The band was formed in November 2005 by you, vocalist Craig Land and guitarist Roman Subbotin. How did you get to know each other and how did you finally decide to form a band together?
I had a death metal band called Malignant Saviour back in South Africa, which existed from 1993-1997. The guitarist emigrated to the UK and over time with me moving over too, and finally finding ourselves living in the same city, we decided to reform the band. We had one rehearsal, and I started looking for musicians to complete the line-up. The plan fell apart but I decided to start something new. Roman (guitars) answered an advert I'd placed on the internet and we decided that we would start something completely new. I brought a drummer friend and Roman brought another guitarist, and we found a bassist from Oxford, which completed the first De Profundis line up.
Did you have experience in other bands before and what can we see as your influences when forming De Profundis? What were the musical maps spread out on the table when starting?
Yes, we have all played in bands before, covering most genres of metal, from death and thrash, to power metal, rock and covers bands. Initially De Profundis was going to be an extreme doom band. I even took the name from one of my favourite songs in this style, by Abruptum. However, even from the very early days, we were never particularly doomy. I did try to push that style though, probably to our detriment as one can hear that the constraints have been lifted when you compare the first album to the second one.
The first album 'Beyond Redemption' was a self-release, but it was welcomed with rave reviews by the metal crowd, isn't it?
It was. We had some interest from labels, but thought the offers weren't good enough, so we just did everything ourselves. We were quite surprised by the number of good reviews, but we had worked hard and were very proud of the album, so were thrilled that people seemed to like it so much. It's just a pity that very few people got to hear it due to the lack of decent distribution.
You really achieved a lot since your first album in 2007! When I got that package it already leaped to my eye that you put many efforts in all kinds of details, not only the great music, but also presentation and things like that. I think your perfect planned do-it-yourself attitude worked well…
Thank you. Like I said, we worked very hard and everything we did was paid for by ourselves, so we were determined to do everything to the best of our abilities. We had worked completely under the radar prior to the release of the debut album in August '07. We didn't bother with a demo and refused to play live until we had an album out, so it seems like we have achieved a lot in a short time, but it's not true as a lot of the ground work was laid before anyone knew we existed.
De Profundis hails from London, but I found out that you are all born in different countries. Can you tell something more about the native roots of every member (or at least the permanent ones)?
The current line-up features two Englishmen, our rhythm section with Nick on drums and Arran on bass. Roman was born in Russia but has lived in the UK for half his life. Shoi is French and I am from South Africa, although I am now a British citizen. At one point we didn't have any British members! I guess in a huge multicultural city like London, it's not too much of a surprise. Metal is a globally recognised sub-culture, so regardless of where you're from, metalheads tend to gravitate towards each other and share similar viewpoints.
I guess one of the first highlights was the respect from Terrorizer, voting you to sixth best unsigned band in 2007. What did you feel when that happened?
We were incredibly surprised. 'Beyond Redemption' had only come out in the August, and wasn't readily available in the shops. We only started playing live once the album was out, and probably only managed to do less than ten shows before the end of the year, so it's a bit of a mystery how enough people to vote us into 6th place had even heard of us.
I think your first gig abroad was in Athens, Greece. What about this experience?
That's right – we played the March Metal Day in 2008, alongside bands like Sodom, Annihilator, Nevermore and Nightwish. We were the first band on and were also the heaviest band on the bill, but we went down very well. We were still quite inexperienced on stage, but we learned a hell of a lot about our craft from that one gig. We were very well looked after, stayed in a nice hotel and got to see a lot of Athens as tourists too, which was great. We always try to see as much as we can when abroad, although it isn't always easy.
A UK tour with Misanthrope had some good results, isn't it (Holy Records, current producer?) Please tell us about that?
Actually, it wasn't a proper tour, just two dates – in London and Dudley. Pantheist also played with us at these dates, so it was quite an eclectic bill. But promotion was poor, so the attendances were lower than we would have liked. Still, all we got along very well and had a good time regardless. The UK can be a very difficult place to conquer, and with Misanthrope singing in French, they were always going to struggle, regardless of the quality of their music.
An unsigned band in India! That must have been a kick! How did you manage to do that and tell me about your visit to that country and the gig itself?
Yes, it was pretty unbelievable when we found out we'd got that gig, not only because it was in India, but because we would be playing with Iron Maiden! It was the Rock In India show, in Bangalore, in February 2009. It was very stressful leading up to the gig because I had some passport complications and at one stage we thought it may not happen, or at least we would have to get a deputy to do vocals for the tour. Luckily the Indian High Commission managed to sort something out for me. We found out about the gig quite early, and approached the promoters, who liked us enough to accept us on the bill. We all struggled a bit with the heat, and jetlag as we were only in India for four days. We didn't get to see very much due to promotional commitments, but what we did see was fascinating and we are all looking forward to returning to hopefully see a bit more of the country. The gig itself was a bit of a nightmare. The equipment was poor and the stage hands were useless. We couldn't hear anything on stage, but luckily we were so well rehearsed that that didn't impact on us too negatively. On the plus side, the crowd was huge and went absolutely crazy for us, even moshing during the quiet sections. It's still the biggest crowd we have played to so far, being about 15 000 when we played. Despite our misgivings, we impressed Sony India enough for them to want to release both albums over there.
When did the writing process for the new album start and who were the main composers?
We started coming up with ideas for the new album in early 2008, but had to replace our drummer in the middle of that year. Nick is a far superior drummer and we were really able to experiment and play what we wanted to. Arran only joined De Profundis one month prior to going into the studio to record 'A Bleak Reflection', but he made a huge impact, and while the arrangements didn't change much in that time, the bass lines were all rewritten. Our way of writing has always been the same. We don't have a main composer, and all our songs are credited equally within the band. Usually Roman or Shoi will have some ideas, but we jam on them in the rehearsal studio and amend them or change them completely until we are satisfied. We all have an equal say on this. I write the lyrics.
I think you even improved in the structural flair on lengthy songs, blending doom, death, black and progressive influences! But what are the biggest differences between the first record and 'A Bleak Reflection' in your opinion?
I think there is a huge difference between the first and second album. However I still think you can hear it's the same band, which we are happy with as it means we have already established a signature sound for ourselves. The biggest difference is that the rhythm section is different, which opened up so many possibilities for us. We discovered a new found freedom to write and play music that was more complex yet that flowed better and covered more styles. And now with Arran fully involved in the song writing for the next album, it is definitely going to be even more progressive.
Was the recording process very different to former ones?
Yeah. With the debut, we didn't really have a clue of what we were doing. We recorded at Warehouse Studios with Steve Watkins, who is incidentally our live sound man. We paid for the recording and mixing ourselves, so we had strict deadlines based on what we could afford. It was a valuable experience and we learned a lot about the processes involved. By the time we were ready to record 'A Bleak Reflection' we were confident enough to do it our own way. We got Fernando Pereira Lopes to come over with his mobile studio and recorded most of it at Shoi's home studio. This was far more comfortable and relaxing, and I think you can tell by the results. We mixed it at Parlour Studios and Tim Turan mastered it once again. We will probably use this method again as it seemed to really work for us.
Is there a concept in your lyrics? Can you tell something more about the lyrics?
I don't set out to write concept albums, but once the lyrics are all written there is always a common thread which ties them together lyrically. I got about half way through the lyrics for 'A Bleak Reflection' when I realised there was a concept there and I built on that. The lyrics basically tell the story of a man who is just sick of living in a world that he doesn't feel anything towards. He slowly becomes more withdrawn and disillusioned until he takes his own life.
Performances in Romania and Portugal were next. Any fine memories on those events?
We were supposed to play a big festival in Romania, but the organiser basically didn't know what he was doing and it ended up being cancelled at the last minute. We had our tickets to go anyway, so we did. We arranged a gig in Bucharest in a couple of days, and a local promoter added us as the last band on the bill. We came on stage around midnight, on a Sunday, to a packed house, and played a full headlining set that went down very well. We had a great time. Portugal was less successful. We played a festival in the middle of the afternoon. It was ridiculously hot, and nobody dared venture away from their tents, so the crowd for us was very small. It's a pity as we would have been appreciated by the Portuguese fans judging by their reaction to the other heavier bands on the bill.
In November 2009 you signed a deal with Kolony Records. How does it work with your former distribution deals then? What do you expect from a label these days?
Our previous distributors dealt with us on a consignment basis. We never had exclusive contracts with any of them, and as we own all the rights to our music, we have the freedom to do with it what we please. I've never expected much from labels to be honest. I've thought they were unnecessary, especially nowadays, but having done the first album on our own, I now see the value of a good one. Kolony have been brilliant. They are a small label with big aspirations. Although they haven't been around for very long, they are signing some excellent young bands. Lorenzo deals with his artists incredibly professionally, but also in a very friendly way, all the while allowing us complete artistic freedom.
Soon you will embark on a European tour with Ragnarok and Noctem. Can you tell something more about this tour?
Yeah, we have finished the tour now. It was a very short one - just eight shows taking in Austria, Germany, Poland, Belgium and Holland. It was our first tour, so we didn't really know what to expect, but we had a great time. The Ragnarok guys were a lot of fun. We had mixed emotions about the gigs though. Some promoters did absolutely nothing, not even flyers or a poster on the wall, so the turn-out was occasionally worse that we had hoped for. The good nights were very good though, and for us Belgium and Holland were the highlights. We knew that that's where we would have an audience more appreciative of our music, and it turned out as we expected, but we were very happy.
I noticed that three of you are quite permanent members, but there's a struggle in finding the rhythm section. Are you happy with the current members? Anyway, the bass playing (fretless) is amazing!
Everyone that is or has ever been in De Profundis were permanent members. We have just been somewhat unlucky especially with regards to drummers, but Nick has been with us now for nearly two years, and I'd say it's this addition that has enabled De Profundis to really push on and develop to where we have. Arran has been with us for a year already. Aleksej's bass playing was pretty special and quite unique in our style of metal, but Arran has just taken that to a new level. He is the most proficient musician in the band, and we look forward to his contributions at the writing stage for the next album. We are very pleased with the current line-up and hope that it stays unchanged from now on.
There is a guest musician on the album for cello. Can you tell something more about Pippa Mason?
The therapist that Roman and Shoi see for their wrists also works on Pippa Mason. Roman I think, mentioned in passing that we were looking for someone to play cello on the intro, and Pippa was suggested. Roman asked her and she agreed. She ended up doing the outro on 'The Mourner' too, and we are very please how that turned out.
Many English bands are more successful abroad than in their own country, surely with our favourite kind of music. What about De Profundis? Is it a windfall for you or is England too trendy on certain levels?
The UK is notoriously difficult to make an impression, but we are starting to get a name for ourselves through hard work and playing all over the country. There are some really good bands coming out of the UK at the moment, but there are so few places for them to play and the media doesn't support them at all, so it's an uphill struggle. Most of the time a band will be ignored until the media cannot ignore them anymore, then they'll proclaim themselves champions of the band, only to tear them down again as soon as possible. I don't know what it's like in other places with regards to how they view their local bands, but we have had very good responses to our gigs when we have played abroad, probably more than in the UK, except for London, which has been very good to us.
One of the marvellous features of your music is the emotive guitar solos. Which guitarists have put a mark on your music?
I think the obvious ones when it comes to solos would be the likes of Andy La Roque, Chuck Schuldiner, Mikael Akerfeldt, Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, Steve Vai, John Petrucci, Brian May and loads more.
Your music also showcases a more than average complexity and technical abilities. Are there classical trained musicians in the band?
Shoi, Nick and Arran have all had formal training in their instruments, and all three are tutors too. Roman hasn't but is considering it. I haven't and I'm not considering it.
What are your plans and/or wishes for the rest of the year and near future?
There's quite a bit on the horizon. Sony are releasing 'A Bleak Reflection' in India within the next few weeks, and there is serious talks about an Indian tour to support it later in the year. We will also be playing in France and Italy in June, and are looking at another European tour for the end of the year. Perhaps more gigs in Belgium / Holland to go with the one at De Rots in Antwerp in September. We've just started writing the next album, and hope to have that written by early next year, and there has been talk of an EP too, but it is early days.
Thank you very much for this interview. It was fine to meet you at the show in Antwerp!
Thank you Vera. It was cool to meet you and a pleasure doing this interview. Thank you so much for your support.