I’m a bit of a webcomic fan, and there is no doubt in my mind that when it comes to character development and addictiveness, no one does it better than Jeph Jacques’ Questionable Content, which stars Marten Reed (left in above pic) as he and his circle of friends… exist. It is seriously the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning; I roll over, turn off my alarm clock, and I check QC.
In the series, Marten is the guitarist in the instrumental post-metal band Deathmøle, which fans of Isis, Pelican, Cloudkicker, and Cult of Luna should enjoy. Much like Metalocalypse’s Dethklok, this virtual band releases music, and has released all of their work for free (which you can download here.)
In a surreal turn of events, I was actually able to get an interview with Marten. It wasn’t easy, and don’t ask me how, but I managed to make contact with him and ask him a few questions!
Thank you for talking with me today. First thing’s first: introduce yourself!
Okay uh my name is Marten Reed and I play guitar in the band Deathmøle.
How long have you been playing guitar?
I started when I was like 14 and I am 24 now so about 10 years!
I mean no offense, but you seem to be the indie hipster type of guy, so what made you decide to be in a metal band like Deathmøle?
Well it sort of happened by accident, the other guys in the band with me when we were starting out (Amir [Bass] and Nat [Keyboard/Sonic Texturalist], Nat’s not in the band anymore since she broke up with Amir) were more into the metal stuff and I just kind of went along with it. And it turns out that playing metal is pretty fun! Especially now that we have an actual drummer.
On that subject, what music inspires you, metal or otherwise?
Oh most of the stuff I write is pretty Isisy or Pelicany I guess, then sometimes I’ll be playing a riff and Amir will be like “dude that is a total High on Fire riff if you speed it up!” So I speed it up! My girlfriend is actually way more into metal than I am, she’s all about Behemoth and Opeth and Deathspell Omega and all these other bands. I really like Gojira, those dudes write some great stuff and their drummer is CRAZY GOOD. But I listen to all sorts of things, mostly indie rock but some electronic things too. I guess I get most of my guitar inspiration from people like Hum or Failure or Isis, those guys were all really good at doing huge guitar sounds.
Where do you get that bitchin’ guitar tone? Give us a rundown of your gear for all the guitar nerds out there, including your recording equipment. I understand you do record yourselves?
Well the stuff we record is all done digitally actually! So I don’t use a “real” amp or whatever, I just plug my SG into a Line 6 POD and go directly into the computer from there. I usually do three guitar tracks- one panned left, one panned right, and one in the center. And then of course I’ll add other tracks if the song calls for it. Sometimes we have like 8 different guitar parts going at once, I have no idea how we’d ever play the songs live!
I really like the Marshall JCM800 model, that is usually my beefy “center channel” guitar tone. And then for the left and right channels I use the “Line 6 Insane” model with the EQ tweaked around to where it sounds good to me. That’s less bassy and more “focused” than the JCM800, so it tightens everything up and blends well together. And then on top of that there’s some global EQ that scoops the mids a little bit more and makes everything sound really huge.
When we’re practicing or writing songs I just use my Gibson SG and the Marshall half-stack Nat bought (and then left in our practice space, wtf???) I think it’s a JCM900? I’d really like to get one of those big fancy MESA/Boogies but they’re really expensive!
[Real-world note from Jeph: the guitars I use are a Gibson Les Paul, a Jackson Soloist, and a couple PRSes. And my custom Creston for stuff in standard tuning. Basically everything has humbuckers!]
What are recording sessions like for you guys?
They’re usually pretty laid back, Amir will bring in his laptop and POD and I’ll plug in, we can’t really record live drums yet so Hannelore [Drums] will bang out the basic beat on a MIDI keyboard to give me something to record over. Hanners and I sort of record at the same time, where I’ll be writing and recording guitar parts and she’ll be sequencing drums to go along with them, or vice versa. Meanwhile Amir will be making suggestions like “that riff needs to be repeated more” or “you should do some double-bass there, Hanners.” Then once we have a bunch of different parts Amir and I will start shuffling them around in Logic until we find an overall structure that sounds good. And then he’ll record his bass parts, and Hanners will go back in and fix anything she doesn’t like about the drums. And then it’s done!
We actually write the songs as we record them, so a lot of the time we spend at practice is actually learning how to play them! There’s a bunch of songs we’ve recorded that I actually have no idea how to play live, I sort of go into a fugue state when I’m recording and then can’t remember how to play the parts!
Have you guys been working on any new music?
We’re working on a new thing now called “Absent Gods and Creatures Foul.” We’ve got three tracks done for that and are working on the fourth right now.
Have you ever played a live gig?
Oh god no, we would need at LEAST one more guitarist (probably 2) and I think Hanners would get stage fright.
Looking over the tracklist to Moletopopolis… why Unicorns? You could have gone with something more metal like dragons and demons and shit like that.
It sort of started out as a joke, but as we kept writing more songs, unicorns just seemed more and more metal! Now I think they’re basically the most metal mythical animal there is.
And why the name ‘Deathmøle’?
It was a long story where we were trying to pick a name and nobody could agree and Nat started yelling “DEATHMOLE” over and over again so we just agreed to call it Deathmøle so she’d stop yelling. And we haven’t gotten around to changing it- I guess we CAN’T change it now considering how many songs we’ve put out under that name!
How did Deathmøle get started?
Amir and Nat were working on this HORRIBLE grindcorey band with just bass and keyboard and a drum machine, and they invited me to come jam with them, and I sort of started writing actual SONGS instead. Then Nat switched to guitar (she couldn’t really play though) and Hanners started playing drums. Nat left, and that’s sort of how we ended up where we are now!
Natasha left in 2008. What was her reasoning?
Honestly she was kind of a bitch about the whole thing, she just flipped out one day and quit because we wanted to play actual songs instead of just making random noise. Actually I shouldn’t say she was a bitch, that’s kind of mean, can we edit this and just say we had creative differences or something? [No. – Ed.]
Do you guys have any plans on looking for another sonic texturalist/keyboardist?
Probably not another keyboardist but I feel like if we had a second guitarist we could maybe actually play a couple shows someday.
What about vocals? I think you guys could benefit from a big dude with a neckbeard screaming over everything. Hell, Amir looks like he might be able to bust out some impressive growls if he tried.
We’ve done vocals on a couple songs here and there! That’s all Amir. But he doesn’t like writing lyrics and we can’t afford a PA so it’s not like we can really practice with vocals.
According to her Twitter account, Hannelore seems like a bit of a neat freak and a germophobe. How does she react to the filthy and greasy nature of metal? I’d assume touring would be interesting if that were to ever go down.
Oh god I have no idea how she would survive being stuck in a van with a bunch of stinky dudes for weeks on end. She’d probably lose her mind. Or we’d have to rent a really clean tour bus and go bankrupt.
Finally, what do you all do for a living outside of Deathmøle?
I work at the Smif College library, Amir’s a waiter, and Hannelore has her own business and also just started working at a coffee shop in town.
Thank you for your time, Marten! Any last words?
Um, listen to Deathmøle, I guess! Thanks for the interview!
Special thanks to Jeph Jacques for playing along!