Heads for the Dead is the gruesome creation of Ralf Hauber (vocals, lyrics) and Jonny Pattersson (music). Two years ago they released their excellent debut Serpent’s Curse, an intense assault of horror infused Death Metal. Now the duo, and Ed Warbie on drums, are back (in between working on their various other projects including Henry Kane and Revel In Flesh) and their new album Into The Red, due for release on December 11th, is another absolute beast. Ralf and Jonny were kind enough to give us some time, as they did back in 2018, and once again is was my pleasure to provide the questions:
First of all, thanks very much for taking the time to answer some questions a second time around. So it’s been 2 years since Serpent’s Curse came out. How much time have you spent working on the follow up and how much on other projects? I know that Jonny had the Henry Kane album earlier this year, and there was a Revel In Flesh track last year. How have you been balancing your time?
Jonny – There are two big factors that come into play for me with time management. First is that I am always way ahead of my releases. The Henry Kane album for example was written and done long before it’s actual release. The same goes for the Heads album. Being ahead of time allows you to start working on a new album around the time or even before the current album is released. Second one is to make time, music is my number one priority, everything else becomes secondary. When you live and breathe with music, making time becomes easy.
Ralf – The timeline perspective is always a different when you are involved in the process. Musically, production wise and nearly artwork wise “Into the red” was more or less finished in late summer 2019. We also agreed on giving TRANSCENDING OBSCURITY Records another run for our horror mission. There was some timeline setback due to my obligations with the 5th REVEL IN FLESH album, which consumed as well a lot of time in the organisation and promotion process, but more or less the HEADS album was ready to to be unleashed in a folder already before the year’s change. We agreed with Kunal from TRANSCENDING OBSCURITY Records to shot it already into the pit of horror junkies in spring 2020, but as you know in March 2020 out of a sudden this whole covid 19 pandemic crisis ruined every timeline. The label is situated in India and during that time they had a heavy lockdown which was a nightmare to all import/export business. We took the time to rearrange the layouts and settings with our dear Catalonian comrade BRANCA Studio and prepared the first moves to start into the promotional campaign. More or less “Into the red” was ready to start finally in August 2020, so now we cross the fingers that no more pandemic bullshit will have another curse upon it. 2020 – a year of real live bullshit – finally needs a good horror soundtrack, Ha! Ha! All I wanna say is that we didn’t keep still and as you can imagine in the backhand we are already working on new material as well.
How did the making of Into The Red compare to Serpent’s Curse? I notice that you’ve got Ed Warbie listed as part of the band on drums. Did you write stuff together, or were you bringing song ideas fully formed?
Jonny – We had a really nice workflow on Serpent that worked really well on Into The Red as well. I make the foundation for the songs, and then we throw ideas for changes back and forth between each other, and when we have a clear idea of what we want to change I build on that until we have a steady foundation for Ralf and Ed to add their stuff to.
Ralf – As you know HEADS FOR THE DEAD is not a classical rehearsing band, we nearly only work on file sharing character, but beside this we have a very good communication and chat about issues related with the band and also about the creative vision. Each bandmember records his contributions on his own channels and Jonny puts the puzzle together at UNBOUND Studios. This fascination for the horror stuff builds up a good union and if you listen to “Into the Red” on headphones you’ll realize that it has beneath the surface a good soundtrack character. Needless to say that the addition of Ed Warbie on drums brought up a totally new spectrum to the songs. He belongs to the category of hard hitting drummers and this gives the album a very good drive. There are modern elements, but if you look beneath there is a lot of Grind, Crust and Punk vibe, too. It’s never too late for a D – beat 🙂
You seem to have broadened the band’s style quite a bit on this release. There’s a bit of a Black Metal feel to Horror Injection for example and The Seance reminds me a bit of Morbid Angel with its crushing rhythms. Was it a conscious decision to expand the band’s sound on this record and were there any new musical influences this time round?
Jonny – It was just the natural progression of our sound. We were never tied down to a specific genre, not even on Serpent. We have what makes up the core sound of Heads, and then build and evolve from that, but always keeping that core intact. The main influence has stayed the same, which is horror in all it’s ugly shapes and forms. And with horror being such a wide spectrum of impressions, it allows for all kinds of doors to be opened.
Ralf – The idea was to do an extreme album in all extreme directions, which is flowing in a natural way, but also hard to categorize for a specific sub genre of extreme Metal. The chalice of “Serpent’s curse” has been raised higher to a new level with more horror, intensity and nightmarish madness. The new album is the next frontier and I think in its overall look and presentation we managed to keep it interesting. If you look at the cover you do not know if it’s Doom, Black, Death, Grind or whatever….but you obviously see it deals with HORROR!
The cover of Transilvanian Hunger is very cool. You really make it fit into the Heads for the Dead style. How did you come to choose to cover that?
Ralf – During the writing period of “Into the red” I had a strong fascination for DARK THRONE and the idea was to get another “out of the box” cover version for this new album. To all those nekro freakfolks and cave mongers out there “Transilvanian hunger” is a sort of holy grail song, which needs to sound like the original does. Well, I said let’s shit in their cave – we do it in the HEADS way. Covers are always a take it or leave it! To me it was important to add some own spirit to it; the vocals differ from the original and within the album the song feels well embedded. Make up your mind!
Are there any other songs you’ve been playing together, or thought about covering?
Ralf – Of course, there are, but those ideas are well hidden and sealed in our horror ridden archive. More to be unleashed in 2021.
I think my favourite track on the album has to be Creatures Of The Monolith. There’s some great lead guitar work on that track, and on some others. Did you bring in some friends again to do some solos or did you handle them all yourself this time?
Jonny – We had Matt Moliti from Sentient Horror return as we really enjoyed his work on Serpents. And we had Gustav Myrin from Gods Forsaken do a solo as well. Both did a fantastic job and it’s a pleasure to have them participate on our song.
Ralf – When I first heard the idea for “Creatures of the monolith” from Jonny I was blown away. This track was so majestic – perfectly made for some Lovecraft inspired horror emerging from the depths of the sea kind of lyrics. The song has more or less a fantasy story to the lyrics, but it reeeks and stinks of HP Lovecraft influences. The song is a wicked closer of the album, raging through different spheres and YES, I had a very, very strong “God of emptiness” vibe in mind on this one! Listen to the album until the bitter end – enjoy!
When we spoke last time you mentioned some of the old Hammer Horror movies as an influence. Did you have any special horror movie inspiration this time around?
Ralf – The slogan “Blood is life” and vampirism had a very strong influence on the title track (dealing about the historic figure of E. Bathory), “At the dead of night” (absolutely influenced by Kinski’s “Phantom of the night”) and as you know the DARK THRONE cover is as well based on bloodsucking freaks, so you have a 3 in 1. “The prophecy fulfilled” obviously deals about the WISHMASTER movies, “Multi Morbid Maniac” is lyrically a tribute to the Killjoy (R.I.P) of NECROPHAGIA, one of the most underrated bands when it comes to Horror in Death Metal. “The coffin scratcher” is influenced by “The Nun”, a newer movie from “The Conjuring” scripts. The other titles have also some well hidden and embedded references; simply take a listen and find ‘em out on your own. The horror never stops!
I guess The Revenant is a reference to the DiCaprio movie? I remember seeing that in the cinema. It was brutal.
Ralf – Well, the DiCaprio movie is actually not listed as Horror, but keep it like this “REVENGE” is a vital element in horror movies and my idea about “The Revenant” was a monstrous payback fulfilled in 2 minutes of BRUTAL Metal.
I know I asked you this last time and now is a pretty messed up time for live music, but… any thoughts on doing any shows to promote the album?
Ralf – Well, at the current stage we only focus on realistic possibilities and due to the ongoing state of the pandemic calculating with live shows would out of mind. You also have to see that the band members are logistically placed in different countries and if there should be a performance it should be to the bone. Of course there is a booking interest, so say NEVER – NEVER; but at the current time we focus on music and giving the people a good time in pressing the repeat button!
Maybe some live streams? That seems to have become something interesting for a lot of bands while we can’t go to concerts like normal.
Ralf – Hm, I’ve checked some of the streamings and most didn’t impress me, especially when the bands try to act like to play in front of a “fake” audience. I liked the one from KADAVAR, when you see the band being in their rehearsal studio – keeping it real. More insight for the fan! Personally I rather use the time now to check old live shows on youtube – with real screaming audiences and “more” concert vibe.
You’ve been with Transcending Obscurity Records since the first release. What’s it been like working with them?
Jonny – They put a lot of effort into putting out really cool and exclusive releases for their bands. It’s a bit like in the 90s when labels like Nuclear Blast and Century Media would put out special boxes and releases.
The label always seems to have a load of cool special editions with everything they release. How much were you involved in putting together the box sets and all the merch and how much was that taken care of by the label?
Jonny – We had the artwork picked out beforehand, and we even ended up with two versions of the album cover, so there was a lot to work with. But as far as the different boxsets and the content of those, that was all down to the label.
Ralf – We had some discussions with Kunal on all the details. I had a few chats with him on the small details (vinyl color etc.), so he really tries to have the artist in the boat so to say. But so say it like Jonny – the label knows what he does! His concept is really about giving the physical release something special and the collector hunters are really into it. Nowadays you really have to work hard as a label to leave a mark on this overkilled market. Kunal works utterly ambitious and since it’s not a European firm he has to work even harder since the market is really twisted. We are truly thankful for the support he has given to HEADS FOR THE DEAD thus far. You have to keep in mind that the market gets more wicked each year and that especially the big firms suck it more and more dry each year.
Thanks a lot again for your time. It’s been a crazy year, but getting a new Heads For The Dead album definitely lifts my spirits.
Ralf – Yeah 2020 has been a neverending symphony of bullshit, but we have to withstand it, resist and stay optimistic! Thanx a lot Tom for your kind words and support again – dear readers: Get “Into the red” & get drunk as well 🙂 “When there is no more room in hell the dead will walk the earth” – have a good one! Cheerz!
Interview by Tom Boatman
**Please support the underground! It’s vital to the future of our genre