(Comrade Aleks admits that he has a tough time getting into death metal, but he has succumbed to the rough charms of Scotland’s Coffin Mulch, and you’ll get a sense why when you read his interview with the band’s vocalist Al today. The interview was conducted before Memento Mori‘s release of their debut album, which happened just a few days ago.)
Members of the Scottish death band Coffin Mulch played anything but death in their old days. The band’s bass-player Rich was doing traditional doom, new guitarist Derek (who joined in 2022) plays stoner still, drummer Fraser is in a sludge band, and vocalist Al sang in a couple of local bands too. But for five years now they have been cutting furious, sophisticated, and charged death metal with psychotic enthusiasm.
Spectral Intercession is their first full-length album, but even before that, the band did not sit idly and released a demo, and then a damn good EP. Coffin Mulch will enchant fans of old fashioned Swedish death metal and bands like Autopsy and Asphyx. Their focus, their passion, and their punk DIY vibe impress as well, and so I, a person who has a hard time getting into the cadaverous charm of death metal, strongly recommend you Spectral Intercession.
This killer interview with Al is another reason to pay attention to Coffin Mulch. (We thank Nathan Birk (Suspicious Activities PR) for organizing the interview.)
Hi Coffin Mulch! How are you? Who’s online today?
You’re speaking to Al (vocals). All good here!
Hi, Al! Glad to meet you. The band was founded in 2018, and Coffin Mulch’s EP Septic Funeral (2021) got a very positive feedback. How do you see what hooked people in these six tracks?
I think they’re pretty catchy, it was well-produced, and the artwork was cool! Unlike a lot of bands, we had zero promo for Septic Funeral (same for the new album): word of mouth got us where we are today. In a world dominated by social media I’m really proud of that.
Your debut full-length album Spectral Intercession is about to be released. Do you feel now that you did everything right and it was right time to unleash it?
It was probably the right time to unleash it a year ago but we had to wait an age on artwork being finished and the pressing plant to have the vinyl done. There’s no point in getting annoyed by things outside your control though, and it’s not like there haven’t been other cool death metal records for people to buy in the meantime, so it’s fine. We definitely did everything right though, it’s come out exactly as we wanted with ZERO COMPROMISE, and that’s all I can ask for!
As you just said, the album was finished one year ago, so does that mean you already have new material in the works?
Not at this stage really, no. The guitarist on the album left quite abruptly not long after recording and we took our time getting a new guy in. When Derek joined we spent a lot of time getting gig-ready and having him learn the songs. We’ve done loads of gigs with him now and we’re really pretty tight. As soon as this upcoming tour is over we’re gonna get down to writing new tunes. He’s got a different sound to Dave, which is cool cos we can’t just keep re-hashing the HM2 forever.
One of Spectral Intercession‘s main features is how vivid it sounds; it’s a bit raw in a good sense if the word, it’s aggressive, but most of all it’s damn alive. How did you get that sound?
We recorded it with our pal Tommy at his studio (16 Ohm) in Glasgow. He knows what we want to sound like. Dan Swanö mastered it and it came out loud! I think you’ve nailed it there: it’s aggressive and punchy but not over-produced. We had time constraints (aka money constraints!) in the studio, so we literally didn’t have the time to dick around too much on it. Sometimes you can over-do it in that respect and what you get is a clinical, boring record lacking in dynamics.
Did you rehearse enough before you entered the studio? And did you have a bit of time to improvise and improve some songs right there?
We went in with most stuff ready, but yeah, the odd bit new went in, mostly vocals. I changed a bunch of lyrics at the last minute – a whole song in fact – and added a lot of backing vocals and stuff. I really wanted it to be like Clandestine by Entombed vocal-wise but we didn’t have the time to achieve that and I think everyone else probably thought that was a bit overkill anyway. The clean guitar bit in the intro and outro to the last song we came up with after recording, just as a “let’s see if this’ll work”: I think it really does!
The album’s cover is striking and you can’t ignore it when you see it. How did you choose this one? Why didn’t you just follow the “rotting corpse” trend? Is this abstract image somehow connected with the lyrics or does it just serve as a fitting visual addition to the album’s atmosphere?
Yeah I don’t really care for just having a rotting corpse on album art. For t-shirts that’s cool I guess. We don’t want to be a typical death metal band, we don’t have songs about corpses and zombies, so the artwork should be reflective of that. I gave Brad the lyrics to the title track and tried to explain what it was about and he drew up his thoughts on it! I was intent it should be abstract, with no figures or anything too “tangible” on it. I also wanted it to be a gatefold representing light/dark, material/spectral. I think he got that aspect of it bang on!
Actually I think the same! The album’s cover is performed by Brad Moore, and as you said, it isn’t an obvious choice for a death metal band. I was sure that he’s mostly associated with US doom metal… yhough… I’m seeing now that he collaborated with death metal bands too. However, how did you find him?
Hmm… He’s a pretty obvious choice, he’s done tons of death metal album covers in the past few years! I knew him through the Morpheus Descends album from the ’90s, but also through a bunch of doom album covers he’d done that I’d had through my distro. Then I’m seeing all these death metal covers he’s done: Gatecreeper, Tomb Mold, Worm. Perfect fit! When we got chatting he’s into loads of the same art as I am. The art of Nick Hyde and Yves Tanguy particularly was a big touchpoint when we were initially talking about what it could look like.
What about your distro? Do you mean At War with False Noise? How does it function nowadays?
It doesn’t function very well right now! It was my main source of income for a long time (I even ran a shop!); now I work as a teacher and my job takes up so much of my time and energy that I just don’t have the capacity to run it so much. I still get trades and I’ve got a new website ready to be populated. It’s hard running a distro cos nobody trades, the DIY scene is dying in that respect.
Do you care about the message the songs’ lyrics carry? Or is it all about right-sounding words and fitting images?
For sure! The song “Into The Blood” particularly – which is about how the meat industry treats animals and how we ALL have a responsibility for that – has been really impactful. So many people have gotten in touch with me to talk about that song, which has been really cool. People sing along to it at gigs! I don’t think you’d get that if you just did another tune about zombies.
What are your other songs about?
Mostly existential crises of faith, trying to figure out your place in the world, and man’s inhumanity to man. Sorry, I mean “zombies”.
How do you see Coffin Mulch’s place in the current death metal scene? How do you see the band’s prospects in this context?
I’m not really sure to be honest. We probably do a lot better than we “should” do. Let’s be honest here, how “big” a band becomes is largely due to non-musical factors. Who they know, what they pay for. If you’ve got PR and management you’re able to do so much more and a lot more doors are open to you. We’ve all got jobs and can’t tour a lot, and we’re not interested in becoming a “big band”. So while it’s cool to reach a bigger audience, it’s not the most important thing to us really. We started this band to hang out with our pals and that continues to be the primary factor in us continuing in the band. We’ve never tried to get signed or sent our music out to labels, and we have much more control over our art by releasing ourselves or on labels we trust under our own terms. So I guess to answer your question: we don’t really care!
You supported Carcass in Glasgow and Dundee a month ago == how was it? I see that you perform live pretty often so I wonder if you even worried before the gigs?
We don’t really play live very often! Someone said to us the other day “you play all the time”. We really don’t! We happened to have a wee run of gigs around Carcass, but beyond that we’ve played less than 10 gigs in the past year. We’re generally pretty selective over gigs and intent on not becoming the “local support band”: both because it’s boring to see the same band play all the time, and I’ve also seen bands “take over” the local scene before and never give anyone else a chance to support the bands coming through. Fuck that, give everyone a chance!
As for Carcass, they were great! Really nice guys, very complimentary, and watched us each night. Carcass were my favourite band when I was a teenager, to the extent that I was in touch with their manager and have a ridiculous collection of weird and wonderful Carcass merch from back in the day!
Do you hold to the old school ethic of performing live shows as often as possible, caring not about venues’ conditions, etc? Do you tend to organize Coffin Mulch’s gigs yourself?
It depends what you mean by conditions! The conditions of getting some cash are pretty important to me. The idea of playing to “get some exposure”, fuck that! The petrol I filled up in my car on the way to the gig, last week’s band practice, a new cymbal for the drum kit, unfortunately the places you buy these things from don’t accept “exposure” as a valid form of currency.
We’ve had this shit before: there’s a local promoter (COG Promotions) who’s always “just breaking even” who pulled that for the last time with us last year and it’s not happening any more. Have the most basic respect for people who are investing their time in playing for you. It’s a matter of basic human decency. In the past while I’ve started putting gigs on again. Kendo and Kenny from Brainbath and Callum from Tyrannus are also doing a great job of organizing gigs in Glasgow and giving everyone a fair deal: pay their petrol, give them somewhere comfortable to sleep, give them a hot meal. That should be the minimal requirements from a promoter.
On a similar note, I think we should be trying to play more all-ages shows. I remember how shit it was when I was a teenager missing bands I loved and I didn’t get to see so many great bands at their peak in the ’90s cos I was too young to get in. It should not be hard for venues to accommodate kids seeing their favourite bands.
What are your plans for the rest of 2023?
Get the album out! We’ve got a tour booked this summer and a few shows after that. We’ll see what happens then! We’ve got a “new” (he’s been with us for over half a year now!) guitarist who we’re doing great with, so we’re aiming to get at writing new tunes and hopefully recording again as soon as we can. Hopefully the record sells well and we’re able to get Septic Funeral and the demo back into print again. DIY or DIE! Thanks loads for the interview!
Thank you for the interview Al! I hope that the word of Spectral Intercession will be spread effectively. And have a nice tour!