Stories of War, Tales of Horror

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There is no secret formula to the death metal performed by Wisconsin’s Jungle Rot. It’s about a riff, a groove, and a growl. It is what it is; always has been and always will be. Themes of battlefield horror are spat out over tight, rumbling rhythms and choruses into which you can sink your teeth. Label troubles be damned, Jungle Rot soldiers on with a new album in What Horrors Await that is even tighter, better produced, and just as memorable as anything they’ve released thus far. With the firm backing of yet another label in Napalm Records guitarist/vocalist/founder Dave Matrise brings us up to date on the war-torn world of Jungle Rot.

Three albums and three labels, starting with Olympic, followed by Crash after Olympic’s demise, and now Napalm. Talk about your experiences with labels over these past three albums. 

Well, we had a great time with Olympic, but they went under after two releases with them. As for Crash, they can go fuck their selves. I never have been ripped off so bad. They just sold me the dream and never did a thing for us. We lost out on a lot of money that was owed to us. So I tell everyone to “stay away for this cancer;” he will fuck you good.  As for our new label Napalm they are true pros at what they do. They know how to treat a band with respect and promotion. They are a cool label with all types on music on their roster. 

Do you feel that you’ve found a longer term home with Napalm? Do you believe their distribution in North American will be sufficient? 

Yes, a lot of our other labels were only for one release. But with Napalm we signed on for four CDs. I have seen Napalm grow over the years to a major label in the underground world. We signed with them because we knew they have a killer distro in Europe and promote like hell. Our main concern was to find a good label with support in Europe for the new CD. Over the last four years our touring has only been in Europe and a little in the U.S. We know they have ok distro in North American, but they try their best and it shows. We all feel that our biggest market today is in Europe with all the U.S labels signing trendy shit today. 

How long of a search was undertaken before you settled on Napalm in 2008?

We were working with a few other labels as well but it took like eight months to land this deal after dealing with lawyer and stuff. Then another six to get it out. That’s why it took some time for this new release.

How much does a dedicated fan base – like Jungle Rot has – have to do with the level of importance on being on the “right” label? In other words, is it less important once you’ve established a core of dedicated fans? 

It is very important to be on as good a label as you can. You still need to reach out to metal heads that have not heard us yet. With a good label and support it can take you to the next level of success we are all looking for. 

What Horrors Awaits has been released about three years after Warzone, which itself came two years after Fueled by Hate. Is a two to three year span between albums about right for Jungle Rot? 

Yes, but we don’t want it like that. We have had some bad luck with getting new releases out faster. That should not be a big deal now with our new home. But you do have to wait til the label is ready to put it out as well and that also takes some time.    

You had the Live in Germany DVD in there too, which I’ve yet to see. I don’t even think Crash sent me a copy. Are you happy with the way the DVD turned out? 

It’s no surprise that shitty label didn’t send you one. He’s too cheap to pay for the postage. The DVD is ok for our first one; it was filmed by some fans of the band and they did their best. 

Any reason why you are pictured separate from the rest of the band members in the booklet of the new CD? Or is it a simple matter of you being the band’s life’s blood since the beginning? 

I don’t know why it ended up like that. I guess everyone that knows I am the blood of this band. I think that’s just the way it got laid out for no reason but to fill up space.

 “State of War” is such a classic sounding Jungle Rot song, whether the darkness of the tones or lines like “killing in your government’s name.”  Talk about that one

Yes that’s a killer song to play live. You know how many people were brain washed back in the real wars to kill, kill, kill; it’s for your country, it’s for our rights, and for your freedom .Get in there son and kill, kill, kill.

The vocal overlapping works quite well too – are both voices your or is one that of Geoff Bub? As he is listed, secondarily, as a vocalist, are his backing vocals heard in other places?

No all the vocals were done by me. I tried to get Geoff to do some backups on the new CD, but I think he didn’t know where I wanted most of them so I did them. I hope on the next release he will step up to the plate.

How did you decide to include “Invisible Force,” the Destruction cover?

Well I used to tell all my buddies that someday I was going to record that song. We had the chance to do it, so we did it. I feel it came out good. We did it like Jungle Wrote would have wrote it. It’s a cool song to play live as well; all the people know it and jump up and sing it with us.

The soloing on “Invisible Force” sounds great. You’ve always used lead/solo parts sparingly in your work with Jungle Rot. Share your thoughts on the role of the guitar solo in death metal and in Jungle Rot specifically.

I like them a lot and we are trying to use them in a little more. The problem we have is we tune our guitars way low down to #B. We do not have whammy bars on aur guitars because they stay in tune better without them. We are just not good enough players to play without a whammy bar and most of the leads are done with this type of playing. But some day we will.

War is always a central theme in the lyrics of Jungle Rot, but are some of these songs more indirectly related to it, if at all, such as “Atrocity,” “Braindead,” “Two Faced Disgrace,” and “Speak the Truth?”

Some of the songs did get away from the subject of war/gore. I think a little bit of anger for being let down time and time again came out on the new CD.  And a couple of others were about personal demons we all deal with through our lives.

What about the lyrics to “Black Candle Mass?” I’m thinking of a line like “The glory you seek is hidden in the mass.”

That song I was just sitting around with the guys and having  a good time with them writing the lyrics for it.  The entire song is about someone just not being able to deal with the bullshit anymore and he snaps. He goes to his book of death and starts a Black Candle Mass before he begins his killing spree. The glory you seek is hidden in the mass. Are all the victims that fell to his wrath? 

The production, mixing, and mastering were a joint effort between Jungle Rot and Chris and you got a great sound as a result. The guitars are clear and crunchy, the bass has a presence in the mix, the drums are crisp, and the vocals well produced. Talk about the production effort and the sound you really wanted to capture when you went into the recording of What Horror Awaits.

Thanks. Each time we go in to record you are trying to make it sound better then the last one. Over years with working with Chris we have figured out what we are looking for when mixing and mastering. We have done all our recordings with Chris and each time we do one its better. Chris played with me for over five years so he knows what this band is looking for and all about.

Gyula Havancsak’s artwork is especially fitting for a Jungle Rot release, wouldn’t you say?

Yes we finely had a good budget form the label to get some killer art work. I talked to him a few times with some ideas and he nailed it.  It’s very clear to see what’s near in the world we live in. It’s everyone against everyone, people are trying to keep their lives, keep from losing their jobs, families, and their homes all die to a corporate life of greed.

How intensive will the touring cycle being for this album?

Well, that has been a big issue for us. We cannot fine any agency that is willing to work with us in the U.S. This hurts the band a lot because this is why we keep this band alive to go out and tour. Over the years the music businesses have been ran by politics and favors being owed. This really hurts the hard working bands to get a chance at getting on a good touring package. As for Europe, things are better over there. We will be Headlining a tour in the fall with some dates with Six Feet Under. We have been doing all our touring over there for the past five years. I just wish we can get a break in the U.S so we can play for our fans again sometime.

Speaking of touring, has every touring cycle been better than the last since Jungle Rot began? Are there particular tours that you found to the best?

It started out like that in the beginning, but it all came to an end. When we first started we toured whenever. Now with all the bullshit in the business we don’t even get offers any more for the U.S. We still do all our own booking for the States and that is making it more difficult and harder to get out on the road for us. The Deicide tours were the best. Everyone got along with each other and we all did a killer job every night we played.

Compare your fan support overseas with North America.

I feel they are all the same. They all have metal in their blood one way or another. The only difference is that the shows are a bit bigger and they know how to take care of a band with food and support.

Jungle Rot has never been a band that was interested in radical style expansion. The music continues to be brutal, groovy, and catchy, even though the early years featured a filthier, perhaps more traditionally brutal sound. Would you say you’ve simply tried to get better with each album, yet maintain those key elements? In other words, how has the music changed over the years?

I don’t feel that we have changed at all.    We have always been true to ourselves and never tried to jump on what was cool or hip at the time. When I start to write for a new CD, I don’t go in to it  and say “ok, what’s selling the most CDs today?” and try to one up it and say it’s my style. I feel a band like us should be given respect and applauded for staying so true to ourselves over the years, with so many bands these days falling for it. 

Though some may disagree, I don’t think it’s a stretch to put Jungle Rot, Six Feet Under, and even Obituary in the same (or at least similar) category of the death metal, that being the groove-based kind. Even Bolt Thrower is not far off from that style.

I agree and that’s an honor for us to be in that category.  But I feel we have did are dues for just as long and never broke up. Both of the mentioned bands I like very much, but we still have some differences from them both and that’s a bit of core that you can hear in our songs

Do you think some bands “over-think” death metal to the detriment of memorable songwriting?

I feel some people  need to stop and think about how this style of music, how it set the way  for so many bands and labels and agencies just starting out and making them what they are today. That’s what gets me the most. They were all there when this style of music was cool, but now it’s time to move.

Any final words?

Thanks and maybe our luck will turn this year for the better…to land some tours.


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