TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This e-mail interview with the guitarist / vocalist John McEntee and bassist Joe Lombard of Incantation was done by Tony Belcher in August, 2004.
Incantation was one of the early death metal bands on the American continent and formed in August of 1989. The two founding members John McEntee and Paul Ledney played together in a band called Revenant but since they were not very happy about the current direction of musical development of Revenant they formed their own band where they could make their dreams of blasphemous concepts and brutality come true. Today, 15 years later, Incantation is still going strong. Frontman John McEntee and bassist Joe Lombard took some time off their busy schedules to talk to us about various things. [The Editor]
Okay, first off, could you set the record straight, so to speak, about the origin of the mighty Incantation? I have seen Incantation called a founder/innovator/etc. of the so-called New York style of Death Metal and I have also seen indications that the band is from either Pennsylvania or Ohio [contact information shows both PA and OH on the band's website]. I have even seen New Jersey credited as your home. I know that the band has recorded in New York and Ohio, but I think Pennsylvania would be your home. Which, if any, of these is correct?
Joe- The band is originally from the New York area. Now Kyle lives in Ohio, and John and myself live in Pennsylvania. That's why there are a couple of different contacts.
The musical styles that Incantation has played throughout its evolution are some of the heaviest, most brutal around. I mean, an Incantation riff is unmistakably an Incantation riff, which is a credit to your madness. Others have emulated Incantation's style, but no one comes close. What inspires these sounds?
John- Thanks for the compliment! I would have to say that the thing that makes an Incantation riff an Incantation riff is the true feeling we put into our music... we use the music as an _expression of how we feel. We are not trying to copy anyoneís style. We all have great respect for the style of Death Metal and feel comfortable expressing ourselves with this style of music. Too many bands try to copy other bandsí styles, instead of taking influence from them and creating something truly their own.
Aside from the fast, palm-muted picking style that is prototypical of American Death Metal, some Incantation riffs simply ooze out of speakers like unchanged motor oil from a 60 year old tractor -- with both often in the same song. Does it all start with the almighty riff and are you always the main composer? Along those lines, is there a specific tuning that you use to achieve such an oppressively massive sound?
John- Well, we just tune to C. By todayís standards itís not too low, but we feel that this gives us the good in-between area of low end, and comfortable playing for the more technical riffs. The true feeling of the music is how itís played, the feeling we put into the music -- not the tuning. And we donít always mute the strings like so many bands these days.
During Incantation's existence, there has been a virtual "who's who" in the worldwide Death Metal scene among its ranks. I know that people change, as do their priorities, but the same thing happened to 'Evil' Chuck Schuldiner [R.I.P.] and each Death album was still a killer experience, not unlike Incantation's back catalog. Has it just been tough to maintain a steady line-up from album to album or even tour to tour?
John- I donít really know the reasons why Chuck had line-up problems, but for me there are many reasons: from musical differences or not being able to tour to drug problems. Each ex-member has his own reason for leaving (some better than others). In a perfect world we would have the same line-up from day one but in reality life pretty much sucks and sometimes you have to take the long road to metal.
In that regard, while "Infernal Storm" was indeed a great record, Dave Culross' session drumming caused it to not really sound like Incantation to me. How did the Culross collaboration come about and did you hear this stylistic shift, too? Similarly, how did Richard Christy come into the picture on the subsequent tour for "Infernal Storm"?
John- I agree that the "Infernal Storm" has the most different sound from most Incantation albums. Dave's drum playing had a little to do with the change, but at the time their was another member that pushed for a more clear sound and convinced me that it was the right decision -- well he was wrong. I feel that the songs on the "Infernal storm" would have sounded a lot better if I would have followed my instincts and went for the more raw sound that fits the band best.
For the touring of the "Infernal Storm" we got our good friend Richard Christy. He is a fucking great drummer and all around cool guy to hang out with. He really fit the band great and kicked ass live. Both Richard and Dave are great drummers, but we are happy to have Kyle back in the band because we work together great and he has a great style of his own that fits Incantation perfectly.
While we are still talking about drummers, I think Kyle Severn's work on "Diabolical Conquest" -- which is my favorite of all your albums, especially the crushing 'Unto Infinite Twilight/Majesty Of Infernal Damnation' -- really defines the band's sound. What was it like to be able to welcome Kyle back to the fold after that ~2 year absence?
John- It was fucking great! After I knew Kyle had recovered from his drug problems and he left Vital Remains, I called him and told him that we really need to work together again, and he agreed! We both know that we are right to work with each other. We both have the same outlook on the music and look at things the same way. Even though we have worked with great drummers like Dave and Richard, when Kyle was out of the bandÖ. It was just right to have him back in the band.
And now for a few questions about touring. I apologize for this question in advance because one like it seems to appear in damn near every interview these days, but do you notice a difference in the crowd response from the U. S. to Europe to South America or to any other places?
Joe- Yes, South America has probably the most crazy energetic crowds, which makes it killer to play there!! Europe has by far the best, and biggest metal fests to play, even their smaller fests blows away the US fests! The US is cool to play, don't get me wrong, it's just a lot more fun to travel to other countries and play, and nine times out of ten, we get a better response from the crowd in places where they havenít seen the band as much as here in the States.
George 'Corpsegrinder' Fisher has said that Cannibal Corpse is fortunate to not require jobs -- to have the band as their source of income. Do you, like so many others, have a 'regular' day job when not on tour? If so, what is that job?
Joe- That must be killer for Cannibal Corpse, but most all Death Metal bands know the reality that we know. You can't live on Death Metal alone, unless you live at home with your parents and have NO bills. We all work regular jobs when not on tour, the hardest thing for a Death Metal musician is finding a good job that is flexible and lets you come and go. We're very lucky with that!! John has his own business in the line of computers, Kyle works in construction, and I work for a company that builds large military equipment.
Unrelatedly, what was it like for you to tour with Immolation as their second guitarist in 1999?
John- Killer. They are longtime, great friends of mine and Iím a fan of their music. So when I had free time and they needed a touring member I offered my services to them. So it was an honor to help them out.
Regarding Immolation, are there other bands that you are a fan or friend of, or both? Also, who, if anyone, do you consider to be your true peers in the genre?
John- I like a lot of bands. As for peers, I donít knowÖ. I guess I feel bands like Suffocation, Malevolent Creation, Grave, Sinister (RIP), and Vader -- just bands we hang out with and keep in contact with. Overall I really donít look at things that way but whatever. There are so many great bands we are friends with -- way too many to name.
About music in general, what can John McEntee be found listening to when on the tour bus, or while sitting at home, etc.? Further, what are some new bands that you find exciting and worthwhile, if any? Is there anything new that you see spewing forth from the underground?
John- Well, I really like old Death Metal like Crematory (Swd), Grave, Possessed, old Paradise Lost, Asphyx, Malevolent Creation. Some new stuff I like is like Unholy Ghost, Divine Empire, Thornafire and of course bands on my label [Ibex Moon] like Bloody Sign, Incrust, and Estuary. Iím also a fan of Metal legends like Dio, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest -- stuff like that.
Speaking of the underground, what do you think about the reunited (and it feels so good -- haha!) Suffocation and Obituary? I think it is pretty killer that these veritable Death Metal legends have come back to destroy the genre that they helped create. How about you?
Joe- I think it kicks ass!! We just did a show with Obituary in Germany, they sounded fucking great!! It's a very good thing for the Death Metal scene in general. Bring back the old school sound!! HahaÖ
Some final thoughts about Death Metal: What do you think are the genre's greatest strengths and weaknesses? How do you and Incantation avoid the weaknesses and focus on the strengths?
Joe- The greatest strength is that it continues no matter what trends are in mainstream music. Death Metal cannot be stopped, but trends do!! One weakness could be bands sounding the same as each other -- the bands that last a long time usually have their own style and unique sound.
About the forthcoming album, "Decimating Christendom, " I have listened to the title track and it absolutely kills in true Incantation fashion. It is everything that Death Metal needs in 2004 and it even has a certain timelessness about it. How long did the songwriting and recording take?
Joe- We all worked hard on the songs together, everyone had killer ideas, and the songs came together great. The recording was fast. We didn't have a lot of time in the studio. I think it ended up with a great, older sound to it.
Was Bill Korecky at the helm again? It seems that he might be considered a member of Incantation, not unlike the so-called "fifth Beatle," since he has done so much production work with the band. Is it just easy to work with him since he knows the band so well, etc.?
Joe- Bill is the fourth member of the band now, haha. He's great to work with, that's why Incantation continues working with him. He knows the band real well, and knows the sound we're after. Heís really into the music too, especially the doom riffs. He's a musician, too, and sometimes has good ideas for harmonies in riffs and shit like that. It all works out cool.
From the latest 'member history' update on your official website, I see that you, Joe, and Kyle Severn are the current line-up for Incantation, but who supplied vocals for the new release? Have you, in your own words, "found the right 4th member"? Also, are there any surprises in store for the fans on the new album or tour?
John- No surprises, just that Iím doing vocals on "Decimate Christendom." We have been a 3 piece for about 9 months now and things are working out good this way. Itís better to be a 3 piece then have a funnel on 2nd guitar.
One final question, this regards the passing of a true legend. Incantation covered Death's "Scream Bloody Gore" several years ago. It is stated on your website that this was "Incantation's tribute to Death for being an early influence and inspiration to the band." Do you have any thoughts or comments on the death of Chuck Schuldiner from late 2001?
John- Well, just to make it clear, we did a Death cover when it seemed that most people forgot about their great contribution and it seemed like the perfect band to do a cover of. Iím not trying to be cool or anything but I do think a lot of people at that time needed a kick in the ass on what this band had accomplished. We were very fortunate to have played with Chuck on his last show with Death at the Chile Metal fest in 1998. I was really bummed out to hear about his problem but as we all know life is not fair and like Chuck many Metal legends have been taken from us way too early! So it's really important to make the most of life while we are here. And I think Chuck did.
I saw Incantation in Atlanta on the North American Upheaval of Blasphemy Tour in 2002, and it was truly an event. It was good for me to finally be able to see the band live and I hope to do so again in the near future. Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions, John and Joe. I look forward to "Decimating Christendom." Do you have any parting words?
John- Hail and thanks for the support. We look forward to seeing all you sick fucks on the road in 2004/2005. Check out my other band Funerus at www.funerus.com along with my label Ibex Moon Records at www.ibexmoonrecords.com. Kyle also plays in Acheron and Wolfen so check them out, too, at www.acheron666.com and www.wolfensociety.com.
Links of interest:
Ibex Moon Records