Good to see you guys return with your third album and I'm pleased to finally do an interview with you guys. Was it easy to come up with material for 'Devouring Mortality'?
Johnny: The writing process for our newest album was actually a bit of a lengthy process. Chris had been writing riffs since the release of ‘Condemned To Misery’ and when I joined the band around April of last year he had a about four or five songs already pieced together for the new album. We spent the next five months working four days a week every week on getting the album together. We all went through a lot in the process of putting it together too and I think it’s safe to say we all went a little crazy while we were writing just about every day and dedicating all of our attention to it, haha. But it's something that the guys and I are extremely proud of and it's been great to hear the amount of positive feedback we've received so far. We really feel like it's a big step up from the previous releases and I'm sure everyone in the band can agree that we all really pushed ourselves as hard as we could. Especially when it was time to track the album with John at Trench Studios in Corona California. He is so professional and so relaxed all at the same time. He told us when he felt a take could be better and didn't cut any corners with us, which Chris and I really liked. I feel like the environment in general was perfect for what we were creating. We definitely had some stressful moments in the process but John stuck it out with us and really helped us achieve getting a recording that we all were really proud of.
This album is the first release for Century Media after two albums on F.D.A. Records. How did this label change come together? Were you guys free agents? While we're at it, how did the construction come together where CM does the worldwide release whereas Dark Descent Records handles the album for US territory?
Chris: So we had been in contact with Century Media Records for some time now. We first met them on our first European tour after playing Party San festival. They were all there and we met them and had some drinks together. It was really cool and ever since then we have kept contact and they would come out to our shows in Europe and hang out. There was always talk about possibly working together but being on a contract with our first label F.D.A. Records it was not possible. So once the contract finished we brought up the idea again and that’s how it happened. As for Dark Descent; we have been huge fans of what they have released in the past couple years. Some of the best death metal coming out these days is on that label. So, we had the opportunity of meeting Matt Calvert at Maryland Deathfest and had a talk with him there and let him know what we were looking for and he liked our performance so that’s how that happened.
If I'm correct this is the first album that involves Dan Swanö doing the mix. How did you hook up with him and was it easy to work with him since you don't exactly live close together? In other words, did you talk about your preferences about the mix beforehand or did you trust his skills?
Johnny: Working with Swanö is something we've all wanted to do since we were young kids getting into death metal. The man has a stellar track record and you'd be nuts to not want to work with him. We gave him a general idea of how we wanted things to sound as well as giving him a few reference albums to give him a better idea. Once things were tracked he would send Chris and I samples of the alterations he had made thus far and we'd go from there. I wasn't exactly sure how things would go considering we're so far apart but he actually worked very closely with us and made sure we were getting the product we desired. It was a quick process though, which made us all happy because Dan was really taking his time on everything and making sure that everything went how we envisioned it. He initially sent us a couple of sample mixes and once Chris and I had something we were happy with, we moved forward from there. The coolest part was any time he sent us something new, it was even better than the last. That's one of my favorite things about recording in general though. Just watching the evolution of your production. Except this time it was Dan fucking Swanö working his magic for us! Haha!
What about the drummer position in the band? What's up with that? Johnny Valles recorded the drums on 'Devouring Mortality', but is he now also an actual member? Or have you got someone else for live performances?
Chris: Yes, Johnny is a full time member. He had some personal things going on after the album was recorded so had to step out for a bit. Our good friend Carlos Cruz stepped in and helped with some of the live shows we had booked at the time and with the music video but Johnny is coming back in now and he will be staying for good.
I think there are various formats of the album, but I think the only edition featuring a bonus track is the digipack edition on Century Media. You decided upon a cover of Cancer's 'Hung, Drawn And Quartered'. Can you explain why you chose this song?
Johnny: Yes! Between the two labels our new album is being put on just about every format imaginable. Being a collector it's hard to not want one of each for myself! Haha! But we're obviously big fans of old school death metal. We felt like it was a given to pay homage to a band that is really special to us, as well as one of our favorite songs by the band. I mean, as far as I know the band has always played covers live. They actually recorded an Asphyx cover that recently ended up on a special edition re-release of ‘The Rack’. They've also been known for doing Pestilence and Gorguts covers. The Cancer cover is something the guys had been doing before I even started playing with them but needless to say I was really excited to get to play this song with them, haha. We wanted to throw something special in with the new record and figured adding a cover from a band we have a great deal of respect for would be the perfect way. We're an old school death metal band so we might as well have a little fun and jam out some of the songs that got us playing this music in the first place!
Besides the Cancer cover you have covered songs of Pestilence and Gorguts in the past too. I think the choice of songs perfectly shows what bands influenced you. Death seems to be a huge inspiration too. So, I was wondering if you consider bands that released albums in, say, 1988 to 1992 as your main influences? Tell us a bit more about bands and albums that make you tick.
Johnny: We were all actually talking about this yesterday! Haha! Like I said in your previous question, we're all huge fans of old school death metal. All kinds! We just so happen to teeter more on the Floridian side of things. For me personally, that brand of death metal was some of the first death metal that I had ever heard. So getting to play this style and getting compared to bands that we all grew up loving is a pretty amazing thing for all of us. But it's obviously not just Florida that we're influenced by. We're huge Cannibal Corpse and Suffocation fans, we love all that old Swedish shit (my personal favorite. Punks make the best death metal!), old Finnish stuff like Demigod or Demilich. Or Wombbath and from everywhere else that death metal exists. I like to think that on this new album we pull a little influence from every direction and I'm hoping that some of the diehard death metal fans pick up on that.
It seems there's a healthy interest in 'classic' death metal these days. There are of course still the technical and brutal bands as well as the bands with a more cavernous sound, but you see more and more bands popping up in that classic style. Sentient Horror or Horrendous are names that pop up. Do you see there's more interest in this style and do you feel any affiliation with similar bands as Skeletal Remains?
Johnny: In my opinion old school death metal is truly the purest form. There are lots of bands currently bringing back the old school style and I absolutely fucking love it. And it's not just one particular style either, which makes thing even more interesting. Our good friends Necrot from Oakland California are a great example! They play a truly old school yet fresh sounding brand of death metal that is taking the metal underground by storm right now. They even got to tour with Suffocation last year which is one of the sickest things we've ever seen any of our friends do. Haha There are a handful of new bands that stand out to me personally so I'll try and name a few for you: Carnation, Acephalix, Church of Disgust, Crematory Stench, Torture Rack, Fetid, Mortiferum, Tomb Mold, Regurgutated Guts and Imprecation are in constant rotation with me. This modern day death metal resurgence is extremely promising and it's keeping people away from that awful deathcore bullshit that there's somehow still a market for. If hundreds of kids are out there trying to sound like Incantation instead of some commercial overhyped garbage then I'm all for it and give them nothing but my total undying support. Haha!
You've been in Europe before and I was wondering if there are already plans to do another tour to promote 'Devouring Mortality'? Any other things I might have forgot to ask?
Johnny: We're actually getting ready to tour Europe for three weeks starting on May 5th! This will be my first time ever going to Europe with these guys so I'm extremely excited to say the least. We're playing a lot of stuff of the new record and I'm really excited to see what people think. I really feel like the band is at its best right now and I couldn't be any more hopeful for the future of Skeletal Remains. This band has gone through so much in its rather short existence and I'm just happy to have been able to be along for the ride and record an album with these guys. ‘Devouring Mortality’ is something that we worked really hard to put out for you guys and we're excited to see everyone while we're back on the road for 2018 and the years to come. Cheers and thank you for your time!