We threw them a frickin’ bone a couple months ago, and now they’ve taken that bone and jumped eyebrows deep into the fray. Iowa’s Green Death is set to release a CD/DVD combo with the kicker being that they’re doing it all by their lonesome. Hell, at the time of the following interview with vocalist Sol Bates, they didn’t even have a drummer. But as one of the hacks around here wrote, “this Des Moines outfit plays a classy brand of classic thrash a la Testament, Heathen and Pantera with a little Type O Negative in there as well as singer who can sing and everything,” and we figured they have to be either crazy or insane to take on this project independently, so why not throw ’em a bone on the blog too?
So, you’re an independent band releasing a CD/DVD combo. Are you fucking nuts?
Completely! You pretty much have to be insane at this point to be in the music business, especially doing metal. We figured if we were going to do a full length album, we wanted to do everything a lot of our favorite artists do, which is release a DVD to go with the album. We are also hoping to release the album on vinyl, but that may come a few months after the CD/DVD release.
What was the reasoning going into this project? Did you look at each other at any point and say, “Are we fucking nuts?” How many times did you have to fight the cold feet feeling?
We knew going in to the creation of the band that we wanted to do what a lot of other bands wouldn’t do as independent artists. We hired the best artists for our album cover and album artwork. Eliran Kantor (Testament, Sodom, Hatebreed) painted The Deathening album cover and Mark Rudolph did other album and stage art. We wanted to do a lot of music videos (four, so far), and we wanted to document the creative process (studio footage, interviews). We basically decided to do what our favorite bands do, regardless of whether we had a label backing us or not. There are plenty of times that we have asked each other, “Are we completely insane to do all of this stuff?” That answer is usually “yes”, but we do what we love and what we would want to see if we were a fan of the band.
How long were the writing sessions for The Deathening? What did you discover about yourselves as a band during the creative process?
We split this album up into three separate writing/recording sessions. One session took place in September of 2012, which became our first EP, Dawn of the Death (three tracks). That first EP writing session was basically over the Summer of 2012. The next writing/recording session took place in February of 2013, which became our Death Monks EP (five tracks). The final session takes place in October of 2013 (five tracks) and we will re-mix the previous EPs and combine them with the new tracks for the full length album. We have been writing the last five tracks since the Death Monks EP was released. We have discovered throughout this process that we have a very strong writing chemistry between myself, Erich (lead guitar, drums) and Sparky (rhythm guitar). We also discovered that we won’t let anything stand in our way of reaching our goals.
What was the recording process like? Where did you do it? What was the goal going into it? Did your guitarist playing drums throw any additional snags into the process?
We recorded everything locally here in Des Moines, Iowa with Griffin Landa at The Establishment Recording Studio. We split the recording up in three sessions to make it easier on ourselves since we were working most of the time without a full band. Costs add up when there are only four people paying for everything (art, studio time), so it made sense financially as well to break it up so we could pay for it in segments. The initial goal when we recorded the first three songs was just to have something to show for our efforts after our last band ended and to prove to ourselves that no one would stop us even if we didn’t have a full band at the time. No one really knew we were up to anything new, so we just surprised everyone with this new band, and announced we were recording an EP almost immediately after it came together. Other than being more work for Erich, having him play drums was actually beneficial, since the songs were all written and demoed with his drum parts anyway – it gave us a little more creative control and focus by not having an extra person bringing his own interpretation to such a crucial part of the sound. Plus, as a drummer, Erich’s not too shitty.
It needs to be asked: what was the initial thought that went into calling your band Green Death? Do you cringe every time you see/say/think of/tell some woman you’re trying to sweet talk/etc you play in a band called Green Death?
Not at all, it just means that our appeal is more selective… telling chicks around here that you play in a metal band will either send them running, or they’ll ask “you mean like Nickelback?” Our name sort of answers the question before it’s asked.
While we’re sort of on the topic, can you give us a bit of a band history? What does Green Death offer for you that your previous bands didn’t or couldn’t?
Parker (bass) was in a few other bands before joining us full time in March of 2013. The rest of us were in a five-piece band called Only for around 10 years (and lots of other bands before that). We put out several CDs, played countless shows throughout the Midwest, etc. We were what I would consider a “modern metal” sound, although there were elements of thrash. After that band ended, we really wanted to go back to our roots and play whatever came naturally. Thrash and death metal were what we grew up listening to, and it was the most fun to play. We also love Danzig and Type O Negative, so we try to mix in that style with the more extreme style to create something unique. I feel like when we chose the name Green Death, it really helped us focus on a theme and provided a better direction than our previous band/bands.
Tell us about the DVD. What’s the content going to consist of? What was the filming process like? How long did it take and would you have had the album out earlier if you hadn’t decided to do a concurrent DVD project?
The DVD will contain interviews, some live footage, and our music videos. We may also have some bonus footage from our studio sessions from the first two EPs that I filmed. We have been working with our videographer (Rick Burger at Stang Films) throughout this last year, so it hasn’t delayed the album portion in any way.
The Deathening. What the hell does that even mean or refer to?
Look for it in next year’s Merriam-Webster!…No, it’s a silly made up word that I thought we needed to have for the album title to signal the end of this year long process. We had Dawn of the Death as the first EP, and then Death Monks (Des Moines…get it?) for the second EP , so we needed something with “death” and “ending”…The Deathening was the first thing that came to mind.
I’m assuming you don’t have a drummer yet? Why do you think it’s been such a challenge to nail down that elusive fifth member/drummer?
We had a full-time drummer for around six months who joined after we put out the second EP, but being in an independent band is tough. We aren’t making any money doing this, and you see very little reward, so it’s tough finding someone with our level of commitment. We don’t play the local flavor of music in the region, so that also limits your pool of drummers. We are currently auditioning drummers, so hopefully we will find someone. Whether they end up a full time guy or just a live guy to play shows, we’ll still continue putting out music and playing out. We’ve discussed having a cardboard cut out of Peter Criss and playing to studio recorded drum tracks if we have to.
What’s the scene in Des Moines like? What sounds/styles seem to go over best? Are there any local bands we should keep an eye out for? Does the impact of Slipknot still loom large over the city’s extreme music sound and as far as influence is concerned?
The scene in Des Moines is getting a bit better in recent years, but 80’s cover bands and tribute bands still do better than originals, and there are still some bands out there with an obvious Slipknot influence. There also seems to be an indie rock thing that gets a lot of attention. As far as good metal bands in Des Moines, we have Dark Mirror (thrash), Agrinex (black metal), and Painface (death metal/rock). Painface has the original vocalist of Slipknot, Anders Colsefni, who appears on our song “Possessions” both on our Dawn of the Death EP and upcoming full album.
Once this album is out, what’s the plan?
To get a drummer!…In all seriousness, the plan is to hopefully jump on a small tour after the album comes out this fall, and continue to put out EPs and music videos as the ideas come to us. We will operate independently until we get some label interest…or go bankrupt…
Describe the Green Death philosophy in one non-run-on sentence without using semi-colons.
It’s a grueling death march until the end!
And, some videos: