Saturday, October 20, 2012

Interview: Isa of Carnal Decay

When it comes to grindcore, Switzerland's Carnal Decay is not your average gore-obsessed band. Their music is undeniably brutal, but hidden within the pummeling beats is a sense of melody and lyrical maturity. Perhaps what sets Carnal Decay apart is their former punk rock guitarist or hardcore frontman. More than likely it's both, along with the band's tendency to take their music seriously without losing that sanguinary edge that their chosen style requires. Isa, the band's former punk rock guitarist, graciously took the time to answer a few questions about the band's recent line-up changes, their latest album On Top of the Food Chain, and what's next for Carnal Decay.

[HMM] For readers who may be unfamiliar with Carnal Decay, would you introduce the band and describe your role?

Isa of Carnal Decay
[Isa] We’re a brutal death metal band from Switzerland and Germany. Our style is a mix of fast, aggressive death metal and groovy hardcore parts with a lot of  "drinking-J├Ąger"-breaks. We toured in Mexico, Russia, Ukraine, Malta, USA and all around Europe. We played festivals like Las Vegas Death Fest, Gothenburg Death Fest, NRW Death Fest, Malta Death Fest and three times the Mountains of Death Festival. These are our full-lengths: Carnal Pleasures (2006, Fastbeast), Chopping off the Head (2008, Fastbeast) and On Top of the Food Chain (2011, Sevared Records). We’re also on a split named Grotesque First Action and on some samplers like the new Gentle Carnage. I’m the guitar player!

How and when was the band formed?

Our singer and former bass player Michael started the band in 2001 with two other guys as a project. At the same time, I decided to stop playing in this punk rock band I had and I accidentally passed by Carnal Decay's rehearsal room. I just went in and was very impressed about them and their sound. They were looking out for a second guitar player and so I was in the band! This was 2002. A year later the drummer changed, Reti was coming, and in 2005 the other guitar player left the band. We played then as a three-piece till 2010, when Michael broke his arm while he was snowboarding. Then Nasar joined the band on bass (first only as a session member) and Michael's now concentrating only on the microphone.

Your performance at this year's Malta Death Fest was the last live appearance with drummer Reti, who departs the band after nine years behind the kit. I'm sure that gig was special for Carnal Decay. What were you feeling as you progressed through the set?

During the set I was very happy and deeply grateful, that Reti's last show with us was such a cool Festival like the Malta Death Fest, with so dedicated people in the audience who really shared their blood and sweat with us! It was one of our best shows I think , a great peak for Reti. The real separation happened months before and was a long process for all of us. That was the hard and sad part of it. Sounds dramatic, but  imagine nine years of rehearsals, touring and drinking together and then he is leaving!

The band is now moving forward and searching for a new drummer. How have the auditions been going?

They start end of October. I’m looking forward to it! Important for us is that he's a cool guy with dedication, willing to travel around for less money, and no straight-edge, haha!

On Top of the Food Chain, Carnal Decay's third full-length album, was released in 2011 on American label Sevared Records. How did your deal with Sevared come about?

Carnal Decay
We met Barret from Sevared at the Central Illinois Metal Fest. We played there and Barret was asking us if we want to bring out our next full-length on his label. Sure we wanted!

Where was the album recorded, and how was the studio experience compared to your first two albums?

We recorded On Top of the Food Chain and Chopping off the Head in our own studio in the rehearsal room. It's placed in an old chicken farm; sometimes you still smell it. Carnal Pleasures, our first full-length, was recorded in a external studio in Switzerland. Working in our own studio is always comfortable, no time limit... and no stress if you don't arrange the release party before finishing recording, even before finishing songwriting like we did, haha!

Your website describes several shifts in style across your three albums - first technical death metal, then "American" death metal, and now more of a groove-oriented sound. Do you expect there to be more changes on the next Carnal Decay release?

It will probably not go to pop or hiphop, but with a new drummer, I would be surprised if it's exactly a On Top of the Food Chain follower. All in all it went and hopefully always goes to a simple and straight sound without frills, suitable to our level.

Has the band begun writing material for a follow-up to On Top of the Food Chain?


Is the band's songwriting process a collaborative one? If so, what are your contributions?

Isa of Carnal Decay
It’s mainly a collaboration between Michael and me. Beside bass, he is also playing guitar. With the riffs everyone of us got by ourselves, we trying to figure out a song together, or just a song structure, a theme. With this unfinished song we’re jamming around with our drummer. Sometimes there is soon a cool song, sometimes we change everything or work on it again and again, just to throw the whole song away or keep only one part and start a new song with it. Then the story starts again...

Some Carnal Decay lyrics aren't quite as "gore" oriented as those of most brutal death metal outfits. Where does the band find inspiration for their words?

The lyrics are mainly Michael's thing. Could be there is a rough idea for a theme from my side, or during recording sessions I cross out some lines, but he really wants to shout out things he can totally stand for. His affinity to hardcore is a reason for these serious backings for sure. Beside that, he is adding some funny parts to his lyrics quite often, which fits our songs and us very well.

Back in June of this year, Carnal Decay embarked on a short tour of the western and mid-western United States. Was that the band's first trip to the US?

It was the first real tour in the US, before that we just had a little side trip on our second Mexico tour in 2010 to the Central Illinois Metal Fest. And also in 2001 the former Carnal Decay line-up went to Water Music Studios in New Jersey to record their demo with Billy Milano.

Did playing shows in the US meet, or not meet, your expectations?

What I learned from  my first tour ever was having no expectations at all! We heard a lot of stories about touring in the US from bands from different countries who already made this experience. So we were a bit prepared about the looong distances you have to drive (in our case in a car with no AC, also through the desert) and the circumstance, that as a band you don‘t get food or beers for free like we know it from most of the other places we've been. Anyway, I won’t miss these experiences. It was amazing and we had so much fun with our touring mates in Vomit God, Devour the Unborn and Coprophiliac.

Are there any interesting stories from the road that you'd be willing to share?

Maybe the best stories I don’t remember... It's not one certain story, but it's surely a great night when Nasar's puking in the bus in Kiev, Michael's puking all over the walkway in Vienna, Reti's falling asleep in a hedge in Berlin and I pass out on a table in a bar in Cancun!

How long have you been playing guitar, and what led to your involvement in heavy metal?

Isa of Carnal Decay
I'm playing now for around 17 years, two years with lessons with the acoustic guitar. I was not interested in being able to read music, so I stopped the lessons, got an electric guitar and start with - of course - Nirvana and punk songs, just what I've listened to in that time. Soon I had my first bands, thrash metal, punk rock... And I accidentally passed by Carnal Decay's rehearsal room... you already know that story.

Are there any specific guitar players who inspire or influence you?

Not only in the metal scene, although there a lot of great musicians. I'm extremely impressed from Mark Knopfler – who's not? – but also from guitar players like Courtney Love... She may be don’t always find the right tone and it's not perfect at all, but she's playing very straight and dirty. I like it straight and dirty!

If there was one bit of advice that you could give to a woman with aspirations to play guitar in a heavy metal band, what would it be?

You don’t have to be perfect!

Finally, do you have any parting words for your fans and for those who may be reading about Carnal Decay for the first time?

For our fans: Thank you so much for all these cool parties we had and hopefully will have with you!
For all the others: Hope to see you guys once on a show... Let's drink a beer together!
To you: Thank you for all these well prepared, serious questions... It's a big support for underground bands. I never take it for granted! Thanks also for not starting every question with: How is it as a woman…?

And thank you for the excellent answers! Hopefully Carnal Decay will be back in The States soon. I'll take you up on that beer!

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