INTERVIEW WITH Funeral (guitar / vocals) – Sept 24 2012
Please give the posers an introduction to the unholy horror that is GRAVEWURM! Tell us what we need to know of your crushing sound and storied history!
GRAVEWURM started under the name DOMINION in late 1990 as a doom/death band with Blood on bass and vocals and myself on guitar. We were into bands like Saint Vitus, Cathedral, Goatlord, Hellhammer, Candlemass, Cirith Ungol, Trouble etc. when we first started crafting our songs. The first rehearsal tapes weren’t very promising however. By ’93, we had changed our name to GRAVEWURM and our ‘Possessed by Darkness’ demo showed a mix of doom and black –thrash metal…influenced by the likes of DarkThrone, Beherit, Acheron and Funeral Nation as well as the aforementioned bands. I was writing most of the music at that time and we had a new vocalist by the way of ‘Tyrant’ to deliver proto-black metal vocals.Blood left the band in ’94. Tyrant recorded vocals for a few more demos and then the first album in ’95. With me moving, I carried the banner of GRAVEWURM as sole member for many years. After relocating to Virginia in 2000, there were various line-ups and a handful of shows played, but the recordings were always the focus. I never felt that I needed to take a break from the band…metal is life, death…and beyond.I think the events and circumstances regarding the supposed “final” days of Gravewurm (Oct 2010) should be explained / clarified for those reading…
With the release of our ‘Blood of the Pentagram’ album in 2010, I planned on that being the final output for GRAVEWURM and was going to start a new band, putting to rest the 20 year history of the band. I wanted to go back to the roots of doom / death from the early 90s and create a band called Arachnia (Mark Riddick had created the logo and things were moving forward or so it seemed), but I spent six months looking for other members to forge such a band in the Northern VA, DC, MD area to no avail. The only person who showed interest was Blood. He had loosely kept in contact over the years and was living near Philadelphia. It looked like I was becoming the primary song writer for the Arachnia material. The new songs were starting to form, but were honestly just too much like Gravewurm to me. So I decided to scrap the idea of the new band and just continued onward with Gravewurm having Blood back on bass, myself on guitar and vocals and (two years later) Tony Blakk ( of Druid Lord / Equinox ) on session drums.
Tell us of your split release with Spun In Darkness, from HPGD Productions! How did this union come about?
I didn’t really WANT to do anymore full-length releases so focus was on doing more splits. Plans were in motion to do a split cd with Fetid Zombie in early 2012, but that got pushed back. I wanted to do splits only with bands that complimented Gravewurm musically and / or were friends of ours. Wooden Stake and Druid Lord were busy writing their respective 2nd albums, Sathanas had plans to do a split with Spawn of Satan and The Lurking Corpses were doing a 7”. Spun in Darkness were the saviors of the day for the ‘Vengeance from Beyond the Grave’ release to happen. Not that they were “last” on our list…just the way things worked out. I had been in contact with Jeff Nardone for about 5 or 6 years at that time and was into what he was creating with Spun in Darkness. Mike of Horror Pain Gore Death Productions already had a good working relationship with Jeff and the SiD guys so he showed immediate interest in releasing this split.
Were there any influences specific to this split release? What goals did you have in mind when working on your most recent material?
I don’t think of specific “goals” when writing songs other than to be satisfied with the result. Influences have always been the same over the years…some perhaps more ‘doom’…some more ‘black’…but it’s always the same agenda for Gravewurm…to forge old goat metal from the abyss. I will say however there is more of an Immortal influence on some of the songs on this split, but it is in no way of the “epic calibre” of Immortal riffs. It’s still primal and true to the abyss.
What keeps Gravewurm fresh and actively writing new and solid material? You have quite the discography, how many releases are there, anyway?
‘Vengeance from Beyond the Grave’ is our 32nd official release. I always listen to music (which influences me one way or another) and play guitar about every week with intent of creating new riffs, which is the basis of any Gravewurm song. I work towards becoming a better song writer and overall musician than specifically a better guitarist. I don’t feel the need to play flashy leads or technical riffs…that’s not the Gravewurm sound. I have incorporated some ‘leads’ on certain songs, but those are more like an additional rhythm…the way Rotting Christ and Varathron used to do.
Looking back through the years, what are some of the highlights of the Gravewurm history? Is there a specific release or period that you are really proud of?
Recording ‘Ancient Storms of War’ was a special time I think…all the music and lyrics were written and recorded in about two weeks (except for the previous ‘demo’ songs). It was total mayhem and a “stream of consciousness” type of thing. Of course back then the songs were simpler and recording by 4-track was not time consuming.
The split 7” we did with Nunslaughter was another highlight. We had been friends since ’92 / ‘93 and when it came time for us to join forces on a split, it turned out to be the most killer design and layout I had ever seen for a 7” release…with the coffin fold-out Halloween theme packaging. People who weren’t even into ugly underground metal as we play, complimented on how clever and detailed the packaging was.
Playing shows on a consistent basis became important to me after GRAVEWURM had already established the fact that we weren’t just some band that would do a few releases and then break up…like so many bands from the early 90s era of the underground. Going on tour with Watain / Angelcorpse / Negative Plane afforded us the opportunity to play shows out of our area and forge new friendships…plus visiting the glorious towns and cities of where we played when on tour with Arghoslent overseas.
Having our ‘Blood of the Pentagram’ released on Hells Headbangers being spread worldwide was another high point to me. Many of our previous releases had a somewhat small pressing and distribution that couldn’t reach too many of the underground hordes.
At the time of recording that album, it was just me in the band…no session musicians (although I asked Blood to record a keyboard passage for ‘Two Coins for Charon’ post production), no fancy Pro-Tools recording…just DIY home equipment and I did what I always had done…summon forth the abyss and write metal. Gravewurm fit the underground essence of what Hells Headbangers stands for and I think they really saw that with ‘Blood of the Pentagram’…they really pushed Gravewurm with promotion and limited edition shirts for that album…and even pressed a limited 100 count Lp.
What about low-points? Was there ever a time when the future of Gravewurm was in question due to difficult or strenuous circumstances?
Low points would have to be in the late 90s when I was writing / recording ‘Command of Satan’s Blade’. Black metal had become too experimental / trendy…a lot of my favorite bands from the “2 nd wave” had changed sounds or split-up. I had lost contact with most of the bands and people in the scene since joining the military. Only a few people like Tyrant, Travis of Vaettir (then Drhom) and Don of the Dead remained in contact. Another low point involved us having to cancel 5 shows in summer of 2011 because of criminal activity at that time of the touring session drummer. We couldn’t get another drummer lined up in time.
Does Gravewurm work with one label specifically to release unholy art? What are some of your recent releases or upcoming projects?
We work with various labels around the world. Latest include Bloodline Productions in Thailand and Horror Pain Gore Death Productions in Philadelphia, PA. We hope to get back to Hells Headbangers for the next full length ‘Infernal Minions’.
What projects, other than Gravewurm, are members involved in, if any?
Blood has a project band called Wintress. We did a Gravewurm / Wintress split cd a few years ago. All new Gravewurm songs and a ‘best of’ collection from the various demos of Wintress.
What are some of the things that influence you? Music and film? Art and science? Religion and polititcs? Why and how much of each makes it into your music directly?
Underground metal of Sathans, Nuclear Death, Nunslaughter and others…as well as ‘big’ bands Celtic Frost, Sodom, Venom, Cathedral, Asphyx, Unleashed etc. have always influenced me one way or another. Being around great musicians is an influence as well. Spent a lot of time hanging out at Grand Belial’s Key practice years ago during the writing / recording of Kosherat Lp. Religion not specifically one, makes it into songs all the time. War and the inevitable death are often topics as well.
Tell me of the Gravewurm on stage versus Gravewurm in the studio? How do the two compare and relate the same message or song?
We take recording very serious where as on stage it’s a balance between serious and fun…if some “sour notes” or whatnot are played live, there is not much concern as we always try to deliver our best at every show…shit just happens y’know. Many reviews and opinions in the early years, we were thought of as a joke band because of our minimalist approach to writing and recording. Of course that was around the time when death metal was generally taking form in technical riffing and flashy leads…something I never got into in any sub-genre of underground metal. I just spent nearly two weeks of evenings mixing the newest Gravewurm songs, when in the old days, one or two evenings had sufficed for any given release.
What is in the future for Gravewurm? What should the maniacs be on the lookout for?
More recording, what else!?! Ha… hope a drummer surfaces from the abyss so we may start touring again. Newly released is the split cd with Spun in Darkness and split cd with Fetid Zombie. Up next, probably the ‘Infernal Minions’ cd in 2013.
Hails to the fiends at Forbidden zine and thanks for the continued interest in underground metal. Those who worship the abyss, spin vinyl and collect demo tapes of DIY bands, should check out some of our albums, available through Hells Headbangers and some other distros around this planet.