It's been a couple of months since the last interview, but I'm back with another interview from an awesome thrash band: Untimely Demise. I recently reviewed their new album, "Systematic Eradication", and it is an essential 2013 thrash release. Below is my interview with bassist Murray Cuthbertson. Enjoy!
SFM: Hey guys! Congratulations on the release of your new record, “Systematic Eradication”! It was really impressive!
Murray Cuthbertson (MC): Thanks Scott!
SFM: Let’s start with the making of the new record. Did you guys want to or try to different “Systematic Eradication” from your previous album, “City of Steel”?
MC: With our new album we sought to make the songwriting the paramount focus. We wanted all of the songs to be dynamic and have their own individual sonic characteristics and lyrical themes. The band continues to strive for a balanced blend between old-school thrash (Bay Area,Teutonic and Canadian) and Chuck Schuldiner-esque death metal, that highlights intricate solos, bludgeoning technical riffs and some clean bridges that allow the tunes to breathe. Just writing the best metal compositions possible was the only guideline, where we weren't too concerned about following the thrash or death template, nor have we ever in the past. With this one it wasn't just the guitar that was the steering the proverbial ship as we wrote certain songs around inspiration garnered by a drum or bass line. A finished album that was heavier, more technical and listenable than our last release was what we feel we have achieved with 'Systematic Eradication'.
SFM: Both of your records are relatively short (sub-35 minutes). Do you guys create a lot of songs and pick out the best 7 or 8, or do you just spend a lot of time writing fewer tracks?
MC: The finest classic thrash metal albums have always been shorter than a traditional heavy metal or rock record, like Slayer's Reign In Blood for example and the early Megadeth releases. Back in the mid-2000's our band was writing more of the epic length songs that were 6-8 minutes and we found that those could get repetitive and tedious for the listener. The band wants to be concise in our songwriting and be able to make our musical point early in a song. Quality over quantity is what we aim for in our albums and that is what makes them shorter than some groups discs. Usually we won't finish writing a song if it isn't up to our personal standard and it hasn't passed the live crowd 'mosh test'. Once we have 8 songs that we are happy with and feel are solid and album worthy that is when we make arrangements to enter the studio.
SFM: Glen Drover was involved in the production of both records. How did you guys get connected with him as a producer?
MC: My brother Matt (lead guitar/vocals) and I had seen in the fall of 2008 that Glen Drover, who had recently left Megadeth, was opening a private studio and was taking on select clientele. Since we were (and still are) such huge fans of Megadeth and loved what he had done production-wise with his and Shawn's (Drover) band Eidolon, we decided to contact him via Myspace about recording an EP. He checked out some of our previous demos and live videos and liked what he saw. He called me up one day and we had a good half hour chat about recording and our musical views. He said 'you know I'm all the way out in Ontario' to which I replied 'Right on, I guess we should pack our bags and take a trip out East'. Basically, from there we sent him a deposit and flew to Toronto a few weeks later and started recording. And the rest is history!
SFM: I took guitar lessons from Glen Drover for about a year back around 2009-2010 and he’s a phenomenal player. As a guitarist, I was really impressed with his unbelievable legato technique. What impressed you about him as a producer that made you guys want to work with him again?
MC: Many things impress us with Glen, both as a person and as a musician/producer. His playing is without a doubt above reproach and unique in a world of copycats. We knew from the beginning that this was someone that knows exactly what thrash metal production is supposed to sound like. The fact that he is a huge fan of the music and possesses eclectic tastes was another 'selling feature'. Glen works very quick in the studio and uses positive reinforcement throughout the sessions. He has been able to give good advice on things as simple as ending a solo on a different note for example. His notoriety as a metal legend has also helped our albums get noticed, where people and reviewers might not of checked them out if not for the Drover namesake on the production credits. Everyone in our band has learned a lot musically under the mentorship of Glen, especially my brother Matt whose personal guitar style, lead playing and tone is inspired by him. When Glen offered to, and contributed, guest solos to our songs (along with Matt's) we were honoured and knew that he was taking a personal stake in making these the best tunes possible. Not every producer would do that but Glen is a jazz man – a true musical collaborator. Ultimately, we get along with Glen very well and have had a blast every time we have recorded with him and the friendship that has blossomed from there is something we treasure.
SFM: Another individual that was involved with the new record was Ed Repka. It looks like you guys got him to do something pretty different compared to what he has done in recent years. How do you like the work he did for the new record?
SFM: “Systematic Eradication” was released on Italian label Punishment 18 Records. This label is on a roll in my eyes, as it seems like they put out brilliant thrash records constantly. What drew you guys to this label? Were there any complications in releasing the record on an Italian label, rather than a North American one?
MC: I was contacted by Marita at Punishment 18 records back in January of 2009 when we had just begun previewing our 4 'Full Speed Metal' EP tracks on Blabbermouth and Bravewords. We were offered a record deal by them but turned it down because we were looking for a North American agreement at the time. Nonetheless, I recognized that they were passionate about thrash metal, Megadeth (hence the name of the label) and Repka cover art, as our we, so I felt that we would be working with them at some point in time. Then when we independently released our first full-length 'City Of Steel' in December 2010, it was our friends in Japan (shoutouts to Tatsumi at Rock Avenue Records and Miki at Rock Stakk) and Punishment 18 that bulk purchased the album and helped spread our music around overseas. We could tell that they were serious about supporting our band and kept that near our heart. Upon leaving our previous label we sought to find another deal with someone that was personally invested in making the band succeed and sure enough it was Marita and Corrado at Punishment 18 that came through. With them we have strong international distribution, especially in Europe where we want to continue building our following. For North America people can buy the album from us through our Big Cartel merch site http://www.untimelydemise.
bigcartel.com/ , so that is fine with us. A North American deal someday would be great, but we cannot wait around for these fence-sitters while we want to go out and get things done today.
SFM: Despite being Canadian, I have to admit that I know pretty much nothing about the metal scene in Saskatchewan. I know there are great bands from Alberta (Striker!), but what are some of the best bands from Saskatchewan? Is the scene there pretty active, or is it lacking in terms of show turnout and bands?
MC: Fuckin' Eh, Striker rules and we have been good friends with them for the last half decade! To answer the question, Saskatchewan has an exemplary metal scene with a plethora of bands from all ends of the aural spectrum. Progressive Death Metal juggernauts 'Into Eternity' are our favourite Saskatchewan metal band by far, but I would also include Lavagoat, Wrathed, Singularity, Rehashed, Shooting Guns, Kelevra and many others in there. We have definitely seen the scene grow in Saskatoon over the last 5 years and it is kick ass in Regina too. Show turnouts here on weekends are strong and even midweek shows can be huge. Our last couple shows in Saskatoon have been soldout events (200+ people for a bar show), which speaks for itself. Per capita we have a stronger than average scene and have had great opportunities to play support for bigger touring bands because of it. A lot of touring bands will comment that they are impressed with the venues, bands and strength of the scene in our hometown, remarking 'this has been the best show of the tour'.
SFM: Now that the album has been released, what are the band’s immediate touring plans?
MC: The band has had a busy 2013 year, touring Eastern Canada in March, Western Canada this past summer with Into Eternity, as well as support shows for Skeletonwitch, 3 Inches of Blood and Goatwhore. We just had two hugely successful album release shows in Saskatoon and Winnipeg and are now making plans for 2014. We are working on Europe right now, in addition to Canadian touring that will occur. There are a couple other things up our sleeves but we are not privy to tell at this point in time. We will keep the Skull Fracturing team apprised of any developments.
SFM: Your sound is an interesting combination of thrash/death/black metal. Is it fair to say you guys are primarily a thrash band first? Where do you draw your influences from?
MC: I think because we like to implement speed into each of our songs that would position us to be deemed a thrash metal band. Every song is going to be comprised of a lot of thrash riffs without a doubt. If we are only allowed to identify as one subgenre of metal it would have to be thrash. With that said, in order to move forward and progress as a band we didn't want to get pigeonholed into just one facet of metal – we are heavily influenced by the band Death and the Florida Death Metal scene, and hence we wanted to institute those elements in our songwriting as well. Matt and I really like European Melodic Death Metal and Black Metal and felt that those flavours could work in our songwriting schemes. Everyone in the band is a through and through metalhead, and we like everything running the gamut from Judas Priest to Suffocation. The Bay Area and German thrash scenes have inspired us a lot but we feel that every subgenre of metal can fit into our sound, we just give it the 'Demise' treatment.
SFM: Any last words for the fans out there?
MC: Thanks for supporting us and spreading the word about the band! We appreciate it immensely and realize that without you we cannot exist. Tell your local brick and mortar record stores to stock Untimely Demise albums! Please continue to come to our live shows/tours, enjoy the music and scoop a shirt or disc off us when you can. Like us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/
UntimelyDemiseMetal) and follow us on Twitter (www.twitter.com/ UntimelyDemise1) We look forward to playing for you live in the new year!