Interview: Werewolves

We’re always aiming to make heavy and hateful music but since we record this stuff annually and now play shows, we’re getting lots of practice which means we’re better at expressing it.

Werewolves have just released their new album From The Cave To The Grave and it sees the Australian death metal monsters on devastatingly brutal form throughout. Gavin Brown caught up with Werewolves vocalist/bassist Sam Bean to hear all about the album as well as talking about their live plans, the other bands the members are involved in and favourite cinematic werewolves in a constantly entertaining interview.

E&D: Your new album From The Cave To The Grave is out now. Are you excited to unleash this album on the world?

Sam: Considering what has happened in the world every time we release an album, we’re kind of nervous! I mean, each album release has directly coincided with mayhem like bushfires and pandemics. What’s gonna happen this time, nuclear holocaust? But we’re also excited in a selfish way. The world may burn to a crisp but at least we get to show off our latest metal.

E&D: Would you say that this album packs in more of your macabre humour amongst the sonic assault in the songs on the album?

Sam: It’s probably at the same level as What A Time To Be Alive. It’s a fine balance, we like to walk the line so you don’t know if we’re fully joking or if we’re being serious. Obviously with a track like ‘We Are Better Than You’ it’s pretty easy to spot the humour. It’s more hidden with something like ‘Oedipus Tyrannus’ or ‘Pride and Extreme Prejudice’. The humour is often delivered with real viciousness, they go hand in hand. I don’t want us to be a joke band or anything.

E&D: Can you tell us about the epic album artwork for From The Cave To The Grave?

Sam: That’s another Mitchell Nolte masterpiece, his interpretation of the lyrics. I see it as a decadent and obnoxious ruling class with a complete contempt for human life partying atop a mountain of corpses. The conquistador hurling the baby into the pit is that disturbing cherry on the cake that Mitchell does so well. I’m pretty sure half our fanbase exists because they saw Mitchell’s artwork on our other albums and went “my god that’s fucked up, gotta check this out”.

E&D: From The Cave To The Grave is your third album in three years. Do you always intend to be so prolific with your music?

Sam: Absolutely. In fact, this release is a bit of an anomaly in that we don’t have the next album already finished. That’s my fault, we had all the instruments recorded over a year ago, I’m just trying to think up more things to breathlessly shriek over it all.

E&D: How do you feel that you have developed as a band since your debut album The Dead Are Screaming?

Sam: Well, we’re now an actual band band for starters. I mean, the first album was three guys who know each other seeing how quickly we can make an album for a laugh. Now we’re booking shows for album launches and putting together film clips and stuff, and our afterthought side-project is turning into one of our more successful acts. Musically, it’s hard to say how we’ve developed. To me, that says we’re doing it right. Real development doesn’t work when you plan it and quantify it. That’s a muse-killer.

E&D: Do you always want your music to get heavier and more hateful as you progress?

Sam: What the fuck did you just say? Progress? PROGRESS? Goddamit, we were doing so well. It’s all about REGRESSION with us, mate. We like the Japanese aesthetic approach of “removing the unnecessary” although we modify that to “removing the progress”. Regress until things are simplified down to their volcanic raging fundamentals. We’re always aiming to make heavy and hateful music but since we record this stuff annually and now play shows, we’re getting lots of practice which means we’re better at expressing it. Or worse.

E&D: Have you had thoughts about any new music yet?

Sam: Album 4 is recorded and I’m writing lyrics for that now, and then scrunching them up and chucking them at the walls and screaming. I want the next album to have some real darkness on it. As for anything past that, I know Matt and Dave talk about doing the ‘blast’ album, where it’s one long thirty-minute blastbeat that doesn’t slow down. I don’t know how soon that will happen though or if it will happen at all.

 

E&D: You released the Deathmetal EP earlier this year. How has that been received so far? 

Sam: People enjoyed it. We were very conscious to release it as a hors d’oeuvre. You know, one of those bits of treasure that’s easy to overlook but all the big fans and vinyl collectors can hoard it and revel in its exclusivity. I’m loving building up this back catalogue for people to wade through. It was fun as hell to do the Deicide and Marduk covers, I think we shaved about a minute off ‘Christ Raping Black Metal’. And it was super-fun to work with Matt McGachy from Cryptopsy on ‘I Hate Therefore I Am’. That dude can work as fast as us and his vocals are so sick. Sooooooooooooooo sick.

E&D: What artists and songs would you love to cover in the future?

Sam: Personally, I’d love to do Sinister’s ‘Aggressive Measures’. To me, that’s a brilliant death metal song that was let down by some old-school playing. If we give that the modern treatment, it would absolutely fry everyone’s brains. That’s what you want when you do a cover, a brilliant song from the past that can be improved without rewriting it. Not sure who the other guys would want to do it though, it’s not something that we’ve discussed.

E&D: What live dates have you got coming up that you can tell us about and will you be making it over to the UK and Europe with this album?

Sam: We’ve got our first show in Sydney on June 25, the day after From The Cave To The Grave comes out. Then we’ve got two shows in Melbourne on July 8 and August 5, and our first festival date in Adelaide November 19. Now I’ve got all the pimping out of the way, it’s flattering to hear everyone asking when the UK, US, and Europe tours are happening but reality check time: let’s just get these Australian shows out of the way first, right? We might completely suck for all anyone knows. Or we might just hate doing it. We’re doing things pretty quickly and organically with the band, so if throwing down on our home turf turns out fine, I imagine you’ll see us overseas before too long.

E&D: Are you looking forward to hitting the stage again with your new material?

Sam: Well, three albums in three years and no shows so far means it’s all new material! We’re gonna focus on blowing out the pipes and doing some sets heavy on the first two albums. We’ll work more of the latest stuff in once we’ve got this year out of the way. Our live set has to play a bit of catch-up to our back catalogue, I think! It’s a problem, but one of them good problems.

E&D: What are your drinks of choice when you’re on tour?

Sam: It used to be Jägermeister for me, they sponsored my first UK tour with Berzerker. They gave us a couple of big promotional bottles each night on tour to give away for free. Naturally, we drank it all ourselves. It sure worked, they’ve made their money back on me about a hundred times over since then. These days though? Probably green tea. Water with a Berocca dropped in it. We’re in our forties and these sets are quite the cardio workout. I know Matt digs whisky, but I haven’t toured with Dave yet so I don’t know if he has a go-to tipple.

E&D: What metal bands are some of the best to see live in your opinion?

Sam: Abramelin, Psycroptic, The Amenta, you know…all our other bands! Back in the 90s I’d say Damaged from Australia were as good as it got, such a psycho band and their material was abstract, angular, and brutal. I saw Archspire a few years ago and was blown away by how polished they were. I think you could comfortably drop them in any theatre in the world and have an entertained crowd. Not sure who else though, I don’t see many bands these days and I’m not super into bands reforming to play an album from twenty years ago in its entirety.

E&D: The members of Werewolves also play in The Berzerker and Psycroptic. What have your other bands got planned?

Sam: Psycroptic have their new album Divine Council out early August and I know they’ve been absolutely GAGGING to get back on the road. I think they’ve pencilled in September and October to get overseas and tour as much as possible. I think that’s the smart thing, get out and about before the northern hemisphere gets into winter. A pandemic is still ongoing, and anything can happen. Berzerker was supposed to do an album back in 2020 and all the riffs were recorded for it, but it just hasn’t happened. I don’t think it ever will.

E&D: Is it a difficult task playing in more than one band?

Sam: Not for me! I play live for Werewolves, record with The Antichrist Imperium, and am available on bass for The Amenta who average a show every five years. And as it’s bass, no one can hear bass in metal so nothing I do matters. I can hear all the poseur elite blabbing something about Steve diGiorgio and Alex Webster but fuck off, no-one cares. Matt is way more active with his rock band Shotgun Mistress and Abramelin but he loves working hard, he has a true sigma grind grustleset. Dave must really be suffering though, he records for half the planet, runs a business, plays live for everyone. Our first Werewolves gig has him doing our set then a Psycroptic headline set. That’s gotta hurt. Seriously though, it’s not that hard to juggle bands if you’re an adult who can work a diary or google calendars. Most artists are dimwits and can barely handle one band and dressing themselves.

E&D: What have been some of the best memories playing in The Berzerker?

Sam: Probably the Summer Slaughter tour Berzerker did in the US with Nile, Strapping Young Lad, and Napalm Death was the highlight for me back in 2003. Apart from getting my head fucking caved in every night by each of those bands in their prime, it was great getting to know guys personally who I had grown up reading about in magazines. Jesse Pintado travelled around with us on our motorhome a lot of the days, and was a totally lovely dude. He basically introduced himself on the second day by bringing a bunch of Christmas lights he found in a mini skip and stringing them up around the place. I got along well with Devin, we had a regular music exchange thing going on…he turned me onto Wesley Willis, I handed him Soul Coughing. Mitch Harris is a pun-machine. I remember getting Karl to check my playing of ‘Chapter for Transforming into a Snake” and I hassled Dallas to teach me riffs from ‘Execration Text’…some of those still didn’t make sense to me even when he patiently played them through at half speed for the twentieth time. Generally, getting to know other bands on a personal level was either the best or the worst part of the Berzerker days. Completely awful if they’re assholes, but fantastic when you connect. Bumping into people like Ross and Bob from Immolation or Luc from Gorguts makes your day, I tell you.

E&D: What is the Australian extreme music scene like at the moment and what bands would you recommend for us to check out?

Sam: It’s pretty healthy. Look, when I was younger overseas magazines would run features going “you would not BELIEVE that there’s metal bands in Australia” and Berzerker was the only Australian metal band doing full runs of the US and Europe. Now heaps of bands are getting out there. I caught up with the guys in Disentomb last year, and they’re about half my age but have done twice as much touring, and they’re absolutely crushing it. King Parrot has a live show worth catching. Abramelin (with Matt and Dave) put out a killer album a year or two back with Never Enough Snuff. I was at a small day festival in my city a couple of months back and there would have been easily 500 people there just for Australian bands. The sick thing is, there’s so many good bands doing amazing material but I don’t know any of them because I’m a middle-aged balding hateful bastard who thinks death metal peaked in 1996 and I can’t understand anyone’s logo these days.

E&D: What are your favourite things about Australia?

Sam: It’s far, far away from everyone else. I used to hate that but right now I think it’s the one thing giving us a fighting chance at survival here. You’re all going down.

E&D: How did you get into extreme music in the first place?

Jägermeister The lone metalhead at my posh school gave me a tape of Reign in Blood when I was going about thinking I was super-hard because I listened to Aerosmith. It was a real step-up-or-shut-up moment. I ended up loving it and I actually got more into Kreator than anything soon after that, then ran smack-bang into the early 90s death metal explosion. Roadrunner and Earache were dropping legendary albums every month. If you couldn’t get into extreme music in such a time, then you never would. Everything was cemented when Morbid Angel toured Australia in 1992. I went to the gig and that changed everything. I walked in an A-grade student planning to be a lawyer, walked out a few hours later wanting to play the most fucked-up music possible to crowds.

E&D: What are some of your favourite black metal and death metal albums?

Sam: I love Brutal Truth’s Extreme Conditions album, although that’s more grindcore. It’s timeless, it’s still one of the heaviest releases out there. Morbid Angel’s Blessed Are The Sick is great, after two decades of listening to it you can still pick things you never noticed before out of the songs. I’ve been listening back to Vader’s Litany album recently, it’s hard to top for violence. Nile’s In Their Darkened Shrines is still the best album they’ve done I reckon, although their latest is pretty amazing. Although I like Emperor’s Anthems album I actually reckon their Equilibrium album is better…less cheesiness and better songwriting.

E&D: Who are all your all time favourite cinematic werewolves and what have been the best werewolf kills you have seen on screen?

Sam: It’s hard to go past ‘An American Werewolf in London’, although I liked ‘The Company of Wolves’ for the nightmarish qualities, it’s like a fairytale turned into a bad dream. ‘Wer’ almost pulled off something special. ‘Ginger Snaps’ was twisted fun, but I think veered into the body-horror Canadian-thing somewhat and although it was a good movie it just wasn’t my flavour. ‘Dog Soldiers’ is a great movie but again, doesn’t feel like a pure werewolf movie. Best werewolf kill ever? Oooh controversy: Twilight! Nah, hear me out, it’s when one of the wolves kills the vampire Jane. He approaches her, spits out someone else’s hand, then he just falls on her and starts tearing away before ripping her head off and flinging it. The best bit of all is how you can see her hands fly up and try to grab the head back. I wonder how many tweenies saw that and got totally fucked up? I remember being in the cinema and some random Team-Jacob housewife screamed out “WHAT THE FUCK” when that happened. I laughed so hard I nearly injured myself. I sometimes use that GIF on twitter when responding to shit reviews. Close second would be ‘An American Werewolf in London’ where he bursts out of the porn cinema and bites the head off the copper and it goes bouncing through Piccadilly Circus, unleashing a chain of absolute mayhem. Hmmm, I seem to go for decapitations don’t I?

E&D: What have been some of the highlights in your time with Werewolves and your music career so far? 

Sam: Getting signed to your first label and releasing your first album is always a special time, as is getting your first magazine review. It’s hard to beat the feeling of doing the first few Berzerker releases on Earache when they meant something in the extreme world. It’s easy to forget but back then the world paid attention to who was on that label, it really was a big deal. Obviously, that’s many albums, bands and labels ago now. With Werewolves, the highlight is simply making music with Matt and Dave and seeing how vicious and mindless we can go, anything else is a bonus. I’m in a band with two masters who are the top of their respective fields. I don’t know how I got here exactly, but these guys are so good I reckon it’s impossible to make a shit song with them. Not that we’re going to try.

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