OK, maybe not quite, though if you do this long enough chances are you’ll be on both ends of hellish interviews. Thankfully, the only thing really wrong with this particular chin wag with From Hell is that it’s been sitting on the back burner for a while, so it may seem more general and vague than current and specific. Like, there’s no mention of the band’s recent playing of D-beat hotbed, Costa Rica as this was conducted long before that even happened.
These Detroit-based thrashing gothic D-beat warriors were originally introduced to y’all back in the spring courtesy one of the English gentlemen who work around here, Jonathan Horsley. Go here to check it out and give ‘em a listen.
This week, we give the band, specifically vocalist Chris Zomerfeld, the chance to speak their peace/piece on a bunch of topics you’d expect an extreme music website to ask of an extreme music band, including their debut album, Heresy. Take ‘er away…
Ok, let’s get the boring shit out of the way: band history. Every band has history; most stories are boring as shit. Is yours?
Most would describe as the exact opposite. Surprisingly, we manage to function, but each member of the band is their own brand of fucking terrible mess. Whether its getting banned from a frat house that does shows around here for burning a giant cross indoors (completely retarded, yes we know), or tearing up a giant antique bible at a big christmas show and covering the whole venue with it, we try to make every show/tour as fun and stupid as possible. Cliff jumping, sneaking around zoos after they’re closed, staying in abandoned ghost towns, partying, getting into shit basically anywhere we can find it. If you’re not having fun, why would you do it? As far as issues/members/all that, that’s a whole different long story…
As I’ve been informed, many of the themes and concepts explored by From Hell have to do with macabre horror. In what way? Are you speaking of realistic horror, cinematic horror or both?
Moreso realistic horror, I write mostly from personal experience or feelings.. being where we’re from there’s always plenty of horror to be witnessed first hand. We are all huge cinematic horror fans too, so that plays heavily into the portrayal of those ideas, or the description of those feelings.
Apparently, there’s a tie-in between your moniker and the historical Jack the Ripper figure. How so?
From Hell is the name of the infamous letter written by Jack The Ripper that was received by the London police with one of Jack’s victim’s kidneys. With our delivery, artwork, music, and dark lyrical undertones the name seemed perfectly fitting.
Tell us about the writing and recording of Heresy.
Me and our guitar player went through a handful of different people we know that are all very musically talented, and have played in a bunch of different bands (See You Next Tuesday, Fireworks, This Time Next Year, Set Your Goals, Tyrant, …) practiced with different people, and picked who we thought best fit for writing. We started writing and spent a good amount of time perfecting the songs, we picked the studio we thought could accomplish what we wanted best, went to Chicago and finished the recording in a little over a weekend. It took me over 6 months to finish the vocals, because i’m a terrible person to be in a band with. We actually recorded the violin and piano tracks at our house with equipment we have, and our piano.
I see that you haven’t had a lot of studio experience (as From Hell, anyway) pre-Hersey. How much time had you spent in studios/recording in bands before From Hell? Was there a stated goal amongst band members about what you wanted to accomplish with this first full length?
Yeah, before Heresy From Hell had just recorded a demo in a couple of days in our friend’s studio, no real studio time. With the different members of the band we’ve had probably hundreds of hours in the studio on other projects. Our only goal was just to make a very heavy sounding, creative, very cohesive project that we all were very happy with in the end.
Enlighten us on the spoken word stuff that’s weaved throughout the album. Where did it come from, who’s voice is it and what’s the significance and association of it to the music/lyrics?
The track on the intro is an interview with Richard Kuklinski, the notorious serial killer/hitman that had allegedly killed over 100 people, that ties into the whole serial killer/macabre theme of the band. The interlude track “Crucifix in a Death Hand” is the poet Charles Bukowski reading one of his darker/more depressing poems, which ties into the more dark lyrics about depression and suicide on the record. Also both of their monotone lifeless voices flow perfectly over the slow dark music.
From the outside looking in, it’s easy for people to look at Detroit and say, “Of course the city has influenced them” when speaking of any extreme music band. From your perspective, how much and how has your home influenced what you do?
It has had very heavy influence.. A few of our members grew up dirt poor, and we’ve all been affected by our surroundings whether it’s family members losing their jobs, friends dying, getting robbed, raped, killed, molested… people suffering, people bringing suffering. I grew up in a two-bedroom trailer with my dad’s friend (until he overdosed on heroin and died), and a family of five. I had friend’s that were raped by their fathers, beaten, starved.. when you’re surrounded by that everyday, you don’t have a choice but to have it influence every part of you. With what I do for work I am at Linwood and Joy rd. area (the most dangerous neighborhood in the country) all the time, you see a lot of fucked up stuff in this city.
How did you hook up with Paper + Plastick Records?
We actually went about it with sort of an unorthodox approach. We figured the best way to get the attention of anyone worth our time was to write the whole record, record it, then find someone to release it. We recorded the whole album, had it mixed, then sent it over. We had a few of our friends put in a good word for us, and when they heard it he immediately hit us back and said he wanted to put it out. We’re very happy about everything they’ve done for us so far.
What’s the who/what/where/why/how behind you using your blood to paint the album covers?
We wanted to do something cool/original with the album to get people’s attention. We did some brainstorming and ran over quite a few ideas that ranged from religious, human, animal, and occult stuff, and some other more out there ideas (some, the pressing plant wanted nothing to do with). The From Hell letter mentioned earlier was penned in blood, so we thought it would be cool to tie ourselves personally to the record by screening the sleeves with our blood. We got some syringes together, went to a friend’s house, and got ourselves some blood! haha
Coming from the d-beat/powerviolence/punk/hardcore world as you do, what do you feel sets From Hell apart from the pack of bands hailing from the same genre? Who do you feel your musical peers are? My guess would be bands like Agrimonia, Unkind and Wartorn, but that’s just me.
We mesh many different genres together, we dont really fit in any specific genre, if you heard all the things we’ve been described as you’d probably laugh. We have elements of metal, punk, thrash, d-beat, hardcore, and even gothic rock/indie influenced stuff. We have acoustic guitar, pianos, violin, and all kinds of weird stuff incorporated, and we do our best to make all the different elements mesh properly. As far as our musical peers, I can see those comparisons.. I would say bands like Negative Approach, Toxic Narcotic, His Hero Is Gone, Dropdead, Poison Idea, Crowbar?
Pic: Josh Groul
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