Dew-Scented are one of the greats of the newest wave of Teutonic Thrash metal, with some of the most loyal fans at what they do, showing that the Germans are going from strength to strength in that genre. Leif Jensen, the bands frontman, talked to Metalpaths.com around the beginning of June about their upcoming record “Intermination” and various other issues concerning the band. Time to deliver some Thrash metal terror!
Your new album “Intermination” comes out at the end of the month. What are your thoughts now that it’s done?
I’m actually very happy, you know. It was a period of changes for the band, the past few years. It was a great cooperation and good team effort to do this record, and it still feels very fresh, getting the songs ready for live shows now. I think the record is coming out in two weeks in Europe already, it comes out at the end of the month in US.
Where would you spot the differences between “Intermination” and “Icarus”?
To be honest, it’s the same band. It’s more or less the same style, so that’s not going to change, but I think there was also a different approach. For “Icarus” that was a completely different line up, the band actually fell apart in 2011, we had to regroup and find new members, in order to create the “Icarus” album. We did it under a very stressy procedure, like I said 4/5 of the band changed, and “Icarus” was written after our guitarist Marvin wrote all of the songs and after that the band started to be put together basically. Bass player joined us in the studio, there was no second guitar player for “Icarus”, everything pretty much fell into place after the recording. So, on this record, as with the “Insurgent” release, we had the time to actually grow together you know. All of the members, the bass player wrote 3 songs, the second guitar player wrote 3 songs, and Marvin (other guitar player) wrote the rest of the material. More people were involved this time around, it was a more personal group approach. I think that’s what lead to the intensity of the record.
Dew-Scented deal with a lot of social issues like the vast majority of Thrash metal bands. Do you take care of the lyrical content yourself (as the frontman) or do you all sit down and work on the lyrics together? Given the fact that there’s a whole financial, social and moral crisis all across Europe the past 5 years, what’s your approach on such issues?
It’s funny that you ask. I take care of all the vocals, so I also take care of all the lyrics myself. I don’t have a problem with the other guys contributing, but I think maybe we haven’t found the right moment for that, you know get together and discuss about the lyrical topics. But I’m not against it, maybe it will take some work and some pressure off my shoulders, but we go under the traditional “the singer has to sing the words, the singer has to interpret the lyrics, maybe he should work with it”. That is a tough question cause we are all a part of it, right? We have to live with it, we have to deal with it, and every day. Personally I think that there’s a bit of criticism in the lyrics, on different songs. For instance, “On A Collision Course” has a lot to do with the immigration problems across the seas, between the continents, other songs deal with the hopelessness of industrial development. On the record, how the 1st, 2nd and 3rd world are growing apart from each other, and how we are supporting this by being part of this. I know it’s easy to complain and not do a lot about it, but I believe one has to establish small personal steps, in order to achieve a bigger goal like this. But I never saw myself as a preacher, you know, I try to live by my own rules, in a democratic system in Germany, but I also like to abort the system sometimes.
Leif, taking into account that you took your name from the works of poet Edgar Allan Poe, do you draw inspiration from poetry or literature?
I used to read a lot of dark poetry like dark writings. I don’t really know if the name was taken from Poe writings, I think it was a word on the street, but it was so long ago I can’t even recall, it just struck me as something very original sounding. Maybe it was a more atmospheric name, that’s why it had to do with the writings of Poe. But I don’t go back anymore, I don’t read that much of this stuff. Lyrics are mostly inspired by everyday notions, happenings. So I don’t actually need to get a lot of sources of inspiration from literature anymore. I’m a very lazy reader (laughs).
Is there a usual formula for a Dew-Scented record to come to life or you just jam and whatever comes out of it?
We’re a meat-and-potatoes kind of band. We get together in a room and start playing. If we have good riffs, we try to structure a song around them. And then we rehearse a song and define the arrangements, we write the lyrics and record it. This is how we’ve always been creating music, so it’s very traditional. Maybe today we challenge and push each other a little bit, you know when someone comes up with a really cool idea, someone makes it even better, so that keeps everyone has his energy focused, but apart from that it’s really only that. When you get into write mode, you have to feel like you want to write a song. We write between records, so we try to collect the best songs for a next record when the time is right. You said something about formula, we don’t go by any formula, we just go by the gut feel. We know how to write a song to fit our style, so whenever it feels good, we try to write the best possible song. If it’s good enough, we are very strict judges of ourselves, we will record it, if it’s not, you know what we can try again.
It’s really hard for a band to leave a trademark behind, something that people can identify it with. For instance Morbid Angel have their albums in alphabetical order, Iron Maiden have Eddie in every album cover of theirs. Is the “I” sequence on your albums a trademark of your own after 2 decades of making music?
I think it became a trademark over the years, yes. First, we wanted to give some unity to the first the second and the third album, and we thought “maybe that’s it, maybe that’s all it took” but then it had a life of its own and it took off. When we started I was 15 years old, I didn’t think we were going to exist so long. We didn’t have a pattern, we didn’t have a concept of life. But it’s a trademark, we keep on finding new great titles that fit our concept. If it’s not possible we might as well change it. I think that we’ve been lucky to have titles fit our albums and artworks, so we try to give it a bit of a pattern. We’re not in a situation that it’s the end of the world if it stops one day. 38 and still kicking ass.
You come from one of the strongest countries in terms of Thrash metal tradition, Germany. Which frontmen influenced you to develop your own style, when you started making music with Dew-Scented? And could you name your favorite Thrash albums of all time?
That’s a really tough question I can’t say we were influenced by the German scene. I think we always liked the Bay Area scene best. The band seemed to be a little more technical, a little more melodic. The German scene was especially rough, aggressive and maybe evil, which is cool, but I think we grew up on the Bay Area, and then we got into the first wave of Death metal, you know a lot of bands that grew up with Slayer, but wanted to take everything a step further. For instance, there are two chapters of the bands history, in the initial line up which was with different guys, our guitarist was into Voivod, Slayer, Prong, Venom, stuff like that. And maybe you can hear traces of that in our early songs. But I think the essence of Bay Area Thrash is what shaped us the most. For me some of my favorite Thrash metal albums that I enjoy listening to are Slayer “Hell Awaits”, Testament “The New Order”, Kreator “Terrible Certainty”, Sepultura “Beneath The Remains”, Exhorder “Slaughter In The Vatican”, first Believer (“Extraction From Mortality”), first Malevolent Creation (“The Ten Commandments”). Those were very influencial for our beginning but also some of the highlights of the scene, cause some bands when they started they were very special, they didn’t really think about what they were doing, and this is what I think gave a special vibe to the songs.
20+ years of being around, what gives you the energy to keep it up and release album after album? Is it something more than just love for Thrash metal and the will to be creative?
Red Bull (laughs). You know sometimes the wheel keeps turning and you never think about it. It’s because it was always more of a hobby and never our job, that’s why it never became boring. We always think “Fuck the last album could have been a little like this, check this out”. I think that part of the reason why we’re here is that we still enjoy doing it. I mean, I listen to our new album which arrived today on LP, while I was having breakfast this morning and it sounded like a very pissed off record, it’s really powerful and I love it. When you’re doing it, you don’t have to pretend something. It’s an expression of the current shape of the band. It still sounds like a great fun to play it and record it, and that’s a great thing. It’s like little parts of yourself.
What are your thoughts on the German Thrash scene? There seem to be a lot of strong new bands out there every day: Contradiction, Toxic Waltz, Cripper, Dust Bolt just to name a few. Which bands set themselves apart from the rest in your opinion?
A lot of which you mentioned are standouts, they are friends of ours and we’ve played a lot with them. In fact, Contradiction, exist as long as we do, maybe longer like 25 years. One of the bands I really enjoy, is Vektor from US, who seem to have this Coroner type of thing, being melodic yet technical. I think there are great examples of new bands taking it to the next level, continue to spread the message about the style. Thrash metal is not a revolutionary style, so if someone comes like ” I have this new idea that’s gonna change the world”, to be honest with you, they’re gonna suck. Thrash is not about sounding revolutionary, Thrash is not about creating something unique. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying everyone has to follow the old bands, but in some way you have to have a certain amount of traditionalism in your style to be a Thrash band. So yeah, there’s a whole generation of new bands who keep the scene interesting you know? Old bands coming back also. And you go to shows and you see 16-year-old kids wearing patches, he’s probably never heard about your band before, and they’re buying our albums, or weren’t born when we released our first release. And personally I don’t see that as a competition, its keeps the scene interesting so the more the better.
What are your memories from the last times in Greece (2008 with The Great Black, Damned Creed, Suicidal Angels and 2011 with Nile, Zonaria, Melechesh, Darkrise)?
(laughs) Actually they’re very good. We had a great time when we played in Athens, you guys have a very dedicated metal scene. I’ve been to Greece many times myself on holiday, so I personally always enjoyed coming over. I like the energy of the shows, so hopefully we’ll come back soon. Maybe we’ll bring some friends along, you know the Suicidal Angels guys are not far away, they live around the corner now, but that could be a good mix, so we’ll be very happy if we’re able to return.
What are the future plans for Dew-Scented? Will any tour be including Greece?
At the moment it’s about releasing the record, and then we’re gonna play live, hopefully have a good time on as much places as possible, our first European tour, we need to look at places more abroad, to come back and show face. It’s crazy that we have not been in Greece in 5 years, we want to show you the new line up and please you all. And hopefully “Intermination” will give us the reason to come over. As for the tour including Greece, so far nothing. So we hope promoters are able to present us an idea to come over. I don’t know whether it’s gonna be part of a package or part of a tour or whatever, that’s no difference for us. Whatever takes us over we’ll be happy to do. If you guys do a Metalpaths festival one day, and you want a band from Germany let us know!
That was about it Leif! Thanks a lot for the interview, it’s been an honour! The final words are yours.
Thanks a lot for the support! Say hello to your colleagues, we’ve met them in the past, always happy to reconnect. And hopefully we’ll come over and present you the new material the way it works best, at a live show!