(In this post our man DGR interviews guitarist Steven Funderburk of North Carolina’s Wretched, whose new album Cannibal will be released June 10 by Victory Records.)
I know many of the people who will be reading this interview will already be very familiar with you, but for the less enlightened among us out there can we get just a quick introduction as to who you are, what you play, and how long you’ve been with Wretched?
Hi Dave! Sure thing. I’m Steven Funderburk, I play Guitar, and I am one of the original members of Wretched. We started out in 2005, so almost 9 years now.
Cannibal actually marks the first one-word album title for you guys — after usually being in the three- to four-word range. Why did you guys settle on something as simple and straightforward as Cannibal?
Indeed! Well, from the get go, we wanted to write a straightforward heavy record from start to finish. We had nothing but heavy grooving in mind. It just made sense to have a title that not only fit with the lyrical content, but with the musical aspect of the record. We wanted to get straight to the point with the title, artwork, and everything behind this record. No frills, just straight-up in-your-face metal.
How’d you come around to the artwork for this album? It’s very different from the previous few.
The artwork on Cannibal represents Adam’s lyrical content on this record, as well as the music. We wanted something that visually represents our identity as a band, as well as remaining cohesive with the content of the album. Raf the Might did the artwork, and we could not be more stoked on it!
How was it working with Joel Moore on this disc? Did you have much of it written before he joined the band or was he able to kick some ideas in as well?
It’s always awesome playing with Joel. He joined back in 2007, and signed to Victory with us, and helped write the first two records. He and I started getting up with each other in June of 2013 to begin writing Cannibal. As always, we both have riffs that we will trade and work out into songs. Sometimes he has a skeleton of a song that we’ll both finish together, or I’ll have riffs to throw in his songs. And vice versa, I’ll have skeletons that he’ll throw ideas in for as well.
For example, the song “Morsel”, Joel had the initial intro riffs/verse riff, and from there we collaborated for the whole middle section of the song, and then he finished off the ending stuff. Another example would be the song “Calloused”. This was the first track we worked on for Cannibal. I came to him with the first half essentially, and then he finished up the second half of the song. For pre-production, we had everyone there to finalize all the songs. This is a first for us, and it seemed to work out very well.
Son Of Perdition was a very manic-feeling album in vocal delivery and instrumentation, where everything just felt panicked and played as quickly as possible. Does Cannibal follow in the same direction or are you guys attempting to steer away from that somewhat?
Hmm. I think that translates from what led up to recording that particular album. We got a tour offer in late fall of 2011 that we just could not turn down. At the time we had one new song written that we were playing out, and that was all. The stipulation for the tour was that we had to have a new album ready for release. So we literally holed up in a rehearsal space in Charlotte for almost a month, and would spend 10-12 hour days weekly writing Son of Perdition. John Vail wrote a good bit of the record. I wrote a good portion of the instrumental tracks, and a lot of “Dilated “Disappointment”.
So the “panicked” vibe that you’re feeling, was that we had to write a record very quickly, then record it. It was a challenge, and we made it happen. I really dig that record. It’s got some interesting stuff on there as far as a Wretched album goes. We also tried some new things out on that one, which I really enjoyed along with all of the dudes. For Cannibal, we just wanted to write a straightforward heavy record that has lots of groove to it. With Son of Perdition, we really got to bust out all of the shredding, which ruled.
Any long instrumentals on Cannibal like the last few records have had? You guys have seemed to make death metal exploration into a hobby on your albums.
Oh yes! There are two instrumental tracks on Cannibal. It’s something that we just happened to do on our first record, The Exodus of Autonomy, and everyone really dug it, so we continued to do instrumentals. We really enjoy writing them. It’s an outlet for us, musically, to really just let go and feel things out. Who knows, maybe one day we will do an instrumental EP for you guys…!
North Carolina has found itself having quite the spotlight on its metal scene with a more than a few bands garnering some big attention. In your view, is this something that has been festering for a while or has there been a recent surge in talent out there?
I believe it has been festering since the late 90’s. Bands like Prayer For Cleansing, Glass Casket (yes, we get autographs from Adam often. He’s our hero.), Beloved, Between The Buried And Me, and more really got our NC scene up and going. We got into the local music scene around 2004 when Marshall and I were around 14 or 15 years old. It was awesome what everyone was doing. There was a huge sense of unity; a brotherhood if you will. We started going out to all of the shows, and making friends with the bands. It was awesome! Then when we started, we got to play shows with a lot of the local bands that were really prominent back in the day in the Charlotte scene.
Since then, a lot of our friends in the local scene have broken up, and a few have moved on to other bands. In a way, I feel like we are somewhat disconnected from our local scene these days. Since we typically only tour these days, and don’t get to do weekend shows like back in the day, we don’t really know who all is around playing out. We’re definitely thinking up ideas to create that sense of unity in the NC scene again though!
While we’re on the subject of locality, any bands we should keep an eye out for from your area? I know a lot of bands don’t get the time to pay much attention to the surrounding scenes, but I wondered if you might have been exposed to something during one of the local shows that caught your attention or might know of some unsung heroes out there who are worth pointing people to.
Hmm. There are a few bands that really stuck out to us. Although they aren’t from our area, we have played with them on several occasions. The Vile Impurity is the band. They are a ridiculously sick death metal band from the Illinois area. Painted In Exile from NY are also a very talented progressive band.
You’re probably already aware of it and it is a common word, especially in heavy metal, but are you excited about the upcoming neverending stream of jokes about having the same album name as a Static-X disc? I imagine you must be thrilled.
Haha, it’s funny you say that. I woke up today to a comment about that on my personal page. I have a guilty pleasure, and that is Ke$ha, and she too has an album named Cannibal. I’m definitely ready for that stream!
photo by Washed Up Media
I’ve noticed a pretty disturbing trend where bands have been cutting their glorious locks and headbanging hair lately. Been able to hold on to yours?
Yes! I do indeed still have my locks. As does Marshall, and Joel with his dreads. No plans to cut anytime soon. Adam and Andrew have always had short hair.
Obviously, there’s been some lineup shifts in the band since you guys originally hit with Exodus Of Autonomy. Have you found that as people have come and gone the band has morphed into an entirely different creature than beforehand, or are you able to still find some of the original ideas you had with the start of the band bubbling up here and there? I found Son Of Perdition to be a very low-end-heavy album, which was very different from Beyond The Gate just two years prior.
I think we have maintained the Wretched “style” since Exodus. Granted, it has changed sonically a bit over the years with each record, but we still try and keep that core Wretched sound. Son of Perdition was both Adam and Andrew’s first record with Wretched.
It got out not long ago that Wretched were trying to film a music video; are you able to reveal which song it was of?
Yes! We actually ended up shooting two music videos. I will say that one of them is for our new single, “Cranial Infestation” that we just released a week ago. The other is a surprise!
What’s Your Favorite Color?
Any songs off of the new disc that you hold really close to your heart? I know it’s a bit difficult to choose favorites, but are there any that you’re excited to try out live and see how they go over?
Hmmmm. I’m really stoked to honestly play anything off of the new record. We really worked hard together on this one, and we’re really pleased with the way everything came out in the end. So, honestly, I am stoked to just play any of it live!
Quick question about the previous disc: Who is responsible for “At The First Sign Of Rust” so that I can give them a hug/high-five next time you guys find yourselves close to Northern California.
Haha, sure thing. That one is all John Vail. He succeeded at writing what is probably the hardest Wretched song to play on guitar. There is a riff in the middle section that is absolutely nuts insane bat shit crazy! If you know the song, I’m sure you know which riff I am referring to.
Speaking of performing live, are you going to be able to hit the road in connection with release of the next disc? It seems difficult to get a tour off the ground these days, but I can guarantee at least one person would show up if you ever found yourselves out in the boondocks of Sacramento, California.
Yes! We will be doing a Northwestern US/Full Canadian run with our buds in Havok all of June, and then we will be doing this year’s Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival with Avenged Sevenfold, Korn, Trivium, and many more for July and August. Very stoked for all of the summer’s touring!
How long would you say you’ve been kicking around ideas for Cannibal? Resurrect any old demos you’ve never been able to use and massage them into new songs on the disc? The songwriting process is fascinating, from all its frustrations to the times when an idea comes out half-formed and you’re able to flesh it out in a day.
Since June of 2013. There are still riffs from before that, that didn’t end up being used on the album. And yes, there were many frustrations, but they all turned into one big positive outcome.
You folks have been able to hold on to your logo design for four discs now and it still looks good. Still have the same fondness for it now?
Yeap! We actually had that logo designed before we signed to Victory. I think it is indeed here to stay. We are still very fond of it, yes!
Lyrics are often left up to the frontman, but what sort of concepts did you folks find yourselves playing with for this disc? Any ideas strike you that you felt could be worked into a song?
Well, Adam wrote all of the lyrics for both Son of Perdition and Cannibal. His topics for Cannibal included real life situations; going to work at a job you hate, social media controlling our society, and the ups and downs of life. The music on this record really seems to go hand in hand with his lyrical content. The music is dark in a way, and a lot of his lyrics are negative, so they really complement each other.
And finally, where can we catch up with you guys these days? I know there’s the requisite personal website, Facebook, Twitter, vkontate, Instragram and such, but where do you guys spend your time? And also — is anything happening on the Wretched front in the immediate future after the album hits that we should keep an eye out for?
We spend our time working our jobs to continue to play in Wretched. Pizza, farming, frozen yogurt, fancy cooking, audio engineering, and more is what we’re all doing. And of course, we all practice. You can never get enough practice!
Thanks so much for sitting down with us for this, we appreciate it!
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us!