Bastian Herzog (Fleshcrawl)
MR: Hello Bastian, I‘m Madhav from Headbangers India. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me. Can you tell us, in a few lines, about the band history.
FC: Well yes, the band was founded a long time back in 1987 by Stefan Hanus (ex-guitar) and myself (Bastian). At that time, the band was called Morgöth and the musical direction was more towards thrash metal. The first couple of years were spent on writing the first songs, improving our playing abilities, playing some shows, trading tapes in the scene, searching/establishing ways and contacts as a young band etc. Then, in 1990 we renamed ourselves as Suffocation (that happened because of the German death metal band Morgoth being active in the scene). This decision was not really the best one because shortly after, we renamed the band again as Fleshcrawl (this time it was due to the US band Suffocation).
We released our 1st 7” EP in 1991 and finally got a record deal with Black Mark. In 1992, we recorded and released our debut album ‘Descend into the Absurd’. Altogether, we put out 4 studio albums on Black Mark; ‘Impurity’ in 1994, ‘Bloodsoul’ in 1996 and ‘Bloodred Massacre’ in 1997. During these years, we played a lot of shows and toured supporting bigger bands from the death metal scene. After ‘Bloodred Massacre,’ we parted ways with Black Mark. Later on in 2005, Black Mark released a best-of compilation on their own, comprising songs of all 4 records.
Over the years, we gathered good connections and friends in the scene and we scored a new deal with Metal Blade Records in 1999. In 2000, we released our debut album for Metal Blade – ‘As Blood Rains From The Sky – We Walk The Path Of Endless Fire’ which also contains the popular song “As Blood Rains From The Sky”. This new deal boosted our careers, musically and also concerning the amount of shows/tours we played. Until 2007, 4 studio albums hit the stores on Metal Blade Records, following the debut from 2000: ‘Soulskinner’ in 2001, ‘Made Of Flesh’ in 2004 and ‘Structures Of Death’ in 2007. Over these years we played a lot of single shows as well as tours together with the biggest bands in the death metal scene like Bolt Thrower, Six Feet Under, Cannibal Corpse, Deicide and Hypocrisy, to name a few. We also toured Japan as well as appeared on the biggest and most important metal festivals in Europe; Wacken Open Air, Summer Breeze, Party San, Rock Hard Festival, Bang Your Head, Inferno Festival, Metalcamp, SWR Fest, Rock Harz and many more.
All albums have been recorded in Sweden (various studios) except ‘Structures Of Death’ which was recorded near our home town in Ulm (but then got mixed in Sweden again).
Throughout the years we also had some line-up changes, e.g. for bass, guitar and vocals. Since 2002 the core team is pretty much stable. The current line-up is: Sven Gross on vocals, Mike Hanus and Oliver Grbavac on guitars, Manuel Markowski on bass and Bastian Herzog on drums.
MR: Tell me about the themes behind your music and the lyrical content.
FC: We write about typical death metal topics like death, blood, evil things, dark sides of life and mankind, etc. That is the lyrical side; however, there are no stories or concepts as well as no messages to convey. The lyrics just support the music in the best way possible. In terms of the music, there are no themes. The music is written first, then the song titles and lyrics are added to support the music/songs.
MR: Despite being a German band, a lot of people call your music “more Swedish than the Swedish.” What do you have to say about that?
FC: Good to hear that! Actually a great compliment for us. So it seems we are doing the right things by being double-Swedish, hehe!
MR: You have mentioned your influences as early Swedish death metal bands, you also recorded a lot of your music in Sweden, and your sound carries the trademark chainsaw guitar sound. Is this an intentional decision to make such music in this direction? (As opposed to non-Swedish sounding death metal)
FC: It was kind of a natural development over time – at the early stages of the band, like every other young band, we were searching paths, discovering stuff and found out this is what we are really into. The way our music comes together when being arranged/written, the kind of riffs and melodies, the way everything is played; it pretty much comes out by itself. So at the end, we do not have to force things to sound like it does, it just works.
MR: Fleshcrawl released 4 albums with Metal Blade Records from 2002 to 2007, and there has been no new release since then, although the band has been touring and playing a lot of shows. Are you currently working on a new album? If yes, when do we get to listen to it, and will it be released on Metal Blade Records as well?
FC: Well yes, we know it has been quite a long time since ‘Structures Of Death’ came out and it was has also been pretty quiet around the band. That was due to several reasons since 2008. Some of them of a private nature, and then others because I was living abroad for some years. During this time the band used session drummers to be able to carry on playing shows.
We are now working on new material and ideas, but it is too early to provide an outlook when an album could be ready. We will take our time to produce high quality stuff as we did in the past. The deal with Metal Blade was finished after ‘Structures Of Death,’ so we are currently free of any agreements and will see where it could be released when the right time has come.
MR: Seeing that you’ve been around for more than 20 years, how do you think the heavy metal industry, specifically death metal has changed? Do you think it would have been easier or harder for Fleshcrawl if you started the band in 2013?
FC: No, for sure would not have been easier. Much harder, I would say, if not impossible at all to achieve something. In fact I think that our debut album should have been out much earlier than 1992. The music itself didn’t change over time, but the technical conditions did like internet, downloading, home recording etc. Things are much faster and superficial nowadays I think. Everyone is able to record at home in more or less acceptable quality. The downfall of the small and bigger record labels together with the rise of the internet also caused the entire business to change. Less business, labels are careful nowadays in terms of giving bigger advance payments or doing long running contracts.
MR: When I watched you at Rock Hard Fest 2013, you started your set with Rihanna’s “Diamonds in the Sky” and went into your track “As Blood Rains From The Sky.” I found that very interesting, also very different of how I’d expect a death metal band to start their concert. Why do you do this and what do you think your fans get out of this start to a death metal concert?FC: In the past, we always had the typical death metal intros from horror movies, dark sounds, parts of soundtracks etc. There was a fan from Sweden who had this idea of mixing parts of “As Blood Rains…” with the Rihanna song. He published that on YouTube. We found that idea interesting, so we picked it up and created a real intro around it, a bit longer, a bit of cutting etc. I think the chorus of the song just fits perfectly into the pop tune as well as the beat. Although that intro might cause confusion for some fans and people are wondering why we do that, I do not really care. It is just a different type of intro compared to the usual stuff. And if someone feels bad about it, always keep in mind: it only lasts 2 minutes, then the 1st songs starts. So not really too long to wait until headbanging begins!
MR: Over the band’s history, you’ve toured with Kataklysm, Vader, Six Feet Under, Cannibal Corpse and Hypocrisy (among others). Which has been your favourite tour to date, and are you working on any tours in the future? Any plans for visiting India?
FC: Yes, we shared stages with a lot of bands over these 20+ years. As always, when it comes to answering that question, our tours with Bolt Thrower have definitely been the best experiences for the band. On a personal, fun as well as business level. Great people, totally down to earth and just pulling shitloads of people into the venues! Actually I want to “extend” our appearances more to the Far East in 2014 if possible (Japan in 2002 was long time ago). So far, we have played Dubai, UAE in 2012. What I have in mind is to try to get a small tour together, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, maybe Singapore and in another time, Middle East. Earlier this year, at the Inferno Fest in Norway, I met Salman from the Bangalore Open Air and I was briefly talking to him about the idea to play on his festival. We will see what is possible. I will reach out to some promoters and then we’ll see.
MR: Any words for your fans in India?
FC: We hope to be able to show up in India sometime soon to give you the German double-Swedish dose!
Sounds great, Basti! Thank you once again for doing this interview. Best of luck and I hope we meet again sometime in the future, in India or in Germany!