Funeral Dirge For The Rotting Sun (Rotten)
An interview with Sammy Duet
By Martin Popoff
Sammy Duet has melted minds as part of both Acid Bath and Crowbar, but it’s his nasty NOLA black metal outfit, Goatwhore (Soilent Green’s Ben is also part and parcel of the cabal) that is his primary devilish concern. Now on record number two, Funeral Dirge for the Rotting Sun, Goatwhore have sludged, slowed, and simplified, but just a bit. Swamp-rat-turned-city-mouse Sammy Duet explains…
What’re the main differences between this new album, Funeral Dirge for the Rotting Sun, and the first album, The Eclipse of Ages Into Black?
On this one, we didn’t concentrate on playing as fast as we could, which is what we did on the first one. I think we proved our point. When we did the first album, it was all about speed; we were just total black metal freaks. Which we still are. We still like the black metal style and all that, but on the new one, we ventured off into new territory, opened our horizons. The lyrics are a lot more personal, whereas the first one was just more straight-up evil fantasy stuff.
With the first album, were you trying to be the main American representative of black metal?
You could say that, yeah. We were definitely into the whole black metal movement that was going on overseas, and there weren’t many black metal bands in the U.S. at the time. The new album is just more straight-sounding, more rock ‘n’ roll.
If the first one pays homage to black metal, what are some of the spiritual heirs that infuse this album?
That’s a tough one to answer… We really broadened our horizons. We slowed things down, got more doomy. I guess we delved more into an older sound: Venom, Celtic Frost, Bathory… Celtic Frost would do the slow parts, Venom would do the rock parts. We still do some fast stuff, and I wouldn’t say it’s a total departure from the first album, it’s just more a case of finding what our sound is.
Why this title?
A lot of the lyrics and the titles of the songs… I was just in this total negative vibe. When we were doing this album, it was a bad time for everybody. Some things that I don’t want to get into, really, because it’s really not anybody’s business. It’s just like, Ben got into an accident. And I was sitting around doing nothing because I wasn’t doing the Crowbar thing because Down was goin’ on. So I had a lot of time on my hands to sit around and do nothing and think about how horrible this world really is, how terrible life is. It has a lot to do with that. The title is more or less waiting for the sun to die and plunge us into total darkness.
Is it terrorism and 9/11 that’s bothering you?
Not really. I mean, it affected me because the day it happened, I was just sitting around. I was sleeping, actually, and I didn’t have the TV on or nothing, and Kirk from Crowbar called me and he was crying and stuff. He was like, “I don’t know what the hell is going on… Put on the news.” The Twin Towers were in flames and stuff, and I was freaking out. I didn’t know what was going on, whether it was the fuckin’ Iraqi army invading the U.S. or what. So I guess that had a bit to do with it. It’s not really a big deal to me. I mean, it is, but I’m just not a very political person.
Are you still living in the same place, out in the boonies?
No, actually, I moved into the heart of the city, right in the middle of New Orleans, Louisiana. I’m like six, seven blocks away from the French quarter. The Superdome’s right by my house.
How has that affected you?
It’s actually helped me out a lot. When I was staying down in the middle of nowhere, it just gives you too much time to think. It’s a very, very lonely place. And there’s not really much to do out there. I guess it kind of affects a lot of people… That’s why a lot of the people from down there have mental issues. There’s just nothing down there. It’s like endsville, you know?
Got any good snake stories?
Oh, of course. Snakes, alligators, the whole thing… Some friends of mine, that live in another little piss-ant town – you know, we just go from piss-ant town to piss-ant town and just party and hang out with friends of ours that are in other bands – some friends of ours have this boa constrictor that they’ve had for like nine years. The thing is 13 feet long. It got so big that they couldn’t keep it in a cage anymore, so they had to keep it in the bathroom. So we’re all partying at this house and stuff, and I go in the bathroom, and there’s the fuckin’ boa constructor curled around the toilet. I turn the light on and I was like, this isn’t good. This is not a good situation for me to be in. You know, me drunk in a room with a fuckin’ 13 foot boa constructor. I went outside and took a leak, let me put it to you that way…
Does the city have its own problems and temptations? What do you not like about being in New Orleans?
It’s like one extreme to the next… There are a lot of people here, a lot of ignorant, stupid people, here in the city. More of them than there are on the outskirts. I like the city because there’s stuff that’ll keep me occupied, instead of just sitting in a house doing nothing.
What are one or two of your favorite lyrics on this new album and why?
Oh man, I like them all… I think the lyrical content came out really, really well. A lot of stuff was written beforehand, but a lot of stuff was written in the studio while we were recording. So some of it was quite spontaneous. We’re not trying to send out some message or anything on this one at all. A lot of the lyrics are personal, and they aren’t trying to put this point across or state this fact or anything. It’s more like an abstract painting where one person might interpret it one way and another person might interpret it a totally different way. I don’t get influenced lyrically by anything. The stuff we had written beforehand, before we went into the studio, was influenced by just sitting around late at night, in the dark, feeling depressed and sad, or feeling hatred or whatever. I don’t really have a lyrical inspiration. I just write random thoughts.
Does writing this stuff help your mood? Or does it add to your negativity?
It doesn’t really make a difference to me. I guess you could say that it’s an outlet to vent my depression and my hatred. It’s hard to explain. It doesn’t really make things worse, but it doesn’t really make things better, you know? The only thing that really helps me is playing live. But as far as listening to it or reading it back or whatever, it doesn’t make a difference.
Are there people in your life that you’d rather not know that you wrote this stuff?
Yeah, there are a couple of people, I guess… But I mean, they really wouldn’t delve that far into my life to actually read the stuff.
Is it all yours, or is some of it Ben’s?
Ben wrote a lot of it, like 60%, and our drummer wrote a couple of lines here and there. I thought it was really cool, because on the first album, I wrote a lot of the stuff, and on this album, everybody kind of threw in their ideas. I think that worked out really well. I’m really happy with it.
What’s Ben’s state of mind? Give me a psychological profile of Ben.
Well, at the time we were doing the album, he was just getting to the point where he could start to walk again. I know that really messed with his mind when that happened to him, you know? He’s not the kind of person to just sit around. He’s a very active person who’s always doing stuff. You can barely get him on the phone. That’s the kind of person he was before the accident. Then he got in the accident, and he was stuck in a wheelchair at his parents’ house and he couldn’t do anything. That had a lot to do with his mental state.
What did he do?
There was really nothing he could do. He just dealt with it.
Did he take to reading? Did he use the phone a lot?
Yeah, definitely. But I think a lot of the lyrics reflect his anger and his depression at the time. It’s a very unhappy album, but in a different sense of unhappy.
What’s the biggest departure musically? What’s the weirdest track on here?
I don’t know, they all have some pretty weird stuff in them. As far as a departure for us, it’s more about finding slower parts that are “hit you in the face”-sounding. I guess you could say there’s more feeling to it. There’s more feeling, rather than just blazing away.
What’s the Crowbar news?
I’m not really sure… They were writing the new album when we started touring earlier this year. I didn’t really get a chance to get involved with that, because we’ve been so busy with the Goatwhore stuff. And things don’t look like they’re going to slow down, so I don’t know what’s going to happen with that just yet, whether I’m actually going to be able to be in that band anymore.
What are the tour plans for the band? Are you doing anything else on the side?
No, I’m just concentrating on Goatwhore right now. In October, we’re going on the Art of Noise tour with Nile, Kreator, and Amon Amarth. Then we’re talking about working on an EP, and we’ve actually started writing stuff for it already. So we’re going to possibly work on that in November, December, and then for January, we’re talking about going back out with a fairly popular band that I can’t really mention right now, because I’m not sure. Nothing is set in stone. And then, hopefully, after that, we’ll have some time to do a third album.
Why an EP? And what direction will that go in?
Who knows? In terms of the new songs we’ve started writing, it’s even more older-sounding, even more true to the roots of our influences like Bathory, Venom, and Celtic Frost. We’re trying to incorporate different influences, but not to the point where it will be stupid-sounding. It’ll add more to the dark aura of the music.
Do you see Dax at all? Is he still out in the boonies?
Yes, he still lives out in the boonies. I saw him maybe a month ago. I went out to a Dead Boy show and hung out. I talked to him for a bit, but we didn’t really talk about music or anything. But I don’t think he would really be interested in doing anything that I’d be interested in doing, because we’re on two totally different wavelengths now. He’s doing his thing, and I respect that. I’m not going to talk bad about anything, as many times as people try to get me to say bad stuff about him. He wants to do his thing, and that’s fine. He’s a fuckin’ phenomenal singer, there’s no doubt about that. But he’s doing his thing, and I’m doing mine. I’m not going to say we’ll never work together again, but I just don’t know when that would be.
What is your modus operandi? When do you personally come up with lyrics, at night, in the morning?
A lot of the stuff I come up with is when I’m half asleep. Going to bed, or waking up, when I’m still not really conscious. Or really late at night, when I have nothing to do and I just start thinking about things, you know? Sometimes I’ll just come up with one line or one sentence and just leave it at that. Then I start thinking about more things and add onto it a couple days later. Sometimes I’ll come up with a whole paragraph of stuff. There’s a lot of stuff written for this new Goatwhore album that I didn’t get to use, that I want to use on the next album. But yeah, between me and Ben, we have tons and tons of lyrics.
What’s been a career highlight for you, and what’s been a low point?
The low point definitely was when we were doing this album and I was just sitting around doing nothing for a year. You’ve got to make ends meet some way… I just dealt with it. I had to do it. I had to get out and do some things, repair guitars, and all that stuff. It was horrible. 2002 just sucked.
Did you work a 40-hour week?
Between practice and trying to get an album together, that wasn’t really possible. Because we were working really hard, trying to get the music together and write it, practicing maybe four or five times a week, going into the studio, and all that stuff. You can’t really do that when you’re working that hard trying to get something together. The highlight has been the touring. I love touring, man. If they could keep me out ten months out of the year, I’d definitely do it.
Why is that? Most people don’t like touring!
I don’t know, I just enjoy playing my guitar extremely loud in front of a bunch of people. That’s the only thing in this life that makes me truly happy. That’s just the kind of person I am. I like to travel and do stuff and play every night. Even though the conditions can be rough sometimes, that’s just life. You can get rough times living in your apartment. It’s not a big deal. I just enjoy the fuck out of touring. I can’t get enough of it.
Any story behind this cover art?
The cover was done by Jay Bailey. He did some stuff for the band December, and we liked what he did for them. We got in contact with him and we gave him some ideas of what kind of look we were going for. We didn’t give him the total idea of the girl with the flaming hands and all that, he did that on his own. We just told him we wanted something really dark and drab and depressing-looking, but still evil-looking, more in the vein of To Mega Therion, because that’s kind of how we view this album compared to the last one.
Does this triangle logo mean anything?
That’s the sigil of Lucifer, like the seal that he bears. We’re going to continue to use that image a lot. It’s something we put on our shirts as well. It’s something we found that we really like. We didn’t want to use the same old pentagram that everybody else uses. We wanted to find something that was equally as evil and Satanic, but different. So we found that, and I think it just represents what we’re about.
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