The name of the band Submerged In Dirt, is interesting to say the least and sounds as if there is a story behind it. Where did the name come from and what is the story?[ROYCE] – Well, truth be told, there really isn’t any interesting story behind our name. We sat around trying to make something up to impress you, but we’re not really into bullshitting you so we scrapped that idea. But! There is a somewhat interesting and true story about the title to our new album IN THE GRIP OF THE MACHINE. It was two days after we signed our contract with TURKEY VULTURE RECORDS. I was at work in this welding and machine shop in Oklahoma. While operating a huge hydraulic metal sheer, I had a little bit of an accident. The middle finger on my right hand was pinned beneath one of the hold-down grips located just before the sheer blade. They are made to pin down huge sheets of steel and this one just completely flattened my middle finger. I mean completely crushed! It was unreal! Here I was, a guitarist in a band, 2 days after signing our first recording contract and I totally obliterate one of my fingers! Well I was pinned down there for what seemed like an eternity before the hydraulic fluid bled out of the piston and slowly released me. The finger meat was just hanging off half way up a bare knuckle-bone. The ER actually put it back onto the bone and bandaged it up and sent me home! It was fucking agonizing! After about 2 months of shit, an orthopedic surgeon had to go ahead and amputate the tip of my middle finger because it wasn’t growing back anywhere near correctly. It was probably about 5 months before I could really use my right arm for anything. I played guitar as much as I could as soon as I could, so that I would be ready for our re-scheduled recording session. And I’m happy to say that I’m pretty much perfectly fine now, and that the new album In The Grip Of The Machine sounds fucking amazing! The name is reminiscent of the accident, but the title track to the album isn’t really about it. Well on a broader scale, it’s about overcoming the completely insane shit that life throws at you. We’ve been robbed multiple times, had several car wrecks, our van caught fire after the wheels flew off of it while driving 70mph in the Ozark hills at 3:00 am!!! Ya know? That kinda crazy shit. In The Grip is just a reminder that we didn’t quit, and we won’t quit.
Your lyrics are infused with heavy detail and raw emotion. What is it that normally gives you inspiration when writing lyrics and is there a concept behind the writing of In The Grip Of The Machine?[LEE] – The lyrics, in fact, have very little to do with emotion. I tend to touch on subjects of controversy in many scientific/government and even religious circles. My lyrics are very off the radar and cryptic subjects such as human origin theories involving ancient astronauts, cover ups by the roman mafia-I mean the catholic church, paranoid schizophrenics with god complex’s and out-of-body space travel and possession. Those examples are actually all just from three of the songs on the new album. You can expect to get more than your money’s worth from the album by simply reading the lyrics along with the songs. It is thought provoking material to say the least, but it is really ONLY for those who can keep an open mind and are willing to let go of their grip on reality for at least a few minutes at a time to be enveloped by the new reality and ideas I try to craft.
You are about to release In The Grip Of The Machine, what can fans expect when they pick up a copy?[ROYCE] – Simple answer… SONGS. The fans will receive an album filled with real, coherent and well written songs. Not just the typical two-step, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, breakdown followed by an even slower breakdown etc… We write fully fleshed out pieces of music. Sometimes intricate, sometimes purely emotion driven. Our main focus in the song-writing department has always been to create brutally fast, yet coherent and even catchy tunes that stand apart from not only another band, but each song must stand on its own in comparison to the other songs on the album. The title track In The Grip Of The Machine sounds very different from (for example) The Snake Charmer, which sounds absurdly different from Gravedirt. They’re ALL heavy as hell in some way or another, that’s the only common factor. But diversity is one of the main goals with the songs on this album. Aside from that, the fans can expect a beautiful album cover, amazing recording quality and at an average cost of $9.99, a good value for their music dollar. [RYAN] – I think that Royce pretty much hit the nail on the head on that one! [LEE] – Expect ten well written compositions, NOT ten excuses to try to blend every new trend in metal into an incoherent mess of breakdowns and bree bree’s. The bands that survive the constantly evolving metal scene are the bands that never compromise their sound. They simply evolve it. It is the metal zeitgeist.
When it comes to releasing In The Grip Of The Machine how will the whole package come together?[ROYCE] – The package for the physical copy is relatively simple. Ya got your standard size jewel case, cover, few pages in a fold-out booklet. Nothing too fancy. We may experiement more with different packaging options like slim cases or cardboard or something like that in the future. But to keep costs down and keep the focus on the music, the standard issue package suits us fine for In The Grip Of The Machine. For online music shoppers, it will of course be available through all the usual digital stores as well. [RYAN] – We went pretty simple with the packaging. The music stands on its own two feet without a bunch of other craziness to lure people into it. We’re your basic in-your-face death metal band but what separates us from the other up-and-coming bands is the songwriting. You can actually understand whats going on, ya know?
What was the recording process like, how long did you have, was there any pressure on you? [ROYCE] – We spent just 17 days tracking this album. We worked about 10-12 hours per day in Full Spectrum Studios in Fond du Lac, WI and honestly it was some of the most fun we’ve had in a long time. There were some time constraints, as we’re a relatively new band and this is our first release on Turkey Vulture Records. But TVR is relatively new label as well, and they dont’t yet have the luxury to fund months and months in the studio. But they’re very hardworking enthusiastic people and they did all they could to motivate us and help us work quickly without cutting quality. All in all, it was a very fun, rewarding experience and we learned a lot from it. We now know how to avoid some of the pitfalls associated with tracking and editing an album, and we will use those lessons the next time. [RYAN] – The recording process was a new experience for me. I’ve done the whole living room recording thing but being in an actual studio was quite exciting and frustrating all at once. [LEE] – I spent 14 days inside an 8×10 room going over lyrics in my head. I was then locked up for 3 days in a padded 8×8 room recording those lyrics.
Who did the artwork and title for the album? When you look on the final project, is there anything you wish you could have done differently?[ROYCE] – A Canadian artist by the name of Danille Gauvin created the album cover for In The Grip Of The Machine. (myspace.com/craniumillustration ) She’s AMAZING and she worked with us for months via the Internet, sending several previews and asking for input from us, to make sure we get what we were looking for.
Many of your songs are so hard and intense that I am sure they translate well into a live setting taking on a whole new life in front of a live audience. How does it make you feel when the emotion and power that you envisioned in the recording studio, come to life while playing in front of a crowd?[ROYCE] – Many of these songs have been played live already with a GREAT reaction. A few have even been in our set for up to a year! But every time we unveil a new song live, the crowd response is very good. And as diverse as each song is musically, its not surprising that each new song we add to the live set gets a different type of response. The song Great Void always seems to whip up a fast paced circle pit. That’s just the type of song it is. The Prophecy Of The Stars really appeals to technical death metal fans, lots of headbanging and air guitar haha…. But it’s got one really rhythmic breakdown at the end of it and that always seems to get the hardcore dancing kids to do their thing and just explode all over the place. Our stance on audience participation has always been the more the better. We don’t care if you’re moshing, dancing, crowd surfing.. Just move! If our music moves you to do ANYTHING we just love it! The circle of energy just keeps flowing between us and the crowd and it really makes for an all around satisfying show for everyone. [JUSTIN] – The energy that is transferred throughout the live show is 100% the reason all the hard work is worth while. Everyone has that one show or maybe two they saw when they were a kid, that completely changed them forever. When you experience that kind of joy, you want nothing more than to be able to do that for others someday. [RYAN] – We are definitely a live band and for us the stage is where it’s at. The songs from the album that we have played live have been welcomed by fans at every show we’ve jammed at. And the songs that we haven’t yet will be, in my opinion, welcomed just as easily as the familiar ones. [LEE] – It’s a special feeling to have someone come up to you after your set with a broken hand and fractured collarbone and then tell you that your band is amazing. It’s pretty cool to know that you made them do that by simply telling them to do it.
Different groups have unique ways of writing their songs. How do you guys go about writing your music? Is it a collective effort or is it more the efforts of one particular member of the band?[ROYCE] – This band started with just myself and Lee writing and recording songs with just a drum machine. I would write and play all the string parts and program the drums. I’ve been a drummer actually longer than a guitarist, and writing drums as well as other parts has never been tough for me. Lee would help with arrangement, but he penned and arranged and performed all the lyrics. As we went through live band members they would each bring some songs and parts of songs to the band. Members would exit the band for different reasons but their influence remained as part of the overall sound of Submerged In Dirt. On In The Grip Of The Machine, many of the songs and musical themes were based in my ideas, but with our solidified line up of Justin, Ryan and James, a lot more ideas and styles came into the making of this album. The drums are based loosely in the song structure of demos I made, but the final drum part is always WAY more detailed and just plain better than anything I could have written or played. Ryan and Justin both contributed songs and music found throughout this album. It’s nice to not have to write everything anymore. I know that any one member of the band can write a song that we all would be proud to play. And this way the songs will be getting increasingly diverse. In the future you’ll be hearing MUCH more difference in style, musical themes, songs. [RYAN] – I haven’t been in the band really long enough to contribute a whole lot yet, but people will know when my influence comes out. The fans that have followed the band since the beginning will hear a taste of my style on In the Grip of the Machine. I have been writing some riffs and putting ideas together for our next venture. All I can say about that right now is it will be fast, heavy, and intelligent. Anything after that is purely speculation!
What are the upcoming plans for Submerged In Dirt?[ROYCE] – At the time of this interview, we’re gearing up to head to Philadelphia PA to play on Philly’s original death fest, The Hostile City Death Fest… We’re pretty stoked about that. We’ll be doing a short tour on the way back from that. Our general goal is to tour as much as we can in support of this album, meet fans and make new ones along the way. Everyone interested in booking us in their town should contact us at email@example.com , myspace.com/submergedindirtband or our label rep Jason Z at www.turkeyvulturerecords.com or myspace.com/turkeyvulturerecords … We LOVE playing live. We’re also always writing new material and we definitely plan on recording a follow up to In The Grip… within the next year or so. [RYAN] – Tour! Tour! Tour!
How has MYSPACE and the internet impacted your band and do you think downloading helps or hinders the artists?[JAMES] – Myspace, although heavily used by any band, project, or even just some dude with some tunes from a Casio keyboard, is THE biggest benefit to any musician trying to get their music to the public since tape trading and bootlegs. As Ryan just put it while sitting next to me, It is THE place to find new and interesting music. As for downloading from Myspace in particular, it helps us musicians and in a way gives back to the people who support us. But of course if you have an album coming out soon like we do, especially our debut album, you dont want to let every track be a free download, it kinda defeats your purpose of album sales, but im sure that goes without saying, doesnt it?
What is the toughest lesson you ever learned in the studio and on the stage? [ROYCE] – In the studio, the best lesson you can learn is ALWAYS HIT SAVE. As far as on-stage… Well I didn’t learn this lesson on the stage, but …. try not to cut your finger off if you’re a guitarist. It makes for a difficult time on stage. [RYAN] – Don’t finish recording your parts too quickly unless you have a lot of hobbies!
What bands would you like to tour with and who has been your favorite to tour with thus far? Any particular reason? [JAMES] – Not near enough room here for this, but ill chime in with a few, Arsis, All Shall Perish, The Red Chord, Cannibal Corpse, Cephalic Carnage, Aborted, The Faceless, Lamb of God, Misery Index (just to name a slight few), …and…well…the old lineup from Tantric, we would absolutely not fit in on a tour with them but me and Lee love that band. As for the others mentioned, well, its some of our favorite modern bands of the decade and they have a huge following that would, in turn, get us a lot more exposure.
Describe Submerged In Dirt in three words.[ROYCE] – Life affirming metal [LEE] – Submerged In Dirt
If you had a chance to go back in time, where, what, and why?[JAMES] – I wish I could have started playing in metal bands long ago. Although I have listened to heavy metal since around 7 or 8 years old, I didnt actually get into a metal band, not to mention death metal, until I joined this band and I have been missing out because, musically, this is by far the happiest 3 years of my life. [LEE] – I would have bought a guitar with my first paycheck instead of speakers for my truck. Now I’m stuck doing vocals because that’s all I can do well.
How do you think the recession is affecting musicians like yourself? Is it at all?[ROYCE] – Not really. We don’t let stuff like that affect what we do. [LEE] – We were all broke long before this so-called recession and we still are. Nothing has changed.
Every band has its musical influences. What are some of the other bands and artists that have greatly influenced you guys and your music? [JAMES] – Just speaking for my self as far as drums go, id have to say the names, Darren Cesca, Flo Mounier, Dirk Verbeuran, Henry Ranta, Matt Taul, Gene Hoglan, Chris Adler, Neal Peart, Andols Herrick, and Lester Estelle would be a good start. [ROYCE] – Pantera, Slayer, Sepultura… The songwriting of those 3 bands have been very influential on my own. Also Strapping Young Lad, Meshuggah, Vital Remains, 311, Boston… the list goes on and on. [LEE] – The Offspring, Pantera, Tool, The Eagles, Tantric, Soulfly, Eminem, Cephalic Carnage… No joke.
All of that passion that you play with must be tough on you physically. How do you prepare for the physical demands of a tour? [JAMES] – Cuddling with my band members. [ROYCE] – I don’t… but I probably should. [LEE] – I cut my toenails and shave my face. Sometimes.
Anything else you’d like to add?
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