Life Is Wasted on the Living
CoC chats with Ben McCrow of The Rotted
by: Jackie Smit
Reinvention within our beloved scene has always been something of a proverbial golem -- you need only take a look at some of metal's most influential names for ample, arresting proof of that. Metallica tried it repeatedly, tearing up the rulebook and coming up several pages short every time. Celtic Frost's Thomas Gabriel Fischer sported the sort of flamboyant hairstyle during the band's disastrous _Cold Lake_ era, which practically ensured that very few would take his portentous rambling (or at least his online blog) seriously ever again. And lest we forget Paradise Lost's transformation from doom titans to Depeche Mode imitators; an exercise from which they're still struggling to recover.

So when Gorerotted announced last year that they were to drop their moniker in favour of the more subtle The Rotted, and that they would be embarking on a musical spring-cleaning of sorts, fans had every reason to be worried. That is course, until they actually had the pleasure of hearing the precision sonic beatdown of _Get Dead or Die Trying_. I had the pleasure of talking to frontman Ben McCrow about the band's facelift, and life on the streets of London. Here's how it went down.

CoC: Ten years ago, while I was still living in South Africa, a friend of mine brought me a demo tape called _Her Gash I Did Slash_ by a band called Gorerotted. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, but exactly how different would you say you are as a band a decade later?

Ben McCrow: <laughs> It couldn't be more different, I don't think. I mean for starters, the only person that's still with us from that recording is Tim [Weatherley, guitar]. I wasn't even on that demo. I only joined afterward. So we're a completely different band, and that's partly why we changed our name to The Rotted. Everything that we wanted to accomplish in our first incarnation, so to speak, has been done. Everything that the band was about before -- we're not about that any more.

CoC: In comparison to all your other records, _Get Dead or Die Trying_ is a major step-change -- at least to my ears -- both in terms of music and lyrics. First of all, where did the motivation for this record come from, because from a musical point of view I can certainly hear a lot of influences coming to the fore that weren't there previously?

BC: I guess when we started off with the first two albums, our main objective was to create death metal and grindcore. That's what we were listening to at the time and that's what we were into. We were into other things as well, but it's only recently where listening to death metal has more or less taken a backbench for all of us. We all still love the classics and there are some good bands coming out, but too much of what I hear is mediocre and I've heard it all a hundred times before. Plus, when we brought the two new guys into the band [Nate Gould, drums, and John Piras, guitar] we basically had both a rhythm and a lead guitarist for the first time since we started. We also went from having a drummer who was only ever interested in playing blastbeats and grindcore, to a guy who's a little more diverse in his outlook. That helped us be significantly less limited in our approach, and it ultimately led to us changing our name.

CoC: Who in the band first suggested the name-change?

BC: I can't remember, to be honest. All I remember is that we were jamming out a couple of the new songs and we all sort of came to the conclusion that it wasn't Gorerotted anymore. Then someone mentioned the potential name-change over e-mail, and I was a bit dubious for the first five minutes, and then I got on board. We've got a new way of doing things, and as a band, we have a newfound enthusiasm and energy.

CoC: When you announced the name-change officially, how did you experience the reaction from those individuals who had been fans of the band since the beginning?

BC: Well, a lot of them assumed the worst, which I would have done too. I think some of them were afraid that we were going to become an emo band or a melodic death metal band or something like that. But the response to the new material from old and new fans has been fantastic. There are some people who may prefer the older stuff, but hopefully they understand that we can't keep doing the same thing we were doing seven years ago with different people in the band. Like us, a lot of people believe that this our best and most mature record yet.

CoC: It's not exactly like you've moved away from death metal either...

BC: We're all very into the UK punk scene from the Eighties. We're all into thrash. We're all into black metal. Some of us listen to classical. I like a lot of industrial and experimental music. Personally I wouldn't even call this album death metal, because to me a death metal band needs to be singing about death. I'm singing about real life. It's brutal and it's extreme, but it's not death metal. There's no one band we've chosen to sound like. We've just been influenced by countless bands and musicians over the years.

CoC: You mentioned the personnel shift in the band earlier on. In terms of these new guys coming in, how did they slot into the band creatively and how active were they in contributing to the new album?

BC: They were really into it from the start. Nate, our drummer, is really diverse at what he does. He knows when to slow it down, he knows when to make it funky. He's just an amazing drummer and he's into so many things that he has a lot of tools at his disposal, so to speak. As for John, he can put a lot into the music because he's a lead guitarist, and we've only ever had two rhythm guitarists. When it comes to the new material, we had a few things written, but in the end, I think most of that was re-written as well. What these guys do and contribute always seems relevant and always seems to gel.

CoC: What were the dynamics like in the studio considering that you were working with a distinctly different band?

BC: People always work differently, but without going into too much detail, these guys were just really easy to work with. A lot of the crap that we may have had in the past was gone. We're all pulling in the same direction now. Tim, Wilson and I have been doing this for a long time now and with the new guys joining us, we just treated this as a new band.

CoC: You joined in 1999, and up until about 2004, you were one of two vocalists in the band. How did you handle making the transition into becoming the band's sole focal point, so to speak?

BC: There's definitely a bit more pressure, especially live. Trying to get all the words out is a real pain sometimes, and I can't stand still, so I tend to get out of breath from time to time. The other guy that we had [Jason Merle], had no sense of rhythm and he was very monotonous most of the time. We really struggled to do anything beyond the ordinary with him.

CoC: Why the decision to ditch the horror lyrics too?

BC: We've just changed as people. I was eighteen when I joined. I'm twenty-seven now and it's inevitable that you're going to change during that time. Now I just have no interest in singing about stuff like that at all. I have no interest in singing about gore, zombies or any of that shit. I'd much rather tell you some crazy story that happened on tour, or tell a story about running with the police. That stuff is more interesting to me. The lyrics I'm writing now are a lot more valid to me.

CoC: A lot of the topics you're covering on this new record seem to be particularly applicable to the current knife-crime situation in London, and I was keen to get your take on why you think we have kids as young as eleven and twelve running around with knives and guns and killing each other.

BC: I could spend an hour talking about this. I think part of the problem is that places like London are completely overcrowded. It's like that in a lot of cities, but in London particularly I find there's a really shit attitude amongst people that seems to be the order of the day. Kids have always been mischievous and they will always be little rascals, but I think the media frenzy around a few of the recent incidents where people got stabbed actually fuels it to the point where it gets worse. Those kids who want to be seen as being tough, now they start carrying knives because they want to play up to that image. Then the kids who aren't that way inclined get scared and they start carrying knives to protect themselves, and when situations do erupt, then it just spirals out of control. These kids are too young to realise the consequences of what they're doing. But I think a lot of this stuff is glorified in certain types of music, in films, a lot of it is social problems. It's ridiculous to pin the blame on one particular thing, but the media definitely plays a big part in it all, I think.

CoC: Getting back to the band, this is your third record for Metal Blade. How has the relationship been working out for you?

BC: It's good. I mean, it's always been good. I think we've been taken better care of in Europe than we have in America, but that's because the label has different priorities over there. When we mentioned that we wanted to change our name and they heard the new material, they were totally behind us, and hopefully they're going to help increase our profile even more with the new record.

CoC: So what are your plans now for the next twelve months?

BC: Well, we have a few festivals confirmed. We'll spend about a month in Europe doing those and then we want to try and get over to the States. We want to push this album as much as we can. We really believe in this record, and we'll try our best to let as many people hear it was we possibly can.

(article submitted 9/8/2008)

7/2/2008 J Smit 8.5 The Rotted - Get Dead or Die Trying
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