Dripping Decay’s demo Watching You Rot came out on the very last day of 2021, like a bloody handprint to punctuate another incredible year of quality underground death metal. Composed of inveterate maniacs and sickos, Dripping Decay’s demo combines all the necessary elements for a successful death-grind release and then smashes them into a gooey pulp. Which unrecognizable heap is then left to putrefy and only after a significant amount of decomposition has occurred does it begin to resemble the extreme morbidity that is Dripping Decay’s killer demo, Watching You Rot.
Personally speaking, as someone who was obsessed with Frightmare’s debut Midnight Murder Mania (2003), it’s an honor to be interviewing the likes of “Maniac” Neil Smith, who plays guitar in Dripping Decay. For this interview, Neil is also joined by Dripping Decay’s vocalist Eric Stucke (Caffa, Hallucinator).
“I had the idea to start Dripping Decay back in 2019 when I was still playing guitar in Lord Gore,” Neil recalls. “I wanted to do something that was heavily inspired by bands like Repulsion, Pungent Stench, and Impetigo. Late ‘80s/early ‘90s style death/grind with Horror themed lyrics. After my departure from LG I decided to make Dripping Decay my main focus.”
Neil says: “It took a while to find the right people who fit with the style.” He went about recruiting people, he says, by, “[m]aking an instrumental demo, putting ads on Craigslist, asking around in the local scene, eventually I found other talented like-minded musicians.”
Eric Stucke, Dripping Decay’s vocalist, says he remembers “Neil ma[d]e a post on social media looking for a vocalist of a band influenced by Repulsion, Pungent Stench, Autopsy and Impetigo and it sounded like exactly the kind of death metal and grind I would want to play and a perfect fit for my vocal style.” Eric continues: “I’ve known Neil for 10 years, I played my first death metal gig opening for his band Blood Freak when I lived in Oakland—and part of my Portland bucket list was always ‘join a band with Maniac Neil.’ Ha!” Eric adds: “I’ve been doing guitar and vocals in death and thrash the last decade—it’s nice writing and playing a lot of the music but I also miss the visceral intensity I used to conjure up as a frontman in hardcore & powerviolence bands blowing up living rooms and warehouses; I wanna bring that raw energy and aggression to death metal.”
Dripping Decay’s name and logo both work well to convey their sound even before pressing ‘play.’ According to Neil, the logo was drawn by Pierre de Palmas from a “rough sketch: Neil did himself. “Basically, all the rad gore and drips are his,” Neil laughs, before telling us, “Pierre plays in Blue Holocaust and Vomi Noir. Some killer French Goregrind bands. I’ve been in touch with that guy since the late 90’s. Super cool dude and an amazing artist!”
Neil says at first Dripping Decay “was just Trevor (our former bass player) and [himself] practicing to a drum machine.” He says, “After about a year of doing that we thankfully found Jason, who is an amazing drummer and not long after Eric joined on vocals. I’m super stoked to be working with these guys. They’re both extremely talented. Practice is a hell of a lot more fun now than back in the drum machine days, that’s for sure!”
As for the lyrics behind this audial carnage, Eric says, “I write most of the lyrics and did all of them for the demo, although Neil has contributed a few songs as well which will be on future releases. Lyrically, gore and body horror is the focal point but they cover all different types of morbidity and putridity. Insanity, cannibalism, medieval torture, nihilism, ecological genocide, necrophilia, it’s all fair game. In my past bands I tended to write my feelings and opinions and filter them metaphorically through the style of the band—in Dripping Decay, it’s pure fantasy and storytelling, typically describing insane, sadistic and irrational characters that are not me at all, exploring the limits of extremity in the human psyche and day to day reality. ‘Sadistic Excruciator’ is the purest example of creating the complete opposite of myself. It can be a lot of fun exploring these ideas without them having to represent me as a person. Sometimes they spin off of horrific non-fiction like in ‘Bay Of Blood.’ Neil’s lyrics tend to be more third-person and tell extremely graphic and descriptive stories out of horror movies and novels.”
Watching You Rot packs a massive, suppurating wall-of-rotten-meat kind of sound. But according to Neil, “It was all done on a budget of $0, total DIY.” He explains: “With the exception of the drum tracking everything was recorded by us. I tracked all the guitars and bass which took about 2 hours combined. Eric recorded his vocals himself. I handled all the mixing. To be honest, I’m shocked how well it turned out. Haha. Dan Lowndes from Resonance Sound did a great job on the mastering too! Our approach was to do it quick and dirty but also do our best to make it sound decent. Raw but clear.”
As for the incredible, probably too-gnarly-for-work video for “Sadistic Excruciator,” Neil says he did that, too!
“I figured it would be a fun way to promote the demo,” he says. “I’m a huge old school Horror movie fan so it was a blast to make. It was a ton of work going through all the movies and editing it all together, but I’m stoked on how it came out!”
Neil also handled the tape’s artwork. He says, “t was a combination of pieces I had lying around for a while and new stuff I added.” The artwork you see on the Dripping Decay Bandcamp and the CD version of Watching You Rot was “done by a Finnish artist named T. Kannibalet Hietomaa,” Neil says. “I found that art on his facebook page looking through his pieces for sale. Once I saw it, I was like ‘this is perfect!’ and immediately contacted him about using it for the CD edition. I’m really happy with both. I think it’s cool having a different cover for each different format.”
Watching You Rot begins with a synth track very much in the vein of Goblin or John Carpenter. That was Neil, too. “It just goes back to my love of ‘70s and 80’s Horror and composers like John Carpenter,” Neil says. “I figured it would set a good ominous creepy tone before the old school blasting death metal tore your head off. Haha! I love old Horror/synth music as much as I love gross death and grind.”
Watching You Rot is already out on tape and CD from Headsplit Records, and thankfully some copies remain. Eric says, “I’ve been working with Dylan from Headsplit for a few years with Hallucinator, and he’s put out Neil’s other bands in the past as well. When I showed him our rehearsal tracks of our new band together he was immediately interested and offered to put out our material. We went with tape and CD formats, recorded it all ourselves, and I handled the album layouts & promo graphics while Neil did illustrations.” He adds: “Shortly after the release, Fucking Kill Records in Germany offered us a vinyl release […] which Headsplit will also go in on for a US version, and Brazil’s Black Hole Productions is in talks to put out our CD for South America.”
Otherwise, Eric says, “We’ve been busy establishing our webstore and online presence, sending out over 100 pieces of merch around the world and already selling out of shirts and tapes, and talking to various entities about new formats and regions. We made our music video and did new merch designs for long sleeves and stickers. It’s nice having multiple people pull their weight – Neil & I each do graphic design and he does illustrations, Jason has been handling our social media and merch which is a huge help, and we all promote the band. We’ve been training our new bassist Jackson since December and are getting ready to be a live band and kill it at our debut gig on March 19th. We have 12 songs and are always working on more—we’re planning on a full-length this year.”
For his part, Neil is also looking forward to “[p]laying some shows and hopefully recording a full length soon! So far, we have 12 songs written and they sound sick!”