Switzerland is typically known for secret bank accounts and making good watches and cheese with holes in it, but that country has also left an indelible mark on the heavy metal world. Celtic Frost, Coroner and Samael all hail from Switzerland and have influenced many up and coming bands over the years. One relatively new Swiss export is Cataract, a five-piece metalcore act just signed to Metal Blade Records. After their Metal Blade debut, WITH TRIUMPH COMES LOSS, roared through my speakers, I had the chance to talk to founding member/guitarist Simon Fullemann to get some background on the band, his thoughts on the European metalcore movement and many other things.
Interview with Cataract Guitarist Simon Fullemann
Interview by Lord of the Wasteland
All images courtesy of www.cataract.cc
How have the reviews been for WITH TRIUMPH COMES LOSS so far?
Great! There is no other word. Everybody seems to at least like or love it. Most reviews are raving good. We are very happy. We really thought that this is our best record but didn?t think it would be that good.
Do you notice ?zines/websites from particular markets giving it better ratings than others?
No, in every country there is some ?zine that likes it more than others. There is not one country that in general doesn?t like it so far. German-speaking countries are the most enthusiastic beside Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and the United States.
You worked with Tue Madsen extensively on WITH TRIUMPH COMES LOSS. He seems to really be making a name for himself with his work on the new CDs by The Haunted and Heaven Shall Burn among others. How did a Swiss band end up working with a Danish producer?
We have been in touch with him nearly a year before we went to record with him. We liked his work with Born From Pain and 2 Ton Predator, for example, a lot. So we just wrote him and asked if would be willing to work with us.
What can you tell us about working with Tue in the studio as compared to other producers you have used?
There wasn?t much we tried or changed during the recordings. Of course there were some spontaneous changes to some songs, but that wasn?t because of Tue. We did play around with the intros, some overdubs and additional vocals, but we had a fixed idea of what we wanted the record to be like. What was new to this recording session was the way we recorded it, so that brought many changes with it – Tue?s way of working is far different from what we?ve been used to so far. He?s got a strict working schedule, you start in the morning and by six in the evening the session is over. He lets you do as you think is best, but he?s making sure you do that the best way you can. Man, he stopped us playing saying ?That sucked. You can do MUCH better than this!? He?s not trying to talk you into something, but still he will keep you away from making terrible mistakes. After all it?s his name that?s going to be on it.
The cover of WITH TRIUMPH COMES LOSS is great! How much involvement did the band have in the cover and design of the CD?
Good you like it! We heard both sides until now. Even though I have to say that if you don?t see the concept behind it, it?s hard to understand why we love it so much.
We are fully involved in every conception of work that has to be done before starting the design. We always had layouts that fit with the lyrics, music and title of a record. The layout always has to visualize what the lyrics/music is about we think. So there is no way we are not part of the concept. After that Frans, our layout person, does his work. He?s known us for years. He knows what we want and how it should look like. He always sends us sketches when he starts working so we can agree or not on colors, etc. Basically we are always involved and have the last word on go or no go.
Fedi [Carminitana, vocals] and yourself wrote all of the lyrics on the new CD. Are any of the other band members lyricists, as well?
On this record it is only me and Fedi. On the first one it was Ricky [Durst, drums] and Mike [Henggeler, bass] also. On the last one it was me, Ricky and Fedi. So you can see, everybody is allowed to write when something bothers him.
Will they contribute lyrics to the next album then?
For the future it will be more focused on Fedi to write lyrics, I guess.
The intro riff to ?As We Speak? sounds like a tribute to Slayer?s ?Reign In Blood.? Was this conscious?
It somehow is. It just came naturally to write that riff. It?s totally different tones than Slayer us but the overall feeling is close to Slayer, which is a big compliment. I just came up with it. At the practicing space we realized it has the same mood as that Slayer song. We didn?t care since Slayer is our favorite band ever. For all of us and will always be. REIGN IN BLOOD is the best metal record that ever came out.
There is a clip taken from the Al Pacino movie, SCARFACE, at the beginning of ?Fuel.? Are you fans of that movie or did it just fit the song?
You are good! We love that movie and always had samples on our records and when we finished recording that song, we know that sample has to fit there.
The title track is a lot different from the rest of the tracks on the CD. It is slower, longer and seems to break from the formula taken with the rest of the tracks. How did the band approach this song differently?
Well if you followed our releases you can see that every last song is somehow a little different than the rest. We love to have a real ending of a CD, so you can feel that this is the last song. We approach this song not differently than the others. We wrote it because we like all the riffs and how they flow into each other. And we also love to break the formula at the end of a record, that?s true. It gives you another mood before restarting the CD.
What movie is the clip taken from that is used in that song?
It?s from another television series we love, Columbo. No kidding. The old series from the 70s are just fantastic and so different from the newer ones. It just had to be on there and fit like nothing else.
Jacob Bredahl from the Danish thrash band, Hatesphere, appears on a few tracks on the new CD. Which songs does he sing on and how did you end up working with him?
He sings on ?Reborn from Fire,? ?Hallow Horns? and a very small scream on ?Skies Grow Black.? We?ve known Jacob for years now. He is a big fan of ours as we are of Hatesphere. He lives close and wanted him to be on that record. He fits well with Fedi?s voice.
You just completed filming a video for ?Nothing?s Left.? How did it come out?
Fantastic! The whole concept we had in mind is in there. The director was able to find an actor that plays or is visualizing the lyrics and song really well. It?s a video between movie and live set. It?s all about nothing left after a big loss. We love it. Also the colors are great. Hope you guys can see it soon on MTV.
Are you planning on shooting another video for the new CD?
No, not yet. I guess we have to sell some more copies before we do so (laughs)!
What made the band decide to release WITH TRIUMPH COMES LOSS on vinyl?
We are all vinyl fans! We love it, and second, we want to have vinyl for the hardcore kids. Collectors? items with colored vinyl, poster and so on. There is so much more freedom for your artistic realization for vinyl than CD.
WITH TRIUMPH COMES LOSS is being released in Japan. Does the band have an audience over there already or is this your first exposure to that country?
We got lots of mail from Japan asking for our CDs. We haven?t had a release over there yet, but we are known. So this will be our first exposure and hope kids will like that record a lot.
Metalcore seemed to start in North America, but now we?re seeing bands like Cataract and Heaven Shall Burn coming out of Europe. Is the metalcore scene big over there or are you looking more towards a breakout in the U.S.?
First of all, it?s about time this music gains the recognition and respect it deserves. Most of the bands that are now getting deals with bigger labels have been around for years and worked their asses off to get the position they are in now. So we don?t like the word ?metalcore? too much at all.
I think Europe wasn?t very far behind the US with this kind of music. The scene over here is huge too. We always have a lot of kids at shows and a lot of people buy metalcore CDs. Okay, the metal kids still have to get used to it but I think its growing and growing and next year will settle metalcore totally. We don?t really care where we play/start though. The main thing is that kids like the CD and want to see us live and we are able to play live.
How is the rest of Europe embracing the metalcore sound?
Growing stronger all over Europe from day to day. I think a lot of people have to get used to it first, but a lot of kids like this style a lot.
Besides yourselves, Celtic Frost, Coroner and Samael, I cannot name another Swiss metal band. Is metal not a big thing in Switzerland?
The Swiss scene was always strong. The metal and hardcore scenes in Switzerland are very active, there are several bands playing shows, lots of clubs who regularly have metal and hardcore shows. The bands you mentioned were the forefathers. Metal is big! We normally have between 300-1000 kids on each show.
Cataract has been in the CMJ Loud Rock Charts in the U.S. for the last five weeks along with bands like Cradle of Filth, Shadows Fall, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Megadeth and Lamb of God. How does it feel to be making such a mark in North America and to be on the same list as such diverse bands as those?
It?s fucking unbelievable and a dream come true! You know, we always looked at the charts and said, ?Well that would be nice??and now we are on there for 5 weeks now!! All the bands that are in the charts are so huge. We feel like David and Goliath (laughs). This makes us happy and proud. It?s the proof we should come and play the U.S. soon and we will!
How do you think the early stuff from Cataract compares to WITH TRIUMPH COMES LOSS?
After the first record, GOLEM, which was very hardcore we did GREAT DAYS OF VENGEANCE, which was the most metal we will ever go with using keyboards and stuff. After that last record we wanted to take a break and see what the essence of Cataract really is and I guess we found it. So with WITH TRIUMPH COMES LOSS, we defined and combined both previous records on it. That?s what we are?heavy and fast?in-your-face. To get this fact over even better we also chose a new producer, a new studio and a new way on working on the songs. Normally we lay final touches on the songs in the studio. This time we had already all the song finished five weeks before we entered Antfarm Studio. Our producer got a demo recording of it. So everybody knew what to expect from it and where we are heading to and I guess the result proves it was the right choice to make. With WITH TRIUMPH COMES LOSS we have found our own sound ? Cataract. We are very happy with the way the lyrics and music came out. We are a 100% happy with the production this time, too. It all fits together as we always wished to achieve. Also the artwork is even more fitted.
Cataract signed with Metal Blade back in May 2004. How are things going with them so far? Are things a lot different than they were with, say, Ferret or LifeForce Records?
It?s our dream label and one of the most respected. We love that label for the way they work (from what we saw back then over here mostly till we got signed ? and we can judge worldwide now since we are signed) and their roster. They had and still have the same vision and view on things as we have concerning label politics and pushing a band. What tops it off is that we can reach a whole new audience with this label. You know we?ve been around for many years now. Ricky and I were in other bands before Cataract, dating back to 1989. We can say we?re a hard working band, we play lots of shows and we?re developing our own style. They support us on our road and give us the chance for different tours and shows. They have a much wider range of people they reach and it?s easier for fans to find the CD. Everything is much more professional. They have more man-power, of course, but also they are into this for so long.
Why did you decide to leave those labels?
We basically left the other labels because we got offered to do the next step. Who wouldn?t?
Are you just touring Europe right now or will you be heading over to North America soon?
Of course we will come! Well, first of all we are on the road in Europe till end of March 2005 on three different tours. After that we will tour the US! We want to come back and rock the US. It?s in the works right now. Hope we can tell you more within the next weeks. Keep checking www.cataract.cc or www.metalblade.com.
How did the U.S. audiences react to Cataract when you toured here in the summer of 2001?
It was fantastic! It took them a little longer to get into us since they didn?t know us really but then they went nuts! We loved to play over there. Kids are so enthusiastic. They gave us a warm applause after every song and danced to the songs as we would be local heroes. It was a dream come true.
Out of all the metal bands you have played or toured with, which has been your favorite so far? Who has been the coolest to you or taught you the most while touring?
Well, all the bands we have been on the road with so far have taught us a lot. Lately it was Stampin? Ground. They are cool, nice and very professional.
Cataract is a straight-edge band. Do you find it hard to fight the traditional vices (drinks, drugs, sex) while out on the road?
No, not true. Three of us are, two are not. That fight isn?t hard at all since we only care about playing on tour and having fun. We are not on the road for half a year or so, so we can wait till we are back home (laughs).
You are a vegetarian but is it hard to follow the vegetarian lifestyle while on the road?
It is not hard at all. The catering on all shows is at least partly vegetarian. We write that in our rider, too.
I know you started playing bass, but how long have you been playing guitar for?
For about 19 years now. I started out playing bass two years before that.
Who are your influences or which guitarists do you admire most?
Kerry King/Jeff Hanneman for their own style. Slash, Santana and some others I like. I usually care about styles they play and not abilities. Personality is more important to me.
How do you and Greg Mader [guitar] split up the leads? Do you write your own stuff and he writes his own stuff or do you also write riffs for each other?
I don?t do many leads. I am more the rhythm guy and writer. Greg does nearly all leads on the records. I basically write all the harmonies. He is much better than me, so I don?t even try (laughs).
Do you think the dual guitar sound is important for that extra metallic ?crunch? in your music?
It?s the important thing. It gives everything a double feeling and much more power. You can vary a lot more and also, in the songwriting, it makes live easier and much more interesting.
You mention that you are a tattoo fan. How many do you have? Where do you get them done? Which is your favorite?
Well, we are lucky in Switzerland. We have some of the best artist around in our country. I got tattooed by Mick and Rob Koss. I have the legs, back and arms down. And I am on my way down to my forearms soon. My favorite tattoo artist is still Paul Booth.
Which band would be your dream to share a stage with?
Slayer, Hatebreed, Testament, Six Feet Under, Unearth, for example.
You and I are the same age, but at 33, do you feel yourself getting older, or would you say you are just getting started?
I am definitely older than most other people playing this kind of music but I take care about my body a lot. So I am not feeling old at all and love to be in this and live it. Everyday is a new start.
What happened to your previous vocalist, Mosh?
He sings in a band called Elision now. He lived four hours away from us so it was simply not possible to practice anymore with him beginning in 2000, so we had to change singers. And the thing is that Fedi was always our first choice. He just couldn?t join back then.
I have never heard the songs with Mosh on them, but how is Fedi?s style different from Mosh?s?
Fedi is a lot more metal. Mosh was more like Terror/Hatebreed. For the direction we are heading to, Fedi is the perfect choice.
What bands have inspired Cataract to make the music you do?
We can?t deny that we?ve been influenced by Slayer, Hatebreed or Bolt Thrower. Denying that would be ridiculous. But we get our influences from quite a wide range of bands. Acts that you could guess (Killswitch Engage, The Haunted, God Forbid, Hatesphere, Disembodied) to more extreme stuff like Cannibal Corpse, Napalm Death, The Dillinger Escape Plan and then also old school material like Massacre, Breakdown, Cro-Mags. It?s all in there somewhere. Everything we listen to influences us in some way. And it?s not necessarily in a musical way, just seeing a great live performance can influence everyone from the band.
Does the band design and maintain your own website?
The website is also designed by a friend, but maintained by Fedi, our singer.
Finally, what can we expect from Cataract in 2005?
Lots of touring and playing all around the globe! We dedicated 2005 to live appearances and to write new songs.
Is there anything that I missed that you would like to add or say to the readers of Metal Rules?
No, not at all! Very good interview! Thank you and all your readers for the support! Keep checking www.cataract.cc. We want to see you all when we tour the US!
Thanks for your time, Simon. Good luck with the new CD and hopefully we?ll see Cataract over in Canada very soon!!
Visit Cataract?s official website at www.cataract.cc.
Thanks to Kelli and Michelle at Metal Blade (www.metalblade.com) for organizing the interview.