**This interview was done for the now-defunct UK based Molten Magazine. I found this interview kind of important because I had never really cared much about this band, but the editor of Molten asked me if I’d be interested and I jumped at the chance. As it turned out, this dude gave some pretty great answers and I was very happy.**
Unfortunately, the life cycle of your average metal band these days is not very long. In order to get started and sustain a career, it requires an incredible amount of perseverance and patience. One band that is a glowing example of what can happen with enough hard work and perseverance is Kenosha, WI’s Jungle Rot. Jungle Rot has been around for closed to 20 years and released eight full length albums, yet it seems that due to their signing with Victory Records, they are just now beginning to pick up steam and reach their full potential. I got the opportunity to chat with founding member Dave Matrise recently and we discussed his introduction to extreme metal, the band’s legacy and their new album Terror Regime, which is out now on Victory Records.
Wisconsin isn’t a state that’s necessarily known for its metal scene. How were you initially introduced to extreme metal and what bands did you first get into?
I grew up in between Chicago and Milwaukee, on the border of Wisconsin and Illinois, both of these big cities bring in all the major touring acts. I first found the underground scene in my home town of Kenosha, Wisconsin. Kenosha was a stop in between IL and WI in the 80`s for all the punk bands that started the underground movement. I would see bands like Dead Kennedy’s, Lost Cause, UK Subs and many more. That was my first intro to the punk and metal underground scene. I started to get more into the underground, I found out about European metal bands like Sodom, Destruction, Venom, and Celtic Frost. These bands were the ones that made me go out and buy a guitar and to start a band up. Shortly after, I discovered Slayer and I remember going to my local record store and buying the cassette tape Show No Mercy, and I still have it today. It was two months later that Slayer was on tour and coming to Milwaukee on the Ultimate Revenge Tour in ’85 with Venom, Slayer, and Exodus. That was my very first extreme concert. I remember standing in line hearing the people and the chants of open the gates of hell, over, and over. This was the first real satanic death metal tour that took place in the US and it stole a lot of souls when it came through their town, including mine.
When Jungle rot was first created, was it difficult to find other musicians to play with and local shows to play?
Yes, and no. When Jungle Rot started in ’95, there was a big scene around us and we had tons of musicians and bands trying to live the dream. It was easy to find shows because death metal was everywhere in the 90`s. Everyone supported one another and helped each other out. If you needed a hand playing a show or what not, it was out of respect and brotherhood!
When you started this band nearly 20 years ago, did you think that Jungle Rot would still be alive and at the peak of your success this late into the game?
I never thought we would be around this long, only in my dreams. It has been a very long hard fight and I am still very happy with everything that I have achieved in this band to this point. Things are the best they have ever been for us today and it feels good to finally get the respect we’ve been fighting for. Having Victory Records behind us all the way and in our corner, I couldn’t ask for more.
Has there been a point in your career when you were discouraged with the band’s progress and tempted to give up? If so, what inspired you to pull through and keep going to the point you’re at now?
No, I never thought of ever giving it up, there are many ups and downs in music and being in a band. I had my share of member changes and label changes. That’s where most of my fight comes from to keep going forward and stop at nothing kind of attitude. Most of the time when there was a change, it worked itself out for the better or it was a meant to happen sort of thing. There were some slow points in my career but I always managed to keep it alive.
After writing death metal for this many years, do you ever struggle to come up with new lyrics or riffs for albums nowadays? If so, what are some methods you use to overcome writer’s block?
I have written many songs and they do start to blend alike sometimes. When I get ready to write, I will not listen to any other music for the time of my writing. This helps me stay fresh and true to myself. I don’t try and top what’s out there or what’s hot today. I just write for myself and it’s always something that I can do and that I am good at. Most of the time, I can write on the spot. I really think touring a lot can help you by knowing what direction you want to go when you see what songs win them over one by one every night.
What are some of the lyrical themes on your new album Terror Regime?
Jim wrote the lyrics on the new Terror Regime CD and did a killer job. Jim always has something to say about what is happening in the world today and with politics as well. Some of my favorites would be “Voice Your Disgust”, “Terror Regime”, and “Ruthless Omnipotence”. They all have a powerful statement to make that everyone should stand up for what’s right and not to believe the lies we are forced to hear from our government’s regime.
Would you say that your lyrics have become more politically-oriented over the years due to the country’s political climate or have those elements always sort of been in your songs?
Yes, I would say Jim never writes your typical war/gore lyrics. Years ago on the earlier releases, we wrote a lot of hate, kill, torture, and negative lyrics and we just didn’t want to keep singing shit that made no sense… Jim is a smart guy that knows what’s going on in the world, he has a very big imagination, and doesn’t like what he sees, he gets it out with his writing.
Terror Regime, like each of your previous albums, was recorded with Chris Wisco. What is it about Chris’s production that has kept you coming back to record Jungle Rot albums with him?
Chris has always been a very good friend of mine and we started out in music around the same time. He was a member of Jungle Rot from 2001 to 2005 helping us out on the bass by filling in for recordings and shows. I still consider Chris like the 5th of member of the band. He knows just what I am looking for and what Jungle Rot is all about. He is a very talent person and I like to call him a multi-talented weapon. That’s something you want in your corner.
Being on a bigger label like Victory, did you change up your songwriting process for Kill On Command and Terror Regime from the way things were done on previous records?
Not at all. I’ve read that and I have no idea why people think that we changed our writing for our label. We had Kill On Command written before we signed to Victory. The only thing I had on my mind when writing the Terror CD is I knew that Victory was going to be 100% behind this, and I didn’t want to let them down. This was our chance to step it up. That helped with a big part in my writing this time.
Now that you’re on a label like Victory, it seems that you’re releasing your best material and bringing in a much larger fanbase than you had previously. Is it a bittersweet feeling to achieve your biggest success later in your career, or would you say that the work you’ve put into this band has made it even more rewarding?
Yes, we finally have won some people over and we are starting to have a very large fan base these days. I never looked at it as a bitter sweet feeling. Jungle Rot has always been one of the biggest things in my life and each tour or recording we put out is something I cherish very much. We release our 8th studio CD this year and that’s the biggest accomplishment of all. But yes it does feel good now and everything is what I always wanted it to be.
How much longer do you see yourself creatively inspired enough to keep touring and writing albums in Jungle Rot?
That’s something I think about every day. I feel I really hit my stride on writing and with the band itself. I think someday the music industry will suck the fun and life out of me before I give up the love and passion of playing live. I’ll play until I lose the feeling of not wanting to fight any more.
What are some goals that you’d still like to achieve with Jungle Rot?
There are many things I would still like to achieve. Playing some of the bigger festivals in Europe, like Wacken and Summer Breeze just to name a few. Tour South America, because I hear nothing but good things from other bands when they play there. I would like to play as many different countries as I can, because that is a very special thing that stays with you forever. Playing for a different country tops it all, it takes you back to some of your earlier dreams and goals you made to yourself. It also proves you’re doing something right.