In a year rife with kick ass genre bending extreme music, Seputus is an entity that manages to overshadow most of it’s peers. The band’s music knows no boundaries and weaving through the likes of black metal, grindcore and death metal the band creates a whirlwind of sharp, abrasive riffs that toy’s with the listener’s sanity. Then again, what else would you expect from a band where the members are also of part of Pyrrhon? The band’s debut full length ‘Man Does Not Give’ explores some of the dark and neglected corners of the human psyche with music that is intense, claustrophobic and enthralling.
This album left us with a lot of thoughts and questions. So we got in touch with the band’s primary composer Steve Schwegler and talked to him about the album, his influences in composing for Seputus, the band’s future plans and much more.
Transcending Obscurity (Shrivatsan R): Hi Steve. Thanks for the interview. Tell us about Seputus. What triggered you to start composing for Seputus again, after such a long break? How did your military experience influence you to write music for Seputus again?
Steve: Of course, it’s my pleasure. Seputus is a personal musical outlet for Doug and I that has been going on and off for roughly eleven years now. The project is a template for us to make extreme metal that ignores genre-based restrictions for the sake of avoiding any “traditional” playbook or set of rules. It’s all about what is best for the songs.
My experience in the military took me all over the world, sometimes to amazing places and sometimes to not so desirable places. All these collective experiences… The perspective I gained, the people I met, and the situations I’ve witnessed in the military have been filtered, along with all the other experiences in my life, into a broad world view feeling that translates into the music of Seputus.
TO: Seputus’s sound is quite harsh, for the lack of a better term. Is the extremity in the music anyway influenced by what you’ve witnessed during your stint in the service?
Steve: Well, in a sense the music is influenced somewhat by things I’ve witnessed, sure. But I will say that my military experience isn’t the primary focus of ‘Man Does Not Give’, nor is it a “concept album” about the military. Rather, what MDNG represented was me reaching for a modicum of catharsis in my life at the time. The harshness of the sound is informed by a particular mindset that Doug and I share that can be rather stark. It is our feeling that it is important to harness the negative energy in life into creating art, rather than something more counterproductive or outright destructive.
I like to say that Seputus songs are more like parts that are engineered in a small office. Like tools, the songs are put together for a particular purpose.
TO: The sound of Seputus does share some common themes with that of Pyrrhon, which is to be expected given the background of the band members. What would you say is the primary difference between the two entities?
Steve: Pyrrhon’s sound has influenced me greatly over the years. Well before I joined the band on drums, I was a huge fan of the music Doug, Dylan, Erik and Alex were making together. That being said, I guess I’d say the primary difference is that Pyrrhon is more organic and improvisational like a living being. No song is ever really finished in Pyrrhon; the songs may or may not change over time. Pyrrhon is a very collaborative experience. Everyone can bring any kind of song ideas to the table. Pyrrhon then works forever until we are satisfied that a song has cleared enough of our expectations.
On the other hand, in Seputus, once a song is done, it is done. I write and record all the music alone in Seputus generally. Doug hears it and then creates all the lyrical themes and vocal patterns. Erik usually comes in at the end and decides how he wants to compliment the parts. I like to say that Seputus songs are more like parts that are engineered in a small office. Like tools, the songs are put together for a particular purpose. To try and elicit a particular reaction from listeners.
TO: Looking at the artwork for ‘Man Does Not Give’ by Caroline Harrison, it seems to reflect well the tone of the music. How does it tie in with the contents of the record?
Steve: Yes she did an amazing job. Frankly the finished work is baffling to me, precisely because of how well it represents the pulse and tone of the record. Explaining the way it ties in for me is difficult… I’d say it echoes the suffocating atmosphere of the sound, and reflects a strong vibe of “See my works and despair” in the form of gnarled engine blocks grinding organic matter into Goya-stylized tree roots. There’s an intangible feeling of imminent dread her artwork emits that is extremely rad, but also somewhat chilling. I couldn’t be happier with it.
TO: Will Seputus ever take the stage for live performances, or is it going to be studio only project?
Steve: For the foreseeable future, Seputus will remain a studio project. I don’t want to say “never” to live performance, but the high tempo pace of Pyrrhon and our individual lives make it unlikely.
TO: Now that Seputus is active again, what does the future hold? Are there more releases planned?
Steve: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, I’ve been steadily working on new Seputus material for several months at this point. I cannot say when it will be ready for release, because there is a monstrous heap of work left to be done, but the world will eventually see more Seputus material.
TO: Are there inputs from Erik and Doug on the musical side of things? Or are the ideas conceived solely by yourself?
Steve: Musically, everything is conceived by me initially. I wrestle with the songs alone for a great deal of time. If I’m not smiling or laughing like a madman while listening back to a composition, it is not finished in my eyes.
Every song that I write goes to Doug for listening purposes, where he will give me very informed feedback about what he thinks of the structure, the feeling and the pacing of the songs. We grew up musically together over the years, and I value his opinions about the songs as they have led to great compositional ideas in the past.
Lastly, Erik writes and performs all of his own bass parts. He has a great deal of latitude for what he decides to write for the record. It is rare that I will ask him to change or edit a part, precisely because he understands what I’m going for so well.
I know people feel it is unfair to suggest reading the lyrics of an extreme metal record, but I cannot encourage it more strongly. Doug’s lyrical work on this album is, in my humble opinion, some of his best.
TO: Tell us about working with PRC music for the release of the record. How important was that vinyl format for this release?
Steve: We did not actually push the issue to press vinyl with PRC Music. Remi was the person who was very adament about doing vinyl for this release once he heard the record, and especially after he saw Caroline’s artwork layout. He has earned the credit for deciding to make ‘Man Does Not Give’ PRC Music’s first vinyl release, so massive props to Remi for that! We are very grateful that our record has seen a vinyl format.
TO: Lyrically speaking, is there an over arching theme that is addressed in this album? Is there a collaboration between Doug and yourself on the lyrical front?
Steve: I’ve handed all lyrical control to Doug. It is important to us that he handles that process himself because it provides an entirely new dimension and perspective to the record once the music is done. I want him to feel comfortable structuring the vocal deliveries in his own style, so he can perform his parts with all the conviction he can muster. And to be completely frank, he is also just thousands of miles better at it than I am.
The overarching theme of the album is that of disgust for the actions of mankind. Our violent and psychopathic tendencies towards each other. The uncertainty of our collective futures. The heavy dejection that seems to weigh people down with ennui, while certain groups of people in the world operate the machinery of modern life in whichever direction they choose.
I feel as though Doug painted deep, descriptive vignettes of different situations in each individual song. I know people feel it is unfair to suggest reading the lyrics of an extreme metal record, but I cannot encourage it more strongly. Doug’s lyrical work on this album is, in my humble opinion, some of his best.
TO: Is there a particular reason behind naming the band Seputus (which I understand is Latin for underground / sunken)?
Steve: Buried, sunk or immersed seemed like a proper definition of the feeling we were going for. I suppose that I just connected with the word from the start. I’ve been very partial to single word band monikers in music over the years. The combination of the meaning, etymology and structure of the word rings out to me even today, and I’ve never even considered changing it to anything else.
TO: With more and more bands defying traditional genre boundaries and combining elements of noise, it feels like typical genre tags will become obsolete quite soon. Being a part of not one, but two such bands, what are your thoughts on the same?
Steve: This is a great question, and I’d like to expound my personal philosophy on the use of genre tags today from a songwriting perspective. I believe genre tags are, ultimately, a decent shorthand for explaining a wide variety of sounds very efficiently once a listener understands what they entail. They will be obsolete in the sense that it will become increasingly difficult to describe bands that play multiple sub genres in metal, however…
Genre tags and sub genre labels make for excellent tools in a composers toolkit, if the songwriter knows what they refer to. This is especially true if they have not received any proper musical training (I haven’t), and can’t find a better way to describe what techniques they are trying to employ in any given song (e.g. play that riff in Locrian scale, blast at prestissimo tempo in dotted triplets, etc). I find myself reaching into this “genre toolkit” often to find an initial sense of what I’m going for to execute a song concept that I’m working on.
For example, when I wrote the constantly changing breakdown in the song Soft Palates Rasp, I told myself that I was going for a “tech death interpretation of hardcore music” to achieve the feeling I wanted. Instead of using the same palm muted root chord. I varied the chords appropriately to shift the scale and change where the strings of notes would fall. It is unlikely I would have just came up with a part like that out of the blue without using this “genre toolkit” concept. The songs just evolved more organically that way.
So no, I cannot personally say that genre tags will become completely obsolete any time soon.
TO: What are some other bands which you feel are pushing the boundaries of genres, so to speak?
Steve: Off the top of my head, some of the bands that I feel are pushing the boundaries are Plebeian Grandstand, Gigan, Mastery, Jute Gyte, Child Abuse, Wormed, Virus, Kurushimi, Oranssi Pazuzu… I could go on for a long time. This year has been the most exciting for metal music that I’ve ever seen honestly.
TO: Thanks for time Steve. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Steve: Everyone out there, give our record ‘Man Does Not Give’ a shot. It is my love letter to the extreme music community for all it’s given me over the years. And we’re extremely proud of it.
Thank you for the solid interview, Shrivatsan. Cheers!