Interview with John McEntee, vocalist/guitarist for Incantation 11/11/2004 by EC
EC - You have a new album out called "Decimate Christendom", and I wanted to ask you first what the meaning is behind that title?

JM - Okay, actually the title means the end or destruction of the overall Christian religion and all of it's branches and things like that. Really the concept of the whole album is just an anti-religion album, all religions not just Christianity, but it's obviously easy for us to use Christianity as an example because that is what we grew up as. It's more just a feeling that it is better to be true to yourself than a religious puppet. People should basically do things because they believe in it, not because they are worried about going to Heaven or Hell or anything like that.

EC - I've had the chance to listen to the new album, and the other staff guy that listened to it says this album just sounds better than the other ones, the production is really crisp, and we were wondering what you did differently this time around?

JM - I don't know. There wasn't a whole hell of a lot that was done different from this album to previous albums. We wanted to get a mixture of a good quality production and a more savage, raw production at the same time. We went for a more organic sound, and a newer, clear digital type sound. We've done that on just about all of our records, but I think this time everyone was really on the same page and we just spent a lot of time trying to organize all of the instruments and frequencies. Really paying attention to all aspects like guitars, bass, and drums instead of making it just a guitar head record. We wanted everything to be legible but at the same time having that crushing guitar that is important for death metal.

EC - This is kind of a new venture for you, this is the first Incantation record with you singing. How difficult was it to make the change?

JM - It was difficult. The band has been around since '89 and I was just the guitar player, so it was obviously a huge thing to do vocals. I never had any interest whatsoever on doing vocals, and after our last vocalist left, I got setup with the situation that I had to do it. I wasn't leaving the band and I wanted to create some vocal stability. You work with somebody for a while and then they end up leaving for one reason or another and it just causes problems for the band. People can identify a band through the vocalist most of the time, so it was difficult. It took about a year and a half of practicing a couple times a week in my basement just growling to our old CDs and stuff. For a while I thought it was kind of hopeless, and basically what happened after hard work and stuff things started to fall together. And it wasn't just the fact of doing vocals and the vocal patterns, but trying to play the stuff and do the vocal patterns and get the proper tones and stuff. It was actually a lot harder than most folks would think. I mean some bands it might be easier because they do more monotone growling throughout their record, but we like to have more diversity vocal-wise even though it is generally lower vocals. We like to have more feeling and passion in the vocals. It was a real pain in the ass, not something where we just said let's do it.

EC - Do you plan on singing on the road as well?

JM - Yeah, yeah...

EC - Do you think your voice will hold up on a nightly basis?

JM - I sure hope so! I haven't done any long tours. We are doing a European tour with about a month's worth of shows with two days off. That will be the longest tour where I've had to sing every night. We've played numerous shows, even mini-tours that lasted three weeks or something like that. It held up pretty good, the vocals actually seem to get better the more shows I do. As long as I don't totally abuse them, if I do a set a night it seems like it keeps them up and better. I have more of a problem if I'm off for three or four days and then go back to singing.

EC - What kinds of things are therapeutic for a death metal throat? Lounge singers talk about lemon juice or whatever, what kind of things are good for death metal singers?

JM - I don't know, a lot of people told me teas and lemon drops and things like that. I haven't really gone down that route yet. I've tried a few little things people have told me, it seems to me to be more properly hydrated, drink a lot of water and things like that. I haven't noticed anything that necessarily helped or didn't help really.

EC - What album number is this for you?

JM - I think it must be album six for a studio album I think.

EC - Let me ask you, a lot of people say that death metal bands get pigeonholed or cornered and they can't move forward. How hard is it for you to continue forward?

JM - I understand what you are saying and that is probably true for most bands. They feel like they are restricted or something. I think it is different for us, we didn't start playing this kind of music because it was trendy or anything. We feel that the "boundaries" of death metal really aren't boundaries. A lot of bands in death metal now concentrate on technical ability and speed. We've always kind of had a more doomy side to our music, and we've done a lot of mid-tempo stuff. For us it isn't really limited. We don't get the urge to write anything that is more power metalish or anything like that. For us it isn't limiting, if we didn't want to play this style anymore we would just end the band. We follow our hearts and do what we like and if we feel comfortable playing Incantation and death metal then we do it. We all like other styles of metal and rock, but we don't want to play it, we just like listening to it.

EC - What is your favorite cut off the record?

JM - I don't know. It is hard for me to pick a song off of the record because I'm really close to the whole album, we all are. It seems like some of the songs other people like are "Merciless Tyranny", which is probably our most thrashiest song on the CD, "Oath To Armageddon", which ended up having more of an early 80s death metal vibe to it than the other tracks. It's kind of hard to say because each one is a different expression. We try to let the songs on the album flow in a certain way and have some kind of connection. I just think as a whole it flows together really well. A lot of death metal fans, at least Incantation fans, like the fact that all our songs on an album kind of connect and take you somewhere when you listen to it. Not necessarily a collaboration of individual songs, even though they are, they are organized in a way that flows and you don't get blast beats or something through the whole thing.

EC - Which of these new songs will go out on the road with you?

JM - For Europe we will be doing "Oath Of Armageddon", "Blaspheme The Sacraments", and a couple other ones. For the US we don't really know, it's kind of difficult when you have as many albums as we do to pick out a set. You definitely want to play new stuff live but we want to fit in old songs that people want to hear too, so it's a tough call you know.

EC - Who are you going out with in Europe?

JM - We are going out with Krisiun and Behemoth, should be killer.

EC - So what is considered the "homeland" of Incantation? For example a band like Overkill likes Cleveland, Iced Earth likes Athens, Greece. What is the one place where people just go nuts?

JM - That is really difficult to say. There a lot of totally awesome places that we have played, South America for sure. We have played Chile, it was a phenomenal gig with Death, Cannibal Corpse, and us. It's just the crowd there was so amazing. It was definitely great to play there. We do really well in South America. Brazil is really great. We had the opportunity to play in New Zealand as well and it was just amazing. It wasn't the biggest show but New Zealand isn't a big country. The energy was just incredible. We don't necessarily have one place we consider the best. We are filming our live DVD sometime next year in San Pablo, Brazil so I guess unofficially our home is San Pablo, Brazil.
"Incantation isn't a band that somebody who doesn't have a clue about death metal can get into..."
EC - You guys just recently played the Texas Murderfest. That was a big bill, tell me a little bit about that gig.

JM - It was pretty fucked up actually. The guy that put on the show seemed like he had good intentions but he didn't necessarily have the experience to pull off the fest properly. He had the money, but didn't have the experience. We got to play the show, and it was good, it was a good show. It wasn't a festival atmosphere...it was actually kind of lame. The crowd was good for us. We played with Macabre, Dying Fetus, and a couple other bands. The crowd response was good, but it wasn't a huge crowd by any means. The whole organization was really chaotic...

EC - ...was this the promoter's first show?

JM - It was his second. It had eighty bands on it and we played on Saturday and then on Sunday it ended up getting canceled and a local club in the area had all the bands play there. It was really weird. We got there on Friday and there was a pre-show and the promoter wasn't even there. He had heart problems and had to be rushed to the hospital. It was a bad scene. He kept getting carted off to the hospital. It wasn't the best fest, but at the same time Houston has always been good to us. We have a lot of friends there and it was cool to hang out. Houston was one of the first places in that part of the US that we ever played at. It's real nostalgic for us there and it's cool to see our old friends. It was fun but the promoter lost his ass and has all of these heart problems.

EC - This new record is out on Olympic Recordings in the US. Who is putting it out in Europe?

JM - Listenable is putting it out.

EC - Do you have a long term contract with these guys or is this a short thing?

JM - It isn't a huge contract, it's three albums so it is decent for everyone involved. Actually both companies have been doing an awesome job so far. Way better than the previous labels we've worked with. We never fit in well with the Relapse roster. Early in our careers we fit in better, but now they go more for the grind type stuff, not the type of stuff we do. We just don't....

EC - ...yeah, I really liked Relapse early on with you guys and Deceased and a few others. It was really good then. I'm not sure what happened to them. They've got some weird stuff going on there.

JM - Yeah, we just don't fit in with everything they have done. The promotion would not be geared to the right people. We had situations that just weren't right so for our best interest as well as Relapse we went separate ways. Our label Century Media or Olympic or whatever you want to say, they have more bands that are closer to our style. We feel a lot more at home with the bands they have. Bands like Immolation, Behemoth, and Vital Remains, more death metal styled bands instead of all the weird bands Relapse has. I think their promotion is geared to the right people. They (Relapse) send our CD to the people who want to hear grindcore mixed with salsa, they don't want to hear Incantation. We are more of a straight forward death metal band. Someone who listens to Dillinger Escape Plan isn't going to be happy with Incantation. An Incantation fan isn't going to want to hear something like that either.

EC - Now in the US it seems like death metal is on it's way up, it seems really healthy right now. What are your thoughts on guys like God Forbid, Lamb Of God, and Glass Casket? They are getting a little bit of radio play and getting some videos shown. What is your thoughts on that?

JM - It's not my style in the least bit. I don't know a lot about those bands, I just know it isn't in the style of extreme music that I prefer. But at the same token, it is more gateway style music for a lot of people to get into death metal. It is kind of a good thing, but totally not what I am into. Somebody would definitely get into Lamb Of God before they got into Incantation. Incantation isn't a band that somebody who doesn't have a clue about death metal can get into, but somebody who is into more hip-hop or hardcore can hear a band like Lamb Of God and can into that. Hopefully from there they will dig into the underground. It's the same thing when I grew up in the 80s for heavy metal. There was more commercial stuff. A lot of people went from listening to KISS to Slayer after a little while. If I had to listen to a band like Lamb Of God it would really suck. I just really despise that kind of music, but at the same time I realize it has it's place. I think in general it doesn't effect us any major way, it probably helps us if anything. Even a band like Slipknot helps get people into more heavier music even though it is obviously not my cup of tea.

EC - Maybe we should start calling that stuff starter metal?

JM - Yeah, it's funny...Incantation used to joke that we aren't for kids, maybe putting a warning label on our stuff that you need to know about death metal or you will get hurt.

EC - Now this is sort of an open discussion with our staff. Some say Lamb Of God is more of a thrash band, others say it is death metal. What do you call that type of stuff?

JM - I guess I would just have to call it crap. Not to be a dick or nothing, I'm just not a fan of that type of stuff. I'm an old school metalhead. I consider that more rap or hip-hop influenced and I've never been a rap fan or anything like that. I don't get attracted by bands that have that sort of fundamentals mixed in with metal. I realize it is a gateway for people, but I can't get into it. When I watch Headbanger's Ball, hell, I don't know what some of these bands are...

EC - ....yeah, I'm the same way. I just shake my head and say what the hell is going on?

JM - ...I just have no clue why these bands are considered metal or death metal when they don't have the basic fundamentals. I think there are fundamentals that make a heavy metal band. Just because you have a slightly distorted guitar or shout or something, that doesn't make them death metal. Now it seems like if the singer has a rough voice it is considered death metal. The music almost makes Metallica sound heavy now. It is totally fucked. It's cool that Headbanger's Ball will occasionally play Suffocation or Morbid Angel or something. That is a good thing. I think metal is something different than what Headbanger's Ball thinks it is.

EC - Are you guys going to try and shoot a video to play on there?

JM - We are talking about it. We just need to find someone to do it and work with the budget that we have. Being a death metal band you don't have much of a budget to work with. If you get on Headbanger's Ball you are pretty lucky to get on there.

EC - I'm going to let you go now. I hope the new record does well man. Congratulations, now go hit Brazil!

JM - Cool!

Band Site - www.incantation.com

Discography -
"Onward To Golgotha" - 1991
"Mortal Throne Of Nazarene" - 1994
"Upon The Throne Of Apocalypse" - 1994
"The Forsaken Mourning Of Angelic Anguish" - 1997
"Diabolical Conquest" - 1997
"The Infernal Storm" - 2000
"Blasphemy In Brazil: Live" - 2001
"Blasphemy" - 2002
"Decimate Christendom" - 2004

John McEnteeEric Compton12/13/2004

Decimate Christendom

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