** Hard to believe Jungle Rot’s been kicking death metal’s can since 1994. With seven full-lengths in their body bag—the most recent of which is this year’s Terror Regime—the Cheese Staters have written the book on Midwest death. We sit down with founding member Dave Matrise via the wonders of technology (that’s the Internet for you short bus folk) to discuss Terror Regime but mostly what it takes to be in a death metal band in 2013. Mostly.
You’ve been doing death metal for almost 20 years. Looking over your career and what you’ve accomplished what do you think of it?
Dave Matrise: When I started out I never thought this band would still be around today, only in my dreams. I am very proud of our accomplishments, this is our 8th CD. Our fans have stuck by us from the beginning. We have engaged new fans as well. We have almost done everything I have set out to do with this band. What I enjoy most is when we tour with bands that I started out listening to back before I was in a band that to me is just mind blowing. I would always tell my buds, “I wish I could tour with a band like that” or “I would kill to go out on the road with that band.”
What advice would you give to bands just getting their feet wet?
Dave Matrise: To just try to keep it fun for as long as you can. Support other bands, the underground scene, and never stop the fight for something you want or dream of. Back when I first started to play it was easier, there were so many good bands in our area and everyone supported one another. We were always going to shows to make a scene. Bands starting out have to remember why they started to play and that is to play live shows. It’s not a competition with others. It’s about unity and supporting each other. If you don’t start that, there will never be a scene to play to.
What are the realities facing death metal bands in today’s music market? I’m talking top-down.
Dave Matrise: All I can say is that it’s going to be a long and painful journey. Starting out is the hardest thing. Trying to find venues to play live is not that easy, especially when the bands don’t have a name for themselves yet. That’s were a lot cash will come out of someone’s pocket; paying to get on tours/shows and paying for everything that you need to keep it going. When the chance comes to sign to your first label, beware and do get a lawyer to look over everything, get his advice. Touring time could be the best times for some bands and the worst time for others. We traveled in a van for five weeks at a time, sleeping and living in it every day. The road is the biggest pay off, but it takes the most work of all. We drive multiple hours on end and hope there is a hot meal waiting for us or a buy-out when we arrive at the venue. It is really hard for bands today to really make it and be successful.
Victory Records called Jungle Rot “knuckle-dragging Neanderthal death metal.” Surely, there’s more to Jungle Rot than that.
Dave Matrise: I do like the way that sounds. I like to think of us as soul-taking death metal that will leave you begging for more. Jungle Rot is all about keeping it true to our fans and style of music, we have gained a lot of respect over the years and want to continue that and growing our fan base. When you come out to a live show you will see exactly what we are about.
Is there separation between Terror Regime and Kill on Command, as far as style and substance are concerned?
Dave Matrise: There is not necessarily a separation but we definitely added a lot more aggressions this time around. This time we worked more on melodies and getting solid solos down for each song. Our guitarist Geoff really pushed himself this time around to kick out some amazing leads, and our drummer Jesse kept our energy level to the max and really, really impressed the hell out of us. Our fans know just what they are getting when buying our CD’s. We all went into this recording with 100 percent confidence and Terror Regime will show it.
Is there a place for groove-oriented death metal these days?
Dave Matrise: Yes, very much, how much more extreme can the music get? People want to hear something new, and fresh, not the same copy-cat bands that some labels flood the scene with. We stand and wait to show everyone that there is way more to brutal music then just how many blast beats per a second you can do. We want to bring back the good ol’ days where everyone would throw their fist in the air and help you up if you fell down in a circle pit. That was the old school way. There are a variety of styles of brutal music to choose from, not just the same extreme speed over and over.
What about song placement on Terror Regime. Was it hard to sequence the album? It has a pretty natural flow to it. It’s something most death metal bands don’t really get.
Dave Matrise: Jungle Rot has something different then some other bands. Most of our songs do not sound the same and when we picked the track list, we just let the energy flow out to us, it came very natural. We really think there are a good variety of songs for everyone. It will be easy to find many songs to enjoy. Some releases by other bands sometimes will sound like the first song all the way to the end and in that case it would make it more difficult to choose a good track.
Musically, what inspires you these days? It can be musical or not. News, politics, movies, etc.
Dave Matrise: When I write songs on the guitar it’s like a breath of fresh air. I pick up to play and forget about everything that is happening around me at that time, just free from the outside world. Writing comes easy for me , I can start to write something right on the spot and it just works; it has always been like that. It’s also what has kept me into music for this long and is helping me make a career out of it. I knew early on that this is something I was good at, this is what I was meant to do. Jim writes most of the lyrics, he’s always talking about current events and what is going on in the world. He also watches a lot of movies, which I believe is what helps him to write the lyrics so well. Jim really hit some good topics this time around with songs like “Voice your Disgust” or “Blind Devotion,” they all seek the truth.
What does the album, Terror Regime, title refer to?
It’s almost the end of the world and mankind. Someone is coming for us. The Regime is our controlling government that we have, they are trying to tell us all how to feel, what to think, and what to believe in. They try to scare us into the lies that they have fed us. (This is what this small world could come to if we give in and lay down our guns, I say no-way to that.) On the new cover, the regime is coming after everyone to give up their rights. The skulls hanging are from the victims that would not give into them. They fly their banners with hate, they love red; it’s the color of blood.
The cover has an iconic look to it. Almost like the old Bolt Thrower covers. Where’d the idea come from to have a tank on the cover?
Dave Matrise: The idea came up from our artist, Gyula. He has done our last three covers and is amazing at what he does. We just send him the titles and all the lyrics, and he nails it every time. All of the songs are about the world and the current state we are all going through today. He really made the complete CD layout tie in together from front to back, with the titles and images working together. We can never escape the “war and gore theme” with a name like Jungle Rot, and it fits just right this time with our new music, killing and crushing all.
What do you make of the “I Predict a Riot” song appearing on Workaholics? Did you notice an upswing of interest or was it more of a passing piece of music in the series that didn’t affect the band.
Dave Matrise: We thought it was killer and it was an amazing feeling to hear our music on the TV. I don’t think it did much for us, it was so short and not too many people could tell who it was. We hope next time, it will be a longer spot and that it will make a bigger impact for us. Heck we’d even love to play live for a taping!
Victory re-reissued Skin the Living. What’s it like to have your demo material out in the market again? It was first issued by the band and then reissued by Pure Death Records.
Dave Matrise: It feels real good. That’s something I have wanted to do for some time. We’re giving it a proper release and, most of all, it’s being pressed on vinyl. We released it back in ‘95 and then again on a limited pressing through Pure Death Records. This will give everyone a chance to have a rare piece of ours; it will show where it all started for Jungle Rot and how long we have been fighting this fight for old school metal to stay alive.
** Jungle Rot’s Terror Regime is out now on Victory Records. A ton of Jungle Rot merch—vinyl, t-shirts, CDs—is available HERE. Click the link and do the war support dance. Film it too, ’cause then we can post it on Jungle Rot’s Facebook timeline.