Interview: Dean of The Infernal Sea
Interviewed by Paul Hutchings
UK black metal outfit The Infernal Sea have been at the forefront of the UK black metal scene for the past few years. Their latest album, Negotium Crucis is released on 18th September and is a brutally impressive record. Paul caught up with Frontman Dean Lettice for a chat.
The Razor's Edge: Welcome to the Razor’s Edge and thank you for talking to us. How are you in general? How are things?
Dean: Yeah good, just been keeping busy, so that's the main thing, isn't it?
The Razor's Edge: Yes, I think so. I was thinking that your previous album ‘The Great Mortality’ would have been perfect for release about now in these strange times. How has the C-19 situation impacted on The Infernal Sea?
Dean: Well, obviously it's impacted on shows so. We did have a few tours booked and then some like headline shows that have been cancelled, but luckily most of them have been rescheduled for next year. It did delay the album slightly, but in a way that has been to our advantage. It's kind of good in some way because you've got a captive audience now because everybody's online. For us it’s worked well to release the album during this pandemic and have the campaign to focus on. But yeah, we're just obviously unable to play any shows, and nobody really knows when that's gonna resume.
The Razor's Edge: You mentioned the new album, which is the the key reason for the interview, and we'll come onto that in a little minute. I'm assuming that obviously this isn't the result of a short period of work you've been working on this album for some time, but you mentioned that you delayed it a little bit. Was most of the recording already done or did you have anything left to do when the lockdown came?
Dean: No, so everything was recorded last year, and it was primed for release. We delayed it because we were unsure whether factories would still be producing where anybody could still distribute the album. You know, we were uncertain with what was going on in the world. We postponed it by a couple of months until we realised some places were still open, but they were reduced to skeleton crews. We just kind of got everything in motion. Then the only thing it did hinder us with was music videos. We were in the process of filming a couple of videos when locked down here. So, one of them is still kind of unfinished and that's something that we'll have to just put on the back burner and hopefully use it for something else at some point. But yeah, it was just music videos that we were forced to stop making them for a while.
The Razor's Edge: Which is ironic given your outfits! You are probably better place to go around without any kind of social distancing problems!!
Dean: Haha! No definitely. If you get pulled over by the police during the lockdown, at least if we are wearing that, we can't say that we're not being sensible!
The Razor's Edge: Absolutely. So, the album itself. I've had the privilege of of listening to it for a couple of weeks now. It is a a fabulously ferocious and immensely enjoyable record. You've taken a profoundly serious subject to explore, as you always do, in the Knights Templar. It's quite a challenging subject. Are you never tempted to write about Wizards and Dragons? Or do you always look for more interesting stuff?
Dean: It’s always fun writing about Wizards and Dragons, but I can imagine that's best left to Manowar and Ronnie James Dio! We've kind of had this theme since the beginning about the sadistic nature of mankind, and we feel that it's quite fit into the music, and also, if you explore history. You can see how sadistic and horrible humanity is. It just lends itself really well. Humans have committed some horrible atrocities throughout the ages, and I and we feel that you know, people should know about these. And it's like I said it's it's just a really interesting subject to sing about.
The Razor's Edge: Do you find when you've written such a lot of detail about a period back in time that you get people coming to you and and saying thanks for opening my eyes. I've gone and researched that, or I looked it up on the Internet and I've now learned a bit about history. Does that impact?
Dean: Yeah it does a little bit. I mean you know you, you do get a few people who are history buffs and they'll message you and start chatting about it and other people just find the subject quite interesting. So hopefully it does open their eyes and you know make them research it really, that's that's the aim. If if people are gonna investigate it, then great, but it's also just kind of an awareness as well. There's a parallel to nowadays, you know. Ashamedly we haven't really learned from a lot of stuff. We keep repeating the same mistakes and you know that's some of the stuff that humans have done is quite disgusting to be honest. So yeah, it's you can see the parallels and how we just, we kind of do evolve, but we don't evolve if that makes sense.
The Razor's Edge: Yeah, absolutely. I was watching the lyric video to ‘Befallen Order’ and you could just see the echoes in society today with all the stuff that's going on. I mean I I sure it's the same across the world, but this country, is in such a state of internal combustion. If you listen to a lot of albums and metal albums at the moment and you think God, they're just talking about now when actually you're talking about 800 a thousand years ago, aren't you?
Dean: Yeah, scary really isn't it.
The Razor's Edge: Obviously, I mean the subject matters is is quite gruesome and stuff. You are very articulate and extremely interested in the subject matter. Do you feel you have a role as an artist to bring It out to people's attention, or is it just you doing it because that's the music you want to make?
Dean: It's more just for ourselves. I'm really interested in historical aspects anyway. And as you said, you know, I don't particularly want to be singing about fantasy related stuff because, you know, that's not really us. That's that's something I'm into as a lot of people are, but I just don't feel that it lends itself well to the infernal sea.
The Razor's Edge: Do the to the whole band share the interests?
Dean: Yeah, kind of. It's mainly me because I I've write the lyrics, but the other guys will go along with it and they're they're interested but not as interested as I am really. I mean I, I studied history in school, and for A levels if anyone remembers A levels. I've just had that that keen interest in it since I was young really.
The Razor's Edge: You're on a promotional campaign that's been running a few weeks now and is going to come to climax in less than a fortnight now isn't a week Friday. I think the albums out isn't it?
Dean: Yeah, it comes out on the 18th September. The campaign runs slightly beyond that. It’s been going for a good few month now which is good.
The Razor's Edge: I follow your Facebook page and you’ve had a lot of very good reviews already that you've been publishing on your site. Are you happy that you're at the stage of the campaign that you're getting such good reviews? Is it coming all at the right time? Is it coming together as as a as a program?
Dean: Definitely. You need the reviews to come in, because then it gives some kudos to the album and it gives the buyers another glimpse into what you know is potentially coming out. So, it kind of gets them excited. And obviously that helps to generate a few more sales once they read it, because obviously if you get one out of 10, then people are gonna be like, “well, I'm not buying that”. But if you are getting good reviews then you know it spurs people on to sort of share it and talk about it and even pick up the album. So yeah, these reviews coming out now is good timing for us, really.
The Razor's Edge: Your social media pages are pretty active and has been for a number of years now, but obviously you pick up the pace naturally when you've got an album coming out. Is that something that you as a band all do or are you responsible for it? Or is it the the label? How does the social media work?
Dean: It's a bit of a mixture, it's it's. It's mainly comes from us, but we're just we've we've always been on the social media because you need social media to survive as a band. Unfortunately, yeah, you know. Especially today, like the way that you promote music. Otherwise you'll just disappear in obscurity, you know, so it's something we're very active and very aware of. But yeah, it's mainly from all of us. We all are involved in it.
The Razor's Edge: Are you have an age where it comes naturally or do you have to work at it a little bit like some of the some of the older bands I've spoken to said, “well, I've gotta do it. But you know, it's it's a bit of a challenge sometimes”. Looking at your page, you put a lot of craft into it.
Dean: It's quite natural for us. I mean, you know we we come from the age where it was promoting with flyers and posters around your local town and all your local shows. And you know, even going to a show in London or wherever you'd go to see other bands and you'd always hand out flyers for your demos and CD's and your old bands and then got into that whole Myspace age. Then obviously moving into Facebook and Instagram and YouTube and stuff. I've seen it evolve over the years and you must roll with the punches. We don't struggle with it. You need it as a promotional tool and it's it's about using it to your best ability to help push you. The only downside now is the Facebook limit. Obviously, they want you to pay to use their platform, so they put caps on your region. You know certain algorithms and stuff, but you just gotta figure out how to get around it. Yeah, you know there's way.
The Razor's Edge: That’s interesting and it's something that I know a lot of people that are finding with with with Facebook. As a band, your merchandise is starting to expand and you've got a wider range of products now, such as coloured vinyl and the cassette coming out. And I think you sold out of all the cassettes.
Dean: Yes, the cassettes are sold out now.
The Razor's Edge: That’s incredible when you think about the value of a cassette 10 years ago or whatever. How much involvement do you guys have in the in the merchandise? Are you the main drivers behind it?
Dean: Yeah, it's 100% us. Yeah, we have full control control over all of our merchandise, so everything you see comes from us, and that it will always remain that way as well, we are not going to give up our merchandise rights. It's something very important to us. The whole aesthetic of the way the band comes across with the merchandise and with the look and just across all the social media, it's is important that it looks right to us. Yeah, you know the the music is our art and we want to make sure that visually we capture, you know, the essence of The Infernal Sea as well.
The Razor's Edge: And I think certainly metal music fans are very keen to have physical stuff still. We are obviously in the digital age and a lot of our music comes through the phone but clearly the demand for cassettes would suggest that people are still wanting the physical stuff.
Dean: Definitely. Metalheads are collectors and they I think we always will be. I think it's one of the forms of music where you can put out vinyl and cassettes. And I mean I've even seen someone doing mini disc formats, which is crazy, you know, but will buy them because we're collectors and we want to support the bands we you know. Metalheads are dedicated, just great. And they always have been, you know. A lot of other movements come and go and it’s just all digital. I mean, I can't get into digital myself. I'm not really a fan of it, but I understand how important it is, it's just it's just not for me and I don't know if that's just because I'm of the older generation, but I'm a record collector myself, so I would personally rather own the physical format and support the bands.
The Razor's Edge: Do you think things are going to change? At the moment it seems like when we suddenly flip into 2021 all of a sudden people seem to think that all the ills will be cured, and I just can't see that. Can you?
Dean: It’s hard to say but the thing is, I guess if we don't buy the tickets then all these venues and the promotion companies and the promoters, they're just all gonna go under because haven't got that support. And yeah, if everyone just backs off then we're just gonna kill the grassroots venues, which is problematic, isn't it? But Yeah, at the same point, you don't want to be booking hotels and flights for festivals for them to get cancelled because you lose your money. So yeah, it's a big risk really.
The Razor's Edge: It was interesting watching the discussion with Gav from Damnation recently and you obviously have an affinity with them having played their last year, didn't you?
Dean: Yes, we did.
The Razor's Edge: And how long he agonised for before actually closing this year's event and rolling it to next year so?
Dean: Yeah, exactly, and you know for them to do that it must be big. You know it's they got away out the financial loss and how many bands won't be able to come over. And what happens if they go ahead with it and say for example the headliners country goes into lockdown and they're not coming over then it becomes very difficult and also you can't put the public's health at risk because that's going to bring a lot of flack towards any promoter, isn't it? Insurance claims and God knows what, but so there's a lot. A lot going on that we obviously are not aware of and don't know about. And it's yeah, it's devastating decisions for these. For these people to do that, but it's the most sensible thing that anyone can do now, isn't it? Because you know, we don't? We don't know, we don't know this is brand new to us.
The Razor's Edge: Let's talk a little bit about the sound that you have because you're not, and I'm gonna be careful here. You not as traditional black metal as maybe some bands are. I know the term black and roll, which I think you've quite kind of embraced and I can see exactly where that comes from when you listen to your band. Is that how you see it and is there a definition that you would give to the the band's music?
Dean: Definitely, I would say that we are predominately black and roll. I mean, we've we've kind of always said that, first and foremost, we're a rock and roll band that plays black metal. So, you know, we throw in that that rock element into the black metal makeup to you know to create what we do, but we all come from different backgrounds musically, so we just bring that all them influences into a pot and you know, and that's what comes out at the end of it. But yeah, we feel like we fit within the black and roll movement because of the rockier aspect to our music.
The Razor's Edge: When you were getting into music yourself, what were the formative bands that got you into to metal and and then moved you onto the to the heavier stuff? What was the stuff that you listen to that you maybe you that you still listen to?
Dean: I was kind of brought up around a punk background and an old school rock background.
My mom was into punk. My dad was into the rock. My uncle was into sort of like the sort of heavier rock, so I remember the first-time hearing Iron Maiden and Guns n’ Roses. And then there was the likes of Rainbow, Deep Purple, all the classics, and then Pistols and The Stranglers, Buzzcocks and Sham 69 and all that sort of stuff. And it was then, as you start to get a little bit older, I got into like Nirvana and Pearl Jam and then discovered bands like Sepultura, Morbid Angel and Slayer and then got onto that heavier aspect where I went into like Fear Factory and Nail Bomb etc. And that opened my eyes to everything, and I explored as much as I could, So, I started going I into grindcore, goregrind and then it was all into black metal, death metal, it literally opened my tastes up. You know, you just you end up liking what you like mid 90s yeah sound and that was my formative years really. It got me onto the path and then I just started to seek harder and heavier stuff you know. . And to be honest, a lot of that stuff that I grew up listening to is still within my top ten top 20. You know, albums and bands ever? Yeah, I still I still go back to ‘And Justice For All’. I still go back to Arise’. I still go back to ‘Demanufacture’ because they they're killer albums, you know?
The Razor's Edge: As a band The Infernal Sea are now into your second decade and an established and important part of the UK black metal scene. Do you have a view on the scene in terms of black metal? Do you have a view on how healthy the scene is? Do you feel part of of the black metal scene?
Dean: Definitely. We are very much a part of the same. You know, we've we've got a lot of links to a lot of the bands. A lot of them are our friends. We play with a lot of the bands. We don't snub anybody. We don't kind of exclude ourselves from everything we, you know, we we play as much as we can and will play with, you know, as many bands as we can. The scene is very healthy, and it's got healthier in the past five years or so. There's an absolute wealth of bands out there that are just, you know, phenomenal and. And the great thing about the UK scene is that most of the bands are very individual like no one really sounds the same. Which is great, and like I say in the past five years, you've just got more and more bands like supporting the scene and helping each other. And it's it feels like because it's because black metal is quite underground. It's got a very sort of DIY aesthetic to it. You know, everybody's helping each other. Everyone runs labels. Everyone's putting on shows. I think that's how you keep a scene healthy. I implore everybody to check out the UK bands now because there's a great wealth of talent out there.
The Razor's Edge: Did you have a launch planned for the album?
Dean: We were looking at booking two weeks or so in September, so we're going to tour the UK to support the album and in the middle of booking it just before the lock down, we came to realisation that this wasn't gonna go away anyway anytime soon. So, we just decided to just knock it on the head and leave it really, and will just pick up next year as and when you know, shows can happen again. We're kind of in the mindset that we don't really want to go ahead and book loads of shows in the hope that they happen, because there's a lot of work that goes behind booking shows for it to all just be thrown away again, you know, come March, April may, whenever. You know nobody knows when shows return, which is somewhat worrying, so we'll just wait.
We also kind of feel that with venues not having any shows for a year, they're not really gonna be looking to put on underground shows, or smaller shows. They're going to be into bands that pull in big money to help kind of get out of this financial crisis. Promoters are not going to obviously be as risky or as prolific with their shows, I imagine. It's gonna be very interesting next year for shows.
The Razor's Edge: I agree. Just before we finish, I know you've been asked a million times and I apologise for this, but obviously the merchandise with the tea that you do is obviously a nice little side-line in terms of variation away from the band that do beer or coffee. I don't really want to know why you've done it, but I want to know are you all big tea drinkers in the band?
Dean: Well, yeah, of course we're English, so you know we love our tea. But to be honest it was just a crazy idea that we went with and we loved it. You know, like as you say, everyone's doing beer and wines and coffees and stuff. And no one's done tea. It lends itself perfectly because all the brews have been concocted are medieval, sort of remedies for illnesses like for the stomach and stuff like that. So, it just kind of worked with the theme and it was just a novel idea that we thought let's go for it. Let's run with it and it's been very well received, which is great.
The Razor's Edge: Great so with that in mind, now that I know that you're a tea drinker, I've got six quick fire questions around tea. If you would be so kind.
1. What's your favourite tea?
Dean: I'm a green tea fan.
2. Excellent. Question two may not apply if you're having green tea, but do you have a favourite biscuit that goes with your tea?
Dean: That's a difficult one because there's a lot of good biscuits, but a custard cream must be at the forefront, I think.
3. If you do have a a Cup of Earl Grey or builders or something that requires milk, are you a milk, first or second?
Dean: I'm a no milk man. I like my tea black.
4. Are you a tea bag man or a loose-leaf fan?
Dean: I have teabags because I find loose leaf can be a bit of a pain in the arse, but I do drink it. I wouldn't turn my nose up at it, I just don't buy it because I'm too lazy.
5. OK, great. Do you prefer to have a pot of tea on the go or just a mug when you want one?
Dean: It's usually just a mug. A pot is very posh, isn't it?
6. The final tea question, how many cups of tea a day on average?
Dean: I used to drink a lot, but nowadays you know what? I'm probably just a one or two cups a day. I don't drink as much these days.
The Razor's Edge: Thank you for indulging me! It's been a pleasure to chat, Dean. I want finally to give you the opportunity to spread the word and give a little plug to the album and anything else that you'd you'd like to put out there as a as a shout for The Infernal Sea and the new album.
Dean: OK so yeah, just check out The Infernal Sea on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. check out the videos and audio and ‘Netgotium Crucis’ and pick up the album if you like what you hear