Interview by Jason Guest
Jason: Hi Andrew. Congratulations on your debut EP, Sepulchral Torment. It’s a very impressive debut indeed (Jason’s review is here). How has it been received so far?
Andrew: Hi Jason, thanks! It’s been received very well. It’s not to everyone’s taste, that would be a near impossible feat to achieve but on a whole it’s been received very well and well beyond any of our initial expectations. Musically I’d say we aren’t pushing boundaries all that far, it’s old school death metal and if you take it for what it is then most people should find something in there that they like and can relate to. It’s only just out so at the moment most feedback has came from the press and although its great to get positive messages from the media I’m more so looking forward to start hearing what the general music fans think of it. We’ve played a couple of shows now and the crowds seem to be getting into the music. There’s moshpits so we must be doing something right [laughs].
Jason: Can you tell us about the history of the band, how you formed and what it was that drew you all together to form Rex Shachath?
Andrew: In a nutshell, Dave Connolly our vocalist approached myself (Andrew Pennington) early last year about forming a new band. It might even have been a couple of years ago actually… I was very busy with my other band Overoth so I wasn’t sold on it initially. As much as I loved the idea and knew we could make a lot of noise it was more to do with the fact I mightn’t have time to actually commit 100% to another project. In the back of my head though, Dave was always the guy I’d have wanted, he’s an excellent frontman and he’s a beast performing live. Late last year I decided ‘ok, let’s do this!’, I was free and so was he. I got together with Dave over a few beers and we discussed ideas, we also talked about who we’d like in the band and then went about calling them up. We got everyone we wanted which was a great start. We had Jay Rogers on drums who also plays in Overoth with myself, Eddie West on bass and Jonathan Francis (or Franky as we call him), on guitars. Both Eddie and Franky came from a band called Sadisture, who had just split up shortly before we approached the guys. We arranged to meet up and have a jam to see how things went and that was that. We’ve been together ever since.
Jason: How is Rex Shachath different from your previous bands?
Andrew: Well as I mentioned, Eddie and Franky both played in Sadisture. They were a super band, really old school groovy death metal. Myself and Jay also play in Overoth, I think Overoth is very old school as well. In the early days we were a lot more ‘brutal’ and clear cut, not like proper ‘brutal death’ but the music was a bit more on the extreme edge, there was more blast beats and aggression than there is nowadays… if that makes much sense. Over time I think Overoth has matured a lot, the sound is a lot more ‘atmospheric’, there’s a lot more feeling in the music and the songwriting is definitely a lot better. It’s still very ‘Overoth’ but there’s been a natural progression. In terms of where Rex Shachath lie, I’d say we’re heavier than both those bands and naturally I’d pitch our sound somewhere between Sadisture and the older Overoth music. However the songwriting is a lot better, we’re better musicians now and lyrically with the addition of Dave, we touch on a completely different pool of subjects.
Jason: Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to achieve when put the band together and started writing for it?
Andrew: Yes and no. I mean, musically it was always going to be a death metal sound we were going for because that’s just what we do. We had a few ideas but in the end we just ‘went with the flow’. We didn’t really push to do anything outside our natural remit. Aside from the music, after the initial get together when we realised ‘oh, I think we have something good here’, we decided pretty quickly that we’d put some good time into it, get a record out, do some shows and really push the name.
Jason: How has the band evolved since its inception?
Andrew: Not a great deal because we haven’t been together very long. Less than one year ago we were five guys in a room jamming for the first time so I guess the biggest evolution is in us personally. We’ve spent a lot of time together so we know more about each other as both musicians and people, we know what makes each other tick and more importantly what drives each other up the wall [laughs].
Jason: Who are the main influences on Rex Shachath’s sound?
Andrew: I’d say the first wave of death metal bands that pioneered the genre. Bands like Morbid Angel, Suffocation, Asphyx, Pestilence, Massacre, etc. We listen to a lot of other stuff but those old school bands probably influence us a lot more than anything else and that much is evident in our music.
Jason: When did writing begin for the EP? Have any of you brought in songs that may have been written for your previous bands or is it all new material?
Andrew: It’s all completely new material. That first jam I told you about? We wrote our first song that day which is called ‘Blind From Birth’ and it made it onto the first record. From there we pretty much had the music to a new song finished or at least 90% of it everytime we got together.
Jason: How does the band work together to create songs? Is it a collaborative effort or do you write individually? Do you discuss ideas about what you want each track to be about or is it an evolutionary process?
Andrew: It’s a bit of both. Usually one of us would have an idea or even a full song complete musically. Once we got together we’d go through it, learn it, changes bits and pieces so that everyone was happy. Then we’d make a rough live recording so Dave could go off and think about vocal patterns and lyrics. Sometimes he’d be left to do his own thing and other times someone else might have an idea. That could be for a vocal pattern or even a concept for the lyrics. The next time we meet up we’d go through the song again and give Dave feedback on what he came up with. Overall the initial ideas are mostly individual efforts and from there is turns into a collaboration with the full band.
Jason: Can you tell us about the song lyrics and subject matter? What inspires them? Is there a common theme that ties the tracks together?
Andrew: Most of the lyrics revolve around social issues and ideologies. Things that might hold people back in life from being what they really want to be, for example, ‘Blind From Birth’ is essentially talking about how we’re all… well… blind from birth. Your born into a way of life and you have to do this and that, your pushed into something you might not necessarily want to do but you accept it because that’s just what everyone else does. When you think about these things, most of the time you just do them without realising. There’s other things too like religious issues, not being exactly anti-religious because that’s been done to the death but more so, things within certain religions like corruption. Daves very talented when it comes to writing because although we have our own interpretation of the lyrics he writes in a way that they’re open to anyones interpretation. In one sense, everyone can relate to the lyrics in one way or another.
Jason: What is it about old school death metal that keeps bands such as Rex Shachath returning to it for inspiration?
Andrew: Because it’s real and it’s got a lasting energy. There’s bands out there doing crazy things like super fast drumming, technical guitar playing and all but as cool as that may be it doesn’t have the same energy. It’s not the same, all the feeling is gone. There’s more of an aura and feeling around old school death metal and more importantly it leaves a heavier imprint. You can recall riffs a lot easier.
Jason: How far do you think can a band working within the genre go?
Andrew: How far can any band playing any form of extreme metal go? Financially… not very far, everyone playing this music do it because it’s a passion, it’s a labour of love. If you come into this with any preconceived ideas of financial success you are in for a big disappointment. I think the biggest success any band in this genre can have is actually being able to get the attention of the worldwide underground and have the opportunity to get out and play shows, record albums and still hold a job to pay the bills. That’s the best case scenario.
Jason: Are there any limits to working within this genre? Is there room for progression?
Andrew: It is what it is, there’s not a massive space for expansion musically otherwise it wouldn’t be what it is. What there is space for is good songs, there’s always room for a good song and people can always appreciate that. In terms of what Rex Shachath are doing, we don’t see any limitations, we do what do what we want first an foremost. It just so happens that we’re playing old school death metal and in the future that may change, it might not, only time will tell. I doubt it will change because this is the style we all love but at the same time we can’t put any barriers around us.
Jason: The artwork for the EP is incredible. Who’s the artist? And what was it about their work that drew you to them?
Andrew: Juanjo Castellano worked on the artwork. Dave knew him as he’s worked with him before. He showed us some of his work and we all really liked what he was doing so we got in touch with him about working on something for Rex Shachath. The great thing about Juanjo is his work is very dark, it’s got that sinister atmosphere and that’s exactly what we were looking for. We gave him the idea and some sketches Jay (drums) had done and left the rest to him. He did a great job and I think it suits the music very well.
Jason: Rex Shachath is a band that moves very quickly: your EP, Sepulchral Torment, was written and recorded within a few months of the band getting together, and now you’re going on tour. Do you have more material waiting to be recorded? Will we be perhaps seeing another EP or an album anytime soon?
Andrew: Yeah, the music came together really quick so we were keen to get into the studio and record something before making our presence really known. We have more material written and we’re still writing. We hope to to get into the studio and do another EP when we come back from tour. If its not late this year we’ll do it early 2013. After that we should be a lot more settled as a band and our writing style will have matured so we’ll think about a full length.
Jason: You’ll be heading out on your first tour very soon. What can audiences expect from a Rex Shachath show?
Andrew: Energy! We’re not a band that just stands and plays, we really get into the music. The more people get into it, the more we’ll get into it. We’re also bringing a few things to add to the stage show to really make it our stage. Lights, smoke, stage props… that kind of thing.
Jason: Many thanks for taking time out for this interview. Do you have anything you’d like to say to our readers?
Andrew: Yeah, thank you Jason for the chat! And thank you everyone who’s supported the band so far, came to shows and bought stuff from us. We’ve nearly enough money from all our merch sales to get our own private jet which is great, only joking [laughs]. Anyone who hasn’t heard us before, check us out, if you like it cool, come see us live and grab a beer with us. If you don’t like it, listen again [laughs]. The debut EP is out now via Hostile Media Records, check it out. I think that’s about it from me. Cheers!