Tuesday 5 February 2013

20 Questions w/ DeathCrawl

Today I bring you an interview with one of Ohio's finest sludge behemoths,
DeathCrawl.  Sludgelord scribe Richard Maw reviewed their latest record Accelerated Rate of Decay back in late 2012 and featured the album in his year end list

With their 3 pronged vocal attack, coupled with heavy downtuned riffs, Accelerated Rate of Decay received heavy rotation on my playlist. 

As well as being a kick ass band, DeathCrawl also feature Big Metal Dave who has also recorded/produced bands such as Fistula and The Disease Concept.  So it is with great pleasure these dudes agreed to talk to us.  If you haven't done so already, check out these sludge titans.  Enjoy! As ever thanks for reading and showing your support to The Sludgelord. 

Hey Guys, How are you? First of all, thanks for talking to us and sending your record for us to review.  Richard did a great job on the review and featured it in his year end of 2012. I’m a big fan too, I must say.

Q) So we’ve started a New Year, what can we expect from the DeathCrawl in 2013?

Dave:  We have four songs leftover that were tracked when making “Accelerated Rate of Decay”, some of which may turn up on a split with our friends Vulture, a kickass band from Pittsburgh.  We just need to write and record the vocal parts...

Jason: It would be nice if we could get out of town for a weekend and play a show or two somewhere outside of Northeast Ohio. Pittsburgh would be fun, NYC or Chicago would also be cool.

I read your bio on your official page, to get more of an idea of your background but, for the benefit of our readers who may be new to your band, could you tell us a little about the history of the band, Where you’re from? Current band members?

Dave:  We all grew up in Northeast Ohio, I live in Cleveland and the other guys live outside of Akron which is about 40 miles South of me.  Jason and I had been jamming together for awhile, but I was playing guitar.  After our drummer left us, I decided to switch to drums and change the direction of the music into something slower and sludgier.  We wrote a few songs just bass and drums and a few months later asked Damon to play guitar.  He had actually played bass in a band with me years before this, but I knew he was a great guitarist too. 

I remember coming up with the band name during an early jam session with Jason, because I wanted to play music that was so slow and depressing it would sound like someone crawling to their death.  Musically, it didn't really work out like that since I got a little better at drums and can actually play faster stuff. 

Jason: Yeah, if I recall correctly, Dave and I started jamming in February 2006. We were playing with a badass drummer named Joe and had a local hardcore luminary on prospective vocals. We were originally trying to do stuff in the vein of Kiss It Goodbye, but our stoner rock influences savaged that idea straight away. Within a few months, the drummer quit and we briefly jammed with another guy on drums, but the project was simply doomed. For what it is worth, I thought we had written some killer jams. Maybe someday some of those songs will see the light of day. Anyhow, that band died and DeathCrawl began. We very briefly had Scott Schumacher (Schnauzer) on guitar at first, but like Dave said, it was Damon that ultimately stepped up and dedicated himself to the project.

Q) It genuinely does appear harder to make a commitment to a band, what with the potential for constant touring, promotion and bands perhaps supporting themselves financially, what motivates DeathCrawl given that it is completely DIY affair, writing, recording, producing and promoting your music yourselves? 

Dave:   I just like writing songs and recording them... I make music I want to hear. While it might sound lame to some people, I jam my own records all the time.  I'm not one of those “too cool” people who make a record and never listen to it.

Damon: I do this primarily to make music for myself. And to occasionally see Dave’s cat during practices.

Jason: I agree with Dave completely. I love the idea of music as art, it’s a great outlet for energy bottled up while I sit in my cubical 45 hours a week. I will write and record non DeathCrawl stuff at my house just for fun – pushing myself to be creative with whatever I have laying around, be it a melodica, accordion, synth, guitar, or whatever. The results vary, but the experience does not. Hearing a song come together is incredible.

I also love doing the album art and the occasional gig poster; taking an initial concept and working it until it’s close to what I envisioned is rewarding. Each project allows me a chance to improve upon things I did poorly the prior time around. I like to see it as a continual improvement process...

Q)  Being in a DIY  band must come with it’s financial pressures too?  Could you give us an insight into the gestation of writing, recording and production of your music in hard format and constraints you're working under?

Dave:  People don't realize how expensive it is to be in a band.  Even after spending thousands of dollars and you think you've finally got the gear you need, it breaks.  The constants are amp repair, new tubes, guitar and bass strings, picks, drum heads and sticks.  Cracking a cymbal is the most painful thing... they can cost up to $300 for one cymbal!!  Gas is getting really expensive so driving to rehearsal and gigs is getting pricey.  Any money we've ever been paid at a gig has never even covered the gas... but since I record everything, it certainly saves the other guys some money!

Jason: Dave’s studio and technical abilities truly are a godsend when it comes to recording. I don’t think we could afford to make the albums we have made without his resources. I’ve also tried to limit our expenses by hand screening our tshirts at my house – essentially learning the fine art of screen printing as I go.

As for gestation of writing and recording, we do not have any overriding plans or schedules. We get around to it whenever it makes sense. For example, one of the songs on Accelerated Rate of Decay is actually one of the first songs we ever wrote as a band. There was no reason why we waited so long to record it.  Writing is a constant process. We’re constantly riffing at rehearsal, some of it sticks, most of it doesn’t. Again, having immediate access to Dave’s resources makes demoing quick and easy – it helps us to capture those sparks of creativity.

Equipment-wise, I am somewhat of a collector. I buy and sell amps/basses/effects pedals relatively frequently with my limited disposable income. It’s my vice. Some people drink, some gamble, I scour Craigslist looking for ridiculous amps and cabs. Damon has borrowed some of my stuff for gigs when his has broken down. It comes in handy to have so much stuff available.

Q) Since your inception, what has your modus operandi been in terms of the band? I’m paraphrasing but on your page your music is referred as being the soundtrack for the world’s cycle of boom and bust.

Damon: I think it’s all about looking at the negativity in everything that society and humanity has to offer and trying to incorporate that into a musical presentation. The fact that mankind hasn’t completely imploded or blown itself up is a bit surprising, but I think these things happen in cycles. Plus these subjects tend to fit better with our music rather than puppies, kittens and rainbows.

Jason: Our original intent for the band was down-tuned depression at maximum volume. Stadium-grade amplifier stacks and gigantic drums shape the music, while the lyrics are written to fulfil that vision.

I love lyricists like Neil Fallon of Clutch or Kyle Bruckmann of Lozenge, but that kind of lyrical content would make zero sense for DeathCrawl. Instead, I think we try to paint a bleak picture of humanity, not in celebration (as found in Black Metal), but perhaps in a more detached observance. I’ll daydream about the Red Army’s final assault on Berlin, or the Blitz in London, and imagine the terror and devastation that was unfolding, the sights and sounds of civilization coming to the brink of total destruction. It makes me think, “What if that was happening in Cleveland?”

Q) Taking on board your DIY approach, is it easy for bands such as yourselves to get gigs?  From talking to other bands, they don’t want to gig too much in the hometown and perhaps venues/promoter are reluctant to book them?  What’s your own experiences?

Dave:  Gigging more than once every two months in the same city is generally a bad idea... a really bad idea in Cleveland especially.  It seems like people into our style of music are older and don't go out as much.  It's not hard to book shows, there's actually an abundance of clubs.  There's a few clubs that are supportive of us, but there's plenty that don't return our emails because we don't draw that big of a crowd, or we're not in with the right people.  It would be nice to get on a gig opening for a bigger touring act, but there's a few bands in town that seem to always get those coveted slots.

Damon: I think it’s relatively easy to get gigs locally, but then again, we’re not a cover or wedding band playing the local waterholes every weekend. It’s easy to overmarket yourself, especially in the musical genres we tend to play with. We do this band for ourselves mostly, so gigging or touring is not a high priority. It’s always cool if we can get on an occasional show with similar-type bands that are touring nearby.

Jason: If we want to play, we never have a problem getting a gig. The problem is that, like Dave said, most of the people who dig us are as old as we are and don’t come out. The younger elements of the Northeast Ohio scene aren’t really that interested in our style of music. I have no idea what they consider “theirs,” but I know it isn’t us. When I go see Mockingbird on a Saturday night and there are three people in attendance, I have to hang my head. It’s depressing, but you don’t play this type of music to get rich or famous. It’s ugly music. It’s abrasive. It’s unrelenting.

We have only left the confines of Northeast Ohio for two shows. Playing in Wheeling WV was awesome because the “kids” there do like our type of music. It was a rad feeling; standing there on the floor with them (the stage was only big enough for Dave’s kit), screaming our heads off while they banged their heads and pumped their fists all around us. I would love to get out of town more often, but family and jobs limit my “touring” to weekend-warrior excursions at best.

Q) Often touring is the main source of promoting your band and It might sound like stupid question, but is playing live important to DeathCrawl because touring can depend upon work commitments etc? 

Dave:  any real touring is out of the question for us due to work and family commitments.  That said, I'd like to do more weekend trips out of town this year. We'll see if we can pull it off.

Jason: We played out 5 times last year, and maybe the year before that as well. We definitely do not want to over-saturate locally, but we could maybe try to do a couple more shows a year to get the word out. It would be cool if we could hop on some bigger shows as well.                      

Damon: I like playing live because it gives me the opportunity to see Dave almost die of cardiac arrest or myself & Jason forgetting lyrics during performances.

Q) You are part of an every increasing scene of underground bands going it alone via the DIY approach using sites such Bandcamp, some by their own choosing, some due to the difficulty of getting signed to a label.  Is the same significance attached to being signed to label as their once was, with bands releasing music on bandcamp etc? 

Dave:  I doubt any label would touch us because we can't tour.  Many of the smaller labels don't offer any kind of recording advance or much in the way of promotion, so you might as well just do it yourselves.  The one thing a solid label can give is better promotion.  They can get the foot in the door if they are known and successful.  It's not possible for a band like us to be reviewed in a magazine like Decibel or Terrorizer because they don't accept unsolicited material that I'm aware of, and you can't really blame them.  They'd have to sort through mountains of garbage to find one decent band.  We'll never be played on SiriusXM or other stations.   It's cost prohibitive for a band like us to get our stuff on iTunes, we don't have the volume of releases to even qualify.  Those are they kind of things a label is good for.

Jason: People like to hate on labels, but I think they do have a place. Like I said before, we are very lucky that Dave can record us. Without him, we could not put the time and effort into our recordings. In the golden age of labels, bands could get decent money to record their album, and they could afford to hire producers and A-List engineers... that’s all changing.

It would be cool to have someone willing to pay for the pressing of the CD, and handling the PR, but I think that even with a label, we would still do a lot of the work ourselves.

Q) Changing direction a little, are you big fans of rock/metal, if so what are you listening too at the moment?

Dave:  I've been jamming the new Witchcraft album a lot.  The new Neurosis is good too.  I just drove out to Chicago to see them play and it was amazing.  I'm really looking forward to the new Voivod album. 

Jason: I tend to favor stoner rock, sludge, and the incredibly vague and expansive genre of rock. I’m currently working my way through some titles I picked up over the holidays – latest Torche, Pink Mountain, and the new Neurosis. I’m looking forward to picking up the new Converge and that new Kylesa compilation as well. My iPod is filled with a wide array of artists and I unfortunately often listen to it on shuffle these days – I have come to really appreciate the jarring effects of a Nasum - Hank Williams Sr. - the Knife - Clutch - Gary Numan - Beatles - whatever random be-bop progression.

Q)  Who would you say are your influences/heroes both musically and artistically in terms of the bands sound and subject matter for your lyrics? 

Dave:  I'm a fan of war related, dystopian, post apocalyptic books and movies... obvious stuff like 1984, Brave New World, Mad Max, Blade Runner, Logan's Run... although my favourite author is Kurt Vonnegut. Even though he claimed to be a socialist, many of his novels showed great distrust for the government and other forms of authority, which seemed to contradict his public persona.  Take “Harrison Bergeron” and “Player Piano” for example... musically, I think we take cues from bands like Godflesh, Neurosis, Unsane and Eyehategod to name a few.

Damon: I don’t contribute a lot to the lyrical material; Jason & Dave do quite well with the subject-matter. Musically, I’m influenced by quite a bit, but as Dave has mentioned, you can probably hear cues from Godflesh, Neurosis, Crowbar as well as others.

Jason: I also grew up on dystopian fiction, with a heavy dose of sci-fi and the history channel.  In addition to what Dave said, I think there is an underlying bit of Melvins and the classic AmRep-sound pulsing through what we do. Trivia tidbit: Anything But the Sun (The End Is Not Near Enough) originally had a very Dale-Croverish drum break towards the end that we eventually ditched.

Q) I’m assuming all musicians like to talk about gear, so with that in mind what gear do you use in terms of guitars, amps and why? Also what tuning do you use?

Jason: We tune to Drop A. I started out with an Ampeg SVT4 PRO through an Ampeg SVT810, but I broke it by accident. Being the impatient gear hoarder I am, I immediately scoured EBay for a Fender Bassman 300 Pro (Sunn 300T). It slays the Ampeg all day, every day, even if i blew it up once already as well. I eventually added a 1970s Ampeg 2x15 to my rig. I go back and forth between a 90s Mexican Fender P Bass and a Schecter Scorpion. Both are 4 string basses, so I have a ton of extra 45 gauge strings lying around after all these years of buying 5 string kits to handle our low A.

I’m a huge fan of vintage Acoustic Control Corporation equipment as well, and I might drag one of my ACC rigs out to a future DC show to see how it compares to what I have been using.

Accelerated Rate of Decay was recorded using an Acoustic Control Corporation Model 220 through my 2x15, with an Acoustic B600H through an 8x10, with an Electro Harmonix Bass Big Muff driving the B600H. I love the low-end that Dave captured...

Damon: I use Schecter guitars. Live amplification utilizes a Carvin Legacy amp and cabinet, and various other cabinets that I borrow from Jason. On the latest recording I believe we used the Carvin Legacy, an Orange Overdrive and a Laney with various Marshall and Orange cabinets.

Q) There must be something in the water in Ohio, with so many great bands, most of which Dave seems to have been a part of or produced, haha.  What are your own thoughts about the scene in your hometown?  Where do you DeathCrawl sit within that? 

Dave:  the scene in Cleveland is too divided these days.  It was best in the late 90s when many of the shows were eclectic and each band had their own sound.  Now there's a glut of young kids playing metalcore and/or deathcore who wouldn't be caught dead at a DeathCrawl show.  Then you've got the hipsters who are too cool for metal.  There's this segregation going on that only serves to dilute the exposure of the bands in whatever genre they are playing.  If I go to a death metal show, and have to sit through four bands playing the same style, I'm desensitized and burned out by the time the headliner comes on.  I remember seeing Slayer, Clutch and System of a Down on the same tour, all heavy but all very different.  That's what I'd like to see.

Jason: I agree with Dave. There’s also a hefty dose of people taking themselves way too seriously or just being pricks about everything. Being in a band should be fun. If you are miserable with your band or your lack of fans just quit or try something different. A lot of people around here hate the Black Keys because they left Ohio and made a mint, but they left because this place really does kind of suck for bands if you want to “make it.” I give them kudos.

I dig quite a few bands that call our area home. Keelhaul, Mockingbird, the Oxnards, the Unclean, Ravenna Arsenal, and Forged in Flame all immediately come to mind, as well as Fistula, Soulless, Midnight, etc. I’ve been trying to get Dave to make another Son of Jor-El record, but it’s been a fruitless campaign.

Q) How do you feel your band has generally been received and does it surprise you when people buy your music and merch?  Is their any pressure on the band to sell records, given that you funded it yourselves? 

Dave:  It always bewilders me up when someone who is seeing and hearing us for the first time will buy a t-shirt, but not the CD.  It would be nice to sell enough merch to pay for the pressing of the next record, but it won't stop us.


Damon: Although we’re in our early to mid Thirties in age, I think we still appreciate producing & creating CDs (and maybe vinyl in the future), with lyrical & pictorial content, rather than the current trend of downloadable music. We’re straddling both realms as such, and if we did just online/downloadable music, I don’t think we’d appreciate the work and effort as much.

Jason: It’s cool to sell something to someone you don’t know. It means your art has escaped your clutches – it’s out in the wild for better or worse.  It is frustrating when people come up after a gig and say how awesome you were but scoff when you tell them your merch isn’t free. Then they go buy another $7 microbrew at the bar.

Q) Taking a more general view of the changes in the music industry as a whole, what with illegal download and perhaps more pressure on mags to feature ‘scene’ bands or bigger artists.  How valuable are blogs such as the Sludgelord to bands and artists covering your music? Do all forms of media coverage translate to people buying merch, downloading music etc, coming to shows?

Damon: Honestly, I rarely read up on bands anymore, other than groups already in my established circle of favorites. I need to research more to discover new bands and genres, I’ve been too lazy in that regard.

Jason: I think blogs like yours are invaluable to bands like us. We aren’t going to get press with national or international mags barring some miracle. As they say, all press is good press. I don’t think it necessarily translates into sales or attendance, but it does feel good to get talked about. Again, it kind of justifies all the time, energy, and money we invest in the band.

Q) Reviewing records within the genres of sludge/doom/stoner/post metal etc, you often listen to a lot of stuff which is quite similar. What sets you apart from your peers and what are your thoughts about being part of any scene?

Dave:  DeathCrawl's kinda in a weird spot, because we're too abrasive for the stoner/post-metal crowd and not brutal enough for the death metal scene.  I like all that stuff and will play with anyone.  We played this hipster bar with Keelhaul awhile back and the parade of people running for the door was hilarious.  We're playing with Castle in a few weeks and we sound nothing like them, but I'm looking forward to checking them out.

Jason: Yeah – we scare a lot people for some reason. I like to think that what sets us apart is that we are who we are. We are essentially a band comprised of bass players that delivers a punishing low-end at monstrous volume. We don’t play drinking songs, we don’t do goofy pornogrind, we just show up, turn our amps on, and lay waste to ear drums and happiness. I love sludge, so it’s cool to play shows with bands like Vulture, Bridesmaid, Fistula, and other bands I would want to go see anyhow.

Q) Getting back to your record ‘The Accelerated Rate of Decay’, did  you all have songs that you had written individually and bring them to the table or are you a band that jams stuff in a rehearsal space? 

Damon: This album has material that ranges from when we first started playing together 6 years ago to within the past year or so. For all 3 albums, we’ve typically finished the structure of the song prior to recording it. Sometimes we have lyrics already written, but for Accelerated they were mostly written during/after the instrumental recording, which I think delayed us.

As far as the songwriting process, we tend to bring riffs to practice and then jam them out a bit while putting together a basic structure. The song then evolves as we practice it over the next few months.

Jason: I would add that a lot of riffs are pulled from the ether during rehearsal, quickly growing into songs as we jam them out.

Q) You recorded ‘The Accelerated Rate of Decay’ yourselves and you seem very hands on, in terms of the production. Is that because you that no one knows what you want better than yourselves? Any thoughts?

Dave:  At this point, I'm good enough at recording I don't see any reason to waste the money recording anywhere else.  If we were at another level of success and had an advance from a label, I might consider it, but I'd still be very hands on.  It would be nice to go somewhere with a huge live room like Mars or Suma, or really reach for the stars and go to Electrical Audio, but we'll never have that kind of cash.

Jason: We aren’t re-inventing the wheel, so I’m sure any talented engineer would do a bang-up job. I approach recording with a somewhat punk-rock attitude; I’m a little more free-wheeling/forgiving than Dave and Damon, but it would be interesting to see what we would sound like with a Steve Albini or Kurt Ballou at the helm. Ultimately, for me, it comes down to the money and the convenience of having Dave do it.

Q) Stepping away from DeathCrawl for a moment, Dave you are also a respected producer/recorder and work out of Bad Back Studios, is that something that happened naturally? Is it difficult to be objective given that you’re the vocalist and drummer too?

Dave:  Well, I don't know that I'm all that well respected, but thanks!  Ever since I started playing music, I've been trying to find ways to record it, whether it was a boom box, or a four-track cassette recorder.  The progression was fairly natural.  The more money I made at my day job, the more gear I could buy.  I graduated from an 8-Track Reel-to-Reel machine to ProTools about seven years ago and have amassed a pretty solid collection of mics and preamps.  It's been a long process of acquiring gear and knowledge.  I learn something new on each record I make, so hopefully the next one is better.

As far as objectivity goes, you're always your worst critic so sometimes it's hard to stop tweaking things.  Working with Fistula and Midnight has helped me learn to let certain things go.  Those guys come in and never sweat the small stuff.  For certain records I do get the microscope out on so to speak...  the new Soulless was like that, and DeathCrawl to a certain extent.

Q)  Did you have an agenda when you began writing the new record and was it an easy record to write?

Jason: I don’t think there was any agenda other than to record everything we had ready and try to make it sound as awesome as possible. We always intended to get a full length CD and a hopeful split out of the sessions, so the hardest part was deciding which songs to put on the album and which to hold over for the split. The music came easily, the lyrics were a little harder this time around, simply because we had nothing ready when we recorded. We had been playing most of these songs as instrumentals for years.

Q) Given that you have three vocalists, how do decide who screams on what?


Damon: I think whoever writes the lyrics for a particular song gives the most direction on who sings what. Sometimes it’s driven by the type of “voice” each of us have or whether someone can play and sing the part at the same time. I tend to have the more higher-pitched/abrasive voice, and Jason usually hits the lower end throating. Dave is generally in the middle for his range, which fills in quite a spectrum of vocal textures. I like that we have the flexibility to have someone take on most of the vocals with a particular song, with the others filling in for emphasis or texture, or have all 3 of us trade off lines.

Jason: I tend to draft a lot of words when writing lyrics, and I rely on Dave to chop it up and help mold it into a song we can actually pull off live. I’m also not the greatest at playing and singing simultaneously, so the ability to trade off helps me a lot. I always wanted to approach my vocals like Dave Edwardson, with that scary low-end, but I’ve definitely felt my throat giving out much easier the older I get. I think on AROD, my vocal parts started to creep up into a higher register. That’s life. I would honestly prefer to play bass and head-bang the whole show, letting someone else handle the vocals, but the band evolved otherwise.

Q) What were your aims for ‘The Accelerated Rate of Decay’ and how do you feel it compares to your other record?  What are your thoughts about it, now it is in the public domain?

Jason: I don’t have any aims for it beyond the hope that somebody out there enjoys it and tells their friends about it. We have plenty of copies to sell. Ha. It’s a huge cliché to say, but I think it kills both The End Is Not Near Enough and This Is The Way The World Ends in all regards. I think the songs are better (more concise), the mix/sound is better, and the art is better. I think the lyrics are better. I think it shows how much we have grown since 2008.

Q). Reflecting upon 2012 as a band, do you feel that 2012 was a good year for you and what can we expect from DeathCrawl or Dave’s production working 2013?  Are you involved in the new Disease Concept Record, if so, what can we expect?  Sorry I had to ask.

Dave:  I don't like to give too many details about the recordings I make with other bands.  It's not really my place to speak for them.  There is an unfinished Disease Concept recording on my computer.  I just got sent the bass tracks for it after an eight month delay, so I'll have to get to work on that soon.  There will be a new Midnight record in 2013.  I'm mixing that as we speak.  Jason's other band, the Gingerdead Men, are finishing up an EP.  My other band, Soulless, might do an EP at some point.  There's also a Fistula project in the works and a local band called Punching Moses that has nearly completed tracking their first full-length with me.

Jason: With any luck, DeathCrawl will finish the other four songs we tracked at the time of AROD and see them released as a split with someone in 2013. I’d also like to see us take some weekend jaunts into neighboring states.

Q) Thanks for answering my questions, but one final question, would you like to say anything to your fans?

Dave:  Grow a beard and buy our stuff... girls can skip the beard part and bring us cupcakes instead.

Another outstanding interview. As ever show your support to the band. Thanks to the guys from DeathCrawl for taking part in the interview. Check the links for more info on the band. Record is available to buy via their store. Cheers Aaron