Hello, this is Elpida and with great delight I welcome you to Metal Invader; truly an honour to have you with us. As far as I know, your tour must have kicked off by now, so, how has it been so far? Are you thrilled to go on tour again?
The tour is running exceptionally smoothly, great shows, great crowds and most importantly great bands to be touring with.
It’s been a year since the release of your latest album “Shrines of Paralysis”. Combining this with the fact that the band counts enough live dates for the album’s promotion, it means that you have gathered enough feedback about “Shrines”. Judging by its top-notch quality, I guess the crowd keenly embraced it during your live rituals. What’s your point of view? Are you satisfied by the general outcome?
Yeah for sure, particularly now that the album has been out for a year or so and people have had a chance to digest the nuances of the material. I feel at this stage that all of our material is equally well-received in a live setting.
Seventeen years since Ulcerate’s formation, five full length albums and some tours later, we reach 2017; that’s a whole life if you ask me. How has time changed you? Did you anticipate all this recognition and acceptance by the crowd when you first formed the band?
No, there has never been any conscious intention to gain recognition or any sort of fame, and that ethos still remains. The band is purely an outlet for writing and performing the death metal we’d like to hear. In saying that, there has always been a strong drive even from when we first picked up our instruments to take things as far as we can. At a young age seeing international bands lay waste to a stage was hugely motivating, and the thought of being able to tour the world was, and still is, fairly intoxicating.
In terms of how time has changed us, not sure really. Naturally our tastes have matured, and the pool of inspiration has widened in some areas and narrowed in others. Along the way we’ve met most our ‘idols’ and at this stage have a very wide network of like-minded peers, which makes the touring scenario comfortable and easy. And of course these days, we’re offered a lot of opportunities that we had to fight for in the early days.
Ulcerate is a very respected act of the field and seems to define modern Death Metal. Many bands have cited you as one of their influences. Do you realize the impact you’re having on not only your listeners but the genre itself? How does this make you feel? Does all that create a certain feel of responsibility towards you, the crowd, etc?
We feel it a little, but try to keep our heads in the sand in that regard. But it’s also a difficult thing to judge objectively – we hear and experience our own music a lot differently than anyone else, so it’s often awkward to accept compliments that perhaps elevate us to a position that seems a little unrealistic internally. We just write and play the way we want to with little regard for how it will be perceived. Absolutely not interested in trying to cater to the whims of fans, otherwise you’ll be forever chasing your tail.
It’s not difficult to notice that Ulcerate have undergone a few lineup changes by now. What’s that quality that holds you lot together now? What’s that element that keeps you going strong? Could these lineup changes be considered a cosmic strategy for Ulcerate to bring its true essence to the surface, bearing in mind that “Shrines of Paralysis” is your greatest effort to date?
The lineup changes have almost always been live-only guitarists. Every single second of music has been written by guitarist Mike and myself, and from ‘Everything and Fire’ and onwards, every lyric has been penned by bassist/vocalist Paul. So no, for the past 8 years (which I consider to be the most cohesive era of the band) the 3 core writing members have literally written and recorded every second of music.
Lyrically speaking, your latest album deals with human arrogance, despair and narcissism among others; correct me if I’m wrong. These kind of lyrical themes have always been a constant in Ulcerate’suniverse. Why do you have the urge to talk about such stuff and where did you draw influence from for “Shrines of Paralysis”?
We’ve always drawn inspiration from the frustrations of the human condition. It’s what we know best, seems only natural for us to explore these themes. Ultimately we work with words and imagery that we feel supports and illustrates how the music sounds and feels to us, it all needs to be a single cohesive package, both aesthetically and conceptually.
I’ve noticed that, while strongly holding on to the character you’ve built throughout these years, you’ve decided to shift from this Portal-esque oblivious dissonance to the incorporation of more melody to your compositions. Would you explain what led you to this decision?
For the most part I feel we’ve kind of said all we can with the full dissonant approach, and with the incorporation of elements of more conventional melody we’ve really opened the doors for limitless exploration. And we have always had a lot of melody in our music, it’s just often been masked with counterpoint. So opening things up and letting them breathe a little more allows us to generate more power, and also makes things more memorable in a hook sense (or as ‘hooky’ as Ulcerate can get at least). Also, as mentioned before there’s a lot of bands these days going down the similar path that we’ve been treading for the last decade, so I’m not really interested in just blending into the background.
“Shrines of Paralysis” was one of the most staggering releases in extreme music in recent years. Care to give us some insight about it? For instance, what’s the process you’ve followed while composing and recording your album? My guess is, for example, that composing “Shrines” came naturally as that’s the taste it leaves me with after each hearing. I’d really like you to talk to us about the processes you’re following.
All of our albums come naturally, we instantly know if something is working or not. ‘Shrines’ followed the same process as always really – rough riff and rhythm ideas are generated with practise amps and drum pads at home which we take to the rehearsal space to flesh out full drum parts and tempo structures. From there we room mic jams and arrange them to a point where we have the basis of a song with a single guitar and drum track. We’ll then multitrack drums and begin work on guitar and bass counterpoint as well as vocal arrangements. Further arrangements and adjustments are done after we’ve got the full demo version of the track we can listen to with some objectivity.
So by the time we come to track for the final product, everything is well rehearsed and planned. Drums and vocals were recorded in a day each, and strings were tracked over 5 days. We always quad track guitars, and double track bass with 2 different set of amps to achieve rich and detailed tones. Guitars this time were a Peavey and Orange combination, bass was Orange and TC Electronics. As I engineer and mix everything, we like to find the tones in the room and print them as we go, no after the fact re-amping or studio manipulation. Mixing is as simple and effective as possible.
In “Shrines” we are dealing with uncompromised, multifaceted music, complex yet comprehensible structures (greatest combo ever). Your latest album could be considered a band’s peak. What do you have in mind about your next release? Does the album’s success make you nervous in any way?
At this point we haven’t begun discussions at all for new material. We always like to focus on live performances for a year or so to get the last material out of the system so-to-speak. So early in the new year we’ll begin idea forming.
Regarding success – as I mentioned before we don’t really take outside opinions into account. To me what is successful on the album might not match with what fans or critics feel. So, no, we’ll just go with our gut as we always have done.
With “Vermis”, Ulcerate started to sound clearer, with the compositions being even more mature and well-thought of. Did this happen naturally or did you want to take the next steps concerning your discography?
Everything with us is a natural progression. We rehearse together 3 times a week still, and have other projects and personal practice regimes so we’re playing music a lot, there’s no way there won’t be a natural momentum.
Staying on the subject, no one can dismiss the fact that besides your strong Technical Death Metal, Atmospheric/Chaotic Black Metal and Ambient elements, Jazz and Gothic influences can also be found in your structures. Many, including myself,have compared you to Gorguts at some point. I guess your influences are countless. But, just to get a hold of your musical heritage, care to give us some of your main influences that have directly affected your own musical creation?
When we started the band as teenagers we were influenced by bands like Vader, Deeds of Flesh, old Cryptopsy, Angelcorpse – and once we heard Immolation, Gorguts and Today is the Day things really cemented in our minds in terms of direction and tonality, and how dissonance can be used to create extremely unsettling atmospheres. The non-metal influences come through our individual instrument explorations, so for me that means exploring fusion, jazz and funk playing – and bringing this approach into a metal framework.
It seems like you’ve found a home in Relapse Records, while the boost your contract has offered to your career is undeniable. How would you describe your collaboration so far and how did you manage to score such a contract?
Relapse has been great to work with. They’ve always been very happy with how we work and don’t interfere at all in the creative process. They actually approached us after we released ‘Everything is Fire’, so we stayed in touch and made the logical move after we fulfilled our contract with Willowtip.
New Zealand is a small island country, so I gather that it can be difficult for a band of your unique genre to thrive and get the attention it deserves, due to low population numbers. Is that the actual case?
New Zealand is definitely a very hard location for niche bands to thrive and break out in a live show sense. Logistically, financially and networking-wise, getting out of NZ has always traditionally been very tough, and you need utter motivation and dedication to make it happen, as well as hopefully having something to offer sonically of course.
What does the future hold for you? What will your next steps be?
We’ll regroup early next year to start looking at new material, with potentially more touring in 2018 as well.
You’ll be soon performing in Greece and truth is that we can’t fuckin’ wait any
longer! What have you prepared for us? What should we expect from Ulcerate?
We’re also very enthused to have finally been able to make it to Greece. The set list is well rounded and spans the last 4 albums. We’ll see you in matter of days…
Alright, that’s all from me; more to come when we meet in Thessaloniki, haha! Thanks for taking the time. Any messages you’d like to send to our readers?
We appreciate the support!