- Sarah Stubbs
WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE: An interview with Deathrite's Tony Heinrich
German metalheads Deathrite are a force to be reckoned with. The band have gone from strength to strength with a fair smattering of albums and EPs, stealthily stealing up on the scene and racking up a modest yet loyal core fan-base. Serving up bone-chilling slabs of tormented death metal with heart-hammering percussion and gritty vocals, Deathrite take listeners to a strange, dark place where dusky doom-laden death reverberates with mutated punk and down and dirty, granular rock. Dark Matter caught up with the band as they completed their sound-check before their London show. Contemplatively sipping bottles of beer, the members have a serious, slightly moody air about them which soon brightens when they have the opportunity to share their passion, whether that’s tearing up the stage or chatting all things metal. Frontman and vocalist Tony Heinrich kindly took some time out before the set to talk music, nightmares and tour-bus escapades.
Although firmly of a metal persuasion, Deathrite place no restraints on themselves, keeping their sound fresh and intriguing by blending a variety of different influences and technical styles. “I guess we’re not a limited death metal band, we’re not limited by genres.” Tony explains. “There’s so many influences and styles of darkness in our music.” He lists some examples from rock and black metal including Motörhead and Craft, and adds that new guitarist Tom “is from a blues rock, retro background, so he brought this influence into our music. For me personally, it’s punk, because I come from a punk scene.” Always keen to experiment, the latest album 'Nightmares Reign' was recorded with what Deathrite call ‘vintage’ equipment, which certainly adds a more raw and powerful vibe to their sound.
Tony explains “We used nothing digital. Most typical death metal bands do it all digital with triggers and stuff like that, but we knew our sound was more like rock. We like doing it like they did back in the day, with analog. For me the records I really like are analog, which has a more natural sound, but now only retro blues bands and Swedish death metals are still doing that. This is the first album we’ve recorded this way, to us it sounds a little bit more like playing live, it’s a warmer sound you can get more into it.”
Tony reflects on how they’ve also incorporated some differing themes too. 'Nightmares Reign' delves into the world of bad dreams, and has a more meditative air than previous records. “The songs are longer than before, more aggressive in a simpler way, dark and aggressive. It’s kind of a journey through those nightmares, solo and melody, and then at the end, you’re awake, and then you have to think about it - was this real?” This vagueness and dark mystery is at the root of Deathrite’s craft. “Our sound can’t be defined. At the end of it we’re artists, if an artist limited themselves by rules or genres, it’s completely the opposite idea of being an artist. We’re just a rock band but in a darker way. It’s just passion for playing music.”
Indeed, the band members live and breathe their calling, and have been fully dedicated to nothing else for the past few years. “We are musicians, getting better and better from tour to tour, rehearsal to rehearsal, trying to do something new, just continually pushing ourselves to the limit. We started in 2010, it’s now 2018 and we’re still here, it’s been a constant in my life.” Tony just about gets by with a part time job in addition to his Deathrite duties, and muses “I’m living for it spiritually wise but it doesn’t really pay my rent. But at least we’re doing what we like and we have no regrets!”
Having recently signed to record label Century Media has, however, has offered Deathrite a little more stability. “Communication is easier as they’re also in Germany. If there’s something wrong I can drive by! They are so nice to us, for the first time we have a really good support on our back, and we can just focus on the music.”
Deathrite are currently on tour with Skeletonwitch and Mantar, which makes for an interesting, yet complementary, mesh of styles. “The music is kind of different, although most of us have the same background and listen to the same old records, but we’re really enjoying it because we’ve known Mantar a couple of years and toured with them last year as well. We knew what to expect with them as they are cool guys, and with Skeletonwitch too we’re having so much fun together every night and we’ve become friends. And no one on the bus is a weirdo or anyone you wouldn’t want to hang with!” By all accounts, they are having an absolute blast.
“We don’t often have the opportunity to ride in a big tour bus, normally we’re doing it on our own in a shitty van,” Tony smiles. Indeed, there have been a few hijinks. “We played a festival in Bavaria and everyone was so drunk that we missed our shuttlebus. At 8am, we realised we’d lost the key for the hotel! So the festival had to pay for another hotel, which caused some trouble. But all along, the key was actually in our backpack…” So, it’s a party atmosphere? “Of course, it is!” But he hastens to add it’s not all rock ’n’ roll insanity. “We’re not the rowdy guys smashing stuff! We’re mainly just drinking, we just listen to music and talk shit, and when we’re at home I like to walk my dog and drink white wine to chill out.”
Tony is rightly proud of Deathrite’s achievements to date and loves to share their success with their fans. “If I regret something I won’t do it anymore!” He loves to tour and agrees that Deathrite are a dish best sampled live. “Being on the road all the time is our thing. We’ve played some great festivals, Summer Breeze for example, is one of the biggest we’ve ever played.” And yet smaller venues are a particular favourite, including a couple of all-too familiar, iconic London haunts of the Dark Matter team. “We’ve played twice before in London, at the Unicorn and the Black Heart. We already visited the Black Heart on our day off after the show in Manchester the day before.”
Deathrite are full of enthusiasm for their future endeavours, and keen to jump back in after the current tour is done. “We’re doing a show in our home town at the end of December, then having a break, then a Spring tour across Europe. And we have plans for another tour next year in April on our own, playing smaller pubs and venues.” And fans can expect more of the same energetic fervour and forthright, no-nonsense dedication to their craft. “We’re not fancy. We just go on stage, go for it, rip it, as hard as we can.” And on that note, Tony dived back into the depths of the venue, all fired up for the approaching show.
'Nightmares Reign' is out now on Century Media