By: Chris Bull
While they have received a lot of bad press recently, (thanks to the debacle surrounding former vocalist/bassist Charlie Fell's acrimonious departure) the band pressed on with a revamped line up, a new EP and a new label. 'Nice Teeth Whore' was exactly what was needed. Fans needed to know that the band could carry on. Critics needed to suck a fat one at any questions they had about whether the new line up could hack it and, most importantly, the band needed to get this out of their system and move the fuck on without the negativity that seemed to surround Fell. I had the chance to speak to core members, guitarist Andrew Markuszewski, drummer Bill Bumgardner and long time collaborator turned full time vocalist Dylan O'Toole to clear some things up before I went all fan boy on them.
SL: First question is a difficult one; Charlie Fell has been very vocal about his treatment during and after his exit from the band, how do you respond to such negative press?
Andrew Markuszewski: Charlie Fell kicked himself out of Lord Mantis. We all agreed in a way to go with the Charlie show on Death Mask, and simply put, in the end it just didn’t work out. The guy’s ego shot through the roof and not exactly for the right reasons. His interview with Metalsucks is actually a pretty good testament as to why he’s no longer in the band. A skewed picture all around, but his true feelings are there and in plain view. Siphoning off my credit for Death Mask while my riffs are the first one’s heard, the last, and I even had to play his bass parts in two instances for reasons of him not being prepared or up to snuff. Always the same story – he was the victim, my life has been handed to me on a silver platter, and he’s the only one in this world who has suffered. Insulting and ridiculous. Typical nebulous junkie attitude, accusations, and more which we were dealing with for longer than anyone else would have put up with, and I really mean anyone. At this point it’s all just dirty laundry. You want a good interview? Interview his ex-girlfriend.
Fell wanted the full role for the record plus afterwards, and we were supportive of the idea. I love bands that have a dedicated frontman. Batter up let’s see whatcha got. We’ve both had our hiccups. I was terrible with booze and easily exceeded the term ‘asshole’. People let me know and asked me to get my shit together. Honestly, everyone in the band has been called out on shit. No one is exempt from the rule. We asked him to clean his shit up time and time again, but he got strung out and struck out.
The theme for Death Mask was his, and I’ll give credit where credit is due. He executed on vocals. He had good song ideas. Like the rest of us. I worked on the record from the first song we wrote for it till the last day of tracking. Didn’t do any vocal overdubs on anything myself because my lip was still healing from being split open in a fight. Felt like stiches being pulled if I tried. Dylan O’Toole was there to do “Negative Birth” and help out lyrically on other parts of the record. Check the credits. There’s a reason he’s listed as an official member by then.
All Fell did at that time was try and drag everyone else around him down to his level, and that included getting whoever he could convince to do dope with him to do it. Those were some pretty fucking gloomy times to be in the band or even the scene in Chicago in general, and people were dealing with the repercussions from it for a long time. Thankfully even with all the damage done, most people are over it now. He’s off doing his thing, I’m doing mine, and Lord Mantis as a band is doing its own thing too. Whether he has or hasn’t got his life together I couldn’t tell you. He despises me for how things turned out, but he has himself to blame. Even after it all I’d rather hear about how he cleaned himself up and make peace, but I’m also no fool and not afraid to return fire or draw first for that matter.
Press is press. I’ll take it. Even the negative shit. It gives room for answering back and keeps the train rollin. Thanks for the question.
SL: Andrew, this is the first time that New Density has fully handled a Lord Mantis release. Was this due to a conflict with Profound Lore or more as a way to have full control over the release?
AM: A little of both could be said. Fell tried getting another lineup together for Lord Mantis that included a guitarist and drummer from two other bands on Profound Lore. I have no idea what he had them convinced of. This was a few months after we flew him home from Providence on tour and knocked him down from admin on the Facebook page at the time. I believe he could have even still posted on there if he wanted. We sent him home with clear instructions – “Go home and get help”. He tried getting a new lineup to open for another band in Chicago. The promoter for that show had no idea of what was taking place behind the scenes. I found out and immediately put the kibosh on that together with our manager Rodney Pawlak. That was also the moment Fell was given the official boot, kicked off the Facebook page and out of the band. Within one day I had a new lineup in place for Lord Mantis, made the announcement, and soon after Fell started his whole tirade online.
It was pretty obvious to me and I think Chris too that Profound Lore letting Lord Mantis go was the only logical step forward. Unfortunate as I’ve enjoyed working on a few records for Chris and Profound Lore including the two full-lengths for my black metal band Avichi released by PL, but we’re both adults and smart enough to know when it’s time to let things go their own way. Far from the ideal way, but you gotta do what you gotta do. We still have a professional relationship of course.
As free agents again, Lord Mantis was willing to work with another label. We decided to just do it ourselves after weighing the pros and cons. The next release would only be an EP too. We wanted to see what happens. It was self financed from start to finish. The majority by my label, but Bill’s hands are firmly involved too. I take care of the backend of everything since it’s released through New Density.
SL: A lot of the riffs on “NTW” have a more 'Black metal' sound to them, was this due to having a 'new line up, new sound' mentality or did it evolve naturally?
AM: I wanted to bring back elements from the “Pervertor” record, and mesh that with where we left off on “Death mask”. Plus I was listening to a lot of old KMFDM and Ministry again at the time, so getting those kinds of ‘hooks’ in there were also important for me in these new songs. It turned into some catchy moments on Nice Teeth Whore. I think it’s a great half step forwards, and NTW does exactly what it needed to do.
SL: Andrew and Bill; seeing as how there are more members of Indian than original Lord Mantis members how difficult a choice was it to carry on the Lord Mantis legacy?
AM: No difficulty whatsoever. The core of the band is still here. Hell, Bill started this band and a lot of the writing doesn’t take place without free jamming with Bill. Sometimes he comes up with patterns and beats that I’m actually writing riffs on top of. It’s a really awesome chemistry. We brought into the fold Dylan as lead vocalist who’s already worked with the band on its themes and lyrics for the last two albums. It wasn’t as much of a hiccup as people might think. If anything I’d say it was actually easier!
BB: It wasn’t hard at all. It’s my band. An immediate line up change and recording had to be made. People were contacting me as soon as they heard Charlie was up to some bullshit. Dylan has pretty much always been a part of LM. When I joined Indian, LM was still just a two piece with me and Greg. When Charlie came into the picture he always had Dylan helping him with vocals and lyrics and sang on previous records.
SL: Was there any doubt that you'd get Dylan into the fold?
AM: It took one phone call. He loves the band.
SL: Bill, I've always thought of you as one of the more underrated drummers in sludge/doom/black metal/heavy metal, the difference between your understated work in Lord Mantis compared to the more powerful hammering of Indian is noticeable to those who look for it. How does/did your approach differ between the bands?
BB: The approach is the same. Indian and Lord Mantis are both hate filled bands. Indian can be tricky at times because you have to maintain a balance of not over or under playing and making the listener feel like they are being pulled behind a Mac truck with hooks in their back. Lord Mantis I can open up a little more. The writing process is a bit different. Andrew and I get shit done every minute we practice. A lot of riffs are based off of a pattern I’ll come up with, and Drew will knock it out of the park. I have to say. As of late the writing process has been very enjoyable.
SL: Dylan, you're perhaps one of the most recognizable vocalists in extreme metal, no one can do what you do, how do you conjure up such intense, agonizing screams?
Dylan O’ Toole: That's quite the compliment. Well, I don't know. Nobody ever wants to front riffs with vox. That more than likely is not always the case, but in my experiences no takers. I personally never wanted to do vocals or play live. Ron, my dear friend from INDIAN tricked me! I'm sure my "F the world" diet helps.
SL: In terms of lyrical content, yours are always profound and poignant at the same time. What are some of your influences?
DOT: Hmmm, tough call. Lyrically, the themes and content are all mine. Steve Austin, Brian Sowell.
SL: The song '....Finality' has you screaming certain numbers throughout, could you give me some insight as to what this song is about?
DOT: Writing “NTW” during her pregnancy was overwhelming. Kinsey sexualized child research pisses me the fuck off. The ransom rape, passive profiting from abuse disguised as research is shit.
SL: All; I found that the Lord Mantis on 'NTW' is an entirely different beast from that which was on 'Death Mask' and 'Pervertor', was this a deliberate attempt to distance yourselves from the band's past?
DOT: I don't think so. I have a few original compositions that didn't feel right quite yet. Scott had a great song, it didn't feel right yet. Drew and Bill wrote all the music on NTW, they had powerful momentum I felt was working for and at that time. We are a different band now. Lean and mean, like an EP should be. Production and composition will be vastly different on upcoming LP. The next efforts will include the most ambitious concepts we've attempted to attempt!
AM: I’d say it was just a natural step for us. Take a listen to “Spawning the Nephilim” and then listen to some of “Pervertor” and then some “Death Mask”. They’re all entirely different beasts, and I think that’s what sets this band on a different pedestal. You don’t know what you’re going to get, but it’ll still rock your socks off.
BB: I feel that “NTW” has more of a “Pervertor” vibe to it. Both records have more attack and energy. After “Pervertor”, Charlie turned into a timebomb. It became a struggle always having to complete half thought ideas and down grading riffs that he wouldn’t even attempt to play. It was just an all around corrupt and negative environment. He was determined to ruin and bring people down to his level. Riding on the shock value routine was getting a little corny and old. “NTW” sounds like the band is enjoying playing music.
SL: Presumably, you'll be playing older songs in a live setting, is there any level of discomfort in playing songs that were written with Fell?
DOT: Yes, we will be playing some older material. No. No discomfort. We feel strongly about which songs and why, but no discomfort.
AM: No not really. Fell helped write some riffs on “Vile Divinity” I think, and we’re still playing that. My history with Charlie at this point doesn’t change my feelings for what the band has done with him and now without him. I have no issue with which records people favor or don’t at all. If you like songs by this band I’m happy to hear it.
SL: I can imagine Dylan's vocals would sound incredible on tracks like 'Levia' and 'Vile Divinity', please make it happen!
DOT: Done. And they do!
AM: Well yes of course. I sang “Levia” by the way on the record. I remember Dylan saying he wanted to do that one actually and double up the vocals. But we’ll see. “Vile Divinity” is a no brainer.
SL: Speaking of live performances; are there any plans afoot for a tour in the future? (Hint, hint; come to the UK!)
AM: Absolutely. We are in talks about getting back to the UK later this year/early 2017.
SL: A random question here; if you experienced a 'Groundhog Day' situation like Bill Murray did in the movie, which methods of self execution would you use?
DOT: Delightful. I fear choking on my tongue! That sounds like a win win to me, although I'll bet I figure out how to talk shit without a tongue or life.
AM: Easiest answer for me would be to force myself a heart attack through eating as much steak fat as possible and humping away until I die.
BB: Honestly I feel like Michael Douglas in Falling Down.
SL: Where do Lord Mantis go from here? I would love to hear a full album with this line up.
DOT: Exactly. Don't call my bluff!
AM: We just started writing the first song of another full-length yesterday. If we want to things can come together fairly quick.
SL: Finally; sum up Lord Mantis in 3 words.
DOT: NOT WHATCHA THINK
AM: Suck it good
BB: What a nightmare