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Metal/Prog Metal Interviews

The Berzerker

Interviewed by Bob Cooper
Interview with The Berzerker from 2003
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

I don't know if you read up on the newsgroups in Melbourne on the internet, but you seem to have a rabid bunch of fans there that are very hard-core and are raving you up big. Do you seem to get the same response here?
The states has been surprising here so far actually, being on such a big bill with Nile, Napalm, and Strapping we were thinking that people wouldn't come in early and check us out, but every night they've been there, so that has been really positive for us.
MSJ: So you have the opening slot through the whole tour? I thought maybe you would be traded that slot due to the strength of your band.
Yeah, from this bill we are up first, then Strapping, Napalm, and Nile. As I said, it has been surprising to see the crowd show up in time to see us, rather than seeing the headliners would be on later and them deliberately skipping the potentially boring opener. They are coming in early and hurting themselves early as well, so it's been great.
MSJ: This is a good thing you are doing here though. In spite of maybe fearing being an opener, it's the exposure that is vital at this point. I feel that people need to hear you. Once they do, you'll definitely pick up a following.
Thank you. I agree- this is a fantastic package, and it's something we never had before in Australia. We've had one, maybe two at the most-acts come out together but this is very special for us and we've never had anything like this at home.
MSJ: Were you on the bill with Strapping when they toured Australia?
No, this is our first tour with Strapping as well. When they come down to Australia we do get together. Our band, as a live act, has been going on for two or three years now. Then Strapping started coming down in 1996 and would come check out our shows.
MSJ: I notice you guys work under the cloak of anonymity.
That's right, yeah, the Berzerker. It's just to keep away from personal personalities and just to focus on the music. At the end of the day it's just entertainment and I don't think people would be too much interested on my general opinions of various things. The Berzerker is The Berzerker - an entity that lives and breathes on it's own accord, and is as separate from our actual personalities as can be, so why mix the two?
MSJ: I can see your point- it's entertainment. I delved pretty deep into the lyrics on the new album, and wondered if you write them yourself, particularly The Principles Of Embalming.
Yes, I write them all myself. The Principles Of Enbalming comes largely from a family point of view. I basically grew up in that kind of profession with my relatives and that kind of thing. That is really simply just a factual matter, and a commentary on the principles and practices of embalming instead of the whole gore metal kind of thing-slash and cut, gore and guts - you know that whole thing.
MSJ: I thought it was nicely done, as well as a fairly accurate description of the actual process. It seems like you had some sort of medical background to be able to describe it so well.
I try to keep it that way.
MSJ: What is on the agenda after this? You have just released your second album, and I assume you will tour to support it before buckling down for the next one.
Yes, it's just our second album, and we're touring it hard. We started with an Australian tour in September and October, then started in the states in November. In December we went to the UK, and came back here in January and that takes us through the end of February, where we will be back over to the UK and Europe for about thirty shows. Then there is more talk about possibly Europe again and possibly America again, with some of the summer fests both here and in Europe, like the Dynamo and shows like that where they take metal very seriously. And we do want to try to get another album in there as well. We are keeping very busy but it's all looking good for us. Everything is kind of on the way up.
MSJ: Are you writing new material on the road on those long drives between gigs?
I love to be able to sit down and write, but I simply don't have the time yet on this tour. I trade off driving with the tour manager, and when I'm not driving I am sleeping, so I don't have time to sit on the tour bus and work on some of my ideas but it's not going to be a problem. I already have a fair idea of the vibe and the general direction of the album, which will be bringing in a lot more of the electronics back into the band, whereas the first album was a mixture of electronics and industrial, and Dissimulate is pretty much a straight-up death metal album. Obviously the two had different drum sounds, et cetera, and I think on the third one we'll incorporate the two - what was learned from the first and second album and just try to make one big sonic destruction piece or something.
MSJ: Right now are you using samples and keys onstage?
Yeah, we tour with samplers and midis and 8-track mini-disc players for the samplers and that kind of thing. The first time we came out here in 2001 I had sampled the keyboards and I was playing it all and singing it at the same time, and it was a little bit much. I wasn't able to free myself up from the keyboards and run around and get completely involved with the music, so this time we've taken all the samples and run them off of the 8-track mini-disc while the drummer plays off of click tracks that are all sync-ed. It makes the drum tracks nice and tight, which is what we're after. And that way I can kind of be the front man, quote/unquote, kind of thing.
MSJ: Did you start this band yourself?
Yeah, it first started out as a solo project in 1995 or 1996, and it was very similar to what it is now but it was all electronic. It was all the drums were programmed, the guitars were amped and put on a loop, and I would throw on the vocals. Then Earache Records got kind of interested in a few things I had been doing before the band. It was still all called The Berzerker, but it was a solo project. I did some remixes of Morbid Angel through Earache, and so they basically offered me a deal and I put the band together and we started touring. That's the very short version.
MSJ: Of course...it doesn't all happen overnight.
Not at all. I mean like I said, I started out back in 95/96, and we started talking with Earache in 1997, and the first album came out in 2000, so it was three years of working on it. There was 10 months of just contract negotiation, so nothing just happens overnight.
MSJ: Did you actually retain the solo project tracks for later release on the two albums, or did you just scrap them and start with new ones?
No, one of the tracks on the self-titled album- our first album- which is just simply titled "95" - was the first track I ever wrote electronically back in 1995. I added that onto the self-titled album as sort of a bonus thing. But a lot of the tracks on that album were written between 96 and 98, and they weren't written with an album in mind, but were just written as tracks and were just sitting around, and they were combined with the first album through Dissimilate, the new record. I think they both compliment each other and it allows us to choose different sets. We can play more metal, or more industrial, or a grind set or thrash set, or simply chop things up a little or play some slower stuff like February from the new record.
MSJ: What bands did you listen to growing up?
Growing up, for me it was Anthrax and Iron Maiden, but that's a bit of a way back. Then came along Napalm. Napalm was the first death metal band I ever heard, and it went pretty much to Carcass straight away. Early Brutal Truth was big with me and were my main kind of bands. I try basically to do my own thing now, but these were my personal influences.
MSJ: That is why I asked, because your albums are quite unique in a sea of like-sounding bands who had big influences but try to mimic them. Your sound is unique and pure.
I hope it sounds that way. My biggest influence is "early 90's death metal" rather than any particular band. It's more a feeling or vibe and the energy that goes along with it. Bands were really pushing the envelope, and I remember when albums like Brutal Truth came out and blew us away and we'd say "wow, did you get the drums on that album?" and "listen to the vocals on that one. How are they doing it?" These guys seemed to be advancing with their skills so quickly. That is really what we are trying to capture- the feeling of the early 90's.
 
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