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Undergang – “I am a bit of a control freak, which is something I’ve grown to accept and embrace over the years”

undergang – “i am a bit of a control freak, which is something i’ve grown to accept and embrace over the years”

Info

David from Undergang is mired in underground Death Metal lore, whether that be through his countless bands and projects, or his record store and label in Copenhagen. I fired some questions his way, just to see what he’s keeping busy with.

 

Greetings David and thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. How is life currently in Denmark?
Hi Luke, thanks for the interest in UNDERGANG and for your patience with this. It’s always hard for me to find the time from my usual schedule to sit down and devote time for interviews, which I feel like it deserves. Things here are alright, a bit complicated with various matters right now, but all seems to be something we’ll get sorted out down the line and can move on. Keeping busy with all sorts of things death metal in general, which is fun. Life is alright, thank you.

Well, let’s start with the unavoidable question…Could you tell us more about the genesis of the Undergang, how things started, the idea / concept behind the band?
UNDERGANG was put into flesh back in June 2008, after I had been writing songs for the intended band for a few years while trying to find like minded people to start this death metal journey with. I finally found that in Kasper who played bass in the band from 2008-2016 and with Anders who still plays drums to this day. Because of me having already written several songs we we started rehearsing, it went pretty fast with getting it going after that and we played our first local show in September that year, a basement show I set up myself as I wanted to show what we were creating t those interested – likely about 50 people in attendance –  after later the same month we recorded a demo track to test out if the rehearsal room / studio set up of a friend could be the place where we could record what we intended to be our debut album. We liked how it sounded and we then booked time with our friend Morten who ran that set-up to recorded what would become “Indhentet af døden” over the winter of 2008/2009 and in the summer of 2009 when I started preparing and shipping out promo tapes to find a label to release it, we got contact by Jesus of the to be important contemporary death metal label Me Saco Un Ojo Records and we agreed to work with him on the release. We’ve then worked with him on all UNDERGANG albums on LP, except a short run of an album release with Xtreem Music of our second album “Til døden os skiller” in 2012. Playing live was a priority for me and thankfully the other members were up for that so I got arranged lots of small and longer self arranged shows and tours for us around Europe, America, Japan, Australia and everywhere else we could over the course of the new couple of years and through lots of networking, trades and heavy duty underground shows all over the world we got the band established pretty well in the international death metal scene of today.

What are your most memorable moments of being a member of Undergang? And what keeps you motivated to keep going?
Lots of special and great times, having and being a part of UNDERGANG has defined most of my last 15 years, as it’s been my main creative output and thanks to playing in this band I’ve gotten to play and visit and lot of places around the world and met and made many good friends and contacts most places we’ve been, forming my life and circle of various relationships of today that I’m very happy to have. That and having gotten to share all of these experiences with my friends in UNDERGANG over the years is something truly special to me and something I’ll always be grateful for. Music, and especially playing music, is my happy place so occupying myself with all sorts of death metal activities is my motivation for a lot of happiness in my life and that certainly keeps me going. That and getting to share fun shows and traveling to various places around the world is the fuel to keep the fire burning. It’s weird to think back and knowing that I hadn’t even tried flying before we started traveling by plane for various shows with UNDERGANG, so this band has definitely expanded my views on life and the world, bringing me away from the at times trivial life at home.


You are through and through Death Metal, whether that be with Undergang or Extremely Rotten Productions. What is it about the genre that appeals to you / intrigues you?

Since starting my journey through music looking for the heaviest I could get, discovering death metal just really spoke to me and I knew that was where I could unfold my creativity onwards. I love how diverse the genre can be, while still being heavy. Generally riff-driven and just a stranger far-out cousin to good old fashioned rock music, it presents what I love and want to do with music. That and the brutality it can present and likely most importantly, good low vocals. I can listen to a lot of bands with not-so-great guitarists or drummers, but in the end, if the vocals aren’t good that’s where I turn it off.Also, the visual side of death metal has always been very appealing to me, being a horror fan since before diving into the world of music. I grew up loving horror movies and comics and that being associated with the demo tape covers and album covers of the initial death metal bands I discovered, was an important part in making me fall in love with the genre. A lot of things about death metal are just very “David”, haha. I love it.How do you feel that Undergang has progressed in terms of both song-writing and musicianship since your inception back in 2008?

A lot of the influences are still very much rooted in the same as when we originally put the band together, even if we have “new” members in the band too, so I don’t think UNDERGANG has really changed much over the years. Probably mostly just sharpened what we do, as we’ve become better musicians and a more well-oiled machine. Anders especially also have a very unique way of playing drums, where he often tries to come up with equally catchy drum patterns as a riff for a song, something you ca remembers afterwards on the same basic as a good riff can do, which I think can help make the band stand out and sound like us from time to time.I’ve never been one to care much about practicing on my own, so though becoming more steady as a rhythm guitarist, I don’t think I’ve evolved that much over the years, for better or worse, haha. But these years we’ve gotten the band extended with Mads on lead guitar, so that has given the band an extra depth, which I really like. Having both Mads and our “new” bassist Martin do vocals too has added some extra flavour to the songs as well, though still not making any drastic changes making anything sound “not UNDERGANG”. That’s my perspective on things at least, it might be different asking other members or various listeners of the band. I’m sure to some people we stopped being relevant or interesting af “Indhentet af døden”.


This year has seen Undergang being involved in two amazing split releases. One with Japanese Death/Doom duo Anatomia, and the other a four way split with you, Taphos, Deiquisitor and Phrenelith. Will we see more releases from you this year? How do you go about selecting who you will share a split release with? I imagine you can be pretty picky these days?

Being slow as I am, this interview is of course replied to in 2023, so after what was originally represented here, so sorry about that. But the intention was to have a few years between albums released and then do smaller releases – EP’s or split releases with other bands – released in the meantime to still be creative and show that the band is alive and well. The new split with ANATOMIA was planned since before we started recording “Aldrig i livet” and we wanted to celebrate the long friendship between the two bands by doing a second split release, as we already did do a 10″ split release back 10 years ago or so, can’t remember right now, haha. Originally we’re planning on having ANATOMIA come over to Copenhagen and we could do a split release show here, but Corona happened and that got dropped. We had written extra songs up to the recording session of “Aldrig i livet” and the 3 songs from the split LP/CD with ANATOMIA are from that session. Not B-sides or anything like that, more a case of us trying to put the songs in two camps – one fitting for the story we wanted to tell with “Aldrig i livet” and a second one fitting for the shorter experience on the split release.

The “Tetralogy of Death” 4-way split release had been in the process for several years already by the time of the release, our song “Øjne på stilke” for that was actually already written back in 2016 as one of the first songs after we had recorded “Misantropologi” and was originally first time recorded in January 2017 along with the song “Blodhøst”  (that was used on the our split 7″ with German DEAD), but then eventually scrapped as we were never 100% satisfied with the result and then re-recorded both songs with our “new” line-up back in Autumn 2018 or sometime early 2019, I think.  Nonetheless, the release of the 4 -way split was an idea of Jakob at Night Shroud Records and me with Extremely Rotten Productions, to do a bit of a celebration of the current Danish death metal scene, but having each of these four “leading” bands contribute an exclusive song each for this release and make a stamp of Danish death metal anno 2022. I think it turned out great too and all the 4 songs sound very different and very cool in my opinion! Plus the wild enormous art piece on the A1 fold-out cover made by Phoebus of “Liv og Død” art is amazing. AN important piece of document for the current Danish death metal scene, if you ask me. We’re currently having 4 other local bands write and record exclusive songs for a Tetralogy of Death Vol. 2 as well, stay tuned! Will be sick!

And to the last part of your question, split releases do mean something special to me. I prefer not to just have split releases made with any band out there, but it’s always been a document of a relationship between our band and another band we’ve shared something with, that we wish to celebrate on a release together. So all UNDERGANG split releases means something special to me and shows another band that we admire and wish to have any of our listeners check out too and hopefully also become fans of said other band. So even if we’ve done quite a few split releases by now, they all have a special meaning to the journey of UNDERGANG and aren’t just some unimportant release in our discography. Nothing is done by random, everything is meticulously planned and executed in general for what we do and generally who we share things with.

You design a lot of the artwork that adorns the various covers of Undergang releases. All of your work, whilst varied, also follows a certain gorey theme. How important to you is the aesthetic of the cover art? Also, how do you feel on the releases where you are not the one doing the designing? Are you loath to lose creative control, or do you welcome a different perspective?
I am a bit of a control freak, which is something I’ve grown to accept and embrace over the years. So being in control of the visual side of UNDERGANG is very important to me. It has however also often meant that various releases of ours take a long time to be released, as my busy schedule doesn’t give me much time to sit and do artwork either. The first UNDERGANG album cover on “Indhentet af døden” was however as the only album cover not be my, created by my friend Jonas Bjerg, who I also shared an apartment with at the time and who was a local tattoo artists and musicians, sadly no longer with us any more. At the time I didn’t feel like my art was good enough to grace an actual album cover, so we asked him to create a piece for our debut album and he did. Likely the most stand-out album cover in our discovery too, being a lot less putrid than what I’ve usually gone for, it’s still one I’m very proud of.

But also due to me being so slow with getting art done, we’ve hired our friend Phoebus, who did the “Tetralogy of Death” split cover, for a new EP we have coming out this year. It’s of course a bit different than if I had done it, but he’s an overall more talented artist than me and he has captured what I had in mind to do myself great.

Overall, I think the cover of any release is extremely important. Of course you can’t also judge anything by the looks of it, but it’s certainly very important and for attracting anyone to anything. So when I am in control of these things, it means a lot to me that the cover of anything represents the feel and mood of the music I want to present.

 

If you were given an unlimited budget to put on a two day open air festival featuring eight bands on each day, who would you choose? The criteria for who you can choose; Day 1, you can only put on Danish bands. Day two, you can only put on bands you have shared a split release with, or put out through Extremely Rotten Productions. I need to know who would headline, what the festival would be called and where it will be located.
Let’s call it Extremely Rotten Death Fest and on day one you’d have Danish bands CHAOTIAN, DEIQUISITOR, PHRENELITH and UNDERGANG and on day two you’d have international bands MEPHITIC CORPSE , TORTURE RACK, MIASMATIC NECROSIS and SPECTRAL VOICE – The latter in both orders being the headliners, though I don’t necessarily like that term, based on overall popularity. I’d be happy to do the festival here in Copenhagen and at the venue Amager Bio, quite a bit like what you could actually experience this year at my actual current festival Unearthed Morbidity taking place on June 9th and 10th 2023.

You run Extremely Rotten Productions, a label and record store in Copenhagen. What are the biggest challenges that you face in this modern age of digital music, short attention spans and ever rising prices?
You just have to adjust to the climate you live in, really. Everything is getting more expensive in life all over the world and living in a capital city is likely the most expensive place you can live in any country, so I’m also not making it too easy for myself. But at the same time I couldn’t do what I do with the physical store without having a central location in the capital city, so it’s the right thing to do also. Extremely Rotten Productions has been a thing since early 2011 and before that it was a distro in milk crates I brought out to local shows, under the moniker “Torturdød” – which some of you readers might recognise from something else I’ve done, since the mid 2000’s, so I’ve spend a lot a lot of time and years already networking in that sort if business for a while now and thankfully the word of my work is a bit out there in the international death metal underground. Thankfully extreme metal likely has the most loyal fanbase of any genre, so when it comes to actually buying physical releases and merchandise, we’re in a quite favourable place when it comes to death metal. Thankfully, a lot of people – like myself – are nerds who still enjoy getting the full experience presented with music that the artist(s) behind the release intended. You still enjoy looking at the printed cover art, reading the lyrics while listening to the songs, reading where the recordings were done and with who, who might additionally have contributed to the release, what other bands and artists are on the thanklist and could there possible be a new band/artists you really will end up enjoying? There can be a whole lot to a physical release that just can’t be replaced with a digital only release. So hopefully ERP is a part of helping making that product still valid and hopefully still within a price range that the consumer is willing to pay, without not being able to make money off it too, so we can keep producing and releasing new stuff from the bands we think deserves our attention, work and recommendation through our various channels.

I think a big and important challenge is to constantly have to be visible and relevant in the world of social media, which I don’t really like as much, but know is an important feature of the time we live in. Thankfully I also have my wife Jenny to help me with that for ERP, as well as my art promotion pages called Ink Lesions on various social media, so that still gets pushed a bit, even if I’m not great at or using social media too much myself. I generally also couldn’t have done what I do today without the help and support of Jenny, as it was her than went along with us originally buying a new apartment with a store front back in 2018, where I got to have my first ERP store realised, where I only were able to keep it open on weekends when I was done with my normal day job as a janitor at a local college and then eventually to take a sabbatical from said job and in the end quite that job and go full time with no security running Extremely Rotten as a label and physical store. All of my money and time went into realizing this adventure, not to mention countless hours away from being able to hold up my best self as a partner for her at all times due to needing to spend so much of my life in the basement of the store working on the label. Going full time on ERP then led me to needing to upgrade the store to have more space and a better location, so I shopped for a new space and found one where the store is located currently still and moved in on Gothersgade 135 in the heart of Copenhagen in January 2020.

I think ERP has by now locked in on a general specific aesthetic and products within a quite wide niche of everything death metal and I feel lucky to have build relationships with lots of talented and sympathetic musicians and bands within this genre over the years, that we can produce many quality releases a year to both a steady, but also growing group of supporters to enjoy. I love being able to work with people I care about on a personal level too, who produce great mental death and then push them as much further as I can through my channels with ERP and for them to trust me enough to let me do so with their creative musical babies. I love what I do for my job and even if I certainly do not become rich from doing this, it makes me happy and without a doubt beats any other job I’ve ever had.


That is sadly all the space we have. Thanks again for answering my questions, to finish with, can you tell me what to expect in the next year from Undergang, ERP and any other project you are working towards?

Thanks a lot for inviting me into your zine, I hope the answers have given you and the readers a bit of an enjoyable read. 2023 has been a very busy year for me already, can’t believe that by the time of answering this it’s already April. So far we’ve released a fun new EP through ERP in January from my other band SEQUESTRUM, at the same time as we released the 4th album “Apotheosis” from Danish death metal band DEIQUISITOR – co-released with local Night Shroud Records – and we’ve just re-issued both awesome albums from US death metallers TORTURE RACK + some fun re-issues. Lots of more HEAVY releases coming on ERP this summer, we’ll have 4 new LP’s released in early June for 5 of the bands playing at my festival Unearthed Morbidity and more to come later in the year.UNDERGANG will have a split LP with 3 new songs on it from us and a new 7 song EP released in 2023, the split LP coming on ERP and the new EP coming on LP through Me Saco Un Ojo Records and on CD through Dark Descent records, so keep your eyes peeled for updates on those! Very excited to get those released, having been recorded for a few years both by now, haha.

Thanks a lot to everyone who has cared about and supported any of my work so far, I still have a lot to share creatively through my bands and with ERP, so stay tuned!