Hamburg’s death metal powerhouse Endseeker worked on a new album that is in the starting blocks. ‘Mount Carcass’ will be unleashed on April 16th and Markus’ Heavy Music Blog got the opportunity to talk to Endseeker guitarist Ben Liepelt. Enjoy reading what Ben has to tell about the new album and more.
Markus’ Heavy Music Blog: Ben, an important question right away. How’s it going?
Ben Liepelt: Actually, so far so good. The weather is fine this week and the new record is just around the corner. Everything is very exciting and everyone is healthy. So I can’t complain at the moment, except that we don’t have a tour in sight.
MHMB: The last time we have been in contact was about 12 months ago and at the time, the pandemic has just started and nobody knew exactly how it will go on. Now, a year has passed and not much has changed. How have the last months for Endseeker?
Ben: Well, it was a bit of an up and down ride. In the beginning, there were some cancelled shows and we thought: “OK. Shit. But how long can something like that really last?” Nobody could assume that such a bloody pandemic will somehow last forever. Nobody has ever been through such a craziness before. When the time came at the end of April 2020, when all our shows for the year were cancelled, that was the moment when we thought: “OK, that’s a little bit more serious. Then we have to figure something out. Either we sit this out and when it’ s over, then we tour with ‘The Harvest’ like we had planned.” The risk of hanging around forever and not doing anything was too big. We said, “Nah, then let’s be creative and write a new album. We have nothing to lose and in case of doubt we have a fresh album at hand when Corona is over”. So, we started writing songs. That was all very easy and completely relaxed, because we had no real deadline pressure and endless time. You couldn’t do anything in the evenings anyway nor were there any free-time activities that would have distracted us. We put all our energy and time into the song, which was a lot of fun. We couldn’t rehearse all the time because it wasn’t always possible to meet up with the full amount of people, but at some point, things settled down. We had also clarified the whole situation with the Health Authorities and then met again all together to finish the record, to be able to enter the studio. That’s practically how we spent our last year.
MHMB: Ben, tell us a little bit about the new album. ‘Mount Carcass’ is the title of the record. What’s behind the title and what’s exciting about the new album from your point of view?
Ben: The most important thing is, of course, that the album is very good and everyone should own it physically. The title comes from the title track, which is primarily about climbing Mount Everest, or rather the grotesque industry that has formed around it, starting with the Nepalese government, which simply sells too many climbing licenses for making money. I think it costs around 40.000€ if you want to climb this mountain. Every year, more licenses are issued, although the mountain doesn’t really have the capacity to let so many people up there because the weather-related time window in which you can climb up there is very limited. More and more people want to go up and that ultimately leads to the fact that in this death zone regular “traffic jams” form and simply not everyone is made for it. Just because you have money does not mean that you are able to survive in such extreme conditions. People collapse or get other health problems and then you are lost up there, you are unhooked from the line, you can sit on the side and freeze to death. You stay up there forever, because one cannot rescue people from up there. I think I read that 200 dead bodies are ‘sitting’ frozen on this way up there and all those who want to go up have to pass these dead bodies to be on the summit just for taking a selfie. In the end, the whole thing is for us also a metaphor for our society, this whole meritocracy and the whole capitalistic economy where it is only about more growth, more success and more money, to be number one and the willingness to sell your own grandmother. This is a basic mentality that has prevailed for decades, especially in the Western world.
MHMB: Your lyrics stand out from many other death metal bands. Many of them have splatter lyrics that really fit the cliché or are war story based. However, you have some lyrics, like the title track, that are anchored pretty much in the Now. Is there a need for you to address those kinds of current topics?
Ben: Everyone has to know for himself what he wants to say with the band. For us it’s an outlet and somehow it’s cool when songs have a real message. The few political songs that we have on the record are not so much about finger pointing or lecturing. It’s more about expressing our feelings about certain things that are going on in the world. We are aware of many things and we are really interested. We inform ourselves quite well and also, when we are together, we talk a lot about all kinds of relevant topics. Sure, splatter lyrics, we have them too. ‘Holy Rites’ for example, the very first song, that’s just a really good zombie splatter song. But yes, we are not the guys who just make the crazy splatter party music. With us it’s also about other things and we want to address them.
MHMB: You also have a song on the new album called ‘Frantic Redemption’, which is about a cocaine-eating bear. That seems to be a really freaky story.
Ben: Yes, it really is. We stumbled across it on the tour bus at some point. It was a few years ago and it was a big laugh. In 1985, there was an incident somewhere in the USA that a dead bear was found in the woods and it somehow had 30kg of cocaine in its stomach. It was a package, dropped by a drug plane and the bear found it and ate it, 15 million dollars worth of cocaine. The bear died after a few minutes, but the few minutes must have been quite spectacular. This bear was later taxidermied, changed owners several times and is now standing somewhere in a shopping mall with a sign around its neck saying ‘Pablo EskoBear’, along with a small board summarizing the story. We thought it was really funny, the idea of a bear taking this huge amount of cocaine and going crazy for a few minutes before dying of all overdose symptoms you can imagine. Interesting enough, a movie is being made about this particular incident.
MHMB: Well, then you’ve already made a contribution to the soundtrack.
Ben: That would be awesome, of course, and that would totally make sense. We have read only two weeks ago on the Internet from a producer who is currently working on a film to exactly this story. Totally crazy somehow and if we end up on the soundtrack, that would be fantastic. We have a tradition of grotesque animal stories. We’ve always had it with all our records that Lenny has found an obscure story from the animal world and made a good lyric out of it. This time we have two of these songs on the album: ‘Frantic Redemption’ and ‘Moribund’ which is also one of these animal songs. So we stay true to those as well.
MHMB: I think you stay true to yourselves on the entire new album and I have the feeling that the new album is a bit more melodic than ‘The Harvest’, especially when it comes to the guitars. I think it gives the album a better flow. How would you see the two albums if you put them next to each other?
Ben: I would sort of agree with you there. During the songwriting we have committed ourselves to keep things a little bit tighter and a little bit simpler. ‘The Harvest’ is sometimes a bit intricate and almost a bit proggy. The melodies are a bit more aggressive or a bit more stressful. This time the whole record is more mid-tempo. The extremely fast songs are less and we actually have some really epic melodies etc. on the record this time. But that just kind of happened. You can only plan it to a certain extent and we are not a really complex oriented band. We have always been a relatively melodic band, because it makes the heavy passages stand out even more if you have melodic parts in between. We all really appreciate a nice catchy chorus and that’s why we tried to have something like that included. Juri said so well the other day: “The record actually kind of wrote itself”. I think that’s also because we didn’t have any shows. We didn’t have any distractions. We didn’t have to play all the old songs to stay fit for some live show and so on. That always drags you out of your routine and out of the creative process. This time we were really into it and just focused on new music only. So, it was a very different songwriting than for the other records and as I said it was a lot of fun.
MHMB: That’s really interesting. I’ve heard from a few people that the songwriting was different this time.
Ben: I think if you go back a little bit in time – back to the nineties – it was often the case that a band would go off the grid for half a year. There was no internet and so on. You had print magazines that came out once a month, but otherwise you didn’t have any real great sources of information. Either a band was on tour or it was somehow featured in these magazines. Otherwise, they were gone for a while and, I’d say, probably just got on with their songwriting. Then, at some point, they started again with the new record and then it started all over again. Today you’re used to constantly getting to hear from a band and they’re always around. But yeah, if you’re on the road all the time, making music all the time and writing a record on the side, then you kind of get the feeling that you’ re doing it a bit in between things. Now we had the opportunity to do it differently and we really liked it. We are still thinking about whether we can not simply also apply this for the future. Then you’re just away for half a year and don’t play a single show.. If you have the time to fully focus on the creative processes, I think that’s a really good thing.
MHMB: What we also have to talk about is the topic of cover versions. You always had cover versions on your albums. With Entombed, Bolt Thrower and Megadeth you were pretty true to the genre. This time you covered ‘Escape From New York’, a real cinematic classic. Even though I had to listen to the version a number of times, I can say that it is a successful interpretation. How did it come up to this choice and how difficult was it to realize the song in the end?
Ben: I am a huge John Carpenter fan, especially of ‘Escape from New York’. I really love the movie and when I saw it as a child for the very first time, the film really had a big impact on me. This whole really dark dystopia that is painted and this cruelty, brutality and social decay, it made a very strong impression on me, especially in combination with the soundtrack. I always thought that the main theme is awesome. I had that in my mind for weeks, and then when I started playing guitar at some point, that was actually one of the first things I picked up. I’ve been playing it for 30 years and last year, when society went to extremes and the news was full of crazy stuff, all the riots and demos in the USA, Hong Kong and Europe, this topic came to the foreground strongly for me. I then experimented with the theme at home, prepared a demo and experimented with different guitar tunings. I presented it to the guys and they were like, “Oh that’s really cool. Let’s work that out”. We arranged it and worked it out in a way that we thought it was a cool thing to have. We thought that it really sound pretty well and that it would be a great outro for the record. Since it’s also the 40th anniversary of the movie this year, it’s a pretty good opportunity to do something like that. It’s a real homage to Carpenter and his really great work. A very deep bow. For me it was a bit of a teenager’s dream that came true. I always wanted to do something with it. I always wanted to make my own version of it and it’s really nice that it worked out now.
MHMB: You are often described as a band with swedish death metal roots. For me at least, Endseeker’s sound is much more than that. I also hear some Bolt Thrower and Gorefest, which comes through stronger on the new album. What are the bands that have influenced you or still influence you.
Ben: First and foremost there are the Swedish bands like Dismember, Entombed, At The Gates, all those bands, but of course we are influenced by other acts as well. Slayer, Gorefest, Bolt Thrower, Morbid Angel … I could go on for hours. This time we also kind of peeked over the pond and there are definitely a few more Morbid Angel references on the album, and Slayer moments. It’s always what you hear at the time. We all do not reinvent the wheel and new death metal, quite honestly, does not exist anyway. Every riff has already been played, everything is actually already said and you can only try to somehow make good songs. Of course you are influenced by what you hear a lot and that serves as inspiration. We try to take all that, stir it in a big pot, make our own thing out of it and somehow package it into our songs. It’s really nice when you say that we don’t just sound like Swedish Death Metal, because with all the tribute and homage to the genre, we still want to be perceived as individual.
MHMB: You worked with Eike (Freese) again this time. Was that the constant factor in a very fast changing time?
Ben: There were several reasons to go back to Eike. For one thing, Eike is just a great guy. It’s incredible fun to work with him. Also with the previous albums it was just really pure joy. On the other hand, there wouldn’t have been much of a chance to go somewhere else because of the pandemic. We were in the studio in November 2020 and by then that situation was already relatively tense. We were already in this lockdown that we are still in now. To go somewhere to the other end of Germany to go into a studio there, that wouldn’t have worked at all, because we couldn’t all be in the studio at the same time anyway. Those were the conditions. Only a limited group of us could be in the studio at a time. To move a production outside of Hamburg, I think that would have been relatively risky. That doesn’t mean that we will work forever with Eike. I think it’s also important to have different experiences, just to not get stuck in your comfort zone and have the routine suddenly get in your way. Outside influences and different ways of working, these are all refreshing elements that can be perceived as enrichment. I don’t know where we’ll make the next record, but anything is possible. There, we are totally open and even if we would go somewhere else, it would not be a decision against Eike, but simply a decision for something new.
MHMB: Normally I would ask how your touring plans look like. I can skip this question at the moment. Nevertheless the question, whether you have planned activities to promote the new record?
Ben: We are playing a live streaming show on April 18th, two days after the album release, which will be streamed from Knust here in Hamburg. You can actually buy tickets for it. We’re running on empty because we haven’t been on stage for such a long time. We really resisted streaming shows last year and had a few offers, which we turned down. But now it’s been over a year since we’ve been on stage and it’s enough. We’d like to present the new record live and we’re still fine-tuning our concept. It will be more than just going on stage and playing for an hour. We’re trying to incorporate interactive elements, so that we can somehow connect with the fans sitting at home. The show is probably going to be weird for us because we played the last release show at Knust and it was sold out. There were more than 400 people at the venue and now the place is empty. When we will play there, there will be just a few cameras standing around. It will be a bit awkward, but I think we’ll be in it relatively quickly and we’re just happy, that we can play on stage again, somehow with light and sound knowing that there are folks watching and drinking beer and hopefully having a good time at home. There will also be a virtual merchandise booth. The people who watch the stream will have exclusive access to all-new merchise in advance, which they can kind of buy at discounted rates that night as well. We do that to support the album, to present it live and to give the people a good time. But of course, we also try to get a little bit of money back in because a year without shows plus an album production plus merchandise production, the cash box is empty at some point. In addition, every ticket that is bought also supports Knust in Hamburg, which of course suffers as a live club very much from this situation. And because we would still like to have live clubs after the pandemic is over. We think it is important that we support the clubs so that they continue to survive. I mean what’s the point if the restrictions are lifted and there are no more places to play or watch concerts.
MHMB: Ben, that’s it from my side. Is there anything from your side, where you say that I want to mention here in addition?
Ben: I would like to say again that everyone should really support the underground and especially the local scene. By that, I don’t just mean the bands, I mean the clubs and everybody that has something to do with culture. They’re all really struggling. There will be more than a few that will tip over the edge and won’t be there anymore. That can’t be prevented, as it looks now. I think we all have to save what can be saved, so that as soon as we return to normal, we still have places to go and enjoy our music, especially in metal, because I don’t think that this scene and this subculture is in the focus of any politician.