Sunday, May 10, 2015

Interview with POST MORTAL POSSESSION by Dave Wolff

Interview with Jake McMullen (guitar), Tim Church (bass) and Eddie Gremba (vocals)

Having started in 2013, Post Mortal Possession is comprised for former members of several bands including Tyrant and Dead By Dawn. Did you know one another beforehand? Does your collective experience as musicians benefit the band?
Jake McMullen: We all knew each other from being in bands and playing out in the Pittsburgh metal scene. Nick played in Enbludgeoned and A Moment Of Clarity, Tim played in Victims Of Contagion and Tyrant, me and Brian played in Torrential Bleeding and Tyrant and Ed was the singer in Dead By Dawn with me and Nick a good twelve years ago. I and Nick played in another band in between Post Mortal Possession and Dead By Dawn called Wretched Decay. Tim has played in so many bands I lose count so I'm not even going to attempt to go over that list. Seems like in a lot of places including Pittsburgh guitarists are a dime a dozen, then you got only a handful of bassists and drummers to go around.
Tim Church: I’ve been in a ton of bands. That’s also another great thing about the Pittsburgh metal scene. There are so many musicians here and different styles of metal that it’s like a playground for bassists who really want to push their own abilities.

Are the bands you listed above still active in the Pittsburgh scene?
Jake McMullen: The ones that have broken up that I listed are Dead By Dawn, Wretched Decay, A Moment Of Clarity, Embludgeoned and Tyrant. Just because they broke up doesn’t mean the bands members aren’t still active in the scene cause a lot of them are. The only band that one of us has left that is still a functioning band is Tim’s last band Victims of Contagion.
Tim Church: Victims Of Contagion is great. It was a hard decision for me to leave that band but sometimes you gotta make choices. I love those guys and miss jamming with them. I wish them all the best in the world and if anybody knows any sick bassists send them Victims Of Contagion’s way.

Does your collective experience working with other bands and musicians benefit PMP today?
Jake McMullen: Our experience in other bands definitely influences how we approach writing music. We all have a part in the writing process and we all get a say. For me playing with other musicians and different styles of metal has forced me to write out of my typical realm of what to do and where to do it. It seems like there was always a formula early on. The formula changes from song to song now, so once we have an idea or a real good riff we build from that and see where the song takes us. Other times one of us will come up with allot of the song on our own. Me, Brian and Nick all write guitar parts and we collaborate in different combinations. Doing it that way really helps keep our music sounding different and fresh. Also keeps things interesting for us.

Explain how the band formed and what the current lineup had in common musically.
Eddie Gremba: Me and Jake met in high school and shared a lot of the same musical interests. We also both had it in common that we played the guitar. Shortly after high school we started our first band (Cenotaph). With some musical differences the band disbanded after about two years. In early 2001 we answered an ad for a drummer looking for a metal band. That drummer was Nick and that is how Dead By Dawn started. Me, Jake and Nick played together for about three years then went our separate ways. I left the scene altogether but through the years Nick and Jake played in a few different bands together and at some point started playing with Brian and Tim who were in a band called Tyrant. In October 2013 I was invited to sit in on a practice they were having and they happened to be looking for a singer. So that's how we all ended up being involved in this project. As far as our common interests we all like evil, violent, technical, old and new school death metal.

Is there a meaning or inspiration behind naming the band Post Mortal Possession?
Eddie Gremba: The meaning of post mortal means that you’re dead so that would make you a possessed dead person which is basically a Zombie or I guess you could even say it could be a demon. With me being into horror movies and criminal psychology it made sense. Just a unique/clever play on words.
Tim Church: Then again everything is always left up to interpretation. My interpretation is that post mortal possession means an after death possession. If people want to associate that with zombies that’s fine, but for me I see it as a demon possessing your corpse.

Was the band name partly inspired by horror movies or books, or did it come about when you brainstormed for a name?
Tim Church: The name came from us bouncing around ideas and that's the name that stuck in the end.
Eddie Gremba: It came from brainstorming, however horror movies are an influential part in lyric writing. Originally I wanted to call the band "Post Mortem Possession" but "Post Mortal Possession" won the vote.

What interested Ed in criminal psychology, and in what ways does it influence his contributions to the band?
Eddie Gremba: I have always been interested in the criminal side of sociology and psychology. The way people act, socialize, and react to situations. As well as the darker side of history: war, famine, genocide, possession, hauntings, torture, serial killers and things of the sort. I think people are interested in things that are hard to understand or explain. As far as contributions to the band go being the lyricist in the band my interests have and will always influence my writing.

Has Ed taken courses on criminal psychology at any college, or has he studied it on his own time? Present some examples of his studies being reflected in his lyrics.

Eddie Gremba: I have from a very young age studied psychology and took two years of criminal psychology courses. There's a big criminal psychology aspect to most of the songs I write. Songs of war, murder, stalking, pillaging, history and serial killers. Death March encompasses the felling of war. Visceral Butchery is a song about the BTK killer. Our newest song Devices Of Death is about Americas first serial killer; H.H. Holmes. Forest Of The Damned is about possession and the effects of it.

Did Ed’s interest in serial killers come from his studies of criminal psychology? Who were the BTK killer and H.H. Holmes, and what made him decide to base songs on them?
Eddie Gremba: My interest in criminal psychology actually came from my grandmother who has always been into it. The bind/torture/kill killer or BTK killer was a man named Dennis Rader (who did just what his name says) killed between 1974-1991 a total of ten people. H.H. Holmes aka "America’s first serial killer" killed 9-200 people between 1888-1894. He turned his hotel into a torture facility complete with windowless rooms, gas chambers, and experimental surgical rooms. With doors locking from the outside only. Interesting stuff so I wrote songs telling their stories.

When did Ed’s grandmother begin relating tales of serial killers to him? What interested Ed in these accounts?
Eddie Gremba: It started with me watching unsolved mysteries, America’s Most Wanted and Cops with her when I was young. Not sure what excited me so much about it but I was hooked at a very young age.

Does Ed watch documentaries about serial killers on the Discovery Channel, National Geographic and other stations? If so, which does he most remember watching? Did Ed generally prefer reading books on serial killers to watching programs on cable? Which books does he remember most and why? What were the reasons he stopped watching TV as much as reading?
Eddie Gremba: I don't really watch TV anymore but when I used to I watched History, A&E, and Discovery. Anything to do with history, sociology and psychology in the criminal sense, I'm into. Those were the shows it started with then later on I got into forensic files and documentaries. I still watch a lot of documentaries on war and crime. I have read biographies on most of the well-known serial killers; Fish, Bundy, Dahmar, Jack the Ripper and have read a lot of books on the civil war and World War II. I don’t have cable anymore.

How many different subgenres of metal is brought into Post Mortal Possession's formula? Is there anything resulting from this combination of styles making the band unique in your local scene?
Tim Church: I do have to say "subgenres" is an endless spectrum of possibility used by people to describe their interpretation of what they hear. Which always varies from person to person. And in that same broad sense, death metal itself is a subgenre. So with that being said, no matter what the songwriting formula maybe: examples varying from one songwriter to multiple songwriters. Each member of this band writes their own parts. So consciously or subconsciously every style of "heavy" music is being explored in our own way. Regardless of whether it's purposeful or not. And that collaborative ability to hammer out brutality at its finest not only sets us apart in our local scene, but soon the world. Our brand of old school meets new school death metal is very distinct. That in itself is what sets us apart. When you’re listening to Post Mortal Possession you know who you’re listening to.
Eddie Gremba: It’s our blend of new meets old death metal that sets us apart in our local scene.
Jake McMullen: We are able to appeal to both types of death metal fans with our breed and I think we keep them both interested. When you only appeal to one subgenre you isolate yourself from other genres sometimes without meaning to. Some of our fans like black metal, some like tech death, some brutal death, some like nasty breakdowns and we try to keep them all interested. Can’t make everyone happy and that’s not really why we do it. We write and play what drives us. We aren’t just musicians, we are fans as well and if it bores us then the listener will probably lose interest in it. All of my favorite death metal is the shit I always come back to.

Does feedback from fans help the band shape their formula and incorporate other genres of extreme music into it?

Tim Church: We always appreciate what our fans say but we write this music for ourselves and we aren't going to change our sound for anybody.
Jake McMullen: The music we create is just a mixture of everything we listen to and pretty much what we want to listen to in a death metal band. I listen to anything anyone tells me as far as opinions of our music go and what we should do, but that has very little to do with how a song is put together in this band. We have a good idea of what a song should be. The five song EP we put out this year is just a taste of what's to come. We couldn't fit everything we wanted to show on an EP so keep an eye open. We should have another release sometime early next year.

How often have fans noticed or commented on the variance in influences brought into the band’s style?
Tim Church: Anytime I get a chance to talk with a fan I'm always hearing something different. Everyone always has their own take on what or who a riff or even a song sounds like to them. I could talk to ten different people and they would tell me who they think we sound like, but all answers would be different. Examples being Suffocation, Obituary, Deeds Of Flesh, Cannibal Corpse etc. Which in itself puts a smile on my face. Don't get me wrong it's flattering to be compared to other bands that I am a fan of. But at the end of the day, we sound like Post Mortal Possession.

Is there more of a sense of camaraderie or competition between bands in the Pittsburgh metal scene? How do bands in the scene relate to one another?
Jake McMullen: Well from my perspective there is more camaraderie than anything. The bands are so different from one another that even though we are all playing metal it doesn’t feel like a competition. Who really knows what people say and think when you aren’t around to hear and more importantly who gives a shit if someone doesn’t like you? We know our friends and the people that do like us and support us and that’s a big part of why we play our style of music. Our fans are great! We are the only death metal band in Pittsburgh that sounds like us and I like it that way. We have an identity that comes with our music. I’ve had people come up to me after shows and tell me that they didn’t even know we were playing a show that night but they heard us from the street and recognized it was us playing so they had to stop up. Makes me feel like we are doing something right you know? If one person walks by a show, hears us and comes to our show out of 50 people we scare away with our music I’m a happy guy (laughs). It’s death metal and we don’t have the reach that a mainstream band have but what death metal does have is loyalty and you know a hardcore metal head when you meet one.
Tim Church: It’s great sharing the stage with all these different bands in the Pittsburgh scene.

Death metal has always had a fiercely loyal fan base. Although it primarily remains an underground phenomenon (with the exception of bands like Cannibal Corpse who broke aboveground) that loyalty has remained consistent.

Tim Church: We hope to have the longevity of a band like Cannibal Corpse but honestly we haven't even been on the scene for a full two years yet. We can only hope to have that kind of loyalty someday.
Jake McMullen: I would say that loyalty and the fact that Cannibal Corpse keep producing more and more music is a big part of their success. Not to mention the fact that they were one of the first to be as explicit with their cover art and shirts, so there is also the shock factor that made them different for a while. Seems like everyone does that kind of stuff now. Very few death metal bands make it anywhere close to that level and it took them a long time to get to where they are. They paved the path for the rest of us and they busted their ass to get there. Those are big shoes to fill for any band in our genre.

Not many people give death metal and extreme metal the credit it’s due, for the talent and endurance it takes to play it.

Tim Church: I have no concern on how other people view or think about death metal. The only thing that matters is that there are people who love it, support it and the bands. Those are the people that make playing live shows worth it for me. Their great people and I get to hang with them at every show. Those are the best times and memories in my life and I wouldn't have it any other way.

How is the scene doing as far as independent record outlets and local print zines? How about internet based distros?
Tim Church: The independent metal community as a whole isn’t as easily accessible as it used to be outside of the local scene. Then on the other hand with the internet and online sharing, everything is at your fingertips as long as you have people sharing your music. Now independent record outlets and local print zines seem to be harder and harder to come by. With everything on the internet no one seems to be as curious as they used to be in independent record outlets or zines. It’s kind of sad watching the days of old disappear. Especially tape trading!
Jake McMullen: We do a lot of the sharing of our music ourselves and we are lucky enough to have fans that are excited about our music enough to let their friends know about us and share our music through social media. With the lack of people going to record stores to buy music anymore the social media outlets are about the best way we know besides playing shows to get music out there. Back when I was in Dead By Dawn it was all about Myspace then as time went on it turned into Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, and so numerous other places that we don’t really know anything about “over saturation“. I’m not a huge Lars Ulrich fan but the guy was right about the pirating of music and how it would affect the artists. The music stores are really suffering and so are the bands. I see a lot of bands using Pandora Radio and other free music outlets and I understand it’s for the exposure and to help you get your name out there but I just can’t bring myself to support places that take that much of a percentage of the artist’s sales and not and barely give back to the artist.

On what social media sites does the band get the most responses? Do you see web zines and e zines replacing print zines or will there always be people who prefer to reading interviews in print?
Jake McMullen: All the social media sites work together in promoting the other. Facebook is probably the one we get most use out of. We use it to promote our merch, shows, music and anything we want our fans to know about. I would guess that most of our Reverbnation and Bandcamp activity is from clicking the links we have set up on our Facebook page. As far as webzines and print zines go, only time will tell. I think with the way people are glued to their computers nowadays the webzine will be around longer than the print zine but I’m sure there are people out there that want that physical copy like I do when I buy music. As long as those people are around the print will be here.

What do you remember about the conflict between Metallica and Napster over the pirating of their material?
Eddie Gremba: I remember them suing Napster over giving away their music for free. Copyright infringement I believe.
Jake McMullen: That was the basis of it. Napster was an mp3 sharing website sharing everyone’s music for free and Metallica being one of the big four metal bands wasn’t liking the fact that their music was being passed around and traded like a commodity rather than the art that it is. From a business standpoint, this is about piracy which is taking something that doesn't belong to you; and that is morally and legally wrong. The trading of such whether it's music, videos, photos, or whatever is, in effect, trafficking in stolen goods. Music gets passed around for free while artists are spending money to record and produce their records and make nothing. I think it did eventually get settled but piracy didn’t just go away. The only way to stop it would be for music listeners to do the right thing and pay for their music but that isn’t the world we live in.

Does the band make it a point to purchase physical releases from national and local bands?
Tim Church: I always make it a point to buy physical copies from the bands I like listening to. Not only is it more convenient for me to have a physical copy, but I always try to support bands, local or national.
Jake McMullen: If I like a band’s music I have to own it. I do it for the convenience but I also look at it from a band perspective. I know when I buy a physical copy it’s helping a band make some cash. There is no better way to show a band you support than to pay for the music you listen to.

Many bands are streaming their own material on their own social media profiles (labels have been doing the same). Do you think this will give them more control over their own songs?

Jake McMullen: We do the same thing. Currently there are only a few places you can get our music and only one where you can actually purchase it. We use Reverbnation and Bandcamp for streaming our music and the one that you can buy our music at is Bandcamp. We don’t have a label and we do everything ourselves as far as printing, producing, paying for our own recordings, paying for our shirts. Everything we do comes out of our pockets so ultimately we have all the control over our music and merch. That could change very easily if a good label picks us up but if we have any say in it we would keep as much control as possible. It feels good watching your music turn a profit and it’s one of the most rewarding parts of being a musician. These people enjoy your music enough to help support what you are doing. It feels great and keeps us going. We have kept things as simple as possible up to this point because there are a lot of other social media outlets and online radio like Pandora and Itunes that we haven’t really turned to just yet. However that could be something we do in the future if there is any real benefit to use something like that.

Was the band involved in tape trading before the advent of social media? There are still a few stores here in New York even if they are fewer and farther between. Do you think there will always be a need for them and people who want to go?

Tim Church: Tape trading ended long before Post Mortal Possession was even a thought.
Jake McMullen: That was before my time, so I know very little about tape trading. I guess Bandcamp, Reverbnation, Youtube and Myspace replaced the need for tape trading. As far as the need for record stores go, I think they still have a need, especially the used stores. I used to get my disks from record stores all the time back in the day but the convenience of Amazon and record company online stores is my go to when I want a disk now.
Tim Church: There will always be a need for stores to distribute music as long as people are still interested in buying physical copies of music.

A record outlet recently opened in Philly called Sit And Spin Records, that deals in punk and metal albums. Ironically, I heard about this store through social media. In that sense, can social media sites help the mom and pop record stores?

Tim Church: As long as they are marketing themselves where they can be seen by their targeted audience.
Jake McMullen: Social media is a great place to market because everyone uses it. A lot of people don't listen to the radio or watch cable TV anymore because you can stream all of those things on the internet. Things are still changing right now in the world as far as movies, music and television are concerned and its obvious music took a hit. The same goes for television and movies. When people don't use things as much the people making the music, movies and television programs lose money. When that happens they either make less or find other outlets so they can make that money in other places. Same goes for the mom and pop stores. You got to get with the times unfortunately.

In the electronic age we have been discussing, will there still be a need or a demand for vinyl despite the changing times?
Tim Church: There will always be a demand for vinyl records. No matter how much the times change there will always be someone who wants it weather it's for nostalgia or for DJ'ing. Vinyl is probably the only form of mass produced media that will never die. That of course is only my opinion.
Jake McMullen: I can’t say much for vinyl as I have never owned it. 

Does experimenting and writing while drawing influence from other subgenres help you progress as musicians?

Tim Church: Any time you as a musician have the time to experiment with any kind of technique or style of music that is not your own will only propel you to become a better musician, player, performer and inspire others inside your own genre. After all, Pollock didn’t paint with just one color. So why limit yourself as an artist, no matter what palette you chose to express yourself with.
Jake McMullen: Who the hell is Pollock?
Tim Church: Jackson Pollock! He’s an icon in modern art. The best abstract artist ever.
Jake McMullen: Bob Ross is better.
Tim Church: At landscapes Bob Ross was way better than Pollock.

Fill the readers in on who Jackson Pollock and Bob Ross are, and what sort of artwork they design?

Jake McMullen: I honestly know close to nothing about these artists and only know Bob Ross because he was the guy with the awesome fro and the “happy clouds’ and whatnot haha.
Tim Church: Pollock and Ross are two completely different artists. As everyone knows Bob Ross is best known for is landscape paintings and his televisions show from back when I was a youngster. I mean who couldn't love his "happy trees"? (laughs) And of course Pollock is world renowned for changing the face of modern art with his abstract paintings. I strongly urge people to check them out.

Describe in detail the composing and recording process of your first release. How has the band been progressing so far?

Jake McMullen: The composing process of the music was drawn out for about a year before the recording. It might have even been longer. We all play a part in the writing process and that’s a big part of why our songs sound different. Some songs I write, some Brian has a lot to do with and some Nick contributes a lot to. Those are the typical combinations. Tim and Ed both give their input on the songs. Some songs me and Brian or me and Nick will write together to try and think differently. All these different combinations really help keep things exciting for us because it takes us outside of our normal thinking patterns and forces us to do things we wouldn’t normally do. It’s never boring writing in this band that’s for sure. We have only released one EP, “Possessing Entity” and since then we feel like we have progressed as a band and musicians. We should have something new to release by the end of this year hopefully. The new material is different but similar to what we normally do. There is no real formula to our writing. We just know what we like and we try things and if it’s something we would pop in our stereo and listen to ourselves we know we are on the right track. We want our music to be memorable and catchy so that people want to listen to it and we always strive to get better and push ourselves to the next level.
Tim Church: The idea was to write what we wanted to listen to. Most importantly, not follow what everyone else is doing. We simply took the time during the writing process to hear each other out and try out everyone's ideas which worked out pretty well for us. The recording process was actually a blast for me personally. We went into Shane Brutal Studios and hammered it out. Shane did an amazing job capturing our live sound which is why it's such a strong brutal EP from start to finish. The foundation has been laid. Things will only get more intense and brutal from here.

In what ways did Shane’s studio experience help the band on your debut EP? Which of the songs best represent this?
Tim Church: Recording with Shane as a whole was beneficial for me personally. I always get extremely nervous and jittery before recording. But going into Shane Brutal Studios was very relaxing for me. It was no pressure and I just rocked out and hammered out all my parts for the "Possessing Entity" EP in about two hours. So for me and a bass standpoint, it helped my performance through the entire EP.

What bands had Shane been working with before he worked with Post Mortal Posession? Describe the equipment at Shane Brutal Studios and Shane’s methods in producing the band.
Jake McMullen: Before he worked with us he recorded for his band Mutalist and I think he also recorded for Improvidence. We recorded in a 7x7 room with a few microphones and a computer with all his recording software and that’s about it. The room was built like a little isolation booth with sound blocks all over the walls to kill echo. He is currently working on building his new studio where we will be recording our next EP with him. I’m really looking forward to that as well as the rest of the band. Recording is a blast.

How well did the rest of the band handle their duties while recording their parts for Possessing Entity?
Jake McMullen: We play shows and practice constantly. With our music being second nature for us recording went about as smooth as it could.  There’s definitely a feeling out process when you record with someone new but we really liked working with Shane. He’s new in the recording industry and with that comes maybe a passion that someone who’s been around for a while with nothing left to prove might not have as well as he knew what we were going for with this release and was excited about being a part of it. There really is no room for mistakes the way we play and that goes for recording as well. The sound that we go for is a slightly extremely clear sound because we want everything to be heard. It is different from a lot of typical super distorted muddy death metal. It’s the same sound that we bring to our live performance and we wanted this recording to be a good representation of what you will hear and see when you go to one of our shows. We plan on going back to the studio with Shane again later this summer for our second release so keep an eye out for that.

Does the absence of recording pressure show on the EP? What aspects of Possessing Entity has gotten the most positive feedback this far?
Tim Church: The lack of pressure definitely shows on the EP. The relaxed environment breathed new life into the solos and made for a tighter more brutal sounding album. It would be tough to pin point exactly what aspects have gotten the most positive feedback. I'm always hearing different things that people like about the EP. Whether it's songs or recording quality. Thus far all feedback has been positive.

What does the band have in mind for their next recording?
Jake McMullen: We will record our next EP this August so you can expect a release by the end of this year beginning of next year. We don’t want to give away much more than that as far as what’s to come with this recording but it’s safe to say that it will be a punishing release.
Tim Church: You'll have to wait for the next record because we're just going to wing it and see what happens.
Jake McMullen: We aren’t sure exactly how it will expand on our present material. It will be different for sure because no two songs are alike in our set list but many of the songs on the new recording will be songs that we were just unable to put on the first EP as well as a few really new tunes. We will keep fans posted on our Facebook page as well as other social media sites we use.

Post Mortal Possession on Reverbnation

Post Mortal Possession on Facebook
Post Mortal Possession on Bandcamp

-Dave Wolff