(Comrade Aleks has brought us another informative and entertaining interview, this time with guitarist/vocalist Bogdan from the Romanian death metal band Rotheads, who have a new album headed our way next month via the Memento Mori label.)
Not long ago Memento Mori premiered the first track from Rotheads’ second album Slither in Slime, which is set for release on July 25th, but we already have this interview with one of the band’s founders, Bogdan “Spurcăciune”.
This band from Bucharest, Romania shaped its old school and dirty death metal sound through the EP Unfazed by Death (2016) and the full-length Sewer Friends (2018), so naturally Slither in Slime is a more mature and professional work.
Bogdan performs guitars and vocals in Rotheads, and it seems that he’s the one who’s responsible for the band’s aesthetic and concept, so we got in touch with him in order to learn more about the way Rotheads grow and bloom.
Hail Bogdan! How are you? What’s going on in Rotheads’ camp nowadays?
Hey, Aleks! I’m good, excitedly waiting for the album release. Right now we’re in the process of designing new merch, working out how to play the new album in a live situation, and even writing new songs. Four years between our albums was a bit too much, maybe we can lower the number next time.
New merch? What’s in your plans?
Some t-shirts and longsleeves based on the new album artwork mainly. New stickers to go along with everything. We should probably do some patches too as we ran out of the old ones and a new design wouldn’t hurt. There should also be tapes and vinyl, but I don’t have any news at this time regarding those.
So you started the band as a duet together with Bîrsatan and recorded the Unfazed by Death EP (2016) this way. What are your memories about those first years? Did you have ambitions or was it just for fun’s sake?
I actually started the band with Dávid. Bîrsatan was supposed to play bass with us and actually was there for the writing process, but eventually bailed out before we started recording the demo/EP. I didn’t know anyone else who would want to play death metal and I’ve wanted to do that for years. Like even in my first band Void Forger I was very influenced by death metal demos and the Finnish and Swedish scene, so when Dávid told me he’d like to play some death metal, things got exciting.
We experimented a lot since Dávid just recently discovered death metal and he was actually a jazz musician and music university student. We probably both had some sort of ambitions, but not enough experience to make a practical plan. I contacted some labels, but they eventually decided on not going through with our EP.
Speaking about problems with death metal musicians – can you tell that there’s a scene which prevails over others in Romania? Honestly, I know only two death-doom bands from Romania and that’s all. Do you have “metal” regions? I guess that Bucharest could be a center of metal movement as the Romanian capital, isn’t it?
I wouldn’t say there’s a scene anywhere in Romania. There are bands that operate in different parts of the country, but that’s just where they live; there’s nothing going on there. Metal-wise, I’d say Bucharest, Cluj Napoca, and maybe Timișoara. I’m not sure if there’s anything going on right now, but for a couple of years there used to be a proliferation of thrash metal bands and then stoner bands and maybe post-rock before that. Now there’s probably one or two bands in Bucharest playing some of the styles that were popular back then.
It’s not really about the bands, I’d say it’s the people who organize shows that create the scene and those are the cities where shows usually happen because they’re cities that gather people with their universities and they’re also the most doable on a tour logistics level. Recently some old school extreme metal shows have started happening in Craiova too, I’ve also seen some stuff happening on the seaside, and of course there’s the Rockstadt venue in Brașov that organizes REF and also does shows on location, but it’s not great for local underground stuff.
At the moment some of the death metal bands releasing stuff are Vorus, Putred, Necrotum, Larvae, Cryptic Nebula, Transylvanian Frost, Rancorum. And there are of course some other bands, but they don’t have anything released, or maybe I missed them.
Sewer Fiends (2018) was recorded with a full line-up. Was it a necessity to expand the band? Did you aim to push the limits of a studio project?
I wouldn’t say this was a studio project, because we played a few shows even before recording the demo. We played two of the songs on the demo and improvised the rest of the show. It was Dávid who actually wanted a full lineup, especially having two guitarists, and we even had it for the demo release show. I was alright with playing as a duo or trio, but since we now had a full band we started writing songs that required a full band.
Sewer Fiends would probably have sounded different if we kept the minimalist lineup, but since we already had a full band why not try to record this way? It actually complicated things a bit as I was the only one left from the last recording session, but also the only one with some actual recording experience. And now we also had someone outside the band do the recording and someone else to mix it. A lot of new things all at the same time.
The album’s track-list has some classic death metal references. Leeches, sewer, vermin, fiends, you know. Was it your plan from the start to push the band towards rot and filth?
In the beginning we didn’t really talk about themes. Dávid used to sing about personal stuff and even religious stuff. For Sewer Fiends I used a concept I had for the artwork as a starting point. I then collected different ideas that might fit a sewer-themed album. It was sort of goofy — we didn’t take ourselves too seriously and still don’t. I think the band’s themes would best be described as a collection of weird fantasy.
Oh, man, wait… Look, the Russian government blocked images on Bandcamp (because of some Nazi and suicidal artworks if I remember). It lets me see some artworks and photos and some – don’t show. So I put “Sewer Fiends” in google, and I see that there’s a new band in the UK with the same name – Sewer Fiend! How do you like that?
Oh yeah, I’ve heard of that band. I actually noticed them before they even put anything out, just stumbled on their Instagram page. I think they had a picture of their logo and probably said a demo will be out soon. I reached out to them and they of course never heard of us, hahaha. The EP sounded cool, even had some stuff that we used on our album, clean guitars doing ambient stuff on top of the death metal riffs.
How did you manage to fit the Lovecraftian track “Rats on the Walls” in Sewer Fiends?
The album was sort of sewer/rat themed. There are a lot of things that might belong in a sewer or underground forgotten city thrown together. There’s C.H.U.D., some Fallout 2 encounter, Frankenstein, some Diablo 2 quest, whatever I could scavenge to loosely fit the theme. “Psychic Leech” can be imagined as some creature you might encounter in a D&D or roguelike dungeon crawling session, but maybe it’s a sewer dungeon haha! And given the weird proto-horror themes I like to use, Lovecraft fits right in there, especially this story since the whole theme was built on the rat pentagram thing on the cover. The sewer fiends would probably cook you in a pot as a mean joke than engage in actual sadistic malevolence.
C.H.U.D.?! I wonder if someone remembers that movie, actually I saw it… let me think 28 years ago and I barely remembered its name. I tried to watch it a few months ago, and it’s impressively primitive. Didn’t you try the Split Second (1992) movie as well? And if you used Diablo’s stuff then you can approach Warhammer’s Skavens too.
Oh, wow, funny story about that Split Second movie. Seems like we just had some sort of psychic attunement. I saw it as a kid and then never saw it again and always wondered what it was. I kept a few scenes in my head for a long time and would think about them quite often. Only a few years ago I finally managed to find out what it was and see it again. That scene where Rutger Hauer pulls the heart out of the creature’s chest is forever embedded in my brain and it was the only thing I remembered along with the credit scene with that jetboat. I’ll probably have to write a song about it in the future since it’s been so important to me.
And that reminds me of another favorite movie from my childhood, Return of the Living Dead. Tarman was also one of the inspirations for the “From the Glowing Goo Rise” song, along with the other stuff I mentioned. I actually considered the Skaven, but I haven’t had a direct connection to Warhammer so I couldn’t really draw from that. I did have a poster in my room at that time with the stench-core band with that name.
Do you retell the “Rats on the Walls” plot literally or did you add some of your own ideas to this song?
I think I just retell it in my own words. I definitely don’t mention that cat with the stupid name haha! I think it’s sort of like a poem based on the story, gets the main points across. It’s like one of those stories that gets passed from generation to generation, some may embellish it, some might leave stuff out.
On the other hand, there are two songs on Slither in Slime where I took inspiration from some scenes in the books I’ve recently read. One was a space opera by Peter F. Hamilton and the other was something out of the Malazan series by Steven Erikson. It’s very loosely based; I wouldn’t be able to do something like that band Caladan Brood which took its name from a character in that series.
The band was already in Memento Mori’s company, but the next year you got in this savage and absolutely underground company with a split album Into the Bottomless Pit (2019). Did it help you to spread Rotheads’ necro-message effectively?
I sort of doubt it did much. I mean it’s out there and people have supported it, but I didn’t really feel like we reached that many people with it. I think we did a little more experimenting with the recording session and maybe with the type of songs too. I’m not sure the split’s marketing was a success. There were too many people involved and some of the plans clashed, others became obsolete because of not following a clear plan. I think that like most of the things we’ve done it’s been a learning experience and hopefully next time we’ll do it better.
Rotheads’ second album Slither in Slime will be released in July. Did you have more specific requirements for the band’s sound in the studio? How did you spend this recording session?
Oh, yeah, this time we recorded in a more calculated way. No more garages, living rooms, or music school rooms. We also recorded the guitars first and used a metronome/programmed drum track. We made plans. It’s been much less chaotic and closer to what we hoped for Sewer Fiends too. We also got Detto to work on it, he’s been involved with engineering for some really cool stuff like Cerebral Rot and Electric Chair. He mixed Slither in Slime.
Well, the above-mentioned features of death metal lyrics focused on decay and gore turned into the genre’s trademark long ago, but I see that there’s a song “Vampyric Inbreeding” in the new album. Is it your way of adding some local influences to these macabre trends?
I’d say Slither in Slime isn’t really focused on gore. I mean there are a couple of songs with some gore, but most of them have a lucid dream kind of theme. Not knowing if you’re dreaming or trapped in some sort of purgatory. “Vampyric Inbreeding” is actually sort of a dis track. I wouldn’t really consider vampires as something local or specific to Romania. The inbreeding part is about bands and writers rehashing the whole Transylvanian vampire theme. It was sort of like, OK, so a black metal band would sing about being a badass vampire, what would a sarcastic death metal band say about vampires?
I don’t know… I just remember that hype around Bran Castle where the real Dracula spent a mere few months but they sell it as his real castle with all the souvenirs and so on. May you name a few extreme bands from your area which have some local features?
Yeah, the vampire concept has become so manufactured, it’s just another marketable thing, it means nothing. Hence the inbreeding: Bram Stoker took some local traditions or got inspired by the other writers before him, made up a story, then others made up some stories based on that, then someone decided to sell Dracula t-shirts in some castle in Transylvania. These things have nothing to do with whatever superstitions people might have had at the time. They were probably replaced with the pop culture version in the meantime and the true ancient superstition died.
But about the local features, haha, definitely check out E-an-na. They used to play djent with some traditional Romanian music, but recently they put out an EP on which they went full-on taraf music and have just a few metal elements. Metal people probably hate it because it’s inspired by the gypsy party music that they consider lacking in culture. I actually think it might be cultural appropriation because of this. But anyway, it’s done quite well. But it’s not extreme metal, that’s for sure. Other than that I’m not really sure, maybe the classic Negură Bunget and the newer Dordeduh. I’m not really interested in that sort of stuff.
On a side note, “Dance of the Vermin” from Sewer Fiends borrows musical elements from Ciuleandra, which is an old Romanian dance. It’s funny that both Mircea, the other guitarist, and I wrote that same riff on different occasions. And then there’s also a guitar solo on “Gore Coffin” from the new album that sounds like something out of Romanian folk music.
How would you sum up the core differences between Slither in Slime and Sewer Fiends?
I’d say Slither in Slime sounds more like a studio album and Sewer Fiends more like a demo. Sewer Fiends might even have been influenced more by demos I’ve listened to than studio albums. I’m sure there are more differences, like using spoken word, intro synths, clean guitar solos, having our performance art friend Irinel Anghel guest on a song. But probably the most obvious one is having a tighter sound. I always take inspiration from past releases, so sometime in the future you might hear a song or two that sound more like the ones on Unfazed by Death or on Sewer Fiends or the split.
Did you have plans regarding live performance of Slither in Slime? Where did Rotheads play usually? I remember you have the Rockstadt Extreme Fest in Râșnov.
We usually prefer small dark places where you might actually hit someone with your guitar if you move too much haha. We were thinking of doing a release show and summoning some of the local death metal bands that we’re friends with. Maybe we can also infiltrate some death metal fests around Europe. I don’t know about REF, we’ve never been excited about that fest, but it might be a good move just to reach more people. We’re always attending Old Grave Fest as spectators and I’d recommend that fest for anyone into underground old school extreme and traditional metal.
What about Void Forger? It seems like that project disappeared from a list of your priorities.
Too many lineup changes and probably too much to live up too (at least in my mind). It’s easier to just start a new project and see where that goes than trying to fit different people into a specific mold. I like to play with people who are naturally excited about the type of music we’re trying to do and also have an understanding of it so we don’t have to push uphill. Void Forger was supposed to be a perfect blend of punk and metal, but in a sort of obscure demo way. It’s more complicated than just playing straightforward punk or death metal. The original drummer and I now play in the hardcore punk band Cold Brats and we also have Bîrsatan with us on bass. I’m still hoping that maybe some spark will ignite Void Forger again some day, as I still write riffs and songs in that style from time to time and store them for later.
Thanks for the interview Bogdan! Did we skip something?
I’m not sure, did we skip anything? Check Memento Mori after July 25th 2022 for the CD and maybe keep an eye out for the tape and vinyl releases, we’ll definitely let you know about them. Check our Bandcamp for all of these, including past releases and t-shirts. And thanks a lot for the awesome interview, Aleks! Shoutout to everyone who contributed in any way to our releases and helped us with shows!