ZT INTERROGATION: OBLITERATING THE SELF WITH REGURGITATE LIFE
The best death metal bands mature without losing the intensity that makes the genre so special, and with their second full-length album Obliteration Of The Self, released by Truthseeker Music back in March, that’s exactly what Regurgitate Life have done. It’s been five years since their last release, The Human Complex, but guitarist/vocalist/bassist Sammy Urwin [of Employed to Serve and Oblivionized, among many others] hasn’t been idle, to say the least. Now a duo (with drummer Daryl Best) rather than a solo project, Regurgitate Life has always been simmering at the back of Sammy’s mind, as he explained to Will Pinfold…
ZT: It’s been a long time since The Human Complex, and the songs on that one were already fairly old when you released it, does Obliteration of the Self reflect all the changes that have happened in the period since 2012 or is it something you have written relatively recently? A little bit of both I suppose is the honest answer. The songs are very recent, I think all of them were written within a year prior to going in to record. That being said I feel the music reflects how my taste has broadened since The Human Complex.
ZT: In the past you did everything for Regurgitate Life yourself, did getting a drummer make a difference to the writing/recording process? It definitely changed my writing style that’s for sure, but that’s what I wanted from working with a real drummer. Even though the new material is still quite technical and fast, it’s very easy to fall into a bad habit of programming very unrealistic and inhuman drum beats when working with a drum machine. It was also brilliant being able to have Daz’s opinion on what should be played. I’d come to him with a rough idea of what the drums should do and he’d make it ten times better. There were a few riffs where what I programmed wasn’t really gelling with the riff, and he came up with a part that was far better suited for the section.
I really wanted to move away from the mechanical sound of working with a drum machine and also from the over-produced modern death metal sound in general. I really wanted it to sound as organic and natural as possible and reflect the more human messages conveyed in the music and hopefully, that’s how it’s perceived.
ZT: Has Regurgitate Life always been at the back of your mind during the last few years? Has your vision of the band changed over that time? Completely! Employed To Serve, Renounced and until fairly recently Oblivionized have dominated the majority of my time over the last few years. But I’m completely fine with that. I have no grand expectations of Regurgitate Life to be this big touring band. As long as I can fulfil my need to write and play death metal, I’m happy. It’s nice to take it as it comes; that’s not to say my other bands are super serious but it’s just nice to be laidback with this project and be like ‘Hey maybe we’ll play some shows, maybe we won’t. We’ll just take it as it comes’.
ZT: The quote from 1984 on the album sleeve [” WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. STRENGH IS IGNORANCE”] feels very relevant to the times we’re living in, are you inspired (for want of a better word!) by the extremes the world seems to be going through these days? Very much so, but not in an overly political way if that makes sense? I find the human behaviour that arises because of recent political tensions to be more fascinating and also troubling. With many growing social tensions I see a lot people fighting hatred with more hatred and getting nowhere. Without going into too much detail as politics really isn’t my message, I feel people need to stop blindly judging others and instead make more of an effort to understand the other person’s perspective. Everyone can be guilty of this but I think it’s important to stop and ask yourself ‘Is there a better way to get my message across?’
ZT: Obliteration of the Self is a vastly more varied and complex album than The Human Complex, but although songs like ‘Under the Paper Sky’ are more subtle than your older work, they are if anything more extreme… Perhaps this is because the latest record has more dynamics. With the first album it was pretty much just full pelt the whole way through, where as with Obliteration… it has the quieter, sometimes more melodic parts which in turn makes the more extreme parts more effective. One of the best lessons I’ve learned is that something isn’t loud unless you’ve got something to compare it to, otherwise it’s just as loud you make it with your volume knob.
ZT: As I mentioned, Regurgitate Life is no longer the solo project it was, but do you still have complete control over the music/direction or is it a very collaborative partnership? A bit of both really. At this point I’m still the main writer but I’m always open to suggestions and criticism. The best part of working with other people is getting another person’s opinion and that was something I missed working by myself. You need to not be overly precious with your music and allow an outside ear to dissect your work and give you feedback, it’s something every musician needs to accept and embrace.
ZT: Obliteration of the Self definitely feels like an album, rather than just a collection of songs, was it planned that way? Definitely, I really wanted it to sound more cohesive than anything I had released before, and I think writing it in a short space of time definitely helped that. Also working with Jason [Frye] who recorded and mixed the record helped hugely. With the last album I recorded it myself and it’s quite an arduous process, after writing the songs, to record and mix it all yourself. I think you can hear quite a few years of musical growth across The Human Complex whereas with the most recent album it’s a snapshot of a much shorter moment in time. You shouldn’t rush music, but at the same time agonising over the finest details can in turn suck the life and spontaneity out of it.
ZT: A related question in a way, the idea of albums/singles/EPs etc almost seems like an anachronism nowadays when so many people just download random tracks, but do you think in terms of groups of songs rather than single songs? For sure, maybe it’s the slight OCD in me, but it needs to be a part of a collection, not just on its own. Also in an age where music is so disposable I think it’s important to still release LPs rather than a couple of singles; I think it’s a real statement for you as an artist to be like ‘Here’s a whole slab of songs to show you what I’m about’.
Nowadays I find myself more inclined only to do full-lengths but with RL I maybe more inclined to do a few more EPs just because I can’t always give it my full attention.
ZT: The cover art for Obliteration of the Self is really cool, was it done for the album or is it a picture you liked? How does the symbolism relate to themes of the album? I couldn’t be happier with what Luke [Oram] came up with. I more or a less just gave him lyrics ‘I want to pierce the sky, and wash myself clean, without the shackles of the modern age’. and from that he conjured up nine rough sketches and went from there.
The cover theme ties in with some of the lyrics where I express my jealousy of creatures that live far more simple lives than us humans, who are supposed to be the superior beings yet rely on so many things that don’t truly benefit our lives. Don’t get me wrong, I fully realise my life completely revolves around the need for such human-made inventions but I guess I also like to imagine an idealistic reality where we are truly at an equilibrium with the world we live in.
ZT: Did your experiences with Oblivionized and other bands you’ve been associated with influence the changes in style that have happened with Regurgitate Life since the first album? I guess so yeah, it’s funny in a way as Regurgitate Life came before all of my current bands so my musical taste has definitely undergone a lot of change. If anything I’ve learnt not to be closed-minded. When I first started RL it was brutal death metal or nothing, and then sooner or later I figured out there was a whole wealth of music out there I was missing out on, and I didn’t want to waste any more time limiting myself as a musician. But to answer your question a little more directly I would say yes, there are definitely moments on the latest record that wouldn’t necessarily be out of place in an Oblivionized or an Employed To Serve song.
ZT: What is next for Regurgitate Life? We’re still figuring this whole playing live thing out but that does seem like it will be a definite eventuality. It will be very exciting to play as a full line up that’s for sure. Apart from that, writing has already started for a follow up release, and I promise there won’t be as long a wait for this follow up.
ZT: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions! Pleasure!