Ulcerate - Jamie St. Merat
23/11/07 || The Duff
Ulcerate are a New-Zealand based band that is currently turning heads with their latest album, “Of Fracture and Failure”. I follow most bands under the Neurotic Records management closely because I feel the Dutch label to be one of the more promising promoters of modern death metal, and I was simply floored by what these Kiwis had to offer. If you like your Immolation and Neurosis, I would seriously recommend you track down Ulcerate’s debut. Jamie was a pretty damn decent guy who answered my questions despite my taking six month’s to send them off – that’s more than I could expect from Britney Spears or Muhammed Suicmez, I can tell you. A big “thank you” to Jamie and his band, and all the best in finding a new vocalist – Ben Read has recently quit their ranks, but I figured asking about the situation would be adding insult to injury – he took the time out to answer what took me half a year to prepare, which I think is more than enough.
GD: Tell us the process by which you write an album? What are your major influences as a band? Tell us a little about the band history; where are you guys based, etc.? How long have you been playing drums, what’s your set-up and which drummers inspire you the most?
Jamie: Okay, Ulcerate is an Auckland, New Zealand based death metal band, we’ve been kicking around with various line-ups since 2000, although the core writers myself and Michael Hoggard have and will always be spear-heading the attack. We’ve recently dropped our debut album ‘Of Fracture and Failure’ on Neurotic Records late 2006, previous to that we’ve put out 2 demos, both of which have been re-released as a package on The Flood from Italy. At this stage in our career, we’ve nationally supported bands such as Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, Deeds of Flesh, The Amenta, Nile, Decapitated, Disgorge, Suffocation… At the moment we’re trying our very hardest to get ourselves out and touring overseas and kicking some fucking ass!
Major influences for us would have to be Immolation, Deathspell Omega, Shining, Gorgoroth, Bohren und Der Club of Gore, Angelcorpse, Suffocation, Origin, Isis, Hate Eternal, Cryptopsy, Neurosis – but of course we’re mostly dedicated to forging our own sound within a genre of copy-cats.
Drumming wise, I have been playing for 10 years now and inspiration comes from all the usual sources, Virgil Donati, Marco Minneman, Thomas Lang, Derek Roddy, Tony Laureano, Brann Dailor, Dave Haley, Kai Hahto, Flo Mounier, Romain Goulon, Benny Greb, Dave Weckl, Dennis Chambers, Aaron Spears….
My setup is PDP LXE Shells:
2 × 22” Kick
14 × 5.5” Snare / Pearl free floating piccolo 14” x 3.5”
10”, 12”, 14”, 16” toms
14” Sabian AA Rock Hihats
13” Sabian HHX Groove Hats
9” Zildjian Zilbel
6.5” Zildjian Zilbel
8” Sabian HH Splash
10” Sabian HHX Splash
10” Sabian AAX Metal Splash
16” Sabian HHX Stage Crash
18” Sabian AAX Explosion Crash
12” Sabian AAX Mini-Chinese
18” Sabian AAX China
20” Alchemy Raw Ride
What’s it like being signed under such an incompetent label as Neurotic Records? I mean, it doesn’t really matter for bands like Visceral Bleeding, ‘cos they’re shit, but for the good death metal such as Ulcerate, Spawn of Possession and Psycroptic, fans want to know why they receive albums one year after payment.
Well first and foremost I definitely wouldn’t even remotely say they are ‘incompetent’. They’ve done a lot of good for us, and no doubt the bands that have been with them for a number of years now. Asides from the latter day delays, which were production-based, not in-house, Neurotic has a fucking solid reputation in representing quality bands. They’ve gotten to the point now where you can more or less trust that the bands that are releasing material on the label will be of a certain caliber – you may or may not dig the sound, but there is no doubt that it will be quality. And for us, this is crucial.
For us personally, it has allowed us to get our music out to a lot of like-minded people – we were not approached by Neurotic, we approached them, meaning we wanted to be represented by them. And I’m definitely fucking proud to have their logo next to our name.
Seriously, what do you think to the new Visceral Bleeding? We know you’ve heard it, Neurotic bands being tight with each other an’ all – doesn’t compare to the older stuff, or helping death metal evolve? And what’s with the production?
Haha, this is a widely loaded question man! Sheeit. Can’t speak for the others in Ulcerate, but I’ve only heard snippets of the release so far, and all sounded good to me. I’m not hugely familiar with their first disc, so I can’t make a call on the comparison, but in terms of evolving death metal, I’m not too sure if that is purely their intent. This can be quantified by simply saying if you’re making quality music, your enhancing a genre, there is no doubt about that, regardless of whether or not it is pushing it beyond it’s own boundaries.
I think I should have got my Disavowed and Visceral Bleeding CDs for free; no replies to my e-mails, constant waiting, and in the end, five Euro vouchers to be spent at fucken Neurotic Records? Takes the piss, buddy…
I once ate grass and possibly dirt too when I was a kid… Oh wait, I thought this was an Ulcerate interview. Hoh look out!
When’s the new album due out? I see that Psycroptic are already preparing material for the studio – that’s not taking much of a break between albums. Do you have similar plans?
Yeah for sure, we’ve more or less got 2 new tracks in the can, and we want to have a solid foundation for an album early-mid next year. We haven’t talked contracts with Neurotic or anything yet, so of course writing and actually releasing an album are completely exclusive of each other.
Have you heard of Sickening Horror? Their new album, “When Landscapes Bled Backwards”, reminds me a lot of you sound, but a lot more neatly arranged. What do you think of George Kolias as a drummer?
Yeah, checked out their pre-release tracks for sure, pretty wild stuff. Not sure if they remind me of us, but I have not a shred of objectivity on that matter haha. George K is a beast on the drums, played with Nile a couple of months ago, he’s basically inhuman. Super precise, fast as all fuck, very impressive to watch. And Greek too, that’s always a bonus!
Tell us about your tour with Nile. What are the bandmembers like? Any good and/or funny stories to be told? What do you think of their latest? How has the tour with Nile helped being recognized as a fairly obscure act?
It wasn’t a tour as such, it was the one show that they played in New Zealand… The country is too small to allow for any more than 1 or 2 shows in terms of logistics for international acts, so more often than not, just the 2 largest cities here (Auckland/Wellington) are hit. But asides from that, the show was very fucking cool. Totally down to earth dudes (Decapitated too, who were the main support). In terms of recognition, these shows over here don’t really do too much in terms of our profile, New Zealand’s scene is very small, and as such bands like Dawn of Azazel and ourselves are very well known, I think you’d be hard pressed to find people that are into death metal over here who don’t at least know who we are.
What death metal bands are you into these days? Any new outfits you might think GD members would appreciate? What do you think of the other bands on the Neurotic roster?
I’ve been thrashing the hell out of the new Disavowed – not sure why, but that band has always tickled my fancy, one of the, if not the, catchiest death metal acts around. Asides from that, Immolation, Hate Eternal, Krisiun, Anata, Angelcorpse, Negativa, Wormed, The Amenta, Psycroptic, Necrophagist, In Battle, Hour of Penance, Asphyxiate, Odius Mortem… There’s really only a handful that I truly rate these days.
New outfits, well keep an eye on NZ band Asphyxiate, very fucking killer. Diocletian from here to will tear you a new anus. Descend into Nothingness from Canada sound really cool (ex-Neuraxis front man). Our brothers in Lecherous Nocturne are awesome too, just got picked up by Unique Leader, which is awesome!
Lecherous Nocturne, eh? Can you talk a little about The Mike Poggione? What’s he like in person? Have you seen his bass? Really, are the legends true about how many strings it has?
Lecherous’ guitarist Chris Lollis actually plays bass for Nile, and he’s an awesome motherfucker! A couple of the guys in Lecherous have known about us for a while (Chris included), Chris even made the effort to check out our band practice the following day after the show…
As for the other bands on the roster – I really dig Spawn of Possession, Psycroptic, Ruins, Disavowed… But the one thing that is consistent across the board, is that every band regardless of my personal tastes, are fucking great at what they do.
What’s your take on the death metal scene at the moment? You guys sure sound more unique than most of what’s out there – how do you avoid falling into the pitfalls of repeating what’s already been done? I mean, you obviously have your influences, but you write things in an entirely original manner.
Pretty inconsistent. There are moments of brilliance, but long gone are the days when almost every disc I hear excites me. You have no idea how anal we are with our music tastes, and asides from a few select bands that have the ‘x’ factor and can release albums that aren’t all that innovative and still peak my interest, I need to hear stuff that is unique and challenging. Which weeds out 99.5% of bands unfortunately. And let’s not forget the insipid poison of ‘deathcore’. Fucking hell.
In terms of what we’re doing, yeah, we definitely would like to think that we’re at least striving for uniqueness. If it comes across that we don’t sound like we’re repeating what is already out there then that’s awesome, because that’s how we write. If any part we write sounds to us like something we’ve heard before we either re-write or totally scrap it. And unless it has the Ulcerate ‘essence’ of sound, we’re not interested in it either. There’s a million compositional techniques we could use to sound great and derivative, but that’s certainly not our purpose as a band.
The production on the last album was spot on for your sound, although I’m guessing you’ll want to change things in the future – thinking of going for a richer, more defined sound at all? The trend of today seems to be heading towards the murky.
For the most part, we achieved what we were going for with the sound, guitarist Mike Hoggard and I engineered and mixed the album ourselves, so for us the things to improve on are more mechanical, but retaining that crushing, chaotic vibe is certainly important. We want Ulcerate to sound like a real band, not sound like a robot’s playing drums, and everything is a little too tight.
Recently had two New Zealand folk stay at my place – they’d never heard of you. They also didn’t appreciate my jokes about their being Australian. As Kiwis, what is with your objection to being branded Australian?
New Zealand has penis envy because Australia’s a larger land mass. That’s the only reason I can think of. Most Aussies I’ve met are fucking awesome. I think its mostly a sporting/competition thing , which means all of jack-shit to me haha
What’s taking up most of your time these days, other than the band? How well received has “Of Fracture and Failure” been? Does it enable you to take some time off work?
We all work 8hr days, so for us its work, Ulcerate and other music projects that take up all our time. I personally do a fair bit of external (my day job is as a web designer) design work for bands/promoters over here, and practicing whenever I find the time.
It’s hard to say on a sales basis how the album is doing because we’ve never seen any figures, but in terms of responses and reviews, it seems as if people are really appreciating what we’re trying to do within the genre.
And no, the only time off work we take is unpaid leave to do out of town shows…
Anything you’d like to close with?
Cheers for the interview dude, we appreciate it!