Interview: Tomb Mold

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I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Derrick Vella and Payson Power of Tomb Mold to discuss their new album, The Enduring Spirit. We also talked about the pipeline from punk to death metal, junk food, and Derrick’s beef with Les Pauls. Read more below!


RT: Thank you guys so much for doing this!

D: Yeah, no worries man!

RT: I was getting over a nasty cold on Monday when you guys announced the new album, so that definitely lifted my spirits. Plus you guys are one of the bands that changed my mind about death metal, so it’s a real pleasure to be able to interview you guys. So how did you guys both get into your instruments? How old were you when you started? Did you have a musical inspiration to play that instrument in particular?

D: Yeah, I loved Kiss. I loved Ace Frehley and I was like “I wanna play the guitar.” And then I remember my parents rented me a Squier Stratocaster and I was like “But I want the Les Paul,” and they were like “Well they don’t have it in left-handed,” and I’m left-handed. That was the first time I felt the sting of being a left-handed guitar player.

P: You’ve hated Les Pauls ever since!

D: I know!

RT: Wait, does Les Paul not do left-handed guitars, like, at all?

D: No, they do, but like, when you’re going into any guitar store there are going to be like 150 guitars and 3-6 of them are going to be left-handed.

RT: And they’re going to be more expensive too, I’ve noticed.

D: That too. They’re always more expensive than the right-handed. But yeah, maybe that’s like a childhood trauma. So I hate Les Pauls.

P: Yeah, that’s exactly what it is.

D: And I’d heard some other guitar players that I thought were really good, like Pat Metheney and a lot of rock guitar players. So my parents were like “Well, if you’re going to do it, you gotta take lessons.” I came from a musical home, somewhat, my dad plays piano and I had an uncle that was a really good guitar player, so it kind of just made sense to me. Payson?

P: Yeah, I’m 38 so I was 8 in 1993, so for me it was Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins that made me want to play guitar. The Pumpkins stuff was way harder to play than the Nirvana, so I got super into learning Nirvana songs. And then I also loved things that seemed way above my pay grade. Like, I really loved the guitar solo in “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears. I waited the whole song for that part. I also really loved the song “Cold Shot” by Stevie Ray Vaughan.

D: Oh yeah.

P: And I loved the little hook. I could play the little hook in it, but the solos, it was like hitting a wall. I could find maybe just the first two notes or whatever, but I always wanted to keep going, so that was really the genesis. And Nirvana, you know, you can’t say enough about Nirvana as far as it being an influential band, especially for people my age. The first guitar solo I ever learned was “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, like some of the other kids [my age]. And it’s just the melody line of the song, pretty much. Very much like “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister. It’s just the main melody as a guitar solo, but when you learn it, you just feel like you scaled a mountain, so that was super important for me because if you don’t make progress, you start to give up, right? So luckily the bands I was into, the stuff was, you know, doable. And then learning stuff like Green Day and whatnot that was faster when I was like 10 or 11, and then that just spiraled into Megadeth and then Megadeth rhythm parts, and before you know it you’re actually pretty decent, you know? Especially if you don’t have any friends! (Laughs) You got time! You got all that time to play! So that’s what got me going. I was maybe like 10 when I got an electric guitar. I had the Nirvana live album and I tried to learn all the songs.

RT: So it sounds like both of you had musical backgrounds in your childhood as classic rock fans. What for you was the bridge from classic rock to the much heavier side of music in general?

D: I think that probably the first heavier music I would have heard is “Enter Sandman” on the radio. It was more of that wall-of-distortion sound with the guitars. It felt like it had more balls. That and a band like Alice In Chains, which was also quite metallic, especially for grunge music at that time, but I remember when I was a kid I hated whenever Alice In Chains came on. Now they’re, like, one of my favorite bands, but at the time I couldn’t stand it. But it was, like, hearing that and then going from that? Probably the next thing I would have heard that at least sounded aggressive in some manner was punk music, and then hearing thrash metal, but I kind of got into it from punk, I feel like. And then death metal, I didn’t like at first because I thought the vocals were too much.

P: Yeah, I didn’t like it either.

RT: (Laughs) Three for three!

D: Yeah, and there were bands that had maybe some quasi-blast beats, like this thrash band Gammacide had an album called Victims of Science. I think it came out on Wild Rags. It has these, like—(Pounds repeatedly on desk)—kind of beats but a guy not gurgling over it. Then I heard Leprosy by Death and with that I could kind of understand what he was saying and the riffs weren’t too crazy. That record is a great record. They’re pretty boring riffs, but they’re iconic. But I think if I had heard Human first, I would have been like “This is too much,” you know what I mean? That one is a little more primitive-sounding. And then you dip your toe into it a bit more and you start hearing some other stuff. You hear bands like Incantation or Demigod where it’s way heavier, way more bottom end, that low-tuned stuff. And then you hear the more technical stuff and I was like “I like it all.” But I came into it from punk, so I guess that kind of sums it up.

P: Yeah, I also thought death metal was too aggressive vocally. I thought it was too one-note. But yeah, I was really into hardcore and punk at first too. I guess for me the band that I was like “Woah, death metal’s cool” was pretty obvious. It’s Entombed’s Left Hand Path. I heard that and I was like “Holy shit, this is like a 5 minute song and I want to hear it again!” Vocals were cool, riffs were cool, solos were cool, production was cool, everything about it’s cool! But before that the gateway was Megadeth, Suicidal Tendencies. Suicidal because it was it was, like, punk, but it had kinda metal leads, and those leads were crazy. So there’re even Suicidal songs on the first two records I’m not crazy about, but the lead is like “Yo, that’s crazy!” I gotta hear it for that solo.

And then Megadeth—I loved Metallica too, I did, but when I was 10 or 11, Load and Reload were out, so I was way less into them because it was like they were an alt-rock band by then. I think I heard the first record when I was like 15 or 16 and I was like “Why does James sound like he’s 8?” But with Megadeth, Countdown To Extinction and Rust In Peace, especially Rust In Peace is such a rager. Countdown to Extinction has some amazing songs on it but it’s got some bum tracks too. That’s where they were really like “Let’s be a metal band but let’s also get on the radio.” Title track, “Psychotron”, these are things I wasn’t into. “Symphony of Destruction”, yeah, let’s go, I love it. I remember hearing that when I was 7. My mother was also a fan of that band. So yeah, I’d say Entombed were the first ones where I was like “Woah, death metal could be cool. This is death metal, this is sick.” And then yeah, you just kind of spiral down and hear all kinds of crazy stuff. I liked a lot of the thrashier metal bands too though, like Hirax, bands who are almost on the periphery of hardcore where yeah, it’s punk, but it’s really fast.

D: Crossover.

P: Crossover, yeah, exactly. I think Ron McGovney from Metallica was in a band called Phantasm and I heard a 12-inch that was a demo that got repressed. Stuff like that, the crossover stuff, I thought was really cool. But then you hear the really brutal stuff. It grew on me for sure. But at first I was all about speed, and then death metal came. You learn to really love it. It hits like nothing else, right?

RT: So how did you guys all meet?

D: Me and Payson met in like 2006.

P: 2007, I think.

D: 2007. I was playing a show by myself. I used to just play guitar and sing songs. A couple of older friends of mine wanted to start a band. Like a post-hardcore or emo band because we were all into that. And then my one friend was like “I know this other guy, he can play guitar. He’s good.” And I met Payson at that show that I played and then he was the other guitar player. Then we practiced for, I don’t know, a few months and then never did anything. But at the time we were both straight-edge, Payson is still straight-edge, and we liked more aggressive music as well. We liked the same kinds of non-aggressive music like My Bloody Valentine or something like that.

P: Yeah, we liked a lot of the same stuff.

D: Yeah, we were both into shows like The X-Files and stuff like that, so there was a lot of common ground for us to just build a friendship.

P: Derrick knew a lot of bands that I thought only I knew. We’d be talking and I’d be like “Oh yeah, this band!” and none of my friends knew them and he was like “Oh yeah, I love this!” And I was like “Oh shit!” We were on a lot of the same tips for crawling down blogs and finding more obscure stuff. And it was all linked to stuff we like, you know. I was a Radiohead fan and then from Radiohead I heard The Smiths and from The Smiths I heard blah-blah-blah, and before you know it you’re deep down the rabbit hole and into obscure British shoegaze or whatever. You’re into bands that only put out one EP. Derrick was into a lot of the same stuff I was, so there was common ground there for sure.

D: I think we were both… like… loser dorks, you know? And just had all this time to just be nerds. Then you meet another nerd and you’re like “You’re just as bad as I am!” And then it’s like you’re bonded now.

P: And as fate would have it, we both got cool at exactly the same time!

RT: Moving on to the record itself, there’s been a lot of talk in the Toilet ov Hell Discord server about this album being kind of more proggy than your other records. Do you have any thoughts on that? Do you agree? Disagree?

D: Yeah, I see that word a lot. I guess it is? I don’t know. I mean, to me I feel like the formula of the songwriting is kind of the same? Well, not the same, but on records like Manor of Infinite Forms and Planetary Clairvoyance, we had these long-winded songs that kind of cycle through so many different riffs and sections, but I think maybe it’s the style of riffs. And once you have clean parts in your death metal, it’s sort of like, prog, right? I mean, we could have had a ska riff, so would you still call it progressive death metal? I don’t know, but maybe it’s the intricacy of the riffs that changed? I don’t know, it’s so hard for me to classify that stuff. I feel like I’m too close to it. But also, I feel like people who write progressive metal, or progressive music in general, are much smarter than me, so it’s hard for me to be like “I wrote a prog song,” you know what I mean? But that’s just me. Maybe Payson’s more “Yes-it’s-a-prog-record.”

P: Yes, I think it is. (Laughs) Yeah, no, 100%, I think it’s way more proggy. There’s just a lot of the hallmarks. Like Derrick mentioned, there’re the cleans. It is intricate and now that we’ve tuned up and now that we’re playing clean and some of the leads are less swampy and maybe 30% faster, there’s a lot of clarity there. The technicality, I think, has been there. There are riffs on Manor that are tough to play, there’re certainly riffs on Planetary that are hard to play, but I think they’re deceptively hard to play. I felt the same when we played a show here in Toronto a couple days ago with Undeath. Undeath kind of have this dumb-guy, bludgeoning sound, but if you watch the guitar player, the riffs aren’t easy and Undeath would be a completely different band if they played those songs three octaves up. If they were playing those songs on a higher register on the D, G, and B strings, it would be super dorky and nerdy-sounding, I think. But it’s not easy, those are tough riffs. Those guys are great musicians. Kyle is a beast of a player for sure.

So yeah, I think with Tomb Mold’s slightly higher register now and with some of the riffs being higher—Derrick put a bunch of riffs up in higher spots—I think these riffs would have been a full octave lower on previous records, and they were slower. There’s a riff in “Will of Whispers” that’s kind of this crazy, harmonized walk-down riff. (Sings the riff) Yes it’s tough, but I could totally see it being on Planetary, just played in a different way. But yeah, to me those are the things that make it proggier. The cleans are chorusy and reverby, and the record’s not slow either. Prog’s typically pretty fast. If you listen to Dream Theater or Rush, a lot of these bands have a pretty brisk pace and then they’ll break it down into a mid-tempo section, and we have a few of those. So yeah, I mean, prog is hard to define for sure. I think a lot of people use it to describe stuff that they just find too technical for them. And that’s understandable, but if technicality made music good, Dragonforce would be everybody’s favorite band, but they’re not. The Ramones and CCR are more popular, historically, than those bands, and those songs can be played so simply, but yeah, the progressive elements are there for sure.

We’ve injected a certain degree of that stuff that we like too, you know? When it came to leads, even though there are bands that I idolize like Rush and King Crimson, I’m not trying to do an impression of those artists per se, but there are certain sounds of theirs and certain feelings that you want to kind of capture sometimes when you’re inspired [by them], but that doesn’t mean taking someone’s riff and just stealing it. I think of a Rush record like Grace Under Pressure and there are so many moments on that that I feel are these powerful moments, and they’re prog, they’re poppy prog, but it’s the way everything crescendos and works together. And on this album the way that everything works together is maybe what gives it its more progressive element. On Manor, the bass guitar, other guitar, and drums are locked in doing one thing. It’s like one marching army. But on The Enduring Spirit, Derrick would show me a guitar part and I’d say “OK, I’m going to do my own thing here. I’m going to play this note and I’m going to come back to you on this note, and when you go up here, I’m going to go here and do three notes,” and then it’s Derrick’s turn on the bass and he would say “Well, I’m going to do this,” and now all of a sudden we have three parts where we used to have one. These things are making a sort of tapestry of complexity and it sounds cool! It sounds dense and rich and I think that’s where the prog comes from. So when people say it’s proggy, what they probably mean is there’s a lot going on at once. And then Max is a whole other beast doing all the crazy fucking shit he does.

D: And even Max will be looking for things in the guitar playing to accent, so I guess it’s far more… almost conversational than the rest of the previous stuff, which felt more like a choir almost, just singing the one thing.

RT: That’s a really good way of putting it, yeah! Conversational!

D: Yeah, just all of us kind of talking to each other. Even when we play live we know how to get each other’s attention, like, over certain riffs. We’ll just hit something a little different or do something a little off because we’re all listening and then we kind of dig into each other in a nice and appreciative way. And I think the record does that too.

P: Yeah, there’s this cohesive element. There’s a part during Derrick’s solo in track 6, “Servants of Possibility”, where Derrick is doing his lead and Max does a little transition part that’s just, like, three notes, and Derrick just follows it so nicely and it’s such a perfect little moment. It’s kind of like when you’re out on the ocean floating on a little board and a wave comes and you go up and you can feel gravity kind of in your chest and then you go back down. It’s just this nice little “Whoop!” and if you’re not paying attention it’s so easy to miss. Derrick could have just shredded over that or Max could have just blasted over it or whatever, but instead we have these kinds of moments that come together.

And yeah, I think the album is kind of a cyclone, but I think that when it matters it comes together really nicely. And I’ve said this before in other interviews, but those are my favorite parts on the record when we kind of sync up. And I’m sure as we play these songs, and even the old songs we have, we’re going to find more ways to alter them slightly and it’s honestly so fun. We’ll be playing a song like “Two Worlds Become One”, which we played the other night. We were halfway through it and we got to this new part where Max is slowing the song down and I almost forgot. Not that I forgot to play it, but I was like, “Oh yeah, we’re coming to this part,” and it’s this fucking awesome thing we can do now where it’s like we’ve got this cool thing and it’s different every night, but we know what we’re doing so it still sounds tight. The audience doesn’t know that we’re kind of flying by the seat of our pants, but we’re looking at each other and it rules. It’s super fun. So yeah, the record came together very naturally, I think.

D: Yeah, and we find ways to make the guitar playing more interesting on some of those old songs. Not that it wasn’t before, but when you’re three, four, or five years removed from a song, you’ve gotta keep it fresh for yourself. Plus it’s more fun for the audience. The other thing I was going to say, kind of jumping on that proggy thing, we played a song in Montreal over the weekend and after we played a couple people came up to me and were like “That was really good. We love the last two records but we haven’t heard the new one yet and then you played some songs off of it.” And I was like “Oh yeah? How was that?” And they were like “Holy fuck! It’s crazy! It’s so proggy!” I asked if that was OK and they said “Yeah, it’s great!” But when I hear someone say it’s proggy I’m kind of like “OK, is that good or bad?” because it’s such a key word for some and it can be such a red flag term for somebody else. Which is funny, but either way I’m cool with it.

RT: In terms of lyrical content on the album, I know that you guys have abandoned the Dark Souls thing, and that’s something that happened a few years ago. I’m a big lyrics guy and I loved reading through the lyrics for this album. It feels like there are a lot of religious themes, or even some almost Christian elements in the lyrics.

D: Oh wow, that’s an interesting read on it.

RT: What do you guys think? There’s a line in “Flesh as Armor” that seems like a reference to the Biblical idea of the last becoming the first and the first being last.

D: Oh yeah!

RT: So that wasn’t intentional?

P: It’s hard to say! I wish Max was here to weigh in on it because Max wrote all the words. It’s my assumption that any parts that come off as having any sort of relation to something in Christianity would be a coincidence based on another larger idea.

P: A lot of religious elements do mirror each other. Or, I mean, Max did base a lot of his words on a series he liked and a bunch of books he read, so that might just be variations on a theme, right? It might be some inspiration that he took from a book that took it from Christianity and put it in some sort of different focus. But I’m not sure. I’ve read the lyrics a bunch. I really like them.

RT: I do too.

P: I’ve heard Max talk about them a good bit. He’s quite cerebral about them, and I also find them quite cerebral! As a fan of the band, I choose to interpret them in a way that suits me instead of looking for a literal definition, though I tend to do that with most art that I find puzzling. Maybe when I was 20 I would obsess over a David Lynch movie like “Well, what does it mean?” but now I just try to enjoy the ride and say “You know, it is what it is,” and if it makes sense to me, or if Mulholland Drive lands with me, and if I feel something, then that’s all that matters, you know?  So that’s how I choose to read Max’s lyrics. I do think they’re quite linear in the way that I feel like it’s very story-esque. We didn’t discuss it much. I did mention it once before the interview, but it does have a kind of concept album feel to it. Much like “prog,” “concept album” is another dirty word, right? There’s so many overblown albums that are twice as long as they should be that are concept albums, so people tend to associate it with someone being too grandiose or a little too up-their-own-ass or whatever. But yeah, it does feel linear and there are a lot of callbacks in songs to previous songs, which does make it feel like one long piece, you know what I mean? So yeah, that’s my thoughts on it. I’m not going to weigh in on anything specific.

RT: Yeah, and it’s entirely possible that that interpretation for me comes from the fact that a lot of my academic focus in college has been on religious texts.

D: Oh interesting!

P: Absolutely, yeah!

RT: So maybe that’s something that comes from my own interpretation.

D: But that’s great! Kind of piggybacking off of what Payson said, yeah, I think your own interpretation gives you more of a connection to the record, you know what I mean? It’s however you interpret the lyrics, so that’s cool.

P: Yeah, for sure, I mean, I was telling Max and Derrick that for me, making the record and going through a difficult period in my own life, I chose to interpret the larger themes of the record as something positive for myself. I don’t think it’s what Max was going for, but that’s how I’m going to choose to interpret it. And I think that’s good and I would think that Max would think that too. I’m sure he’d have an answer for it, but for me, I read them in a certain way and I’ve decided that that’s how I’m going to read them. I’m also not really familiar with the television show Dunbine.

D: Aura Battler Dunbine.

P: Yeah, he’s really into this show and I think the themes of the show really struck a chord with him and I think that’s kind of what he wanted to inject into this record. I know rebirth is a big thing. I think the record is about accepting mortality.

RT: That’s kind of the vibe that I got too.

P: Yeah, the finiteness of our life. I’ve read the words and it might just be my own personal bias or something I’m personally infatuated with or whatever, but the idea of life being finite and we only have so much more time to do things, but everything feels limitless. And then there’s the whole agnostic element too. Like, what happens after we die? Are we going to come back? Are we going to be nothing? Are we going to be bathed in light? What will occur? No one knows. And no one can definitively answer that, so it ends up being this philosophical personal question. You could debate it in a room with a thousand people, but it doesn’t matter when you’re home alone in your bed thinking about what happens after you die. So that’s how I sort of read it. But yeah, like I said, I think mine was affected by some stuff I was going through, so I looked at it in more of a heavy way. I do think that there’s a certain heft to the words. They’re kind of intense, but it’s not negative, it’s not angry. It’s philosophical.

RT: So I confess, a couple of these questions are for my own curiosity.

D: That’s OK!

RT: I’ve always kind of wondered, what is it like to have a day off on tour? Like, you don’t have a show that day, but you’re still on tour, so what does that look like for you guys?

D: We’ve never had a day off.

P: I was going to say, we’ve never taken one!

RT: Really?

P: Yeah, we’re so money-hungry that we just say “No empty days!” (Laughs) No, it’s just that the way that we’ve always booked tours is pretty solid. There’ve been places we’ve hit where I know all three of us were kind of looking at each other like “Damn, I wish we had a day off here. That’d be cool.” But with our time off, we usually try to find some decent food and then go to the venue to soundcheck. We had days off in Copenhagen, actually!

D: Yeah, we were playing a festival before a Euro tour. But yeah, our usual method is to get to the show, find food, play the show, have a good time, go to sleep. I’m always looking out for a nice coffee spot we can go to in the morning. We all get coffee and pastries and it’s the chance for us all to have a nice moment together before we hit the road.

P: I personally like to go off on my own occasionally and usually end up further than I expect to go, but I’m really into stuff from film, so if we’re somewhere where there’s something from a movie I’ll usually try to go see it. Like in LA, where there’s Nakatomi from Die Hard, or in Europe I went to American Werewolf in London joints. Stuff like that. Anywhere you can go photograph and have it look reasonably similar. We all got to go to the Night of the Living Dead cemetery in Pittsburgh early on in our touring career. So stuff like that that’s easy to get to. I love it. I’m always worried they’re going to disappear. There are so many things from films that I had a chance to see or maybe could have gone to that are gone now and it bums me out. If it’s still there, you’ve gotta go and do it while you can. If that’s important for you.

RT: That kind of leads into my next question. Do you have any favorite tour foods? Like, if you stop in a gas station, what are you grabbing? Or is there any kind of restaurant that you usually try to hit?

D: Oh yeah, for me it’s plain chips, one or two candy bars, a Coke Zero, and all the weed I can get. Not the gas station weed though, that stuff will be bad for you. I find eating snacks helps pass the time in the van. I don’t know why.

P: You eat a lot of snacks in bed at night too.

D: That’s true, I eat a lot in bed.

RT: Are you a fast eater or a slow eater? I’m a super fast eater and I usually find that when I have a snack, it’s gone before I can think about it and then I just wish that I had a snack again.

D: Oh, I’m a fast eater.

P: As for tour food for me, I usually lose a bunch of weight on tour because I actually enjoy moving gear with the load in and load out. Some people don’t like doing it, but I love it because then I don’t have to talk to people. Not that I’m anti-social, but sometimes it’s nice after you finish playing to just move a bunch of cabs. I’d happily do it by myself.

RT: Is it like a nice, kind of meditative moment?

P: It’s kind of nice, yeah. I feel good and I shower after and feel even better. But in moments of weakness when I’m on tour and I eat candy, I go fucking crazy, so if I’m going to actually eat junk food, I’m not getting one bar. I’ll have like six or eight. Derrick’s seen it. I can eat like 40 or 50 peanut butter cups in a sitting, but I don’t do that much anymore because I don’t want heart disease. (Laughs) But when I eat junk food, I love Coke Zero. I don’t drink, so it’s nice when I would go to a bar in Europe when we were on tour and they had all these cool glass bottle colas and sodas and stuff.

RT: When you’re on tour, what makes for a good and memorable crowd?

D: Having excited people is nice. Friendly people are cool. We’re usually pretty happy to chat after the show too. It’s always nice to do that for a little bit. Usually just a responsive crowd is nice. I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes you’ll play to a lot of people and you won’t get that. Then afterwards they’ll come up to you and be like “That was great!” But, like, it didn’t feel great, you know what I mean?

RT: Yeah, I know that feeling. I’ve definitely been to concerts where the band on stage is absolutely killing it but the crowd around me is totally dead. I feel bad for the band because they might feel like they haven’t done their job or that they haven’t entertained anybody, but I’m there really digging their set, even if it’s some opener that I haven’t heard of before. It just makes me feel bad if the crowd is really dead.

P: Yeah, it makes me think of Mariah Carey in 1995 at the Tokyo Dome on the Daydream tour. There’s a DVD for that show and she is just killing it, but in between songs she’s like “Just stand up and dance or sing!” because the Japanese crowd is just sitting there clapping quietly. That’s just one example. I’ve seen a lot of concert DVDs. Actually there’s a really good Queen DVD from I believe Montreal where the crowd is not feeling it and Freddie Mercury is obviously really agitated because they were really big at the time. But yeah, enthusiasm is great. We’re really lucky because people who are fans of this music are almost always really passionate. They come up and say nice things and tell you how your music is a part of their life and that’s always really cool to hear. You show up with a bunch of merch and people always just want to buy stuff and ask you to sign stuff and it’s super humbling and awesome.  It’s great, but as long as people are having a good time, we’re happy.

At the last two shows we played, I was so hyper focused on delivering a good show. I want us to move around a little bit, but I want it to be accurate and I want it to sound like the record. We put a lot of effort into having the songs sound the way they’re supposed to because I’ve gone to see bands that I love and they’ll play a song differently or they’ve changed the key or they skip a part because it’s too weird or too difficult. I like to try to play things as close as I can because that’s what I want to see. I want to see bands do the record as close as they can. But yeah, for a good crowd, if there’s a lot of people there it’s usually cool, but even if there’s not, even if there’s just a handful of people who are really feeling it, it’s awesome because they’ll tell you. They’ll let you know if they’re having a really sick time. So yeah, it’s pretty simple. The worst is when people are, like, nowhere near the stage, but that hasn’t happened to us since Columbus, Ohio.

D: Or in Wrocław, Poland where everyone was standing 20 feet away.

P: And then the other show we played in Poland was like a fucking riot!

D: Warsaw was just a rage, yeah.

P: The stage was just a bunch of wood piled up and people were going off!

D: They were going crazy!

P: It was so cool!  Because if they’re going crazy, you’ll go crazy.

D: And when people go crazy, but not in some sort of, like, meathead way where they’re trying to hurt people, there’s a lot of positivity in that raging. It’s awesome. It’s like this beautiful chaos that puts a smile on your face. It’s pretty awesome.

P: Totally. We all remember the first time we did that and how great it was. There’s a time to stop for everybody, but when I was younger it was amazing. Seeing a band and hearing a song you like and dancing really hard, and it was cool to see other people dance. You just want to have fun and the band gets high off that and it’s great.

RT: Absolutely. So as a closing question, what are you guys excited for in the near future, related or unrelated to the band? What are you guys looking forward to?

P: In life?

RT: I don’t know! (Laughs) It’s an open-ended question!

D: For me personally, this has been a highly productive few years for me as far as making music. Before we really started working on this record in the room together with everybody, I started working on a side project with a friend from Boston. It’s a doom band called Dream Unending.

RT: Yeah, I was reading about some of you guys’ side projects in prep for this! You mentioned earlier that your dad plays piano and that he had done some keys for Dream Unending.

D: He did, he played keyboard on some of the songs. So getting to do that and this other band that we actually played with over the weekend called Outer Heaven, I had tracked bass for their new record that came out on Relapse. I had been working on other recording projects and it’s been a really productive time for me, but this record was sort of the grand prize of it all. I was doing all of this other stuff, but all I could think about was getting this one done and finally getting it finished. I thought maybe ”Oh, now I’ll chill out,” but I just feel even more energized to keep writing music. Not necessarily for Tomb Mold, just writing music in general. I feel like that kind of dictates my life now, but it’s nice. But I guess October’s coming up. Payson will watch a thousand horror movies and it’ll be sick.

P: Yeah, I’m excited. I have terrible anxiety when I’m working on things, so now that the record’s done and out and we’ve played a couple shows and I feel really good. I’m nice and relieved. I wish I didn’t get so stressed out about things, but it’s OK, it just means you care. The record didn’t leak, we put it out and we love how it turned out. I’m really happy. People always say “Don’t beat yourself up about this” or “Don’t beat yourself up about that!” I love beating myself up about that stuff, but only to a point! Like, when we were working on the record I beat myself up a lot. When we said, “Yep, final mix, approved,” that’s when you stop beating yourself up because it’s too late to do anything.

RT: Right, it’s not going to do you any good.

P: So beat the shit out of yourself to make it as good as you can while you can! Once you relinquish control, it now belongs to the universe. You can’t change it and you have to love it, so hopefully you made it as good as you can. We made a great record. I absolutely love our record. And we know we love our record because if someone’s like “Your record sucks!” I’m like “Alright man, it’s all good.” I’m unhurt.  There’s nothing you can say that’s going to bum me out about it. But you know, people aren’t looking for reasons to tear us down, I don’t think. But for the future, yeah, I’m looking forward to just continuing to play music. I have a different band that I play in and I’ve got a bunch of ideas for that and a bunch of songs written, so I’m excited to see how those turn out. So yeah, just looking forward to hitting the chill zone a bit, you know? But yeah, I always like to keep doing stuff because it’s nice to consciously make stuff and you learn so much. There’s so much to be learned in the creative process. It helps you keep that ball rolling as long as you can. I’m sure we’ll play a bunch of shows next year and that’ll be fun. We’ll just try to organize it as best as we can and have a good time. I’m curious to see the response to the record and to see if it brings out a different crowd of people. I’m not so concerned with it alienating old fans, but I am interested to see if it brings us new ones. I think it will. I think it’s a bit more accessible.

RT: I think so, yeah.

P: It’s still crazy though! It’s accessible, but not in a radio way. It’s still outsider music for sure. It’s extreme music. But people in my life who were not fans of the band, and I don’t mean, like, death metal wasn’t their thing, enjoy this record. To me that’s symptomatic of people digging this who normally wouldn’t, so we’ll see what shows we choose to play or get asked to play. I’m looking forward to playing for maybe a different crowd because, like, what’s the worst that can happen? They can help us improve.

D: Yeah, and we can eat after!


Thanks so much to Derrick and Payson for doing this interview! Even as a writer for Toilet ov Hell, it’s not every day that I get to sit down and talk with one of the bands that changed my mind about death metal. It was a real pleasure to be able to interview them. The Enduring Spirit is out now via 20 Buck Spin!

Photo via Colin Medley

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