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Dying Fetus    
dying fetus
Dying Fetus used to be described as the United States' foremost unsigned death metal band. Not anymore. After a two-year span during which the band gained substantial notoriety with the self-financed 'Killing on Adrenaline' and buzz-worthy performances at numerous U.S. metal festivals like March Metal Meltdown, New England Metal and Hardcore Festival, and of course, the Milwaukee Metalfest, Relapse Records got wise to the reality and last month released the band's new studio effort, 'Destroy the Opposition'. The Metal Update spoke with singer / bassist Jason Netherton to mark the occasion.

Metal Update: Do you read the Metal Update?

Jason Netherton: Sure. I've been getting it since early last year.

MU: How do you think the Internet has affected the metal scene?

JN: It speeds up contacts. Let's bands organize tours easier. I'm just speaking from our perspective, of course. It let's us get in touch with fans easier. It lets us get feedback on a lot of things faster.

MU: Do you spend much of your time dealing with that stuff?

JN: Yeah. I'm on the computer all day almost. You know, you get instant feedback on things. In addition, bands that are just starting out can get their music out there to the right people directly. A lot faster.

MU: What bands were you into growing up?

JN: In the 80's, I started with the standards. Slayer, Iron Maiden, stuff like that. Then I got into a little darker and heavier things like Dark Angel and Sacrifice. A lot of German stuff. Kreator. Helloween. Warlock. Savatage. Metal Church. I listened to traditional heavy metal a lot.

MU: You still do, right?

JN: I still do.

MU: When did you become a fan of the death metal?

JN: I heard Death's 'Scream Bloody Gore'. Liked some stuff on that. Then I heard 'Altars of Madness'. 'Slowly We Rot', stuff like that. Went from there.

MU: How cool would it have been to be a teenager interacting with all those bands over the Internet during the height of things in the eighties?

JN: Lookin' up to them there, I guess it would have been a dream.

MU: Does the fact that bands are so close to the fans today take away some of the old mystique?

JN: I don't know. I can only imagine what it would have been like if I'd been able to talk to say, Chuck Shuldiner in 1989 over the Internet. That would have been a big deal, I'm sure.

MU: So do you think it is a big deal to your fans when you are in touch over the Internet?

JN: No. 'Cause I don't see us as any different than the fans. I don't really consider us that pivotal of a band. I think Death at the time were doin' something, definitely groundbreaking along with Carcass and some other bands. Possessed and Celtic Frost were doin' it before them. But now, I don't think Dying Fetus is the most original band, we're just taking a lot of what's already out there and . . .

MU: That's something you would normally say to criticize a band. But that's OK for you?

JN: Well . . . I just don't think Dying Fetus is groundbreaking. I think we have a unique take on what may already be available. We combine different genres and have our own take on death metal, but it is nothin' experimental or . . .

MU: And that's good for you? You're satisfied with that?

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JN: Yeah. Some people do see that as groundbreaking, but that's the way I see it. Maybe it's just being . . . used to it or something.

MU: Does the name "Dying Fetus" shock a lot of people?

JN: Yeah, I guess we're desensitized to it. I think there's a lot of worse names out there. We got the name in 1991-92, when we first started. And our first demo was heavily gore oriented, so it fit in with that.

MU: Some people could perceive it to have anti-abortion, political overtones.

JN: I suppose if you wanted to get really philosophical about it, you could turn it any way you want. Yeah, it could be symbolic, or. . .

MU: No anti-abortion intentions though, right?

JN: (laughs) No. We just thought it had a classic ring to it. "Dying Fetus." You know? At the time when we named the band, it was really hard to come up with a name. 'Cause everything seemed to be taken at the time.

MU: Well, it's certainly memorable.

JN: I guess we probably have lost a few . . . lost something in marketing opportunities, but. . . . (laughs)

MU: Anyway . . . Why does your promo material for this new album describe you guys as a mixture of death, grind, hardcore, etc. You're fucking death metal! Do you see yourself as a hardcore band?

JN: I think it comes out as death metal, but there are definitely overtones of grindcore and hardcore in there, if you really want to get analytical about it. I mean, we're kinda unique in that each of us is into our own thing. I'm into grindcore. John likes a lot more hardcore and mosh stuff. Sparky is definitely death metal, but he listens to other stuff too. It is mixed together in the right way. It definitely comes out as death metal but I think that it is a mixture of all. . . but it comes out death metal.

MU: Bands used to try to shirk the metal name though, and used to try to add marketability by touting say, hardcore elements and influences. That's not what is going on at all with you, right, you're proudly waving the metal banner? Let me rephrase that and simply ask: is Dying Fetus a "death metal" band?

JN: Yes. We'll always be a death metal band. If for no other reason than for the vocals.

MU: Is the death metal, dual-layer vocal a big part of the Dying Fetus sound?

JN: Yes. We always knew we wanted to have that, the two vocals. Just to keep things interesting. We always wanted to keep things interesting.

MU: Some people who read the Metal Update might not know much about Dying Fetus. You know, Judas Priest fans. Ozzy fans. Soulfly, Slipknot and Kittie fans, whatever.

JN: Of course.

MU: So let's introduce you guys to those people here. Give us the dime-store introduction to Dying Fetus.

JN: Well John and I first got Dying Fetus together in 1992. We put our first demo out in 1993. Since then we've had four CD releases. All of them more or less independently released on our own label.

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MU: How much effort did it require to keep growing the band while doing everything yourselves? A lot of lesser bands might have broken up along the way.

JN: I pride myself on the fact that we're still together. There were definitely dark days for us when we didn't have a drummer. Drummers are always the problem. We went through drummers . . .

MU: How long has this drummer been with you?

JN: We've had Kevin since 1997.

MU: He's excellent.

JN: Yeah. We were just about ready to call it a day and his band, a high school band, opened up for us down in Texas. We saw him and I jokingly said to him after the show, "It would be great if we had you as a drummer." And the next thing I know, a few months later he moved to Maryland and he was playing for us. And then 'Killing on Adrenaline' came out, and I guess that caught people's attention.

MU: How tough was it to keep the operation afloat during those years?

JN: We were fortunate enough to have some really cool people helping us out when we booked the tours. Kataklysm helped us out with our first tour in 1996. One day in the summer of 1996, I was sitting around and I got a call from a representative of Kataklysm who said they needed an opening band for their U.S. tour and they wanted us. The pay wasn't that good, but it was exciting for us to do. So we took it and it helped us get our name out a lot more.

MU: How did you get to do so much touring for 'Killing on Adrenaline'?

JN: Well first, we put out contacts together with Deeds of Flesh and booked our own tour. We booked thirty dates in the U.S.

MU: And you made enough money to stay out that long?

JN: We made enough to get by. We stayed at people's houses and shit. It was really underground. And then we went to Europe after that because Morbid Records has the rights to the album in Europe. So they booked a tour over there.

MU: That must have been a blast. After going through the tough times, almost breaking up and then getting a fully-funded European tour. That must have been great.

JN: Yeah, at the same time, 'Killing on Adrenaline' starting getting us some respect and we started getting the attention of some labels. But we didn't want to just go with them so easily. We had worked really hard on our own to get where we are, and now everybody wanted to put the stuff out now.

MU: What was it about 'Killing' that you think made the labels so interested?

JN: It probably was because when we got Kevin, the songs really started coming together. He's a lot faster than anything we've had before. And the album was better. Each album we thought was better than the last.

MU: So these labels just starting calling you . . .

JN: We just started getting some emails and offers and stuff.

MU: Why did you go with Relapse?

JN: Relapse just gave us a lot of the key points we asked for right off the bat, without questions. We can retain the rights to the name for merchandise and stuff. They also gave us a good amount to record with.

MU: Were you a fan of the other bands on the Relapse label?

JN: Yeah. Nasum is one of my favorite bands. Pig Destroyer. Assuck.

MU: Where does the line between death metal and grindcore lie?

JN: It's all extreme music. It's all anti-mainstream. Everybody in this kind of music has an idea that they don't want to be a part of the mainstream, MTV culture.

MU: I've noticed you playing all of the U.S. festivals in 1999/2000. How much do you think those performances helped move things along?

JN: It helped out a lot. We thank Don Decker for that. We're appreciative we had some support from the underground. Even though we had no label and no support, the key people in the underground still noticed us and helped us out. We didn't know what to expect. Our first Metalfest was 1998, and the crowd was really good for us. They came out on the stage and stuff.

MU: What's next for Dying Fetus?

JN: We just want to have a good time, I guess. We're doing this tour with Vader.

MU: Tell us about the tour you just did with Destruction.

JN: It had its ups and downs.

MU: What do you think of Destruction?

JN: They're cool guys.

MU: Do you like their new record?

JN: I really haven't heard it, to be honest with you. I heard it every night live though, and it sounded cool.

MU: So why was the tour "up and down"? Give us a little of the ups and a little of the downs. . .

JN: There were some politics involved. Label politics. At the time we were an unsigned band and Nuclear Blast pretty much controlled the tour. And there was a person from Nuclear Blast on the tour who was giving us a lot of friction all of the time. Other than that, it was cool. The bands were very cool and the tour overall was good for us.

MU: So what are you looking forward to about the new tour?

JN: Having a good time. We're good friends with Deeds of Flesh and Cephalic Carnage, and we're fans of Vader's music. It should be a lot of fun.

MU: Who goes on right before Vader?

JN: We do.

MU: Cool. You guys are going to play some good places. Ever play the Wetlands (in New York city) before?

JN: Yeah, we played Deathstock in 1996. That was pretty cool.

MU: How long do you think you want to keep doing this Dying Fetus thing?

JN: As long as we can keep writing the songs. We just want to make sure that each album is better than the one before it. If we can't do that, then I don't know. . .

MU: Well, Let's talk about 'Destroy the Opposition'. Is it better than 'Killing On Adrenaline'?

dying fetus

JN: I think we topped it. By a little bit. (laughs) It's faster, overall, I think. It's a little more intense. The recording quality is a little bit better. We spent more time on it.

MU: A lot of people call you sort of a "mosh" band. . .

JN: Yeah. We're "gay mosh metal." Like on the bulletin board.

MU: Do you read what people write on those bulletin boards?

JN: Yeah, I check it out every now and again. I think a lot of it's just kids that are bored and wanna talk shit, or whatever. And that's fine too. Shit talk's still press. I think anybody who listens to the music can tell instantly that we're not all about "mosh."

MU: You're a fellow fan of eighties thrash, right? When did it become "uncool" to have mosh parts?

JN: I love 'Among the Living'. I love 'Speak English or Die'. I love 'Bonded By Blood'. Those are all incredibly mosh-oriented albums. I think this album's heavy on the grind side, myself. There's a couple songs that are slower and more mosh-oriented, but I wouldn't say that's what we're all about - by a long shot.

MU: Do you try to make sure to have a slow part in every song?

JN: It's not that we want a slow part in every song. It's that we want the songs to be interesting. And we want them to have the right ingredients to make it a good song. Or that means that when you start writing the song, we generally don't want to do grindcore all the way through. We like to mix it up. That's like our trademark. We're also a live band too, and we want to have breakdowns in the songs, 'cause people in the crowd want to go off sometimes.

MU: When people see fast shit they just stand there and stare.

JN: Or stare there in awe, if it is a real fast grindcore band.

MU: But having time changes and shit, that's what's cool about heavy metal.

JN: That's what makes a good song. In most classical works of music, I forget the Latin term for it, but there is a resting part of the song - the part where things slow down. I guess in that sense, we have a classical sense to writing songs. Not just in that sense, but even classical heavy metal songwriting.

MU: Let's talk about the lyrics on 'Destroy the Opposition'.

JN: Everything in the lyrics touches on something in everyday life. Maybe the theme behind it all is just issues of power. Power between people, whether it be from organized religion or the government or somebody's boss or the police. But it is not that simple. It's more in a violent manner. Collectively, the "opposition" could be like, the mainstream culture. It keeps a monopoly on ideas - a way of thinking about what's cool or whatever.

MU: Could death metal ever be mainstream?

JN: It has to depend on the culture.

MU: Could there be some alternate universe where death metal is like Britney Spears popular, or is the music just too extreme?

JN: Well that's where economics comes into it. When you can market an image, like Britney Spears, and write simple, catchy music, you're gonna sell more albums. The more eclectic you get with different scenes and stuff, the more its gonna have a smaller and smaller audience share. I think it's even the same with jazz and stuff. There's only a small market for some of these labels. So it all depends on the culture. How the culture changes to accept heavier stuff. I mean, we never would have thought ten or twenty years ago, that bands like Metallica or Slipknot or whatever the fuck that shit is, would be doing as well as they are.

MU: What do you think of Slipknot?

JN: I think they're good at what they do. I've only heard the album twice, to be honest with you.

MU: But it's not something you personally would spend a lot of time listening to.

JN: I know a lot of people who like them. But I like grindcore and stuff like that. I want to hear blast beats. That's just a personal taste.

MU: Do you like Morbid Angel?

dying fetus

JN: Yes, especially their earlier stuff.

MU: What do you think of them touring with Pantera?

JN: Well, if that's what they want to do. . .

MU: And opening for Kittie?

JN: I don't know. That comes to each band - whether or not to have some level of integrity. . .

MU: Well would Dying Fetus like to do a tour of hockey arenas some day?

JN: It would be a tradeoff. We'd be getting our music to a bigger audience, and maybe changing some people's attitudes about the music they want to hear. Or just giving them another option.

MU: If Dying Fetus was offered a spot on the Ozzfest, would you do it?

JN: Probably. Just for the experience. You can't be so - some people probably are. . . They're just so against that kind of stuff that they wouldn't even take that opportunity. I might see it more as an opportunity to get the music out to more people, and in that way, overturn what's out there now. Turn it on its head. Take it to another level.

MU: Maybe that's the mission.

JN: Maybe. (laughs) The mission is clear.

MU: Maybe the mission is to take a band with the name "Dying Fetus" and shove it down the throats of mainstream America. And have people actually fucking listen. And realize this is complex, technical, catchy and heavy all at the same time.

JN: All we can say to people is just give us a chance. If you've never heard us before, don't stereotype us. Like I was saying, we're not just another "gay mosh gore metal" band. (laughs) Not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that. But just listen to us before you judge us.


review of Dying Fetus 'Destroy the Opposition'





Interview: Eric German [ ]
Live Photography: Cynthia Pelzner [ ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
Webmaster: WAR [ ]

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