Landing at the tail end of last year ‘Ode to Acts of Murder, Dystopia and Suicide’ was an album that wrapped up 2017 with a more than healthy blast of negativity. One could be forgiven for having all but forgotten about Dutch band Deinonychus as it came a full ten years after predecessor ‘Warfare Machines.’ We spoke to band innovator Marco Kehren dipping back into the past and following things through to the present day, finding out quite a lot of interesting things about their career in the process; one that may or may not have come to an end. Whether it has or not only the future can tell, read on…
AN: Greetings and congratulations on new album ‘Ode to Acts of Murder, Dystopia and Suicide,’ a jolly gathering of morbid songs if ever we have heard one.
First though I would like to dip back in the past and remember your early days. I think it’s fair to use one of your titles and describe your craft as ‘The Romantic Sounds Of Death.’ It’s black metal with a seriously romantic air of nostalgia and a poetic vibe of vampirism at its heart. Would you agree and what drew you to the themes and narrative you explored then?
MK: It was the mere interest of combining several styles of music together, in order to form something more melancholic as I’d done before. To have done so did shift me quite a bit away from traditional black metal as it were, but it was worth trying….
AN: I have to ask but will get this out the way quickly Deinonychus is a great word one with sharp tones and a subject matter with sharp claws. Is this why you adopted it or you just really into dinosaurs?
MK: I happen to see that name in some zoological magazine and was fairly impressed by what you said in the first line. It has a sharp tone, sounds quite mystical but yet means nothing more or less in Greek, “Terrible Claw”, I don’t give a damn about dinosaurs.
AN: You signed up to fledging UK label Cacophonous records at the time. It was an exciting period and with bands like Cradle Of Filth, Sigh, Primordial and Gehenna to name a few, a formative one for many of us discovering black metal for the 1st time in the UK. How did this all come about for you. Of course you were also with another UK label Supernal shortly too. Perhaps it’s a shame that neither lasted the distance even if the former is reactivated now?
MK: Cacophonous records did get in contact with me, just several months after the release of the first and only Deinonychus demo “Promo 1993”. We did sign a deal for 2 records, and so I started recorded the debut album “The Silence of December” way back in May 1994, but due the lack of financials the production was really poor and some re-mixing had to be done, just to find out that it delayed the album’s release for exactly one year in May 1995. Budget flaws also were the consequence of the poor production on the follow up album “The Weeping of a Thousand Years” and that resulted in a split with Cacophonous.
AN: I was trying to remember if you ever played the UK around this time maybe at a Devil’s Church show. I have fleeting memories that you may have and you had a couple of British musicians in the band such as ex December Moon, Cradle Of Filth and Extreme Noise Terror members William A. “Was” Sarginson and Stafford Glover. Actually I can’t find much info on you playing live at all?
MK: No wonder, Deinonychus just played live one time at the Hippodrome, London back in 1997 amongst bands such as Inkubus Sukkubus….
AN: Ah yes, the Vampyria event, I do have very vague memories of this.
You were also vocalist with Bethlehem for a while, a band with similar dark themes and an eccentric nature. Yourself and drummer Steve Wolz who are the integral components of Deinonychus were in the group. Would you consider both bands having the same sort of mind-set? Did you leave Bethlehem to concentrate more on Deinonychus?
MK: I’m not so sure if Bethlehem and Deinonychus have the same mind-set, I reckon not. Deinonychus overall approach to certain thematics are just more straight forward and do certainly differ. I never have been a steady member of Bethlehem, just helped them out on three releases, there’s nothing more to it. So; leaving Bethlehem to concentrate more on Deinonychus was never an issue. As Deinonychus always has been my prior occupation.
AN: Like Bethlehem you have had a bit of a flow of musicians passing through your doors. Have you found it difficult to find like-minded people with the same goals and ideas as yourself to work with?
MK: No, with Deinonychus it always has been intentional to work with several musicians, as within the core Deinonychus is centered about me composing the whole lot, but as to execute the whole lot. I prefer to work with different musicians on different albums. Obviously sometimes things did happen out of logistic flaws and such. But overall…. Things where intentionally.
AN: Obviously not wanting to dwell on the past and moving towards the present to where we are now, how would you say things have evolved both musically and narratively for you and what have you learned along the way?
MK: Musically I can’t say if I have evolved!?!? One must not forget that I haven’t done anything for the past years exactly. So I’d rather leave that up to the listener. Although I can say that I maybe have refined my typical style a bit. Lyric-wise I think I’m more focused on less dramatism and more realism in the lyrics, and things have shifted from melancholic to rather aggressive and apathetic.
AN: Your album before the new one ‘War Machines’ caused a certain amount of controversy and got banned at first in Germany I believe. Tell us a bit about this, it was more from state authorities who then took time to analyse lyrical content and lift the ban rather than Antifa numpties wasn’t it.
MK: Yeah the album got eventually banned from the German-speaking countries such as obviously Germany, Austria and Switzerland, as this German administration Board thought to have in their hands a rather right-winged/ ideological cd. But upon proper investigation they saw that nothing was wrong with the content on the “Warfare Machines” album. So the album was nonetheless released after a 3 week-ban.
I obviously was aware of the fact that the thematics on that album were on the edge of what is acceptable, as the lyrics where a bit controversial; but rather from a shocking point of view, and not due to any political statements or whatsoever. So yeah, it was not really a surprise that something could have been misunderstood, but if one had taken their time, and have a proper look at things, one could see that there is nothing wrong with the album. But as it is, some people/ media don’t invest time into anything, and branded that album for what it definitely isn’t. But that’s fine with me.
AN: War is hell and grim, lots of bands especially within the extreme metal scene do unsurprisingly reference it and the resulting atrocities as a main theme. From Motorhead to Marduk, and Loits to Eastern Front, it’s history and cannot be changed. It’s a somewhat dangerous business with so many not willing to listen to just what you are saying and tar bands with the Nazi brush. Would you agree, has the whole thing got ridiculous of late with precious snowflakes pointing the finger? Hell I find the happy-clappy gung-ho shite of a band like Sabaton far more offensive than a group who truly convey the utter horror and pointlessness of war.
MK: Yes especially nowadays people seem to be oversensitive, and I think it is a development which turns things in the wrong direction, because at some point you can’t say anything anymore, without being called a racist. If people are not willing to invest time in the lyrical content of bands, than so be it, but then stop being judgmental on something which isn’t there! But this seems to be a general problem within today’s society…..
AN: After this you took a long time out, ten years in fact. I have just been leafing through your interview with colleague Dayal Patterson and shall take the chance to plug his ‘Black Metal Into The Abyss’ book and whilst not cribbing any of his much more in depth questions, you hinted you were coming back possibly then. How long has the new album been gestating, why such a long break and why is now the time to return?
MK: Well, in the book I literally said that I was coming back this one more time. Propsing to make one final album! Honestly I’m still thinking that. I’m not sure whether I’m going to continue or not! The break for almost 10 years was my mere weariness of metal in general. I was fed up with everything, and needed a healthy break from it all. Actually I started to work on the first Deinonychus tune, in April 2016, and the whole album was finished in August 2016, apart from the lyrics. The return was upon wish from My Kingdom Music to have this album done within the 25th anniversary range.
AN: I am pretty sure I reviewed your martial industrial project Nihil Novi Sub Sole album Jupiter Temple (2010) during this time. Just been turning the place upside down looking for the disc. Are they still an ongoing concern, is there anything else you have worked on during the time musically?
MK: There is actually a 2nd album planned, called “Forlorn”. It’ll be released by Lichterklang from Germany in early 2018. The album is kinda a prequel album to the Jupiter Temple- release from 2010. Apart from that, nothing really is going on with Nihil Novi Sub Sole. And no other projects going on.
AN: Tell us a bit about the recording of the album, did it happen over a long period of time. After ten years out did you find much had changed in the way you did things
MK: The album was recorded in two phases. At first we’d recorded the drums in Spacelab Studios in Germany under guidance of Christian Moos, hat was in Oct. 2016. All other instrumentation and vocals were recorded at the Klangschmiede Studio E also in Germany, under guidance of Markus Stock in Dec/Jan 2016-17. The overall approach in recording an album for me has basically stayed the same. Nothing much changed, except technology.
AN: ‘Ode to Acts of Murder, Dystopia and Suicide’ is an eyebrow raising title and catches attention. It’s certainly an anti-humanist statement perhaps even contemptuous to mankind itself. Vocally it’s conveyed with a huge passion and honesty about it. Is it a reflection on the world we live in as far as you are concerned and your personal hatred of it?
MK: Yeah I reckon it pretty much is a mere reflection of the world around us in all its negative aspects. For this album I tried to convey the lyrics in a rather non personal approach, and reflected on other peoples experiences and thoughts, something I pick up from my work in a federal prison. It of course does affect me too, but that made it easier for me to collect a lot of thoughts and write them down, becoming lyrics after all…
AN: Musically it straddles genres, something I have always found with Deinonychus, black and doom in equal parts, funeral laden and with elements that could certainly be looked upon as DSBM and even classical music. Perhaps we just put too much time and energy in defining music and it simply is what it is, care to comment?
MK: It’s okay when people need the urge to define things in order to identify with it, but that makes things so complicated with Deinonychus as it isn’t just this or that. But generally I’m okay with that, even if just a few identify with it, and thus like it. It is simply what it is, and I am simply who I am!
AN: Your vocals do take a bit of getting used to and I did say on reviewing it the harshness and your barking clamour may put the more sensitive listener off a bit. How have you developed in style over the years, does it just come naturally and have you ever taken vocal coaching? The sheer unrelenting force of the delivery sounds like you might rip your throat to shreds over any long period of time. Is this ever a problem or do you have ways of counteracting that happening?
MK: I actually never do rehearse my vocals, nor I had any vocal training. It is all just naturally happening on the spot during the recordings of any album. Indeed it is quite some stress I encounter when singing, and probably one of the many reasons Deinonychus do not do any touring because my voice just wouldn’t survive…..
It definitely is a fact to say that one either likes my singing or simply hates it, there is really no in between. And I’m really fine with that!
AN: Yes the album has a huge sense of fact and the here and now about things but dipping in deeper I found a large amount of literary classicism about the album. Where did you take inspiration from, there’s a Gothic sense of Poe and even Agatha Christie about it and you are surely the only extreme metal band ever to verse about frangipanis! Is there actually a story dwelling beneath the surface?
MK: You should know that half the lyrics on the album are written by Shane Davison from Australia. I’ve worked with him on three previous Deinonychus albums. And I’m quite sure that you rather refer to his lyrics as to mine! As “Buried under the Frangipanis” is one of his lyrics. However, intentionally the albums concept is about vengeance, murder and suicide. And I´d say that both Shane and me did split up these thematics perfectly, but there where my lyrics are more straight forward, his lyrics have a more poetical touch, and I give him credits for that!
AN: Poetic is a word I keep coming back to from the early days to the present, there is a huge sense of it in your lyrics and work. Are the old classical poets inspirational to what you write in any way?
MK: I think there where I used to be more poetical in the past, today I´m more straight forward in approaching my lyrics, as they have become less emotional yet more aggressive and desolate.
AN: Anything else you take inspiration from, other music, film, environment?
MK: I mainly pick up things from the world around me and get inspired by it. Things which move people in an emotional way, albeit in a negative way!
AN: I found the third player Schwadorf’s (Empyrium, Vision Bleak) keyboard playing adding a huge sense of atmosphere here. Is working with him something that will continue in the future and obviously the question is what is the position of the band now? Will you carry on working and is there a possibility of anything happening live?
MK: If I consider to continue Deinonychus, I surely will have Schwadorf again on keyboards, as he is a perfect addition to Deinonychus´ sound!
However, I´m at a point that I don´t really know what step to take next, some other things have my priority now, and I will focus on that rather than Deinonychus. But hey. If I do consider to move on, it surely won´t take another 10 years!
AN: Well I think I have babbled on enough and hopefully got to the root of the matter and encouraged people to seek out the new album and embroil themselves in its hideous depths. Anything you would like to add in parting?
MK: Thank you for this most interesting interview! All the best to you….
(Interview Pete Woods)