Incantation interview (08/2020)
|Conducted by:||RaduP (skype)|
I couldn't imagine the shape that death metal would be in today if it wasn't for Incantation. Every caverncore muddy doom-infused death metal band can trace at least part of their lineage to the atomic bomb that was "Onwards To Golgotha". Though I haven't been as excited for their new material, it still gets the attention of my ear whenever it comes around. So I wanted to know what it was like from the man behind the riffs: John McEntee.
[Ed: This interview was recorded back-to-back with Radu's Steve Von Till interview, and so, like a new season of television, we're picking up right where we last left Radu as if no time had elapsed whatsoever. The first several minutes were spent connecting and discussing logistics and I didn't bother transcribing them, but you can fill the space by listening to some Incantation, I guess.]
Sect Of Vile Divinities
Radu: A mandatory question about the new album: what can you tell us about it? What's different this time around?
John McEntee: Um… I don't know. I mean, it's our new album; that always makes it a little different, but really overall, I think, as far as from the last one, Profane Nexus, it's definitely a more… drier-sounding production than our last one, which I really wanted. As far as song structure goes, I think there's a lot more mid-tempos on this album. As far as my own personal contribution to the album, I wanted to add some of the older-school kind of darker harmony mid-tempos like on Golgotha, like "Profanation", or stuff of Mortal Throne Of Nazarene, like "Iconoclasm Of Catholicism". I wanted to add a little more of that vibe to it, which I don't think was represented too much on Profane Nexus, because really each album is kind of an answer to the album right before it. After you tour and play an album, you think, "Oh, there's a couple of aspects I could improve on". I think if we never felt that we could improve on things, we wouldn't really do it, because if you're not inspired, there's no good reason to do an album. Yeah, I think this album maybe has a lot more second guitar work harmony than our previous one. I don't know; it's really difficult for me to say, because for us the album is just us being ourselves and expressing ourselves the way we feel comfortable, you know? It's not like we're trying to reinvent the wheel or anything; we're just trying to express ourselves as honestly and with the most feeling we possibly could, so…
Radu: Yeah, but it's also not like you're just cookie-cutting the same formula over and over again, because this is what you're comfortable with and also this is what sells for the Incantation name.
JME: Yeah, definitely we don't do it for the sales, trust me.
Radu: I don't expect you have a lot of them. [Ed: Bold statement from a man who has zero sales.]
JME: Yeah, we do it for the passion of writing music and we do it 'cause we love doing it, we love expressing ourselves, and we do feel that we're able to still contribute something valuable to the death metal underground world. It's not a… yeah, we do it because we love doing it. That's the most important part of it, you know?
Radu: And we love listening to it. [Ed: Nice save.]
JME: Thank you. I appreciate it.
Radu: Another friend of mine that is also a musician wanted to ask you about this, so how does it feel like releasing an album now when you know that there is no possibility of touring for it?
JME: Um… It's okay, because we release an album… The album is… Let me see. Put it this way: yeah, we probably had the choice of delaying the album until we could tour, but we finished the album in January and waiting until August was already a big enough delay on releasing the album, so, for us, we don't want to put out an album a year, year and a half after we finished recording the album if we don't have to, because by that time it doesn't feel fresh, it doesn't feel exciting for us on our end. It's totally fine, and it's like… touring for the album is obviously important, and we're going to tour for the album one way or another at a certain point, but we don't want to sit around forever holding onto an album. We want to get the album out, start working on new material, and move ahead as a band. I would feel like it would almost be holding us back - maybe not business-wise, but in a mental state it would be holding us back. I just want to get the material out there, now that we finished it; it's finished, it's done, it's time to let it out there and see what people think of it. And it actually worked out good, because a lot of bands are releasing stuff this year because of the pandemic, so it does get a little extra eyes on our material because most people are holding back, so in a way it's actually been beneficial, because more people are actually listening to the album and giving it a proper listen instead of just a super passive, okay, listen to it for two seconds and then it's done.
Radu: How do you think it will be when you're actually going to tour for it on the financial side, like for album sales?
JME: I have no idea. I mean, I know sales for the album, as far as feedback we've been getting from Relapse, sales have been great for the album, presales. As far as how are things gonna be financially - who knows? Who knows how it's gonna be after a pandemic? I mean, a lot of people are gonna want to go out and see shows, but there's gonna be an overabundance of shows happening and there's also gonna be a lack of money that probably a lot of people have who have lost their jobs and stuff because of the pandemic, so it's gonna be a strange environment, but we'll just do what we can to work around it. For us, we used to love playing out live, so I'm sure we'll be able to find a way once it's safe and legal to play live; we'll find a way to do it in the best way possible. It's not all about the money, you know? Of course you need money to survive on the road and pay stuff off, but at the same time, if you have to figure out a way to do things in a cheaper way than normal or whatever, you can work around it.
Radu: Okay, so you'll survive? [Ed: Dammit, Radu, stop setting flags.]
JME: I think. Yeah, we'll survive. [Ed: Press 'F' to pay respects] It's easier for us to survive than I think for a newer band putting out a release; it's a lot more difficult. We've been in a situation where we get a pretty good space on most of the bills that we get, like show lineups and stuff, that we're able to cover our expenses even if for some reason we had to take some kind of deduction or something, it still wouldn't be detrimental, but it's really difficult for a new band, if they're hardly making anything already and even that's gonna be lowered, that's definitely gonna suck.
Radu: 30 years ago, you released Entrapment Of Evil. How do you feel about it now?
JME: I'm proud of it. It was amazing, because we really didn't know how it was gonna do. I guess you never really do. We just kind of did an EP that we felt really sincere about and got it released; once the underground heard it, it really did well. The reaction to it was just amazing at the time and we didn't realize that we had something that was so special at the time; we were just doing what we felt right with, whatever we were happy with, and we felt confident, but we definitely didn't think it was gonna be taking the underground by storm at that time. It was kind of overwhelming in a way, but it was a positive thing. I mean, yeah, production-wise, it's not very good, but we were novices at the time, so for us, just to be able to go to a real studio and record stuff, we were happy, and at that time there wasn't a lot of engineers or producers that knew how to mix death metal, so it wasn't like… We had to work with, like, normal rock or new wave kind of people in the studio that had no clue to what we wanted to get out of the sound, and we barely understood how to explain it because all we knew was we wanted to sound heavy and brutal and evil and dark, and they look at us like, "There's no button for that stuff". They think we're crazy.
Radu: And part of it ended up on the Unholy Massacre compilation, right?
Radu: Is there any reason why that compilation or, for that matter, any demo compilation of Incantation is not streaming either on Spotify or on your Bandcamp?
JME: I have no idea, really. I really didn't have a lot of input on that release; that was mostly done by Roy Fox [owner of Necroharmonic Productions]. He kind of organized that. I don't really know; I have no idea why it's not on Spotify or anything like that, or any other stream - I never really thought about it, actually. When I heard it, I was just more, like, okay, it's a compilation of some of our really early material and stuff. I actually wasn't 100% happy with it, because I didn't think that it had the proper - I wasn't happy with the sound of some of the stuff. I thought some of the stuff could have benefited a little more from a better mastering, but at the same time, it's old material and it's something that is good for a historical reference. It had some shows with Will Rahmer [of Mortician] singing on it and some demo material we did before recording Onward To Golgotha and stuff, so definitely, for a die-hard Incantation fan, it's an interesting release. It's probably not the release for somebody that is a passive death metal fan - I wouldn't want that to be their first listen of what we sound like, but for somebody that likes to go deeper into the weeds, it's a cool release, you know?
Radu: Yeah. I only listened to part of Entrapment Of Evil, like I said [Ed: Actually, you didn't say], but I couldn't really find it streaming anywhere.
JME: I think - I mean, I know Entrapment Of Evil was on YouTube -
Radu: Yeah, it's on YouTube. This is where I was able to find it.
JME: I don't know about Spotify or anything like that, if it's on there -
Radu: It's not; I checked.
JME: I don't use Spotify, so I'm not really sure.
Radu: But yeah, that was back in the day, back when you had left your previous band -
JME: Yeah, Revenant, yeah.
Radu: Revenant. [Ed: Yeah.]
JME: What about it, I'm sorry?
[Ed: Nothing, apparently.]
Radu: And around that time you were also for a little while in Mortician, right?
JME: Oh, yeah, I was. The situation was that their former guitarist, Matt Harshner, he quit the band - or, I don't know if he quit the band or got kicked out, I don't know the details of that, but Will asked me to fill in on guitar so they could do their demo and just play with them until they found somebody else to play guitar for them, so I took him up on it because… I mean, I love Mortician, and he really is one of the great innovators in death metal vocals and stuff [Ed: And by "stuff" he means "BASS"], so I was honored to play with them, and then just because of that he offered to help us out on vocals on our demo and a few live shows around that time, too, so we kind of just helped out each other's band early on. There were a lot of musicians where we were from, New Jersey, New York, but there weren't a lot of musicians that really were on the cutting edge of death metal like bands like us and Mortician were; a lot of them were more into just regular thrash stuff, or maybe the more… what we considered a more "commercial" style of death metal at the time. [Ed: lol commercial death metal]
Radu: I also really just found out about this today, when doing research, that it was like a switch-up of parts: you played in Mortician while Will played in Incantation at the time.
Radu: That's a bit -
JME: Just helping out each other's band. And it was beneficial because neither band had a full set, so we would do a lot of double shows together, we'd both play about 25 minutes or 20 minutes or something. It was a good way to get both bands out there in a lot of ways, like if we got a show, we'd try to get them, if Mortician got a show, they'd try to get us to play, you know? It was a lot of fun.
Radu: Would you work with them again? I see that they haven't done a release in quite a while.
JME: Yeah, I would work with them in a heartbeat, but I think they're totally fine with the lineup they have. They have Sam Inzerra playing drums, Will is obviously playing bass, and Roger [Beaujard] is playing guitar, so they do have a full lineup. I don't know if they're working on new material or not; I haven't really asked them. But if something ever came up where they asked me to play or needed me to play or whatever it was, I would definitely consider it if the situation was at a time when I wasn't busy or something. I mean, I had an absolute blast playing with Mortician, so for me it's just been a lot of extremely positive and cherishing memories.
Radu: Okay. You have two new projects: [b]Tribes Of Pazuzu and Beast Of Revelation. What can you tell us about them?[/b]
JME: Well, Tribes Of Pazuzu, that was one that Nick [Sagias], who used to play bass and was kind of the main guy in Soulstorm, he contacted me and asked me if I wanted to play guitar on the Tribes Of Pazuzu release and he sent me some demo material. I totally was into it, it sounded really killer, and, yeah, it just kind of fell from there. I didn't really know him that well beforehand, but after being in touch with him we became really good friends. It was a fun release; it was nice to play guitar on a release where I wasn't really writing a lot of the material. I was playing other people's material, maybe throwing in a little two cents here or there, but it's nice to be in a band situation where I'm more of a… playing somebody else's stuff instead of…
Radu: Writing it. [Ed: I find it easier to comment on other people's work than write my own.]
JME: Yeah, instead of creating a lot of it from scratch. It's kind of a nice dynamic. And it was the same thing with Beast Of Revelation. At the time, it was Bob [Bagchus] and A.J. [van Drenth], who are the two main guys in the band, and they - A.J. and Bob wrote the whole album, pretty much, and they just asked me to do vocals on it, and once they sent me some demos of the stuff they were doing, I was totally blown away. I told them, like, yeah, I'll do it, just make sure that you're happy with the work that I do for it. I tried to make it really clear to those guys that I'm not just gonna do the vocals and then say, "Okay, that's it, I've done it". If I'm gonna do it, I want to do it the right way and I want you to be happy and I want you to feel that I'm representing the songs the way you want them to be done. They were totally cool about it; they were cool with me kind of experimenting a little bit on some different vocal styles than I would normally do on the release, and that release came out - it's monstrous. I think the album is amazing-sounding, and I have to say they really fit my vocals in in a good way on that. I mean, if I listen back to it, I'm like, "Holy crap, my vocals sound fucking killer on there", which is really nice to hear, because you never know when you send somebody your vocals how they're gonna come back, you know?
JME: Yeah, it's a great band that I hope - well, really both bands, I'm hoping to do some live shows with them some time in the future. I know with Beast Of Revelation that we're gonna try, once I get over to Europe, either do something before or after one of the Incantours, try to book a couple shows with them for that, which for me would be really fun to be able to play a live show with just vocals, not playing guitar. It would be a totally different live experience for me.
Radu: Yeah, but you wouldn't know what to do with your hands.
JME: It's okay. I would like the challenge of just having a new way of trying to go off, you know? I'll figure it out; I'm sure I'll just do lots of head-banging or something.
Radu: Speaking of other projects, are we ever going to get a new Funerus album?
JME: I don't really know; actually, I quit Funerus about three or four years ago. Just was too busy with Incan and stuff, and I know they were working on some stuff, but I really don't know 100% anything as far as a new release or anything.
Radu: Okay. Do you feel that the rejuvenated interest in old-school death metal that has been coming recently did affect Incantation in any way, like there are a lot more fans that are interested in you?
JME: Yeah, it's fair to say that if more people are interested in old-school-sounding death metal - especially the fact that people are interested in Incantation-sounding death metal - it's obviously a help. (laughs) It's like a whole new generation of fans that are really into a style that we started or at least had a big part in starting, so, yeah, it definitely helps. Even though we have a lot of old-school fans and stuff like that, it's really nice that we're able to stay relevant with the younger crowd, too. I never really would have expected that, but it's been super awesome. Since Profane Nexus came out, everything's been going in a way more positive direction than it has in a while. I mean, as a band, we're bigger now probably than we ever have been, so it's pretty crazy to think that.
Radu: Yeah, and this also happens because a lot of the bands that were looking up to Onward To Golgotha and they made this sound that of people call "cavern-core."
JME: Yeah. Well, trust me, it's cool - when I started realizing that bands were using some of our albums as influences, it really kind of started… There was a few bands in the '90s that were doing it. There was a band called Hibernus Mortis that used to be really influenced by us, and also Drawn And Quartered were really influenced by us, too, but then in the 2000s bands like Dead Congregation started coming around and Father Befouled and it really started to - I was kind of surprised that there were bands that actually were trying to play in our style and doing a good job of it, and it just kind of grew from there, and now, yeah, there's a whole - I guess they call it cavernous death metal - it's kind of like what we stumbled upon on our first two albums especially, which is really cool to think. As a songwriter, it's a huge, huge honor to have such an impact on the death metal world. That's something I never would have guessed. It's definitely - I'm proud and humbled on the situation.
Radu: Do you ever feel weird about Onward To Golgotha getting most attention out of all your albums?
JME: No, I don't, but that's not really the case on my end. It's kind of like the people that really like Onward To Golgotha think that everybody else really likes Onward To Golgotha a lot, but there's actually - we see fans all the time that got into us at different times and really like different albums as their favorites. Usually the first album they got into; it's usually the most important one, even with the newer albums. We have people, Vanquish In Vengeance is their favorite, or Dirges Of Elysium, or Blasphemy is another one. Like, I can't remember his name, but the main guy in Dead Congregation, Blasphemy is his favorite death metal album, pretty much, or at least one of them. All the time, we get a lot for Diabolical Conquest, so, to be quite honest about it, I feel very fortunate, regardless of what album people really enjoy by us, and the fact that they like any of it is totally an honor and important. Trust me, Onward To Golgotha is a very special album in my heart; everything about what I wanted to accomplish I put into that album. I put so much hard work into that album - the other guys did, too, to be quite fair, so I have a lot… I'm super proud of how the album has done in the past and how the album is looked upon now. It's really great.
Radu: Okay. To close things off, what happened to Ibex Moon Records?
JME: Basically I just had to close it down. I was just losing too much money and I was in a situation where I couldn't keep losing money. A lot of other bills were coming in and stuff and I really got to a point where I wasn't having fun doing the label at all and I had to start making decisions that I couldn't stand behind and I just wasn't happy about it, so I figured it's best to just call it quits on the label instead of trying to continue doing it just because I wanted to be successful or whatever. I don't know; it just was the time was right to put it down. I didn't want to follow the trends of the way music was and the way the industry was going. Originally, when I did the label, I wanted to do it in my own way, kind of like how I am with Incan. I like to do it our own way and not give a crap. Same thing with the label. But it got to a certain point where it was taking too much time, and it's a hell of a lot more fun playing with Incantation than it is being a businessman at a label. That kind of sucked.
Radu: Okay. So that's about it; thank you for your time.
JME: Awesome. Thank you very much. I appreciate the interview.
Radu: No problem. And now you'll have some more time for the next one.
JME: (laughs) Yeah, thank you very much.
Radu: No problem. I hope to see you live some day soon.
JME: Yeah, I was gonna say, if we ever play in your area, just hit me up and we'll hang out a little bit at the gig or whatnot, okay?
Radu: Okay, yeah. With your beverage of choice.
JME: Cool. You take care. Thank you so much.
Radu: You, too. Bye.
||Posted on 27.08.2020 by Doesn't matter that much to me if you agree with me, as long as you checked the album out.|
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