I love writing for The Moshville Times. It gives me an opportunity to contact musicians (and yes, that includes drummers) from bands that I have followed from the late 80s and ask them for an interview. This man is one of the most high profile veterans of the scene that I love and has been vocalist for some of the genre’s godfathers. This man has recently turned fifty, has shown no sign of hanging up the mic just yet and has a number of projects in the works to melt our ears with.
I am talking about none other than David Ingram, known for his time in Benediction and Bolt Thrower back in the day but nowadays been involved with Jonny Pettersson in Ursinne, Rogga Johansson and Down Among the Dead Men and Echelon. He is in collaboration with other godfathers of the death metal scene (Kam Lee and Karl Willetts with Troikadon), with new material from Down Among the Dead Men and Echelon in the works. This is undoubtedly one of the highlights of my time here and I thank Dave for sending his answers promptly and being down right professional and good guy to boot. This is a good one.
First of all, I have to thank you for this opportunity to interview for Moshville Times. Simple things first – how are things with you and living in Denmark?
Things are good here, thanks. I love living in this country. Life is far more relaxed than when I lived in the UK and with Brexit going ahead I will be looking into getting Danish citizenship. I’ve a great job with the Danish Institute for Cancer Research, which I’ve had for almost 12 years now. It’s a great life I have built here.
Congratulations on recently reaching your 50th birthday. Did you think that in a period of almost thirty years you would still be doing vocals for extreme metal bands?
Thank you. It’s just a number to me, as one is only as old as one feels. I’ve always wanted to have a life wrapped up in music, from when I was a young lad and heard Black Sabbath’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath for the first time. That was a crystalline moment for me. I knew music would be a major part of my life. It’s in my blood, so I never had any doubt – nor have I stopped, even with the “down time” people think I had during the mid 2000s (more on that later).
It’s fair to say that in the last few years, you have become more active again with bands like Ursinne, Down Among the Dead Men and Echelon to name a few. After a hiatus from vocal duties for a number of years, what brought you back to perform behind the mic?
This is the thing, there was no real hiatus. After Bolt Thrower I did a band in Denmark called Downlord for almost 3 years. We released an album, an EP, and did shows around Scandinavia. After that I began my radio show, Metal Breakfast Radio, but I also continued making music but on a more personal level. I never stepped away from the mic – I did a bunch of guest vocals on other bands’ releases as well as at least an album’s worth of tracks with a close friend of mine. The only thing I stepped away from was the public… though I was getting my ego massaged by doing the radio show. It was in early 2013 that Rogga contacted me to collaborate on his Megascavenger album. Once I had done that I asked if he’d like to do more. 9 months later, the debut Down Among The Dead Men was released.
After interviewing Dan Swano last year (part one, part two), he stated that due to him returning to growling after a number of years of not doing it, he gets compulsive headaches when he has started growling again. Did you have any adverse effects when you returned to performing vocals again?
None at all. Because I never quit, remember? If anything I had the opposite happen to me when I quit smoking some years before. My stamina went up, the vocal tone got better, and I would suggest that headaches can happen if there’s some other problem that needs checking. Sure, I’ll get headaches if I’ve got influenza and I’m trying to sing. But taking care of one’s health is key. As stated earlier, I’m now 50 and my body is showing it (I’m putting on weight) so I’ve started working out at a gym – we have one at my workplace – and eating healthy during the week. Weekends are for beer though… I’m not giving that up!
How does a death metal vocalist prepare for a show? What was your routine?
Keep up a conversation with someone. Going onstage ‘cold’ is damaging. And don’t drink any alcohol before a show. Yeah, sure… I’ve done that. But I get out of breath too quickly. I find it best to start the gig sober, then about three quarters of the way through I can have a beer. Works for me.
When you are not recording any material, do you still do vocal training?
I talk a lot, which is good training – you should hear me on Metal Breakfast Radio! – and I push myself at the gym so my breathing and cardio go up. It all helps with stamina. I don’t do the vocal training as you think of. It’s always good to have your own technique that suits the individual. Water seeks its own level. So do I.
I guess Rogga and Jonny will love that you call them pioneers of the scene but I think they’re more of the second wave. Both musical geniuses, I will say! Kam is the real pioneer, and especially of death metal and the growl style we all know and love. He’s one of the two biggest influences on my vocals. Thomas Gabriel Fischer being the other and someone I’d very much love to work with, even if just as a guest vocalist on something. It would be as much of an honour as it is to work with Kam!
Unfortunately progress has stalled a bit with Troikidon due to personal issues. This must be an exciting collaboration to work on with Kam Lee and Karl Willetts for you? How are the songs going to be arranged with three vocalists or will we just have to wait and see?
Yes, there’s going to be a little longer delay than planned because of recent events (as well as some personal ones) so bear with us while we get it sorted. In truth, getting our schedules to coincide is hard enough since we’re all busy with music. But this project will eventually get done. I have already played a demo track on my radio show, so if you missed that episode then you missed out! (But it’s available online. Google is your friend.)
Following on from that, what other projects do you have on the go at the moment? Any secrets that you can share with our readers?
There’s a few secrets I have, but I can’t reveal them. What I can say is that I am currently recording the Hellfrost And Fire debut album. It’s me, Rick DeMusis (guitars/bass, from Gath) and Travis Ruvo (drums, from Cropsy Maniac and Echelon). It’s very much Celtic Frost worship, which you will see once it’s released. I’m very pleased with how it’s coming along right now. I keep getting ideas for better things as I go along, so it’s an ever-evolving album. When it feels finished I will know.
Your death metal career started off with Birmingham-based Benediction in the heyday of death metal in the late 80s and early 90s. How difficult was it to replace soon-to-be-legend of the scene Barney Greenway? What can you remember about auditioning for Benediction?
Sure, I remember! I went into the Costermongers pub in Birmingham city centre one evening and saw Benediction sitting there looking down. I asked what was wrong and they said they’d lost their singer. I said I’d audition (as did the singer from the band I was in at the time – Plague HDC – but he was leaving the country next day). They told me to audition at the weekend so I rehearsed in the basement at my job and went to audition that Saturday. The band were turning guys away after they heard me, and I was told I had got the job a few days later. I’d like to think that one “soon-to-be-legend” was replaced by another.
Was death metal your first attempt at being a vocalist in a band? Did you try and be a more traditional metal singer in a band before you turned to death metal?
I had done some vocals in my previous band (the aforementioned Plague HDC) when the singer went overseas previously. I was also playing bass at the time so I ended up doing both badly. The urge to sing took over eventually though.
Would it be fair to say that Benediction were huge in Europe, especially Germany, but for some reason, never had the success along with Bolt Thrower that they deserved in the UK?
To be fair? No. The band certainly had their share of success. I remember many sell-out shows, whether big or small venues. I think things changed over time – during my tenure – as the advancement of the internet was going to completely shift the focus of everything.
Apart from Germany, were there other countries that you were particularly looking forward to playing live?
Back then, and through my almost six years in Bolt Thrower, I looked forward to playing live anywhere. There were rarely any places I didn’t want to go to. These days are somewhat different. I’m older, wiser (least I hope I am) and have a wider world view than I did in my 20s.
Benediction took you to extreme places on tour such as Israel. Where were the best places to play and what was it like playing in for example Israel in 1992?
It was fun to play Israel back then, but I wouldn’t return to any Middle Eastern country in the current world climate. My reasons are personal.
Do you miss the old days? The days of tape trading and going to gigs to hand out flyers to promote your own gigs?
Nope. I love that we can do all this from the comfort of our own homes. The internet is a tool to be used, and waxing nostalgia in this way makes no real sense to me. Why would I miss trading tapes? Waiting days to receive a possible poor quality audio cassette, when I can simply pay online and download a high definition version instead? Pass the MacBook Pro and open up iTunes, please!
Obviously things are different now for bands where their biggest earner is to sell their merchandise rather than record sales. Do you think things are much harder now for bands with the internet giving a plethora of bands far ranging exposure?
Oh, fuck yes! It’s hard as Hell for bands these days, but it’s because we have allowed some terrible bands to exist, and the scene has become swamped with them. That’s one reason behind Metal Breakfast Radio…we are brutally honest with the bands that submit tracks to the show. It’s like a metal version of The Gong Show, only we swear a lot, and drink copious amounts of beer. The amount of bands that have written to us, complaining about the treatment we gave their music…it’s crazy. But it does help sort out the good bands from the absolute shit. And as I always say, if a band can’t take any kind of criticism of their art then they are totally in the wrong business. They need to quit, and take up knitting.
There are still some old school aesthetics alive and well with the resurgence of vinyl and bands releasing cassette tapes. What would you say is your most prized possession? Do you still listen to The Grand Leveller and Transcend the Rubicon et al?
I still have my collection of Black Sabbath albums, though I seem to be missing a couple. There’s a cool record store here in Copenhagen called Beat-Bop which is run by Michael Denner (Mercyful Fate) so I’ll drop in there to make up the collection…as well as spend far too much on other vinyl. Cassette tapes really don’t interest me anymore. They tend to decay badly over time. I much prefer digital, CDs and vinyl. If looked after properly they can last a lifetime. (Plus I can carry my entire music collection around in my pocket, if digital. That’s pretty fucking amazing to me!)
You are a very busy man with your Metal Breakfast Radio weekly show and your website. Are you still having lots of fun and drunken debauchery with the radio show and has it grown beyond your expectations?
In truth, the show has stopped being weekly episodes, because – as you state – I’m a busy man. It happened over the course of the last couple of years, mainly due to us not having a permanent headquarters. I think we are changing that as we will have a place to work from, which is my one co-host Bob’s shop. We’ve recorded a couple of times there already so it’s working out well.
Apart from appearing as guest vocalist on upcoming albums, what else can we expect from Dave Ingram in 2019?
I’m currently recording the debut album for Hellfrost and Fire, which will be titled Fire, Frost and Hell – it doesn’t have a label to call home yet but we’re gonna shop it around for a little while. It’s complete Celtic Frost worship. There will hopefully be the second Ursinne full-length though that might be in 2020. There’s new Down Among The Dead Men and Echelon planned but again they may be in 2020 too. There’s also some big news to drop in the near future, should everything work out. I can’t say for now. Oh, and of course let’s not forget the Troikadon album! Soon as I’m done recording the Hellfrost and Fire album I shall begin my parts for that, too.
Unfortunately in the early 2000s, you took some time out for medical reasons. How are things with you now health-wise?
Yes, I took around 18 months off. My mental health was in pieces and I needed to convalesce. That brief time away helped me, as did the band Downlord which began around that time. After three years of that I began Metal Breakfast Radio and… well we know the rest, right? Health-wise now I’m doing great. Mentally is fine, even though I still, to this day, suffer from crippling depression but I have learned how to control it and make it work for me, rather than against me. On the physical side I’m doing good, too. Sort of. I needed a hip replacement but was told I was “too young” so I began physiotherapy. That has improved it greatly, plus I’m getting exercise daily. It all helps.
Do you listen to some new death metal bands of today or will you always be an underground old school death metal fanatic?
Absolutely do listen, and mostly on Metal Breakfast Radio! There’s a strong wave of killer death metal bands coming through that I am very happy to hear. While these bands may be new, they still retain the old school vibe and that is something I have a lot of respect for. Bands I don’t like are the nu-metal dross, with growl vocals punctuated by clean singing. Fear Factory were doing that 25 years ago! (And far better, too.) One time I got accused of having never evolved my vocals. Anyone with an ear that works can hear that they’ve definitely changed – and improved – over time. Plus the different bands I have been working with have all had different styles: Echelon (old school death metal), Down Among The Dead Men (metal crustcore), Ursinne (Swedish OSDM), Benediction (OSDM), Hellfrost and Fire (the aforementioned Celtic Frost worship) and let’s not forget Bolt Thrower, Just Before Dawn, and Hail of Bullets for varying degrees of war metal (though I believe war metal is another thing these days…it’s hard to keep up with the kids and their labels).
A fun question to end this interview. If you were a DJ and were allowed to bring 5 CDs to the party, what would they be?
If I was a DJ and only allowed five CDs?! Well, then I’d be a pretty lousy DJ. Instead I’d bring my iPod after setting up a complex, diverse and eclectic playlist on it, and set it on random. Here’s a list of my current albums on rotation:
- Memoriam – The Silent Vigil (I’ve heard some of the new one, and it’s killer!)
- Paganizer – Land Of Weeping Souls
- Destruction – Eternal Devastation
- Kam Lee – Of Dread And Death
- Queens of the Stone Age – Villains
Any last words for our readers at Moshville Times?
Thanks for reading this far if you have. Support your scene!
Dave Ingram: official