With ‘Ad nauseam’ The Rotted successfully turned in an album that stands not only head and shoulders above their previous (already fine) output but also above the competition. Incorporating elements of grind, hardcore, classic rock, doom and sludge it is, quite simply, one of the most exhilarating albums released in 2011 and it is destined to become a classic that fans will still pull out in years to come as a benchmark of the genre. Reviews have been more-or-less unanimous in their praise of a record that is both catchy and exhaustively brutal and it is no mere hyperbole at play – give ‘ad nauseam’ a spin and you’ll hear a band operating at the very peak of their powers whilst producer Russ Russel gives the whole thing phenomenal power and resonance.
The key to the success of ‘ad nauseam’ arguably lies in its variety and power as well as the fact that there is not a moment wasted. The riffs are sonically challenging, the vocals brutal and the lyrics intelligent, with singer Ben McCrow even daring to tackle the subject of modern apathy towards music on the searing ‘Apathy in the UK’. With the band soon to take to the stage for a limited run of dates it seemed a fine time to catch up with Ben and discuss the inspiration behind the album and the development of The Rotted in the years since their formation.
Just to kick off with a little bit of history, The Rotted formed out of the ashes of Gorerotted – what did you feel the change in line-up and name offered you?
It offered us the ability to continue playing music! Our new line up gave us more versatile players so we were able to throw more dynamics and more influences into the mix. We didn’t decide one day ‘lets try something new’, it just happened that way. We don’t write to a formula and we don’t like being limited with our writing, so having a more versatile line up meant we were able to find our own path and not just stick to a simple Death Metal/Grind formula.
How did the line-up for The Rotted come together?
Tim and I have been playing together since I joined Gorerotted in 1999, and Nate and Trud had both been in Screamin’ Daemon. Screamin’ Daemon were Gorerotted’s bros, they were the only band I’d really have called our peers in the old days; even when we weren’t playing shows together, various members of each band would tag along when the other was on tour to help drive, sell merch, tech or do guest vocal spots on stage with each other, so it was inevitable that we’d eventually link up and that the prime movers of each band would join forces.
Obviously lyrically there’s been a massive change between Gorerotted and The Rotted, which we’ll come back to later, but in what ways do you feel The Rotted have progressed musically since you started?
Since The Rotted started or since the Gorerotted days? We’re always moving forward and that’s important to us. Doing what’s been done before or repeating ourselves with every album would be a boring and pointless way of making music and we’d get very little out of it. We started out as a straight up Death Metal/Grind band, albeit one with a sense of humour and some really catchy riffs, and we’ve gone on to become a really aggressive and energetic Death Metal band with a strong Crusty, D-Beat Punk vibe running through it.
Taking a name for yourselves that was so similar to your previous outfit – looking back do you think that helped or hindered you artistically?
In hindsight, that’s the only thing I think we did wrong. If I’d known then what I know now, we’d have called it quits and returned 6 months later with a totally different name, as it took a good couple of years for people to get that we’re a different band. People seem to have got it now, and it’s all worked out fine, so we’re proud to be The Rotted. But people need to realise that while The Rotted is a continuation of Gorerotted, the 2 are not the same band. We’re as separate as Nihilst and Entombed, or Hellhammer and Celtic Frost.
Given that The Rotted have quite a diverse musical palate; do all of the band members have different musical inspiration they bring to the table?
We’re all into our Classic Rock & Heavy Metal and we’re all into our Extreme Metal. We’re of a similar age to each other so pretty much all grew up on a diet of Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Napalm Death, Entombed, Emperor, Motorhead, Deicide etc. Tim and I are the ones who are big into our Punk bands like Crass and Discharge, while Trud is into his old skool Thrash like Nuclear Assault and Bomb Disney Land, and I guess it shapes the way we all write, but we’re definitely on the same page and everything’s 100% focused in the right direction.
One of the things about the new record is the sheer energy and abandon with which you attack every song – how long did it take to record and was it much fun to do as you made it sound?
It was a lot of fun yeah, it was the smoothest session we’ve ever had and it was the most prepared we’d ever been. Working with Russ was once again a real pleasure, and the enthusiasm we all had definitely comes across in the finished product. Every riff and every word was fine tuned so that everything has a place, but we were conscious of making sure none of it lost its spontaneity –a couple of the tracks were written in half an hour and didn’t need anything else doing to them, whilst others twisted and changed a fair few times until they became the beasts that they now are.
Lyrically you seem to have really pushed yourselves on the new album – tracks like ‘surrounded by skulls’ and ‘the house of bedlam’ have quite a strong literary feel to them – what influences your lyrics now and how long does it take to refine a lyric until you’re satisfied with it?
It’s my take on the world, I’m not into politics at all and I will never preach to anyone but I use a lot of social commentary, so my lyrics are about atheism, not serving any government or leader, freedom, nihilism, death, chaos, destruction, the end of days, standing up for yourself and choosing your own path in life. It’s funny you mention those tracks, because although one is about atheism and life after death, and the other is about the mistreatment and lack of understanding of people with mental illness, both have a double meaning to them and if you look beneath the surface you’ll find commentary on some of our experiences in the music industry! It’s very important to me that I use the voice I’ve been given as a lyricist, it gives the vocals more integrity and puts the music into a context. When I’m shouting about something I feel strongly about, you’re going to get a much more passionate performance than if I was just reeling off a load of garbage that I’d tailored to whatever the audience expected.
The lyrics are very much outwardly facing – picking up on current concerns such as apathy within the music scene and so on – is it harder to write lyrics such as these than the gore lyrics of Gorerotted’?
It takes a lot more thought than the old brain dead “I stab you, you stab me, we stab our whole family” type stuff I came up with in the Gorerotted days, and there is a lot more depth to them, but it’s easier in the sense that it’s much more relevant to me personally so comes a lot more naturally. I think the key with lyric writing is that you write about what is important to you, be it Satanism, gore, the natural world, politics, whatever. As long as you’re doing it because it has a meaning for you, it won’t be forced and it’ll be the right path to go down and no one can fault you for it. Don’t just do something to fit in or to copy what your favourite bands are doing!
You’re releasing ‘apathy in the UK’ on vinyl – something that’s clearly close to your hearts given the lyrics – why just a single and not the whole album?
Hammerheart offered to release it on limited edition 7 inch with a view to doing the whole album if it sells quickly and well enough. I’d love to bring it out on vinyl, but we’d have to do it properly with lavish packaging. A 7-inch in a fairly simple cardboard sleeve is a lot cheaper and less risky for a record label to press than a coloured, heavy duty 12-inch in a gatefold sleeve.
If the single does well, might we expect the album on vinyl in the future?
I would hope so, a lot of the people into what we do seem to have a similar take on things like physical albums and vinyl as we do, so if you want to see our album on vinyl, get the 7-inch bought people!
How do you feel that the age of digital downloads, instant gratification and copying has altered the music industry for bands such as yourselves?
Every band will tell you it’s a double edged sword. You can spread your message easier, but if youngsters want to take your music without paying, they probably will because to a lot of them buying music on this odd plastic disc thing is a totally alien concept. A lot of them will also download many albums at once, then play each one once or twice and forget about them. That’s no way to treat music, even as someone who buys albums on CD and record, I try not to get more than 2 at once because at least one of them is not going to be given the attention it deserves for a while. Also, how many classic albums in your collection were instant hits to your ears, and how many were growers? If you bought a CD and it didn’t hit the spot right away, you’d think “hang on, this cost me £15” and you’d give it a fair few more spins before you gave up on it.
One of the things that seems to be a big problem is no one waits of an album anymore – in the eighties you saved your money up and got maybe one or two albums a month and you waited for release dates of your favourite bands – with everything online now it seems the sense of anticipation has diminished, would you agree?
Yeah, totally! I don’t download like I said, not for legal reasons but just because I’m a collector and I like the whole package, I like the anticipation of waiting for the CD or record to drop through my door, ripping opening the packaging and sticking it on a good quality stereo that plays all the frequencies properly and kicking back with a few beers while I listen and follow the lyrics and stare at the artwork. It’s a better way of getting inside the band’s heads and ultimately more rewarding than downloading a load of albums off blogsites that you’ve been told are essential recordings to ‘own’ if you’re going to be taken seriously as a Metal fan!!!
Another issue is the way people listen to music – the odd track here or there rather than whole albums – that must be hard for bands like you that craft an album as an overall experience to be enjoyed from start to finish?
Not really because we don’t write with that in mind. For us, it’s about the whole album, EP, whatever the length and we do it accordingly. Your die hard followers will always consume their music in this way and see an album as a complete piece of work, so why pander to the kind of kids with limited attention spans that post youtube clip after youtube clip to their Facebook pages to show how impressive their Metal tastes are???
With so much of your time spent writing, recording and playing music do you find you still have the time and passion to collect and listen to music as a fan – and what’s your preferred format if you do?
Yes, and I always will. I will NEVER understand a band that says ‘I don’t really listen to music’ or even ‘I never listen to Metal at home.’ I play Metal because I’m a diehard Metalhead for life, I started getting into this shit when I was 8 or 9 and will be until the day I die! I will never be too busy to listen to other people’s music. I tend to buy CDs as it’s easier and more durable than vinyl, and I can’t stand the idea of my music collection being a load of files on a hard drive so mp3s are a big no no, but I also collect old records and I buy new vinyl if it’s lavish enough and if I’m a big fan of the band. My iPod’s broken now (I dropped it), and so has my CD drive on the computer, so it’s generally in the car or in the living room at home that I listen to my music.
Is there a solution, do you think, to the turmoil the industry has found itself in?
It’s going to have to adapt that’s for sure! I have no idea what the solution is, but I think it’ll be really sad if music ends up as mp3 only. In fact, if that day comes I’ll stop checking out new bands and just buy CDs and records that are already out there -there’s still plenty for me to find! I can see sites like Spotify taking over where anyone can stream anything they want and it’s good that the artists will at least get paid for their work. I’m not in this game to make my millions, nothing we’ve ever done has been tailored to financial gain and we don’t believe in over-charging for our shirts or gig tickets, but recording albums and going on tour costs money, and that has to come from somewhere. If you really don’t want to pay for music, at least go through a channel where the artist gets something through advertising revenue, and try and support the bands through merch purchases and gig attendance, otherwise watch your favourite bands split up because it’s just not sustainable otherwise.
The artwork to the new album is particularly cool and designed by Reverend Trudgill – is it important to you to keep everything ‘in house’ as a band?
It’s not the be all and end all for us, but it’s pretty important yeah, it gives it a more personal and unique aspect –no one out there has Trudgill artwork, and it means we get 100% the right piece of art that we want, rather than what someone else has interpreted. We’re self managed too, no one will ever put in the hard work that we ourselves do, and we’re on Candlelight now which is run by guys we know that return our emails and actually enjoy our music!
Apart from the song-writing, another element that really stands out on the new album is the production which is, for want of a better word, immense! Did it take a long time to find the right sound and feel for the record?
We worked with Russ on the first album and knew we would go with him again for this, there was never any question of choosing a different producer. The way he works is that rather than trying to put his stamp on every album like some producers do, he wants each band to sound individual. He’s recording them on their equipment and it’s a case of recording a moment in time, picking up what they sound like in that particular time period. Lot’s of dynamics, and lot’s of feeling. Technology’s come to the stage now where you could probably programme a computer to play everything for you, but like us he wants the feeling, heart and soul of a band to come through in their albums, which is why this record sounds so alive and human.
You’re playing a few dates around the UK in December, can we expect a more thorough tour in the new year?
Well, with things being the way they are now with gigs and package tours every night of the week and attendances for every band dropping, we’re a bit more picky about what we do. We’re all scattered round the country and have to travel 2-3 hours just to rehearse, so if we’re gonna do a show it has to be worth the effort! So expect more from us, but I think our days of playing every toilet venue in every small town are over to be honest. If we play near you be sure to come out and see us because there really is no telling when we’ll be back!
What can fans expect in terms of set list from the live show?
It’s mainly geared towards this new album, as this is our Reign In Blood and it represents who we are and what we’re doing now. We also chuck in a couple from the first album, a couple of Gorerotted covers and maybe one or two from the Anarchogram EP.
What is your favourite song to play live at the moment?
So far it’s been Motörbastärds. Proper filthy Death N Roll, high energy and catchy as fuck!
What are your aims for the future? Obviously with ‘Ad nauseam’ only recently finished and released it’s quite early to be asking, but are there any specific ambitions you guys have?
To keep going as long as we still enjoy it I guess. We feel privileged to still be doing this after all these years and it’s still the reason we’re all breathing, so we take each day at a time and we take nothing for granted. I hope we can get to some new places, South America, Asia, Russia, who knows, but that is of course expensive so we’ll have to see. We’ll keep going back to the good places where we’ve made a lot of friends over the years too. I guess expect a new album in 2013 or 14 and maybe and EP sooner!
Any final words?
Cheers to everyone who’s bought the album and who’s supported us over the years, check the website www.therotted.com because it’s still the best and most up to date place for gig listings, news, merch or anything else you may want. See you on the road hopefully!