By Joe Who?

I have this little saying etched in my mind that goes - "The secret to finding good music, is knowing where to look"... words of wisdom to live by that could be viewed as a catch 22 to some extent. I mean, yes, of course music is everywhere, it's not that hard to find, right? Well, if you're a fan of metal music, you probably know there's a lot of different genres to choose from, and it's always fun to see what's out there.

For me personally, I've actually always enjoyed exploring in the confines of my own surroundings. My fascination (or for lack of a better term obsession...) with finding these hidden treasures started in the early nineties durning a time I like to call - "The Classic Demo Days". My environment back then was a goldmine for a lot of good local metal bands. One band in particular whose career I watched grow, and then turn into a more established national act, was the Wisconsin Death Metal War Machine known as Jungle Rot.

I first became aware of the band around ' 94, when I got a hold of their first demo tape called "Rip Off Your Face". The debut demo was a thirteen song collection of old school crunchy death thrash delights that turned out so good, tracks from the tape would later appear on future full length efforts. After it's release, original vocalist Joe Thomas quit Jungle Rot, condensing the band down to a quartet. Guitarist Dave Matrise would take over on vocals, and the rest as they say is history.

The camouflage clad death metal soldiers marched forward through the nineties releasing another demo, ("Skin The Living" - ' 95) a full length album, ("Slaughter The Weak" - ' 97) and an ep in conjunction with Sounds Of Death magazine. ("Darkness Foretold" - ' 98, which was inclded with a cool comic book, featuring their mascot Sgt Rot.) Along the way they suffered through some record label and lineup changes, but, with the drive and determination to keep going, Jungle Rot survived. Signing with a new label shortly there after, the band released two more full length albums, ("Dead And Burried" - 2001, and "Fueled By Hate" - 2004...) and continued to go strong into the new millennium.

That takes us to the present, Jungle Rot has just released their latest album entitled "War Zone". The Crash Music Inc debut is a no nonsense crush-kill-destroy thrash attack, reminiscent of the early days,while mixing it up with the more recent Olympic Records years... infectious riffs, combat boot stomps, gargantuan grooves, and those monster mosh parts, will surely please long time fans, and create some new ones as well.

I caught up with original member guitarist / vocalist Dave Matrise, and new drummer Neil Zacharek at a recent Jungle Rot home town gig in Kenosha Wisconsin to talk about the new album, and a lot more...

Wormwood Chronicles: Jungle Rot has been on the death metal scene for over a decade now. What first attracted you guys to extreme music?

Dave Matrise: It would be the "German Invasion". We're talkin' Sodom, Destruction, and Kreator. Yeah, the first time I saw the albums... you look at the albums when they were out in the stores, and they got me with the art work, and everything else. Ever since then, I've been into it man. What about you Neil?

Neil Zacharek: I would have to say, the old school Slayer, back in the eighties. I'm a younger crowd, I come from the eighties! (Laughs)

DM: We were jammin' Destruction and Sodom before Slayer man. I mean, I had all that shit before Slayer, then "Show No Mercy" came out, you know?

WC: You guys have a new album out right now called "War Zone". Before we discuss it, I was wondering how the new lineup came together?

NZ: I knew Jerry (Sturino - bass player on "Fueled By Hate", also from Kenosha, Wisconsin based band Path...) from previous bands that I was in. He called me before they (Jungle Rot...) went to Europe the first time, and then I joined the band. So that's how I got in. Geoff (Bub) our guitar player now, I've played in bands with him before, (Destiss and Putrid Dissentary...) and I've known him since I was like three or four... we've known each other a life time. So he came along with mewhen I went down and met with the guy. (Laughs)

DM: Yeah, it was a package deal, and Jimbo (bassist James Genenz - (formely of Fleshgrind) is back again. I'm sure everybody wants to know about the issue with the band members, that's always the question... Why do I go through so many band members? Basically the bottom line is, I made some bad choices, and I made some good choices. I mean, a lot of the musicians I had in the band were hired on just to do it. I found out over the years, the best way to find your band members is from other bands. Back in the day I wouldn't do that, (using other band's members...) because of the conflict of having two bands, but, you find out the pro's are actually in the bands,and those are the ones that keep you going.

You know yourself, there's a lot of people that think it's easy to be in a band, but, when you go out on the road, and you live in a van for five weeks and you eat a can of soup with a spoon, it makes your mind think a little bit different on if you wanna do it. That's usually the reason why I go through band members, you know... they just can't tough it up. It's like that with a lot of bands, plus, as you know, death metal... the money's not there ,man, it's all in the heart.

WC: When did the writing process start for "War Zone"?

DM: When did we start? ...

NZ: Late fall of 2005...

DM: The whole album was written in less than five months, we finished it all in about five months...

NZ: We recorded in February...

DM: Yeah, the album was done for over three months before Crash (Music...) finally put it out. We did the album pretty quick, and only practiced like once a week. (Chuckles) We only practiced four times a month, so you figure we only had about fifteen or sixteen practices, and wrote the whole album. The key is when we get together, we let the magic happen.

Some people say that's a bad thing, because it shows on the way you write, but, you know our band as well as we know it ,man...we're who we are and we haven't changed yet. I mean, a band like us should be "plugged" more. The problem is, the fans change their opinion. Why shouldn't a band like us, Slayer, and everybody else that stays true to their roots... they're the ones who should be "plugged", because there's so much influence out there, you know? We're fortunate to have a style that we stayed with.

WC: What's the creative process like when you guys work on new material? Does everyone work on their own ideas, and then present them to the band? or Is it usually a collaborative effort?

DM: Yeah, we try to do it as a bunch. I mean, our music is really easy... you can see how it is, we try to keep it really basic. I think the key to our writing is everybody demonstrates their ability at once, you know? There should be no practicing, we play it, and it's tight, you know?

Everyone had input on this album. This was the first album I've done that everybody else in the band actually did a good job. Neil did excellent lyrics, everyone had a say-so instead of relying on one person over the years, and that's why I think it's one of the better albums.

WC: I noticed that Jungle Rot's lyrics deal with war a lot. Are you guys inspired by the current events of everyday life? or do you make up your own stories?

NZ: I would say the new album isn't really directed towards war, it could be directed towards a lot of different things. Society, everyday life... Dave wanted to go with lyrics that people can relate to versus just war...

DM: We're trying to go more positive, especially on these last two albums, you can see the lyrics are getting more positive. There's so much negativety out there. I mean, it still has our typical slashing, gutting, and grinding, but, if you listen to some of the words, they're actually good. "Strong Shall Survive" is a great song, "Victims Of Violence", is another great one... I mean, they're slashers, but, they have meaning behind them. When you write enough songs, how many slashers can you do? I try to memorize the words, and they all fuckin' come out being the same... slashing, killing, and grinding, it all gets caught in your head, man.

WC: Shawn Glass from Soil collaborated with you guys on the song "Ready For War". How did that come about?

DM: I'm just good buddies with him, he's been helping me with music my whole life, he's a great guy. He came over one day, and we busted it out.

WC: You guys always end your albums with the classic "demo days" songs. On "War Zone", you re-do "Decapitated", and "Killing Spree". Do you feel that those songs are just as relevant now as they were back then when you first wrote them?

DM: Absolutely, I think they fit right on there. The one thing about the demo... Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed singer...) was the only one who ever put that thing out, ("Skin The Living" - on Pure Death Records...) I think he pressed it maybe twice. There was five thousand units that went out, but it never had major store distribution. The recording was good... I mean, it was demo recording, but, it never... you know what I'm saying, it never really had store distribution or anything like that. So we just got it out there.

We always took two from the demo... I mean, people think they get short changed by it, but, I think they like it as well. People freaked out when they heard that "Killing Spree" was on there, they loved it, it's a classic. That's my roots, man. I mean, it keeps me going as well. It's just nice to look back when you wrote something over twelve years ago, and you're still rocking it. It feels good, man.

WC: What are some of your favorite memories of the old days of Jungle Rot?

DM: The Milwaukee Metal Fests. They were the fuckin' shit, you know what I mean? Where else could you play in front of 2,500 to 5,000 people? We played a couple, and there was 5,000 at them. I think the highlight of our career right now, is going to Europe. We've been there twice, and that was a blast as well.

WC: So what do you think of this major decline Milwaukee Metalfest has suffered over the last few years?

NZ: I think that's a problem with a certain person running it...

DM: Well, we all know what it came down to ,man, He eventually did the "pay to play", and that burnt it out. If he (promoter Jack Koshick...) would have kept it like the first ones... there was none of that, and as the greediness came in, I think that's what did it. A lot of bands got smart, and said forget it, we're not doing this shit anymore...

WC: He lost a lot of the record labels too...

DM: Yeah, exactly. It was the shit at one time...

NZ: It's more of a money issue, when you can't get headliners. He dosen't even get headliners anymore... he gets maybe one or two, and that's it...

DM: Yeah, but, that's probably what did it. I mean, festivals never go forever, you know that, they hit their highs, and they hit their lows.

WC: What would you say has been the most difficult asspect of Jungle Rot's career so far?

DM: (Chuckles) Just fighting everyday period. Anytime you do anything in music, it's a fight, nothing ever goes smoothly. I think the biggest thing is finding a label that will be behind us. We've never had a label that's been behind us yet. I mean, they support us, but, have they actually been behind us, and taken a chance, to see if we can sell 30 or 40 thousand units, you know? They always keep us in that underground, and I think that's a big problem that's hurt us, because, we never got past that 8,000 unit deal. If they don't press 20 or 30 thousand, how are you gonna do it? Labels are good, but, they can only do what they can, and that's what it comes down to.

WC: Alright, let me add some sunshine to that dark cloud of a question. What would you say has been the most rewarding asspect of Jungle Rot's career?

DM: Just being able to keep doing it. That's a reward, period. I just told these guys the other day... we lost the Deicide tour, and that's a major blow to us. I worked my ass off with agencies, spent a lot of time, and it's just another blow to the band. I told these guys, we gotta stick together, and we gotta keep going. I don't ever wanna quit playing, it's who I am, it's what I do for music, it's what I like to do. I have no intentions of ever stopping, you know... not for awhile. I feel good, I think I look good, (Laughs) I'm putting the hair back on, what the hell, right? (Laughs)

WC: Your last album... is it called "Fueled By Hate"? or "Fuel For Hate"? I have two different titles on my copy.

DM: (Laughs) Well, you know what that is, that's a classic "typo" from the label. Why they had to touch the spine of that cd, I have no idea, because, we did the whole layout, sent it to them, and they just decided to put their fingers on it, Man. Look at it this way... like they say, it could be a collector's item some day! (Laughs)

WC: Didn't Internal Bleeding have a similar title for their last album? You guys and Internal Bleeding were both on the same label. Were there any conflicts on who would get the title for their respective albums?

DM: No, they didn't even question it at all...

WC: I'm forgetting what their title was, but, I remember it was almost identical to "Fueled By Hate".

DM: I don't know. They (Internal Bleeding...) might have had a conflict with it. I never heard anything about it, man. The label never said nothing...

WC: Really? I have a Olympic Records sampler, that has a song on there from Jungle Rot, and it gives the name of your album. Then you look further down on the track listing, and there's a Internal Bleeding song on there with a very similar album title.

DM: Did they end up changing the name of their album then?

WC: I'm not sure. I think so...

DM: That could be another "typo" from Olympic. You never know, right? I never heard anything about it. They're kind of cuckoo man! When you don't prove something, that's what happens.

(On a side note here... I searched everywhere for that damn Olympic Records Sampler, and finally found it one day. The two album titles listed on it were; Jungle Rot - "Fueled By Hate", and Internal Bleeding - "Hatefuel". Dave was probably right, another "typo". FYI - The Internal Bleeding album is now called - "Onward To Mecca" - Joe Who?)

WC: That last album ("Fueled By Hate"...) had hardcore mixed into your sound. You guys have always been old school death metal. Do you think that death metal has to branch out more musically, in order to gain acceptance by people who wouldn't normally listen to it?

DM: That's how I try to do our music, I'm trying to write it to branch out as much as I can, to open the ears of other people, you know? It seems like that's all that's been going on with this new album. Everybody keeps saying that other one ("Fueled By Hate"...) felt more hardcore, and on this one, ("War Zone"...) were going more death metal. To me, I think it sounds like "Fueled By Hate" part 2. I think they're both the same. I can't sense it, because I play it, but all the reviews are saying - yeah, you guys are going back to your death style. I guess that's good...

NZ: I think the new album varies more towards hardcore in some spots. It has the old school feel, but there's more breakdowns on this album, that are more hardcore feeling to me.

WC: Dave, I have an old school three part question here that I wanted to ask you. I'm going way back in time with this one. (Laughing) Joe Thomas from Prisoner used to be the singer for Jungle Rot,on your "Rip Off Your Face" demo. Did you guys audition anyone after he left? Did you have any experience singing prior to fronting Jungle Rot? Or was it a natural progression for you when you made the switch?

DM: I came out of other bands... I came out of a band called Nocturnal, another band called Fatal Violence, and I sang and played with both of them. I originally joined Jungle Rot when they just started. I knew the other guys, (Prisoner.) Jim Harte, and all that, and my intentions were to steal Jim Harte, I'll be truthful with you. Once I joined the band, it got ten times better, but yeah, that was my whole intention, to get them. (Jim Harte - drums, and Jim Bell - guitar ... FYI - Jim Bell was Prisoner's "Roadie" back in the day - Joe Who?) I actually had a better band going at the time, but then once I got in there, it just started working out, Joe quit, and then I just stepped up.

WC: So what's Joe up to these days?

DM: I have no idea. I don't talk to any of those guys. I know they're all married, and have kids. Everyone has a time, you know... they just eventually bail out of music, you know, but, we're gonna keep it going. Yeah, I haven't talked to those guys in I can't even remember... seven, eight years, it's been awhile man.

They just fall off the earth, it sucks that you do a lot, and then you just don't talk to anybody. It seems like that's what happens with a lot of bands, when you lose a member, it's like - Fuck, you know? You're brothers for so long, and then all of a sudden, you don't even talk to them anymore, it's a shame... you go through a lot in life, and it just ends. It's probably easier that way too, because, usually, when they walk away, they don't wanna deal with it, They avoid it... it's like an addiction, if you can leave it, it's better, you know?

WC: On "Dead And Burried", the last song on the album is called - "Another Fix". It was originally called "Cum Junkie", on the "Rip Off Your Face" demo. Why was the name changed?

DM: Well, that was another conflict with the label. They felt that the title -"Cum Junkie" wasn't going to fit. So they took the next best thing... there's a line in the song that says "Another Fix". So we just said - whatever, you know... instead of battling for it, just give up. I mean, it's nice though, the true fans know the difference, like you do.

WC: If it would have been left up to you guys, would you have kept the original title?

DM: Oh, yeah. Why fix it, right? That song rules! (Laughs)

WC: You guys just shot your very first video for "Victims Of Violence". How did it go? What was that experience like?

DM: I think it went excellent, man. It's another highlight in my career, because I never got a chance to do a video, and I'm glad videos are finally back. Hopefully Crash will get that thing on Headbanger's Ball, and whatever else is out there that can get it. We had a great time doing it man.

NZ: Yeah, I thought it was awesome! ...

DM: We're gonna try to do a follow up on it, and do a live video as well. We might be possibly playing The Metro, (venue in Chicago that's right down the street from Wrigley Field - Home Of The Chicago Cubs...) sometime in October.

WC: When will the Jungle Rot "Live from Germany" DVD be coming out?

DM: The dvd is fully done, and ready to go, but, we just can't come to terms on the contract with the label. As we speak right now, they're supposed to be putting an offer in soon. So I'm still waiting until the offer comes in.

WC: Do they own the rights to that?

DM: No, they don't own any of it ,man. I should just put it out myself, but I just don't have the money and the time to do it, you know? It costs money to make money, and between running this band, and keeping it going, it's just... you know, there's a little bit more money with shirts than a dvd, but hopefully we'll get it out. They said they wanna put it out but I'm still waiting for the dollars. (Laughs)

WC: Do you have any Spinal Tap moments that you could share from any tours you've done past or present?

DM: There's always a derailment on the stage, one way or another. I mean, usually the biggest "Spinal Tap" moments are
always at the festivals, man. You play them, and it's always rough on the drummers. I've done shows where the drummer had sticks inside the legs, to support the fuckin' (Laughs) you know... the bass drums, because they don't have the arms on it. Just stuff like that, pieces falling apart.

When things like that happen, it can sometimes make a better show, because, a lot more anger and violence comes out. You step it up a notch to make it better, and sometimes it works out good that way, because, you feed on it, you know? We like that. (Laughs)

WC: You mentioned earlier that the Deicide tour didn't work out. Are there any plans for another tour?

DM: Yeah, were working our ass off right now trying to get one before this winter, and I think we might be hooking up with a new agency. So things might look better, but if not, we'll be full blown come spring next year, and I'm sure we'll get a quick start. My biggest problem is that we let our guard down. We booked this Deicide tour over three or four months ago, thought we had it in stone, and never really worked on any other tours. So now we're kind of fucked. A lot of bands go out on tour in the winter, you know what I mean? They book their tours four or five months in advance, so they can promote on a big tour. We'll be full blown next year, we'll hit Europe, and hopefully the U.S.

WC: Can you guys only tour for a certain amount of time during the year?

DM: Yeah, I can only tour from April until October. It's a long enough span, but it's with luck, you know... to hit that right tour, but it just sucks. I mean, I'm fortunate my boss let's me off in between there whenever I want, but, when he needs me, he needs me. I work seven days a week from that part on... from the end of October to April. We work with each other, so it benefits both of us.

WC: Just out of curiosity, what would be your dream tour?

DM: My dream tour... it almost happened a couple of times. One time we were supposed to go out with Kreator. I think the dream tour for me would be: Obituary, Kreator, Sodom, and Jungle Rot. (Laughs)

WC: Nice! thank you so much for your time guys, I really appreciate it. Do you have any final words for your fans out there?

DM: Yeah, just have a good time with the new album, and come on out and see us. We won't let anyone down!

Jungle Rot's Official Website