I grew up listening to classic Death Metal, so it was quite a pleasure to Interview John McEntee, the axeman of both Funerus and Incantation. I met John in the Underworld minutes before Incantation hit the stage and we spoke about Funerusí long awaited release "Festering Earth", as well as to all the reasons that made him stubborn enough to continue being a part of the unique movement thatís called Death Metal.
Hi John, even though you are playing with Incantation tonight, I would like us to talk about Funerus and the album "Festering Earth". This is the bandís debut album, that should have been released a long, long time ago.
John: Yes, youíre right. This is the bandís first official release. Before that, it was just a few demos that came out, and that was in the early 90ís.
From what I know the recordings should have taken place a long time ago. Funerus have been around for the last ten years, and only now youíve managed to release an album. Why is that?
John: (laughs).Well, the whole situation started round 1995, because the main members of the band, Jill and Brad, couldnít find any other people to continue with the band that were serious about what they were doing and stuff. In the year 2000, I became married with Jill and thatís when Kyle (drums) and me (guitars) who were already fans of Funerus, we decided to participate in the band, even though we are also playing with Incantation. A year and a half after we joined the band, we started the recordings of the album. As you understand, for about four years the band was not doing anything, but now we are stronger than ever. We started the recordings, trying to keep the original vibe, that 90ís sound that the band was based upon. That was the feeling that we wanted to present in that album, and I think that weíve managed that, so Iím really happy.
How similar and how different are Funerus compared to Incantation as bands, in every aspect?
John: Actually, there is a big difference between the two bands. Incantation are more influenced by bands such as Possessed, Morbid Angel and old Paradise Lost, but Funerus are mostly influenced by old Swedish Death Metal like Entombed and Grave Ė more groovy stuff. Incantation are more fast and aggressive. For me Funerus are substantially different, and thatís the main reason why I enjoy playing with them. It would have been really stupid for me to play in another band like Incantation. I already have that. Keeping consistency is what I like doing while playing, but different rules apply to different styles.
Speaking about the bandís influences I couldnít help detect many from bands like Bolt Thrower. I think that itís really strange, but most of the articles or interviews that I read on the web, are just referring to the Swedish side. What about all these groovy parts in your songs that sound so much like Bolt Thrower?
John: Yes, I do believe that we were also influenced by Bolt Thrower, especially by albums such as "Realm of Chaos" and "Warmaster" (authorís comment: One hell of an album Ė totally recommended!). Grave were the main reason that we decided to form the band, but bands like Bolt Thrower were always in our agenda. We should better say that it was the early 90ís mid-tempo based Death Metal bands, more like heavy and groovy at the same time. Itís an honour to be compared with Bolt Thrower, cause theyíre legends.
You understand of course that the fact that Jill plays the bass, helps that comparison (Bolt Thrower also have a female bass player, Jo Besh, who simply kicks ass!!!).
John: (laughs) I guess that many people can look at it this way. Itís really coincidental that Jill plays the bass, but I can understand this comparison (laughs).
Do you consider Funerus to be your second band, or just a side project?
John: Funerus is my second band, I cannot consider them a side project. We play different music to Funerus Ė they are a whole different entity. I write a lot of stuff for them, but you need to remember that I was not the one who formed the band. It would have been a side band, if I had created them while playing for Incantation. I just enjoy what this band is all about.
How easy was it for you guys to re-produce the early 90ís sound, fourteen years after it has originally appeared?
John: Well, for us itís really easy. It kind of helped the fact that Brad decided to leave the band, and had nothing to do with music for a very long time. What I mean is that he kind of lost the progression which occurred to Death Metal since he left. At the same time, all of us were there back in the early 90ís, so we know what this vibe is all about. I donít feel that weíre trying to re-create this sound Ė it just comes out naturally. We have been to shows, listening to bands around that time, and we really understand what itís all about. This is all about us playing the stuff that we really like, not about worrying about current trends in music. Itís nothing else except the four of us having fun with what weíre playing. I understand that this is probably the least popular music right now Ė I donít know many bands that are still doing it as we speak. When we started going towards that direction, there wasnít any band playing older mid-tempo stuff. Most of the bands that I know are playing faster music. We like fast music too, but I believe that weíre having more fun playing heavy, mid-tempo, brutal Death Metal. It doesnít always have to be fast you know...(laughs).
This is a question, which applies to both Funerus and Incantation. Whatís the reaction of the music world to both bands nowadays? Is it the same as it used to be back in the beginning of the 90ís?
John: I think that the reaction of the crowd is really good, considering the fact that both bands are not based upon the current trends. Itís always nice for people to see bands whoís style is different than the one theyíre force-fed Ė mediocre mainstream Metal. Most people would prefer bands like Dying Fetus or Symphonic Black Metal or a really fast Death Metal band like Hate Eternal. Itís good to play something different for a change. There are no rules in Metal, and thereís much more to it than being currently trendy. Metal for me is not about being trendy, itís about doing what you want to do. Playing the new style of Death Metal is definitely not for us. We are much older than many of todayís bands, so we naturally prefer the stuff we were listening when we were younger. We do what we have to do. Some people like it, some others find it boring. Especially Funerus made a lot of people happy - to hear a "new" band being influenced by older stuff that doesnít necessarily sound outdated. We donít want to be fast all the time. Too many people are getting bored listening to massive blastbeats all the time. Itís cool, it requires plenty of talent and I really appreciate it, but I think that itís good to have the other side represented too. When we play shows here with Funerus, itís more different than most of the bands that played before us, and we normally end up having a good result. People donít hear what bands like us play all the time.
What are your future plans concerning Funerus, considering the fact that "Festering Earth" was released half a year ago?
John: The album was officially released eight months ago, also in the States. We are still trying to put our feet on the ground. Just recently Tomasz from Conquer Records picked it up to help us with the distribution in the UK. What we really want at this point is to get out the bands a bit more. Weíre working on new material, trying to book some shows and get out as much as possible. Itís a lot of fun playing for Funerus, and especially for me. Incantation is a lot more complex riff wise Ė it demands more concentration. Funerus is just about going on stage and having fun. I have fun also with Incantation, but in a different way, itís more casual brutal you know? Incantation is more like tearing everything apart (laughs).
In the last couple of years places in Europe like England, are going to a second phase of appreciation for Metal bands. Do you see something similar happening in the US?
John: What it is, is like some sort of rebellion from the "normal stuff", because so many of the bands that are popular now, a lot of them sold out and sound a lot more commercial than ever. Every time there is one style of music that becomes really popular like for instance Symphonic Black Metal, there is some sort of rebellion happening on the other side. Thatís the way that the Metal scene works. For a couple of years this will be popular, and then people will get sick of it and will probably say: "fuck this, I want to listen to something different". There are bands like Incantation in the States, but itís more bands that sound like At The Gates that are more popular this period in time. Itís almost a rebellion going on against these bands as we speak cause people are fed up with all this melodic, semi-aggressive Thrash Metal. Some of these bands are really good, but I guess that we had too much of it. Same thing happened to the Death Metal that Funerus plays in the early 90ís. There was some good bands, but then too many bands started to sound like Entombed back then, and that gets boring after a while. That always happens. There are not enough people that separate from the mass and do what they really want to do Ė too many people jump on the trends. None of us cares about whatís popular. Both bands care only about doing what they really want. We hope that people will like it, but if they donít itís their problem you know? Weíre not going to change. Weíre going to keep on playing what we like, and if people consider that to be boring Death Metal, well thatís just fine! Well keep on doing it cause itís really important to us. As I said before, the reaction has been really good in general, so letís see how it goes!
How do you see the band in ten years from now?
John: I have no idea, itís very difficult to say. All I can say is that, with both bands Funerus and Incantation, we are going to keep on doing this until we feel that thereís nothing else to do, or we donít have fun any more, cause at the end of the day, the most important thing is to have fun. Death Metal isnít the best way of making money, itís mostly a form of expression. If either weíre not into it any more, we donít have fun or we canít play any more then it will end, but I canít really say, you know? When I started playing music I didnít know that I would still be doing it today. Iím sure that Funerus never thought that they would be releasing an album ten years later, so you can never tell.
What made you decide to play Death Metal in the first place?
John: Itís just the natural progression of Metal. Since I was really young, I was always interested in Hard Rock, Heavy Metal kind of stuff and playing Death Metal was just the natural progression to me. I always wanted to push music to the very limits and I believe that with Death Metal, I found a comfortable area where I feel that I can express myself properly. This music is really sincere, and for me it has all the important aspects of the building blocks of Metal, just pushed to the far extreme. I started listening to bands like AC/DC in the 80ís, and continued in the 80ís with bands like Exciter, Kreator and Destruction, and before you know it I started listening to bands like Terrorizer and Napalm Death.
The arrival of Terrorizer made a huge difference for many people.
John: Yes man. Terrorizer and early Napalm Death was definitely a groundbreaking experience for me. I remember listening to Scum (Napalm Deathís first album) and it was almost incomprehensible. I knew that I liked it, but I didnít know what to think of it (laughs).
Let me put it this way: I know many people who threw their Iron Maiden albums out of the window when they first listened to Terrorizer.
John: (laughs). Yeah, itís the natural Metal progression I think. At least in the era of Metal, there was always a hunt for something heavier. People just wanted to dig deeper into the underground.
Thank you John for your time. I wish both Funerus and Incantation all the best. What would you like to say to the people who will read this interview?
John: Thank you for the interview, of course. I would urge people who like old school Death Metal to check Funerus out. You should also check out our webside: www.funerus.com . We appreciate the support, and hopefully we will be able to do some UK touring with Funerus some time. It will be a lot of fun.
Interview © 2004