The Dead Are Screaming: An Interview with Werewolves

Posted by Prarthana Nandini Venunathan on

Matt Wilcock, Dave Haley and Sam Bean walked into a bar...or in this case, a cafe. And returned as ‘Werewolves’, the absolutely mental new death metal project that is the brainchild of these three phenomenal Australian metal artists. But this new band performs not just any old style of death metal. Given the undeniably solid  reputation and experience of each of the members in both the Australian and international metal scene, there was never a doubt that this would lead to an absolutely ear-splitting, crushing release, complete with every raw, filthy riff and growl you could possibly want in a death metal album. Prarthana had the pleasure of catching up with vocalist Sam Bean (The Berzerker, The Antichrist Imperium, The Senseless) for an insightful and rather hysterical conversation about the new project and their debut album ‘The Dead are Screaming’, his lyrical inspirations, yoga and more.  

Thanking Sam on not just finishing work and getting on the phone for an interview but also for a gritty new release of sick tunes, he shared his thoughts on how the band feels getting the album out.

“My true feeling is that it has gone down well and the way that I can tell, is that there’s a few people and reviewers out there taking potshots at it - if you’re not doing well, everyone says lovely things about it, what a great person you are and how fabulous the music is but you know that you’re really doing something right when some people come out, going ‘it’s not very metal, the vocalist sucks, the guitars are shit. So when I see stuff like that, I do a fist pump and I cheer!”

Contrary to the name, the project sprouted from coffee and conversation during the day, an idea that allowed all three members and good friends, to just do something crazy and fun with musician mates.

“It really just came together when Matt (The Berzerker, The Antichrist Imperium, Abramelin) and Dave (Psycroptic, Ruins, King, Abramelin), who both play in Abramelin, were having coffee one day. They’ve got similar listening tastes and they’re totally into barbarism and shit like that. Listening to Panzer Division by Marduk, it was all a question of ‘how long did they take to do this?’ And that’s when they decided there and then, that they wanted to do something fun, quick and for the heck of it. It’s got nothing to do with our experience or our skills.”

I also asked Sam whether being friends for as long as they all have, was a primary reason in the quick consolidation of ideas to form Werewolves.

“Being friends changes everything. Normally when you’re in a band, you’re just getting down with strangers. Whereas here, Dave I’ve known for years, Matt’s like a brother to me and we’re in The Antichrist Imperium together as well,  so that made it really really easy to start Werewolves. Quite often, you’re tip-toe’ing around but we’ve got past that a decade ago so now we can just straight up play the most ridiculous music ever.”

While this first Werewolves album, ‘The Dead Are Screaming’,  packs a solid punch, it really does sound like a bunch of killer musicians creating a soundtrack to what would be a death metal party between Godzilla and King Kong, certainly something they’ve never done before.

“Ha! That’s a good way of putting it, I like that idea because that’s exactly what the cover of the album looks like! But it’s true. With most of our bands, it takes ages to put out an album. We rarely do any music stuff for fun - we do it because we love the music or because there’s an idea we simply must work on or we want to enhance our career, God help us! So, from the very start, it was all about doing something that wasn’t stressful. I think the closest thing I’ve done was with Mithras over in the UK and I kind of joined that only because I really loved the music. Same thing here - it just seemed like a really fun project with some solid, good musicians, that’s what I’m getting out of it - we’ve even got album number two and three on the way!”

Werewolves - The Dead Are Screaming

And there you go - it just keeps coming but unsurprisingly, considering this first album     was written in about a month. Not long after that, they signed to the well-known Prosthetic Records, ready to spread the pure monstrosity that is the sound of Werewolves.

“I kid you not, album number two was written and recorded back at the start of the year. I think the same week we signed a three album deal with Prosthetic Records, we celebrated that by writing the second album. Actually, the hilarious thing is all three albums have been written.  I think Dave is doing the drums for the third album over the next week or two; it’s crazy! Prosthetic have been asking us to take our time as well but we’re just getting shit done. Although, that being said, I’ve told the guys, I want to wait till the voice heals up post surgery and that can be our third album progression; so I’ll probably hold the show up till the end of the year just so that my voice can recover. That way, I can do some proper serious vocals instead of the more limited stuff that's been going on with albums one and two.” 

For those of you who aren’t aware, Sam is the vocalist of The Berzerker, The Antichrist Imperium and also has a side project called The Senseless -  this is how sick it is to chat with passionate artists.  He’s already recorded vocals for three albums this year and it’s only May, having recorded for the third werewolves album the week before our interview. What’s next on the cards?

“Currently awaiting surgery in hospital on my throat - trying to get all of the roaring out of the way before I’ve got that - because then I have to shut up for two months! Its actually funny with this second album; I’m awaiting surgery on my fucking voice and I’ve recorded the vocals for it , Dave has had his shoulder surgery and he’s done the drums for it. So, I asked Matt if I can lie and tell them you’ve got a fucking brain damage or something like that so we can have a full trifecta of injuries and fuck-ups?” 

I could hold back my curiosity (or my tears of laughter) no longer, wondering just how these three Aussie extreme metal legends had almost three albums written in the span of six months. Sam shared exactly how they’ve gone about it, discussing the writing of ‘The Dead Are Screaming’ why pumping out so much material wasn't too difficult. Regardless of the spontaneity with which it was written and recorded, it’s amazing when you look beyond the filthy, caveman death metal vibes and think about how there is quite a bit of work and effort that goes into creating and putting together a band and it’s music so quickly.

Honestly, I think Dave just listens to the songs, once and then sits down and does it - gets the drums done. That’s almost how Matt writes them; he sits down, keeps drinking coffee, hits record and plays a song till he has an album written. He might tweak one or two things but that’s about it! So he kind of just sat over a weekend and banged it out, he’d then send us the tracks and video footage of him playing so I could work out the bassline. Same with Dave with drums, didn’t put too much thought into it and got it done.”

“So, by the time I was ready to come into the picture there were nine songs sitting there with guitars and drums,  ready to go, it was obvious for the most part where I was going to have to yell my head off and bass lines in metal no one can really hear that shit anyway! After that, it was mixed and mastered by Joe Haley (Psycroptic), around the same time we received the cover art from Mitchell Nolte. The Prosthetic deal came after that and it all went forward from there. We went from starting a band to a signing in under two months.”

Just one listen to any of the tracks on ‘The Dead Are Screaming’ let alone the entire album, is enough to convince you of the sheer ferocity and aggression that defines the music. It’s raw, merciless and as the guys describe it themselves, ‘filthy, knuckle-dragging blackened death metal grind for you to lick your palms to, you fucking freaks.’

"We’re just trying to be noisy, rude, offensive, savages - it naturally comes to us. This isn’t the kind of thing that lends itself to creative blockages because we’re honestly not trying to be creative at all! All the other music we play with our other bands - for instance, my project The Senseless and what I’m trying to do there with melodic super happy major chords, that facade takes a lot to keep up. But when we’re being complete fuckwits, it just flows.”

A few years ago, my sister gifted me a box of heavy metal ‘literature’ fridge magnets which had every ‘metal’ word you could possibly think of. For some reason, whatever I could pick up from the tracks lyrically, reminded me of that gift. Sharing this with an amused Sam, he explained, rather hilariously, might I had and with examples, just how he went about writing lyrics for Werewolves.

“Well, I was definitely not trying to draw from some inner creative well -  I have a diary with a bunch of fucked up, obnoxious phrases. No really, they are aggressive, rude and just plain ridiculous! It was all about going into my pool of obnoxious phrases and poetry.” Stopping him there, I asked if he could share some of his poetry to which Sam replied “Where are my lyrics, I must find them; this is important! Here’s one, ‘Burning fanmail, taking drugs, buying guns, Can you sign this for me? Smacked in the face and told ‘get fucked’’. 

Quite literally out of breath from laughing at that, we both managed to continue our conversation.

“See, it’s not too hard. However, when I realised I had lyrics for the first album, it was just a matter of assembling those and then writing a bunch more, stringing them out a little bit into songs which got me halfway. The rest was then just, me honestly trying to find horrible words that fit into the phrasing I wanted. I’m the slowpoke - it takes me ages. For the first album it took me about two weeks to write all the vocal parts and lyrics, as well as learn the bass but with this album, it’s taken a couple of months to get the lyrics done. Probably because I was writing all the lyrics for The Antichrist Imperium at the same time and there’s similarities between the two in that they both go right over the top!” 

Putting the humorous banter aside for a minute, he brought forth a few more, little, interesting tidbits, throwing light on just how insane the lyrics are, some of the stories behind them and regardless of not putting much forethought or research as he says, how there was some thinking involved.

“There were bits and pieces coming out, not just from my book of poetry but from experiences as well. For instance, ‘Dogknotted’ was from when I’d had a chat with a friend a year or two ago, who told me about beastiality forensic studies and what being dog knotted was.  We were talking about how that’d be such a good name for a death metal band! The phrase I kicked it off with that actually came from a story that Matt told me years ago from when he was a kid. I think he was just  hanging out with his metal mates who were all just smoking bongs and contemplating  the most offensive  opening lyric to a song they could all think of! It’s pretty messed up. So after two decades, I was able to use THAT in some music - getting to say all the horrible things I wanted to, that are just way too obnoxious for any of our other bands.” Album opener ‘Establish Dominance’ initiates the Werewolves proceedings with a very eerie ‘the power of Satan can change men into beasts!’ after which the track begins pulverizing your skull in. “ Ha, we enjoyed that. I had to try and hold off on the ‘Satan stuff’ a bit and leave a majority of the devil worship  for The Antichrist Imperium but it's good to get that out in the very first track!”

Decades in the game, over 350 shows worldwide, and a lot of bands, Sam does need a break from it every now and then. And what better way to relax than some Yoga, which, when he brought up much to my excitement, began a heart-to-heart about practice from one Yogi to another.

One thing that I’ve missed during lockdown is my regular Yoga sessions. I usually do Hatha or some really intense hour-long Vinyasa classes, normally heated, a couple of fundamental classes to stay humble  and one Yin so I don’t do a hip by the time I’m 60! I mean, I’m 45 years old and with that taste of music and the kind of stuff I’ve got washing around my brain from over the years, it’s either go in, get my flow on or have a stroke by the time I’m fucking 50!  I’ve got a really great studio just a minute away from where I live - so on normal days, I’d be going in a good five times a week. It’s not only my studio to practice but also my social group. Yoga has a multiplier effect when you do it, especially when you’re with other people so I’m keen to get back into it once everything opens back up!”

“However much I like to pretend that Werewolves material just flows out of me without a thought, you’ve still got to wipe your arse after taking a shit. There’s still a mark of what’s left. I have noticed Yoga has been good balancing that out and maybe just reminding me for a brief minute, not to be such an arsehole. Brings me back down to Earth if you know what I mean!”

So how does Sam envision Werewolves live, you might wonder?

“A glorious car crash. It’ll be a time because we won’t be taking it seriously. Most death metal bands will be up there, warming up backstage, practicing their scales, polishing their strings, concerned about the musical side of it. I’ll just do a Mortician and  go up there with bass strings that haven’t been changed in years. And honestly with those two backing me, I’d fucking do anything and it’d sound amazing. We’re all experienced enough that if we completely arse it up, we can drag it back together!”  

Hopefully, in good time, we get to see this become a reality. In the meantime, check out Werewolves debut album ‘The Dead Are Screaming’ now!

The Dead Are Screaming is available on Bandcamp now. Check it out here.

Physical copies and merchandise available right here on Direct Merch. Check out the full collection here.

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