It's All Said

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Back in 2006, I saw Dismember, Grave, Vital Remains and Atlanta’s Withered at a hole in the wall venue in St. Louis, MO. Dismember and Grave were two Swedish death metal icons, Vital Remains were still basking in the afterglow of Dechristianize and new comers Withered had recently released Memento Mori, a solid Swedish styled death metal album with some black and sludge metal thrown in. It remains the best show that I have ever attended. After the show, I hung out with Withered front man Mike Thompson as I had recently interviewed him for Metal Maniacs. He was one of the nicest, most down to earth dudes I had ever met and we stayed in somewhat regular contact. Fast forward a decade.

Since the show, Withered has released three more widely acclaimed albums in 2008’s Folie Circulaire and 2010’s Dualitas, then after a bit of a layoff, 2016’s Grief Relic.  And in full circle, I got to see them play again with two icons in Suffocation and Morbid Angel (and Revocation) in Lawrence, KS. And once again, I met Mike in a dive bar, hung out and caught up on the last decade…

Mike, it’s good too see you in person again, how the fuck have you been? It’s been three album, and three labels since I talked to you last. Lets start a little bit talking about the down time you had between 2010 and last year.

There was like a whole regroup. We toured for Dualitias, and right in the last tour in 2012, Prosthetic records told us they didn’t wanna do the next record, and the relationship was a bit strained between us and the label. Also, right before that tour, our guitar player Dylan had a kid an had a wife and informed us it was his last tour. Then 6 months later out bass player quit. So we were down 3 guys, down a label. We had a few songs written, did a quick little tour in 2013.  We decided then we were going to self release and produce a record or pick one of a handful of labels. Luckily Season of Mist wanted to work with us for a new record. Which worked out as they were on top of our list

So you have worked with Lifeforce Records, Prosthetic Records, and now Season of Mist, those are three pretty different labels. 

They are, when we were on Prosthetic they were a big metalcore/deathcore label, they hit on us pretty had and wanted to diversify. same for Lifeforce, we were the first band to sign with Lifeforce America. It ended being a double edged sword on both labels, it was great to be the only death black metal band on those labels,  and be unique, but we were promoted differently and toured with a bunch of metalcore, so it was a bit of a mismatch.

So  you are now of Season of Mist, a true black and death metal label- how has that been?

It’s more like a home for us, they treat us great and let us be us. They were really our first pick. They are the right type of label for what we want to to.

When you look back on your debut album, Memento Mori, it was clearly Swedish death metal inspired with the guitar tone and some nice slow doomy segments, then the second album was more black metal inspired. And now the latest album seems to have gone back to a little more of the earthy death metal tones. When you look back over you albums and twelve years , what drove some of those stylistic changes?

Chris Freeman, the guy I founded the band with wanted to start an black metal band. But I wanted to mix stuff up. And I can’t write anything without Grave ot Entombed seeping in there somewhere. So the first one was clean slate starting from scratch with my influences coming right out. The second one was but much of a choice to be more black metal. Then the third the record, I felt balanced the two a little better. And now this new one, we wrote the record by ourselves, then when Colin Marston joined, even though i tried the bass lines, it didn’t work, he came in with his black metal background, and we toured with Krallice, so I sent him the demos and he wrote  and laid down the bass lines with his own style.  We flew out to New York and hashed things out for the final and that comes through on the record. My lines were too one dimensional, and now his style and influence is all over the bass lines now.

You ever get the urge to go back to the Swedish styled sound?

Oh yeah, all the time, its hard not to rip off Grave or Entombed, Ola Lindgren is one of my biggest influences. But so is Scott Kelly and Neurosis. But I try to write what I think is lacking in metal and what I want to hear. I try and fill the gaps with what I think no one is doing right now.

Did you ever think of breaking up back in 2010 when the guys left and the label dropped you?

Yeah, I thought to myself  “Man, am I too much of a dick?”, “Why are people leaving?”. I had some moments, that kind of fucked me in the head. Was I pushing too hard? But when you are writing music for your self there is no financial gain, just our integrity, fans come and go, but I just stuck with it.

How hard it it writing what you want to hear and not be swung or swayed by the treads and ebbs and flow of metal and its fickle fans?

It was harder earlier when you got recording budget and labels were paying so they were pushing  and there was business pressure for certain sounds or styles, but now with much more DIY process you can write for your self . That’s why I had this whole album written and recorded before we even talked to labels. No pressure , no recording advances to pay back no pressure to change. It was done. We gave them the record and said ‘here’.

How close were you to self releasing Grief Relic?

We were really fucking close. We had talked to another label about a really limited releases. We had talked to Season of Mist, but didn’t hear anything for a long time, so we were ready to go ahead and self release it, then BAM, they got back to us.

Season of Mist are a really strong label right now.

Yeah, they have the best roster in metal right now. and they have a really strong European promotional presence, which was an issue for us with Prosthetic.

Let’s talk about this current tour. First time I saw you, you were with Grave and Dismember, and now here you are with Suffocation and Morbid Angel.How is it touring with essentially death metal royalty?

Yeah! My first ever full US tour was with my favorite band ever, Grave. How cool was that? Other than Obituary, I’ve never really been a big American Death metal guy. We got this tour offer before we know the line up. Season of Mist put us out there and had some communication with Steve Tucker and Trey and they said  ‘we checked you out on youtube, you guys are doing your own thing and we like that” so it was cool to be hand picked. And now I love the Gateways era stuff that twisty turny lurching stuff is so influential , and they slay every night.

Is there a dream band you would like to tour with?

I would love to tour with Obituary, they were a my first big US death metal band when I was in high school. They kick ass live. I did a one time opening on their Decibel tour, that would be cool. Then maybe Neurosis or even Iron Maiden or Metallica if my 12 year old self was deciding.

So what is next? Hopefully we don’t have a 5 or 7 year wait?

No not all. We are already writing, We have some stuff roughed in. Our deal with Season of Mist gives us some freedom, they have been like family so its great to be with them. And so are hoping to do a split with some other bands, some singles, we have talked about some covers.  We got confined few a few fests, maybe  in Europe, have been there since 2005, so that will be fun. Be definitely no 7 year wait. I think i want the new material to be a little more death metal, but keep some of the atmosphere.

Grave cover?

There’s a really good chance, but I don’t want to be such an obvious fan boy. I should [laughs]

Is it finally a relief to be not compared to Mastodon any more?

[laughs] Yeah early on, just because we were from Atlanta! But heck, even for the new record, one review said we were Mastodon mixed with Gorguts, which is great and Colin Marston is on both albums, but we had this record written back in 2013, before Colored Sands even came out!

So hard date — when at we looking as some new Withered material being out?

We might have those singles and splits out by the end of the year, but as far as a new full length that’s going to be 2018 maybe 2019. Between now and then just come out and see us!


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