Interview: Matthew Davidson of Repulsive Vision

Hailing from Cumbria, old school death metal band with a bit of crustiness Repulsive Vision are about to release their second album Necrovictology in the summer through record label Emanzipation Productions. This promises to be huge with its Discharge infused death metal and having toured across Europe, to say this record is eagerly anticipated is an understatement. I thought this would be a good time to catch up with guitarist Matthew about how this started off as a one-man project into a fully-fledged touring and recording band. On a side note, I have to thank Matthew for making this one of the best interviews I have ever received back and I thank you for your whole-hearted answers to every question. Best of luck for when the album comes out.

Simple things first – where are you guys from?

We all live in Barrow in Furness in the North West of England but our drummer is from Newcastle.

How long have you been playing together as a band?

I started RV as a solo project way back in 2010 and went through several incarnations until mid-2015 when the four of us (Dan McEwan – vocals, Matt Davidson – guitar, Mark Kirby – bass and Gary Young – drums) started working together. Ever since then, we’ve been a tight unit with equal goals, focused on progression and collaboration.

Describe your music. What makes you unique?

In a phrase, I’d say we were “crust fueled OSDM”. From the start, RV has always been inspired by energy and honesty which is something that I feel is reflected within our subject matter and our music. As huge fans of punk (particularly bands like Discharge, Nausea, Driller Killer, Bad Religion, etc), we felt that it was natural to maintain that element of raw simplicity to counteract the instrumentation of death metal (such as Carcass, Death, Obituary, Entombed, etc) to create something somewhere in the middle. In this regard, we may not be the most unique or groundbreaking act of our era or even our subgenre, but we play with passion and we love what we do. I think we’ve become more diverse as a band, bringing in elements of thrash, crossover and black metal for the new album, but we’ve never lost sight of our initial intentions: riff focused death metal with d-beats, blastbeats and harsh yet truthful vocals.

How does it feel to have the new album Necrovictology ready for the masses to hear for the first time? How much blood, sweat and tears did it take for it to be ready?

Its been a long 3 years since Look Past The Gore… (Mighty Music 2017) and Im so eager to present our latest work to the public. By the time the debut released, we’d already begun demoing the initial tracks for Necrovictology and even started introducing some of them to our live set relatively early on. With this in mind, we took our time working hard on the material without taking focus away from the promotion of the debut. Thankfully, we’d learnt a lot of valuable lessons from the first release in regards to our preparation, our promotion and our experience in the studio so it was certainly a much more calculated composition this time around. We had the artwork ready months in advance. The tracklisting, samples and flow had been agreed upon months in advance. Even the studio was a much more free experience in comparison to last time (where we had a weekend to record all 13 tracks). Obviously, it’s been a lot of hard work but I feel that we are a lot better prepared than we have been in the past and as such, we were able to focus on better performances and a stronger final product.

Being active for a number of years now, how would you say the new album compares to that of your earlier material and do you think you have found the sound you strive for or will far from refuge continue to keep experimenting?

For me, there’s a massive improvement between Look Past The Gore and Necrovictology and I think it’s indicative of the way the band has evolved over the past few years. As I mentioned earlier, the band started as a solo project and as such, a large proportion of the songs from the debut were written solely by myself. Over the years, the chemistry between us has helped us not only to understand each other’s strengths but to creatively compliment each other’s styles. With this in mind, I could begin to implement more challenging aspects into our sound for the initial backing tracks and then allow us to collaborate and suggest new options for more diversity. Each of us come from different musical backgrounds so we wanted to represent that in this album. We haven’t necessarily got any strong opinions for or against experimentation as we simply want the music to feel natural to us. That being said, we’re also not settled into our current sound as we’re always looking to challenge ourselves.

Death metal in the UK has had mixed results in terms of success over the years. Ask any metal fan about death metal and they would say it came from Sweden or Florida. Where would you say Repulsive Vision come in and while success is maybe not a motivator for the band, what are your goals for the band?

Although not as prestigious or prolific as Florida or Sweden, I think the British extreme scene (at least, in its early years) is respected for its attitude and innovation but rarely mentioned outside of the big names (Napalm Death, Carcass, Benediction, Bolt Thrower, etc). Strangely enough, every time we’ve played overseas, there’s been several comments about how “British” we sound as a band and I think a lot of that is the punk connection and the straightforward lyricism. The importance of bleak, powerful and politically outspoken bands like The Exploited, Sacrilege, Discharge, Crass and Subhumans is often understated in the history of extreme metal and I feel that that is a massive turning point for heavy music in general.

My goals have always been about creating energetic music and spreading it as far as I can. The fact that we’ve been able to release our material worldwide and perform in Mainland Europe and the USA is beyond our expectations… but we want to continue doing that for as long as we can. Every opportunity is a success for us. It may not be the stereotypical ‘making it big’ dream but we’re happy with what we have achieved. There’s always more music to be made and people to play to.

How good would you say the current UK death metal scene is? Is there a good wave of death metal coming out the UK in your opinion?

The UK extreme metal scene, in general, is doing very well at the moment (Coronavirus notwithstanding). There have been great quality releases from bands like Live Burial, Blasphemer, Hellripper, Scumpulse, Cryptic Shift, Bhas, Pemphigoid, Ashen Crown, Mordhau… and it’s all from a place of passion and mutual respect. Obviously, COVID has had an impact on the live scene this year but with the strength of the material being released so far, each of these bands will emerge in a much stronger position afterwards. Personally, I think its amazing to see the growth of each of these bands over the past decade and enjoying their success with them, releasing great music and touring the world.

Before this fucking virus, how often were the band able to get together and rehearse in the studio?  Where do you get together and record?

We have our own rehearsal room in our hometown so, before the lockdown, we would try and practice as much as we possibly could. Usually, we would rehearse at least twice a week for a few hours (more so, if we’re writing or preparing to record).

We recorded in several local studios for Necrovictology over a couple of months and I feel that that allowed us to take more time.

How are the songs constructed in the studio? Are there the main songwriters of songs that take care of everything or is Repulsive Vision a band where all members contribute to the songs?

When we write, I tend to create a basic backing track that denotes a potential structure as a foundation for both learning and listening. This is then rehearsed over and over, altered and finalised musically before we begin to write the lyrics for it. That process is time-consuming but ultimately, it helps us to tighten and streamline the composition. I’ve never really been one for attempting to catch “lightning in a bottle” at a practice space so I’ll try and note down everything that I come up with at home on Guitarpro and build songs around that. On my laptop, I’ve got a library of hundreds of riffs, half songs and ideas ready to be used in the right track. Some of which have been sat there for years waiting for the right moment to be used.

As I mentioned earlier, we’ve become much more of a collaborative band recently so although the foundation of the track is prewritten, there’s plenty of space to improve the songs together as a group. This way, concepts that I’d never have considered can be added and parts that don’t fit can be taken away.

Is there a main lyricist within the band? What are the lyrics for Necrovictology based on?

As with the instrumentation, we’ve really pushed for Necrovictology to be more of a collaborative effort in regards to the lyricism. Although myself and Gary are the main lyricists in the band, Mark has contributed significantly this time round, penning both “Blind Loyalty” and “Exterior of Normality”.

I’ve always found it difficult to convincingly write fantasy, fiction or horror lyrics so I tend to look at real-life for inspiration instead. I’ll watch documentaries or read books and articles that I know will evoke a reaction and likely inspire me to write something. Some prominent examples of this are “Other Than Divine” (that deals with the subject of mediums, faith healers and psychics), “Regret” (that discusses the perpetual remorse of a person that inadvertently inspired atrocities) and “To Delve The Depths” (which discusses the nature of human cruelty, morals and conscience). Other tracks have been the result of personal misfortune or experiences that we wished to express.

Being a four piece band and having different musical influences within the band, is there sometimes a lot of negotiating in the studio or do you feel you are writing the music you want to for the band?

I like to think that RV is quite an open band in regards to ideas and suggestions. Four minds are better than one and I like to make sure we’re open to compromise and consideration. Of course, we don’t always agree on everything but we can often find the right way to confidently continue nonetheless, even if we’re initially unsure about it to begin with.

Personally, one of the things I love in a band is having more than one vocalist as it adds so much more to the song and message. What made you have two vocalists who contribute and was it purely by accident or what the band wanted when formed?

The dual vocal idea just happened naturally for us. I’ve always enjoyed the Carcass/Deicide style overlayed vocal delivery as well as shouted gang vocals like in Suicidal Tendencies so it just seemed like the right fit for it. I’m not much of a lead vocalist personally but as a backing for Dan’s voice, it can give weight to the performance. Dan really shines in the studio with his delivery, perfectionism and ideas about harmonies so I tend to do very little backing vocals while recording, saving it mainly for the live environment.

This double vocal style has also given us the opportunity to experiment and even work with some guest vocalists on Necrovictology including Max Otero from Mercyless and Landphil from Municipal Waste.

How hard has it been to juggle the touring side of things with the everyday jobs? Do you have plans to go on more bigger tours and further afield in 2020 if things better?

We all work full-time jobs so it would be quite difficult for us to do any significant month-long touring without funding but we’re happy to play weekenders and festivals on regular occasions. With death metal being such a significant style over in mainland Europe, we’ve found ourselves gaining a fanbase overseas so we’d love to continue to travel as far and wide as we can. We’ve already played in countries like Finland (Thanks to our friends in God Disease), Croatia, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and even the USA over the past few years and we’d love to continue to do so as much as possible. Unfortunately, we had a few more overseas trips booked for 2020 but they’ve now been postponed. We’ve always got our eyes open for the next opportunity so we’re hoping to do more in 2021

How hard is it for a band like Repulsive Vision to survive in the current climate where bands have to tour non stop and sell merchandise in order to bring money back into the band?

The music industry is in complete disarray after the internet and streaming took over. The death of physical media is closing in and short of a small proportion of collectors and supporters, the proportion of CD buyers has dwindled as sales have plummeted every year for decades. Back in the day, a band would tour to sell a cd but now they make music to sell the tour. It’s a tough one to stay afloat as there is a lot less monetary support. Although this might sound a bit pessimistic, I think the smaller prospects of mainstream opportunity has given underground bands more inspiration to experiment and play great niche music without fear of alienating a label or a radio station (for example). Social media has made it easier to gain exposure and popularity without the need to pander to the gatekeepers and “trendsetters”. There may be less money in music in this age but more people are listening to underground music than ever before thanks to the ease of apps like Spotify, Bandcamp and Youtube.
I never started a band to be a millionaire (I wouldn’t be playing death metal if I did!) and as a result, I’ve had to make sacrifices to continue but I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s a true labour of love

Before the internet, magazines and fanzines were the places to find out about new bands and trends. Now publications are replaced with thousands of websites catering for all genres. Do you think that some of the passion has been lost or do you think that the internet has been a good thing for music and far from refuge?

I’m on the fence about this situation as I feel that the internet has been both an advantage AND a disadvantage to underground music. It allows for massive amounts of exposure to every part of the world in seconds… but it makes it even tougher to stand out among the crowd with millions of similar acts (of varying quality) to compete with. Streaming somewhat negates the initial purpose of reviewers, giving the consumer the chance to “try before they buy” without needing to read a review. As a result, these zines, podcasts and reviewers seem to be taking the promotion route more seriously, using their platform to give their followers the best of the past and present. Almost like a “we listened to all of them so you don’t have to” mentality, saving potential listeners time rather than money.

Unfortunately due to the virus situation, are you looking at new ways of getting your music out there?

In unprecedented times like this current situation, it’s important to remember how lucky we are to have social media, the internet and means of communication. Band members can attempt to use their free time to write new material, work on their release, source their artwork, etc while also taking time to learn more, practice more. With the ease of current home recording, it’s a fantastic time to create and prepare for when the lockdown will be lifted. Being uncharacteristically optimistic, I can see the music scene booming after all of this. New material released, gigs everywhere packed with people, festivals selling every ticket. I think patience will be the best thing for bands at the moment. Stick to the usual outlets (Spotify, Facebook, Twitter, etc), but prepare for the inevitable burst as it could be huge.

You have recently signed with Emanzipation Productions with the release of your new album. How did this come to fruition and how has the relationship been so far?

We were signed to Mighty Music for the first album and we felt that their promotion efforts and support were integral for the success of that period. Last November, we were asked to join the British edition of their annual festival, Nordic Noise and we ended up talking about a continuation of our partnership at the event. After sending them the finished album, they offered us a contract for their newly resurrected label, Emanzipation Productions. This label had the same backing but 100% focus on old school death metal, including names such as Brutality and Toxaemia so we definitely felt like we belonged there. We were proud to sign the contract and look forward to working with the team once again.

Being from the Cumbria area, are there any other bands from your local scene that you would recommend and give a shout out?

There’s not much in the way of extreme metal up here in Cumbria but we have a few quality bands including: Triverse Massacre, Severe Lacerations, Thy Demise, Thy Dying Light, Red Shift and Incarnage.

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?

Obituary – Cause Of Death
Something nice and heavy to start the party off. Wall to wall riffs made to headbang to!
Municipal Waste – The Art of Partying
Does what it says on the tin! Upbeat, anthemic, timeless!
NOFX – The Greatest Songs Ever Written (By Us)
Continuing the energy of the last one, this NOFX compilation has so much variety but remains grounded in a humourous punk ethos. From ska to skate punk, this is so nostalgic for me.
Iron Maiden – Edward The Great
Who doesn’t love belting out the classics on a night out?! I’ve always loved Powerslave and Seventh Son at home but a “Best of” like this is essential for a party
At The Gates – Slaughter of the Soul
Another DM classic to end the night!

I’d probably have to sneak a couple of King Diamond tracks at the end for everyone to sing along to when pissed.

Any last message for our readers here at Moshville Times?

Thanks so much for reading about RV. We really appreciate the support and we hope that you enjoy Necrovictology (out this Summer on Emanzipation Productions). Cheers to Ricky and Moshville Times!

Necrovictology will be out in the summer on Emanzipation Productions

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