By: Metalist NY Magazine
With: John McEente
Of Incantations and Other Types of Sorcery
The underground. A term that many bands seek to be a part of, yet few symbolize, and even fewer are the ideal of. The "underground" in Metal has come to symbolize that which is of good quality. That which is done out of love and passion rather than to make money or to please the masses. Few bands really encompass the meaning of underground within their existence, yet one such band is Incantation. Small, widely unknown, Incantation is one of those names you still, after 20 years of being active see in small print in all magazines with a high rating next to their name and think "Mhmmm, I should check them out." Well, being a Metal nerd myself, I'm quite fond of Incantation and had the chance to interview non-other than the man with the plan, John McEente himself
1. Hello John! What’s up?
I donno, right now I just got off from work, a little beat from work, except for that- doing crapload of interviews for the new album, trying to get other stuff straightened out. It’s been pretty hectic, took a lot out of us, we’re all really beat from the experience.
2. So, you’ve just released Vanquish in Vengence, how do you feel about it?
“We are all really happy with it, we worked really hard on trying to make the best album that we could, and it wasn’t because we wanted to have the greatest album or that kind of bullshit. We had a fun time working on the album; everyone really poured their heart and soul into it. It was really fun to have us all come together as a team, everybody worked equally as hard on the song writing, practicing, just analyzing the songs, and making sure everything is top notch. Everyone pushed themselves to the limit and it made for a great writing and studio experience . For me its absolutely awesome to have a lineup as hungry as I am, all really creative and stuff, makes things even better. For years and years I’ve been looking for a strong line up, who all have the same musical concept and finding people I can get along with, who are inspired. Finally found a great line up, it all fell together by accident. We weren’t planning on doing an album, just a few shows , but we just had fun jamming with these guys and stuff. One day at practice I got really inspired, there was a chemistry which was just awesome. From that point on everybody just started contributing, two years later we have a new album out. We were just so inspired, we had to stop ourselves from writing material, it was just too much. We had to stop writing, decide which songs we’re not going to concentrate on for this album and save for the next. It’s a really inspiring time, everybody in the band have awesome ideas… it’s a really healthy situation, really enjoyable situation for me its just awesome to be in a band who take it very seriously who are hard workers, and that makes me more inspired and makes me want to work hard. In the past I felt like I carried the weight of the band, now we have 100% putting 100% into it. We’re all happy with the album, the reactions seem pretty good from the fan base and the industry, and magazines and stuff, but we feel really pretty proud of the album. We’re happy with it, people are either going to like it or not, we’re a Death Metal band. We’re going to have fun writing and recording doing the stuff we want to do. People are either onboard or not , come join the Death Metal party.
3. Considering it is your 8th offering, how do you feel this outing innovates? How do you feel this album is special?
Well, I think it’s because everybody contributed to the album full force. Our last two albums I’m really pleased with them but they were written as a one guitar player, bass ,drums and vocals, this album was written with 2 guitars in mind, our new amazing bass player Chuck (Sherwood) added a whole other layer or two to the writing. Having the extra talent in the band of Chuck and Alex (Bouks). Took something that is already good and make it better, I was happy with it but now its more two dimensional. Extra flavor extra feeling. More room to be able to do stuff as far as adding more texture into the riffs, do more lead work and stuff like that. It wasn’t just me, before I wrote mostly with rhythm in mind, I knew I had to sing and play guitar. I didn’t want to have too many leads and didn’t want to have things that took away from the thickness of the rhythm. We recorded the album all 4 of us in the same room, like a practice or a live show, we did overdubs but it was pretty much live in the studio. How you’d do a practice, amp blasting and a real band vibe, not something that is really sterile and really isolated, just us jamming, just going forward kind of thing. That really helped too I knew we had something special with this line up, wanted to get the feeling that we had live onto album, didn’t want the album to be something too mechanical , or perfect, I wanted it to feel like a band. To hear the magical chemistry on record, whether people like it or not. We wanted to represented as Incantation, not a plastic bullshit kind of band.
4. How was the recording process? How do you feel it’s different now in contrast with when you started out?
Well, one of the main things I think, there’s a massive difference from “Onwards to Golgatha” (debut album) to now. I mean really the recording industry totally changed, things are a lot more digital now. Everything is 100% analog on Onwards (to Golgatha,) there are hardly any albums that are 100% analog today. It’s a totally different experience. We were new to the studio and stuff, we didn’t know what we were doing. We were playing our songs, we didn’t know how the process works. We’ve been to the studio before, but I was pretty novice at the time. I had to depend a lot on the engineer in the studio to really guide us through. Now we have a better understanding of how a studio works. We get to use that to our advantage, the fact Onwards to Golgatha came as good as it did. We had a hard time explaining our sound to the engineer, we were driving him up the wall with what we wanted to do back then. He had no clue what we were talking about, he knew Metal, but he didn’t understand the kind of DM we wanted to do, it was different than the generic DM bands. Now, we know what were looking for, we have a vision how we wanted things done, we sent the tracks to Dan Swanö , we gave him the guidelines were looking for and he was able to understand them completely. It was better than what we envisioned it to be. The process is much easier and more refined, like in the last three albums. Regardless of like, we went to the studio and such and such happened.
5. how come it took 6 years to make?
After we did Primordial Domination, we . Kyle and I were very satisfied with that album and we got into a situation where Kyle had to leave the band because of personal issues. Basically the band was just me, I did some touring with session members but after doing that, I realized I didn’t want to do the band anymore unless I could do it with a strong and proper lineup. So I put the band on hiatus, spoke with Kyle, if Primordial Domination is our last album both of us were satisfied with that. With the new album, the line up was kind of sown together by accident. We were just looking to do live shows, Chuck and whoever in the band. We didn’t wanna rush, we figured it’d be better to wait until the time is right. If time never came, PD would’ve been the last album. We’re probably going have at least two more albums in the near future, probably a year and a half wait, not a 6 years wait.
M- you should release them 6 years apart, just to fuck with people
J.M- we could have all the songs now, but we’re gonna wait 6 years to record them (laughs)
6. What are some of the lyrical topics on the album? Or you don’t fuck around with the formula too much?
Basically, similar blasphemous kind of concepts and stuff, there’s a bunch of different concepts. Songs are about a bunch of different things, easier to say. A reoccurring theme on the album has to do with genocide over religion, I thought it was really interesting. Let me start it this way, we wrote a bunch of songs and we realized a reoccurring themes is genocide over religion. It was crazy because some of the genocides happen 2000 years, others happen within this century over religion, it’s really interesting that over the history of mankind people are so fanatical about their religion that their willing to have massacres and purgings, over ideology. Things that make it extra crazy, some time their ideology are so closely knitted together and people are willing to kill each other for it. Mind boggling that people are so thin skinned, people are so worried about differences of religion to them. Even if you agree with war or not, there are concrete reasons for going to war, people say you go to war over money, or land, or oil, or whatever the case may be, at least those are reasons. Their concrete reasons. To go to war just because somebody believes in something a tad bit different to you, is a little bit insane as far as having a purging for it. I’m an antireligious, atheist, I don’t really give two fucks, if they want to believe in any religion, that’s their things. I might think the person is stupid and their concept is stupid, it’s not any of my business what their doing. Some people are so fanatical they’d kill over those kind of things, seems over the top and sad, parts of the world where people who lived for hundreds of years together and up from nowhere their at each others throat, that ‘s really dumb, give me a real reason at least. You can’t know what somebody believes in spiritually 100%, its not something provable, its not a physical thing, there’s not even a way to tell you if your one or not. Seems insane, the human race hasn’t learned anything about it ever, seems strange and stuff, just the way it is. Humans repeat the same mistakes, it is apparent nobody learns from history, people want to push their religious beliefs onto other rather than being happy living in their own life.
7. How do you feel about modern American Death Metal? How do you feel about the DM scene right now? Who do you respect?
Respect, I respect pretty much any band who plays what they want to do, I respect them for doing what they do. Bands that I enjoy that listening to dm wise, bands that are good, a lot of older ones that are kind of a part of the area were from. Immolation, I really like a lot. Autopsy. Sadistic Intent, Deceased stuff like those are bands that I really respect. For me, newer bands is stuff that started after 95, I’m not a big fan of the really technical kind of bands, I respect their talent but its not my thing necessarily. Most of the newer bands that I like are the bands that sound like the older bands, donno if that’s a good thing or bad thing. Music should keep moving forward, I rather it moves forwards in a darker heavier way but at the same time keeping the traditions of the past without ripping them off.
8. Now, lets dig a bit into your history- how did Incantation form?
Well, I started the band with Paul, soon after we made the song Profanation (found on a couple of early demos/EPs as well as Onwards-ed.) I was split because I was playing in another band, a Thrash Death Metal band called Revanent before Incantation for 3-4 years, started going into a direction more technical more refined and stuff, I wasn’t into it. I wanted something heavier, pushing the limits of extreme music. I decided to branch off with the last drummer for Incantation, Paul. Our concept was very simple, we wanted to play the kind of music we wanna play and everybody else can fuck off. Selfish. We started because we realized that the decision of doing a band is decided because you love playing music, you wanna do something screwed up. Be rebellious and not fall into the trends of the kind, do things our way, we always kept the concept about it. We can’t just keep the music that were good with, it’s not good enough to anyone to check it out under our banner so. And you know, fuck it.
9. I understand original vocalist Craig Pillard is also involved in white power movements and stuff like that, was that stuff he was into also while in the band? Did he incorporate any of it into his lyrics
No, when he was in the band, he joined in late 90’s. He was from 94, I never would’ve thought that any of that kind of stuff was even in question. I didn’t noticed anything like that, I don’t think he really believed that back then, because, I can’t remember for sure, I never kept track of him. He went with two girlfriends who were Jewish, he probably didn’t hate Jews that much. I never noticed anything like that to be straight out. When he did some stuff that was more controversial, I was quite surprised, was none of my business or whatever his decision, what he wanted to do and stuff, thought it was odd. Just so many assholes in the world, just to hate people for any other reason other than they generally suck is ridiculous, I don’t know a lot about his dabbling in this kind of stuff, I’m friends with him now. We’re on good terms, were acquaintances, I like to be on good terms with him and stuff, don’t know where his heart is with that kind of stuff. You should ask him, as far as incantation concerned, not even a thought, when were jamming. I was just like whatever.
M- what do you feel about the situation? And about white power movements in general?
I’m so not politically correct or whatever, I hate everybody, I’m not a fan of people. I don’t like the human race that much, putting yourself in a situation , putting yourself in that kind of situation is a bad decision. Something I wouldn’t do, my personal opinion- so many good reasons to hate people to find nonsense reasons is just stupid. I grew up in New Jersey in a very diverse state overall, there are cool people from all different reasons, the few that were cool I never checked to make sure they were of the pure white race or anything.
M- what about him now? Do you know if he’s still into that stuff with Disma?
Honestly, I don’t know a lot about his situation, I don’t think he’s been involved in that stuff for quite a while. I know for a while he dabbled, its been a long time since he brought up anything. I don’t keep tabs and don’t hang out with him a lot, I see him once a year, can’t get a good opinion on somebody seeing them once a year.
10. Also, back to the practical how did you transition into being not only the guitarist, but the vocalist? Do you feel it effected your music at all?
Um, well I mean I started doing vocals because I was having such a hard time finding a permanent vocalist I made that decision out of necessity. Took a long time, but now I’m comfortable with it. Been comfortable with it for a while, it has definitely effected the band, in mostly positive ways, the hardest time was when we were playing as a three piece preforming old stuff, and I was the only guitarist. Last two albums, I wrote those albums with one guitar player in mind so that definitely did effect the song writing. Didn’t want too complicated songs so I couldn’t sing or play properly. Switching the vocals changed shit up, and one guitar player in the band. Now that we have 2, I can focus on playing rhythm and vocals all the time. Having somebody else who can handle guitar duty. Way better to have a second guitar player to help you out, so you don’t have to think about guitar riffs and singing at the same time is a fucking pain in the ass sometimes. I don’t even really have to think, it’s so easy to play live with this line up. Don’t have to think “what’s this asshole doing?”
11. how do you feel about religion in America today? Do you feel it effects the breeding ground for bands?
I donno, I donno. I don’t really see the US being that religious really, maybe I just don’t look for it. Yeah there’s religious people butI don’t get any religion shoved down my throat in the states. Other countries I traveled to have been more religious than the US, maybe I’m wrong. In America we have people from all different religions all over the place, I donno if Christianity or what not, is so overwhelming that people are rebelling about it like crazy. I really don’t know, I’m an equally religious opportunity hater, not my cup of tea or whatever. Honestly I think its fun to be antireligious for certain people, blaspheming Christ was a fun past time.
At a certain point you start to realize there’s a lot more religions than Christianity, all religions suck not just Christianity. I grew up knew more Christianity, but they all suck. In my opinion.
12. You also have your own label, Ibex Moon Records, how did that come about?
Well, that started when I wanted to release the first Funerus album, I started the label after I released that. I’ve been losing my ass after the last couple of years , it’s hard doing a record label in this music environment. I put the label on hiatus, more just because I lost so much money over the last 3-4 years, I wanna pay off my debts and then I can decide if I can work out opportunities. Or maybe not do it again, plus I wanna concentrate more on Incantation and Funerus, I have more fun playing music. It’s a lot of headaches, it’s a hell of a lot work. A lot more fun playing music than doing lots of paper works.
13. What are some of the bands you’d recommend checking out from your label? Any names?
I’d recommend Funerus for sure. Really all the bands we put out I stand behind, I think that a really good band that gets overlooked is Estuary. A Cincinnati band , Thrash-Death strong songs really great band, awesome live band. Of course some of the bigger bands on the label, Master is awesome. Asphyx is amazing, great bands to check out, besides that, bands Hod from Texas. Feral from Sweden great kind of Entombed style DM, rocking DM heavydeath n’ roll and stuff its all good .
14. The tri state area has been home to some of the strongest Death Metal in America ala Incantation, Immolation, and Suffocation, ,what do you think makes the tristate area so special?
I donno, there are a couple of things. Population is insane, a lot of fucking people, that has something to do with it, I think part of it is that there were just so many shows in the 80s and 90s for Metal bands , Thrash bands, early DM bands and I think just having all these great bands playing in our area was just inspiring. I used to go to a couple of clubs, La Mours, this place in New Rochelle called Streets, bunch of places in Jersey, so much great extreme music even if not all was DM. I used to listen to a lot of HC kind of stuff, just a lot of inspiring stuff came from that area. A lot of people got inspired and started bands, I was inspired by a lot of great bands. La Mours used to have everything from Carnivore, Voivod, to Kreator.
15. Did you ever think Onward to Golgatha would be such a cornerstone classic as it is when you first made it?
Absolutely not, when we did the album we thought we were gonna put out the album everyone would hate . We had no expectations, we were very fortunate to get the opportunity to put out an album and if people liked it or not we had no clue. A lot of those songs I wrote a couple of years before the album playing out for a quite a while you donno how the reaction is gonna be. Thought it might go over good, but it ended up pretty much exploding for us, great that people liked it but we weren’t ready for people liking our band, we let our egos get the best of us we j were just like holy fuck . Crowds were huge, people were praising us a lot when your young its difficult to handle that shit, we let all that go to our heads. Ended up being the death of that line up, we started not appreciating the band and the chemistry that we had. People thought they can go off and do other things and be successful and stuff and things got all fucked up.
16. What are some of your influences as a writer?
I’m influenced by pretty much everything that I grew up with, but the important thing is that, with the songwriting aspect, I’m not influenced as much say riff wise and what not, I’m more inspired when I hear a band’s vibe or a feeling the band has and that’s the stuff that inspires me more. If a band has that real killer dark vibe, it sounds original and has its own personality. Its not necessarily like a band liking that riff, and let me steal that riff and write it my own way. I’m a real big fan of Venom and stuff, the feeling in the band is just so great, makes you wanna kill posers or something like that. Big fan of Possessed and stuff, the feeling you got when you listen to it. Inspires me more than anything, music should be more about expressing yourself with your instruments than worrying about straight up technical ability, that stuff sometimes makes things worse than looking at things really strict, rather sick or dark, like I’ve been saying all interview. The stuff that influences me more, it’s the feeling you get when you listen to the bands.
17. Any particularly good road stories?
There’s a lot of road stories, unbelievable, I can’t even remember most of em. Recently a fun road story about our guitar player Alex- when we went on our last tour, he brought too many lemons on tour. He has this obsession with lemons, dude you don’t need to eat a lemon every day- its better if you don’t. He didn’t have to bring the lemons with him from USA to Europe they don’t need anymore than they already have. Its quite strange , unfortunately he has this obsession with lemons. But yeah. Next time you see him on tour, ask him how are the lemons?
M- yeah, I’ll just go up to him, go like shalom how’s the lemons,
please don’t sick Craig on me
18. What’s your secret to keeping together for so many years? Over countless line up changes and more live musicians than there are phone book entries, how do you and Kyle keep this shit together?
We just love what we do, were into doing the band, unfortunately its not oh so easy to find members who’ll stick with you through thick and thin. I’m a really easy going guy to work with but I do have a musical vision. I wanna work with people who believe in the same musical vision as I do and stuff. If they don’t have a vision it’s best for them just to leave, if it makes people feel better to say I’m an asshole, I don’t really give a crap. Kyle and I have a vision, we have people who believe in our vision. Chemistry doesn’t get better if they lie. I don’t just kick people, I’m not Caligula or something. Not exile , nothing like that, if people don’t like to do this type of music. It’s Best for them to just move on and do their own thing, but it’s something we don’t have to worry about anymore. 4 5 years with this line up and that’s the longest we’ve had 4-5 people in the band. We’re going for the gayness world record for longest Incantation line up. (laughs)
19. Any last words to the Israeli crowd?
Cool to get the opportunity to be in an interview for the Israeli people to check out, I have no idea if people like us in Israel , I don’t know a lot about Israel, I know it is a friend of our country and there are a lot of Israeli people living here, and people don’t like you in your neighborhood (meaning the surrounding countries-ed.) Great opportunity and I hope we get to play for you guys sometime, thank you very much for the support. It would be very awesome to get to go to other parts of the world that we don’t normally do. Yeah, fucking metal.