Funerus was the first band to be interviewed by the editor of Diabolical Conquest webzine which came to be known as Transcending Obscurity in its latest avatar. Back then the album ‘Festering Earth’ was out. The year was 2003 and Funerus wasn’t as well known. Circa 2015 and you find the band having a cult status, a couple of more releases out on different labels, and more importantly, an Asian tour for the first time including the rising country of India. Peter Kotikalapudi in collaboration with Kunal Choksi (editor) get in touch with John and Jill McEntee to find more information on their activities.
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Transcending Obscurity (Peter): You are embarking on your ‘Black Death over Asian tour’. How does it feel? Is this your first time in Asia? What is your perception of the Asians?
Funerus: It feels great to be a part of this thing! We played some shows in Japan years ago, but other than that we have been to Asia. I have always had an interest in the Asian cultures so it will be great to visit these countries!
TO (Peter): I noticed a flurry of posts on my social media platforms by excited metalheads when your band was announced as the headliner for Pandemonium fest in particular in Delhi. Please tell us how the tour came about?
Funerus: The tour came about because John and I planned a vacation. It’s our 15 year anniversary this year, so we wanted to do something big. We decided to do an Asian cruise, and since we were already going to be here, we thought we would make a tour out of it!
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TO (Peter): In the past decade, many metal bands have played shows in India, ranging from popular bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth to even relatively underground bands like Impiety, Manzer and Wormrot. Were you aware of the metal scene in India before getting booked for the shows? What are you looking forward to at your shows in India?
Funerus: I knew there was some kind of scene in India because of the “Diabolic Conquest” website. I used to post on the message board and knew there were people from India over there. I am most looking forward to playing the shows for our supporters and meeting a lot of new people!
TO (Kunal): Do you think the metalheads in India would be receptive to your style of music? Most metalheads are weaned on classic thrash metal, and of late, even Pantera and newer metalcore stuff. Do you think that proves to be a detriment for Funerus? What do you perceive of the modern styles in metal?
Funerus: Yes I think the metal heads will like Funerus, we have a lot of catchy songs and we are much easier to listen to then some of the other genres of metal. I don’t think that being what we are is detrimental to the band. It makes us happy to play the way we want to play and I think that comes across in the live performance.
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TO (Kunal): How important is a band’s visual image to you? Some newer bands put way more emphasis on the aesthetics which sometimes overshadows or takes the attention away from the music. What are your thoughts on that?
Funerus: It’s only important to have a visual image when you need it because something else is lacking. We are a meat and potatoes kind of band, so we don’t need to have something like an image to keep a fan base.
TO (Kunal): What do you think of merchandise and its appeal? In India, that’s become a huge thing, however at the expense of music. People want to prove their metalness, so to speak, by showing off their T-shirt collection than music collection. Given your vast experience, what is your take on where this is headed?
Funerus: I say “metal for passion, not fashion”. Now I’m not saying not to have t shirts of the bands you support, but too much attention is put into dressing the part.
TO (Kunal): How easy is it to be in a band with Jill McEntee? Are there the same ego hassles or creative clashes? Or is the understanding stronger?
Funerus: I will definitely say the understanding is strong. Even though Funerus is s creative outlet for me, I realize that Funerus is Jill’s vision and I want to be a productive part of the band. No one in the band has egos, it’s not our style.
TO (Peter): Earlier this year your band released ‘The Black Death’ 7″ EP through Dark Descent Records. Can you please tell us a bit about the three new songs? How would you compare them to Funerus’ very early material? What is the direction in which the band is headed?
Funerus: The songs on The Black Death were written by me, John and Frank S. from Holland and we also recorded Frank’s drums in Europe. I think they fit perfect to the Funerus vibe. I think they are similar to the early material, maybe just a slight of writing progression. As far as where Funerus is headed, we have no plans to change our sound, so you can expect more of the same low end sewage!
TO (Peter): Jill has been the mainstay in the band for the past two decades despite many lineup changes. Is it fair to say that it’s essentially her band? How did Barry T, Hatchett Mull and Pat Carroll become part of the band?
Funerus: John and I basically call it my band, because to him, Incantation is his baby, his band. But I don’t know what other people think. I know people still think it is John’s side project, even though I was in Funerus before I even knew John. As far as Barry and Pat, we had been thinking for awhile about having a second guitarist and we needed a drummer. They both have been long time musicians and friends of mine, so we asked them both to join us.
TO (Peter/Kunal): You last released your second full length album ‘Reduced to Sludge’ way back in 2011. Are you working on another full length album now? Since John is a part of two death metal bands, does the writing schedule of Incantation conflict with that of Funerus? Is it very important for both bands to sound markedly different or is the death metal vision overlapping perhaps unintentionally?
Funerus: Yes after this tour we will be writing like crazy! I can’t say when we’ll have a release but hopefully next year. Yes there are sometimes conflicts with both bands but we are usually able to work it out. We don’t have a concern about the bands sounding like each other because the music is very different.
TO (Kunal): While CD sales remain a dominating factor for any metal band, both digital and old school formats like cassette and vinyl are seeing a resurgence. Which is your preferred format of choice and why? Asia seems partial to tapes (South East Asia in particular) whereas CDs remain most popular in India. Very few stores here keep vinyls or even vinyl players for that matter. Their appeal remains limited, though fans of metal-style artwork and lyrics remain loyal and satisfied with the CD format. Do you personally like the digital format, which is intangible comparatively in a sense?
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Funerus: I prefer CDs. It’s cool to have a product in hand that you can look at and read whatever is in it. We have tons of vinyl too because John used to collect them.
TO (Peter): Indian metal bands view their counterparts in Western countries like US, Sweden, Germany, UK, etc. having better opportunities available. What advice do you have for bands that are just starting out?
Funerus: I really don’t know until I visit the country if the opportunities are better in other places. Of course though I think the poorer the country, the worse it is to have a band and real instruments. My advice would be just not to give up! And having you tube and Facebook make it a lot easier these days to get yourself known.
TO (Peter): What are your plans for the rest of the year? How much time do you dedicate or allot to touring and composing music respectively?
Funerus: The rest of the year will be spent writing new material. We were supposed to your Brazil again this year, but that has been postponed. Also we were supposed to tour Europe but I think that has fallen through as well. We try to write whenever we can, but lately thing have been difficult because we’ve been working on the set with Pat and Barry.
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TO (Kunal): What do you think of the “dark” and “sludgy” style getting aped way more than is worthy of appreciation? As one of the progenitors of this style, along with perhaps Autopsy, where it comes to death metal, does it on some level irk you when bands conveniently rip off a particular sound in the genre of death metal when both Funerus and Incantation have in all probably worked way harder to develop it?
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Funerus: What can I say? It is what it is. I mean I have influences that shaped Funerus. I don’t claim to be an innovator of anything. Also, everyone in a band thinks they have worked the hardest, without even knowing what other bands have gone through.
TO (Peter/Kunal): Since this is your first gig in India, what can fans expect from your set? Do you have any fixed favourites that you always perform? What do you think of covers and bands performing them to please or relate to the audience (especially true in the case of more underground and sometimes inaccessible bands)?
Funerus: Fans can expect a very energetic show, with total heavy low end sewage death metal. We have a great time playing live and you can tell. There are some songs that we make sure is in the set, no matter what. I think it’s cool if bands do covers, as long as they do it justice!
TO (Kunal): Many Indian bands dream of being financially dependent on metal music. It’s somewhere a contradiction, because metal stood for rebellion and anti-commercialisation. But then perhaps hard work needs to be justified. You are in a much better position to explain in a realistic manner when a band should and perhaps should not ask for performance fees. Can you please elaborate on this?
Funerus: I think if you are traveling far, spending your own money for traveling expenses, food etc. then it’s ok to ask for a fee for the performance. There is no way of being financially independent in underground death metal. Maybe bands that are a little more mainstream like Cannibal Corpse or Morbid Angel.
TO (Kunal): To Jill, has it been easier or more difficult being a woman in a death metal band to play and tour constantly? It may have required several sacrifices on your part. Would you please explain the struggles, the clichés, the taunts perhaps or just plain commitment required on your part to pull this successful act off?
Funerus: I really don’t have a problem. I think once people see a live performance they can see that I’m the real deal, and not doing this for anything but the love of metal. Of course there will always be people who think women shouldn’t be in playing metal. To each his own.
TO (Peter/Kunal): Many thanks for your time, music and taking the effort to answer this interview despite your busy schedule. Do you have any final words?
Funerus: Thanks so much for the interview. We can’t wait to come to India and reduce you all to sludge!
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