Perseverance and Respect

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Jungle Rot has been carrying the flag of true American death metal for two decades and they’ve never been stronger than they are today. Fresh off their latest full-length album Terror Regime, the Wisconsin-based band is hoping to continue the uptick they’ve been on and carry that into the next decade of existence.

A band that has released an assembly line of quality death metal, Jungle Rot has never truly received the sort of accolades that many of their peers have. Bassist James Genenz sat down with TeethOfTheDivine recently to talk not only about Terror Regime but how staying true to their roots is what keeps the band afloat. All the guys ask for is some respect after being around for so long and never wavering in what allowed the band to release seven full-lengths, countless tours and never selling out.

Jungle Rot is back and better than ever with Terror Regime. Would you agree with that statement?

James Genenz: Oh yeah, absolutely. We’ve never been 100% before and we’re 110% now. It’s full-on now; there isn’t any weak links or anything now.

With that said, do you think Terror Regime is the best Jungle Rot album ever?

Of course. I think anybody who makes music is going to try and write better stuff each time out. But we’re not trying to really, like, top ourselves or anything. It’s kind of like a natural progression. We’re not doing anything really different than we have before. We’re just writing the same way we have before; just getting together and jamming, you know? We didn’t try top ourselves but it’s definitely better (than what we’ve done). Production-wise it’s better, the songs are catchy, they’re faster, I think it’s a lot darker.

As always, you’ve stuck to the core Jungle Rot formula of simple, meat-and-potatoes American death metal. You’ve never deviated from that while many of your peers have. Why is that?

We have a little bit here and there but it’s never too drastic of a change. When Dave (Matrise; vocals, guitars) started Jungle Rot, those first two albums had a ton of Slayer-type solos but then they kind of fizzled out in the middle years on Dead and Buried  and Fueled by Hate. On Fueled by Hate, there’s no solos at all. Then with having Geoff (Bub; guitars) in the band after those first few albums and playing together and feeling each other out, of course some new outside influences are going to creep its way in there. We’re all new to the band. Well, eight years isn’t exactly new but it’s new enough considering the band has been around for a long time. But we each bring new little pieces to (the table). There are a little bit more melodies and harmonies, some solos are back in there a little bit, the music’s a little bit more thrashier, which goes back to the roots of the band. It started out as a thrash band and we’ve always been a thrash band with a death metal feel.

That’s true. There have been subtle nuances made throughout the years but Jungle Rot has never done anything out of left field that made the listener go whoa! Where the hell did that come from? You’ve always maintained that core Jungle Rot sound. Why haven’t you guys ever tried something just to see how it sounded?

Right. I don’t know, really. I guess it’s because we all play in different bands as well? I just don’t know. That’s kind of what Jungle Rot is and always has been and I don’t think anybody in the band wants to make a mockery of it. If I wanted to do something goofy, I’ve got other bands where I can do that in (laughs). I play in a doom band where I can get that doom stuff out of me. I play in a grind band where I can get all the grind stuff out of me. I don’t need to bring those things over to Jungle Rot just to fuck with Jungle Rot’s style. I think that’s what fans of Jungle Rot like, is that we’re always going to be Jungle Rot. Even the new fans who are just now finding out about us, they are like Holy fuck! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for! It seems to be filling some sort of niche. Some people say it’s a small niche but it’s a growing niche. I don’t know, I guess that’s just what we do. We’re Jungle Rot and we play Jungle Rot music. If you want to be all experimental with your sound and all, god bless ya, but that’s just not Jungle Rot. Even though I listen to tons of different music all the time, with Jungle Rot we stick with what got us here and we’re not going to deviate from that at all. We don’t see the point.

That’s one thing that makes bands like Deceased, Cianide, Grave, Unleashed and some others so great: When they release an album you know it’s going to be almost just like the one that came before it but with a few added things here and there.

Right. Exactly.

When bands like Entombed a few times – and especially Morbid Angel with their last record – come out and completely alter their sound, what do you think of it?

I can’t even fathom the new Morbid Angel album. It’s just god-awful. I don’t want anything to do with it. That’s another thing, too; the insincerity behind it. They just wanted to come out and shock people to make some money. There was no sincerity with it at all, like Altars of Madness and that’s what really pissed me off about it. Entombed, on the other hand, they’re still awesome. They’re still great guys and they still very much support death metal and I would still call them a death metal band. Yeah, they’re a little crusty, but I like that. They’re still true and even though they’ve changed over the years, they’re still awesome. They’re not trying to be, you know, Dave Vincent. I respect them because they experimented with their sound and even though it didn’t always work, they didn’t just admit they fucked up and go back to their old ways. They kept molding and fucking with things along the way without making no sense. But the Morbid Angel thing was just way too out there. It was just so way out of left field and that’s what you were just talking about. I can’t just ever possibly seeing somebody who likes Altars of Madness or Blessed Are the Sick being even remotely interested in that record at all. If they would have come out with an album like Altars of Madness, it would have blown up. They should have just stuck to their guns and their roots.

It’s one thing if it’s a band like Amorphis that always changes their sound from the beginning…

Yeah. Even with Morbid Angel and how each album kind of sounded alike, there were these differences because of Trey’s riffing. He was just out of control and everything he did was so unique and so new and everything he wrote was weird, it was still death metal, you know? But when he brought in all that techno shit, I don’t know. You can like what you like, but why feel the need to when every time you hear something new, I have to put that into my band!  Why?! I don’t even see how it could ever work or even try to make it work. They have their band, this was their sound when they started, so why not do it naturally? Just because you heard fucking bongos it doesn’t mean you have to put it into your music. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.

Back to you guys and the new record. It’s got a good production; it’s very clean and you can hear everything clearly. Some people might gripe that it’s a little bit too polished or too clean. What are thoughts on if/when those gripes come out?

I think the last one, Kill on Command, was a little bit more polished than this only because I’ve spent so much time with these records that I can tell the difference. The new one we recorded rather raw. The kick drums sound a bit more natural this time around. But again, this is Jungle Rot. It’s not bestial death or black metal, you know? If we played like that we’d probably record like that. We play really clean and our guitars aren’t over-driven. They’re mid-range like a thrash band and it’s always clean with us. Our music doesn’t drown in distortion because that doesn’t make sense for us. I like the raw productions. I personally love those types of albums, but I would never want to hear something like Metallica with Necro production (chuckles).

One thing Jungle Rot has always done was create catchy songs. On Terror Regime, these songs might be the catchiest, grooviest songs you’ve ever done for an entire album. Is that something is difficult for you guys?

It’s actually easy for us. A lot of these bands sit down and seem to try and out-shred the band that just came out with their shredding album, who was trying to out-shred the previous band with their shredding album. We don’t try to do that at all. We come up with a  couple of good riffs and see which ones work the best, which ones are the catchiest and then build off it. We don’t create songs with 40 riffs in them. That’s cool for some bands and again; I like all kinds of music. With Jungle Rot, I don’t know, we like to keep things simple and catchy like verse/chorus/verse/chorus with some solos. Kind of like old Slayer in a way, old thrash. We like having solid song structure with our music, not 40 riffs in a song and not repeating one riff twice.

Some people might say that our music all sounds the same and that all the songs are all along the same (blueprint). But, to me, a lot of those crazy tech death bands all sound the same, too. With us, you can tell the difference between our songs. If you listened to it a few times and then you pop in one of our records in the middle of a song, you’ll know what song it is right away. With those crazy tech bands, if you put in a song halfway through, you’ll have to wait a while to get past all that crazy noodling in order to hear that one juicy part that gives it away as to what song you’re hearing. We just want people to remember our songs so when they come see us live, they’ll know what we’re playing because it’s so easy to get into.

Why did you guys choose to the D.R.I. cover “I Don’t Need Society”?

It’s one of those things where we’re travelling a lot and we have our iPods on and whatnot. We’re always listening to music and one day that song popped on and we were like, we should cover that. It’s a good song so let’s cover it. Some of us were like That’s crazy because it’s a punk song! But we thought about it and decided to make it our own in a way and because it’s an awesome song. D.R.I. is awesome, so why not? So we figured it out, worked it out and there it is. It was just something fun to do and it was sort of out of left field. If you wanted something out of left field, that was out of left field (laughs).

When I saw that on the tracklisting, I was a bit surprised because I didn’t expect a D.R.I. cover on a Jungle Rot album. I think it turned out well.

I think so, too. It stays true to the original but at the same time it sounds like Jungle Rot.

Ever since the beginning, Jungle Rot has always released nothing but quality death metal records, yet you guys have never achieved the sort of level of prestige or accolades as the other, more popular bands. Why do you think that is?

Bad timing, maybe? Jungle Rot came out around the time when the first true explosion of death metal was tapering off. Maybe it was bad choices of record labels, too? That doesn’t help. They didn’t do enough or good enough promotions or they didn’t press enough copies of the albums. To be honest with you I think it was just bad luck and bad decisions but we’ve persevered. The band just keeps going and going and it’s not always about success; a lot of it is just wanting that respect. We just don’t respect those bands that turned their backs on death metal ten years ago and tried their hand at nu metal or something. Now with Maryland Death Fest, all these bands want to come back all of a sudden and want to play death metal again. They’re like Oh we support the underground 100% and we support death metal! It blows my mind that people are fooled by it, it really does. It simply blows my mind that these fans are all excited about these reunions, a new album, new tours and all, but they don’t realize that these same bands turned their backs on you. They basically said that they were cooler than you and tried to move on, but now that they see that the music is pretty cool after all, they want to come back. We’ve never done that. We’ve never sacrificed anything for any trends or followed any trends. We just do what we do and that’s the mindset of the band and I don’t think anybody really respects that and it’s sad. All these fucking reunions going on? Oh, what a big fucking reunion! Yay! Well, where the fuck were you five, ten years ago when I was going to local shows supporting all the bands? You were hiding out because you were too cool for death metal but now you want to come back, right? It irks me, man.

And with these reunions, there are now a ton of new, young bands leading the way with the retro movement of death, thrash, black, etc. It’s all over the place.

Yeah. It’s all over the place.

What are your thoughts on these new bands coming up and do you like most of them?

James Genenz: I like all kinds of bands, I truly do. And I’ll never say a band really sucks. It’s in the eye of the beholder, really, and if I don’t like it I just don’t have to listen to it. With these young kids that are doing it now, I just hope they’re doing it for the right reasons and not just trying to fit into a clique or something. If you really do like the old death metal bands and you appreciate it and you really want to be a part of it, then definitely support it because that’s where it came from. Bands that are still doing it, like us, deserve that respect, you know? Bands are going to pop up constantly and there’s nothing you can do about it. I just hope that when a band does it, it’s sincere. If you want to sound like Autopsy, that’s great, but be sincere about it. Don’t say that you’re not trying to sound like Autopsy because you clearly are. You can tell when a band is insincere about it. When all those retro thrash bands came out, you know which ones weren’t sincere about the music because those bands made one record and then disappeared once the retro thrash thing died down.

With this whole retro death metal thing going on, do you think it will inevitably help or hurt Jungle Rot?

I would certainly hope it would (help us). I would like to see some respect there for us. It’d be like you like these guys but not us, even though we’ve been around this whole time? Would we have to disappear and then come back ten years later to cash in on this? What, is that the key to success these days? (Laughs) I hope it helps us. I know there are a lot of young kids starting to get into us a lot. There are a lot of young kids at our shows, there are some good, young bands out there, and they seem to be into us. I certainly hope it helps us because I don’t think death metal will ever truly go away. It’ll keep resurfacing and recycling itself in the underground.

What are Jungle Rot’s plans for the next year or so?

We’re trying to secure another tour in July and then hopefully get over to Europe for some summer festivals. I don’t know, maybe another US tour before or after Europe, maybe like in September or October. And then after that, during the winter, we’ll probably sit down and write some more. We don’t usually tour in the winter so we’ll probably start writing material for the next album. It’s really coming out of us easily so hopefully we’ll have another album in a year or year-and-a-half.


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