Infesting For the Future
CoC talks to David Hirshheimer from Infestation
by: Paul Schwarz
Since the bones of Carcass (one of the best death metal bands ever to exist) were ground into dust three years ago, there has not been a band who have made me feel that the UK still has a serious player in the death metal arena -- that was, until a few months ago. Infestation are the best death metal band from the UK I have heard who are currently in existence. The band's _Curse of Creation_ demo/EP [CoC #36] impressed me greatly and I was prompted to seek out this interview with drummer David Hirshheimer. Here are the spoils of our little conversation about where Infestation have spent their past and where their future may lie, along with plenty about the band's invigorating present...

CoC: Could you give a brief history of the band and tell us how you got together originally?

David Hirshheimer: I used to play in a band called Hangnail, who are now semi-famous. That was about three years ago. Jamie [Evans, guitar] was a really good friend of mine, he used to play in a band called Mind Disorder, and our two bands used to play together. So eventually we thought, "Well, we both like the same style of music -- death metal --, so let's just form a band". So we left our bands and formed a band which was to become Infestation. We came up with a few good songs, thought we needed to expand. We started advertising, which didn't really work, and [then] we met up with Dave [Samuel, vocals] and Joe [Giuseppe Cutispoto, guitar], who were in a band called Domination together, [at] a Cannibal Corpse gig in 1996. So we met up, they came 'round to my house to watch me and Jamie play what we had got together, and they liked it, and that's it, basically. And fifteen songs later or whatever we're going quite strongly.

CoC: Before _Curse of Creation_, had you done any other demos?

DH: No. So we were really lucky we got the lucky break with the EP. The engineer we knew just said: "I work in the studio and the guy's gone away, come along and we shall see what we can do." Amazingly enough we done it in... well, it was a day, but it was actually six hours we had to do it in.

CoC: That's pretty spontaneous.

DH: It was very rushed and if I'd had more time I would have spent a long time recording, but because we were on a time limit, I just had to say "all right, that's good enough".

CoC: So you were relatively pleased with it. How well do you think it represents the band's sound?

DH: Well, I have to admit I don't know what our live sound is like, but from what I'm told, because we've got triggers on the kit and the guitars are so distorted, the overall sound out of the front of any PA is meant to be a crystal clear, perfect sound. I find it hard to believe because I can't hear [it]. But people are just saying: "You don't need the bass player, because you've got the low-end of the kick-drums and you've got the low-end of the distortion and it just comes out in a perfect spectrum of frequency." So we just don't feel we need it. When we formed the band, I was like, "We've got to have a full set-up here, we've got to have the bass and everything in it", and when we started playing together it was very much like, "I'm not sure about this, I don't really want a bass player now". The amount of people who come up and say "You must have a bass player", but why? Then there were people saying "You don't need one", so everyone's got mixed feelings.

CoC: So [getting a bass player] is certainly not a primary concern.

DH: I don't think it is, but there's obviously people in the industry who'd like to see us with one. I think also [though], it is a way of making the band look slightly different, unique in a way, you know, each band's got their own sort of way of doing things: some use make-up, some use extreme styles of music, we just don't use a bass player. And, for us, we feel it works. If some people don't agree, fine, you know.

CoC: I think it varies from band to band.

DH: Yeah, sure, you can listen to certain styles of music -- death metal is one of them styles where if you stick too much low-end in you might take away some of the clarity of what's supposed to be going on. Like the definition of the drums between the guitars, because the drums and guitars are very close in this music, they play a very important part together. In classical metal, as I call it, you need a lot of difference between the drums and the melodic parts of the guitar where the bass will step in and help out.

CoC: I'd say it also varies from death metal band to death metal band: it is probably more important to Cynic or Sadus than it is to Deicide.

DH: Yeah, I mean with Deicide, to be honest, we went to see them on Sunday [see CoC #38 for review] and you don't notice he's really playing. He's just playing what the guitar's playing. With Cannibal Corpse, I'd admit it's a different matter, that bloke knows how to play and he plays along with the music, not to the music, you know.

CoC: Alex Webster is a pretty impressive bass player.

DH: He is a very good bass player, but he's not just impressive in that he can play the bass, but that he actually contributes a lot to the music, he doesn't just follow what the guitars are doing, the guitars are off on another planet and he's sticking very close with what the drums are doing and the vocal patterns and stuff.

CoC: What are the plans for recording any kind of full-length, and what is the situation with material apart from _CoC_?

DH: Well the situation with material is -- I think we have about 15 to 18 songs, but we wouldn't obviously use all of them in a recording situation, we might use 10 to 12. We keep the quality: the fast ones, the slow ones, the ones that have really got feeling and emotion put into them. Basically, if we can all afford to, we might just go whack out another recording, but I don't know if I can see the point in that. I'd rather wait and get the final responses out of what we've just created with this EP, because it seems to be doing well, we've picked up the interview in Terrorizer, we've got on radio with it, we've got in the Garage [London venue -- Paul] with it... it has brought a lot of things, this EP. It has done a lot of business for us, so maybe [that] will spark up high interests of business.

CoC: So at the moment you are hoping or looking to find a label to release a full length or to re-release the EP?

DH: Well, it would be nice to have a label to let us know and say, "We'd like to record with you". That would be nice, that would be the dream future of this band.

CoC: Which label would you have in mind if you were thinking of a label [to sign to]?

DH: It's a difficult thing to say in this country, I'm not amazingly cued up about how the industry works, especially over here. I can see that certain labels pick certain styles of music, and so on and so forth. Here I can see that Music for Nations would be a good one because I know they're a big label in this country. Century Media pick a few things out of this country. I don't know, the ideal one would maybe probably be something like Roadrunner or something, something that has got a lot of good death metal on, and we just have to pray for something like that, I suppose.

CoC: What has inspired you or influenced you to play this kind of music?

DH: Well, in the beginning we were very much into Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, and Malevolent Creation especially. Listening to their _Retribution_ album, we were like "Fuckin' 'ell, this is really good, we'd like to be able to play like this" [I laugh -- Paul]. We were tryin' to nick ideas and steal parts from there and make it into our own. But that was then, and yeah, it reflects a bit on our music now, but when we play, when we rehearse and when we create new material now, it is a completely different thing. Someone comes out with a riff and it's like, "This fits our style". It's not like, "OK, that sounds like a Deicide riff, oh that sounds like Slayer". No, it's not like that, it's like, "That sounds like what we're doing".

CoC: OK. Deicide concentrate a lot on the power and brutality of death metal, whereas Cynic, and bits of Cryptopsy and other bands, concentrate more on technicality and virtuosity. Which aspect of death metal [from the above] do you think Infestation embody more?

DH: Where do we fit into that? Yeah, you're right in saying that Cryptopsy and the bands like Death and Cynic; they -are- very technical and they know how to do that sort of stuff. And Deicide, they've got slight technical parts in their music, but their music is like a constant, flowing music, there's not a lot of breaking up, there's not a lot of time changes; I mean, there probably is, but you really have to sort of listen and pick 'em out.

CoC: Mostly on _Legion_.

DH: Yeah, _Legion_ was a very technical album, I mean, for me to listen to that and think about drums it's like "My God, what's the boy on!" [I laugh, he chuckles -- Paul]. Yeah, but relating that to what we're doing, we listen to a wide range of the death metal [genre]. We like the Deicide sort of stuff, we like the Cryptopsy stuff because the Cryptopsy, even though it's technical, it's got some real nice feelings in it, very nice, like, "Wow, the emotion that's coming out of that... fuck!"

CoC: Agreed.

DH: And we tried to pinch a bit of everything. We tried to pinch a bit of technical, even though we're not masters at it, and we try and pinch a bit of the Deicide... the running feel that they have and try and just mix it up and see how it works.

CoC: So could you see the band, in a couple of years, using guitar synths and going for creating more atmosphere?

DH: I don't know about that. Atmosphere is a very tricky situation in the death metal business without using a keyboard and no-one in the band is a real big fan of keyboards.

CoC: So no Nocturnus wannabes then. [I laugh]

DH: No, can't really say that. We're just more like drums, guitars, vocals and... well bass you know about. <laughs> So, we just try and create the best atmosphere we can with the tools we're using.

CoC: And it works very well.

DH: Yeah, it's coming along, you know. We got some really cool ideas about how to structure songs and stuff, sort of muck it about and see what fits; there's no real planning in our music it's just what comes from our heart and what comes from our head and what relates through to our hands and feet or whatever we're using to play the instruments.

CoC: What's your position or plans as far as touring goes?

DH: Touring is a very tricky sort of thing [where] we're concerned. I mean, everyone would love to do it, but you have to be dedicated to the band 100% and everyone has to try and earn a living, keep a job, keep a house and pay rent. So, for all four of us to just say "Right, okay, we've got a tour to do, just drop everything, jump in a van" -- I mean no-one's got enough money to do it anyway, but if we could we would.

CoC: What do you think of England's attitude to metal?

DH: Poor. I mean, I don't know many other countries, I haven't actually been to a lot of countries and seen what the metal situation is like, but I just know, from magazines and people telling me, that it's a lot better than here. And you know, I've seen it when Slayer have been totally mobbed, I've been to the Astoria to see Obituary and it's good to see that, and you don't see it now, that's the sad thing about it. We were all hoping to see Deicide at -the- Astoria, [the Astoria in London is split between the LA2, downstairs, about 500, and the LA, upstairs, about 1500 -- Paul], but we were really shocked to see that it was the LA2; we wanted to see them play a big venue for once.

CoC: The UK sometimes seems to be bad at supporting scenes which are growing, but it really varies. With death metal in the early '90s and late '80s, this country produced a lot of good death metal and grindcore bands [and John Peel, Radio 1 DJ, did sessions with such bands as Napalm Death, Carcass, Extreme Noise Terror and Bolt Thrower], but now it has kind of dried up. Apart from yourselves and a few others there aren't that many UK bands still doing this sort of music.

DH: That's the thing, we're always on the lookout to see what other bands there are out there, in this country, playing this similar style of music and, to be totally honest with you, in the underground scene I have only seen about, maybe, four at the most, but that's only in London. I can't speak for the rest of the country because I haven't had a chance to get 'round to see it. On the big scale, the bands who are signed, I can probably name them on one hand. But that's the sadness of it, and it is a pity.

CoC: Do you have a final message for the readers?

DH: Basically, just keep your ears open, keep it heavy, keep it nasty, keep it brutal, forget all that fuckin' popular shit and just... enjoy. It's about enjoyment, that's what I think.

[Since conducting this interview, David has left Infestation to join Cradle of Filth as their new permanent drummer; I can't say I'm surprised he accepted such an offer, but for me, personally, I would rather he had stayed with Infestation. I hope that the band choose to continue without him and that finding a replacement does not in any way cripple the progression of their career from here onwards. I wish them all the best and hope David is happy with his move. -- Paul]

(article submitted 19/5/1999)

5/25/2000 P Schwarz Infestation: Brutalised Britanic Butcherers
5/25/2000 P Schwarz 8.5 Infestation - Mass Immolation
1/16/1999 P Schwarz 5 Infestation - Curse of Creation
8/12/2000 P Schwarz Dismember / Akercocke / Infestation / Regorge Scotland Skinned Alive
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