Let me be honest with you, 2016 hasn’t been the most exciting year when it comes to new heavy metal releases, and the first six months haven’t really been able to reproduce top notch quality as the two last years delivered. The first full length from Demon Bitch from Detroit, Michigan, titled “Hellfriends” is right up there with the top quality releases of the last few years though, and together with Ravensire’s “The Cycle Never Ends” and Stone Magnum’s “Holy Blessings To None” it represents the definitive highlights of the year in metal so far. We conducted a pretty extensive interview with the band when they released the excellent EP “Death Is Hanging…” back in 2014, and when the band got in contact again to make sure I had access to the new album, I didn’t hesitate to suggest a new interview. Four of the members helped out answering my questions. Enjoy!
With the new album “Hellfriends” just out, do you rely on people finding out about the release themselves, or are you actively trying to promote the album through various channels?
Logon: – Ha! You sure know how to make a guy feel bad, Leif! I’ll be the first to admit that promotion is not Demon Bitch’s forte, and I think that tends to make some people rather irritated, especially when working with us. But really, we’ve gotta do what we think is right. I don’t think self-promoting your name to the point where you’ve put a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth before ever hearing your music is the right kind of productive for us, and I don’t think its very fun either. I think you’d agree, we don’t sound like your average metal fan’s band, and if we were to promote using your average life-loving tactics, I think some of the magic devolves. That being said, we’re not entirely stagnant in our approach and we are working towards something bigger and trying to progress as a band.
Do you think your brand of underground metal, clearly not for everyone, promotes itself by word of mouth rather than being dependant on ads in magazines or on the net?
Logon: – Well if it’s not for everyone, everyone shouldn’t hear it. If only the initiated and true hellfriends and friends of hellfriends will bother with it, then so be it. I’ve always thought that word of mouth was a really cool tactic, and personally for me, it’s what I depend on to find out about new music. That being said there are some cool zines and websites out there, etc. that might as well have been published by someone who could be a friend, their words just sound a little different coming from their mouths because you can’t hear them. It’s all a matter of perspective I guess…
Bart of Skol Records mentioned in a recent update that there had been some problems trying to promote the band due to the band name. That sounds quite strange nowadays, with all kinds of band names in circulation. Are you aware of some difficulties here?
Mars: – That’s news to me. Admittedly, we’re not rallying around our band name like it’s the best name ever. If a person is offended by our band name, I guess they have the right to their own opinion.
Logon: – I didn’t mention it to Mars because I didn’t think it was cool enough of a story. It’s just Facebook was banning the advertisements Bart was putting up because of the word “Bitch”. I think he settled with promoting the album name instead of the band name and the ads were pushed through. I don’t really care either way though, Facebook doesn’t seem to me to be a very effective platform for promoting music – doesn’t really seem like that’s what it’s made for. In order for anything to even be seen by fans you’ve gotta pay well over the price it would cost to print out a few hundred cool looking fliers, but I guess that’s just not practical to everyone.
How did you end up on Skol Records? Seriously, just must have had some other offers as well after the totally excellent “Death Is Hanging…”?
Logon: – Bart from Skol heard “Hellfriends” and he told me something along the lines of: “I love your album, but I have no idea what anyone else is going to think of it… here’s my offer…” I thought that was the perfect response, so of course, we proceeded.
Samuel (Drummer Master Commander): – I was more of a Grizzly and Copenhagen kind of guy until Skoal came out with snus pouches, which are great. Plus, Poland raised up many great speed metal acts that I, as a Polish Pollack myself, have a deep appreciation for, especially Wolf Spider.
The lineup on the new album is the same that did “Death Is Hanging…” Do you feel that the stability and the extra time together as a band is reflected in “Hellfriends”?
Logon: – Absolutely, both the stability as a band as well as the decade or more of friendship between each of us is totally embodied in “Hellfriends”, it’s the very reason the album sounds the way it does. Musically, there is an incredible chemistry between all the members that could not be imitated and I honestly think that can be attributed to the fact that we have been friends since before anyone knew how to play instruments (except for Solon, who was born with 6-string in hand). There is no working professionalism in what you hear, there is only evil black friendship. It has a huge inspiration on the album. In fact, a lot of what you hear on the album would not be possible if it weren’t for our mutual understanding of each other’s insanity. Take the closing song, “The Microdome”, for example. That track was written in a span of about two weeks when we realized that we didn’t really have enough material for the album and Mars had plans to leave town like five days later. He and Sam spent like a day in the basement and hammered out this totally insane song, with all this crazy essence and intrigue.
Mars: – The lineup is actually slightly different from “Death Is Hanging…” though… All of the bass you hear on the album was laid down by our very good friend, The Mysterious Navin R. Drebinson, who was recruited very last minute. We’re talking the day before entering the studio. Beastmaster was busy with Isenblast and our interim bass player turned out to be a dud. At the time of recording, three were older songs, three were newer songs, and the classical guitar passage was somewhere in-between. I think the stability of the band is reflected in the three older tracks and the level of adaptability of the band is reflected well in the three newer tracks. And as Logon touched on, there was definitely some improvisation included here and there. Overall, I think the dynamic between Solon and I, as well as between Solon and Matt Preston, our recording guy as well as guest soloist on the tracks “Hellfriends” and “Beneath the Ice Caves” came out perfectly.
Samuel (Drummer Master Commander): – As housemates and friends, we definitely push each other creatively… as Mars give the band its main context, the rest of us work together to exquisitely ruin his vision.
“Death Is Hanging…” was recently released on vinyl as well, after having been available only on tape and as a digital download. While some bands seem to be in a real hurry to get their music out on as many formats as possible, this didn’t seem like the first priority for you, at least not back then?
Logon: – We were very slow with the recording of that EP, it took almost a year to wrap up the recording itself so it’s only natural that we take our sweet time putting it out, as well. Really, the biggest roadblock I came across with CDs and LPs is that no one wanted to just put out the EP alone, everyone was interested in a EP and Demo compilation. While these sorts of compilations can be cool, I don’t prefer them always and I wanted to wait until we had a proper album on its way before we put one out. I guess the big draw back with compilations like that is that the timeline gets lost and old fans that just want access to the material may be happy, but new fans are confused and don’t understand what they’re listening to or why every other song sounds so different, so if you’re not careful it can become a poorly thought out full length, that’s not what I want for those releases. We’re doing compilations of “Death Is Hanging…” and the Demo ’12 now because with the full length out I am more confident that people will understand it’s a back catalogue of our music. Underground Power from Germany did the LP and it looks and sounds fantastic, though the tracks were pressed in the incorrect order, so the release might be very confusing to those who have already become familiar with the EP, and our friends from Michigan, Dystopian Dogs, are going to be doing a CD compilation of “Death Is Hanging…” and the Demo… as well as the cassette version of “Hellfriends” in upcoming months. Oh, and High Roller will be handling the vinyl release of “Hellfriends”, which we’re very excited about, so yeah I suppose we will have put out everything on just about every format now, finally.
Logon said last time that every new recording is a chance to change something you were unhappy about with the last. Was there something about “Death Is Hanging…” that you wanted to change, and was it very different working on a full length release compared a demo, especially with regards to diversity and the running order…
Samuel (Drummer Master Commander): – You’ll find that more speed and more freedom is expressed on this album.While the process may have taken longer, ‘Death is Hanging…’ was an easy album to record, as we had been playing the same songs live for some time, except “Evil Night” was a newer one at the time. We were extraordinarily pleased by the production and generous friendship given by Great Evil, but we wanted to go a different route this time. This album was recorded within two weeks mostly at home with the help of Matt Preston from Ghost Tower. You may recall from the last interview that Mars wistfully dreamed about recording from home, so we gave the poor bastard exactly what he wanted and deserved! Most of the songs recorded on this album were newer, including “The Microdome”, which was written and recorded in a little over a week.
It looks like the cover art is made by Logon once again. Did the creation used as the cover art inspire the lyrics to the song “Hellfriends”, or was it perhaps the other way around?
Logon: – I have a tendency to write songs based on my paintings actually. I actually wrote the lyrics to the song “Beneath The Ice Caves” to accompany the cover art. I also started writing a short story elaborating on that same concept and kind of tying in concepts from the album closer “The Microdome”, maybe one day I’ll finish that and publish it. Basically it revolves around the ethereal icy caverns of L’Caustria and the magick held within their crystalline walls. It’s funny you mention “Hellfriends” though, I never put much thought into the relation between the two.
All cover motives so far, demos and album included have featured this girl. Who is she, and why is she an ever present so far?
Logon: – Good question, it’s not really intended to be our take on a mascot like Eddie or Johnny, or anything like that. She’s just a Demon Bitch, plain and simple. She’s not necessarily the same one on each release, unless you want her to be. I’m always a fan of continuity in album art, but there doesn’t always need to be a mascot in order to obtain that continuity. Heavy Load is a prime example – “Metal Conquest”, “Death Or Glory”, and “Stronger Than Evil! all have these badass muscle men armed to the teeth and it’s totally fucking cool and really sets the stage for what you’re about to hear and it gets you off or it gets you on, and gets your imagination running wild. You get to a point where you relate the visual aspect of the band so closely to the album itself that you can literally hear the band playing loud when you look at the album art, and you know who it is even if you were to take the logo off the album. That’s what I like as a fan, so that is the experience I am hoping to create when I paint these covers.
For once, it’s refreshing to have a debut album that doesn’t consist of 50 percent material that has been released previously. What were the strongest arguments against rerecording the super strong demo material?
Samuel (Drummer Master Commander): – Logon didn’t want to and it made sense. We could have filled up an album to make it closer to forty minutes with new recordings of old songs, I suppose, but what if they weren’t as good as the last version?
Logon: – This is the very reason that I get so disappointed with so many new bands’ debut full lengths. If I’ve been following a band since their demo days I feel I deserve to hear something new goddamn it! The problem is so many bands are in a hurry to release a full length, whether it’s pressure from a label, or promoter or what have you, that all they can do is write an EP’s worth of new songs and re-record an entire demo then call it a day. And as if that doesn’t sound flawed enough as it is, we all know re-recorded songs are never as good as the originals! I think we did at one point consider not including a single re-recording on the album, but we ultimately decided to include “Devil Love”, which appeared on the first demo, for one very good reason. We have been playing an extended version of the solo live for years now and we wanted it officially documented, because it is significantly more over the top! The recorded version is also a few paces faster and still has a comparable sense of depravity and raw energy that the demo embodied, so I am confident that it wasn’t a mistake re-recording this song.
The vocals on “Hellfriends” are very wild and totally over the top at times, without restrictions, and no holding back. I love that! Do you deliberately try to think outside the box when you sing, and how do you work to keep the approach to vocal lines and melodies as unique and interesting?
Logon: – There is a certain absent mindedness involved when I write my vocals, I usually try to avoid second guessing myself. I try a bunch of stuff out when I’m demoing vocal lines, then I listen back and compare and see what works, what sticks with me, and what just doesn’t carry the sound I’m looking for. While we were writing the first demo, I asked Mars to listen to something I recorded while I was trying to write vocals for “Hail to the King”, I asked him if it was “too over the top”… I don’t think he even ended up listening to it, he just said “if it sounds cool, it’s probably cool, man.” I’ve been living by those words ever since. Chains are for the weak! We’re a lot of things, but we are not weak!
One thing that would probably put some people off, maybe not those into real underground stuff, but those that stumble across the band, is the production. Is the end result what you wanted it to be? What kind of sound were you looking to get, something that could be on a cult underground release from the eighties?
Logon: – Our close friend Matt Preston from Ghost Tower and Dungeon Beast, ex-Borrowed Time actually recorded “Hellfriends”. He was living in Pennsylvania at the time, about eight hours from Detroit, and I called him up and told him we were thinking about recording an album and we wanted his help with the recording. He dropped everything and moved into our basement for an entire month. He brought all his equipment with him and set it up down there and recorded us out of the basement. He told us at the time that he can’t promise us anything more than what he knows and loves and that is something comparable to a late eighties demo sound. Going in, I knew I wanted a clear line to be drawn that this was a fullength album, but to me, that really just meant we needed to take our time with it so we could do what we wanted with it. We could have gotten a different sound elsewhere, and maybe it would be easier for some people to digest, but the attention to detail wouldn’t be there. We wouldn’t be in the comfort of our own home, we wouldn’t have the luxury of spending every waking hour hammering out different ideas for leads and solos or vocal parts. We wouldn’t be sharing laughs or drinks with our friends, there would be no Thundar breaks, plainly put – the album just would not work if we went to anyone other than Preston.
Samuel (Drummer Master Commander): – I would say that we are pleased with the production of the album overall. This recording was Powered by Preston, who incessantly coached the quality in recording of this music, knowing pretty much exactly what we wanted to go for. He made it extremely comfortable for us and for that we are forever indebted. There were some unreasonable requests I wanted to add, but couldn’t figure out how to edit on computers and there was also ten minutes of gong hits that the guys told me got “lost” somehow…
When I played the album along with some other releases, I noticed that the volume of the recording was very low compared to the others. Was this done on purpose as well?
Logon: – Which albums did you listen to? Loudness can’t be measured in decibels. I’ve got this Jefferson Airplane tape that I used to listen to in my car all the time and it sounded fucking awful at normal levels. You had to crank the thing up all the way and it totally transformed. Everything filled itself out and the songs became so heavy and cool. I feel like “Hellfriends” has the same thing going on here. It just doesn’t sound that good until you play it at the intended levels. That’s what that little knob on your stereo is for!
Last time we spoke, Mars described songwriting as a learning process, and said that he usually isn’t satisfied if he hasn’t tried something that he hasn’t done before on a new track. Is this statement still valid for the songwriting on “Hellfriends”. Are there any tracks in particular were you feel you are true to this old “vision” of yours, or have you abandoned the thought as it must be getting more and more difficult with each new song you write?
Mars: – If there aren’t any original ideas in a song, then there should be some damn awesome riffs, solos, vocals, and drums. That goes for any band. Any guitarist knows it’s easy to be creature of habit and default to just play and write what you’re comfortable with. There’s nothing incredibly wrong with that, as it usually tends to be how people get their own recognizable sound and style. I just try not to get too trapped by it when I’m writing. I feel like all of the tracks on the album have certain parts or elements in them that were new to me and the band when they written. Lately I’ve been trying to record at least one new riff a day ands a result, I have a whole lot of really mediocre ideas with only a couple that I actually like. But I’m starting to find that by forcing out these garbage riffs, it forces me to be a little bit more creative and churn out something cooler. Kind of like an old water pump. You pump it and at first it’s all rusty, stupid water. But keep pumping and the water turns into some decent, potable water.
Mars also mentioned that it was important to not fall into the trap of having your songs become completely predictable. Is this something you have worked consciously on to avoid?
Mars: – Not having boring songs is something I think about, but not obsessively. I just focus on what sounds good to my ear and writing songs that I would want to listen to. Crafting them takes a while, but that’s more so because I’m slow and have a few other personal projects going on. There are plenty of other modern heavy metal bands who worship a lot of the same bands that we do and they work very hard at what they do – promote, tour, take photographs. But then I listen to a song or an album by them and feel like I’m getting lulled to sleep by a sub-par rock band. We know that we will never become one of those bands because it’s our collective insanity that fuels the fire.
Samuel (Drummer Master Commander): – Absolutely. Drumming for me has always been an effort in thrill-seeking, not wanting to just play the same thing over and over. The result has not always been pretty, with much apologies to Mars, but the result can be an interesting thing to listen to. We are all creative guys in one way or another, and I may be overstepping my boundaries as just a drummer, but I’m pretty sure that we thrive off each other’s efforts to push our limits to make the most interesting music we can. The title track was a conscious effort to express as much freedom in a song as we possibly could. We had been completely enamored by the realization that rock and roll is a strong force of freedom in this great world that can trick you into chains. We are thankful for the God-given freedom in rock and roll and the power it can give other people. We wanted in that title track to let as much of what we had to be an ode to that in itself.
There are parts in some songs this time that recalls American speed metal bands like Agent Steel or Savage Grace, both masters at combining blistering speed with impressive vocals, standout melodies and damn catchy songwriting. Are these or similar bands acts that have inspired you in one way or another?
Samuel (Drummer Master Commander): – We are flattered to be likened unto such Masters of Metal. Agent Steel was a band that immediately caught my attention upon first listen and kept my adrenaline burning once I had purchased “Unstoppable Force”. There is so much conviction in Agent Steel’s music from their ambitious guitars, to their entirely true lyrics. We are Guilty as charged, that much I know. “Master of Disguise” is an awesome song. This music has a ‘means it’ quality that we have studied thoroughly and in turn try to mean it in much as possible in our own music. You may even find a drum fill homage that starts off one of the faster tracks…
Logon: – Listen to “Hellfriends” 144 times and the key to the door will appear and the answers to your question will become clear…
Last time we spoke, we were also briefly discussing White Magician, which I believe contains something like four members from Demon Bitch, though with some differences when it comes to who handles vocals and instruments. Although not radical, is it the difference in style that gives you motivation to play in another band with many of the same guys
C. S. Lewis: – Well that’s a very simple black and white answer with just a few tiny shades of grey. Lord Mars (of the Guitars) is the main creative force behind Demon Bitch as far as songwriting goes. Of course Drummer Master Commandriani is involved heavily with this process as well as structuring and such. I honestly have little to nothing to do with Demon Bitch’s songwriting process outside of doing my own leads second guitar parts, adding a few back up vocals. I am just more or less a big fan and close friend who volunteered myself to help them become a dual guitar live force. After hearing their first demo I couldn’t bear to have heard that glorious shit with only one guitar live. I love the music that Mars creates and he clearly needs no help from me. With White Magician I am the guitarist, songwriter and after much hesitation the lead vocalist. Of course our styles are similar enough to the point that some people have wondered why we don’t mix but they are two separate entities that I feel would be compromised by the other imposing. As for the reason we share the same members is very simple. We all know each other, we all like each other, and are on a similar enough page that we think and act almost as a single unit when we play together.
I understand that White Magician has existed for a while already, are there plans for further recordings with this band?
C.S. Lewis: – That is true. We recorded in late 2014 and released an EP of those recordings called “The Pledge” in early 2016. I had started writing one or two of the songs I believe a little bit before I was jamming with Demon Bitch sometime in 2009 and 2010. There is some previously unused material and more recently written material that will surely end up on recording someday. White Magician is habitually put on the back burner due to lack of inspiration, procrastination of writing lyrics and putting them to songs, and involvement in other projects. White Magician to me is a side project. My main focus has mostly always been reserved for my band that I was doing prior to all of this called ‘Isenblast’. Since it is primarily a black metal band, you will not hear any of the influences I use for White Magician present. I am spread pretty thin between these projects, spending what time I can with my friends, seeking some kind of thrill, and at all other times living this life I generally despise… so will there be more recordings? Yes. Do I know when they will be about? Absolutely not. When the material achieves the level of magic that it needs to it will certainly be recorded. Try and tell us to stay away… I fuckin’ dare you!