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Steel for Brains

Exploring the Brains behind the Noise

Behold the darkness of the Midwest.  Since their 2009 demo, the Indianapolis blackened doom of Coffinworm has shown the band’s penchant for blistering black metal riffs paired with the steady slow burn doom at its most aurally visceral.  Their second full-lengthIV.I.VIII (Profound Lore),takes the platform of their outstanding debut and builds on it with a sound that’s at many points throughout the album, completely unique to the band.  It’s the kind of viciousness countless bands strive to encapsulate in their music to no avail but one that Coffinworm devour with a dark pleasure. For this two part interview feature, SfB recently spoke to vocalist Dave Britts about the release, the band’s beginnings, and the catharsis of the writing process .  


My first question just concerns Coffinworm’s beginnings.  What brought you guys together initially in 2009 with the demo and how have you seen the band’s trajectory leading up to the new record?

Well basically, to be honest, when we first started we felt like there was a certain style of music that could be played, and we had heard elements in various different bands that we enjoyed that we thought could be combined and coalesced into this entity that we really feel existed.  We were all in different bands at the time.  We were all good friends, and we still are obviously, but we all knew each other, and Indianapolis is a pretty insular scene insomuch that if you are in a band, or if you play music for longer than a year or two, unless you just abandon the shit and jump shit to move on to something else, odds are good you know pretty much everyone that’s in a band. 

We all play in each other’s bands, we play shows with other bands that are friends and shit like that.  The original lineup, just the five us, just basically sat down over some beers to discuss what we’d like to do, saw that there was a void, and not this grandiose vision, but we just felt like there could be a band that could blend elements of doom metal, death metal, a little bit of hardcore, and a little bit of black metal, and we just felt like we could do something that we ourselves would enjoy listening to first and foremost. 

So when we formed, basically we just practiced a bunch in a basement in the cold and just wrote songs, took our time, and didn’t really have any definitive goals or anything specific in mind for the band.  Our main thinking was ‘Okay, we like hanging out.  We like chilling with each other, and we like writing music.  Let’s write some songs, record ‘em, put out a  demo,’ and that was really about as grand an idealization in terms of trajectory that the band would take as we had.  We thought we’d be another band who’d play couple of shows, put out the demo, and see what happens, but we didn’t really have any large ideas. 

Our first show we were offered to play with our really good friends in Unearthly Trance, who we were just fans of at the time but through the course of the band actually became quite good friends with, and there was another band called Racebannon playing, which was a band that I used to be in.  So that was kind of the impetus of us knowing that we knew we’d have to play our first show eventually, and it was with a band that we really liked, and a band that we also liked and were good friends with, so we were just like ‘Fuck it.’  We played our first show for better or for worse, then spent the next however long just refining stuff, refining the songs, and changing stuff around, and then we recorded Great Bringer of Night with really the only expectation being that there’d be a demo, we’d play a few shows here and there, sell it to friends, pass it around. 


Carl sent it to Chris from Profound Lore, and not even thinking ‘Hey, is there any interest in putting this out,’ but from a ‘Hey, we’re really good fans of your label.  We like a lot of the bands on your label, and we could use some help with mail order.  Would you mind picking up a few copies of the CD for your distribution?’  We were thinking he might take ten or twenty copies, and Carl sent him a copy of it and a shirt.  The next thing we know Carl is approaching saying “Hey, Chris wants to either put this out as a record, or have us do a record with him.”  The original Great Bringer of Night was only three songs, but in the session we recorded five.  We tacked those two songs on the vinyl reissue, but until the vinyl came out the only way people had heard those two songs was by seeing us live or When All Became None came out, they debuted there. 

Looking back that was probably the wisest decision that we ever made.  We’re in no way, shape, or form embarrassed or dissatisfied with the demo, because, fuck, it was our first recording!  It did exactly what it was supposed to do.  It was our first chance recording with each other in this new band in a concrete setting.  I feel like it would have been a great disservice to ourselves to have released that as it stands as our debut album, because When All Became None was much more unified and much stronger.  It gave us time to really hone in on the material and decide what we really liked and what we didn’t and focus on flipping shit around for how we played the songs and stuff like that.  

It was very serendipitous that we did not release the five song demo as it stands as our first album on Profound Lore because we wouldn’t have gotten to record with Sanford, and it was just wise that our energy told us ‘Hey, no, don’t do this.’  So we just kept selling the demos, kept refining the material, kept playing shows, and then there was All Became None.  As far as the genesis, those are more about the origins and that’s as far as our heads were at that point.  Then as far as post-LP release, we were completely blown away that anyone gave a fuck.  It came as a huge surprise to us not because we didn’t have faith in our material or the record or anything like that.  We just didn’t have that grandiose vision.  We were just willing to do it and then take whatever came along the way.  The next thing we know we’re playing SXSW, doing interviews, having our names mentioned in magazines, and all these blogs, and people talking about us – it was just kind of mind blowing. 


 

Going along with that, how do you see your own personal journey or evolution as a musician and person to the point where you are now? 

That’s a very interesting question, my man.  Really, me personally, I just grew up with music.  Was always a fan of records as in actual vinyl.  Still am.  Basically, my first two bands I was in: I was in a black metal band from Indiana with another dude who I was friends with at the time.  I always just wanted to play music primarily just to work through different issues from childhood or from my life or whatever, and it just seemed like a good way to do it, but it was also a familial thing just playing onstage with your friends, and having a good time and sharing moments and creating something and kind of transcending beyond the mundane nature of everyday life. 

As far as that, everything I’ve ever been through in my life has shaped the person that I am, so I’d say personally it’s not only my aesthetic but the aesthetic of the other members in the band.  Whether it’s with Coffinworm or with any of the bands that any of us are in, have been in, or will do – it’s just a desire to not repeat yourself, to not just recycle and rehash the same shit you’ve already done, but to always try to put your best foot forward.  I remember one of the first bands I ever sang in, I would sing a song, go outside and puke, and come back in and sing another song and repeat. 

Now, I look back and I remember when it used to be such a chore to try and write lyrics, and try to write patterns or maintain the stamina to even do whole set of songs.  Now when I listen the shit I’m doing I find it edifying, because I can’t believe I can fucking do that.  Even though we all play different instruments or have different roles in the band, we write collaboratively.  We do things like that, and I look at it and think ‘Man, this is really cool that we had this idea, and we flipped that around’ or whatever, and that’s personally edifying.  It’s a trip.  I’m not a dick or anything because there’s more than enough motherfuckers out there in the world who do a smashing job of that, and though I don’t consider myself a vain person, I’m very proud of the second LP.  

We couldn’t have done When All Became None part two if we had guns pointed to our heads.  We just couldn’t do it and not only because we had a lineup change, but because we were different people.  We went through a lot of shit since then and the band’s evolved, the songwriting’s evolved, but honestly the fact that the second record, after all the shit we’ve been through as individuals and in a cumulative group setting, it’s a miracle that the second record even surfaced.  So the fact that it’s on tape, getting ready to come out, and the fact that you and I are sitting down talking – that right there is just huge to me and a source of inspiration that sometimes the universe gives you an inner vibe of just sticking to your path and doing what you need to do. 


Where did you find yourself consciously during the writing process for IV.I.VIII?  Is there a specific headspace you try to get in when writing, and what does that entail?

Without delving into too much shit, 2013 was, for me, unequivocally the worst year of my life.  Hands down.  Thank fuck it’s over.  Ironically enough, the first record I basically wrote about my life experiences and things I was did and was trying to work through as well as some other shit that unless you really knew me, they’re kind of veiled, and you really wouldn’t know what I’m writing about.  One of my friends texted me the other day, in fact, and said that the first record sounded like a complete and total disregard for humanity, which I found interesting because when I look back I think that my lyrics and some of the things I was working through by lyrics were a total disregard for myself, and I didn’t even fucking realize it at the time. 

In the years since, it began to look like the first LP was written from this perspective that I thought was thirdhand but was actually firsthand and further immersed myself in the spiral that ensured it was gonna be firsthand.  Last year just fucking sucked, though.  It was good for a lot of the other dudes in the band as far as people getting married and having their first kid, but 2013 was the year that almost did me in, for real.  When it came to approach the lyrics for the new record, I threw away everything that I had.  Based upon what I had done, I’ve always been the kind of dude that I have a lyric book, and I’ll write what’ll sometimes be a line or sometimes just a few words or sometimes it’s been a whole song in one sitting. 

But I’m very much a fan of piecing together thoughts in the same way that you might write a college paper.  It’s all rough outlines until something leaps out at me, and I get inspired to pick up the pieces and fit them together.  Well, I destroyed all the content that I had because compared to what I went through, suddenly none of this shit seemed meaningful, poignant, or real in the slightest.  It didn’t matter.  It’s one thing to write about death, pain, destruction, burning churches, and fucking corpses and shit like that, but it’s kind of an indefensible position because odds are good that if you really do shit like that you’re gonna go to fucking prison.  You’re gonna get caught or something’s gonna happen to you, so it’s not really sustainable. 

So I don’t really write about that shit.  It may seem like it, and some of the song titles sometimes lead people to think that the songs are written about things that they’re fundamentally not, but when I write about something I’m bringing a multifaceted approach to that.  It’s something filtered through my eyes, and nine times out of ten it’s about life experience, so my entire creative process, outside of Instant Death Syndrome, which we had already recorded for our split 7” with Fistula, I basically had a couple, and I mean a couple as in three fucking lines written the first night we went into the studio, and we all just sat up and just jammed and played through everything. 

It just all poured the fuck out of me.  It was bizarre.  I didn’t write the shit in my lyric book like I usually did.  I basically immersed myself.  I made a drink.  I packed a fuckin’ bowl.  I made sure both were full, and for two or three solid hours just worked off the vibe that my dudes were giving that was inspiring me.  It was very visceral, and then next day I basically wrote the lyrics as went along, which was a completely foreign exercise to how I’d ever operated before.  Looking back, it was a) a challenge, b) one that I succeeded at, and c) it was incredibly rewarding. 

I’m very happy with how everything came out.  We went through some really major shit that would crush most people, and it was really a process of us figuring out how we could channel that into something, and how we could avoid repeating anything else.  Most importantly, man, I didn’t want to spend another couple of years internalizing some shit and some darkness that was going to manifest in more self destructive behavior in my personal life because I’m too goddamn old to keep doing shit like that.  


Thanks to Dave for his time.


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4 months ago
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