Jungle, Saxophones And Stark Defiance Of Genre
Formed out of a mutual love of hardcore and jungle, and influenced just as much by grind-freaks turned experimentalists such as Mick Harris and Justin Broadrick, as they are by Aphex Twin, Necro Deathmort’s anomalous atmospherics have seen them take a leading role amongst UK metal’s experimental new wave in recent years. We caught up with Matt Rozeik – one half of the duo – for an insight into Necro Deathmort’s creative processes, their place in the scene, and what the future holds.
Speaking to Matt, the first thing that might strike you is how chatty and open he is, in complete contravention of the grim, obfuscated public image so many try-hards in the modern extreme music scene might attempt, but Necro Deathmort are not a group who play by anybody’s rules but their own. Fresh from a shift at Dalston’s extreme metal mecca Crypt Of The Wizard, he talks animatedly about Necro Deathmort, and tentatively jokes about his last experience of an interview (with Noisey), “that interview descended pretty fast into sarcasm, unfortunately. They were saying that the album we did last year was kind of ambient, and what happened to all the beats? When they said that, I said, you guys’ll be asking where the ambience has gone on the next one. (NDM’s latest) Overland’s got more beats, maybe like, two”.
Despite the morbid triple threat of their name and place: nestled comfortably in alongside UK doom’s recent burst of experimental fervor – Necro Deathmort’s steadfast refusal to be pigeonholed, or allow their sound to stagnate is the key to their success. The duo aren’t afraid of a bit of a pisstake either, as Matt continues on the subject of gently ripping on the music press – “funnily enough, I wrote a press release, I think I did it when I was pissed. We get bored reading the same shit about us – it suggested people don’t listen to the music as much, so I wrote a press release describing it as being dark, doom metal shit. It just had all these jokey, bitchy things, and a lot of people just wrote about it without actually listening to it”. It’s this disavowal of the processes (and pitfalls) of the contemporary music industry, and the enjoyment they derive from this disavowal, that drives Necro Deathmort’s tireless innovation.
Said innovation lies deep within the band’s ethos, it’s the result of a steadfast refusal to attempt to emulate the success of others, as Matt explains; “people listen to metal because they know what it is – they know that it’s going to be X Y or Z, it’s going to deliver this, it’s going to have blastbeats and shredding and harsh vocals, but once you’re that band, where do you go from there?”. Despite their lack of enthusiasm with regards being an all shredding, all growling, blastbeat laden extreme metal mob, it’s to be noted that Necro Deathmort aren’t ashamed of their origins within this scene: “That’s our roots, I’ve played in lots of bands, when I met AJ (Necro Deathmort’s other half) we were both into heavy music. Within our music there’s a certain heaviness, it probably is the kind of electronic music that people who are into heavy music would make. All of our friends and peers are in heavy bands, although we’ve never been part of any other scene, so that was always our background, we were always playing with heavy bands, we still do, even though we’re still the synthy bleepy band”.
Through this aforementioned refusal to get in line, the duo’s unique strain of sound and tireless worth ethic have resulted in their signing to forward thinking Canadian label Profound Lore: “The labels we’ve worked with have been great, we’ve never had to DIY it, particularly with this record, as this one has come out with Profound Lore, they’ve been totally on the ball. We feel looked after”. Whilst a major label deal might be – to a lesser act – a ticket to well-paid stagnation through complacency, this definitely isn’t the case here.
Major label deal aside, despite their almost decade long lifespan, the duo’s madcap experimentalism doesn’t seem to be waning nor are the duo sitting comfortably within a box. Across their exhaustive portfolio, they have consistently strived to innovate – resulting in a plethora of incredibly abstract soundscapes, each with a distinctive identity and theme. From the frenetic synergy of their 2009 debut This Beat Is Necrotronic, to the ominous electro-doom of EP1, to the claustrophobic ambience of last year’s The Capsule, the wealth of sounds incorporated into the duo’s varied discography is Matt and AJ’s eclectic musical origins laid bare.
On the subject of musical origins, Matt waxes lyrical about his first forays into music: “My first real love was Hardcore back in 1991, I’ve been into it since then, AJ came into dnb a bit later, but both of us were nuts on it”. Jungle and drum n bass were the first things Matt and AJ bonded over musically, and defined their eclectic musical vision: “we didn’t know anybody who liked heavy music and electronic music, it was one or the other, it was a very tribal division between people – you couldn’t be into both, but now it’s totally normal to be into both”.
However, jungle goes far deeper into Necro Deathmort’s sound than simply having brought the duo together – “if you’ve ever made a jungle tune you’ll know: the thickness of the basslines, and the fatness of production, that’s definitely rubbed off on us”. With their latest release, Overland, the duo’s diverse musical palette has been expanded again, bringing a wealth of acoustic, unconventional instrumentation and influence to the table: “It’s much less droney, there are more songs on it, it’s a new sound for us, and we haven’t really found an eloquent way of describing it yet. It’s earthier, that’s what the title refers to”.
Whilst Necro Deathmort remain firmly nestled within the UK’s burgeoning extreme experimental scene, their creative process is another way in which they stand apart from the crowd, as Matt explains: “We won’t start putting an album together until we have a tonal palette, though with the capsule, by the time we finished EP3 we had three or four songs that were from different eras that sounded right together with the same texture and the same vibe, they were quite cryptic, sort of minimal sound. Then we get three or four songs together in line with what we want it to sound like, and then that’s when we start really getting our teeth into it. That often happens before we’ve finished the record that’s coming out… A lot of albums that you would have heard, there would be songs on there that would date back from before the last album”.
In modern electronic music, it’s fashionable for electronic artists to keep an archive of unreleased dubs in holding – but for Necro Deathmort it’s all part of the ongoing creative process. Mirroring their roots in the dancefloor-focused, bassline driven world of jungle, the duo retain a seemingly endless back catalogue of experiments and the results of their synth-driven jams. Whilst in DJ culture, this takes the form of exclusive rarities to be pumped out at club nights and in mixes, Necro Deathmort’s motivations are far more complex. It’s this which enables an entirely non-linear creative process – “You read about how Slayer did Reign In Blood and they say that was the next ten songs they had ready. It sounds like such a complete work, but for us the concept is more sonic with each record, than anything else. On The Capsule, there’s a song on there that we did in 2011 and it was completely live, it was a live recording of us making the song on the spot. It just sat in the archives for a while. How we work is we like to have a tonal palette between each record”.
This process doesn’t come without excess however: “We‘ve got several hundred bits, we got hard drives of stuff that we don’t know what to do with. With those tapes, we don’t want to present it like it’s our magnum opus, it might be throwaway but it’s still worth listening to”. As a result, the duo have created their own platform Extreme Ultimate, for the purpose of “releasing our more experimental, rougher stuff. We’re not trying to trick people into thinking these releases are new albums, but it’s a bit of a problem being what might be described as prolific because it can confuse people maybe. I can understand if someone was like ‘oh this bands really heavy’ and then they picked our techno thing or our krautrock thing and they might not be into it, so it requires a lot of patience being into the band”.
For Necro Deathmort, tiredness, or apathy isn’t really a thing, and constantly challenging their sound is perhaps what drives them the hardest. With the follow up to Overland already on the horizon, there’s no doubt we’ll be hearing a lot more from them, probably sooner than we might expect too, at the time of writing (September 2017), the duo were “a third of a way into the recording…There’s going to be some guests on the next record. Our friend Barney is playing sax on it; there’ll be some other real instruments. The next record is kind of like a mix between The Capsule and Overland at the moment, but who knows, that could all completely change”.
Words: Richard Lowe
Overland is out now, get your copy here.