Interview by Elek Malcolm-Madill
If I were to show you Trenchrot and you had zero prior knowledge of them, you'd probably think that they were some amazing, somehow overlooked band from the 1980s who could've held their own with the greats of the day. I could probably convince you of that if you didn't have an internet connection and couldn't just look them up, but you're reading this so I assume you do- the truth is stranger altogether though. The band's debut LP was released just this year, in 2014, but feels so classic and well done that they've been turning lots of heads in their hometown of Philadelphia and beyond. They've yet to perform live, but as Brooks, one of the guitarists for the band once said: "There are no band promo photos because it wouldn’t suit our purpose, and we haven’t played live so there aren’t any action shots. The artwork really communicates all we have to say visually." So feast your eyes at the art above and the interview below to get a feel for what Trenchrot is all about.
FBN: To start with then who are you and what is "Trenchrot"?
Steve: I'm Steve, the vocalist/one of the guitarists. Trenchrot is an old school death metal band that was started by a few friends for fun in order to make music that is more or less an ode to all of the old death metal masters that we all have been listening to for a long time at this point.
FBN: How did you all meet and start playing together, and how long have you all been playing together as Trenchrot?
Steve: Brooks (guitars) and I have been playing music together for years now. We were having a few beers on the porch one day and started kicking around the idea of starting an old school death metal band at some point. A few weeks later, Justin (drums) made a post on phillymetal.com saying that he was a drummer looking to play in a death metal band. That could have meant anything, really, but Brooks hit him up and he had all of the same influences and definitely knew his stuff. We all got together on my birthday (June 24th) of 2012 and started tossing around some riffs and thought that it had some potential. Steve Gephtik jumped in on bass a few months later. He's been a close friend of Brooks's for many years now.
FBN: What's the metal, or music scene in Philadelphia in general like?
Steve: The Philly metal/punk scene is pretty strong, I would say. There are typically multiple shows a week with a lot of bands of varying styles on the bill which is great.
FBN: Any shout outs or recommendations you'd like to give to any local punk/metal bands around Philly?
Steve: Pissgrave, Plague Dogs, Death Orbit and of course Vektor!
FBN: What would you say the top three classic death metal bands that had the largest impact on your own music would be?
Steve: I can say for a fact that Asphyx and Bolt Thrower were the bands that ended up being used as the main template for what we do in Trenchrot. As for a third band, it's tough to really say. Obituary, maybe? We definitely are inspired more by the old Eurppean bands but that's not to say that we don't listen to Morbid Angel an Autopsy just as much.
FBN: Speaking of European bands, I read a review once of Necronomic Warfare that said: "When you first hear this CD, you will immediately notice the fusion of American and traditional Swedish death metal sounds." Do you think that's accurate? Is that what you're trying to do or are you trying to make Trenchrot draw from classics and become it's own thing other than being a fusion of those two groups in particular?
Steve: I would say that is pretty accurate, yeah. I don't think that it was a real conscious decision to sort of gel the two styles as it just sort of happened naturally. We are big death metal fans and we just simply did the things we liked and I think imay have resulted in a little bit of a crossover which is fine. The goal was to just make a solid old school death metal record. Nothing more and nothing less.
FBN: I read in another interview with you that you haven't played live yet, do you have any plans to in or around Philadelphia anytime soon?
Steve: It's been a super busy year with other projects. Brooks and I are currently in the process of recording our epic doom band, Crypt Sermon's LP which will be coming out on Dark Descent probably early next year. That being said, I have brought up maybe doing some live shows next year. Right now we are currently booked until the end of 2014.
FBN: I've seen a few fans on your facebook page and elsewhere anxious to snag a copy of Necronomic Warfare on vinyl, how close would you say they are to this being possible?
Steve: Man, I wish I knew a date as it's been a long time coming! We just received the test presses a few weeks ago, so it's right around the corner. They sound killer!
FBN: On that note, do you currently have anything else in the works that you could let me and the people reading this in on?
Steve: As mentioned above, Brooks and I have a doom band called Crypt Sermon. If you are a fan of Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus then you may like us: cryptsermon.bandcamp.com. We also have a grindcore band called Unrest whom have a full length coming out late this year on Unspeakable Axe as well. Our demos are currently offline, but keep an eye out at www.facebook.com/unrestgrind. I am also in a speed/thrash metal band called Infiltrator which I do guitars and vocals for. The demo online is sort of a Motorcharged Venom with a ton of guitar solos: infiltrator.bandcamp.com. More stuff is in the works but nothing to speak of at this time.
FBN: With a name like "Trenchrot" and tracks like "Gustav Gun" and "Mad Dogs of War" you've got me curious, are any of you guys into history? Is this where you draw the inspiration for your image and lyrics from, aside from the inspirations from classic death metal bands like you mentioned before, if not where do you find your inspiration for these things from?
Steve: A few of us are definitely into history, yes. I wouldn't say that it was the reason that we decided to write about war from the beginning, though. We just thought it was a cool topic to write death metal songs about and it was definitely and idea taken from the bands mentioned above. That being said, the two songs that you mentioned are definitely based on actual historical events, so I guess it's 50/50.
FBN: If you could collaborate with any musicians/bands alive and dead who would be the choice for the alive category and who would be the choice for the dead category?
Steve: Man, that is a loaded question! For the alive category I'll just go with some friends of mine whom just don't have the time at the moment, but maybe one day. That is Matt Johnsen (guitarist of us power metal band Pharaoh) and Dave DiSanto of Vektor. Both are killer guitar players/ songwriters and I think I could learn a lot from them. There are so many deceased musicians who aren't even necessarily metal that I would love to jam/work with. However, I have to say that the idea of playing and having Dio as the vocalist is fucking awesome.
FBN: On a similar note, is there anyone in particular you'd love to have do some album artwork for you? Possibly famous names in metal album art like Ed Repka? On that note, who did the artwork for the cover of Necronomic Warfare?
Steve: Brooks has done all of the artwork for Trenchrot so far and I don't see that changing. We are totally happy and fine with this as his work is killer. However, if his hands and arms got blown off or crushed by a tank, I think we would look to Axel Hermann, Dan Seagrave or Paolo Girardi. Mark Riddick would also be cool!
FBN: Good picks all! I like the figure with the pickelhaube and luger you've got appearing on most, if not all of your releases by the way- another good classics throwback to figures like Eddie from Iron Maiden, Vic Rattlehead from Megadeth, etc. Any chance he's got a name/title/whatever and will he be sticking around on future album covers and releases? Whose idea was it to put include him and was he inspired by the figures I mentioned before?
Steve: Well, if memory serves me correctly we were all over at Brooks's apartment drinking beer one night and he showed us the latest drawing that he had been working on which was a picture of the fellow mentioned. Being huge fans of classic heavy meta like you mentionedl, we all collectively agreed that it might be a cool to idea to include him in all of the art as a mascot. I think it was me who started calling him General Gutlust and the name just sort of stuck. That being said, I think it's safe to say that General Gutlust is here to stay and will be included on all of our future releases.
FBN: Sounds good to me, its about time metal had a cool new mascot- other than that I think that wraps up everything I wanted to get in- any last shout outs, thanks yous, or anything else you'd like to get in?
Steve: Thank you for the interest and the interview, Elek! We also want to thank all of the rotten death metal freaks out there for all of the support you have given to Trenchrot as we never though that it would get even get this far. Thanks a ton!
FBN: Not a problem man! Thanks for your time and all the best!
For all the "rotten death metal freaks" unaware of Trenchrot prior to this interview, head over to their bandcamp page and grab a copy of the album, definitely one of the best releases of 2014- I think they've still got a few shirts, cds, and patches hanging around too so grab them while they're still there!