Interview: Make Them Die Slowly
Once the climax of the album hit, the screen was just full of 'OMG!', 'WTF' and 'Noooooo!!'s, so that moment alone justified the thought and effort I put into that side of the album.
Make Them Die Slowly have taken the extreme metal world by storm and are quickly rising to be a cut (and a few stabs) above the rest. With two fantastic albums already under their belt within the past six months the duo have already proven themselves to be a prolific band who not only create audial violence but add a fun narrative into their themes. Duncan Wilkins, vocalist, lyricist and the super nice guy behind the enigmatic slasher villain The Void took time out of slaying to have a chat about music and his passion for horror.
E&D: Two albums in a year? You are spoiling us! What brought about the decision to release another album so soon?
Duncan: Thank you! There was no real master plan in terms of the speed between releases. We’d had Ferox done and dusted for a month or so prior to its release, and by the time we’d released it, we were already a couple of months removed from the process. The project was borne out of lockdown, so neither of us had any other plans, so why not! I know it’s definitely a positive from Mick [Kenney]’s perspective not to have to worry about label schedules etc so we took advantage of the creativity that was firing on all cylinders at the time!
E&D: Was there enough material left over from the first album to spur this decision on or was it a case of just feeling it was right to unleash it?
Duncan: There was nothing left over at all. I think that once we’d finished Ferox there was a joint feeling of ‘this works’, so we ploughed straight into the follow up. Both of us knew the direction we wanted to go in, which wasn’t necessarily reinventing ourselves, more optimising and honing everything we learned over the process of the first album.
E&D: Was the recording process much the same as the 1st album or was it easier now certain Covid restrictions have loosened?
Duncan: The process was virtually identical. I’d get a fully formed set of songs through. I’d get the lyrics done very quickly – Ferox took a day, The Bodycount Continues took a day and a half maybe – so definitely a case of the difficult second album! I have to admit that writing lyrics for this band is so much easier than in any other band I’ve been in, it’s definitely a case of knowing where my interests lie – old horror films – and just sticking to that. Then it’s down to The Void to get the vocals done, and the rest is history. Given that all of this takes place within the four walls of my home, thankfully the restrictions haven’t had any impact on the creation of these records.
E&D: Now that the bands sound is defined did you have any input in what the new songs sound like or did you leave it up to Mick to work his magic?
Duncan: As a general rule, I tend not to get too involved in the musical side of things as why would you tamper too much with a winning formula? But there are a few parts added once we’d got the story nailed down. For example, a few echoes on ‘Doofus’, to kinda link in The Void’s control over the character similarly to that of Jason and his mom from the Friday the 13th series. I wanted to try and get a theremin style sound added to ‘Thrill Me’ to reflect the 50s B Movie sci-fi elements of that one. So hopefully nothing too drastic, just suggestions to hopefully bridge the music and lyrical themes closer together.
E&D: Did the mysterious masked band members have anything to do with this albums recording?
Duncan: Very much so! It’s a bit of a pity that they’re not particularly talkative as it’d be interesting to speak to them a bit more, although The Void is in charge of his crew so what he says goes! That said, there was a bit of a tragedy amongst them on this album, so it’s been increasingly difficult to get hold of him…
E&D: The album title The Bodycount Continues is reflective of slasher movies. Do you view each album as a continuation of The Void’s story, like a beginning, middle and end? If so, do you have a rough idea of how it may develop or how many albums you may do?
Duncan: Absolutely. Maybe not as easily defined as beginning, middle, and end, but a constant continuation over the course of future albums. We’ve definitely got the next albums story down and we’ll most likely make a start next year on that. But yes, Ferox was kind of bookended with ‘Murder Night’ and ‘The Final Girl’, which originally were written just referencing standard slasher movie tropes from like the killers POV to the final girl herself. They were both banded under the Murder Night title to kinda indicate they were part of an overarching storyline. On the new album straight away we knew we wanted to add a stronger narrative thread throughout the album, and as per every good sequel, it picks up straight where the previous one ended. I watched a load of the classic summer camp/backwoods slasher films, and that manifests in a bunch of the songs. Whilst there are still a load of standalone tracks based off individual films, there was still a conscious effort to craft a loose story that was compelling. Without pulling the curtain too far back, what i really wanted to do was build up a strong emotional connection between one of the characters, in order for the payoff to have more impact (thats something I’ve picked up from one of my other obsessions, pro wrestling!) The most satisfying moment to date was when we launched this new album doing a live chat on YouTube. Once the climax of the album hit, the screen was just full of ‘OMG!’, ‘WTF’ and ‘Noooooo!!’s, so that moment alone justified the thought and effort I put into that side of the album.
E&D: A lot of bands have returned to performing or doing live streamed shows, such as Behemoth. Is this something you have considered? It might make for a spectacular DVD.
Duncan: It would be a bit difficult logistically, what with me and Mick across different sides of the world and having to wrangle together four serial killers who don’t necessarily play well with others! Live shows are definitely going to happen once the world returns to some semblance of normality. I do agree that a DVD would be awesome, albeit from more of a storytelling point of view rather than a live performance. We’re just riding the wave at the moment so who knows what the future holds?
E&D: How did you find mailing out the copies of Ferox to the fans? Was it a learning experience doing everything yourselves?
Duncan: It’s a necessary evil when doing everything yourselves. Not the most exciting thing to do, in fact I’ve a load of merch that I just need to price up and put online as it can be a bit of a stretch when juggling with a day job and other real life responsibilities. We are humbled by the demand for physical copies although i think it’s easily forgotten that we’re not on any label as such, and with that comes a very finite budget. The VHS style CDs were extremely popular, and it’s definitely on our to-do list, so whilst we appreciate the demand, we just ask for patience whilst we eventually get down to it. First and foremost our thoughts are always just on getting the material out there for people to listen to in the most immediate fashion available.
E&D: I’ve seen you post about collectible cards and posters as part of the merchandise line and The Void himself has become quite the character that could be marketable. Do you have any other fun ideas for merch?
Duncan: Thank you! I’m a child of the eighties, so I’m all about Garbage Pail Kids, Panini sticker books, video tapes, action figures and so on, so yes, definitely – the possibilities are endless. I think sometimes I’ve more ideas than I know what to do with in regards Make Them Die Slowly, and the aforementioned budget definitely helps reign that in, but if the opportunity were to arise, we’d show fucking Gene Simmons a thing or two about merch! Although The Void seems to be more bothered about killing all of his fans, so that would significantly cut down on our target audience somewhat…
E&D: Ferox felt mostly inspired by Italian gore movies and The Bodycount Continues is more slasher-centric, will album three have a main theme?
Duncan: Thank you! Ferox was written first and foremost as a kind of love letter to my favourite movies, and a lot of them just happen to be part of the exploitation and horror movies from 70s-80s Italy. As mentioned elsewhere, the two Murder Night tracks were written with a general link to non-specific slasher tropes and upon release of the album and the unveiling of the band members it was pretty clear that this was something to explore on the follow up – still based on general thematic elements from movies – but with the opportunity to insert some of these characters into the storyline. If you pay attention to the climax of the album lyrically, there should be some pretty clear hints as to the threat that The Void and co. have to deal with next time round.
E&D: Releasing the special VHS edition of Ferox was a clever idea and my copy very proudly sits on my shelf. Are you planning on doing a VHS edition for The Bodycount Continues?
Duncan: Thank you! Again, that was a bit of a labour of love to put together, and there were a few challenges logistically, but it’s definitely something we have in mind. I’m looking forward to putting the artwork together in that retro format and making it match aesthetically with the first one. All we ask for is a touch of patience and understanding, as first and foremost our priority is making our music available through the quickest medium possible – online – and everything beyond that is down to the work and schedules of just two people.
E&D: Being a big slasher fan myself and a child of the eighties I love slasher movies so The Bodycount Continues was right up my alley. What are your personal favourite slasher movies?
Duncan: Thank you! A particularly dark alley too I’d guess! It’s almost cliché to say John Carpenter’s Halloween, but the film is a work of art. No extraneous filler or fat, just a trimmed down, lean, masterclass in efficiency. It’s a testament to how well it’s put together that despite influencing a thousand imitators in its wake how many of its subtleties are lost. The first Nightmare on Elm St is a stone cold classic, with one of THE most memorable villains, but much like Halloween, each subsequent revisit of the character yielded lesser results. Friday the 13th is my favourite series, in that the sequels follow a pretty steady trajectory of quality up until even the eighth chapter, as maligned as it is. That’s probably the three most popular franchises there, so I’d better give some more love to some lesser known ones. The Burning is a classic, starting off like a teen sex comedy before escalating into savage violence. The Prowler was one I saw on Bravo years ago under its European title Rosemary’s Killer, and features some of Tom Savini’s best work as well as a great killer. My Bloody Valentine should be regarded as one of the high points of the genre, and has a really likable cast – one thing a lot of latter day films neglect, in favour of irritating characters who you develop no emotional attachment to. Stagefright is a vibrant Italian blend of slasher and giallo. And to throw in a curveball, Alien and The Terminator for being awesome non-slasher-slashers!
E&D: I watched the premier of the album on YouTube with many other fans, and the moment Doofus was bitten really made be emote. You mentioned how the fans reacted really justified the effort, did you set out to have an actual story involved all those months ago when Make Them Die Slowly was created? There aren’t many music albums where you could actually discuss moments from the songs as if they were movies.
Duncan: On this album in particular I made more of a conscious effort to expand upon the two ‘Murder Night’ songs, whilst not making it a full on concept album, originally intending for the specific songs to again have the same prefix, like ‘Murder Night : Camp Cadaver’ and ‘Murder Night : The Birth of Doofus’ for example. The only reason they aren’t is simply because I forgot to give them Mick before he set them all on Spotify etc! But in retrospect hopefully by digging a bit deeper fans can figure out the general storyline, and work out which are just standalone tracks – the one about melting tramps for example!
In terms of figuring out the storyline, I knew that I wanted to do one track as a backstory for one of the band, and just thought the idea of a Deliverance-type backwoods dweller who was particularly good at the banjo would be perfect. I definitely wanted to make him a sympathetic character, and tried to stress that he was essentially a loving soul, but one that was ultimately pushed and provoked to acts of savage violence. On the surface it may seem that The Void is offering him a way out but let’s not forget The Void is an evil maniac – who’s to say he’s not basically grooming him to carry out his evil bidding? I’ll definitely be exploring the backstories of the other characters if not on the next record but certainly in the future.
Then just to wrap things up, Dead Alive (or ‘Murder Night : Dead Alive’) was always intended to be the last track, and its working title was ‘end of level boss song’, so I knew that if not a cliffhanger, then at least a hint as to where the story was to go on the next album was needed. As soon as I realised that someone needed to die, there was no other candidate other than the one I’d spent a song on establishing an emotional connection to! Such sadism I can only blame upon my contact with The Void over the past six months, something is obviously rubbing off on me! I also wanted to highlight the confusion and almost panic of The Void having the tables turned upon him, being confronted by the death of one of his own, of being the victim rather than the killer. The song itself very clearly builds to an emotional crescendo so it was just a case of me trying to match the escalation in the storyline to the buildup of the music, and I must admit, I’m super happy with how it turned out, and gives me a lot more confidence with approaching the next ‘Night’…
E&D: Does The Void have last words he wishes to say to our readers?
Duncan: Before I hand it over to the man himself, personally I just want to say cheers to everyone who’s taken the time to let Make Them Die Slowly into their lives, from a single play to buying merch or interacting with us online.
The Void: “Thank you all for adding yourselves to my kill list. Murder Night isn’t over yet.”