The debut album "Culture of death" from Jacksonville natives CYSTIC DYSENTERY was one the best brutal death metal offerings of last year. Having been around since 2002 and releasing their first demo the year after, they are far from a new band though. I decided to contact guitarrist Ben Davis and find out, amongst other things, why it took almost a decade to get this awesome album out there.
For those that don't have a clue, i.e. don't know your band already, could you briefly introduce yourself and the band?
– I'm Ben I play guitar and am one of the founding members of CYSTIC DYSENTERY. We are from Jacksonville, Florida and we play brutal/technical death metal.
You released your first and only demo in 2003, but the album wasn't released until last year. How come it took you so long and what were you up to in the meantime?
– There is a huge gap between our "Demo 2003" and the "Culture of death" album. All I can say is – it can be hard as fuck sometimes trying to keep a band together, especially a death metal band, where there is very little money and resources in it. There are many obstacles, trying to work, pay bills, just survive in life. Then you have line up changes and then trying to get everyone up to speed on learning all the material. We have somewhat high standards in this band, what I mean is - we don't want to sound sloppy or half ass. So to me, quality is way more important than quantity. The scene is flooded with bands that sound the same and really aren't that tight. We want to be a little different so sometimes it can take time, especially with limited resources but we make it happen one way or another.
Was the demo well received? How has the feedback for the album been so far?
– Our 2003 demo was received very well, better than what I thought it would, especially the way the scene was back then. We gained a lot of fans around the world and the shows we played were always sick. I'm grateful for how well it did. The feedback from "Culture of death" has been awesome as well, a lot of new fans. Some people were saying it was one of the best death metal releases of 2012 and that meant a lot to me. It seemed like we went through blood, sweat, and tears to make that album happen, so hearing positive feedback on it is such an awesome feeling.
Florida is renowned as the death metal state of the US, but you mostly hear about the scene in Tampa. What's the scene like in Jacksonville?
– I hate to say it, but I think we had a lot to do with paving the way for the scene in Jacksonville. I booked a lot of the shows early on with a lot of great bands. Before CYSTIC DYSENTERY was playing I would have to drive to Tampa to see a good death metal show. Then before you know it we were playing so many shows in Jax, that we had to start turning them down here. The scene here now has a lot of death metal bands, gore grind bands, etc. They seem to be doing well and I think Jacksonville is now on the map as far as underground death metal. There are some good bands here now. Everyone should check out (if they haven't already) QUEEF HUFFER, EXTREMELY ROTTEN, DEAD CENTRE – these are the bands that stick out in my mind. Of course there are new ones out there and I will be checking them out.
Both in your area and in the world in general, how do think the scene has changed from your band's inception and demo-release in the early 2000's to now that your first album has dropped?
– The death metal scene has changed a lot. When we first started doing shows it almost seemed like a culture shock to people. For one everyone thought death metal was dead. And then we didn't sound like all the other death metal bands in Florida, and some people loved us for that and then there were a couple of jealous little haters haha. Now in the scene, overall and I mean the entire death metal scene, it is a lot different. Death metal is more accepted, more people into it, more chicks into it. I like how the scene is evolving in some ways. Bands are pushing the boundaries in brutality and that is a good thing.
How did your deal with Deathgasm Records come about? Will you be working with them for future releases as well?
– Deathgasm Records approached us at The Southern Slam Fest in 2005, offered us a deal and we accepted. Working with Evan and Deathgasm has always been cool, never any problems. I like working with Deathgasm and I don't see any reason to stop working with them.
The informal rules for brutal death metal are pretty well established by now. When writing new songs, how do you ensure that what you're doing is fresh and interesting while still staying true to what fans of the genre expect?
– I think we just kinda write what we want to write, whatever we are feeling at the time. The newer songs that will appear on the next album will be pretty crazy sounding. We are evolving. We just do what feels good to us, write songs the way we want our songs to be. The people that get it – get it, the others – maybe later they will catch on or never at all haha.
On "Culture of death" you do a magnificent rendition of SLAYERs "Born of fire". Why did you choose to cover that band and that song in particular?
– I remember just driving in my car listening to that song and doing death metal vocals with it, it just seemed right for some reason. We are all huge SLAYER fans, so why not? It came out pretty cool I think.
If you had to name three albums that were especially important in influencing and inspiring you to play this kind of music, which albums would that be?
– SUFFOCATION - "Pierced From Within", PYREXIA – "Sermon of Mockery", and MALEVOLENT CREATION – "Retribution". These are some of my favorite albums, whether we sound like them or not, they did inspire me a great deal. Still listen to those albums a lot. I was really influenced by a lot of death metal and thrash bands from the late 80s and early 90s. SLAYER, SEPULTURA, OVERKILL, METALLICA, CARCASS, NAPALM DEATH, MORBID ANGEL, CANNIBAL CORPSE, DEICIDE, DEATH, GORGUTS, BROKEN HOPE, SUFFOCATION, DYING FETUS, DISGORGE, DEEDS OF FLESH, PYREXIA, MALEVOLENT CREATION, GRAVE, OBITUARY... I could go on and on. So many bands that influenced me.
The album has been out for a while now. What have you been doing so far to support it and what are your plans for the nearest future as far as promoting "Culture of death" is concerned?
– As of right now we are booked for The Building of Temples Death Fest 2013 in Texas. I went to that fest last year and it was awesome. Hopefully we can announce some more shows soon.
Have the plans for the next album started to form yet? What can we expect from your next release?
– More sick brutal technical crazy shit. We have enough new material to probably record a couple more albums right now and we will never stop writing, so I hope we get in the studio and start recording again soon.
Where can people get your album and other merchandise?
– The album was released by both Deathgasm Records and Sevared Records, our merch can be ordered from both of these labels. I know a few other labels have a few things too - so the merch is out there. Also at our shows we sell merch of course.
Last question: Immediately after reading this interview, what is the first thing you think the reader should do next?
– Listen to our songs, contact Deathgasm Records and Sevared Records buy our album and merch, then make plans to go to the Building of Temples From Death Fest in Texas in September and have a good time. Keep an eye out for us. Thank you for the interview and all the support.