Ulcerate

Ulcerate

interview by Francesco Nunziata
Tell me about the band history, from the beginning...when your moniker was Bloodwreath.
Mike Hoggard and myself started the band in high school under that name; it wasn’t until the first demo material was written that we changed the name.  Full bio info is on our site: http://www.ulcerate-official.com/html/band.php

Your pre-Bloodwreath/Ulcerate activities?
Nothing really band-wise, as I said, we were still in school.

Ulcerate: what does the name mean?
The original thinking behind the name was in a metaphorical sense: an infection of weak human though etc.

jamiesaintmerat1_02Your first demo was very raw, in places nearly "gore". Your influences at that time (2003)?
Gore? Not so much from our standpoint. Our early influences around that time were Immolation, Hate Eternal, Gorguts, Today is the Day, and I think a little Deeds of Flesh may have found it’s way into the sound at that time.

In these first demo, also your drumming is different, less dynamic and creative...Isn't it?
For sure, but I was only 19-20 at the time, and still trying to find my footing with death metal drumming in general, let alone stepping outside of the confines of the style.

Then, "Of Fracture and Failure"...your first album...What happened in the meantime?
We wrote that album over a 2-year period, and our intention was to really step things up compositionally and playing-wise.  It felt like it was a big deal for us to be doing our first full-length so we really threw everything we had at it. We really started to stress the darker aspects in the riff-writing, and found a way for us to really work the linear development of our songs to a fairly extreme extent.  In hindsight there’s definitely a lot we would have done differently, but I think it’s a worthy release in our back catalogue as it certainly offers something a little different compared to the releases before and after it.

"Everything Is Fire" is, according to me, your masterpiece (for now!). Tell me something about its recording process and emotional background.

The recording process was incredibly straight-forward, we engineer, mix and master everything ourselves, so we just take everything out our own pace. But we’ve also always done a lot pre-production recordings for experimentation with tones and compositional ideas, so we knew exactly what needed to be done so we just went in and did it. As for emotional background, not really sure what you mean? If you mean our head-space at the time, how we approached the atmosphere of the album, then we basically wanted to really up the ante with the overall atmosphere and depth, whilst streamlining a lot of the more chaotic arrangements seen on the Of Fracture. It’s the first album where we really struck what we feel to be ‘our sound’, where all the pieces fit together perfectly. In my opinion it’s easily the first material of ours that really gets the dynamic spectrum right as well, as we’d always struggled with the subtle sections in the past, and the fluidity between them and the more extreme parts.

"The Destroyers Of All", instead, has a massive sound. Anyway, which are the most important difference between “Everything Is Fire” and “The Destroyers Of All”?

Well we strived to make an album that was a little more considered, a lot more ‘open’ and larger in overall tonality.  We wanted to continue what we achieved with Fire, as we’re all very happy with that approach - so it was using that sound as a platform and building upon it.  We certainly wanted to continue our tradition of making the atmosphere more all-encompassing, and really writing a very cohesive set of songs that really make the album greater than the sum of its parts.

Ulcerate play death-metal, but it is obviously not the ordinary kind. What's about your musical and non-musical influences?
We’re all really open to any type of music, I think between the 4 of us the one thing that we’d all have in common with bands is that there needs to be a sense of integrity and honesty with the music, and above and beyond that anything goes. In terms of non-musical influences, well I can’t speak for the others, but for myself graphic + web design and film are my main areas of interest outside of music. Art and design-wise I’m really into Stephen Kasner, Timo Ketola, Francis Bacon, Bosch, Aaron Turner,  and I have to mention Alexander Brown from Witchrist, his illustration work is impeccable. Web work from Fi, Group94, WeightShift, Mighty. Film-wise, anything festival and European is a good start.

Do you want to realize a synthesis between deathmetal, atmospheric sludge and postcore?  How would you define your sound?
That’s never really been an intentional step, to just mangle together 3 genres like that. The intention is simple - to create very bleak, oppressive, atmospheric death metal with a very strong sense of dynamics. So that’s our framework, and within that anything goes - but the core is always death metal.  I don’t really give a flying fuck about sub-genre label tags, we’ll leave that to others!

Does your "insular" situation influence your music?

Yeah I’d say definitely. It kind of forces a level of focus out of you, as we don’t have the constant tour opportunities that US and European bands have - so there’s very little immediate payback so to speak, and a ton of bands over here last not much longer than a couple of years because of it. The longest tours we can really pull in NZ and Aus are 4 or 5 dates each, so when you’re not playing out as much, you’ve got a lot more time to reflect on the music and not get influenced/corrupted by sounds that win crowds over.

paul_kelland_02Australia and New Zealand seems to have one of the most unique, brutal and experimental take on death-metal (Portal, Ulcerate, Impetuous Ritual, Aethyrvorous, etc.). What do you think about it?
I guess the isolation from the rest of the world has kept that insular feeling, and naturally regions always produce like-minded individuals and certain specific sounds. In terms of why there's been a gravitation to a very caustic, dark form of death metal - I really have no idea. I think it's just a subconscious snow-ball effect in terms of influences, you just grow up knowing death / black metal to be like that live. We're lucky to get only 2 or 3 international death/black acts per year over here so NZ has always been very late to pick up on trends from overseas, which I guess has worked to our advantage historically.

How you came in contact with Willowtip?
They were licensing our albums off of our previous label Neurotic records (for "Of Fracture...").  When Neurotic went AWOL it was the obvious choice to continue with Willowtip.

What happened with Neurotic Records?

Just as we were preparing to record "Everything is Fire", we literally couldn’t get a response out of them regarding the release of the album for a period of months. We had fulfilled our one album contract, so we decided to approach Willowtip to solely look after the release. When the owner of Neurotic, Ruud Lemmen caught wind he emailed us immediately (ironically after months of trying to get a single word out of him) and threatened us by saying we needed to pay him a ‘partial sum’ to get out of the contract - bear in mind this is after him not fulfilling his side of the contract (no royalties, no full allotment of physical albums sent to us). So, not only was it childish and pathetic, it was fairly illegal. We sent a message back saying that we had a lawyer check over things, and that we’re not in the business of fucking people or labels over, and that we should just leave it at that.  Not a single response since. 

What’s your view on the current state of extreme metal and metal in general?
I think there’s a glut of very boring music made, with a few diamonds in the rough. In saying that, the bands that are doing good work, are doing fucking great work, and it’s on their shoulders that the future of this style of music will rest.

I think Ulcerate, together with Portal and Mitochondrion, represent a revolutionary way for death-metal...
I’d certainly like to agree with that, because to me these bands have the spirit of this kind of music - there’s no bullshit rock-star shit, just honest people making honest music. To me that is the utmost important aspect in band outside of their output. I also have to mention Dead Congregation, Svart Crown, Ingurgitating Obliveon, Immolation obviously.

What is the metal scene like in New Zealand?
Very small and very insular. There’s kind of 3 sub-strata: extreme bands that all seem to be like-minded individuals creating worthwhile music, more mainstream groove-orientated music, and then of course we have the infiltration of trendy metalcore/deathcore, Gothenburg ripoff shit about 15 years too late.

Tell me something about your lirycs?
Our vocalist Paul Kelland handles the lyric side of things, so asides from an overall theme summation, I’m not entirely well-equipped to discuss the finer details.

How your drumming style is changed through the years?
I guess when I first started playing this style of music I was very focused on getting the rudimentary elements of the style, blasts and double bass up to an adequate pace and level of tightness. And I’ve always had an improvisational element in my playing, regardless of how under-developed that has been in the past. But in recent years I’ve really been focusing on feel, groove and limb independence, which has really freed up my drumming a lot. I think I’m definitely getting to a stage where I can inject a level of personality and subtlety regardless of the rhythmic framework and time signature etc.

I know you played in Italy with Nile, during th2 2009 tour...
Yeah for sure! We played in Rome, Rimini and Milan, all shows were fucking excellent! This shows were part of a full European tour with 30 or so dates, and they were really really good for us.  Definitely the best shows of the tour for us response-wise. We’ve been associated with the Nefas guys and their label The Flood, so it seems we have a fairly decent profile in your country (or at least it feels that way).

ulcerate_foto_01_04The Flood released "The Coming of Genocide". How you "met" the Nefas guys?
Dario approached us via email wishing to re-release our demo material, that's all there really is to it!

What do you think about all this fuzz concerning illegall downloading of music, movies etc.?
It doesn’t matter to me in the slightest, for us it’s important that people are able to hear the music through whatever means necessary - album sales all go straight to the label anyway, we don’t see royalties in a conventional sense. At the end of the day, if someone doesn’t want to have the full package of album art and something tactile then that’s fairly lame, but what are you going to do? Albums these days seem to be a lot more rushed than even 10 years ago, so its pretty crucial that you can sample the whole thing start to end before you decide whether or not to buy.

Ten albums to bring for a "desert island" (every genres!)

Immolation - Close to a World Below
Cult of Luna - Somewhere Along the Highway
Hate Eternal - Conquering the Throne
Craft - Fuck the Universe
Clutch - Blast Tyrant
Today is the Day - In the Eyes of God
Jakob - Cale:Drew
The Crown - Hell is Here
Bohren und der Club of Gore - Black Earth
Arkhon Infaustus - Orthodoxyn

Which are your favorite Ulcerate songs (only 3)?
"Everything is Fire", "Cold Becoming", "Omens".

Future projects?
We’re in planning stages for European and US tours, after which point we’ll start working on album #4. Everyone in the band has outside projects we’re working, but nothing that’s really worth revealing at this point. 

What will your next album sound like?

No idea at this stage!

(30/05/2011)
Discography
 Demo, Ep
 
   
 Ulcerate (autoprodotto, 2003)

5,5

 The Coming Of Genocide (autoprodotto, 2004; rist. The Flood, 2006; rist. Deepsend, 2008)

6

     
 Cd 
   
 Of Fracture And Failure (Neurotic, 2006; rist. Willowtip, 2007)
 6,5
Everything Is Fire (Willowtip, 2009)
 7,5
The Destroyers Of All (Willowtip, 2011)
 7
 Vermis (Relapse Records, 2013)6
milestone of OndaRock
recommended by OndaRock