy later. But I wonder what made you create a band, which would play such style of music and feel that special affect to the classic Swedish sound? Did it just came out naturally or it was something you planned on doing for some time?
Well it was Christophe, our drummer, who approached me to start this new band in 2007 already. He just came from the ashes of extreme death metal band Prejudice and was kinda sick of the super technical and super brutal genre.
Fuelled by a Dismember show around that time and of course the releases from bands such as Repugnant, but also Death Breath and many others helped fuel that idea. It was a clear choice to go for the chainsaw sound because no one was doing it anymore at the time. Of course coming from other bands at the time we had to search for our own style within the genre and that took some time. I think it comes out best in our latest release. 

The first demo was out in 2010. Some great tracks are there, like “Merciless Exsanguination” and “Last Piece”. Damn! I really like it a lot! How limited is this CD? How do you remember recording it, as it could have been a first time in the studio for some of you?
Thanks for the kind words! Let’s say there is a limit to amount of copies but that limit has not yet been reached :D I remember recording very well. We headed out to MTM studio in Dessel with a shitload of gear and we tried our best to recreate the legendary Sunlight Studio sound. I remember using amps and guitars I don’t own anymore right now. It was a great time! For me it actually was my very first recording experience in a studio, but that did not affect me in any way. There was beer and we had good fun. Hard work though, after that we changed our recording method. We now record everything ourselves. Not that we weren’t happy with the end result., it just seemed more logically to do it ourselves because that gives us more time and less stress.

How did you manage to get Eric Danielsson to do the artwork for your first demo? Damn, I must say that it looks killer. And more so, you had Skogsberg mastering the music, which is another prolific name on the list! How did this idea come up to you? Don't you think that to use names like Skogsberg or Swano is kind of risky, as it immediately puts you into the category of "Swedish death metal band"? 
Well, actually we wanted Riddick to do our artwork but because he was unavailable at the moment we looked for other options. We mailed Eric and that’s how simple it was actually. He was very positive about our little project there.
With Sunlight Studio and Skogsberg it went the exact same way. He even said he was glad to be doing some death metal again because he was swamped in rock’n’roll bands at the time. We hope to work with him again someday!
And about the Swedish death metal stamp, well we were kind of aiming for that with our sound as well.

The second demo, "It Begins at Birth" came through Dolorem Records. And it is even better than the first one! I love the melodic and aggressive patterns in “Sheppard of a Secret Realm”, “Necromantical Tendencies” is also fantastic. Well, some may argue or moan if people need another band playing this style, but who cares? Are you bothered about being original sounding band or whatever? I think that it's killer music, nothing else matters. Any plans to make another edition of these sold out demos? 
“It Begins At Birth” was first released by on tape by ourselves in a limited 100 copies edition. They are sold out. But our little endeavour awakened the interest for our morbid tunes at Dolorem. They were starting at the time with their underground label and wanted us to re-release “It Begins At Birth” on CD through Dolorem. We still have a couple of CD’s left but they won’t last forever. Grab it while you can! About the style, well when we started no one was doing it. Some of the younger (and more ignorant)  kids said to us they didn’t like our style of black metal. We laughed for a bit. Now there is a whole new revival thing going on with some of the younger kids (who finally moved on from the thrash revival). We are not bothered by any forms of criticism. We do our thing and we love doing it. In the end we make this music for ourselves because that’s what we want to do. 

I was eagerly waiting for the debut Torturerama album… and it finally arrived from Godeater Records. First, I want to ask about this label. I have some of their other releases and I appreciate this label a lot, but how do you feel being in such small and limited label? I mean there are some underground labels, which have better recognition these days, like FDA or Dark Descent, where Torturerama would fit perfectly also. So, why Godeater? What did they offer that you decided to release “Close Encounters Of The Morbid Kind” with them? Have you heard any of their previous releases, etc? 
Well, Godeater showed interest in our music and we had a shitload of songs already finished to record from the “It Begins at Birth” time. So recording the new album was done pretty quickly. Of course, if any of the larger labels like FDA or Dark Decent are interested to work with us in the future we would be happy to work with them. For now we are happy with Godeater and having a label definitely has given us the boost we needed. We all knew Godeater through Michel of Entrapment. They released a demo compilation on Godeater. So we knew wat GODEATER was all about. 

And then we have Juanjo Castellano doing an artwork for the album. I like his works a lot, although I also feel like he’s terribly over explored these days. Anyway, he did good job for “Close Encounters Of The Morbid Kind”. Did you give him some ideas for the art or just used what he had prepared before? How did the cooperation with him look like? 
He’s a busy man, that’s for sure. He did a whole new design for us and we are very pleased with the results. We gave him some pointers but nothing too much. He knows what he’s doing.

Just by looking at the lyrics, you can be sure there’re no happy things in there. Horror, gore, a lot of creepy stuff, you know, with titles like “Reduced to Fecal Splatter”, “Revel in Disgust” or “Flesh Ripping Sounds” (which is a good title to describe your music haha!). I wonder if it’s the only lyrical subject in your opinion that should be used in bands like Torturerama? I mean, would you ever write more social related lyrics, similar to what bands like Gorefest did years ago for example? I must say that I do enjoy gore lyrics, especially that often they have also that humorous and grotesque side, which is quite cool and far from the dead serious occult or satanic stuff. Your opinion? 
Well, we kind of stay away from political messages because politics is full of bullshit anyway. Satanism is overly covered by a lot of other bands and just being the next band yelling “Hail Satan” isn’t our objective. It’s possible our lyrical themes will evolve to something else but for me personally that’s not really a goal. Although there are many ways to write about horror, gore and creepy stuff. The mind of a human can be the darkest place of all. So maybe that’s a way we could evolve lyrically. I’m not really busy with what the “message” of our music is. We just want to make kick ass songs.

When writing about topics like death, diseases, sickness, it is usually influenced by old horror movies… but damn, sometimes you can wonder what the fuck would you do if one day you woke up and saw the TV headlines about a deadly outbreak, which is changing people into fuckin zombies! Ha, imagine you’re there! What would you do to survive?! And damn, what do you think about people, who actually prepare themselves for such Armageddon, collecting food cans, water, batteries, weapons and everything they would need in critical situations? Are they crazy or wise? 
Ha! What a notion. Yeah, those people are a bit off. Let’s not say they’re crazy, but there’s certainly something wrong with their vision of the world we live in.
Let’s say that really happens,  it might be so that they survive a bit longer, but not much. What is a year when you are going to die soon anyway. We as a species lack the skills to survive in a situation where all of our daily comfort is ripped away. And the good news is, our planet will easily recover from the cancer that humanity is for the earth. We are a society that values knowledge, very specific, useless knowledge that in the case of an apocalyptic event won’t do you much good.  Even in the case of a new global conflict like a new world war a lot of people these days will have to realise that they actually have no valuable skills to sustain themselves and even rebuild society afterward.

I don’t think you would feel angry if I say that “Close Encounters Of The Morbid Kind” is heavily Swedish death metal influenced album. Because it is! It’s obvious that Torturerama takes a lot of influence from the old bands, such Entombed, Dismember, Desultory, Grave, but also from non-Swedish acts like Autopsy, Asphyx, etc. But I wonder if there are any newer acts that you feel inspire you in similar way as the old legends? Do you think that any of these new bands will be as remembered in twenty years as the old legends are or the music became such a “fast food” product that it’s just passing by with time, each new album is replaced by something newer and quickly forgotten? 
In general the whole metal scene is in need of new “hero’s”. If you see today’s headliners on the big festivals you have to acknowledge that most of the headliners are bands the have been in this position since the 80’s or even longer.
Together with the fact that music in general is becoming more of a consumption product in general instead of a valued art form, I don’t see this evolving in a positive way. The metal scene is a bit more conservative in that way but there still are similar problems. Of course we appreciate a lot more recent bands in many different sub genres but I don’t immediately see them rising to be the new Entombed, Carcass or anything else. And that is certainly not due to the face that these bands aren’t working hard enough of don’t possess the talent, but rather to what music and the “industry” has become today. So yeah, your fast food analogy is a pretty good one.

Are you bothered that reviews compare you to some other, usually the same group of bands and some even accuse you for being unoriginal and point this out as something negative? How much does being original and unique matter to Torturerama?
Or reviews seem to be pretty positive lately. And I don’t see it as a negative thing that we get compared to the usual suspects. We aren’t reinventing hot water here. If we are unoriginal, all bands that do death metal, or any other kind of metal, in a similar way are unoriginal. This is what we do, like it or leave it. 

OK, you know how much I enjoy your music… And there are many more killer bands these days, which perform death metal just like it was late 80’s / early 90’s and it’s awesome, as I love this sound… but then on the other hand isn’t death metal becoming too predictable, too repetitive these days? You know, how many similar albums can you listen to every month? On the other hand I suppose the older, die hard maniacs would rather have troubles with finding anything worthy in bands that bring something different and more original to this style, like personally I just can’t stand very technical death metal bands or symphonic death metal like Fleshgod Apocalypse! 
When the first wave of extreme metal hit the scene’s all over the world people went crazy because it was something fresh and it had bite and even more aggression. But a few years on this evolved into something of a race to become the most extreme, fastest, most technical, most blablabla band / music / artist. The whole revival thing just came along because people want to rock out
again at gigs instead of standing there listening to very complex, technical music that doesn’t make you want to thrash the place up. So the return to the basics death, but also thrash and heavy metal, will result in bands evolving into something new and exciting. Just like the bands in the early 90’s did. Some will disappear and others will evolve to bigger acts. For instance bands like Morbus Chron or Tribulation already show a mutated form of death metal that I find very interesting.

And what do you think about the long running death metal bands like Obituary, Grave, Unleashed, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse or Malevolent Creation? Do they still have anything to offer? Is it still possible to really enjoy their music, especially when they all did their best stuff in the early stages of their careers? You know, I feel like each next album is like a routine for them and just something that gives them a reason to do another tour. As much as I love Grave for example, I did buy their last album "Out Of Respect For The Dead" and it’s a solid record, but after having so many of their LPs in collection, I started to have thoughts like “hmm, maybe this is my last Grave album I bought, as they just don’t have anything else to offer me?”. What’s your opinion on that?
Me personally, I’m one of those fucks who says stuff like “only the first album is good”. I can be pretty annoying that way, hehe. In general, as a musician / band, if you are capable of writing one or more great albums that’s one hell of an achievement. Of course you will always try to do better, but there always comes a time to realise the end near. But as for these older bands releasing new albums, that’s a survival strategy. With a new album they can tour and survive as a band. I respect that but I’m not running out to get every new release from every band  that once released a great album. Most of these bands survive on their live shows these days, not on the record sales. That also explains the ridiculous prices for bigger acts and their merchandise for instance. I went to a show recently where a shirt costs 35 euro and a hoodie 55. These prices are a bit over the top if you ask me but they have to find new ways to survive because of the lower record sales.

I wonder how is the songwriting like in Torturerama? There's five mates in the band, so plenty of heads to create ideas, I suppose? Do you glue them all together and then make the songs or each of you is individually responsible for composing? Did you ever feel while writing the music that "damn, this riff sounds great... but hold on, it also sounds familiar, but I can't figure out now where it may be coming from?". I always think that the more music you listen to, the more possible it is that accidently you’ll repeat someone else's music haha. 
Actually it’s just 4 sick fucks now. And it’s been that way for quite some time already. When we make songs usually someone comes with one or more riffs and we build on that and see where it leads us. But of course we all do it together. So we write songs as a band. Lyrics usually come from our singer and we adjust if necessary. It’s really a team effort, go team!

I know you’re all playing also in other bands, playing some other styles of metal… what does it give you, to be a part of few projects and play different stuff? 
It’s all extreme music in its own way. For me personally it is a way to ventilate my creativity and also it’s just good fun playing in a band. It’s a hobby, but a very special one. Playing live, recording… I like it all.

Bathsheba released a debut EP for Svart Records. It is pure doom metal stuff, released on 10” vinyl. And I’ve given it a listen on YouTube, well… it just sounds great! It’s very dark, eerie, fuckin “witches music”. What feedback did you get so far with “The Sleepless Gods”? Are people liking doom metal, with such female vocals? Oh, and what would you say are the differences between Bathsheba and Death Penalty, which is another doom band you play in?
Thanks! We actually are getting some very good reactions to Bathsheba. Also Svart Records came out of the blue and offered us a deal. So without much effort this seems to get a lot of attention with a certain audience, and that is very nice for us! Btw, we are getting ready to record a full album that will also be released through Svart. The vocals and the music have gotten a bit more extreme and we are experimenting with different instruments and sounds. So let’s hope the end result will be something to be proud of. The differences between Bathsheba and Death Penalty are quite obvious. Bathsheba is a lot darker and heavier, we function as a band. Whilst Death Penalty is Gary “Gaz” Jennings, former Cathedral riffmeister general, new band, where he makes all the music. It’s more accessible, exactly what Gaz always wanted to do, but could not be done within the concept of Cathedral. So you will find Cathedral style songs and riffs but also faster and catchier songs. So it can be doomy but also more classic heavy metal.

How come we’ve never heard of real killer death metal bands from Belgium? When giving a full objective look at the European death metal from the late 80's up to nowadays, it is noticeable that Belgium has never been able to deliver a bigger number of great, influential bands. Of course there were some underground acts like Blasphereion, Morbid Death, Exoto, later you had Aborted... but damn, this is nothing when compared to the scenes from Holland, France, Germany, Poland, Sweden. How would you explain this? How do you view the old death metal scene from Belgium? Are there any bands, which I may not know and which you think I should? Any old fanzines really recommendable? 
Maybe it has something to do with the scene not being big enough? Belgian bands always have to struggle to get noticed abroad. And everybody knows that Germany is the scene where you have to try and make a mark. But all bands are trying to do that, so it’s really hard to get noticed. 

But these days there are some great bands, for example Resuscitation, Carnation, Pek, Disinterred and Torturerama of corpse! It got better! 
Thank you, but we still have a long way to go. Also remarkable that you know Pek! Some bands get no recognition in Belgium itself at all. Resuscitation and Carnation are doing pretty well I think. Disinterred has slowed down a bit recently. Let’s hope they come back with full force! The scene has always been alive, or undead if you will. We will see what the future will bring us.

Damn, do you remember Detest Records? They were Belgian and man, this label released some of the best bands ever, when speaking of the new generation of death metal. I suppose everything they released turned into new classics and all bands like Morbus Chron, Krypts, Stench of Decay, Swallowed, Ataraxy or Miasmal are now leaders of the scene. Were you familiar with this label? I must say that Torturerama would fit their roster perfectly! 
I think we emerged into the scene too late to get noticed by Jerry. Too bad really.  He had a really cool thing going there! Some really great releases. I gave him a lot of my money; that’s for sure!

How do you see an importance of the so called social medias as a help to spread the name of the band and promote the album? I guess profile on facebook and such have basically replaced the more traditional websites. YouTube became an important tool as well. Also, what’s your view on such crowdfunding or pay to play things, which personally I have hard time to understand and tolerate.
Well Myspace kind blew itself up by sucking beyond belief. Facebook took over. A lot more people on there as well. So for promotional purposes it’s great. But everything becomes clickbait. But that’s the general trend. Promotion becomes easier
on one hand, but it’s harder to get noticed in the avalanche of bands / shows… And then there’s Twitter, Instagram, and so on and so on. I’m on Facebook but lately I’m kind of getting sick of it. Too much opinions that aren’t really relevant. Too much bullshit and shitloads of ignorance, racism, prejudice… The whole crowdfunding idea hasn’t really come off the ground in the metal scene, or at least not in Belgian metal scene.

To end this interview, one more question. How important is the format, which your album is released on? Are you tape, CD and vinyl collector and want to see “Close Encounters Of The Morbid Kind” on all these formats or you just don’t care and it could even been a digital file or bandcamp, as long as people listen to the music? Cheers for the answers, Raf!
Of course the format matters. Real metalheads buy hard copies! Tape, CD or vinyl, doesn’t matter. The whole streaming business has a valuable contribution, but hard copies are the real stuff. Supporting (underground) music is done by going out to see the bands and, if you like it, buying their stuff! I’m gonna have myself a couple of beers now, cheers!

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