Talkin ‘Bout Flex: Asphyx’s “Deathibel”

Since Issue #75, Decibel has brought you left-of-center b-sides, rarities, live recordings and new songs from top-tier metal bands via the outstanding Flexi Series.  Want to hear the stories behind these recordings?  Read on.

Sometimes the stars align just right.  Sometimes all portents and omens point to the promise of glory.  And sometimes somebody shits in your hand and jizzes in your eye.  Probably not at the same time, but who knows?  All we’re saying is that Asphyx got together and jammed a phenomenal song that honors us all by taking the piss out of us.  In this month’s issue of Decibel, we bring you a flexi so close to our hearts that it’s practically a third ventricle.

We got Asphyx mouthpiece Martin Van Drunen to talk about his relationship to the magazine and its editor, as well as the way the band put together our most recent edition of the flexi series.

When did you first meet Decibel editor Albert Mudrian?

Excuse my horrible long term memory if i’m wrong, but I think I met Albert for the first time at MDF… was it in this Irish pub in Baltimore? So during the years we stayed in contact, resulting in some features of Asphyx/me in Decibel. What I will never forget is that he excused himself for not having Asphyx in the first edition of Choosing Death. I think he was pretty embarrassed by that. I thought it was funny, and so later he made up for that in the 2nd Choosing Death print.
What do you recall of your history with Decibel, both the Asphyx coverage we have done as well as if you read anything in the magazine that stuck out as memorable?

First, I’m quite sure you never gave us a bad review with whatever we did, which is always a nice plus for a band, of course. And I liked the Call and Response where I had no idea which bands I was listening too. But the best was actually Chris Dick doing Pestilence’s Consuming Impulse in your Hall of Fame section. Talking about some decent research. No-one had a clue whatever happened to drummer Marco Foddis, but Chris found him. Now that’s what I call some serious journalistic digging! What’s also unique is the Metal Muthas part. I couldn’t participate as my mum died when I was very young, but it’s cute to see certain metal brothers with their mothers.

How would you describe the character of Decibel, as compared to other magazines or fanzines you have seen over the years?

Independent and thus non-compromising, humorous, passionate, intelligent and inquiring. Of course you need labels or companies for advertisement, but some (commercial) mags seem to just kiss ass to get those ads and reviewing the biggest pile of shit positive in return for a huge page well paid for. And what I liked were some articles from behind the bands, like managers for example. Then there’s always a lot of humor through the mag, spiced with cartoons. Which is also a nice touch as worldwide, there’s lots of laughter in the scene ( except for Norway of course haha! ) and there should be. Finally, I sense some kind of refreshing punk attitude. Back in the days that was pretty common in the death/thrash scene as we were all, in a way, just a bunch of punks and I miss that nowadays. Decibel is a full colour zine and the biggest of its kind in the US, but you still seem to have “fanzine” roots. And that’s what I appreciate a lot about it.

Have you written other comedic material (lyrically, at least) like “Deathibel”?

I have some never-published lyrics that don’t fit anything I’m in. But the Majesty “Bestial Vomit” cover [we did] is in ridiculous Dutch, as I couldn’t understand anything the guy was grunting and I had no lyrics at all. So I just wrote something full of bollocks, everything rhyming on “wraawraw” or whatever one can make up from that. And in Asphyx there were always a few gory fun stories. Like “Vespa Crabro,” “Bloodswamp” and also “We Doom You to Death” was quite sarcastic. Sometimes I change words on stage too, making the other fellas laugh. Ah and not to forget, The Blood Court was actually one big comic idea about those 5 fictional crazy judges. So yeah, I did a few here and there and will keep on writing those as it’s just good fun.

How and when were you approached about contributing to the Flexi Series?  Did you know immediately that you wanted to do something like “Deathibel” or did that idea grow over time?

I must give credits here though to the charming Nikki Law, now working for Metal Blade, but back then for Century Media. She came with the idea. I thought it was cool and then she contacted Albert who was in for it as well. But I think that happened about two years ago, so we put it on the shelf in case there was an opportunity. What we knew from the start that it was not going to be a doom song, but a faster Asphyx one. Just a simple catchy track, quick to record, easy to remind, and with some fun. When Husky (our drummer) started mailing fun lines of German English (Germans have difficulties pronouncing the English “th”, so “death” sounds like “des” when they say it). So a German can interpret Decibel as “Desibel,” thus “Deathibel.” I thought that was funny and a nice wordplay. I quickly put some silly but suitable lines on paper (having too many beers) after we had a jam with the band. Later on I rewrote them as that first effort was a bit too crappy. But as with all things, Asphyx is a spontaneous band. We make noise first and think later, haha!

How long did you work on “Deathibel”?  When and where did you record it?

In total just a couple of hours. The rough part was rammed in the rehearsal room, we taped it in November last year with an old 4 track to not to forget the first idea. Finally last January, we had enough new songs to try out some drumtracks-recordings and we could combine that with the “Deathibel” tune. So Husky and Paul were doing: double bass, start riff, chorus riff, repeat, bridge destroy part, double bass, repeat, done. It sounded more like Motorhead than Asphyx – unconsciously perhaps just after Lemmy’s tragic passing away. But it was our typical way of composing songs. Having a good time, a beer or two and making a lot of noise. And when the boys were recording more stuff, I rewrote the lyrics to how they ended up in the studio bar. We recorded it in Andernach (birthplace of the infamous Charles Bukowski, which explains the amounts of alcohol we consumed I guess), Germany. For the very first time. A very cozy studio with the name of Perle am Rhein (translated: Pearl at the Rhine). We felt fine there, and it was a pleasure to work with engineer Janosch, who did a live show of us. That’s how we got to know him. Later the mighty Dan Swanö of course had to do the finishing mixing and mastering magic. So yeah, it was different, especially as it was Husky’s first recording with us. But it all felt natural and relaxing. Very Asphyx really.
Have you listened to the other flexis?  Do you have any favorites?

I only know two: Exhumed and Brutal Truth. We don’t have Decibel in Europe of course and so I hardly know which bands did it before us. But I do like the Brutal Truth one. I’m not into that much grind, but they are just fantastic total chaos and noise, with the right attitude. A very old flexi ( but not a Decibel one), i’m still looking for is Motorhead’s “Train Kept a Rolling.” A very rare live version, and the best and loudest version I ever heard of that song. But extremely rare.

Now that you’ve written “Deathibel,” the magazine’s theme song, would you consider penning theme music for related projects, like Albert’s book Choosing Death, Kevin Stewart-Panko’s book about international touring snafus (Do You Have Anything to Declare? with Justin Smith), or Adem Tepedelen’s book about craft beer (The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers)?

Thanks a lot, that’s an honour and really means a lot to us! Haha, I really don’t know. As said, this was a spontaneous one and I have no idea how things would turn out if someone would ask us to actually come up with a theme song for something specific. But topics like Choosing Death, touring and beers is stuff that’s in our blood and guts. I’m sure if Asphyx would meet up for a quick jam we’ll get a few decent tunes done in no time. So yeah, we would consider it. Apart from that, it’s always an honour for a band if someone would ask you for a theme song. But if a may add, it was never meant like that. What I mean is that we never sat down with the intention of: “Ok, Let’s write a theme song”. It just happened the way it did. Musicwise it’s our tribute to Motorhead and lyricwise, i just wanted to write down some words with which you editors and readers could identify yourselves. Besides, a band would probably never take on a topic like that on an album; well, normally we would not, as it simply would not fit with the rest of the material and with lyrics like that, no one else except writers would understand and others may accuse us of kissing ass for a good review haha! So you gave us the opportunity for the flexi, and we took that chance to do something completely different. The track will probably become some bonus tune but I will rewrite the words then. So the flexi will remain a very limited release. It was for you and your readers. That is why it makes us very pround and we are flattered that it became your theme song. Question that pops up is though, what if the damn thing gets a shit lot of airplay and potention of becoming a fat hit? Are we gonna reprint? Haha!

Check out all of the Decibel Flexis here.