It is from the twisting alleys and darkened Dickensian filth of our capital that the subjects of our most recent interview claim to call home. Dead Existence will be a new name to most but are a steady live band on the London circuit, with a sound somewhere between the most vicious back wood sludge and good old English doom groove. I caught up with frontman Jake to see what it is that spurs him on to making this music, and he’s got some shit to shoot…
Hey fellas, how’s it going on this bleak Spring day? We’d better start things off at the beginning, so what’s the origins of Dead Existence? Describe for us those first few jams the band had and how did it evolve?
Jake: Me and Fred got the idea for the band during a drug fuelled conversation in a dance/techno club believe it or not haha, we had both been playing in thrash bands for quite a while (‘Damnas’ & ‘Nebukadnezza’). I had an itch to play something slower and dirtier and Fred was up for trying something new, it was an obvious step to get Ben on the drums (who had been vocalist in death/grind project ‘Mundane’ along with Fred) we began jamming with Fred on guitar, Ben on drums and myself on bass and vocals, we had some pretty cool messy jams but it soon became pretty obvious to everyone that I cant play bass for shit…so I dropped that and stuck with the vocals. Soon after that a mutual friend of ours, Chris came in on second guitar and we started to actually write some songs. We continued to jam for another year or so and even played a few gigs with that line-up, until eventually we found max (who previously played in ‘Obiat’ & ‘The Lich amongst other bands) to finally get some bass in there, this definitely added some welcome beefing up to the riffs, since then we’ve been gigging and writing as much as possible and trying to hone our sound.
Your music has a very strong sludge/stoner sound, what first pushed you towards that genre? I personally hear a Beaten Back to Pure influence, it has the same seedy, dirty vibe about it, what feelings would you like to invoke within the listener?
Jake: I think we all had different expectations for our sound and what we came out with wasn’t totally what any of us had in mind, but it worked and we were all into it. As far as the stoner/sludge influence goes, we can’t deny we are all big fans of the New Orleans scene, bands like Acid Bath, Crowbar, Eyehategod, Corrosion of Conformity etc. Between us we listen to a shit load of different music though and we like to be pretty free with ideas when we write, if something sounds cool we are happy to use it. We do definitely try to keep an element of filth in there, I think that’s one of the defining things about sludge, it’s quite a loose term in some ways but all the bands that are put into that category have the same dirty vibe in common, and that’s definitely something we are all into. As for beaten back to pure I am definitely influenced by those kinds of vocals, any singer who sounds like he’s been eating cars and washing it down with piss is a winner for me!
How is the new song writing going? Where can we expect Dead Existence to go from here? Are there any wild progressions bubbling from under the crust of sludge?
Jake: we like to stick loosely with the sludge vibes but we try and keep the writing as natural as possible, if a song starts to go in a certain direction and it works then we keep it. We like to keep a good amount of variety in the songs and keep things interesting, so some of the newer stuff is definitely branching out into some new areas, as far as we are concerned though it still has the same overall vibe and still sounds like us and if recent gigs are anything to go by that seems to come across when we play so we are happy with the progression.
Fred: The way the songs are written is very free flowing, it usually starts off with a sludgy riff but it’s hard to say where it goes from there. The last two songs have both had fast parts in them but one of them came out really doomy and one really groovy. Progression will always be there as long as we just keep doing what we feel like, but as it stands it will always have that sludge feel.
Do you have any typical lyrical inspiration? A lot of sludge takes inspiration from the joys of depression, hard times and the abject misery of our rotten western society; does Dead Existence follow the trends of sorrow?
Jake: yeah that is definitely a big part of it, I have always written a lot about the negative side to humankind, and the general failings of man as a species. I listen to a lot of country music as well which is full of songs about regret and loss, and just being a no-good loser in general. That kind of sentiment definitely gets into some of the songs. Lyrically we are definitely a negative band; we’re not one of those bands that try to put a positive spin on things. We don’t have any kind of uplifting message in our music; all the themes within the songs are written from a dark / negative point of view, whether it’s a song about getting wasted or about the end of the world.
I should say what with living in London you guys get plenty of opportunities to play live, what is the scene like in the capital? What can those new to the name Dead Existence expect from a live show?
Jake: the London scene is pretty brutal to be honest, there isn’t much support for unsigned music and there’s always a bigger gig going on down the road, every shitty little pub is putting on bands every day and it’s all pretty over-saturated. On the other hand if you’re willing to put the effort in and work your arse off to promote gigs then it can be really cool. There are plenty of wicked bands around who we’re mates with so there can be a pretty cool vibe when everyone gets together. you just have to be careful how often you play here, its too easy to get a gig every other day and no fucker wants to come out and see the same band 3 times a week! as for our live show we are an honest band, we aint gonna bullshit for hours in between songs, we just want to play as tight as we can and put a good amount of energy into it, as far as we’re concerned the riffs speak for themselves!
Have you managed to land any decent supports slots? What has been your favourite gig to date? The Heathen Uprising gig was an awesome collection of bands, how did that day go down in the DE diary?
Jake: I guess the biggest support slot we have had so far was with Brutal Truth, which was an awesome show. We didn’t know how all the grind heads would take our music but people seemed to really dig it; we’ve also got a gig with Ramesses next week which we are really looking forward to! Other bands we have supported include: pagan altar, cloven hoof, Dam, Centurions Ghost, Pombagira, and Obiat. All of those gigs were really good fun, we love being able to play with a mix of different bands. The best gig we’ve played to date would definitely be Heathen Uprising, there was a really decent crowd there and we got really good feedback from it. It was a pretty hectic day for us, being one of my own shows I had to run around organising shit as well as playing. Its always a bit of a challenge with all day gigs trying to make sure no-one is too fucked to play by the time you go on as well haha, but the day turned out really well, all the bands were awesome with no exceptions so it was definitely a quality gig for us!
Sludge/Doom in the UK seems to lag behind the States as far as creativity and progress go, why do you think this is? Would you agree that the UK metal scene in general tends to follow in the footsteps of American music rather than think for itself and follow a unique path?
Fred: America has a strong media circuit, which is why so many of their trends spread far. And as with all trends, people follow. And the UK is as much a victim as any. But then again almost all of the U.S. sludge doom bands worship old school British metal bands. I don’t think its bad using a Down style harmony, or some chunky Crowbar riff, or a Kyuss groove. Because most it those bands got those ideas from bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Iron Maiden. As long as you’re putting your own spin on it then you’re just helping music evolve.
If you guys got to play on a dream tour package opening for 3 bands what 3 bands would you play with and why?
Fred: Fuck man that’s too hard. I won’t go into this too much so the first thing that pops into my head is Burning Witch, Kyuss & Crowbar. Why? they cover most of the things I like about Stoner sludge and doom.
Jake: Would probably be acid bath, autopsy, & abandon…there are so many bands that influence me but those are 3 bands that are unlikely to play any time soon and I am massively influenced by all of them.
Chris: Eyehategod, Darkthrone (playing Goatlord) & Mono. The 1st two bands because they’re ugly and disgusting in terms of sound, Mono would change things around with epic desolation!
Ben: Black Sabbath, Cypress Hill & Vision of Disorder. Because they are among my main influences, would be up for a few beers and I could watch them play every night!
Max: Gojira, Illdisposed and Neurosis.
How do you think the future will pan out for the band? Where do you see Dead Existence in one year? What about 5 years?
Fred: Hopefully older and better at what we do. All we can do is strive to move forward.
Jake: Like I said we are an honest band, we don’t have any delusions of grandeur. We are going to keep pushing the band as far as it will go. We have been building momentum for a while now and at the moment every gig we play seems to be better received than the one before it, hopefully that will continue and if we can eventually get some kind of wider recognition that will be awesome, we just want to get our music to as many people as we can, and as long as people dig it we’ll keep going. The bottom line is if you are in a metal band, you don’t do it for the money but for the love of playing, we’ve got no interest in ripping off lamb of god so all the kids will like us, we’re going to keep on writing music we find interesting and fun to play, and I’m sure that our sound will continue to evolve, if people get into what we’re doing then even better.
What do you guys do when not formulating new sonic forays into the sludge, tell us a bit about each of you? Are any of you in any side-projects?
Jake: I used to sing in London based thrash metal outfit ‘Damnas’ who are still going strong now, I’ve done some guest vocals for London thrash/grinders Nebukadnezza and also done a few tracks with ‘Ephemerol’ a side project of Chris’s, I have various other projects in the pipeline as well which will probably be active next year at some point. Apart from that I promote and work in a venue in Camden so most of my spare time is taken up with some form of music.
Fred: Dead Existence was actually the band that was the side project but it snowballed into what it is now. My other main band is the Thrash/Grind band Nebukadnezza. I’ve been doing it for a while now and we’re getting ready to release our full length. I’m also helping out in the Hardcore Punk/metal band ‘Flowers of Flesh and Blood’ who have been mates of mine for a while.
Ben: I like to kick back with a beer, maybe a spliff, and some fat beats and mellow computer games. I am working on an untitled grindcore / hardcore project with an old mate of mine as well.
Chris: I spend my time with: comic books, manga, movies & messing around with stoner/ black metal / sludge project: Ephemerol (featuring members of Mundane).
Max: I play drums in experimental metal band: Hardash, apart from that I spend most of the time cooking, playing chess, gardening and fistfucking!
You guys must have some funny anecdotes to share with the Shaman readership, any particular booze induced band lunacy you’d like to share?
Fred: OK, once chris got so fucked on snakebite and weed, he took a massive piss in bens oven! Me and jake pretty much take it in turns to puke on each other! Also a few years ago Jake got verbally abused and glassed in the face at a gig haha! My favourite is still probably me and Jake going to a pub for Halloween dressed up in bin bags and tipex (we had to make our own costumes on a budget of £4)
I’m guessing by the look of it you chaps partake in the odd tipple, is there any particular drink that fuels the Dead Existence machine? Alcohol has a long and well documented relationship with metal; in your opinion how important are the two?
Jake: Yeah we all like a drink or two, me and Fred are total Kronenberg fiends, which Fred has aptly dubbed ‘idiot beer’. The other guys are more into Guinness; Chris pretty much inhales the stuff! Aside from that there is a pretty heavy amount of weed smoking going on with the rest of the guys. I guess alcohol and metal go hand in hand, getting wasted and playing filthy fucking music just works, I don’t think its essential though, I got a lot of respect for bands that want to play well, as rock n roll as getting wasted on stage is, there’s nothing worse than seeing a bunch of wasted cunts completely fuck up their set because they’re too drunk to play. I would rather pace myself, play a wicked set and then go get cunted afterwards.
Fred: I don’t think alcohol and drugs is essential but then again it’s always there. And this band wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for drug and alcohol fuelled conversation. And yeah, filthy fuel makes filthy music.
Underground or signed? And why?
Fred: Unsigned. Why? Because we haven’t gotten signed yet. There are so many bands out there now that the competition is so fierce. At the moment we’re playing gigs and working on new material and recording, trying to make each one better than the last. We’d like to get signed because we’re just not good enough to run the band ourselves at that level. But to get signed today you first have to prove that you can do it yourself. Underground, why? Cos that’s where this music sits the best.
Jake: I think both are massively important. Underground music is always where the true vibe of this music is, but there are some signed bands that you just can’t deny! The total elite of what some of us are trying to achieve. Ultimately I get confused about which is which…there’s so many great bands, some of which are my mates and some are worldwide famous.
Now, desert island disc time. Scenario is; you have been instructed to live the rest of your life on a desert island in solitude and in your new home you’re only allowed to take 5 records. These will be the last records you will ever hear again, which 5 would you take and why?
Jake: Judas priest – any album, Abandon ‘In Reality We Suffer, Ojos De Brujo ‘Bari’ (or ‘Vengue’), Danzig ‘Danzig II’, Hank Williams III ‘Broke, Lovesick & Drifting’… because those are some of the few bands/artists I never get sick of hearing, I personally think only being allowed 5 is a bit cruel though, theres way too many bands I can’t live without!
Fred: Meshuggah ‘Destroy Erase Improve’, just an immense album. Ojos de Brujo ‘Bari’, awesome chilled out songs. Metallica ‘Master of Puppets’, I’ll never get tired of the songs. Manu Chao ‘Clandestino’, I could die happy listening to this album. Mayhem ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’, Mayhem just makes me zone out. Emperor ‘Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk’, the soundscape still amaze me. Yeah I know that’s six but what the fuck, five? I can’t even bring any Death or Kyuss, I would have to buy an iPod and smuggle it up my ass.
Ben: Vision Of Disorder ‘Self Titled’, Pink Floyd ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, Metallica ‘Master Of Puppets’, Cypress Hill – any album, War Of The Worlds soundtrack.
Chris: Eyehategod ‘In The Name Of Suffering’, Crowbar ‘Odd Fellows Rest’, Mono ‘One More Step And You Die’, Darkthrone ‘Goatlord’, Nine Inch Nails ‘The Fragile’.
Max: Waltari ‘Torcha’, Slayer ‘Diabolus In Musica’, AC/DC ‘Back In Black’, Into Another ‘Seemless’, Faith No More ‘Angel Dust’.
Thanks for taking the time to complete this interview guys. Any parting shots fellas, any chips on the shoulder or spleens to vent, now’s the chance.
Fred: Can someone please kill Paris Hilton? And stop moaning about the recession, just get on with it.
Jake: Everyone stop worrying about all the opinion and image bullshit that goes hand in hand with most scenes, REMEMBER THAT ITS ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC! Basically everyone stop being a twat and chill the fuck out!!
More info on Dead Existence at: www.myspace.com/deadexistence
Interviewed by: Andrew Sloan