Bulldozer mag interviews John McEntee, new album and more…

BM: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me John, how are you dealing with this Global Pandemic Crisis that has brought the world to a complete standstill even within the realms of The Death Metal Underworld?
John McEntee: Well,  we are all dealing with this crisis the best way that we can. I personally stay away from contaminating myself with the day to day news from the media. I stay positive and productive. As a band we are very fortunate that we were not going to be out on tour this year. We had a couple of festival appearances booked in Europe but obviously we had to postpone those dates along with other potential shows that were in the works.

Unlike some of our fellow peers like Suffocation and Belphegor, who actually were on tour during the pandemic and the chaos that followed, having  to cancel their tour mid through, and rush home before the border lockdowns.  I am just glad I did not find myself in any of these miserable chaotic conditions. Other than that I have been using my time productively, working on new material. I am Anti-Social so social distancing and keeping to myself is nothing new to me anyway.
BM: You have a new full length album coming out on August 21,2020 entitled ‘Sect of Vile Divinities’ on Relapse Records. This will be your eleventh full length release. The band Incantation along with yourself have been writing, recording, and performing for over Thirty Years. My question being how is it possible that after so many decades, you have been able to avoid and fall victim to the pitfalls of creative redundancy, predictability, and becoming monotonous?
This new release is crushing, it falls in the same order as your prior deadly releases, but this album  drives yet again the macabre, devastating, death blow that it is meant to be for the listener. How have you been able to retain such deadly artistic creativity for Incantation and not become predictable in a genre of music that has lost its creative shock luster?
John McEntee: Well most importantly, we as a band do not give a fuck as far as what everybody thinks or what the scene as a whole is doing. We all love death metal music and the scene which we come from, but we are not into following any musical trends. We as Incantation are going to continue to write our music, lyrical content ext. as we did in our beginnings. Regardless of what decade we are in, whether it is 1990 or 2020. We are just going to write what we feel and what we believe is our best collective material. We have always followed our own instincts and have always been true to ourselves. I personally believe this is the main factor that has kept Incantation relevant for all these years. We have never focused on what other bands are doing. As far as writing material, we write music when we are ready to write, when we want to write. We get together to play music and create when we feel like creating.
Doing this for as long as I have, I personally know so many bands that get together to make another album that are not  excited in the least about the creative process. They get together because it is time to write another album to fill the record company obligation not because they feel inspired and want to create new music. That is just fucking lame.

If I am not excited to write another album, I am just not going to do it. I have enough Incantation recorded material out anyway. Why do I need to put out another album if I feel uninspired? Why? Because the industry demands it? Why put out material that you do not believe in ? To get  a new tour cycle going? No, those are all lame ass reasons.

As a band you should do an album when you have something substantially that you want to get out, feel excited about, to contribute to the death metal world. We as a band care about this music that we play and love. This music means a lot to me, and I want to contribute music of substance to this genre. I do not just want to flood it with crap. Some people may critique us and say that we do not change enough as band and all our albums are the same, but we do things our way, the way we believe it and in the end if people like it or do not like it, that does not matter to us, as long as we are happy with what we create and put out.

Don’t get me wrong I think that it is awesome that our new record has been receiving such positive feedback but had it not been received  such a response, we would have been just as proud of this album either way. These songs on the album are a statement from the band, the end product being what we have put our hearts and souls into this new music. It means a lot to us that we put out good music , not just forced uninspired material because it is record company obligation time.
This is what so many past and present death metal bands are dealing with. If you listen to so many of the great old school death metal bands albums, you’ll see that some of these albums are so uninspired, it’s like why even do it , some of these bands have such a great discography , why even bother putting out garbage, why not just play the old stuff then. If that is all the creative juice you have in you and as a band or of quality music, then just stick with the old stuff.

As for our band we are inspired, for us to put out an album full of songs that are still relevant in 2020, being that we started in 1990 , I think personally that is amazing. I feel like this inspiration still exists because we are honest to ourselves, we are not bullshitting people, going through the motions. We live and breathe death metal in our day to day lives.

I am older now, I may not have my pulse on the underground as I once had way back when I was nineteen or twenty years old, I am still very passionate about music. Each one of our albums means a lot to me. I along with my bandmates spend a lot of time focusing on the details, we are able to come together as a band and put something out that best represents all of us and something we are all proud of.
BM: What I really enjoy most about this album is how it is not polished in any way, from the music to the recording, it has a raw real human aggressive feel to it, not a polished engineered mechanical robotic perfect clean sound to it. Another thing I enjoy about this album is how it retains the human element, and it flows collectively as though it was orchestrated as suc
John McEntee: The structure of the album is very important to us, when we have a bunch of new songs and are trying to put an album together, we always pay attention to what is the story of the album going to be? Not the story lyrically but musically. It has to flow, it has to go somewhere, it is not just a compilation of songs. So many bands just toss out all their best material on their album and that’s it. For us, we do not follow that thinking.

We select the best songs that work together to make a whole full record.  We  as a band  are still stuck in that era of having an album follow a saga of side one and side two. We want for each song on the album to connect with the other, so that in some musical way it makes sense and flows naturally. This is the first album where we didn’t overwrite songs, usually we have about twenty songs and select twelve of them for an album, but this time we only had thirteen songs for ‘Sect of Vile Divinities’ but only chose twelve.

When we finish writing our material we reflect upon ourselves and ask what does this album mean? Where does it need to go, that it is not going? We collectively always focus on all the details. As far as the recording process goes, we do not do what again a lot of the other bands do, especially on this album. We completely avoided using click tracks for anything. We just jammed the songs out in our studio, and played the songs just a bunch of times. We  picked the best ones out of all of them and said these are going to be the basic drum tracks to the album.

We wanted a raw feeling, I am almost certain that if you check the time signatures on our songs as far as tempo mapping and all that crap, you’ll see that when it goes into the same riff again the next time,  it will not be at the same tempo. So many bands , they say “Okay this riff is at 120, so every time this riff comes along it will be at 120.” We tried working like that before and we fucking hated it!

BM: Well yeah of course, it’s robotic, you’re taking the human element out of it, the fun out of playing music.
John McEntee: Yes of course, I grew up in the seventies and eighties music era, that is the time where I did most of my learning on how to play and write music. During that time I listened to all my favorite Hard Rock, Heavy Metal artists and learned how to play my favorite  songs, none of those songs had tempo mapping and all that other bullshit. The philosophies of that era was just play the damn song and if it sounds good, just go with it.
BM: You are referring to the old traditional cranking up the amplifiers and jamming ritual yes?
John McEntee: Yes exactly. At that time no one cared about if the one riff came around, and if the riff was a little bit faster or a little bit slower than the time before. Who gives a crap as long as the song sounds good? At the end of the day, the songs just have to sound right and sound the way you want them to. We are not trying to win a talent show, we are not trying to show everyone how tight we can be as musicians, plus in reality it doesn’t matter.  I would estimate that ninety percent of the Death Metal albums that you would hear these days , that are super tight , are  super tight because they have been recorded with Pro Tools, not because the musicians are amazing players.

It is so stupid, bands would be so much better if they would just let their personality flow through in their music, that is what makes the music of our generation so great is because you can listen to the personality in their music. It has not been digitally cleansed of human error or feel.

Let’s take Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath for an example, who wants to hear their music, cleaned up from their feelings and human element that has been preserved in their recordings? I mean Holy Crap you do not want to hear those tunes all perfect, absent of the emotional and aggression. Who wants to hear all those songs in perfect tempos, you want to hear these musicians express themselves the way they want to express themselves. That is what makes music great and enjoyable.

On this new release we wanted to get back to that, on ‘Profane Nexus (2017) ‘ we did do some of the songs off that album using technology and clicked out, because we thought it would be better for editing purposes. After the process we realized that was a really bad idea, we tried to get the feeling in those songs and it sounded so stiff, so we made sure on this album and in future albums that we are never going to do that again , because it takes away the musician’s personality.

Do not get me wrong  I am proud of ‘Profane Nexus’ and I think it is a great album, I think it would have been a much better record if we just would not have tried to over tighten some of the song parts on it.
BM: Would you agree with your own personal experience in the studio and your observation of your fellow musicians in your genre of music, that there is some sort of an obsession with cleansing the human error element out of artists recorded music? Whereas you and I seem to agree that the human feeling unedited is the fire and excitement of recorded music in genera
John McEntee: Yes I totally agree. This is what is happening now, every musician now has the ability via technology to fix any flaw in their music. It is actually very easy, as long as you have a couple hundred dollars to spend on a software editing program, you can basically fix no matter how crappy of a musician you are or how good of a player you are, you can easily fix your music to sound like you are a musical virtuoso and the tightest musician in human history, but it does no good, and you eventually will realize is that those human flaws in your music is what makes the band good in the first place. Take for example our first album ‘Onward to Golgotha “(1992) We didn’t have a click track, we didn’t know anything in regards to that technology, we just got in the studio and played our asses off and just wanted to make the most heavy, brutal pissed off, dark album we could make at that time. We just went into the studio with total piss and vinegar and that is why that album till this day sounds so great. Yes do not get me wrong when I reflect and listen back to it, I find myself thinking , I wish I could of played this or that part better , tighter , or whatever, but the reality of it is, because it was played and recorded the way it was, that is what gave it its own personality.

In our discography, many music journalists and fans alike refer to that album as a classic and many Death Metal bands these days use it as their own musical template of Death Metal. The example being is that there is nothing wrong with hearing the band being the band that they really are without any digital correction or editing. This problem was really terrible a few years back but I am very pleased to see a shift in this  and seeing more newer bands going in the opposite direction. I am hearing in newer bands how they are not cleaning and fixing their music up quite as much as they used to, which is good because that is what makes good music.

BM: Another thing to consider is that most musicians who follow this thinking will eventually be tested and be discovered as fake and false and not the extreme musical prodigies that they have  projected themselves to be in their recordings, it is  when they step foot on stage and perform their music live ,that they are forced to embrace the live performance without technical aids. On stage you cannot be perfect, sterile of error and robotic right?
John McEntee: Yes exactly.

BM: On this new Incantation record ‘Sect of Vile Divinities’  (2020), the material flows naturally for the listener  but it also  captures a live feel to it . Was this planned or is this the natural result of following the old school mentality we discussed  prior in regards to writing, performing and recording material?

John McEntee: There is nothing like being together with the rest of the guys in the band at practice, playing the songs, getting the vibe going, coming up with little ideas here and there with everyone involved. I can come up with as many song ideas as I want on my own but there is nothing like the magic of being in a room with three other people and having everybody tossing their two cents in. Taking my idea I came in with and watching it transform into something amazing and special with everyone’s creative input. That is what we achieved on this new album, getting that vibe of playing together live because we did.

For example, Kyle (Kyle Severn drums) really did play on all those drum parts on the album, not some damn drum machine, we know that the drumming is not going to be one hundred percent perfect, but that is okay , we do not want it to be perfect. We want it to be real, we want it to reflect who we are as a band .We want our music to reflect ourselves and no one else. That is how great music is composed, when you have everybody’s creative input and opinions on it.

You are getting all of our personalities on this recording. You are getting Incantations which is the jamming within the whole band. You are not just getting the music, you are getting all of us as a whole.
BM: Obviously due to the pandemic you will not be touring this record presently, which is a shame because the material on ‘Sect of Vile Divinities ‘ was created and recorded with such live traits that ultimately these tunes are meant to be performed on stage. Will you be considering possibly doing a Live Stream performance to unveil this new material and baptize it with sweat and amplification on stage?
John McEntee
: Due to the quarantine all our plans for the touring of this record have been placed on hold. For me personally the magic of the band and these songs are exposed when we perform them live. There is nothing like playing live and achieving that fucking awesome dark aura that can only be achieved while playing live. For now we will just make the best of it, and deal with the bullshit hand we have been dealt with. We are still in writing mode , already working on new material for the next album, so we are staying busy and using this time productively. As for a live stream that is a possibility and an option. We have definitely discussed this.
Only Time will tell. 
Incantation ‘Sect of Vile Divinities ‘out August 21, 2020 on Relapse Records
Interview by Jimmy Cabbs