De Profundis

author EW date 30/08/14

The British underground metal scene has been busy in recent years spewing out a number of fine acts worthy of international attention and at the more technically minded end of the scale are Londoners De Profundis. With the band having recently played at Bloodstock Open Air I caught up with vocalist Craig Land and guitarist Shoi Sengupta before their show at the more intimate surroundings of the Camden Underworld in support of Malevolent Creation for this informal chat around their recent festival experience, an upcoming album, influences and thoughts on giving away music for free: How was your Bloodstock experience?
Shoi: We weren’t too pleased with it from a sound point of view - I could hardly hear any guitars at all..

Craig: It was by far the worst gig of the shows so far.

Shoi: Yeh, the Bloodstock monitoring guy came and asked what we wanted beforehand but when we were playing there was nothing that we asked for coming through, which on a big stage like that [the Sophie Lancaster stage] is really annoying. I thought we played well but the problem with festivals I’m discovering is that the bands who play them week in week out are used to that kind of environment a lot more. Although having said that I spoke to Sakis from Rotting Christ after they came off saying the same. I’d argue certain sounds work better for that environment. Take Amon Amarth who have made themselves a lot more accessible, no doubt partly through being on festivals all the time, whereas the really fast, extreme stuff doesn’t tend to work in massive rooms.

Shoi: True, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Amon Amarth had their own monitoring man there as well, playing the kind of show they have I wouldn’t be surprised if they had an entire crew in place. And how about your preparation for the show, were you happy with that?

Shoi: It’s funny as we were really geared up for Bloodstock but then the whole preparation for this tour came on board, and suddenly we had loads of logistics to sort which took away our minds, especially as our drummer couldn’t make the tour so we had to get a new drummer sorted as well so with all this other shit going on it was a bit of an anticlimax really. You’ve been on tour with Malevolent Creation for a week or so now, how did this pairing come about? Have you played with them before? And how has it been going?
Shoi: It was just a couple of weeks before Bloodstock we got an email from our booking agent saying a slot has opened up for Malevolent Creation, which was just a really good opportunity despite it being a summer tour when fewer people tend to make it. With fewer tours happening during the summer that could work in your favour…

Shoi: Yes and the selling point there we’re playing main support which was the big selling point. Does this mark a first full European tour for yourselves, are you playing these places for the first time?

Craig: No, no!

Shoi: We’ve done a Rotting Christ tour, plus Marduk & Immolation and Ragnarok as well, plus a few random shows.

Craig: On that, it makes a massive difference where you are on the bill cos if people don’t know you then you automatically get respect the higher up the bill you are so playing right before the headliners is perfect, especially if the gig is running late and people start buggering off before the headliners finish, so this is just what we want and need at this stage. Understanding you were offered the tour late on was there previously a mindset to tour to keep your name out there and the spread the word about the "Frequencies" EP as well?
Craig: If someone makes a decent effort we’ll do it, whether we’ve got an album to promote or not. We happen to have something to promote and when this tour’s finished we’re going to be pushing on the label front to get our album out and then we’ve have something to push again. By doing the EP and album at the same time we can build up to the album and then when that’s released we’ll start thinking about the next one, trying to bring our cycle down for every 2 years to roughly every year. I’ve a rough idea of what your profile is like here but how is it in Europe? Are you known to a lot of the MC fans?
Shoi: I don’t honestly think a lot of the Malevolent fans knew us but I think we’ve got a slightly bigger fanbase in Europe than we’ve got here. It’s changing now as we had taken our foot off the pedal a bit in the UK but if we look at our fanbase on the social networks we see there are more in Europe.

Craig: That’s all cos for a while we thought "fuck the UK" after playing some of the shittiest venues, playing to nobody…we ended up thinking, ‘what's the point?’ So that has all been good but we do need to build up the fanbase in our country and it has been kinda starting from the beginning again but at least we have better material that we can actually work with this time. So about this new "Frequencies" EP which has a more progressive extreme metal sound, rather than a technical death metal one, with the shedding of some of your past vague doom roots. But what was the thinking of doing an EP now?
Shoi: Initially the plan was to write and record the EP, then do the upcoming album, but we thought let’s just do it all at once. The EP has generally had good feedback and has turned in to a showcase for people who haven’t heard the band to get into us a bit more with these songs that are a bit more stripped back and in-your-face, but when you hear the album you’ll hear it’s still us with a lot of the crazy stuff we’ve done before. For me the biggest change is the production style, which is smoother and less jagged, similar to the mid-era Death you have taken your cover version from.

Craig: Funny you say that cos we’re going to get it remixed for the album as it contains elements we don’t particularly like, especially the drums - we find them a little bit too harsh. Interesting. I'm very fussy about production and I like that you have this style that is easier to get into than "The Emptiness Within".

Shoi: What becomes apparent is that as a band you’re a little bit at the mercy at what is going at the time - we wanted the drums to sound pretty organic but I don’t think people today are very used to that. So in some ways the EP is a little raw sounding but we’ll have to polish it off the for album as people are not that used to real drums anymore.

Craig: We’ve had all kinds of differing opinions on what people do and don’t like but this new one will be a more stripped down version of "The Emptiness Within”, without any of the shitty clean vocals and a bit more brutal! The first I heard of your new material was at the Incineration show earlier this year where the Death influence became apparent. Who brought this to the table?
Craig: Death has always been a big influence on us because we all grew up in the "Spiritual Healing”/"Human" era, as well as stuff like "Necroticism" by Carcass which was a massive influence on this recording, plus other stuff like Pestilence and Atheist. These have always been there but when we kicked our previous guitarist out the band and got Paul in he’s got a very similar mindset to us which helped. However I don’t hear so much Death in the main riffs but I do hear it in the soloing. Musically though it stands you apart from the predominant death metal sounds of today…

Shoi: I think that is because of the lack of hooks in death metal today. Look at an album like Death "Leprosy" which is brutal as fuck, it was one of the first growled vocal albums but it still has a lot of melody as otherwise people don’t come back to it. All these ultra-brutal bands of today are too easy to replicate as well, when so few offer anything interesting or new.

Shoi: I think part of that is a lack of confidence. I know that having grown up as a musician over the years, that inserting melody is somehow exposing yourself, thinking am I bit of a wimp or something here. So going back to the new album, how far through are you?
Shoi: Apart from another day or two to mix it we are done. This break after doing the EP has helped to take our ears away from it, listen to the EP feedback and look to get the label situation sorted. On that we’ve had a couple interested but nothing much so far.

Craig: After the tour’s done we’ll sit down and look at pushing it a little bit more but we’ve been too busy with other stuff of late. But we’ll work out on that soon with a view to releasing it early next year. So if you’ve got it all written what’s the general direction of it?

Craig: It’s pretty much like "The Emptiness Within" but with shorter songs which get to the point quicker, it’s heavier through a slight down-tuning.

Shoi: The addition of Paul made a big difference as it’s more technical as well than before; I really had to up my game big time for this one. You released "Frequencies" online for streaming which is the common way new releases are promoted these days. I guess it depends on the label you’re on but how do you view this? Will you consider putting the next album up for streaming straight away?
Shoi: I don’t really want to. I think that works for an EP to build ground for the album, but to do it there would devalue it and put off people from attaching the same kind of value to it. We’re an album band and we think about it as a whole rather than just individual songs. Obviously it’ll be available to download off iTunes and stuff but we’re careful about what’s get pushed that way.

Craig: I’d rather self-release it than just do it online. For me I always a want a physical copy whether it’s my own band’s CD or anyone else’s. The notion these days is that the likes of Spotify helps people discover acts, to then go to their live shows, buy a t-shirt etc. I myself beg to differ on that to an extent but do you feel that discovery mechanism works to get people to shows; is it worth giving away your music for free given that is essentially expected of bands these days?

Craig: I would say ‘no’, as you’re taking the value away from it. When you used to have to hunt albums down and you finally got it in your hand, it meant so much, you’d listen to it over and over and read the lyrics, but now these things are just a commodity. The downloading of a whole discography prevents someone from really listening to the stuff, which for a band like us means you’re probably not going to get us. As for getting extra people to the gig….I don’t really see that.

Shoi: My previous career in sales taught me that you don’t give away for something for free. It tells people that your time and effort aren’t worth anything.

Craig: It’s similar to why we don’t play shows at the Unicorn anymore [a pub venue in Camden, London which is always free entry] cos when you later ask someone for £3 to see you they don’t want to. So to close this chat then, after this tour I guess it’s a case of finish mixing the album, find a label…?
Craig: Plus a couple of other things: we’ve got to think of a title for it, get the artwork, maybe a video, but then I reckon perhaps even by later this year we’ll start writing again. As for festivals next year, I’m not sure but we’ll see what’s around with the people we’ve worked with so far, there’s plenty of time for all these things!

And with that the pair had to dash off to begin sound check for a show you can read all about here.

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