Jungle Rot – On the Hunt

Tuesday, 14th August 2018

Slugging away in the underground since the 1990’s, Wisconsin’s Jungle Rot have been a staple for their old school blend of death and thrash metal with hardcore and groove twists. Primal hooks, discernable growls, focused arrangements that bludgeon listeners and cause manic pit stirring action when aired live, they’ve started to make an impression on a second and third generation of underground metalheads. Especially considering their time on Victory Records where they’ve gained opportunities stateside and abroad to play for festival audiences beyond their expected underground death metal tour packages to make the most of their time to impress.

Their ninth studio album which is self-titled may be their best effort to date – slicing riffs and this steamroller presence, where the band knows how to deliver their material in your face, get in and get out while advancing to the next crushing track. They aren’t trying to be technical and intricate – they would rather impress in a way that Slayer, Carnivore, Sacrifice, and Unleashed did in their early years. Currently finishing up tour dates with Havok and Extinction A.D., we caught up with guitarist/vocalist Dave Matrise at their Providence, RI show. Learn more about the band’s recent upswing in popularity, thoughts on diverse tour packages, memories of Destruction and Kreator, and a little talk about hunting and the Green Bay Packers.

Dead Rhetoric: The latest album is your ninth studio album, and ironically your first self-titled effort. Discuss your comfort level of songwriting and how you feel this record turned out versus previous outings? Any specific takeaways, surprises, challenges, or obstacles during the recording process?

Dave Matrise: No, no obstacles at all. We basically do what we do. Jungle Rot found our formula and what we strive to do back when we put out Kill On Command – we all have a job to do. I’ll write most of the music, Jimmy (Genenz) will write most of the lyrics, and Geoff (Bub) does most of the editing on the computer with Pro-Tools. Once we found that, we really started gaining momentum. We stuck to the same formula, and this (album) without a doubt is one of the best. I felt it coming out of the studio that we had something special, and that’s why I brought (drummer) Jesse Beahler aboard, and I think we’ve made two of the best Jungle Rot albums with him in Kill on Command and Terror Regime. That’s what rounded this off to be spectacular.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you think it’s also important to have a solid, consistent team behind you as far as production?

Matrise: Of course, but if you know we took a chance on this one. Usually, Chris Djuricic and I do all the production work – but this time around we went to Dan Swanö for mixing/mastering. That was a big score, man- taking a fresh pair of ears and giving it something. Chris and I have been doing this for so long, it sometimes can make things stale- but it turned out good man.

Dead Rhetoric: At this point in the band’s career, how do you balance out the fan expectations for what you create and deliver versus your own personal expectations? Do you find they work hand in hand?

Matrise: Yeah, I do man. The first thing I do is write for myself- I’ve never had a problem coming up with riffs. I can just pick up the guitar, and start playing riffs. That’s a talent I’ve had. I remember the first day I started playing, I heard Kreator in 1985 and I knew I was going to start a band. My dad bought me my first guitar – I remember going home within a month and I had songs written, it was just a natural thing. Here I am today, you chase the dream and I’m still doing it. I write for myself, there’s nothing else to it. I don’t try to top what’s out there today, flavor of the month. I personally don’t listen to a lot of music anymore- the older you get, it’s harder to find time to listen to music. People don’t understand that, but when you get to our age you have a lot of stuff going on, so it’s harder to do that. I think that helps me with my writing, to not be in that listening mode- it’s very easy to be influenced by music, it’s in your head all the time. By not listening to a lot of music, I just am who I am.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe that’s well respected, the fact that you have stuck to your old school sound and ways?

Matrise: I think so. Well, maybe not- it could be hurting us. That’s a good question, man. I know where you are getting at, a lot of people are saying this is the same old meat and potatoes death metal. Is it a good thing or is it a bad thing? I think the fans decide- you can only get so far with the meat and potatoes style.

Dead Rhetoric: And obviously, this tour helps you appeal to a younger fan base…

Matrise: You know it, when we had the chance to get on the road with Havok, we knew we had to get out of the same underground death metal tours that we’ve been a part of for the last 20-25 years. I’m grateful for the fans that come out to support that, but we need to capitalize on new fans and here we are with Havok, and we are winning fans over one by one the way we should again.

Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the video shoot for “Send Forth Oblivion”- as it appears you took a cinematic approach with the battle scenes and slow-motion action sequences for this track. Was it inspired from specific war movies or books of the past?

Matrise: No, I think the label… we went with the cinematic deal because it’s hard to be different in videos. With this one, it was coming out of the last video – this is a sequel. It is our tenth video, and we had to do something different. You are right, it has the feel of a movie. It came out awesome, it’s supposed to be fun to watch. Victory, Dustin Smith, he does the videos for us. When we did the video for “Unstoppable”, we were discussing what we would do for the follow-up. He wrote up a great treatment. It was fun.

Dead Rhetoric: How did it feel to have Schmier from Destruction on “Fearmonger”?

Matrise: Oh man, that’s obvious. Who would have thought in 1985 when I bought Infernal Overkill, that 30 years plus later, he would be singing on my album? That’s the dream that you chase- and what’s blowing my mind is that after so many years, it makes it special for me to hear all the bands like Destruction, Kreator, Max from Soulfly – they are all fans of my music. Chasing that when you are a young kid, and now it’s like this- I have goosebumps man. That’s the happiness I get out of it, and it’s been taking off over the last two albums. We are getting recognized, finally.

Dead Rhetoric: I definitely appreciate the “Terrible Certainty” cover you did of Kreator on the album too. Most people acknowledge of course the first two albums, but there is some killer material on that third record…

Matrise: It was a great album for me. I always wanted to do that song, and the timing was right. Having Schmier on the album, I don’t know if you know how that went down. I did a cover of “Invincible Force” years ago, and we would see Destruction all the time over Europe when we would play festival shows together. ‘Best cover ever done by a band’ Schmier would say. Thanks… and we had the honor to tour with them last summer, he would call me up on stage every night to sing the song. Oh man, who would have thought that I would be singing with Schmier and Destruction. I wrote the album around that time – he couldn’t believe how well our voices matched up together. It would be cool if he would be a guest – I wrote the song and I knew it was thrashy. I sent it to him, he was all in and he did such a great job. He is such a pro, I can’t be grateful enough. It was high on my list to achieve- I love Max (Cavalera), but that’s even higher.

Dead Rhetoric: Are there other musicians you would like to collaborate with?

Matrise: I have a couple, but I want to keep them surprises. I have some ideas for the next album already planned. There’s a couple more.

Dead Rhetoric: I remember reading an interview from the past where you talked about doing a Jungle Rot covers EP, is that still a possibility?

Matrise: I’m going to tell you, that will see the light of day. We are working on that with the label, and that could be out sooner than you think. Next winter, next fall, it may be out so we can tied things over until the next full-length comes out down the line. It would be songs that would mean something to me. It’s got to be something personal to me, music that I grew up on.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been a part of the Victory Records roster since 2011- where do you see the differences in support from this label versus your time with other labels earlier in the band’s career?

Matrise: That’s an easy question. Victory has been number one since we’ve signed with them. Everyone knows they launched us- to be truthful I don’t know if I’d be doing music anymore without them. They go above and beyond for the band. I ask them for anything, and they do whatever they can. Previous labels- you know what it is. All about the tombstones ads with thirty bands on there, one breaks through but no priority at all. Only one or two shines through, being on Victory we are the only one doing this.

Dead Rhetoric: That’s the one thing I appreciate about Victory. When I went to that 2015 Mayhem Festival where you played with Sister Sin, these bands stuck out against the other hardcore bands that are primary to the label roster.

Matrise: Times are changing, and the label has changed with the times. I don’t think any band should care what label any band is on, as long as they are supporting the bands and giving the fans the chance to see it. That’s what matters, and Victory is keeping us out here.

Dead Rhetoric: You got the chance to play in the final Mayhem Festival around North America for 2015. What were your thoughts on that tour, the package, and do you believe this helps you gain wider attention with younger fans who may not be as familiar with a veteran act like yourselves?

Matrise: At the time, it’s exactly what Jungle Rot needed. We needed to get out of the underground and showcase the band to many different kinds of people. And it worked. Every good festival comes to an end- and we know that. And it was at the end of that career for that festival. But the best thing about it was- it was all about the side stages. The side stage package was just as powerful as the main stage package- let’s get that straight. What happened and what went down, I don’t want to get into that. Jungle Rot needed this – and we still have people tonight that saw us at Mayhem that have wanted to see us again. I just wish we could get (another festival package) like that one again. Where would the band be again?

Dead Rhetoric: Do you think that’s part of the problem in the United States- the festival packages aren’t as strong as what’s offered in Europe?

Matrise: If you think about it, Europe has a lot of festivals- but so does the US. The problem is, it’s the same damn bands playing all the same damn festivals. Over in Europe, it’s a little different and they allow more of the underground bands, the death metal scene. Over here its so close-minded, you can’t even get through the front door. The same bands on all the festivals – no band is ever going to get any bigger until the bigger bands go away. When I heard Slayer is retiring, I know that somebody can now move up. That’s the bottom line. They are great bands, but some need to go away.

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