Breaking out of L.A.’s local underground scene is no easy feat. Most bands are destined for a lifetime on the local circuit. Long time local staples, CREMATORIUM survived that having taken their DIY work ethic to the next level. They eventually signed a deal with Prosthetic Records in 2002. Now with several national tours under their belt and a solid fanbase, the band are looking to continue their ascent. Dan Dismal gave APESHIT the low down on CREMATORIUM’s graduation from local band status and his ongoing efforts to help the L.A. metal scene continue to thrive.
APESHIT: The band previewed some new material on the road while you guys were out with PYREXIA, SONS OF AZRAEL, and INFERNAEON. How did the new material go over with fans?
Dan: People loved them. I think a lot of our fans are really digging the route that we’re taking CREMATORIUM on right now.
APESHIT: Did they pass the road test with audiences? Does that have any influence on whether or not these songs appear on your next release, as bands will sometimes scrap material if it doesn’t go over well in live setting?
Dan: Yes, they for sure passed the road test with the live audiences and yes that does have a major influence on the future of a song. We feel that we write music for our fans and if our fans aren’t feeling it then we need to go back to the drawing board. Yes, we do some things that we do for ourselves but we’ve created such a specialized fan base that’s into our form of musical experimentation that we’ve come to really listen to what they say and how they react to our material.
APESHIT: Can you give us an idea of where the band might be headed musically?
Dan: We’re actually working on a new release and all I can say is that the music is getting heavier, faster and more aggressive. We’re taking all the elements we’ve always experimented with and putting a huge exclamation point on them. I can’t really explain it but from what people around us have told us, this is the best and most concise material that we have ever churned out.
APESHIT: Are there any working song titles and/or lyrical concepts that you’d like to tell us about?
Dan: Right now some song titles are “We Knew The Cost”, “Now We Pay The Price”, “6 Degrees Of Degradation”, and “Parasitic”. As for lyrical concepts… well, I am basically writing in the frame of mind to take my lyrics to the next step after the last album. As most people that are familiar with CREMATORIUM know I tend to write within the ideology of mankind destroying this world and the punishments that will fall on us. Whether it is from above, from below or by our own hands. There’s a little straighter on attack coming from my lyrics this time around as I am taking a less word play route of writing my lyrics. I think this is because the way the music is turning out though. We’re cutting out the fat everywhere so to speak.
APESHIT: Does the band have anyone in mind for the producer chair for your next album? Would the band consider producing the next one yourselves (as the earlier albums were self-produced)?
Dan: We haven’t discussed producers yet to be honest. We were really happy with the work that DD did with The Process of Endtime as well as the work Mike did on For All Our Sins. We’ve never been a band where we’ve given all the control to the producers that we work with but we do like having a fresh set of ears to give us ideas. Our songs have never been re-written by a producer but we’ve taken a lot of the ideas that they bring to the table and ran with it. Me personally, I would love to work with both Mike and DD but that might be something that couldn’t happen. If we figured out a way to do it though, watch out!
APESHIT: The band has gone through several lineup changes since the recording of your Prosthetic Records debut, For All Our Sins. How are things with the new lineup and what do these changes, if any, bring to the CREMATORIUM sound?
Dan: We went through many line-up changes between that time and the present. Between the release of The Process of Endtime and the present day we have gone through numerous line-up changes. Trynt, the drummer on the record, left the band to go back to school and we replaced him with Taylor Young, who’s been playing with us ever since. Frank, the lead guitarist on the album left the band a few months after Trynt and we recently replaced him with Rob Tulk of EPICEDIUM fame. Aaron, the bass player on the album left the band around eight months ago, and we haven’t found a permanent replacement for him but we’ve had Alex Rentumis from TRINITY TEST playing with us for the time being. So, in reality the only two members left from The Process of Endtime are Mark and myself. That’s actually been the case throughout our career as being a signed, touring, national act.
As for what the new members bring to the band it’s pretty evident when listening to our new music. Taylor is drummer who’s very grounded in the sense of wanting to provide a solid yet technical, aggressive and fast backbone to the music. The fact that he also plays guitar leads to a lot more musical experimentation as he has ideas of his own when it comes to overall arrangements. Rob brings a lot of heaviness back to CREMATORIUM plus his experiences with EPICEDIUM bring a massive form of brutal technical Death Metal to the fold. Alex, though not our permanent bass player brings a lot of musical know-how to the band. He’s an amazing guitar player, bass player and he can even play a decent amount of drums. At this point I have to admit that this is the most musically inclined line-up that CREMATORIUM has ever had, and I think that’s why we’re blowing people away with our new music and stage shows.
APESHIT: In the beginning of CREMATORIUM you focused primarily on extreme vocal styles, but over the past two albums you’ve incorporated different influences into the mix. Describe your growth and evolution as a vocalist over the years? Is there anything that influenced your choices in the vocal sections?
Dan: I think in the past I was just consumed with being an amazing Death Metal vocalist, but as time went on and I admitted to myself that I would love to explore more and find my own niche in the extreme music world I was able to begin developing what I do today. I’ve said it many times in the past, I was never in the mindset to be a vocalist for a band, it just happened. Right now I am in the mindset to still not be the vocalist but another technical aspect of the music. I experiment, I try new things and I see where they take me. There’s been a lot of light brought to me as of late as a lot of bands heading the new brutal music movement look towards me as vocal inspiration and in a lot of ways that makes me want to re-invent myself over and over again. Of course I have a lot of critics who like to call me out on this but at this point in my life as the singer of CREMATORIUM, I am finding myself caring less and less about what people say but rather to the end product of what I do. As for what influences me at this point with my vocal selections, it’s kind of weird but I hear the music and I sing the parts in my head. I arrange them as a composer and not a vocalist. I let the music influence me and inspire me and go from there. Yes, many actual vocalists influence me but right now, I am trying to steer my own course.
APESHIT: Although you are mainly involved with the vocal and lyrics for CREMATORIUM, do you ever present riff ideas to the band or guitarist Mark Uehlien since you are also a guitarist?
Dan: At times I do. My writing style guitarwise is a little sporadic. The band I play guitar in, THE DOLEMITE PROJECT, is all over the place. Punk, Southern Rock, Doom, Death Metal, Hardcore, Grindcore… all in one song! Although THE DOLEMITE PROJECT has created a nice buzz on our own, I don’t think my writing style works well for CREMATORIUM as it comes to writing full songs. What I have done is present ideas and arrangements and then the band will re-write them and put their own spin on them. As THE DOLEMITE PROJECT becomes more serious I do this less though. On For All Our Sins some of my ideas appeared here and there, the noise elements between the songs were basically my compositions re-vamped by Mike and I even wrote the bulk of one song. At this point though I have stepped back and have concentrated on being more of a force behind the lyrics, the visuals of the band and pretty much the band’s manager.
APESHIT: Have you ever come across a song idea that might be better suited for CREMATORIUM while writing in one of your other bands or vice versa? Does this ever cause a conflict?
Dan: Not really. When I first joined THE DOLEMITE PROJECT I took a lot of the ideas I was presenting to CREMATORIUM and used them in THE DOLEMITE PROJECT. I think Mark might have realized this but there were never any issues and these ideas would never be used in full with CREMATORIUM. As for what I write for THE DOLEMITE PROJECT, they just belong where they are. I like it this way though. A lot of times people have side project bands that sound exactly like their main band. With me, both sound different and both have an equal space in my life as I do completely different things for both. If that makes any sense at all, haha.
APESHIT: Can you tell us about some additional bands you also play in?
Dan: Around a year and a half ago I was fronting an old school fast hardcore band called HOLD MY OWN as well as playing guitar off and on for 8THDAYEXTINCTION. 8THDAYEXTINCTION, as you very well know, has been something I have toyed with for years. I have two sides of the band, the super heavy doom side that I do with other live members and the electronic noise side, which actually was where the noise sections in For All Our Sins came from. I have been in many other bands as well but at this point all I am doing full time is CREMATORIUM and THE DOLEMITE PROJECT. Notice how I say “at this point” though. I am always thinking about other projects. Kind of my thing I guess.
APESHIT: While there are tons of local bands throughout Los Angeles and Southern California, most are damned to a curtailed lifetime of disappointments. CREMATORIUM has been able to beat the odds by amassing a strong local following, getting signed to a well-known label with worldwide distribution and become a prominent fixture in the Los Angeles heavy music scene. How did you guys meet the challenges and achieve these major goals?
Dan: Lots of self-promotion, lots of work and lots of dedication. We have never been a band that was scared of hard work and putting our money where our mouths are. Whether is was funding our own albums, demos and distribution or spending time outside of clubs giving away countless amounts of flyers and free CD’s to the masses of L.A., CREMATORIUM has always been ready to get in the trenches. I think that’s how we originally gained the respect of the fans, other bands, clubs and ultimately, Prosthetic Records. Still to this day we do the bulk of our own work and that’s really the only way we know how to function. Luckily, we never just got lazy with things as a lot of bands do when they get signed and in many ways, we still act like an unsigned local act.
APESHIT: You’ve been around the Los Angeles extreme metal scene for quite a while now. How has it changed (or stayed the same) since over the years?
Dan: Right now it’s changing because there’s a lot of people getting into extreme music. It has actually been happening for years but right now there’s another influx of kids getting into extreme music while the scene is still strong. In the past, the scene would die out, be dead for a while and then it would come back. Over the last 5-6 years I’ve seen the kids turn into adults and stick with metal while a whole new generation has begun to come in. This is exciting because I really think Los Angeles metal hasn’t been this strong in years. As for what I see is wrong with the scene? I think there’s still too much separation between the various areas out here in L.A. and I think there’s not enough support between the genres. Either you’re this or that; you don’t listen to anything else even if you want to. I think the whole pigeonhole mentality is what’s wrong today and that could end up killing a very strong scene. I am not expecting everyone to just hug each other and start supporting each other but just an ounce of support between all the scenes would take this massive scene and really propel it the right direction. People have heard me say it over and over again on stage. It’s really what I believe.
APESHIT: What’s your overall opinion on the current state of heavy music? Pros and cons?
Dan: Of course I think it’s great to see the music I love gain popularity. It makes it so that bands that have been working for years can finally get some of the benefits of their music. There are more opportunities that come everyone’s ways and our scene isn’t seen as a “you’ll grow out of it” phase anymore. But where there’s growth, there’s also restrictions. Kids are getting into the scene without really knowing where it came from. The stalwarts of the scene aren’t teaching anyone anything, as they’re just too “metal” to deal with things. Bands that really aren’t that good are getting the credit for things they never really did while the bands who fronted the scene are getting back together and charging an arm and a leg at the door. It’s like everyone is all the sudden trying to cash in. Yes, there are some bands who are new and really good who deserve what they’re getting and there are some old bands that are playing again to bring their music to the masses but it’s a fine line. A very fine line that’s surrounded on both sides by dollar signs and of course interests that really have no place in this music scene.
APESHIT: What would you fix or change if you could and what’s the most annoying trend in the current scene?
Dan: I would love to fix the trend of people not knowing or caring where the music came from. It’s not really a trend but rather a disease that I see. I feel that if kids knew where this music originated from and how everything doesn’t revolve around bree’s and brutality that it might open their minds to a whole other dimension of this music. I would also like to fix the trend of the older generation denying the kids the access to this knowledge because they’re just too worried about seeming un-metal to actually take an interest in the new generation. Yes, I am very opinionated about this but believe me, I have seen this world from all angles and it gets sickening to hear the same things over and over again while trying to do something positive.
APESHIT: You guys have dubbed your style as “murdercore.” What’s “murdercore” is all about and where did the name come from?
Dan: The name just really appeared one day. I was filling out an application for the band to play a show. They asked for the genre of the band and since we’ve never played straight up anything I just put down “Murdercore.” It spawned from a fan that always said something about wanting to murder something when he heard our music. As time progressed I came to adopt the mentality that the murder in murdercore wasn’t about actual murder but about the murdering of the teachings of the everyday. Whether it was what metal was supposed to be, what metal was supposed to say or how metal was supposed to sound. In a sense, the word created itself and it’s meanings over the years and at this point, various types of bands from all genres consider themselves Murdercore bands. I personally just think it’s cool that we helped create something that so many people seem to be latching onto.
APESHIT: Tell us a little about The Church of 8th Day booking””who’s involved and what’s its main function. How did the company get started and how has it grown over the years? What are some short-term and long-term goals for the company?
Dan: Well, the Church of the 8th Day was started by myself around 5 years ago. I started it with the intent to create an option for bands and agents booking bands in Los Angeles. I saw how a lot of the power within the scene was out of the hands of the people actually in the scene. I got my start booking small backyard shows, and then I moved on to small bars, then veteran’s halls and underground warehouses. As the name and the respect for what I was doing grew, I got to a level where clubs began to take interest in what I was doing. Once I hit this level I just took it beyond what anyone, even myself expected it could be. Short-term goals are really based around what we’re already doing. Booking more and more touring bands in the Los Angeles area, giving bands a chance to play with them while re-investing efforts in having bands play their own shows to showcase their talent. As for long-term goals, I am still in the mindset to purchase and run my own venue in Los Angeles. Right now, a lot of the money we generate goes into our rental costs and if we were able to control our own venue I know we could do a lot more. As for tour booking, we dabble in it and that’s always been something we’ve wanted to do but right now we feel like we need to concentrate on our local scene before we move outwards too much.
APESHIT: Tell us a little about the annual Los Angeles Murderfest. It has helped to revitalize Los Angeles as a legitimate place to see heavy music. How did the idea come about? Was it a smoother experience this year since you had one under your belt or were there even greater challenges?
Dan: The Murderfest actually started around 5 years ago. CREMATORIUM was asked to play a small bar. The promoter asked me to help him book some bands. Since we already adopted the name “Murdercore,” I just called the thing Murderfest. There were death metal, hardcore and grindcore bands on the original fest. How it went into an actual fest is something all its own though. As the Church of the 8th Day grew I got to a point where I wanted to bring something to Los Angeles, something that would put Los Angeles on the map within the festival circuit. It always baffled me why Los Angeles, one of the world’s largest metropolises, didn’t have its own metal fest. Why was L.A. being overlooked by every single festival promoter? Then one day one of my friends told me simply to book my own large-scale fest. I started small by doing a festival called the Labor Day Metal Massacre. People came, people enjoyed and I saw that I could actually do it. It took me around a year and a half to find a venue and once I did, I hit the ground running. Though the Knitting Factory is not the largest venue in Los Angeles it’s one of the only ones that not only has multiple stages but is also all ages. Since I was already booking shows at the Knit all I had to do was lay my ass financially on the line. The second Murderfest, which was the first big one, was a financial disaster for me. I lost over $8,000 on the fest and I don’t think anyone thought I would do it again. The reason why I did was because I knew that once the name got out there with 2.0 that 3.0 would be easier to book. Low and behold, it was. Many called 3.0 the BEST metal fest on American soil. To me, that was a massive achievement for Los Angeles as well as myself. Now I am in the midst of booking 4.0 and the challenge lies in the want to outdo myself again. The jump in bands from 2.0 to 3.0 was amazing, how do I go upwards with 4.0 while keeping in mind that the venue I work with can only hold 1,000 people? So yes, there are greater challenges as I keep going but they’re more within the realm of me wanting to keep up the hype without compromising the original mission behind the fest.
APESHIT: Are there any plans to reissue any of your earlier releases?
Dan: We’ve thought about it but not as hard as we probably should. Once we re-issued the Dark Manifestation’s demo, we kind of laid our older releases to rest. We’ve discussed the possibilities of putting out Dark Manifestation’s on CD since a lot of people don’t buy into the whole vinyl thing but as for re-releasing Epicediums of the Damned or A World Where Only Nightmares Prevail, we’re just not too into it. We change all the time though and to be honest, if the fans asked for it more then we’d probably do it.
APESHIT: Does CREMATORIUM have any upcoming tours planned or will the band be studio bound anytime soon?
Dan: Our plans right now are to finalize a few more songs and hit the studio. We’re a band that likes to realize a full length, then an EP, then a full length etc. At this point we’re do for an EP and the idea is to release some of the new songs, do a few covers and offer up some live material to the masses. Sort of a sneak peak behind what we’re doing and the route that we’re taking this time around. There’s no tours being planned within the U.S. right now but if something good were thrown our way we’d definitely jump on it. For the time being we’ll be playing locally and doing small regional tours to keep road testing any new material that we complete.
APESHIT: Will you guys be making any performances outside of the U.S.?
Dan: I am in the midst of securing an international agent for CREMATORIUM. This is a big step for us as we’ve always had a strong following over seas but we’ve never been able to secure the right agent. In my mind, CREMATORIUM has concentrated on touring the US for many years and I am really hungry to get overseas and test the grounds over there.
APESHIT: Any parting words?
Dan: Thanks for taking the time to interview me and thanks for asking questions beyond the norm. Thanks to anyone who actually read on this far and thanks to everyone at APESHIT for the years of support. To all our fans, we look forward to hearing what you think about the new music and we look forward to seeing you sometime, somewhere on the road!