Performing Montreal’s annual WINGS OF METAL festival, long running cult band, DERKÉTA will make their appearance this week end to wreck havoc upon fans of Extreme Metal! Having released only one record in 2012 in “In Death We Meet” and a slew of various splits and demos since 1989, I had the chance to ask the band’s original member, Sharon Bascovsky, about all things “Death” and what she plans for the future of the band.
Chris Wheeler: Since the album, “In Death We Meet” was released, how have the fans/critics responded to it?
Sharon Bascovky: So far it’s been positive. The album made it on a few Top 5 and Top 10 lists for “Best Releases of 2012” and we were quite surprised at that. It seems that there are a lot of people that do appreciate the older style/production of death metal. We pressed only 1000 copies of the “In Death We Meet” CD just to test the waters and it has sold out. We’re not repressing it as I had Ola Lindgren from Grave remix the album. The original CD still wasn’t sounding heavy enough to me, i’m very particular, but Ola fixed that for me. We’ll soon be releasing his remix on CD and vinyl with live bonus tracks. I’m extremely pleased with the remix but unfortunately we won’t have it ready in time for the Wings of Metal fest. We do have the digital version online though if anyone is interested.
Wheeler: How much have you toured for the record and how far has the tour taken you?
Bascovsky: We don’t really tour, just play the one off shows here and there. We all have full time jobs so we have to balance our time off of work. Plus, with the expense of touring and with us being an underground band, we would go broke. Besides playing Pittsburgh, we’ve played Brooklyn, Buffalo, New Jersey and Cleveland. Montreal is our first time performing outside of the US.
Wheeler: Dedicating the album to your childhood friend’s mother, Dara, do you think it was the only inspiration to get the band back together or were there other extenuating factors?
Bascovsky: I had lost inspiration to write for a few years it seemed. I would occasionally write if someone asked me to write something for a 7” release but I just wasn’t feeling that any of it was worth it; the hassles of actually having a band. Then one day I just picked up my guitar and wrote “In Death We Meet”, music and lyrics in one sitting. It just came natural and something clicked, and I decided that I didn’t want to stop doing it. DERKÉTA is something that always nags at me, even when I was thinking of not doing it, song ideas would come into my head. It’s like a pleasant, but sometimes annoying curse. I felt that I had so many unrecorded songs, that I should at least put out a full length so I could hear them in true form. Now, we’re just in that mode wanting to see what all we can accomplish before it’s too late.
Wheeler: How hard was it to write the album? Do you believe it was the best way to cope with her passing?
Bascovsky: Writing the album wasn’t hard, most of the songs had already been written but were just never recorded. This was the album that should have come out in 1991-92, with the exception of a couple of songs. The actual recording of the album was another story as it took 16 months to complete; 3 different studios involved to get the sound that I was looking for, lots of band arguments during that time as I didn’t want to just settle. Our first recording attempt, I didn’t think our performances were as good as they could have been, so scrapped that and started all over. I really wanted to try and accomplish a certain feel to the songs. As far as Dara’s passing, not real sure if there was a best way to cope with it. The song just kind of happened, it’s not like I wanted to write a song about her death, but her sudden death really did affect me. As with any death, you eventually just get used to that person being gone.
Wheeler: In the liner notes to the album, it’s mentioned someone close to you suggested that Dara may have visited you in a dream. Do you believe that such possibilities exist and has that helped shape some of the lyrical content of your work?
Bascovsky: I should pull out the CD and read the liner notes as I can’t remember what all I said in it now. But yeah, I guess i’m one of the “whacky” people out there that does believe in that kind of stuff. The night that you’re referring to, I actually don’t remember having a dream. I just woke up crying for no reason, like full on crying and had no idea why I was crying. That never happened before so didn’t know what my problem was. I got ready and went into work, next thing my mom calls me crying all hysterical telling me Dara was killed this morning on her way to work. I was already all cried out by then and just sat there in shock. I had mentioned it to someone, just how weird that morning was, and they said she may have been saying goodbye to you. Who knows, but it’s a comforting thought. I spent most of my childhood at her house cause I was friends with her daughter. Weeks before her accident I was visiting over at my parents house and stopped up to see her. She was a book collector and I wanted to see if she had the book “Harvest Home”; which she did and she gave it to me. She was so excited to talk about books, I had felt that her and I could have a fun grown up kind of relationship now and was planning on going back over to her house to see what other books she had that I might like. Then it was too late, complete unexpected mind fuck. As far as lyrical content, yeah it’s something that i’ve always had an interest in. I’ve had strange experiences ever since I was a kid so it’s just something that I’m not overly dismissive of. I’d rather live in a world where my mind can venture off into obscure story telling I guess versus everything being factual, boring, and mundane. It’s good to have some sort of escape from everyday life and writing seems to be my escape.
Wheeler: The album was released independently. Was that a conscious decision to keep the dedication personal and not get outside parties involved?
Bascovsky: It was a conscious decision as the bigger labels seem to want you to tour and we simply can’t do that. We could really only do festival runs, like a 2 week span, because of our full time jobs. When it comes to smaller labels, basically all they do is fund the pressing and give you a small percentage of it. The smaller labels don’t seem to give anything towards the recording expenses, and that is where the major cost of it all really is. Once we looked into the pressing costs, it was a no brainer just to do it ourselves since we were already knee deep in costs. By doing it that way, we’re able to have the band “mostly” fund itself versus always having to go into our own pockets when we need more merch.
Wheeler: Are you actively seeking out a label deal at this time?
Bascovsky: For the next album, we are entertaining having a label release it as i’m tired of handling the business side of things. Some days I don’t mind it too much so we’ll see once we’re ready to record. Right now i’m writing the new album and just can’t think too much about labels. We’re not one of those bands that is desperate to get on one. It doesn’t define us.
Wheeler: How do you see DERKÉTA in the grand scheme of U.S. Death Metal? Does the band have something more to give besides “In Death We Meet”? What are your future plans?
Bascovsky: Wow, that’s a tough question, I never really thought about that before. I don’t think I think anything about it to be honest, puts me in a head spin if I try to think about it. I just see DERKÉTA as DERKÉTA, if that makes sense. We just do what we can, when we can, so I don’t know how that comes across in the grand scheme of U.S. Death Metal. There’s so many bands nowadays that I have no clue where we fit into it all. I suppose we’re in the old school death metal category though. Back in May a local record store, Mind Cure Records, released a 2 song 7” of ours called “Darkness Fades Life”. It was part of a 12 band series; he released a local Pittsburgh band every month for a year. Limited to 300 copies but that sold out in 3 or 4 days so it’s no longer available. Next up is releasing the “In Death We Meet” remix on CD and vinyl; just waiting on Ola to mix the bonus live tracks for it once he is finished with Grave‘s new album. That should be within the next couple of weeks I would think. Then, as I mentioned in an earlier question, we’re writing now and we hope to record by the end of this year/beginning of 2015. May releases have done well for us so we’re going to stick with it and release the new album in May 2015. Other than that, we’d like to get over to Europe next year and do a festival run as we’re not getting any younger. Not that we have an expiration on the band but you know, the aging thing. Never know when something will strike us. But if not, we’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing and play within the States. Just see what comes our way and take it from there.
**Interview continues right under “Darkness Fades Life”
Wheeler: In the history of the band, since 1989, what has been some of the standout highlights?
Bascovsky: Oh boy, another tough one. Opening up for Carcass here in Pittsburgh this year on the last Decibel Tour was a good one. We got to play at a bigger venue, had Carcass’ sound and lighting guys run our sound and lights for us. That was something that we really were appreciative about and we were told that we sounded massive. Our first live show was another good one, people flew in for it and it sold out. That was trippy. The “In Death We Meet” album making Top 5 and Top 10 “best of” lists for 2012; one of which was Don Jamieson from That Metal Show mentioning us. That was unexpected. And really just having our friends support us and taking the time to review us and so forth. Those are the ones that I can think of right now, even though they’re all fairly recent. My memory has gotten so bad but probably the highlight from back in the old days was just meeting so many great friends from all over the world. We had no idea when we released our demos back then that it was going to make it’s way around the world. I’m still good friends with the same people so that’s probably the best highlight of it all.
Wheeler: Performing at this year’s WINGS OF METAL festival, have you ever had the chance to play live in Montreal before?
Bascovsky: No, this will be our first time performing outside the U.S. and we’re all extremely excited about it. My friends have told me that Montreal has a killer die hard scene, great crowds, and have raved about the Wings of Metal fest in general. We start our road trip tomorrow night so once I finish this interview I’ll start my packing.
Wheeler: What can fans expect from DERKÉTA live?
Bascovsky: Another tough question! I feel like I should write something brutal and wicked here but we just get up and play. We keep to the plan of playing at our best and hopefully get a chilling mood going throughout the crowd. Unless there are time issues that come up, we’ll be playing 8 songs. A mix of old demo songs and new songs, including our latest 7” song called “Darkness Fades Life”. We’ve never performed that one live yet. You can definitely expect occasional guitar feedback though, that seems to happen alot. It’ll be a good time for sure, we’re ready for it.
Wheeler: Will this be a “one-off” show or will Montreal be part of a larger tour?
Bascovsky: Hopefully this will open up a Canadian door for us and we can do more shows up there. We’d like that to happen anyway.
Certainly, Sharon Bascovsky and DERKÉTA will no doubt leave fans in Montreal in awe when they play this saturday at Montreal’s WINGS OF METAL festival that happens during the 29th and 30th at COOP Katacombs! The Cult is Alive; Be a part of it!