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Sunday, May 20, 2012

INVERLOCH Interview


Inverloch L to R: Tony, Paul, Ben, Matthew, Mark. Photo: Rebecca Tovey.


INVERLOCH need no introduction other than to highlight of course that they are the extension of what was known as d.USK who were born of the legendary Melbourne based diSEMBOWELMENT. This in depth interview was kindly answered by guitarist Matthew Skarajew. 

1 - What inspired the formation of d.USK so long after the disestablishment of Disembowelment? Why are/were original Disembowelment members Jason Kells and Renato Gallina not involved in d.USK? How have the new members in d.USK(and INVERLOCH) filled their spots? Please give a quick profile of these members, these strengths and history?

Matt: Well, Paul and I had been asked time and again, for years - whenever we were at shows “why doesn’t disembowelment play?” or “we’d love to hear those songs live…just once” but we always maintained that circumstances being as they are, disembowelment could/would never really happen. But Paul and I always wondered what the songs might sound like in a live situation – I think Paul had never given up hope of bringing the songs to life. One night, driving home from a show and musing on it all, I wondered about putting together a concept/project band with some different musos that could feature the classic tunes. I felt it would be more respectful to give the band a different name – but still relate it to d. - At that point it was nothing more than a concept. I knew Paul would be right into it, but finding some competent players that could help us realize the songs was going to be the litmus test. Anyway, Tony Bryant (Bass – also drummer in grind outfit La Haine) was recommended to us by a close friend – he’d been a fan of d. growing up and he was committed from the outset. So for a while the 3 of us simply re-discovered the songs to see if it was even worthwhile. We tried a few vocalists – they were all great in their own way – all had different strengths – and at Tony’s suggestion we tried Ben James and he just complimented the songs – he was pretty raw at first, but we could all see the huge potential and diversity in his voice. I think the d.USK project is his first serious foray into this kind of vocal work – and it’s a bloody tough gig – but he handles it brilliantly and his voice has developed very well. Completely varied – covers a ton of territory and is a great frontman. Lastly, we called on one of my long-time buddies Mark Cullen to share guitar duties with me. He’s been apart of the Melbourne Metal Scene from way back in the classic mid-late 80’s era with Paul and I – with Mark it began more as a session spot but he grew into the role and was enjoying playing with us and stayed put! He’s a great player and friend with a ton of live  experience, so it’s awesome to have him there. This band has really gelled – everyone gets on great and that has contributed considerably to making the songs translate so well. 

We gave ourselves 12 months to see if we could really make it work – I so nearly pulled the pin a few times but the guys were stoic and I’m glad they pushed to make it happen. At that stage we only ever expected to do one show!

2- The original reason given for Disembowelment never performing live was that the music wouldn’t translate as well as it did in the studio. How much truth was in this? How do Disembowelment songs Translate live when played by d.USK?

Matt: It’s a good question. There are certainly some tunes that work better than others – at least in my opinion. There were a number of reasons d. never played, though. Regarding live translation, depending on how well you know the recordings it can be almost startling – but songs like ‘Tree or Excoriate are so raw they sound killer live. I’d never imagined playing ‘Burial’ live – for example, but we’ve got that happening on account of Roadburn Festival requesting the entire album – I’m not 100% convinced it’s the best way to present the songs… but that’s what the offer was based on and we didn’t want to pass up such a tremendous opportunity! We’ll have to simply give it a go and see how it sits. So far, ‘Burial feels immense in a room – it too is very raw, and I have been pleasantly suprized. For some of the other material I’d almost like to have a third guitarist. It’s interesting – the Inverloch track ‘Within Frozen Beauty’ was written specifically with our live d.USK set in mind – to be a contrasting point in the middle of the set. It can get a bit medium paced. But ‘ Burial can be central now, to slow things down a little, so… 


Paul. Photo by Adam Preljevic
Disembowelment – as it was in the early 90’s – would have been somewhat ill-equipped to play and convey the songs in a live context, from both a musical perspective and a technical perspective. It was certainly considered … and there were some crazy ideas discussed – in hind-sight some very na├»ve, but ultimately it was left alone. 

There’s no doubt that live you can never deliver the entire sonic spectrum of the album – that bothers me a bit simply due to the fact that, for some people, the TRANCENDENCE album is so sonically ingrained in their psyche that it may be hard to let go of that and simply enjoy hearing the music in a live format. But as we have always maintained – these run of shows are for people that have always wondered what the music might sound like live. That’s all there is to it. I maintain that if the concept bothers you – don’t go. I’m not offended. This is for the open-minded fans. That’s why it’s only a very limited run of shows.


3 - Just prior to sending this interview you informed me “d.USK tribute-format is basically over now apart from a few shows we're obliged to do over seas - and we have spawned a new side-project - 'INVERLOCH' - to play and release fresh material in the future.”. Can you explain why this decision has been made? Will INVERLOCH be a side project, or rather a continuation of the d.USK line up but playing new music? Lastly, from a completely selfish point of view, will those over seas d.USK shows include the New Zealand ones that were rumoured to be happening a while ago? A d.USK/INVERLOCH double header perhaps?

Matt: Yep – that is correct – the d.USK project will only play a small number of shows and then we will let it rest. There’s no point simply playing the old album over and over – there was no intention of it being an ongoing concept – or we’d have used a different name for a start! We only intended playing one show here in Melbourne. I honestly (and naively) felt that disembowelment was largely a bit of a forgotten relic of the past. I kept saying to Paul that I doubted anyone would be very interested. Well – the first show had an amazing response and before long we started getting some really cool offers to take the show to all sorts of places – globally! It was a trip! So we decided that we should keep it to one show in any given city – it could have gotten way out of control so we reigned it in and put the brakes on the whole ‘tribute’ concept. 

INVERLOCH was actually a name I was considering for the d. tribute band. 

As previously mentioned, we wrote ‘Frozen to give the set (as it was) some dynamic contrast – and live it works great as it contrasts with the old material nicely. Then Paul said he was sorry we didn’t do ‘Burial – early on I felt it was waaay to long for a live set – so we wrote a very doomy track, that filled that space. It’s a short one for us – 5mins! Ha! Anyway, with the band getting on so well .. a third song started to develop and so on – and we realized that there was something worth capturing here. There was absolutely no way we would ever consider releasing new music under the d.USK moniker – there’s already been a great DUSK (band), and our d.USK title was all about linking to the disembowelment legacy – so I suggested we simply create a new band – INVERLOCH – and we could then explore fresh ideas without worrying that we were denigrating the past. It’s been a lot of fun putting this together. And it gives Tony, Ben and Mark ownership of the new material. 

As for coming to New Zealand – well – we certainly tried and we will be trying again for late 2012 or early 2013 – probably as INVERLOCH – with some fresh songs to mix in with the best of the disembowelment material. I’m hoping that we can coerce Jay Kells to come and guest with us too – that would be killer. He seems keen, despite the difficulties of the distance. I know he still loves extreme music. It would be so awesome to have him in there slamming it down, too.


4 - Continuing with INVERLOCH, What will it’s key focus and goals be? What is the inspiration behind the name INVERLOCH? How does/will new material sound in comparison to d.USK/Disembowelment? Please name and describe some of the new songs. Are there any key themes in the music and lyrics that we can expect to hear? If so what? Do you have any releases or recordings planned? If so, when will they be out and how will people be able to obtain them?

Matt: The key focus with INVERLOCH is to refine that old-school ambient/death/doom sound we love – and be able to take it out live from time to time. It’s been a real pleasure to rediscover our musical ‘voices’ in this band – there’s no mistaking certain moments that will recall the past – but of course there are also key differences between my writing style and Jason & Renato’s. I like to push things technically at times – without trying to detract from the song. And I like to pay homage to my past influences – from the classic Thrash/Death Metal cross-over period. We have an EP coming out in April on Relapse – it is called ‘dusk | subside ‘ - the title reflects the moving on from one project to another.

There are three main tracks interspersed with ambience – the tracks are ‘Within Frozen Beauty’, ‘The Menin Road’ and ‘Shadows of the Flame’.



dusk | subside
I was actually going to include a track that was recorded for Trial of the Bow back in ’96 – I always wanted to release and will one day – but sonically it just didn’t sit quite right, so we left it off. There are little Trial of the Bow moments here and there – certainly in the ambience. Actually, the 7/8 intro to ‘Within Frozen Beauty’ is in fact an un-used riff that I wrote for ‘Trial back in ’98 I think – on the Arabic Oud! I love 7/8 – love the feel, the swing of it. It grooves so heavy. Sonically, Paul and I wanted this EP to sit between the old disembowelment demos (dusk EP) and the Transcendence album. I think we’ve achieved that. Our engineer (Joel Taylor) did an amazing job really – at first these songs were pretty much just quick demos with no intended release – but despite the easy-going approach to the recordings he managed to pull a killer, old-school vibe and sound. It’s completely honest – no triggers or anally-retentive edits – it’s our sound on the disc. I ended up engineering a bit myself on this too – which was fun. So it definitely captures the past spirit of disembowelment, with a big emphasis on the melodies (certainly in ‘Shadows) – but it’s a logical variation, too.

One thing I noticed as we went on with this recording was just how important Paul’s drumming style is and was to the sound and feel of disembowelment. It’s so utterly apparent – I think if it we had a different drummer the new songs would have an entirely different feel. From that point of view – there are some strong similarities to disembowelment. Plus he likes to get inside the riffs and composition – so there’s a lot of his input there. I suppose the musical language of d. is so ingrained in our psyche that little parts here and there really follow on from the past – it’s kinda cool. We were saying the other day that if Jason (Kells) wrote and recorded music with Paul today – we would expect a similar outcome as well. On a personal level, I think it’s disappointing that Jason and Paul are often not given due credit for the outcome of the disembowelment sound – I think time has largely allowed their input and ideas to become somewhat under-appreciated. They were instrumental in realizing what was, in many instances, a fairly motley collection of ideas.


5 - You and Paul Mazziotta are also involved in a Death/Grind project called “Pulgar”. What can you tell us about that? How can we hear it? What releases are available?  Where can people get hold of them?

Matt: Ah Pulgar .. haha – well – we actually have a recording all done with that just waiting for Ben to come in and do the vocals for it. It’s really old-school Grind/Thrash – not a serious project but we’ve had a lot of fun with it. Not sure who we will release it with – perhaps a local release? It was our way of staying in touch with extreme music while we were dealing with our young families in the early 2000’s. Pulgar was a real test-bed for defining our sound, initially. Oddly enough, Pulgar hasn’t actually played a show yet – though we would love to – and we will eventually – but the current projects have taken up so much time. We fit the music in around our careers and our families – so it’s pretty crammed! 

6. - Going back to Disembowelment, in Subcide Zine #3 (print version from 1996) I printed a post break up Disembowelment interview which I believe was answered by Jason Kells. In it he referred to some cover songs that Disembowelment had recorded which he intended to release on his label at the time “P.C. Entertainment. The Disembowelment wikipedia page also refers to “5 cover tunes for a potential E.P release”. What were these songs? Do the recordings exist? Will they ever be released?

Matt: The ‘cover’ EP – that was an interesting period. That was the point that I moved over onto guitar. The Necrovore demo (Slaughtered Remains) is from that period – that’s just Paul and myself on guitars – and one night after a few drinks at my place we goaded Renato into laying a Vocal down (he didn’t want to do it initially) – that version was certainly never intended for a release but it’s pretty wild so it ended up on the Re-release of a few years back. Some people love the rawness of it all. 

Basically disembowelment was out of ideas at that stage – even ‘Prophetic had been a stretch to get finished for the album – I know Jason came to the rescue with that one. So I think Renato suggested doing a 4 or 5 song EP of covers some time later – apart from the Necrovore track, it was going to include tracks from Therion (demo era) Bathory, Autopsy and possibly Crematory? We got as far as jamming out Necrovore, Bathory and Therion but that’s about it. Nothing was ever formally recorded or scheduled for a release. That Slaughtered Remains demo is all we have.
7 - Also post Disembowelment you were involved with a non metal ambient project called “Trial of the Bow” along with Renato Gallina. What is it’s current Status? Has it changed the way you (Matthew) create music? If so how? For those who are unfamiliar with this project, where can they obtain it’s releases or hear it’s music?

Matt: Trial of the Bow is fundamentally no more – although I have been developing new ideas in that style for some Documentary and Indie Film projects of late (as well as INVERLOCH) – so that might trigger some new music. I’m still fond of chasing the original ideal of blending musical cultures and ideas. Trial of the Bow basically burnt out in the late 90’s – Renato was struggling with his role a bit, I think. By the end of the album he declared he didn’t want to sing anymore. 

It’s tough – if you’re not really a practicing musician that style of music can become a big challenge. Some of the melodic ideas were still great though– it was a real challenge seeking our voice. Sadly, as we went along, it started to become apparent to me that the ‘look’ or fashion was overtaking the music – and I was really uncomfortable with that. It was starting to feel a bit ‘cool’ – a bit ‘night-club’ – then we were licensed to Rykodisc who, from when I spoke to them, were purely interested in sales, product, marketing etc. A complete turn-off. And there was zero money coming in. I was trying to live off music at that point. I became pretty disenchanted with the project.

Anyway – by the late 90’s both our families went through some enormous personal tragedies – we took time out from music and simply lost touch. 

It may come back – never say never. Not as a duo, though. 

Due to the fact that Trial of the Bow was so experimental, I learned an enormous amount – and it certainly figures in the way you compose/create. Working with someone who was essentially not a musician in the first instance – I say that with the utmost respect – taught me to simplify and be conscious of the importance and strength of simpler melodic concepts. Having been a student of composition with some pretty hardcore academics – it was a healthy reminder to utilize whatever skills I had but focus on simpler, more communicative ideas. Conceptually that has translated to heavy music, as well. Often, if I’ve been jamming it – if I’m still humming things in the car later or whatever – that’s a key indicator that we’re on the right path. Menin Road is a classic example of that. 

As far as I know the Trial of the Bow discs are still floating around – I’ve seen them on iTunes – perhaps Relapse/Release still sell them?

Matt.  Photo by Adam Preljevic 

8 - d.USK are going to be performing at Roadburn 2012 festival and playing “Transcendence into the Peripheral” in it’s entirety. Apart from the music are you doing anything special or different for that show? If so what? Roadburn shows are often recorded and filmed. Have you considered the possibility of documenting this performance as an official d.USK release?

Matt:- At this stage I am hoping to have Jay Kells join us for Roadburn – that would be brilliant. It is not confirmed by any means – but Paul and I are hoping he can come out with us – even if it was just for a few songs. We’ll have to wait and see. I suppose Roadburn might film the shows – but there will be no official release of any vision – it might be different if we had the original line-up, but in this instance I think it better to just enjoy the music. That’s what d,USK is all about – celebrating the music. Personally I’d prefer it not to be filmed or recorded.

(PostScipt - ) Roadburn and the visit to Europe turned out to be an amazing experience. It was a complete head-trip to fly all that way, run a tech-check and then hit that stage. It felt like it was all over in minutes! Quite intimidating too as it was our 7th show together, but I think it went well enough. The following short tour was so much fun, by Scotland we were really tightened up and they were a killer crowd – really passionate.

More importantly, it was so cool to meet so many genuinely nice people and bands – in some cases people had made a major effort to get to our shows, and of course some had been waiting a very long time to hear what the songs might sound like in a live context. And that made it a privilege to be there and perform the songs. I was really surprised by the positive interest in INVERLOCH, too.

Very cool.

9 - Melbourne has always been a hot bed for exciting new music, including underground metal, grind core, noise as well as other non genre definable sounds. Are there any up coming bands or acts that you are aware of that you think readers should check out? If so please give some names, descriptions and links (if possible).

Matt: Some bands we really dig are Nihilistic Front, and WURMS put out an amazing record last year that our engineer Joel Taylor played drums on. Highly recommended. I filled in with WURMS for a few shows, actually, and we played a show with a great band called Sons of the Ionian Sea. The new Ignivomous album is brutal as hell, too – highly reccomended! This question reminds me that I need to get out and re-discover a bit more, though .. Melbourne is such an eclectic art environment – living here, you can sometimes take that for granted.

10 - In closing, Disembowelment has had a huge influence in underground metal, Was this something you anticipated at the time? What are your personal thoughts looking back on that bands over all impact now? Apart from what has already been said, is there anything we may have missed in this interview or anything you’d like to say in closing?

Matt: Each of us seem to have a unique feeling for whatever legacy disembowelment may have left. A huge impact? It was certainly never anticipated – disembowelment was very much a reflection of what we were listening to at the time., and what we wanted to listen to. It’s interesting to note that back then the reviews certainly weren’t all favorable, either – but it seems to have stood the test of time. We are collectively very proud of the fact that people still enjoy the music, and I think it’s fair to say we all still love it. The recording process was really quirky and we produced it from a very different point of view – always pushing to be stylistically and sonically separate from everyone else. I think that worked!

It’s very different for Paul & I to see that band in the way that someone from the other side of the world might perceive it. Because we were so (seemingly) remote, it was one major release and then gone, there has been a bit of a mystique that has grown over the last 20 years that has really skewed away from the realities. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone – but we are often pretty amused or surprised by the perceptions people often have (of the band) when we meet. We feel it’s important not to get ‘sucked-in to’ or start believing hype – we keep it real and maintain our humility and respect for people that have enjoyed the music.

We have really enjoyed bringing the old music to life, but from here we are focused on INVERLOCH and the future that it presents, however that might manifest itself. I hope people will enjoy the new music – and look forward to taking it out live and mixing it up with the old material. Thanks so much for the time and interest … cheers.

Photo by
Adam Preljevic