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An Interview With Malcolm Pugh of Inferi

2018 was a pretty big year for Nashville’s Inferi, to say the least.  Within the course of a single year, the Tennesee based five-piece released one of the greatest death metal records of 2018, went through a major line-up change, toured the East Coast along with Alterbeast and Rivers of Nihil, went on a small headlining run in support of Revenant, and ended the year with yet another tour of the United States as part of Obscura’s Diluvium Amerika Tour.  Rather than take a break, however, Malcolm and the boys have yet again taken the death metal world by surprise, having re-recorded the classic The End of an Era record as The End of an Era | Rebirth.  I was fortunate enough to have a chat with founder/guitarist Malcolm Pugh about the upcoming Tech Trek IV tour, the Inferi twist on the mythos of Dante’s Inferno, the recording process of The End of an Era | Rebirth, and the works.  

Indy Metal Vault: To start, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to conduct this interview.  Between the press you’re obligated to respond with, to python breeding, to prepping for the upcoming Tech Trek IV tour with the almighty technical death metal gods Archspire, I can imagine that you’ve got a bit on your plate. Since we’re on that note, however, I wanted to ask about what it’s like to be a part of such a grand tour package.  For those unaware, the massive 26 leg tour of North America features the almighty sci-fi shredders Wormhole, the Swedish philosophers Virvum, technical/melodic death metal infusers Inferi, and, as mentioned prior, Archspire.  It’s any Death Metal fan’s wet dream; the sheer amount of talent on display will put most musicians to shame, yet, you guys will certainly hold your own.  With that being said, what exactly are you hoping to get out of this tour?  Is there anything you are aiming to push in regards to your band’s agenda career-wise, or anything you wanted to re-instate to the tech-loving masses of North America?  Or are you just hoping to have a great time and show off the outstanding new lineup along with Archspire for the second year in a row?  

Malcom Pugh: Thanks for reaching out! It’s a great honor to be a part of this tour, especially, direct support for such a great band as Archspire. I think the goal for this tour is to further spread our name out there and continue to grow as a live/touring band. We’ve had tremendous line-up issues over the years. This the first consistent touring line-up that we’ve ever been able to maintain, so now we can go out and do our thing.

IMV: The upcoming Tech Trek tour is mainly in support of the upcoming re-recording of your Independently released second full-length, The End of an Era, being retitled to The End of an Era | Rebirth due to the band’s musical growth.  In the press release for The End of an Era | Rebirth, you mentioned that you had wanted to re-record this record for almost a decade, which is quite some time.  Aside from the fantastic lineup you currently uphold, and the fact that the original pressings of The End of an Era are far beyond out of print, is there any alternative reason as to why you took the initiative to re-record the record at this point in your career?    

MP: Well, it’s also the 10-year anniversary of the album. We have the strongest line-up we’ve ever had and I thought this was a perfect way to get our feet wet in the studio together and showcase material that a lot of our newer fans have never experienced or just passed on based on the album’s production. I personally think Rebirth came out great and I’m very proud of the end result. I can’t say that about the original release.

IMV: Your enthusiasm to re-record The End of an Era is certainly understandable, for, it’s a great record that could only be furthered with some fantastic musical talent and better production, which are the main perks of re-recording.  The only problem is that there’s another record in your early discography that’s just as deserving of a re-recording.  Why, in particular, did you decide to re-record The End of an Era, rather than Divinity in War?  Are you, perhaps, saving that project for a later time?    

MP: There is a massive jump in composition from Divinity in War and TEOAE and I think TEOAE holds up more to our current sound. I can’t confirm or deny plans for Divinity in War in the future. I will say that if we ever did anything like Rebirth for our first album, it would need a massive overhaul for me to entertain that idea because I feel the material is very dated.

IMV: The original release of The End of an Era featured guest vocals from Pat Henry on the track “Cursed Unholy”, as well as a handful of guest leads on the instrumental track “The Warrior’s Infinite Opus”.  The Guest spots on The End of an Era | Rebirth are that of Ryan Cho on “The Ruin of Mankind” (playing strings) and guest vocals from Nekrogoblikon drummer Eric Brown on the track “Forged in the Phlegethon”.  It’s interesting that you decided to include the guest musicians on different tracks, rather than simply replacing the original release’s guest musician imprints for the sake of innovation.  Why did you decide to do this?   

MP: I didn’t want guests on this version at the start of it. But then, I thought it would be cool to have some real string sounds during the intro of the album to give it more life and help define the sound as more rejuvenated. Eric did one vocal part on the original version of Forged and asked if he could do more this time around. We love Eric to death and thought it would be cool to have him on the track. Mike Low was a guest on the album when he wasn’t in the band for the original, so at this point, it canceled itself out on that end. The only other guest we had on the original was the solo performed by Matt Brown (ex-Enfold Darkness) on “The Warrior’s Infinite Opus.” Matt is doing other things in his life that isn’t music related, so I tracked his solo and did my best duplicate the feel that he brought to the original version.

IMV: You mentioned in an interview with James Weaver of Distorted Sound magazine that, in regards to songwriting, the main compositions are split between yourself and Mike Low, formulating ideas off of each other and then receiving input from the others.  At least, it’s been this way since his recruitment in 2011.  With The End of an Era | Rebirth being a re-recording of a prior record, how did you guys approach the record’s production?  Especially with Mike being the mixing master he is (no pun intended), how did his input shape the production process? 

MP: We had a lot of things going on after the Obscura tour we did last fall. Mike had a lot of projects to mix, so we thought it was best for me to track all the guitars as I did on the original version outside of his solo in Opus and let him handle the other aspects of the recording. So, while I was tracking guitars and some of the bass, Spencer and Mike were simultaneously working on the drums, which helped move the process along a bit quicker than it would have been otherwise.

IMV: Naturally, Inferi has evolved quite a bit since it’s formation in 2006.  Both Andrew Kim (Bass) and Steve Boiser (Vocals) are making their studio debut here, having joined Inferi merely last year, and I’m interested in the chemistry you experienced during the recording process.  How did their talent lend itself to the project?  In general, how do you feel about the outcome of the record after hearing what Spencer, Andrew, and Steve brought to the table in terms of overall technical improvement? 

MP: I’m very pleased with their performances on the record. Stevie was a fan of the band before joining and practically knew the album by heart and I think that shined in his performance on the album. Spencer and Andrew both added a new element to the album as well. I think the biggest difference people will latch on to musically is the rhythm section. There was a massive overhaul in that department which is something I strived for this time around and they did an excellent job of bringing that to life.

         

 

IMV: Inferi has been dwelling on the concept of Dante’s Inferno since The End of an Era’s original release back in 2009, and have continued to do so with last year’s critically acclaimed Revenant.  The tracks on said records portrayed the creatures and stories from Dante’s Divine Comedy in great detail, as well as the concept having a place on both of the album covers.  I wanted to ask you why the mythos was so appealing to the musicality and theme of Inferi itself.  How has the exploration of Dante’s Divine Comedy shaped the image of Inferi, and for how long will it continue to do so?         

MP: Well, TEOAE is sort of its own mythos in a way and we used the theme of Dante’s Inferno to continue the storyline. I’ve always been fascinated with mythology as a whole and like sprinkling those themes into our stories to make them our own. I think there are enough bands out there that have political/religious agendas or messages in their music, so I like having fun with our lyrics. Being able to craft a story that someone can easily understand and follow is something that we strive for. As for as Revenant goes, I wanted each song to be based on each circle of hell from Dante’s Inferno, but also carry the story of our character from TEOAE. It was a fun and challenging mash up ideas to put together, but I think it turned out okay.

IMV: I wanted to talk instruments for a bit if you don’t mind.  As it stands, to sit at the tech-death cool kid table, you gotta have a Keisel.  Both you and Mike utilize these tools of tonal decimation, with yourself being a direct endorsee.  Future touring pals Archpire have literally every string player endorsed, being Dean Lamb, Tobi Morell, and Jared Smith.  With this in mind, what exactly is the appeal of Keisel to yourself, and to that of the touring musician?  How has having Keisel at your back been to your advantage within your career? 

MP: It’s been cool playing Kiesel guitars. They play great and for touring musicians, the quality of their necks set them apart from other guitars. They use carbon fiber rods in the necks, so when you are traveling through different climates you get way less movement in the neck than you would if you had a standard guitar. It’s a pain to have to adjust your truss rod before a performance and I value not having to consistently babysit my instruments on a tour outside of regular string changes.

IMV: Another point made in the Distorted Sound interview was that of time constraints, and how you aimed to increase your consistency for upcoming releases.  With the factor of being able to record an album in such little time, being merely a year since Revenant, am I correct to assume that Inferi has obtained a comfortable position in terms of release consistency?  Granted, this is a re-recording, yet, aside from the songwriting aspect (which isn’t so easily glossed over), one would think that it still proves the accessibility of the recording/mixing side of record production to have greatly increased.  Is this true, and, with that being said, should we be expecting a new release from Inferi in the near future?

MP: At this point, we can record whenever we want since we produce/record/engineer our own albums. I typically never stop writing material and we always have riffs in the bank. I’m currently working on new material for another album and so are the other guys. We’ve had a lot of extreme obstacles to deal with in the past which is why our albums were so spread out and I hope those days are behind us. I don’t want to make any promises as to when our next album will drop, but it will not be four years from now. Our releases will be consistent as long as the material is up to our standards. I don’t ever want to substitute consistency for quality and I don’t want to people to ever think we have disappeared, so we’ll just have to grind it out and balance our touring and writing.

IMV: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with Indy Metal Vault.  We’re super stoked to have you talking with us, and we can’t be thankful enough for the music you’ve contributed to the metal landscape.  The upcoming Tech Trek IV tour is looking to be one of the best tours of the year, certainly; I’m personally seeing you guys at the Whiskey. Until the legions of Indy metal tech-nerds catch you on the upcoming tour, is there anything else you’d like to add? 

MP: Thanks for having us! I’d just like to thank the fans for the being so great to us and I hope to continue raising the bar for the band with everything do. Without the fans, we are NOTHING! Cheers.

The End of an Era | Rebirth releases April 12th via The Artisan Era and Bandcamp.  Go buy it! 

 

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