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"...in 2014 Karl Simon decided to close The Gates Of Slumber. Yet, intriguing news came in 2015...The days of giant spiders and ice worms have come to an end, but Wretch is alive!"

Interview with Wretch.
"The Gates of Slumber was a Doom metal outfit from Indianapolis which achieved it's legendary status through working hard and passionately. It started as Karl Simon's project somewhere about 1998, but the demo 'Sabbath Witch' was already recorded with a first full lineup, though not released until 2002. The Gates of Slumber lineup had several changes in the beginning; in spite of this, Karl always continued his work as the band's mastermind. Bass guitarist Jason McCash and drummer Iron Bob Fouts came to be integral parts of this, enhancing The Gates of Slumber with their skills and experience. Five great full length albums and a dozen smaller releases made the band's name, showing the best of heroic Doom metal. Fantasy tales, stories about Conan and a pair of Lovecraft-inspired songs were a kind of trademark of the band, but fifth album 'The Wretch' (2011) became something new when the band turned away from fantasy concepts and worked over more personal topics. After Jason's death in 2014, Karl decided to close The Gates.... Yet, intriguing news came in 2015 when he made up his mind and announced the birth of his new group, Wretch. It was my duty to get in contact with Karl and ask him about past and future secrets. The days of giant spiders and ice worms have come to an end, but Wretch is alive!"

Wretch's Karl Simon (Guitar, Vocals).

Hi Karl! How are you? What are you doing with Wretch now?

Well, currently we are tightening up songs for our debut album. I'm impatient to get started on that.

Wretch was born after The Gates of Slumber split. How do you see the conceptual differences between the bands?

Well, Wretch is different in that, lyrically I don't deal at all with the things I used to sing and write about in The Gates of Slumber… musically it does away with some of the Heavy Metal influences that TGoS had.

Did you transfer all features of The Gates of Slumber to Wretch? When were these songs composed?

I'm not sure what you mean by features, so I can't really answer that. As far as the songs go, some of them are upwards of 4-5 years old, written when Clyde was still in TGoS for the follow up to "The Wretch" LP.

J. Clyde Paradis (Drums).

Speaking about The Gates of Slumber 'features', I mean the mostly slow tempo mix of doom and heavy metal, with lyrics dealing with some fiction stories, as the band is known mostly by this fantasy concept. I believe that not everyone got used to 'The Wretch' concept.

I really don't see doing any of the old heavy metalish stuff anymore. And I mean, let's be honest here we are talking about singing about Conan and shit like that. I've done that. It's kind of dull after a while and it feels shitty to try and write something your heart isn't into. We were both over it. I know some people were maybe angry that the days of giant spiders and ice worms had come to an end. But honestly, Suffer No Guilt was the best of those records it had the best songs, best lyrics. And maybe the best feeling in the band at that time. We all thought we were doing something special and it was real to us. After that line up fell apart the whole band changed. We were always ambitious, always wanted to take on the world but it became a lot less focused on trying to find a groove, a vibe whatever you want to call it, and it became about getting on fests and getting further in the industry, buy the end there was a pretty big schism. And it was tiresome. There is nothing wrong with the industry, I got to record in some fucking amazing places and got to do shit that was just beyond awesome, and in my lowest moments I will always have the memories of making music with my friends and touring and seeing so much and playing with so many great bands…. when I'm neck deep in whatever trivial Pleb shit I have to endure these days, often I look back, with tears in my eyes, hunts and wars, blasting shadows.

I dunno man, I still love metal, fuck I play heavy metal still, I just don't sing about Conan anymore, it's just back to my first love the only true love of mine musically: Black Sabbath. Really the only metal band that really matters to me. Honestly Sabbath in 1975 is probably the best balance of all things music can be, beautiful, powerful, scary, happy, whimsical. Everything all in one band and on one album. I just want to take what that stuff stirs in me that inspiration and create the most honest and heartfelt music I can with it. I don't give a fuck about the fashion show.

The Gates of Slumber – 'Ice Worm':

'The Wretch' is a special album in The Gates of Slumber discography, it has different lyrics, it differs musically. So what about the Wretch band? Does it get more from 'The Wretch' album or from 'Conqueror'?

"The Wretch" was in a sense a re-birth for me, musically. It was a return to the kinds of things I did when I first started playing, actually. I mean, if you listen, "The Wretch" and "The Awakening" are similar in riffing and concept. Suffer, Conqueror, Hymns and all the rest: I like that stuff, I still do and at the time when each was being written and recorded I was very much into what we were doing. In hindsight it wasn't always the best move. But at least it was honest. I mean we always did what we wanted to do. If we had been smart we'd have tailored our sound and image and lyrics to what everyone else was doing or we'd have tried to get ahead of the curve. We didn't. We were bound and determined to do things our way and with our vision. As a result I think the average record buyer was maybe a bit confused hearing what we were doing and reconciling it with the way we were labeled.

With Wretch there isn't any of that. I just don't care anymore. People can call my music derivative or say whatever the fuck they like you know? I just don't give a solid shit about what anyone else wants to hear or what they think. It's totally a return to what it was when TGoS first started: what TGoS maybe should have always been.

Didn't you think to continue your career as The Gates Of Slumber? I believe that it'd be fair enough, and it would be easy to keep old fans updated with latest news from you.

Honestly, I couldn't do that. The feeling would never be the same. I mean I know people do it all the time carry on and just use the name to keep playing. I may have done a record for a car company, but I'm not a fucking sell out, you know? I don't need to ride on the past: we still play some of those songs live because I want to remember some of that stuff and it meant so much to me. But I am not a slave to the past. Wretch is the next chapter. I honestly think that if the fans of the old stuff, even the Conan era of TGoS gave it a listen they would see the connections, and maybe even like it? Hahah. It's a stretch.

What is the lineup of Wretch?

Wretch is myself, young Donny who loves bowling, and bass. And Clyde on the drums. I always work in trios. It's easier. And heavier. Sabbath was a trio with a singer. Budgie was a trio, Angel Witch, Saint Vitus - trio with a singer. The Obsessed…. Warning…. TGoS. It just makes sense. Two guitars don't make you heavier, no two guitar band is as heavy as Sabbath. Maybe Trouble…

Donald Bryce Caravaso (Bass).

Karl, you're already recording the debut album of Wretch. How does it sound? How much songs do you plan to include in this record?

We are just about to record. I can't speak to how it's going to sound. I have what I want in my head, but then there is always the reality of the situation. I mean I could sit here and say "oh it's gonna sound like Master of Reality and V fucked…" But the truth is that it's going to become what it becomes.

I'm trying some different things, and like I said I'm impatient to get started.

Are other members of Wretch included in the process, or do you rule with an iron hand?

Honestly, with the songs we are doing now it was all just jammed out and we we just played and played until we got it right… I am a reflexive player and I really just want to find a pattern to play with. I come up with the words so far and the vocal melodies and the guitar riffs and solos. But I have no fucking clue what Donald Bryce Caravaso is doing over on the bass. And I don't tell Clyde what to do, I mean he plays his fills and his beats. I don't come up with their parts.

I guess I set the direction, it's my guitar playing, so it's going to sound like what it sounds like on that end. I don't worry about that crap anymore. I hack out my riffs as they come and we jam off that to get something that feels real.

The Gates of Slumber – 'Death Dealer':

The Gates of Slumber's last full length album 'The Wretch' was released by Rise Above Records. Have you already found a label for a new record?

It was a long process coming to a label. I'm happy to say that after a lot of heartbreak and a lot of suspicions confirmed that we've signed with England's Bad Omen records.

I've read that Jason was supposed to use songs he recorded for The Gates of Slumber with his new project. Do you know that happened with that stuff?

Well… Ultimately the demise of TGoS was Jason's addiction to heroin, which killed him on April 5, 2014.

Before he died he'd turned into a fiend. We couldn't play anymore. Our last show was at the Days of the Doomed Fest the summer before he passed. I'm sure you'll want to follow up on this, so I'll wait for follow up questions here.

Jason's widow has his stuff, I only took his old cross necklace from him, and that has since disappeared into thin air, which has caused me a bit of sadness. I don't think I'll ever do any of those songs, the subject matter isn't anything I want to dwell on. I will always remember him for Riders of Doom and Gemini which I think were both his greatest musical moments.

Well, indeed I wasn't prepared for this turn… I just always wonder about some bands who make fun of drugs topics, as in the end such addictions turn to total shit. I believe that Ozzy couldn't allow any of that to be shot for "The Osbournes" series… Yet it's for sure that Black Sabbath wouldn't be the same if all the members were clean for years. What do you think about this contradiction?

Drugs are just a reality man. If you drink a beer you are doing drugs - one of the most addictive and destructive drugs one that kills more people than any other drug. I have had a long and winding road to come to where I am now. I don't hate drugs, in fact I think they should be decriminalized it would save people if it was out in the open and safer. We can talk more about this if you'd like but I don't want to go on and on. Creative folks are often brutally depressed, drugs are what they give you, sadly they don't work. Some drugs are great. MDMA in small doses, psilocybin, THC… these things can help you and heal you. Opiates exist to ease pain. They numb you to pain of all kinds….

The Gates of Slumber song lyrics primarily told stories of battles, horrors and supernatural (in that significant pre-Wretch era). Do you have some specific methods of work for each song's topic?

Back then it was just whatever was cool to work with or think about you know? Sometimes we'd pick a topic and just kind of noodle until we found the hook for the song or whatever to build out the song from there. A riff a line, whatever.

What is the role of Lovecraft's myths in your music? I remember two songs - "Descent Into Madness" and "Dweller in the Deep" that were inspired by his stories. Do you have anything else?

Nah, we only did those two songs dealing with Lovecraft, we did some stuff based on the world of R.E. Howard as well… but those kinds of songs are done. I think we pretty much did our best fantasy work on Suffer No Guilt and it got more tepid as we went back to the well. To be honest, by the time Hymns of Blood and Thunder was being written I was totally over the fantasy stuff. And when we parted ways with Bob it was just a natural time to try and re-invent ourselves and get away from the fantasy shit.

I'd like to say that "Descent Into Madness" starts pretty intriguingly with that right and only intro of radio transmission – it's one of the damned good and creepy moments on the album. But I can say that I studied this question a bit and I found that it's rare musicians compose anything about the Lovecraftian Kadath series. What was your personal reason to take Dagon and the Mountains of Madness story instead of this one?

I honestly can't speak on Mountains of Madness, Jason wrote that and I thought it was great. Loved that song. I wrote Dweller in The Deep, so I can speak to that. I had the main riff for years, since the mid 90's! and then one day I just stumbled on the verse riff when I was playing with the flanger on and I sang "Five Fathoms down, beneath the waves"... the rest of the song was done in a practice. It was a great moment for The Awakening era line up. It's a damn shame that we didn't have the foresight to see how things would go… we had some powerful shit man.

The Gates of Slumber – 'Descent Into Madness':

Karl, you had a few pretty intensive tours with The Gates of Slumber: do you have ambitions to repeat that with Wretch?

I'd really like to, but it's all really depends on if there is a demand. That remains to be seen. I have hopes that Wretch will be well received and we'll be able to get out there and do some damage.

What were your highlights and downsides during previous tours?

Oh man… see. Here is where I can't really pick. I've gotten to tour with or play with a good number of my idols and most of them have been really good folks. I mean: Cathedral, Pentagram, The Obsessed, Place of Skulls, Penance, Dream Death. Christ, the list is long, it almost doesn't seem real at times. I mean if I could go back and tell 19 year old Karl that he'd get to play with The Obsessed and Saint Vitus and actually tour with Wino… it's awesome. There are low times on every tour, usually when the money is tight and the sleep is lacking. I've had some 45 min of sleep nights. They suck. I've slept on the concrete at the ferry crossing from Dover to Calais a couple of times. That's rough, but anything to set your legs out straight.

I read one of your interviews and you named Scald there amongst the bands that inspire you. How did you know this Russian band? They seem to be well known abroad, even if they have only one album.

I can't recall if it was Rich Walker of Miskatonic or Andrea Schmidt of Metal Supreamacy who turned me on to Scald. They were a really cool band. I think they were great, very unique.

The Gates of Slumber – 'The Scovrge Ov Drvnkenness':

Karl, it's said that The Gates of Slumber was better known in Germany and England than in their native United States. Is it true from your point of view? And how could you explain it?

Well, maybe. I don't know. We always had great shows in Europe, always. And I guess it's by design. I mean it's the old tale of Saint Vitus who had been grinding themselves against the U.S. for a few years and getting nowhere, then they are sent over to Germany and the legend is given a new breath of life. I think Europeans just got what they were doing more than folks in the U.S. Early on I had it in my mind to not waste a bunch of time where I wasn't wanted, and this is the late 90's I'm talking about here, when TGoS started! It was a very different time - rock was nowhere back then here in the States. I think it's fair to say we had a hand in re-popularizing it maybe? I don't know. The thing is we started really putting in the work to tour the U.S. and things started to happen for us here. Thing is it's just so goddamn hard. You can drive for 16 hours in Texas and still be in fucking Texas, you know? The U.S. is not a small nation. Like for example, you can do like 20 shows in Germany or in the UK and never drive more than a few hours. It's not the same here.

I believe that you would get lost if you toured in Russia : D - it would be sad if the band just disappeared somewhere in Siberia… Did you ever think about playing a show in Russia? What was the most sudden feedback you ever got playing in The Gates of Slumber?

Russia is a big place, there is no lie there. I'd go in a heartbeat I've always wanted to. I love to travel and I think I could drive across Russia, I've gone East to West to East and halfway back here enough times. That'd get me from Moscow to the Pacific I think! Maybe one day, who knows?

I'm not sure what you mean by sudden, surprising maybe? It's too hard to pick. Our first tour of Europe when we got the show shut down in Gothenberg Sweden for being too loud. The capital of Swedish metal, and some goofballs from Indianoplace blow them away? Ha! That was great, the crowd was awesome that night, but then so were we, the early days with Chuck we practiced 3-4 days a week sometimes for 3 hours a time, constant playing. We were just very tight. It was a great time. But all the shows have been killer.

You live in Indianapolis, Indiana, I don't think that I've ever interviewed a band from there. What are the positive and negative sides of living there?

It's cheap to live here. That's about it. Indianapolis is a depressing place, the U.S. is depressing as is, and Indiana is one of those places that push the limits. We'd have a higher suicide rate, but people are too apathetic to bother putting the guns to their heads here. Birds just fall out of the sky with the utter boredom associated with this place.

Thanks for a great interview Karl, I hope that we'll hear news from Wretch soon. So I wish you good luck on recording the first full-length and preparing for new shows with the band. Do you have a few more words for our readers?

Thank you for doing the interview, I hope that my answers don't bore the readers to death!

Click HERE to discuss this interview on the doom-metal forum.

Visit the Wretch bandpage.

Interviewed on 2015-12-06 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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