April 2012 (phone)
Stefan Klein is the frontman of Colorado's Dethcentrik, an avant-garde industrial band with its roots in extreme metal, has a solo career under the name Dod Beverte & runs Dod Incarnate Records. Terrorizer magazine described Dethcentrik's music as "black horrormetal". Formed in 2009 the band has almost become more famous for the criticism it draws than the music itself, which includes having the music banned for offensive content & being placed on a community threat list by one church group. But, in recent years the music has moved far from its metal roots & brought in many new fans, including other musicians who have remixed the Dethcentrik catalog or have invited Stefan to contribute to limited edition compilations of underground music. Accolades have come from members of Skinny Puppy and Marilyn Manson. Dethcentrik has only had a single live performance & has seen frequent line-up changes with only Stefan as the only stable member, if not at times the only member, with his solo outing & the band co-existing partly to share different extremes of the music.
My relationship with Stefan began when I came across one of the Dethcentrik albums online ... & with reviews that described it as having too much distortion, sounding like a garbage disposal & the worst album of the year I couldn't resist listening. Perhaps it wasn't something for a candlelight dinner, but this was far from just another gutteral voiced metal band or even someone fooling around with recording equipment, but there was a real drive evident of someone wanting to push boundaries & not to offend as many critics assume, but instead to discover the limits of sound itself. After reviewing his album Stefan invited me to remix some of his tracks under my musical moniker BLANK FACED PROPHET for his album Why The Guilty Die Old: Remixes Of Dethcentrik, an ongoing collection of guest remixes. Eventually we would create the online only album The Martyr where he provided the foundation & I gave it a new life. Since then we've had a friendship. He's taught me about a new world of music, such as Throbbing Gristle and the lesser known more experimental avenues of Nine Inch Nails, while I have helped push his music, or so I would like to believe, into new directions. I've seen his music grow, numerous albums released, critics go from hostile to interested & a resume that now includes numerous bands he's helped out & numerous musicians remixing his catalog. I interviewed Stefan for my Roman Midnight Music Show. An hour interview was pre-recorded but in a strange Watergate-esque moment, when saving the interview to later edit down for broadcast about 12 minutes was somehow deleted near the end. What makes this spooky is that time included a lengthy discussion of Satanic music in the context of Dethcentrik, which has been labeled Satanic but a quick read of the lyrics will prove otherwise.
* * * *
AJ: You have something you're working on right now, Why The Guilty Die Old: Remixes Of DETHCENTRIK, bringing in some folks you know & some new faces. Can you tell me more about this project?
STEFAN: A friend of mine's band, COLD METAL FUTURE, had actually wanted to remix a couple DETHCENTRIK songs. I don't remember exactly how the conversation started, but I told him he could remix a couple of our songs. They turned out pretty good. I actually kinda liked it. Being that we're an industrial metal band, or I could consider that one of the 100 genres we probably are, I just thought why don't we just get a whole album together where we can help artists who aren't as big as us or get artists on board who are maybe bigger than us & have them take their creative twist to our songs from the current album.
AJ: When you get an e-mail from an artist that you know has a track in it of yours that has been remixed, obviously you don't know what the outcome is going to sound like, but what is going through your mind in that moment?
STEFAN: I'm always excited to hear what comes out. I'm not particularly picky. I think as long as the artist puts effort into it I'm never worried about it being bad. I do wonder how it's going to sound, because we've had some that sound really different from each other. You know the ones you did [under the name BLANK FACED PROPHET] of "Violent Sex Change (The Gas Mask Mix)" & "Realms Yet Unknown (The Enochian Aethyr Mix)", that was probably the most Satanic DETHCENTRIK songs we've ever had, honestly.
AJ: I did tell you I had a guy who ended up playing that stuff at a goth rave. He was like 'This is like a Black Mass, man, I totally got it.' But, when I got them I'm like 'Actually, the guy sent me these 2 tracks, these 2 synthesizer tracks & I'm going what the fuck am I going to do with this?' I felt Black Mass. I just gave you a historical context when I threw in Aleister Crowley chanting. I didn't mean to go even more Satanic than DETHCENTRIK!
STEFAN: Actually, I never would have considered us a Satanic band. I thought that was a really cool twist on it, you know. This is creepy. Yeah, Crowley is an important historical figure & it's not really just Satanism, but more cults just kinda picked up on it.
AJ: I happen to have a big interest in him, more so than his magic or anything. I find him interesting. The audio tracks I used are from 1922. I don't know if a lot of people have heard them, particularly non-Crowley folks. I was just trying to be creative, which is basically what you're trying to do with DETHCENTRIK.
STEFAN: I remember your review of us, it was kinda a mixed bag & I actually liked that, versus it was good or it was bad.
AJ: Honestly, you've had some pretty rough reviews. Is that an understatement? Am I right?
STEFAN: Yeah, for the most part. The good reviews we do get they tend to be more objective from what I've noticed, so in my opinion your review was well written & that's what I'd rather have. I'd rather have a bad review that's better written than someone who just says its sucks repeatedly.
AJ: When I came across your stuff & did the review I actually did a little research first to find out more about your music. I came across all these pretty vicious reviews. I think one compared you to a garbage disposal.
STEFAN: Yeah, I thought that one was kinda funny, actually.
AJ: It's kinda cool to sound like a garbage disposal.
STEFAN: If it's a grindcore band. It depends on the genre is how you take it basically.
AJ: When I'm pulling albums to review I'm looking for something interesting & I'm looking for a band that's being creative. It doesn't even mean I may like them. There's a lot of stuff I review that I don't really care for. I just want creativity & something different & that's certainly what you have. The irony is that since we started talking & since I did the remixes of our music I'm actually hearing things now that I didn't hear when I wrote the review, you know.
STEFAN: That's good. I consider us a band that has to grow on your. I always have.
AJ: Some stuff maybe might not be my thing, but in some of your other songs I can really hear the creativity in it. I hear that you really are trying to push your own boundaries. But, it takes time & I don't always get that when I'm writing a review, you know.
STEFAN: Yeah, yeah.
AJ: But, let's go to something here I have to ask. Terrorizer magazine has described you as "black horror metal." You've already called yourself industrial, but how do you describe DETHCENTRIK?
STEFAN: I actually really like that title. I'm not exactly sure what it is. There was always the black metal influence. When we started one of the ideas was actually taking metalcore, deathcore stuff ... honestly, now I look back & I'm kinda glad we didn't take that direction. But, basically, we kinda started a band in the neighborhood, got a few friends together who live within walking distance of each other & started playing music together. One of my friends was actually into black metal. He actually heard what he thought was more potential for me to be a black metal vocalist. I actually did this demo where I sang "Mary Had A Little Lamb" with black metal vocals. It sounded kinda ... if you think of typical really really raspy, really just crunchy black metal vocals, sounds like it's bad for you to do. If you're doing them right they shouldn't be.
AJ: You're absolutely right.
STEFAN: But, they sound just kinda gargley. I don't know how to explain it. Kinda like Donald Duck when he smokes a lot. If that's possible. I think the vocals have changed over time, too. I was asked by a friend of mine if Dani Filth [of CRADLE OF FILTH] influenced my vocals. He certainly did.
AJ: Not just have the vocals changed, but the band that started in 2009 versus here we are in April 2012 is not the same thing, if there's even still a band beyond you.
STEFAN: Oh, yes, there is. There's one other member. The reason there's a DETHCENTRIK is because I got another band member. He mostly does the guitars. I do keys & vocals. Except on one song I actually have one of my ex's do death vocals on it & I think she's a pretty good vocalist, if she realizes it or not.
AJ: "Rip My Heart Out", right? Lauren McDonald. Folks can actually go on wikipedia & they'll see you on there.
STEFAN: There's some stuff there. I'm pretty sure there's this one guy who went on & he added some things about the criticism or something. "Compared to this" & then added "I can see why" or something like that. I thought it was funny that an editor was sitting there adding belligerence to the band article. We piss off a lot of people here. A lot of bands here just can't stand us.
AJ: Do you do that deliberately?
STEFAN: Somewhat. I think it was more when we started people didn't like us. Then we utilized it more. People certainly didn't like the sound. The criticism when it first comes at you is hard to handle. It's hard to handle repeatedly being told that you suck. After awhile you're like "Maybe we do suck. Maybe we're not that good." What was weird, though, was the more people would say that the more I would run into people who knew us. I'd never even met them before. Or, like a friend told me "Someone at the mall saw the shirt you gave me & they said 'I love that band.'" I didn't even know people besides my close circle of friends had even heard of us before. Now, according to Reverb Nation we're one of the most popular metal bands in the state. We're the most popular metal band in town & in the state we're supposedly ranking up there. I mean, they're an indie charts thing, but still.
AJ: It takes effort to get noticed on that & move up the ranks. You can't just put your stuff out there & suddenly be popular.
STEFAN: We're number, I think, 75 in the nation now. The number 2 in the state.
AJ: You're basically a studio outing, right? These days, anyways?
STEFAN: Yeah. A lot of the solo stuff came after the line-up just collapsed. That live recording of ours ... the drummer was actually a guy who was in another local grindcore band & I just called in a favor. I said "Dude, I know that you're mostly a singer, but I know that you can play drums." I asked him "Would you please play a show for us." He said sure. He's musically open minded enough so I knew he would be up for that & I knew he'd be able to play well enough to help us just get through one show. Because, the line-up was so unstable even before that & after that show the line-up just collapsed. I then did that solo album, some remixes of older DETHCENTRIK songs, just because I didn't know if the band was ever getting back together at that point.
AJ: When you say solo that's under the Dod Beverte name?
STEFAN: That actually has almost split off into its own thing. I would say, at this point, it's a purely industrial project. The first album was kind of an industrial metal album & then by the time I started ... I noticed that one reviewer, actually, liked my solo work better than the new DETHCENTRIK album. So, I thought "I could see taking this somewhere if I want to continue making industrial music. Just cut the metal out completely & just do some industrial stuff on the side & that would be really good." You know, having multiple bands in different genres I don't think is a bad thing.
AJ: You can go in one direction or the other direction. As you said, some people may like one thing, but they may not like the other thing.
STEFAN: There was already some weird stuff that came out under DETHCENTRIK. In a bizarre way I think we established that we're not going to stay the same, so don't get used to the sound, you know.
AJ: You've said repeatedly the band collapsed. From what I read that might be an understatement. You know what I'm referring to. I know you have one former bandmate that was arrested ...
STEFAN: One of the band members actually broke into an ex-roommate's house, because he was basically ... looking back, I don't know if he was the best choice to try to get in the band in the first place. He kinda took too much for granted. He had a roommate who was there for him constantly & the roommate eventually said "You haven't found a job yet. You need to get out. From what I understand, because he thought that some stuff that was there was his, as in he owned it, he was allowed to break in to retrieve it. Turns out that's not legal.
STEFAN: Yeah, I didn't know you can't break into someone else's house to get your own stuff back!
AJ: I gotta look that one up!
STEFAN: I know, the logic behind it! In a weird way, it's not like he was a horrible violent criminal as much as he was just an idiot, you know. God, why did we get that guy? & he didn't even play a show with us. He actually has his own Reverb Nation page &, it's funny, he actually feels the need to mention he is an ex member & then on this youtube live concert he's like "Thank God I quit that band before it even started." I don't know if he's split personality or what, but he's constantly giving consistent different opinions on the band. I think he still has a little bit of soreness that we didn't let him stay in the band after he ended up in jail & started being all weird & stuff.
AJ: & you're like "I didn't even realize I was that important", right?
STEFAN: Yeah. If this guy is taking the time out of his life to rip on us ... he probably has some jealousy. You don't usually feel the need to tell everyone you were in some band if you don't think it's going to help in some way. & he tried to tell us that he was in some band & his roommate & I were joking that he's a good luck charm. Every band gets famous after they kick him out. It's ironic. & I'm trying to remember the other band he was in. I'm actually feeling bad for not remembering. They started gaining some momentum after he left. That must be really frustrating to think "Every band that I'm in kicks me out & away they go." I think it's coincidence, but I can see why that would you sore after awhile. It's basically not fair.
AJ: You can take it personally, but I have a feeling there is some personal things here. But, it may also be coincidence.
STEFAN: When you're in a band personal lives intertwine anyway. I knew his roommate. I think that's part of what influenced me to gig him out. If I hadn't known his roommate I probably had been like "Alright, just get your shit together & come back into the band."
AJ: I had a similar situation some years ago when I joined up with this punk band. The girl couldn't even tune her guitar, not that it stayed in tune, & smoked too much to remember her own lyrics. After a few months it wasn't what I wanted & we didn't really get along, so I left. But, she had to follow it up on her myspace page with "Now that Aaron has gone to Hell & we've gotten rid of all the bad people in our group." There was other stuff like that which appeared later long after the fact. Plus all the photos of us had stars over my face. I felt that I must have had a real impact on this girl if she had to go to all the trouble to comment about me, particularly when I'm not that important, over and over.
STEFAN: Right? ... It's surprising, I didn't realize for the longest time that I influential at all in the scene. It's the internet, you know. It's kinda cool. Here they always try to tell you internet popularity does not equal real life popularity. As much as I've learned anything from people like Rebecca Black or Justin Bieber, you can say all the bad things you want about them, the internet can be a source of fame nowadays.
AJ: & for someone like you whose more a studio thing it definitely creates something you wouldn't have otherwise.
STEFAN: & it certainly gets the music out there more, you know. I'd rather people be able to find it all the way across the globe, instead of having to sign with a label who can start to impose restrictions on you. Or, we don't have the money to distribute CD's across the globe. Giving away a lot of music helps too.
AJ: Do you consider yourself a member of metal community, or the industrial or black metal community, down there? Or, an outsider?
STEFAN: More of an outsider. But, the metal scene here does know who we are. I mean, I was talking to another band recently & they said everyone in the metal scene here knows who I am, whether they like me or not is a different story, you know.
AJ: You're like, that's cool.
STEFAN: I'll take it. One of my friends actually compared our career track to that of Marilyn Manson. Eventually enough people will talk shit that it will gain us more momentum.
AJ: You just mentioned about distributing stuff. You distribute all your stuff through your own label, right, Death Incarnate Records.
STEFAN: I also do use another distribution outlet. They actually allow indie artists & indie labels to distribute through them. They are actually part of the IODA, which is actually owned by Sony Records, so that's why you'll find us in all these stores. But, not CD's. You can only find those on Amazon. As we can, we'll work with other distribution outlets.
AJ: So you have your physical distributor & then you have your digital distributor?
STEFAN: Right. Those are actually separate companies to go through for those.
AJ: Where does the name DETHCENTRIK come from?
STEFAN: I kinda wanted a name being centered around death. It's spelled d-e-t-h, although a lot of people thought we were ripping off DETHKLOK ...
AJ: I thought MEGADETH myself.
STEFAN: Okay. I had this friend who was obsessed with thrash metal & I was kinda saying "Can I join your thrash metal band?" Of course, I asked him after he & his friends had already done this stuff, so I kinda thought I'd recorded a vocal demo, which was more like deathcore vocals at the time with the squeals & the really weird sounds that they do in that genre. Then I kinda realized I'd be better off in a more extreme metal band. I got together with a couple friends, Justin & Michael. We actually live within walking distance of each other. We got together and decided to start a band & I put an ad up online to get some other members.
AJ: We're kinda getting near our time limit for the day, but is there anything more you want to share?
STEFAN: Not really.
AJ: Let me just ask. You've often sent me e-mails about how you added a new track to the remix album. How's that going? Do you have a street date?
STEFAN: I don't even know. There's still artists out there. I give them a few months time frame. Talking to some of these artists who don't have time to do it within a crunch, I don't like to rush art. As a musician I understand there are artist out there that can sit there for months & tweak at their song. There are artists who ... sometimes I can record a song in a couple hours. I've done that. It really depends on what type of a creator you are, you know. I don't think I have the patients to tweak at too much though. I also realize that when I do that I make it worse.
AJ: But, for now, people can go on Last.fm?
STEFAN: & there is a youtube playlist.
AJ: What's available can be heard & the rest of it is a work in progress. Literally.