“Feel free to call us primitive antiques … we’re just here to rock and play the music we enjoy the most.” This attitude is maybe the reason that the Danish Death Metal tank UNDERGANG is so successful in the eyes of their fans. I call it the essence of brutality! So it’s time to talk about it, here on FATALGRIND.
Hi David, how are you? One year after “Til Døden Os Skiller”, time to strike a balance! What is your résumé?
Hi Jörg, everything is good here on my side. Busy as always, but mainly with things I really care about. Well, the last year since the release of “TDOS” has brought us on a European tour with Funebrarum just after the release of the album, a trip to NY to play with Autopsy, Funebrarum and Unearthly Trance, playing in Istanbul with sick local fiends Engulfed, Impuration, Godslaying Hellblast and Neglected, a few smaller shows in Germany and Denmark and just recently we returned from a week’s tour on the West Coast with Necrot and Scolex. The past year has been great!
Words as “primitive” or “antiquated” are not insults for you, right?
In general, no. It depends on who throws them at us, to be honest. Only a handful of times it has directed towards us have been meant in a negative way, but in the end I guess it’s a matter of taste in music. Our music is definitely crude, rough and primitive and there’s no hiding that we don’t embrace what Death Metal mainly has offered for the past 15 years. So feel free to call us primitive antiques.
Do you see yourself as a traditional Death Metal band, or do you do what fit best for you?
Well, there’s no denying that our influences mainly come from other bands who reigned 2 decades ago by now and in some ways I guess we belong in the same column as them. But I don’t really care about those things; I let people judge by themselves and place us where they find it suitable, if they need to do so. To me, it’s up to the individual listener to decide that. We’re just here to rock and play the music we enjoy the most.
Are morbid and macabre things essential in writing UNDERGANG songs, right?
The music is written when ideas of riffs or song structures pop into my head, sometimes just when I walk the streets and hear music inside my head, sometimes inspired around a good riff I like, from the soundtrack of movies I watch or perhaps even a whole different story. It varies a lot to be honest. The last year I haven’t written much new stuff for Undergang and the two songs I have written (for our forthcoming 3rd album) have been constructed when I felt I had to, because we kind of stagnated in our older songs. Nowadays, we really enjoy playing the songs from the first album though. So it all changes all the time. I’ve been busy with some of my other projects for the last half year, but I won’t get into that here and focus on Undergang.
Your music is not attached to native soil, what impels you to a sound somewhere between INCANTATION and MORTICIAN, riddled with Doom?
I’m glad to hear that we don’t sound Danish, as to me that’d in general mean that we sucked. Most Danish Death Metal has always sounded insanely mediocre to me. Or even just plain bad. Incantation and Mortician are definitely bands which music has influenced my writing for Undergang at times. Low-tuned darkened decay and extremely guttural grunts is what how we preach the worship of Death.
You give your songs a sticky fat guitar sound with massive bass. This pushes the vocals in the background, is this an acceptable side effect?
I think it depends on which format you listen to and on the speakers, but in general I do agree that the vocals (especially on TDOS) are too low. It’s a thing I would have liked to change, but actually there’s a story behind it. Our friend Morten, who we recorded most of our stuff with, was kicked out of the studio we recorded TDOS in some time after we recorded there and we couldn’t get a hold of the mix in layers. Therefore we had to use the mix we had gotten before things turned sour between Morten and the studio he was able to use and never got the change to adjust the volume of my vocals. In general, I’ve never felt 100% comfortable with my voice, as we originally intended to have another singer who then never showed up to rehearsals, so I guess I might also tend to not demand it rather high in the mix when working on our recordings. This might be one of the negative effects with being involved with the mixing of your own parts, which we all three always are.
Then again, you hear the low end growls and it still adds darkness and brutality to the tunes, so it still gets the job done.
UNDERGANG has a sinister charm around it. Does humor have a realistic chance by 3 angry looking guys and their dirge?
Of course there’s a certain amount of humor involved in playing in Undergang. If one glorifies topics like child murder, dripping decomposition, eating skin and the likes seriously…He’s an idiot. Everything is tongue-in-cheek, so to say. I grew up with horror movies and comics and everything morbid and disgusting has always been interesting to me, but at the same time…It’s kind of low brow and I’m not afraid to embrace to humor in that. Undergang is a serious band; but we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t have a good time with everything about it.
Is it easier to write in your native language?
Actually, it comes a bit easier for me honestly. Since I played in my first punk band as a 14 year old, most of the bands I’ve been involved in and especially the ones I written music and lyrics for, have had their words sung in our native language. For Death Metal and Undergang, I think it sounds crude and ugly and fits the music pretty good. I’ve only heard of one other Danish Death Metal band to have sung in Danish before, but I actually never heard that one demo where they did it. I’m pretty confident in saying it probably sucks anyway too, haha.
Danish is a language that I often get told sounds like a mumbling when talking…I know I at least suffer from that flaw, but I’m also a master of mumbling so maybe I’m not the best to judge it by.
Is it hard sometimes to write more technical stuff?
I wouldn’t know, don’t think I ever aimed for that, hah! I’m not a very technical skilled guitarist, nor have I ever wanted to be that. I write what I find suitable for the band I need it for and in general I prefer heavier and primitive music compared to shredding technical stuff. People should never compare technique and speed with heaviness and in my book, heaviness comes first when composing Death Metal.
Is UNDERGANG a band who can handle the weight of expectations? Is stress something that has no place in the band?
Honestly, we do this band for ourselves. Not too many cares about us back home, so we don’t really face high expectations around here. At our last local show where we played with Swedish Paganizer (this was our first show in Copenhagen in 9 months and the first one since the release party of TDOS) only like 15 people showed up. Not even most of our friends care to support us at our shows actually. We get most of our support from outside our home country when touring or in the form of letters and emails and I don’t really know what people expect from us except really heavy and brutal death metal sewage and so far I know that’s what we offered. Stress is for pussies and we’re definitely not relying on the expectations of others. Join the ride or leave us to do our thing for those who enjoy it. We know Undergang isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, nor is it our something we worry about.
What about your creativity? Do you use the submittals of the early Death Metal age, or don´t you need it to write this kind of amazing songs?
I think I already touched this a bit in one of the first questions, but it definitely varies on my mood when writing. In general, I prefer not to have too many parts being repeating and try to more like flood the listener with wave after wave of new brutal riffs. Not all the time, as it’ll then lose a bit of its catchiness, this is also an important factor when writing songs for Undergang. Nowadays our songs are a bit more varied and on our 3rd album you’ll hear a slight change in the formulas of the composition. More shorter fast songs, some longer doomier sloths and of course the kind of tunes you’d know from IAD and TDOS.
You use classic cover artwork, with skulls, bones, rotten stuff, and all that cemetery clichés. Is this image cultivation?
Not really, it’s mainly what I find suitable for presenting the music visually.
On the FUNEBRARUM split it changed. Maybe you didn’t have influence on it?, because this is typical FUNEBRARUM stuff.
Haha, yeah it’s definitely NOT very Undergang like that artwork! I really like the work of Ola Larsson, though. But it’s definitely more of a Disma/Funebrarum style. Actually, this piece of art Ola did that we used for the split was originally intended for the Disma demo MLP, “the Vault of Membros”, but as we had a deadline to get the split out before the tour, Daryl decided that we used that piece for the split. I did some art for the back, but it was too different of a style so it ended up being all Ola Larsson.
Tell me about the song on this split. Is it left over from the album, or intentionally written for it?
“Kloakkens Afkom” was the first song we wrote after the composing of “TDOS”, so it was kind of an in-between song as we already started working on new tunes after that. Like the track “Hævntørst” which was recorded for at compilation on Baphometal records in 2009/2010 and later on a flexi 7” by Me Saco Un Ojo Records and Dark Descent Records, this song written between other writing periods, so it felt right to have it released on its own. The whole decision to do a split for the tour came a bit sudden actually, as we got the offer from Doomentia Records and just went with it. I believe Funebrarum pretty much just finished their song for the split for that release.
“Kloakkens Afkom” was recorded with a guy we got recommended by Morten, who we’ve previously recorded all our stuff along, and we got him to book a day for recording in a studio in the Copenhagen North West area. It’s was still all pretty new to him and the first time he worked with a Death Metal band, but as we knew him a bit beforehand the chemistry was fine and we just had fun with it. It came out extremely raw though, haha…Nothing intentional but fitting to our style anyway, so I’m pretty satisfied with how it sounds. We did the final mixing and mastering at the Kill-Town Torture Chamber, our bassist home studio, ourselves…Guess we didn’t really know what we were doing either, hehe.
Danny from German gentleman's club DEAD told me in spring last year about the idea to have a split with you. Is this still official?
Fucking DEAD! I love that band and Dany and I have been writing together for a few years now, trading some stuff and so forth. But yeah, it’s definitely still in our phantom release agenda. We’re in no hurry though, as both bands have some other projects they wish to finish at first, but it’ll most likely be a 2014 release. We’ll also do a string of shows together…That has been in the talks for a few years so we better get it realized soon! Maybe just around the release of the split…We’ll see.
What about the upcoming tour with your buddies from ANATOMIA? Any updates? Are the guys actually just as sick as you?
Even sicker! Hehe. They’re great guys (and gal) so we’re looking forward to being on the road with them again. We did a small weekend tour in Germany together in 2010 when they played at Kill-Town Death Fest here in Copenhagen, but since then their original guitarist, Yoshio, has left the band. If my memory serves me right, he had grown tired of playing Death Metal and wanted to focus more on some rock band(s?) he had on the side. I’m glad that I got to see the last show he played with them, when I attended the Rites Of Darkness Festival in Texas in December 2011. Anyways, so now they have a new guitarist and even brought in someone to play keyboard live. Which sounds awesome! So dark and creepy!
Back on topic; the tour is being promoted by Daniel of Kill-Town bookings and so far I believe we have half the shows booked, but we still need to proper announce the tour and get in touch with promoters for the missing dates. It’ll only be for little more than a week, as Anatomia can’t take too much time off from work. Which is a pity, but I completely understand. It’ll be from October 11th till 19th this year. We’ll also have a split 8” out together for the tour. It’s been planned for almost 4 years and both songs were even recorded in 2010! I’m to blame, as I’m slooooooow at getting the artwork finished as I want it all perfect. Well, looks like it’ll be out in time for the tour and that’s pretty perfect timing anyway. Our good friend Mr. Jesus of Me Saco Un Ojo will be releasing it.
Give me some details about WORMRIDDEN, is this the globalized version of UNDERGANG?
Haha, almost more the globalized version of Anatomia, actually! The two songs on the “Infesting The Grave” demo were written by Takashi and then I just learned the riffs from listening to the recordings of them he send me.
To give you a bit of story behind it, Takashi was working on a small solo project when Anatomia was coming up to play at Kill-Town in 2010 and he asked me if I’d be interested in joining and playing the guitars and bass. As I’ve always loved his work with Necrophile, Transgressor and Anatomia it was an offer I simply couldn’t turn down. Being the busy fuck I am, it ended with him doing both the songs for the debut demo and we recorded each of our instruments on our respected continents. The drums and vocals were recorded in Tokyo and I recorded the guitars and bass here in Copenhagen. Then I released it on tape on my label, Extremely Rotten, and was offered a 7” release of it by Jesus/M.S.U.O. records when I played it for him during my visit in London for Bolt Fest.
We recorded a new demo in Berlin last November, when Anatomia were playing at NWN! Festival. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to record all 4 new songs we had prepared, but only the two Takashi wrote as it’d go faster with those as he already knew how he should play the drums for those songs. The new demo will be called “Festering Glorification” and I’ll do a tape release of it on Extremely Rotten a little later this year. It still needs a final mixing and mastering and I need to do new artwork for it. And if you thought the first demo was heavy, I dare say the next one will top it and I actually even tuned the guitars/bass even lower. A full octave this time to be precise.
2 successful albums, good booking including a US tour. Have you arrived, where you want to go yet?
We’re just enjoying the ride and have fun with all the things we get the possibility to experience. If I went back in time and told the 2008 me that this would be how Undergang looked in 2013 I would never believe it, haha. We didn’t expect anything when we started; we just wanted to play Death Metal as we liked it to be. We’re very grateful of all the help we’ve had along the way and all the cool people we’ve met and/or worked with. Actually, I never even tried travelling by airplane before we gave birth to Undergang, haha.
Great to have you here on Fatalgrind, last shot is yours!
Great to be invited in! Thanks a lot for the interview and support, it’s much appreciated! Keep supporting underground Death Metal.
D. Torturdød / Undergang.