Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Insect Warfare (from No Funeral, issue 2)

Insect Warfare, the most fearsome grindcore band in Texas, calls Houston home when they’re not actively trying to destroy it. One of the hardest working bands in the underground, Insect Warfare is known for its blistering live shows and constantly-expanding discography. Standing in downtown Baghdad while the Air Force goes on a bombing raid is the only accurate way to describe the Insect Warfare experience.

Houston’s veteran metal DJ Wes Weaver once described all grind music as “lawnmower music”, as in it all sounds like a lawnmower. Insect Warfare play fierce grind, but its game is tight. The band plays new school techniques with old school values and top-notch musicianship. They know the history of heavy music, while forging a new path for others to follow.

This interview with guitarist Beau and vocalist Rahi was conduct via e-mail.

No Funeral : What kind of response have you received since the release of the “Endless Execution Through Violent Restitution” EP?

Beau: I’ve noticed a change in the type of people that listen to Insect Warfare. In addition to all the grindcore people that normally listen to the band, I have also noticed an increase in the number of people who listen to old-school death metal and thrash metal. I think this is awesome because these are the type of people I want listening to Insect Warfare. There is nothing cooler than a guy writing to us and saying he is blown away by the fact that we cover Razor. So far, I’ve seen a lot of really good reviews of the new EP and CD but I am sure there are haters everywhere. You can’t please everyone and I am content with that.

Rahi: More people like the direction we went on this EP. We all agree it’s a step up since the first EP, “At War With Grindcore”.

No Funeral : “Endless Execution” has more of a death metal influence than previous Insect Warfare material. Most bands lately, when they incorporate death metal elements into their sound, either use the Swedish, In Flames stuff or Dying Fetus style slam-death-mosh riffs. The “Endless Execution” EP has neither. Rather, portions of classic death metal bands like Entombed and Bolt Thrower can be found on the new EP. Was this by design or was this a case of your personal tastes influencing your songwriting?

Rahi: We can’t really help it if we sound similar to the bands we listen to. I love Bolt Thrower and Entombed, and it’s a compliment that you think we sound like them.

Beau: That’s a tough question. I knew I wanted to incorporate more of that early death metal sound into the band but I think, due to the fact that I listened to that stuff since I was a kid, it just naturally comes out when I am writing riffs. I’ve been a huge fan of both Bolt Thrower and Entombed since I first discovered these bands as a kid. I listen to “Left Hand Path” daily and I think it is one of the five best death metal records in existence. I try to stay away from the mosh metal and technical death metal when it comes to Insect Warfare. I prefer my grindcore straightforward with that Celtic Frost-meets-Siege feel that a lot of the early bands were doing.

No Funeral : “Endless Execution” is also available on CD (from 625 Thrashcore), marking Insect Warfare’s first foray into digital territory. Was the CD released to have all of your out-of-print recordings in one place?

Beau: Yeah, it was originally Max’s idea to do the CD since all of our material was out of print [Max is the own of 625 Thrashcore – Ed.]. I was very skeptical at first, because I am not a huge fan of CDs, but, in hindsight, I’m very glad we did it. In some places, like Japan, CDs are now the dominant format. I’ve noticed we’ve been getting a bigger response from overseas now that we have a CD out. I think it’s safe to say we will periodically release CDs from this point on, though vinyl will always be the primary format. I am a complete vinyl addict and I will never give in! I plan on packing the CDs full of material though so at least people will be getting a long of bang for their buck.

Rahi: I’ve never been a big fan of CDs and to me that’s all they’re good for, but it’s more convenient for some people. The CD version of our new LP will contain as many extra tracks as we have. I just want to get all of the songs out there.

No Funeral : For those out there that don’t know, Insect Warfare is composed of current and former members of Machine Gun Romantics, Pretty Little Flower, and Hatred Surge. I can only imagine the CDs release has brought more fans into the Insect Warfare cult. What do the listeners who are unfamiliar with the inner workings of H-town grind take away from the Insect Warfare experience?

Rahi: I just want to play grind, have fun, and put out some heavy sounding records in the process. It seems like there’s not a lot of other bands in the states trying to do what we do. Hopefully, more people will catch on.

No Funeral : Some Insect Warfare lyrics deal with the commercialization of the underground and people who treat grind/hardcore/metal/punk like a disposable widget or a fashion statement. Of course, other lyrics talk about cutting people in half with a chainsaw. What is the percentage of serious to non-serious songs in the Insect Warfare catalog? Do the “non-serious” songs, about killing posers and whatnot, have a subtext that addresses real issues? What is your opinion of the mass-marketing of the aggressive music underground by multi-national corporations?

Beau: Well, I like to believe that, though we are defiantly angry people, there is definitely a huge joke running throughout Insect Warfare. We don’t like to take ourselves too seriously, though it really just depends on the mood we are in. I mean, during the “Endless Execution” EP, we were definitely joking around a lot more. At this point, both Rahi and I are both really fed up with a lot of shit and I’m noticing that my lyrics are starting to reflect this. Since I was a kid, I have feared death by nuclear war. With the current threat of a possible third world war, my fears are definitely escalating to new heights. I am having a lot of terrible dreams at night and I have begun writing lyrics about this. I’m also tired of a lot of people’s bullshit attitudes and I am writing about that too. Like I said, it just depends on the current mood. This band reflects who I am, so I think my musical output is my way of dealing with it.

As far as bullshit corporations dabbling in the underground: Fuck ‘em. They will rape what’s out there and move on. It doesn’t affect me too much so I don’t worry about it, but I do feel the need sometimes to say something about it and I fell that the smart-ass thing to do is to make a shirt, song or record about it.

Rahi: Some songs are more serious than others. I don’t feel like every song has to contain some sort of message. It’s just what I’m feeling at the time. Some songs are about murderous revenge fantasies, and torture devices, and others are about the times I freaked out on drugs.

No Funeral : Insect Warfare has a reputation (an unearned reputation, in my opinion) for beefing with other bands. Do you think that too many kids on the internet are talking out of their asses? Do people take the band’s live show, specifically Rahi’s antics, out of context or too personally?

Rahi: I think it’s really funny talking shit to hecklers. If people take that shit personally, they need to learn how to loosen up. To me, it’s all just for laughs and having a good time. I’ve got better things to do than try to start shit with every sucky band there is.

Beau: I guess we aren’t afraid to talk shit. I mean, there is a definitely a sense of humor running through all the bullshit we talk and a lot of people and bands get it, though some get their feelings hurt. If they cant take a joke, oh well. A lot of kids on the internet are talking shit but I don’t worry about it because at least they are talking. They may hate us, but at least they know who we are. It’s getting kind of fun because people are coming to shows now and trying to heckle us on stage. I feel sorry for these people because they don’t understand that, for Rahi and me, talking shit is a way of life and we usually can shut them down pretty quick. Once I make it apparent that we have microphones and that we will always be louder and wittier than them, they usually shut up and pout. Fuck them. Don’t play the game unless you are willing to take the heat.

No Funeral : On the same subject, bands that enjoy tremendous hype are also targets for criticism, both fair and unfair. It’s safe to say that Insect Warfare is one of those bands. On the one hand, places like the Relapse Records message board love Insect Warfare. On the other, Insect Warfare receives tons of snark comments everywhere from MySpace to the Houston Press. If you’re getting this much attention, it’s a sign that you’re doing something right. Then again, it’s not much fun to defend yourself online and put a stop to false rumors everyday. What are your feelings on this issue?

Beau: I don’t really care. Like I said in the previous question, whether people are talking shit or praising us, they are all still talking and that is what’s important. There is nothing wrong with being hated because you can’t please everyone. All I care is that I enjoy playing this kind of music and that’s all I think should be important. If one kid in Malaysia likes what we do, then that’s cool as shit. I’m not doing this for popularity. Music is how I express myself. Maybe the next record I will do will be a straight noise record. I’ve got to do what makes me happy.

Rahi: Jealous people will always be haters. Fuck ‘em. I’ll let the music do the talking.

No Funeral : Insect Warfare has a split 7” with Japan’s Bolt Stein coming out soon. What are the details on this release? How did you hook up with Bolt Stein? Why should people listen to more Japanese thrash and grind?

Beau: The next 7” we have coming out is a split with the Japanese band Bolt Stein. They sound like a more grindcore version of Bolt Thrower. About a year and a half ago, I picked up the Unholy Grave/Bolt Stein split 7” and, when I saw all the Bolt Thrower influences, I realized that we were long lost brothers. I wrote their guitarist Toshi a letter and we began trading shirts, videos, and demos. After a while, I asked him if he would like to share a split and we were both very excited.
Fast forward to now. The record will be out in November on Rescued From Life Records. There will be 600 copies with no repress. Our friend and fifth member Daniel Shaw will be doing the art for us again and its total Bolt Thrower worship.
More people should listen to Japanese grind and death metal because, as far as I am concerned, they are leading the world in both these genres. The Japanese bands are really pushing the envelope and keeping that raw energy and spirit alive. I am a fan and have been since I was kid.

Rahi: Japanese bands usually smoke their American counterparts. More people should jam that shit. For every Japanese band that gets some exposure in the USA, there’s about 10 more that go unnoticed.

No Funeral : I understand that 625 Thrashcore will be releasing the first Insect Warfare LP next year? What can people expect? Will Insect Warfare stick to the grindcore script or will the LP continue with the newfound death metal influence? How much rapping and DJ scratching will be on the new record?

Rahi: The LP will be our most ripping material to date. People should expect more of the same old shit, with a few new twists, but not any rappers or turntable scratching. That’s all being saved for Beau’s solo record.

Beau: The first thing people can expect from the new LP is a different drummer. We had to part ways with our previous drummer (Frank, also of Pretty Little Flower) and are now working with our friend Dobber. He plays incredibly fast and can do all the Bolt Thrower-style double bass parts that we desire. The songs for the LP are getting faster and more aggressive. I’d have to say the material is our angriest to date. It is really starting to sound like Napalm Death’s “Scum”, From Enslavement To Obliteration”, and “Mentally Murdered”, but with the speed of modern grindcore bands like Rotten Sound. There are a lot of old Swedish death metal riffs slipping in as well. I’ve been jamming Entombed, Carnage, and Grave non-stop lately and I can’t help but include that influence.

…and yes, our good friend Willie D will be making an appearance. He will be performing a biblical spoken word outro to the LP. Fact or fiction???? I’ll let you decide.

No Funeral : Let’s talk about Earache Records for a moment. The early Earache bands are Insect Warfare’s primary influence. The label entered a distribution deal with Columbia Records, in the early 90s, where they tried to commercialize bands like Carcass and Fudge Tunnel. After that debacle, Earache created a new logo and started signing tons of industrial and nu-metal bands. The only good things to come out of that period were the two Coalesce 7”s they put out. Eventually, Earache sort of got their shit together and signed decent bands like Deicide and The Berzerker, but the label never reclaimed its former glory.

In your opinion, what was Earache’s downfall? Was the label’s early success simply Digby (Earache’s owner) being in the right place at the right time? What did you think of seeing Entombed and Morbid Angel videos on Beavis and Butthead and Headbanger’s Ball?

Beau: I remember being a kid and was tricked into buying some of those later Earache industrial records with the bullshit, redesigned logos. I will never forgive Digby for that. I think the downfall with Earache was the fact that, in the beginning, they were just trying to work with the most extreme bands of all genres and, towards the end, began working with bands that might move units. I completely worship pretty much all of the first 40 Earache records with a few exceptions and, to this day, I think their output was terrific to that point. I don’t know, maybe with them singing our bros in Municipal Waste they will be able to get their shit together and get back on track.

As far as Beavis and Butthead go, I think whoever did the music selection for that show actually had really good taste. To this day, it amazes me about some of the crazy-ass bands they slipped on there. I remember watching that show when I was a kid and learning about all sorts of new and extreme bands. Beavis and Butthead rule, no doubt about it.

Rahi: Digby (Earache’s owner) put out records of all the heavy British bands of the time and all of their tape-trader friends bands, too. I think shit went downhill after he started getting greedy and all the bands that made his label successful jumped ship. Just last year he screwed over Bolt Thrower, reissuing their CDs with different artwork, and not giving them a damn thing.

No Funeral : Insect Warfare will be playing the 2006 Fallcore show at the Meridian, which is a de facto showcase of the best bands from Texas. What are you expecting at this show and how do you think Insect Warfare will be received? Do you think that you’ll play mostly to existing fans or do you plan on making some converts? What is Insect Warfare’s touring plans for the rest of this year and for 2007?

Rahi: There will be people there that are unfamiliar with what we do. Maybe some of them will get into it. We don’t play many live shows in Houston. I’m much more interested in playing overseas, like in Japan, Australia, or maybe even Europe.

Beau: I’m pretty sure we’ll be playing almost entirely to people who have never heard of Insect Warfare before and that was the point. I don’t want to keep playing to the same 20 people every show. As much as I love those 20 people, I want to expand and hopefully turn on some people to some new stuff along the way. I use the band Dead Horse as a kind of blueprint and I noticed that they made an effort to really expand their fan base. I think that’s great. If I can get some kid in the suburbs listening to Megaslaughter or Pestilence, then I’ll have done something with my life.
Regarding touring, after our LP comes out in June of 2007, I think we will begin entertaining some tour offers I’ve been getting from Australia and Europe. We have toured the states three times already and I think it’s time we branch out. I get a lot of letters from Australia and I have a lot of friends there, so maybe we’ll go there first. Who knows? My main goal is to have a good time and collect some kick-ass demos along the way. There’s no telling where we will end up.

No Funeral : Nationally, Houston is known as the city of syrup, Screw tapes, and the rap scene, but a fanatical grind and power violence scene has quietly developed without much attention. I don’t think the major labels are going to swoop in a sign everybody, but, to some degree, the word is out that some cool heavy music is coming out of H-town. What do you think of this development? What does Houston have to offer that the rest of the state can’t?

Beau: To be honest, I’ve been kind of retreating into my house and not really being part of any scene anymore in Houston. I’m very exhausted with going to shows and only seeing people there with the intention of getting fucked up or picking up girls and with no concern or care for the music. I would rather hang out at my house, listen to records and demos, write letters, and work on new songs. I still go out to shows and I will set up shows for friends that come through town, but I’m through with most of the “scene” bullshit. The only scene I care about is the international trade network. Everything else is on the backburner.

Rahi: Heavy music has always seemed to be bigger in Houston than anywhere else in the state. There are a lot of grind and power violence bands in Houston right now, but they’re almost all made up of the same members. I just hope people will remember us several years down the road.

No Funeral : Is there anything else or any other information you’d like the HuntsVegas readers to know?

Beau: The most important development of Houston music was the one made by Conrad Johnson and the Kashmere Stage Band. These 17-year-old kids laid down some of the hardest hitting and tightest instrumental funk in the mid to late 70s and blew away all of the competition in their age group and above. How is this relevant to grindcore? Its not and that’s the point. If you play in a REAL death metal band or grindcore band, write me a letter and lets trade demos.

Contact Insect Warfare at:

Insect Warfare
1846 Richmond Ave
Houston TX 77098


This interview originally appeared in issue 2 of No Funeral magazine (July 2006).

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