Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Sapremia - Interview
I was admitted to the hospital, roughly five months ago, with a severe case of whiplash. The cause: a head-on collision with Sapremia's "With Winter Comes Despair." Upon first listen, aside from the absolutely pummeling production, the expertly structured songs and endless memorable riffs, the whole album seeped with the kind of atmosphere I love from Swedish death metal bands. To my knowledge at the time, Sapremia more than likely hailed from some distant snow-covered Swedish city, with gray looming buildings, dirty, dust covered streets and a depressing history of suicides and unsolved murders. Upon further investigation, however, I became thoroughly confused. They apparently, were from New Jersey, not the distant homeland of Grave, Entombed and Dismember. To my knowledge, they were the only US death metal band that played Swedish Death metal when all the bands around New Jersey and New York where doing the NYDM thing when they formed back in 1990.
From the first notes of With Winter Comes Despair, it is hard not to be immediately saturated with the urge to destroy. The album's dead, rotting tone is as classic and distinctively ancient as you can sound. The production is modern only in it's crispness but the guitars' festering churn sounds as if it was personally granted from the leaders of yore. This Molotov cocktail of modern quality production with the intensity, emotion and style of the late 80's early 90's propels the general genius of the compositions into a place few have had the opportunity to occupy. In short, the quality of this release is enough for me to include it any list of my top death metal albums. It is a modern classic that, had it been released in 1989, would be included as one of the must hear albums in Death Metal.
I had the opportunity to knock back a few drinks with Lou Ferrara at a recent gig with Vital Remains.
Contaminated Tones: Sapremia have been around since 1990, took a hiatus in the mid-late 90's then reformed. What urged you to reform?
Lou Ferrara: We started in 1990 and played until early 1996. We had a few member problems at that point and could not find good enough replacements, so we took the hiatus. It was not until I got the call from Mortal Decay in 2005, to do some vocals on the album "Cadaver Art", did I even think about getting things back together. After recording two songs with Mortal (Decay-CT), I was ready to play once again.
CT: Why a three piece for Friday's show (With Vital Remains, Annunaki)?
LF: The first thing I did to reform Sapremia, was to talk to Brian Valenti (guitars), who runs BV Studios where Mortal was recording and asked if he was interested in jamming the old Sapremia stuff and some of the stuff he had been working on over the years. The second thing was to get Brian Rulli (guitars) back, he was the other original member from back in the day left with me when we "went to sleep". Lastly, I talked to Ryan Hill (drums) a few times before about doing some stuff together, once I contacted him about doing Sapremia, he was all about it. So, to answer the question at hand, Valenti has decided that he loves writing music, but does not like the travel and all that, which is involved to be in a professional, touring band.
CT: Any idea who will fill his spot?
LF: We have our eye on an individual to come in, he is good. But until we actually jam and see if everything fits good, we will just leave it at that.
CT: Brian is credited with most of the music on the current album as well as the early demos. Will his departure signal a change in style?
LF: Valenti actually has nothing to do with any of the demo material, that was me, Rulli, and the original guitarist from back then. Valenti did write two songs on the Hollow EP and most of the material on Winter. There will be no change in style though, he came from the same place we did, the same style, we will sound mostly the same. Valenti still will submit songs he writes to us to do, so he will still be involved in the band somewhat. Of the five new (unheard anywhere) songs we are working on, three of them are his, so the next release will follow the same footsteps no matter what.
CT: How did the recording for With Winter Comes Despair go? Are you happy with the album's sound? I think it fits the band perfectly though many people say they prefer the tone on the Hollow better.
LF: Personally, I love it. The recording was smooth, though a pretty long process, we worked on the album for about six months. I am happy with the sound and quality of the release, and except for a little things here and there that no one would notice, I would not change anything. Hollow is a good release as well, but the recording process was different. We recorded it "live", to get a more raw sound. Some people have actually preferred it, but I do not.
CT: What will the next album sound like? Will you return to BV studios to record the next album?
LF: As mentioned, the next album should sound a lot like Winter. I am sure the new guitarist will have an influence on stuff, but we will still be the same Old School Death Metal that we are known for. I am not sure if we will use BV Studios again, depends on if Valenti will want to deal with the process. I would actually love to go back to the studio where the Existence of Torture demo was recorded and do it that way!
CT: Why does the tape version of Existence of Torture sound one hundred times better than the remixed bonus tracks on Hollow.
LF: Because we cannot mess with the old style of things! That was a reel to reel recording, 1/2 inch, down to 1/4 inch, down to 1/8 inch, then to DAT. Once you then take that sound, download it into a computer and put it on CD, the sound changes.
CT: Sapremia has a distinct Swedish sound on "With Winter Comes Despair" and your demo material also has a huge influence from bands like Grave, Entombed, Dismember. Why the Swedish sound as opposed to the New York style sound the band matured with in the early 90's.
LF: Good question! When we first started, we were hanging out with and playing shows with Suffocation (before they were signed), Internal Bleeding, Pyrexia, etc, but we never picked up that flavor. Our favorite bands were Grave, Unleashed,.Carnage, that is the direction we went in. And since not a lot of US bands were doing it back then, we always had a distinct sound at shows and such.
CT: The lyrics on the album are particularly well written and intelligent. What is your method for writing lyrics? Are there any themes that run through the album or subjects that interest you in particular?
LF: Thanks, I take a lot of pride in my lyrics and they usually take me quite a long time to get a song done. Sometimes I will have three or four songs going at a time. As far as themes, there is nothing that connects any songs on the album together, the subjects are vast and various. I sometimes find subjects through books I read, or movies I like, or everyday thoughts that run through my head about stuff going on in the world today. I usually do not write directly about a novel or movie, like I did with Ambitious Suffering, which is about The Hellbound Heart novel by Clive Barker. That was back in 1993, now I usually get ideas from novels and movies, then turn them into my own thing. Hollow for example, is based loosely from Dracula's monologue in Van Helsing.
CT: Sapremia recently opened for Watain in Allentown. How did playing a black metal audience take to your death metal onslaught?
LF: We always have a great response in Allentown, we have opened for Fetus (Dying Fetus - CT), Grave, and Incantation there, so the audience was already well versed in what we do. There were some new faces there as well, there for Watain in particular, and they appreciated the old school style as much as the rest of the crowd.
CT: Did you party with the Watain collective?
LF: No. Watain had the strict orders that no one, bands, fans, whoever, could come backstage or see them before hand. By the smell of the place while the show was going on, I cannot say that we were disappointed, haha! They slayed, but smelled pretty awful with the stage show of blood and animal carcass.
CT: Any awesome stories from the road? Old or new, funny or shocking?
LF: Wow, this could take a long time if I went into any kind of details about stuff that we have run into. We have met soooo many good people and good bands on the road, that is really the most important thing. Nothing crazily, shocking has happened, but there have been so many funny moments, too many to list!
CT: Now the fun questions: What is in your Cd player right now? What albums are kicking your ass in multiple directions?
LF: I have been listening to a lot of old stuff lately, a lot of it on cassette too! But also Bloodbath, Dismember's latest offering, Testament's new one is killer, Hail of Bullets, and a few more. When I get into writing mode though, I like to listen to the old albums.
CT: What do you think of the Maryland Deathfest Lineup? Bolt Thrower and Pestilence on one bill!
LF: UN-FUCKIN-REAL! Enough said. I can die the next day
CT: In the photo in With Winter Comes Despair, you are wearing a tour shirt from Iron Maiden's A Matter of Life or Death tour. What did you think of their decision to play the entire new album in it's entirety? What do you think of the recent Maiden releases? DiAnno or Dickinson?
LF: Well, since Maiden is my all time favorite band, I pretty much hit them every time they come around. So when they played Ozzfest and did from Iron Maiden to Piece of Mind, I was good. When Matter came out, I knew that they were doing that set, but also knew they were going to come back around and do Number to No Prayer. I like the last three releases, the few before that not so good and I could not stand Blaze Bailey. I love most of their catalog though. Dickinson for sure, though Killers is my favorite album for material.
CT: Who is your favorite serial killer? Every death metal lyricist has one.
LF: I actually break the mold here again, I am not much into serial killers. Obviously, you read my lyrics, so you know I do not sing about hacking people up or any of that stuff. I do love the history of horror though, so if Vlad the Impaler and Countess Bathory can be considered serial killers (and they should be..), put them in as my favorites.
CT: What is the first metal album you ever listened to? First show?
LF: You do know how old I am right? Haha. When I was real young, metal was defined differently, but the first had to be Def Leppard's On Through the Night when I was like 7? From there I got into Motley Crue with Shout at the Devil, then Maiden. My first show was Overkill in around 1987. I was 14, from there it was an onslaught of shows almost weekly.
CT: You are good friends with Guy Marchais. Any funny stories trickle down to you that he might not want people to know about?
LF: I would say we are old friends. We partied so many times when he played in Pyrexia, our two bands played so many shows together. I am glad to see him doing it on the big stage with Suffo. There are not any stories that come to mind from back then though, so no juice here.
CT: Continuing with on with Suffocation, was the band ever called Supremia, with a "U" instead of an "A". That is how it is spelled in the Human Waste liner notes.
LF: Damn, you are pretty thorough. Haha, that actually is a very common mistake. Many people think we are Supremia, and we actually had someone tell us we were ballsy to have such a name. We are and always have been Sapremia, which means: Blood poisoning resulting from the absorption of the products of putrefaction
CT: What is your opinion on religion, spirituality etc?
LF: I have none. I do not care what anyones views are on that stuff, it is their life. I just do not have any kind of time for that in my life, I do not believe in anything.
CT: What is one album you love that you would not want people to know you enjoy?
LF: I don't care what people think about the music I like, I like just about everything. I listen to just about everything at some point, if metal heads want to laugh at me for liking the Brian Setzer Orchestra or Alanis Morisette, that is their issue. Bob Marley and the Wailers "Legend" is one of my most played discs ever!
CT: Tony Koehl did the artwork and layout on the album. How did you come into contact with him? I think his artwork for the album is among his best. Really classic looking.
LF: I contacted Tony through the great vessel of Myspace. And yes, I agree, our cover is among his best work. And not just because it is ours, it is really good and I love how the entire booklet flows.
CT: Any plans to use him on the next album also?
LF: At this time, we have no plans ready for the next album as far as art is concerned. I definitely would not rule it out.
CT: Is his interpretation of the lyrics to the title track similar with your vision of them? Was there a collaboration between the two of you or did you just let him "go" with the lyrics?
LF: It is dead on, me and him talked about it at length on two or three occasions. He knew what I was looking for and he nailed it.
CT: What is the despair of winter? Does it have anything to do with people not coming out to a great show because of some flurries?
LF: No, but now it does! Haha, that has happened on a few occasions. I started writing the lyrics about how depressed people get during the cold, lonely winter months, but it spawned into a whole new song when I talked to Tony. "Despair" actually became an entity, which comes from the Earth's life-force, to right the wrongs done to the planet by mankind. "Despair" slays the wrongdoers and then plants their freshly slain bodies in the ground, to regrow the Earth, the bodies become the monstrous trees seen on the cover. There are talks right now to do a concept video for Despair, and I have been thinking about writing a short story or screen play for it.
CT: You are currently signed to Open Grave records. How has your relationship been with them?
LF: Open Grave Records have been great. They gave us the first shot to get our material to a larger audience with their distro and they believed in our material. We are now currently free agents after Winter, and will be looking for a bigger deal with the next album.
CT: It's ironic that you wrote the lyrics for "Open Grave" in 1995 and now, in 2008, you are signed to a label with the same moniker.
LF: A little too ironic, I really do think. Whoops, sorry. Yeah, I wrote most of the those lyrics for a song we were working on when we went on hiatus., 1995. We cannot even remember the song, but I always kept my lyric/thoughts folder handy. When the music for Open was written, the lyrics fit perfect. I have caught some flak for having a song written for our label, that is not the case and I did not feel I should change the title just because.
CT: With such a powerful release, do you feel any pressure to put out an even stronger third album?
LF: Yeah, absolutely. The next release has to be better, hopefully we can make that happen. Often times, bands cannot get the same passion back for the next release because it is about business now and not about the music. We are under no pressure to get it done in any time frame, so we will take our time and try to top Winter.
CT: What does the future hold for Sapremia?
LF: Hopefully, the sky is the limit. I would love to see us go as far as we can, get a good deal, get to Europe to tour.... If nothing does work out, we have done so much already, and I would call this band a success based on its merits as of now.
CT: Will the next album be called "With Spring Comes Rebirth?"
LF: Now there is an idea, ill leave that to the Sapremia tribute band that is sure to follow in a few years, haha.
Sapremia Info @ Metal Archives
Open Grave Records
Mortal Decay Myspace
Mortal Decay Info @ Metal ArchivesLou Ferrara & Brian Rulli Pictures by Orion. Sorry Ryan, I couldn't get a good shot of 'ya! Right: Lou / Left: Brian. Major thanks to Lou, Ryan and Brian.
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