Monday, February 6, 2012

An interview with Frederyk Rotter of ZATOKREV

Basel based sludge-apocalypse (according to their own description) band ZATOKREV were introduced to me by a friend about two years ago and up until recently I thought they were defunct. Fortunately this is not the case – they are not only fully-functioning but extensively touring and ready to release a brand new album, hopefully very soon. ZATOKREV released two excellent to say the least albums: the self-titled “Zatokrev” and “Bury the Ashes”, and a split with another Swiss band - VANCOUVER. The style moves into and beyond the borders of sludge, doom, death and post metal and they promise even more sonic goodness for the admirers of heavy music to come with the new album. And while we are waiting for its release, those who live in Switzerland, Belgium, Germany and France have the chance to hear the new material – tour dates can be found on the web site of the band. They are also going to play at the IMPETUS FESTIVAL Warm Up on March 17th along with ORANGE GOBLIN.
Though my initial idea was to write some kind of presentation of ZATOKREV, I will save you the dry history facts; you can learn some of them from the Q&A below. And who else can present the band at best if not the band itself?

I’ll start with a very trivial question - what is the history behind the name of the band? It comes from Czech if I am not wrong.....
Yes, that’s true. I’m Czech originally. Maybe you know our song “Zatokrev”. It was one of our very first songs ever. It’s written in Czech language and the word “zatokrev” is taken from the first verse. It means something like “…for it blood”.

“Zatokrev” is one of the songs I like the most. I think your music would sound great with lyrics in Czech. Have you ever thought to write them in that language? I mean…English is universal but everybody is using it….
I actually did some more Czech lyrics. One on the VANCOUVER/ZATOKREV Split EP and one on the “Bury the Ashes” vinyl edition. I'm not against Czech lyrics still, but for the moment all new songs are writtin English. In the end it's a question of inspiration, in the moment we're jamming or creating new material. Also the Czech language is very lyrical, but in another way than English. It's much more important to choose the right words to not make it sound totally stupid. It has to sound like a poem to fit in our music. Actually many people ask me to do more Czech lyrics in future. Maybe I will, but no promises ;-)

It’s been about five years since ZATOKREV’s last release if we don’t count your split with VANCOUVER. Looking at the current members list you are the only one left from the original line up of ZATOKREV. What happened with the band during these years?
Marco, Silvio and I played together for 8 years. We only had several lineup changes on the second guitar. Both Silvio and Marco got into other priorities. That was the point where we had to take the decisions what’s the best for every one of us. We’re still very good friends, and they both have new projects – check out their stuff - KING LEGBA AND THE LAOS and PSYCHOBITCH.

How long have you been playing with the current line-up ?                 Where  did you all play before joining ZATOKREV?
It took really a long time to complete a new lineup that felt good. Frédéric Hug became the new drummer in summer 2010. We knew each other already as he was ZATOKREV’s sound engineer for two years. After five minutes of jamming it was clear that he had to become the new ZATOKREV drummer. We worked a lot during the whole summer to arrange the new album and to record the preproduction. During that time bass player Lucas Löw joined ZATOKREV and the guitar player Julien Duseyau joined just a couple of months ago.
Fredo played in SOUNDS OF THE I and before that in VACARME, Lucas Löw played in TOTAL ANNIHILATION, Julien in CRASH LEAGUE and PORNCHILD and I played in several bands like UNDERDOG, COMA STAR and many other combos, that was maybe 10 years ago. For the moment I’m also the live bassist in the band SCHAMMASCH.

You are now ready with your new album “The Bat, The Wheel and a Long Road to Nowhere” though you told me you don’t have a release date yet. Tell me some more details about it. How long did it take you to record it?
We did live recordings of the basics, plus all the guitars in June 2011 during 6 days at the Rec Studio in Geneva with Serge Morattel. Great bands like KNUT or IMPURE WILHELMINA recorded many albums there already. It was definitely a good experience to work with Serge. All songs were recorded without metronome. I realized already with the past band members that we can create more intensity if we record the basics all together and without click. Everything sounds very organic although I recorded tons of guitars, ha ha. Everybody in the band made a good job. We were in a good mood during the recordings. For the vocals we borrowed a good preamp and recorded them in our rehearsal room in Basel. Raphael Bovey, known as the drummer from KRUGER, did the mix and master. We’re definitely more than happy with the result. Now Marcel Szerdahelyi and Pascal Brun are still creating the artwork, which will be an 8 sheet leporello drawing, that will show the story of the album.

ZATOKREV’s sounding is often compared to NEUROSIS, ISIS and CULT OF LUNA by reviewers. While such comparison can be quite flattering, isn’t it also a bit risky for you?
We were definitely influenced by NEUROSIS when we started the band, but we even didn’t know ISIS and CULT OF LUNA at this time. If we wanna talk about bands that carried more or less a similar mood like old ZATOKREV, it was stuff like EYEHATEGOD, CROWBAR, BURNING WITCH or ENTOMBED we were listening to and not that much the post hardcore genre except maybe NEUROSIS. The press usually needs bands to compare. Why not taking ISIS, CULT OF LUNA or NEUROSIS. There are some conformities, in styles, although I think ZATOKREV is still bit more metal and less posty. But be sure the new album will contain a lot more different elements.

Are you a death/ doom, sludge or post-metal band? Is it important for you how you will be labeled by press and what is the sound of the new album like?
Not really. We just do what we like to do. The press will define the music how they want. That’s their job.
There get really many different facets together on “The Bat, The Wheel and a Long Road to Nowhere”. I would say it’s somewhere between doom, sludge, psychedelic, death, ambient, stoner, post, hardcore, industrial and black metal. I don’t have a word for one style that contains all of them except maybe “Zatokrev”.

This description sounds tasty! Do you use the same formula of dual harsh/ shouted vocals on the new record?
In general we now have more vocal variations than on our past records. There are still that kind of vocals you mean on some parts as well.

Switzerland is an extremely beautiful and orderly country and you have a lot of chocolate. Chocolate=happiness as far as I’m concerned. You should be very happy and positive people….. Where all these dark emotions in your music come from?
Did you think about the possibility that maybe chocolate could have been created as kind an antidepressant drug for unhappy people? Just kidding….
Without positive and forward thinking it would have been impossible to reform this band. Everybody carries some dark emotions. It’s a part of human being, but things can’t be explained in light and dark. There’s a lot more to find between those poles – and so you will hopefully find more than only darkness on our upcoming album...
I see ZATOKREV as a kind of a purifying therapy for us – which feels totally natural and real. It feels to me like that’s a positive thing.

Ha ha you caught me unawares with that antidepressant argument! I could guess ZATOKREV is something special for you and obviously you have put a lot of effort to bring it back to life…...What motivated you to not let it go?
It was my first project I made where I was able to feel totally free in my own creation. This feeling that made me start ZATOKREV was still here after Marco and Silvio left the band. I still had so many ideas for new songs. I refined myself and my songwriting - I didn't want to disrupt that process. Also through past years we build up a bit of a name with ZATOKREV. We had many proposals to play shows in Europe. So why stop that project when the fire is still burning?

You’re in the beginning of a European tour. Do you like to be on the road?
Oh yeah, we’re looking forward to play the new songs. Touring is fun as hell with my mates. We’ll be on tour with Impure Wilhelmina in February – it’s gonna be so cool! :)

Apart from the usual and more commercial suspects like SAMAEL or CORONER, can you please name some Swiss bands we should all check? SLUDGE and RORCAL have already got my attention. What else? Is heavy music well respected in Switzerland?
Especially the culture of extreme music is actually pretty small in Switzerland. Most shows and festivals happen in the West and Northwest of Switzerland. Anyway there are always people, venues and several organizations that help to make all this get further.

The bands you’ve mentioned will keep me busy for some time for sure! Thank you very much for your time! Is there something I didn’t ask but you think is important for you to share?
Wanna thank you for your time and this interview! I really appreciate your interest and support! Also many thanx to everyone who’s reading this interview. Check the new album when it’s out….hope you’ll like it…

***interview by Vania***

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