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You've all heard the Big Bang Theory. . . Black Sabbath started to jam and there was lots of loud noise, smoke and fire. When the dust cleared, heavy metal existed where there had only been emptiness before. That's when evolution began. As our beloved world developed, many sub-genres were born. Doom metal is among the oldest and the closest on the evolutionary scale to the bludgeoning sounds of the mighty Sabbath. But doom, too, has subdivided and taken many twists and turns. While some styles such as stoner rock have become more commercially accepted, others like doom / death have cultivated a cult following. As the evolution continues, New Jersey's Evoken have been carrying the torch for followers of a unique brand of doom pioneered by the legendary Australian act Disembowelment. Evoken's latest masterpiece 'Quietus' leads our doomed souls deeper down that darkened path. The Metal Update had a chat with drummer / lyricist Vince Verkay who was more than happy to shed some light on this renegade strain.

METAL UPDATE: Could you start off by giving us a brief history of the band?

VINCE VERKAY: It started out as an original band named Funereus. What happened was my guitarist Nick started the band with another friend of mine who is no longer in the band, Rob. They basically went through members here and there. I joined the band in '92. We just did mostly rehearsals and then Rob had left so it was just me and Nick for a period of about 2 years. We put an ad out and we got our old bass player Bill Manley through the ad. After that we got the guitarist that we have now, our vocalist John Paradiso. Then eventually we got rid of Bill and we got our current bass player Steve. A little while after that our keyboard player Dario joined. I actually met him at a party. So it's been pretty solid with the lineup since '97. That's when we got DJ and Steve in the band.

MU: What were the primary influences that led to the musical style of Evoken?

VV: I can't deny total Disembowelment worship. We've been in contact with Renato for a while. When we heard the first demo we were completely floored. It was something you never really heard. Two extremes -from slow to really fast.

MU: They totally set a new style of music in their own right. Not many bands took notice of that. The only bands that I've heard that have sounded like them are Dusk and then you guys and that's it. I guess it's a good thing that a lot of people didn't pick up on it.

VV: That's what I was always afraid of. If a lot of people pick up on it, what happens to every other genre? A flood. The fucking bands will just all sound the same and then you'll get bored with them. Disembowelment was our main influence and then when the album came out I was just completely shocked. Cause then they started the utilizations of clean guitars and I was just totally blown away. And then when Renato was breaking it up, he wrote back to my guitar player. He was just like "keep the flame alit" and we were just like "holy shit!" He was handing the torch here. So he was keeping in contact with Jason from Disembowelment and he's got a new band. They're going to be doing a split with us.

MU: What are they called?

VV: I can't remember the name off the top of my head.

MU: Are they doom though?

VV: They are not like Disembowelment, like that doom / death. They are more straightforward doom. He's gonna get two of the members that were in Disembowelment. The only one he can't get is Renato because he's had differences with him. There was a big fight with his brother or something. He asked us to do the split and we were just like "Oh my. . . " You're basically being asked by a person that influenced you to do the split. How many bands get that opportunity?


MU: What are your views on the US metal scene?

VV: It's so wide and diverse that you can't keep up with all the bands. The metal scene itself pretty much blows. You hear about these shows in Europe. You read interviews from bands that went to Europe and that were from America and came back and it was like a culture shock. Over there it's like hundreds of thousands of kids come to see the bands and then you come back here and you get like 20 people. It's pathetic here. There's a lot of good bands that really struggle to get anything done. You have the real shit bands that get the offers. It's a shame because there's a lot of good bands that can't get signed and a lot of shit bands get signed. Ten years ago or fifteen years ago you had to be one of the best original metal bands to get signed. Now it's like there are so many labels. It's a sad state. It's gotten better compared to like '93 but it's still pretty lackluster.

MU: I agree. What are your views on the more stoner rock style of doom?

VV: I like it. There is some of it that is a little too cock rockish for me.

MU: And it seems like its done too much in the US. It's one of the trendy things to do.

VV: Yeah, it's like the big thing now. It started out with maybe a handful of bands doing it. Now it's like every fucking band that comes out that is slightly doom is stoner rock, stoner doom. There's bands that do it well but some of it is just too upbeat. I don't even really consider it doom. Then you have bands like Warhorse. They're fucking doom. Old Cathedral and stuff like that. There's only a handful of bands that I can appreciate and enjoy. The others. . . they just don't do it for me.

MU: Do you guys aim to capture your studio sound in the live setting?

VV: Very much so.

MU: Are you successful in doing that?

VV: We're still working on that. One problem we seem to be fixing is our clean guitar sound. My guitar player just got a processor for the live situation. We like to replicate live what we have on the recording.

MU: Yeah, sounds awesome.

VV: People want to come out and see you but they also want to have that same sound from the album.

MU: I'd totally want to hear that same sound - vocal wise too. A lot of reverb on the vocals and everything.

VV: That's what we try to do. It's just a lot of sound engineers are complete dicks. We had one show where we had everything perfect. We had the clean guitars sounding really nice like the album. Everything was nice and the fucking PA guy shut the PA off on us in the middle of the set. He said we were too loud and you could hear it just coming out of the amps. We couldn't hear anything through any monitors or anything. Basically we want to get as close to the album as we can. People pay good money to see you. You don't want to fucking put some crap out on the stage. You'll really lose people as fans.


MU: Yeah. With that style of music too, people are looking for the reverb vocals, the reverb everything. That's just the beauty of it. It sounds like you are playing in a cavern.

VV: Yeah, a lot of people we see when they are watching us will sit there and just close their eyes. Seeing that pumps me up more than a person just headbanging.

MU: It's not what that music is about. Not to me. It's mesmerizing really. It's so powerful. I think that the beauty of doom is that it is so slow and it accentuates every note and brings out so much power.

VV: It's music to be absorbed. Not let out.

MU: How did you get such a huge sound in the studio? Because the album sounds incredible.

VV: Hours of just trying different things. We had a lot of bad luck too. The studio we went to was in Staten Island. Our engineer was a really good friend of ours, Ron Thal. Over in Europe, the guy is like a guitar god. He's on bass and guitar magazines. He's really big over there. So he was engineering the album and what happened was the studio closed down. We had all the recording done. We just had a few things to do. So we had to go to another studio to finish up there and then we had to go somewhere else to mix it. Instead of having him do everything on the board, we tried to get everything recorded as we would like it to sound on the CD itself. Basically, we'll take the guitars and layer them as much as we can and the bass will take care of the bottom end. The guitars are for the high end and they are still heavy, but the bass is for the real deep low end.

MU: Besides Evoken, which band would you most like to play drums for?

VV: Hmm. . . If it were a band to reunite, obviously Disembowelment or Winter. Current bands it's really hard to say. There's a lot of bands that I would like to be in. One of my personal faves is My Dying Bride. If they were looking for somebody, that would be the band that I would jump at the opportunity. I thought about it years ago when they were looking for a drummer.

MU: Oh really?

VV: Yeah, they were asking for people to send in something recorded of them and I think it was playing a few of their songs too. At the time Evoken wasn't really doing much so I was kind of contemplating it. But I was like, "Ahh, it's crazy. What am I going to go to fucking England?"

MU: (laughter) Yeah you could but. . .

VV: It would be a lot of money.

MU: How are things going with Dwell Records?

VV: I wish I could say well. What happened was, for a while. . . I remember when Dwell Records was putting out ads deluxe. You'd see ads everywhere for them. The one main guy that basically got us on Dwell was Jerry Battle. He left for WWIII Records, which they're getting bigger every day now. I see ads constantly for them. The packaging is very nice. He took all his contacts he had on Dwell to his new label. Dwell is just like. . . we've been emailing them for any info and nothing back.

MU: I know.

VV: I know you've tried to contact them.

MU: Yeah, about this whole interview and it's just pretty sad.

VV: Yeah it is. When we signed to Avantegarde, it wasn't set up yet to be licensed through Dwell, but then we heard it was going to we were like, "Oh, this is it." This is what we've been looking for ad-wise - advertisements and what have you. I think we're cursed. They go under. The first label we were on, Adipocere - we signed with them. Just before we signed with them they were everywhere. We sign with them, they collapse. Elegy Records, he was just a small label to begin with, but he kind of fell back when we signed with him. And now we sign to Dwell and they go down the tubes. From what I hear they are closing up shop.

MU: They are?

VV: Yeah, they are just going to be doing the occasional tribute album.

MU: I had no idea how many tribute albums they had. . .

VV: It just boggles my mind.

MU: All my friends that are into doom, I play them Evoken and they're like, "They are on Dwell Records? How the christ does that work?"

VV: The original guy Jerry Battle. . . If it wasn't for him, I don't think Dwell would have even looked at us. Doom metal is not the biggest selling genre out there, so they're taking a hit. They've really just gone downhill.

MU: What kind of contract did you sign?

VV: Avantegarde, it was like a two album deal in three years. Basically the contract is up in 2002. That is with Avantegarde. Dwell is just an agreement between Avantegarde and Dwell. We had no say in that matter. Cause what they did was they licensed certain releases of Avantegarde's to reissue over here like Behemoth, Opera IX, the Mayhem tribute and Evoken. That was it.


MU: Dwell just re-released them?

VV: Right. We sent Avantegarde all of our material - CDRs and stuff - and we sent another one to Dwell Records. All they did was make a little change to the layout or what have you and basically released it under the moniker Dwell Records.

MU: So I guess that can't hurt in any event.

VV: It got it out there more than we were able to on the two previous releases. So it has its good side and its bad side.

MU: Why didn't you play any of the metal fests this year?

VV: Oh that's a good one. (laughter) Actually we were really setting up a set to play at the New Jersey metalfest. At the same time, we were looking into the MA metalfest. We contacted Jack Koshick, our guitar player did, and basically Koshick told him, "You guys have to pay $1,000 to play. We can't assure you what slot you get or what have you right now. Up front you need $500." Our guitarist asked, "What does it take to play and not pay?" He said, "Bands that are on major labels or signed bands." So he said, "Well, we're on Avantegarde. We're on Dwell. You don't consider them a little bit big and if so we're on a label." So he said, "No." So we found that strange. So then I got contacted by Don Decker a day later cause I was actually in a chat room and kinda ripping on them. I thought it was really fucked up that you sit there and tell the facts and you've got all these other bands that are signed on smaller labels and they're on there for free. So he basically tried to tell me he was going to send me an invitation, but I have my doubts about that. So we were looking to play that, but that kind of fell through the cracks. Then we were actually in contact. . . we have a person that helps us here book shows beyond the States. He contacted the promoter for the MA Metalfest and they were so overbooked. He said, "I could put you guys on a waiting list and if any bands back out we'll see what happens." A few bands backed out, but I guess there were bands in front of us. So it kind of blew up in our faces.

MU: I think I know the main promoter there so I'll have to put in a good word.

VV: That would be great, man, 'cause we'd love to do the MA Metalfest. I don't know so much about the Milwaukee or New Jersey ones cause they're a little too chaotic. You get like 20 minutes to play. Basically, you're on and off. But the MA Metalfest I heard was much better.

MU: Yeah, it's run pretty well. You can leave and come back for the most part.

VV: Yeah, that's great. They're really professional. We would love to do the festivals. A lot of people are there that haven't gotten to see us play. People want to see us play. We went to play a fest in Ohio and that went really well.

MU: Was that the Ohio Death Fest?

VV: No. It was more of a doom fest. They were calling it a fest but it didn't have all of the characteristics of the fests.

MU: Where have you guys played out so far?

VV: New Jersy, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio. That's it so far. It's really hard to get gigs outside of the area. It's really tough. So we were looking to play out more this summer. Pittsburgh we are definitely gonna do. We're gonna try to get down to North Carolina, South Carolina. We'd like to get out to the Midwest and maybe California. We're trying to figure out ways to do it. With Dwell being nothing short of shutdown, we know they aren't going to try and help. Avantegarde is over in Europe. It's not financially feasible for them to get involved in doing that. We set our own shows up and try to make contacts.

MU: What has been your best show so far?

VV: Best show? Best show would have to be a show at CBGB's about a month ago.

MU: I could imagine. That place sounds so good.

VV: Yeah it is a great sound and everything clicked that night. I would say our second best show would be a show we did with My Dying Bride a couple years ago in upstate New York. We got a sound check. Everything. The stage was huge. The PA was phenomenal.

MU: Did My Dying Bride have any response to your performance?

VV: Yeah, actually. The guy that got the show - it was a fucked up thing - it was funny, though. He put the show together because he was leaving for Europe and he wanted to see My Dying Bride before he left. So he set this last minute show up and he was downstairs with them, hanging out and we started to play. He said the floor above them started to rattle so they went shooting up the stairs and were watching and they were fairly impressed. Their manager was really into us too. So that was kind of cool.

MU: Are you guys in any side projects besides Evoken?

VV: Only our guitar player, Nick, but that's kinda been put on the back-burner. He was doing a death metal band, Funebrarum. It's him and a couple members from a black metal band around here called Abazagorath. It's basically old Swedish death metal. Crematory, Abhorrence - that style, you know? It's pretty brutal. Heavy. But they had some problems. Their drummer left. They lost their one guitar player, so they are kind of on the back-burner right now.

MU: If you could wish for one music performer or group to be dead and gone, who would it be and why?

VV: I've got to go down my list here. Hmm. . . I would say out of bigger bands, Metallica by far. Just the way that they turned their backs. When they were first starting out, they would tape trade their demos and give them to people for free and now, because of them, the whole thing with Napster. They have the filters up where you can't get anything anymore so it really ruined it. It's all money. I'm sure Cliff Burton is rolling over in his grave. They are doing exactly what he didn't want to do. That has to do with a majority of Lars Ulrich. He's the one that caused it all. Out of smaller bands. . .

MU: You better be careful and watch your back when you say this.

VV: Smaller bands. . . there's no band that I really hate. I mean music-wise I would say. . . I wouldn't consider them small, but they're not real big like Metallica. That would be a band like Anathema now. They're real lost too. It's disgusting what they've done. Not so much Anathema 'cause they still keep somewhat of what they used to do, but Paradise Lost. Oh my god. If you put on the demo or the first album and compare it to now. It was like what the hell happened? They all look like they are in GQ.

MU: Yeah, I think some bands can get away with going towards a more simple sound, but I think some bands don't get away with it. I don't believe Anathema got away with it. I don't believe Paradise Lost got away with it. I don't believe Amorphis got away with it. That's a shame.

VV: Horrible.

MU: The first Amorphis album was so amazing and even 'Tales From The Thousand Lakes'. . .

VV: You listen to 'Privilege of Evil' and it's fucking brutal. You listen to them now. . . the bass player was at one of our shows just before the metal fest. We did a pre Metal Meltdown show with 'Burnt by the Sun' and 'Dim Mak'. He was there and he didn't look like a happy guy. I don't know if it was just that he had a miserable night or whatever.

MU: What is it about doom metal that you think makes it desirable to it's small group of followers?

VV: I think a lot of people, when they listen to doom, they have a personal connection with the music. It's something that - it's either you love it or you hate it. A lot of people don't have the patience to sit down and listen to a 10 minute song.

MU: It really is a cult following type of thing.

VV: It is. I'd rather have 10 cult fans than 2,000 that will drop you at the drop of a hat. I just think the draw is that people have a more personal touch with it. Basically, sit back and listen to the music. These days, people say if your a man you're supposed to be stern and not have any emotions. Be like "fuck the world" or whatever. But with doom metal, you can sit there and listen to something so heavy and so masculine, but you can still have that emotion which is something that, these days if you're a man and you have some sort of emotion, then you're a pussy. I think it is more of a personal touch with the music itself.

MU: What are some of the non metal influences for either yourself or the band?

VV: I can't speak for the whole band. They have other things that they like that I'm not too fond of. But I would say they would agree with Dead Can Dance, Lycia, Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Portishead, old, old U2, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Lustmord. I could just go on. There's a lot of stuff that is not metal that we are into. I think Paradiso likes Dick Dale. He's a noodling guitar guy. I mean, that's cool. Whatever.

MU: I was pleased to read in one or your interviews in which Nick said that the music comes first and foremost and the lyrics, being more fantasy related, set the atmosphere.

VV: Basically I write most of the lyrics. From personal experience, when I listen to music it's to be taken away from everything. You don't really want to think about your real issues or your day that you just had. On a shitty day, you don't want to sit there and dwell on it and think about it. You want to go somewhere else. That's why with the music, we basically write that first because that is the most important aspect. The lyrics have a certain role in the music itself, but if you asked a lot of people about a song they could tell you more about the arrangement than they can the lyrics. So the music is very important. The lyrics. . . I'll write them and I'll give them to my singer John Paradiso. He'll fit them to the music by the way he feels they can be put in. But everything is fantasy. Once in a while, I'll delve into real world issues, but I try to kinda stay away from that. Who the fuck wants to think about real life?

MU: I've never heard anyone talk about their music like that. It makes so much sense to me because the music always comes first as far as I'm concerned. And it makes sense to put fantasy lyrics to just set an atmosphere for what you are doing.

VV: Yeah, totally. We're not Sting or REM. Let em go sing about a tree. With us the music will take you away








Interview: Scott McCooe [ ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
Webmaster: WAR [ ]

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