an interview with Coffinworm
by Kim Kelly
Dave of Coffinworm (photo by Samantha Marble)
Coffinworm play ugly music for ugly people. The doomhauling quintet first came crawling out of the primordial ooze of Indianapolis’ D.I.Y. underground in 2007, and have kept themselves busy doing the devil’s work ever since. On the strength of an incredibly nasty 2009 demo, Great Bringer of Night, Coffinworm were recruited by Profound Lore to unleash the wretched, heaving slab of noxious, blackened death sludge they christened When All Becomes None, which came out earlier this month. A successful infiltration of the hipster hustle of SXSW, including a triumphant performance at BrooklynVegan’s showcase at Hoek’s Death Metal Pizza (and the Profound Lore/20Buck Spin official showcase sponsored by BV), marked their place on the map in blood. Now, with a fan-fucking-tastic new record on the loose and plans for further domination set, Coffinworm have embarked on an unstoppable death march towards destruction. Start saving for your funeral….
Coffinworm at BV/1000Knives/Crustcake at Hoeks, SXSW 2010
First off, how did you guys find one another, and what was the impetus for starting this band?
Dave: We’ve all been friends of both each other and each other’s musical incantations for several years. All of our other groups were experiencing either temporary or permanent stasis, and we all wanted to explore different territory than our other collectivities permitted. Indianapolis, like many cities, has a rather insular and incestuous circle of people who are committed to doing what they love, simply for the sheer enjoyment of it, and we are no different. A discussion was staged, drinks were downed, and plans were conceived. The next thing you know we were practicing and on route to what we have since become.
You’ve mentioned some pretty interesting inspirations for the band’s wonderfully dire moniker – Aleister Crowley, Thelemic magic, and the like. Could you explain a bit?
Carl:Todd was the one who tossed out the name. We had been rehearsing and writing for a few months and still hadn’t settled on anything. I can’t remember any of the other names that were thrown around, but when Coffinworm was suggested it was met with instant and unanimous approval.
Dave: Essentially our name is in reference to Choronzon, the Dweller of the Abyss, from the Book of Lies. He stands symbolically as the last barrier between the adept and enlightenment, with the goal being the eradication of the ego. He is also referred to as the coffin-worm. As such, we wanted a name that fit both ideologically and musically with what we create. We desire to have our music be the vessel for our own enlightenment, and the desire to divorce ourselves from band photos, imagery, and gimmicks representing the eradication of the ego. ?Since our genesis, our goal has always been to make music that pleases us, and if it attracts other derelicts and deviants based upon the strength of our compositions, fine. There is only our music. The infinite snake Anata that surrounds the universe is but the coffin-worm.
Coffinworm at 20 Buck Spin/Profound Lore SXSW 2010
One of the most interesting aspects of Coffinworm, in my humble opinion at least, lies in the words. The song titles alone – Start Saving for Your Funeral, High on the Reek of Your Burning Remains – are an absolute gut-punch, and I can’t imagine the lyrics themselves being anything less. Could you shed some light on the inspirations and process behind writing them?
Dave: The inspiration comes from the four gentlemen I play with, and the desire to write and perform vocally what they invoke musically. My influences towards those ends are not dissimilar from most bands: horror, gore, and exploitation movies, occult philosophy, too much retail experience, nightmares, alcohol and its sundry children, dystopian/post-apocalyptic media, Fulci, Balun, poverty, the exaltation of sleaze in its myriads forms, and of course the fertile imagination that comes from being a latch-key kid in the eighties. As for the process? Sometimes lines will just come to me at work, while I pray for a global tactical nuke strike; other times I sit down with the notebook and just write. Then I edit and cull them together to form complete thoughts. I don’t pretend to be Kenneth Grant, nor do I have delusions of being the next Lord Byron.
What are the sadistic rites of Count Tabernacula? And how much d’you reckon my funeral’s going to cost, anyway?
Dave: That title is an homage to Jess Franco, using his Dracula movies as an analogy for the modern church conglomerate (the Tabernacle), and how it desires to sink its fangs into the neck of the masses. The song also references being one of the last ones alive during the supposed “rapture,” and how we will be on top of the tallest building gunning down the saved and the damned alike, Dawn of the Dead style. Don’t worry about the funeral part of the equation, because the death will be dirt-cheap, much like the worth of human life. Rain down plague…
Bob Fouts playing The Studio at Webster Hall with The Gates of Slumber (more by Markus Shaffer)
Your Great Bringer of Night demo (recorded by the totally rad Bob Fouts of The Gates of Slumber) introduced you to the rest of the world, and made a massive impression on the strength of only three songs! Were you taken by surprise by all the positive feedback and attention you got from it?
Carl: I was definitely taken by surprise by the reception and feedback we received. When we started writing together the only goal was to have a good excuse to drink some beers, write some songs that we all liked, and maybe play a few shows here and there. The fact that other people liked the demo was just icing on the cake, and we sincerely appreciate all the positive feedback. We owe a lot to Bob Fouts, as I don’t think we could have captured a better and more appropriate sounding demo with anyone else.
Dave: In a word, yes. We honestly recorded the demo under the auspices that it would be well received by a handful of people at best, and by “handful” I mean maybe 10-20 people locally, and hopefully that many any place else. I attribute its popularity to a few factors, one being the rather desperate times we are living in, and that the disillusioned, disenchanted, and marginalized seek out music that speaks to their disapproval. Bob did a fantastic job with the recording, and his stamp also helped to gain recognition. Chris/Profound Lore’s involvement also helped immeasurably in giving it a sense of legitimacy in a time where everyone is in a band, and almost every release is equally disposable. We are forever in Chris’ debt for the faith he has had in us, and for his support. And lastly I would be remiss to not mention your involvement as well, for you helped spread our sermons of sleaze far and wide through digital mediums, for which we thank you.
Tell me a little about your SXSW adventures. All the bands I talked to said that they were stoked to play, but happy to leave. What was your experience like? Which other bands stood out the most to you, and which do you feel was your strongest performance? (my vote’s for the Profound Lore show – you guys were AMAZING).
Carl: I’d say that’s a pretty fair assessment for our participation, also. We had a great time and the shows were excellent, but all the bureaucratic details that goes along with playing a show at an event like SXSW can definitely throw some bitterness into the whole thing. We knew what we were getting into beforehand, so it wasn’t a big deal. Spirits were high and we had plenty of delicious microbrews on hand to help enhance the mood.
The shows we did play were extremely well organized and featured killer lineups. The Brooklyn Vegan/Crustcake free show at Hoeks Pizza was a great start, but I definitely felt like the Profound Lore/20 Buck Spin showcase at Headhunters was our strongest performance. The crowd was packed in and the atmosphere was like a basement show. It’s my favorite performance of ours to date.
I unfortunately didn’t get to catch a full set of most of the bands we played with due to moving gear, doing merch, or dealing with parking the van. I did catch most of Salome’s set, which was crushing. They rule as people and as a band they’re a goddamned force to be reckoned with. Dark Castle is on that same level. It was cool to see Hatred Surge live again and Mala Suerte were great. Seeing a few songs of the Suplecs set was an unexpected treat.
Dave: You will find that our experience echoes the words of the others you’ve spoken to. The Hipster Holocaust was frustrating at times, but the shows were well worth it, as was meeting folks like Chris Bruni, Fred/Brooklyn Vegan, yourself, the Salome folks, Mala Suerte, Dark Castle, and the sundry other outcasts we were in contact with. We drank a fucking ocean of alcohol while there, which certainly helped quell our rage, and we had an excellent time even with the frustrations and difficulties. Scofflawery was the order of the day, as was Taco Cabana. I concur with your words (and thank you for them), I felt the Profound Lore showcase was our best performance, but all 3 were cool in their own ways.
Coffinworm discusses recording When All Become None
So your new record, When All Became None, was just released on Profound Lore. Fans of your demo will recognize a couple tracks alongside the new material. What’s the difference in the versions of “High on the Reek…”/”Strip Nude…” on the full-length?
Carl: The songs from the demo that appear of the full-length have simply been embellished and given a more massive sonic treatment. We did a lot of overdubs and layering with most songs on ‘When All Became None’ to realize their full potential. Sanford “Executive Pimpin” Parker was very encouraging about that and he has an arsenal of pedals and amps that made my head spin. The main reason those two tracks from the demo were re-recorded was that they fit the group of songs that were meant for the full-length, lyrically and otherwise. A good number of people heard them via the demo, but we didn’t want to leave them off the album.
Dave: They appear in what we consider to be their definitive versions. We have played those songs and tweaked them into the incarnations contained on When All Became None, and are to be taken as the next evolutionary step in the cycle of Coffinworm. And the fact that they are placed where they are on the record allows them to bookend themselves properly in the litany of other hymns we constructed, allowing the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts.
What was the recording process like? How was working with Sanford Parker?
Carl: The experience was essentially a demented version of summer camp, only it was in the middle of a terrible cold snap and ice storm and there was nothing wholesome about what was happening in that studio. It was pretty low-key, though, which was perfect to me…we were able to focus on the recording process and Sanford is extremely laid back and cool. He nailed the sound we wanted and had great suggestions for adding textures.
Dave: We were isolated in Sanford’s concrete bunker, fortified with alcohol, and little to no human contact outside of each other and securing provisions. We tracked each instrument for about 2 days, and then moved on. Sanford is phenomenal to work with, and I personally have never had an easier or better time being in the studio. Also, his input proved invaluable, and his way of mixing is unreal. We hope to ONLY record with Sanford from now on.
Dave of Coffinworm at Hoeks (more by Samantha Marble)
Are you happy with the final result? What were the initial reactions you got when you first played the record for your friends, and what kind of feedback have you been getting from the rest of the world?
Carl: We’re all extremely happy with the end result…the wisdom of 666 ancients was certainly achieved. When driving home after Sanford had finished the mix, Dave and I were reflecting on the record and agreed that it completely exceeded our expectations. Most of those songs we’d been playing in some form for quite awhile and it made them listenable again. I couldn’t be happier with how the record sounds.
Dave: Fuck yes. The fact that in almost 19 years of making music this was the first release I participated in that I was not only fully satisfied with, but can listen to from start to finish more than once speaks to its credit. Everyone we played it for was impressed by the leaps we’ve made since the demo, and so far the response we’ve received has been positive. If no fucker besides Chris and us liked it that would be acceptable as well. But people seem to be enjoying it, and we’ll take it.
The artwork for both Great Bringer of Night and When All Becomes None was absolutely striking. Who handled that for you?
Carl: Garrett pieced together the cover image for the ‘Great Bringer of Night’ demo and our friend Dusty Neal, who is a great tattoo artist, drew our logo. With the ‘When All Became None’ artwork, our friend Josh Schrontz did a series of paintings that formed into a cohesive piece to construct the layout, and he did an amazing job. We gave him some subtle direction and then told him to have at it. Josh also plays drums in Worldeater with Dave, and is a master of all his endeavors. Elizabeth Jenkins created the sigils and we handed everything to Bob Peele/Long Live Design Labs to put together. We try to keep the majority of our dealings ‘inner circle’.
Coffinworm album art for When All Became None
Coffinworm’s appeal stretches past the confines of “doom” and ensnares disciples of every metallic discipline – your sound is many things, but unmistakable as Coffinworm. By the way things seem, it’s almost impossible to sound genuinely unique nowadays, but you guys pull it off. What inspires you when you write music? Disembowelment, EyeHateGod, Deathspell Omega, Miley Cyrus?
Dave: To my ears, I think our sound is unmistakably Indianapolis, as most folks who are into the underground style here listen to and are inspired by a wide sphere of cultural artifacts, both musical and otherwise. Sure, we all worship those cults you’ve listed, especially the grim and necromantical profferings forth of young Miley, but we only look inward for musical inspiration.
It seems like doom, stoner rock, and various other forms of the heavy have gotten awfully popular over the last few years. Riffs are cool again, apparently (according to that hipster in the Southern Lord hoodie over there, anyway). What do you think has spurred this new more widespread appreciation of heavy music?
Carl & Dave (in unison): The problems of some street hipsters are of no concern to us.
Carl: Riffs have never been uncool and metal has never waned in popularity or not been relevant. My biggest problem with all this ‘revivalist’ garbage is that most of these bands are extremely sub par versions of the style of music they attempt to emulate and have no reference for it’s roots. On the audience level, if some dickheads who were jocking Conner Oberst’s nuts a few years ago think metal is hip and ‘amathing’ now, it means absolutely nothing to me. I don’t associate with insincere people and none of the folks who are part of that contingent have one original opinion, so fuck ’em.
Coffinworm at Hoeks (more by Samantha Marble)
What draws you to extreme, ugly, difficult music? What do you get out of playing Coffinworm’s music – is it release, catharsis, pleasure, pain, or bitches’n’money?
Carl: To me it’s a catharsis. People unfamiliar with punk or metal music probably only see the surface. They may see the aggression or the lyrical content as this unhealthy display of emotions, but as a society we’ve all been emasculated and given a very small set of parameters to express ourselves freely. To me forms of extreme music lift that barrier, even if it’s only for the length of the record on your turntable or your band’s set at a show. You’re given the aural and lyrical space to express or reconnect with something more primal (or even profound) and find some release in the music. .
Dave: Probably our extreme, ugly, and difficult lives. Our performances are our rituals that help us face another day, and our music comes from the depths of our desires to see this shitball wiped clean. Everyone needs an element of catharsis: in Coffinworm, we have found ours.
Coffinworm at Hoeks (more by Samantha Marble)
What is the local scene like in your area? I know several of you guys are involved in Black Arrows of Filth and Impurity, but have actually never heard of any other sweet Indiana metal bands outside of youse guys, Gates of Slumber and Demiricous (which is already more than you can say for most states). What am I missing out on?
Carl: The scene in Indianapolis is intimate, but extremely strong. There’s a lot of crossover between punk, metal, and hardcore shows and everyone gets involved. I think Indy gets written off a lot since Chicago is close and seen as a more legitimate tour stop, but I don’t agree. Shows here are generally well attended, people are supportive of touring bands, and you’re not met with any pretentious attitude.
There are many killer active bands happening in Indy right now. A few of my favorites (other than TGOS and Demiricous) are Apostle of Solitude, Worldeater, Red Shadows, Kata Sarka, The Dockers (not metal, but one of the most original and best bands ever), Ice Nine (recently reformed and they have a new 7″ on Prank! Records), Christ Beheaded, Tunguska, Summon The Destroyer, and Black Arrows of Filth & Impurity. Our brothers in Bloomington that are also a part of the Indy scene: Racebannon, Medusa, and Slam Dunk. I’d also mention that if you need of a shit-hot hard rock fix, check out The Cocaine Wolves and King Deuce.
All of us in Coffinworm are involved in other bands. For those interested, check out Deadmen, Worldeater, and The Dream Is Dead in addition to Black Arrows of Filth & Impurity.
What are your plans for the rest of 2010? Please say touring and recording more!
Carl: We have some cool shows coming together for this summer and we’ll be getting back to writing for the next record soon. Hopefully we’ll have some new material put together for a split before the end of the year.
Dave: Promoting the Cd, constructing more sermons of sleaze, playing more shows, and some potential (yet shadowy and nebulous at this point) split releases. Other than that, who knows…Goat works in mysterious ways.
Thanks again guys, Keep ruling.
Thanks goes out to the Coffinworm guys and Chris at Profound Lore