Walking Corpse Syndrome
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Walking Corpse Syndrome

Band Metal Gothic


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Breaking down my metal biases"

By Joe Nickell
June 16th, 2008

For the past few years I’ve worked in the same building with a guy named Matthew. I would say we work for the same company – which we do – but that might give the impression that we have a lot of close contact. In truth, I have little occasion to enter his department of the Missoulian: He works in classified advertising, on a different floor of the building. Nevertheless, I’ve met Matthew in passing in the break room. I also knew that he was a friend of a good friend of mine, a woman who seems to keep company with a good number of gay men.

Matthew is thin, exceptionally well-groomed and almost unnaturally pleasant in demeanor; so it didn’t take much of a leap for me to assume that he fit in with my friend’s friends.

Turns out, I was completely wrong about his sexuality. But Matthew does have a secret home-life, one that was – to me – rather a shock: He plays guitar in an industrial-metal band.

Paint me all scribbly-headed.

My exposure to industrial-metal has been that of most Americans: Every once in awhile, my unsuspecting ears are pummeled and grated by an unholy din that leaves them ringing in protest for a few hours afterward. I haven’t ever intentionally attended a show by an industrial bands – though I’ve accidentally stumbled into (and, quickly, out of) a few. I don’t hang with the crowd. I simply don’t get it.

Though I like to think of myself as musically open-minded – my Christmas mix CD last year included piano ballads, modernist classical music, some hip-hop, some Radiohead, and a Willie Nelson tune – I’ve never found anything to grab onto in industrial or other hardcore flavors of metal. The lyrics are often offensive and always unintelligible; the “singing” makes the Cookie Monster sound musical; the guitars employ one sound (distorted) and one playing style (chugging power-chords); the drums are all speed and no subtlety.

The resulting effect, to me, is a hateful offense to the ear.

But now there’s a problem with all of that, and that problem is Matthew. How does a goodnatured guy like him fit in with a noise like that? I ruminated on the conundrum for a few months, until this week, when Matthew dropped off a new CD by his band, Walking Corpse Syndrome.

Clearly it was time for a chat; so Matthew and I sat down during his lunch hour and talked metal.

Q: I noticed in your bio that you call the band’s music “industrial progcore metal.” Obviously I’m missing something in the subdivisions of the genre; I thought it was death-metal. How does your music differ from other types of hardcore metal?

Matthew: My background is playing an industrial style in the veins of Ministry or American Head Charge, which is more groove-oriented than other types of metal. It’s still angry, aggressive, darker music, but it’s got a groove that people can dance to. Unlike thrash or black metal, I don’t use a lot of arpeggios; I’m really not that good of a guitarist. I’m more interested in the song as a whole and how people can get into it, the accessibility of it.

I grew up listening to grunge, and played in a few punk bands, and Kurt Cobain was my first guitar hero; so that’s where the “core” part comes in; then the “prog” part, we have a lot of ambient parts that take a long time to flesh out, where it’s more of a flow. I call it fourth-wave industrial, but I guess that gets a little bit ridiculous of a sub-genre.

Q: I recognize that I come from another planet when it comes to this type of music. What do you think I’m missing at a fundamental level about what you do?

Matthew: Not to be down on myself, but I don’t think you’re missing anything. I just think that there are so many different viewpoints and people; so the fact that you don’t like it, that’s okay with me. We’re not on a crusade to make everyone like Cookie Monster vocals.

But there is this vast spectrum of emotions and experiences. If you think about the movie world, if you’re like most people, you go from a comedy to a horror to an action flick; and you don’t condemn an entire genre just because you don’t like one movie. So if you think of our music in movie terms, you might say that we’re more like the creepy stuff, like “Silence of the Lambs,” rather than the Rob Zombie-type of horror; we’re into a creepy, darker psychological vibe.

In my job, I’m nice to people all day long and I’m a friendly person; but there is that dark side to me that has to have an outlet. So instead of going out and getting drunk and getting into fights like some people might do, I play this music to release my emotions.

As far as the vocals themselves go, I’ve always considered vocals to be another instrument; to me I’ve always had trouble with what the vocals say. So it’s more about the emotional intensity. He does sing some parts; it flows in and out of the music, sometimes they’re buried a bit, just like the other instruments. So the vocals aren’t the screen through which you hear the rest of the music.

Q: It’s obvious, listening to the CD, that everyone in the band has fantastic technical chops. There’s actually a wider range of sounds on the record than I’ve mentioned here; there’s some violins and some great ambient ethereal stuff, and in “Devil Rides Alone” Michael actually sings for a few seconds. It’s all really tight; and unlike some of the metal CDs I’ve received, there’s great in-studio energy going on. You guys sound like you really mean it. Unlike some noise genres, it takes a lot of practice and dedication to get to a point of refined skill like this. And yet — I know that I sound like an old prude when I ask this — but I think there are plenty of people in the world who wonder the same thing: How do you reconcile your love of music with the kind of aggressive and seemingly angry sounds that the band makes?

Matthew: There are all sorts of artists and reasons people do art. The stuff here on the walls (he gestures at a group of scenic Montana photos), this is more to brighten the room and create a calming environment. There’s room for that, and that kind of music too. Then there’s the anguished music, the music of the tortured artist, the means of escape and grappling with and dealing with the world. We’re more on the lines of the modernists.

We’re not making any money on this, we’re losing a lot of money and will probably never make money on this — especially because we probably won’t ever get on the radio, other than hopefully college radio. We do this because it’s our way of grappling with issues and dealing with our problems. I really like David Lynch movies, a lot of people hate them; but his movies are still about the classic story where the hero goes into the underworld and discovers something about himself and comes back. Movies like that, or music like ours, give a person a safe means to discover a core part of themselves without having to go out on the journey or the quest. You can just hear it through the music.

Q: What do your friends and coworkers say when they find out you’re in a metal band?

Matthew: A lot of people are surprised. I really try to keep my professional life and musical life separate; a lot of my office colleagues are surprised. So there is that disconnect sometimes. As far as what my mom thinks, I graduated with a creative writing degree, and I had done a lot of writing before this, and whenever my mom would ask what I’m writing, I would start telling her and she’d stop me and say, ‘is this going to be a good story or a bad story?’ — meaning, is it positive and uplifting or does it focus on darker themes and the dregs of society? I always have to tell her it’s a bad story, and that’s pretty much as far as we get with it. She says when I sing (note: Matthew used to be the lead singer of Prokaryon), it sounds like a 2-year-old throwing a temper tantrum, and I guess it is kind of that, it’s about that angry despair.

So I’ve had to develop a basis of explaining this, and explaining that this is a positive influence on me even if it sounds negative. It’s allowing me a creative outlet. I’m different from a lot of people, I’ve known that for a very long time; so for me to find a genre of music or art that allows me to express myself, it’s very cathartic.

Bands like Mindless Self Indulgence or Radiohead, they’re always trying to push the limits of their own sound. I had a professor in college tell me that they had a designer at the University of Montana who really knew how to design in gray and he didn’t really know any other color but he knew gray well. I feel that’s how a lot of people are: Sometimes you have a talent in one thing but it might be hard to do other things. My thing is the darker stuff, I’ve always been attracted to it. I remember I wanted to take my first girlfriend in 6th grade to see Schindler’s List, because I thought it would give us something interesting to talk about. It took me a long time to realize that other people aren’t like me, and I respect that, but that’s who I am.

Q: I see that you have 346 Myspace friends at your Myspace page, which is about 340 more than I have. The media – okay, maybe just the Entertainer – tends to paint metal as an antisocial subculture. In fact, it seems like it’s a very tight-knit scene, at least locally.

Matthew: I think that the Missoula metal scene is at the best it’s ever been. When I moved here in 2000…there were only a few bands, and they didn’t really play together too much. Since then, Missoula’s scene has grown a lot, in part due to Cherie (Fullerton) at Demonlily Entertainment. She helps all of us out so much in terms of organizing shows and getting the word out. There were bands before, but it was hard to do shows with other metal bands because musicians in general aren’t great business people. A lot of the bands — it happens in metal as it does everywhere — they’re not really good and not necessarily connected to the other bands. Now in the metal scene, we all know each other and go to barbecues together and it’s maybe more reclusive than say the punk community but we still all appreciate and support each other as much as possible. And we talk to each other, which is something that doesn’t really happen outside Missoula.

We all realize, we live in Missoula, Montana; and the only way we can make this work out is to help each other out. Metal is a huge genre; Ozzfest plays stadiums, and there’s more than just Ozzfest out there. But the independent metal scene still suffers like any indie-rock scene. It’s important for people to know, our shows are like any other shows. We don’t have more fights than other genres or any more drama; in some ways we have less drama because the bands have all been around each other for years and years, and we’ve calmed down. We just still like to play our metal music.

Q: Anything else you want to add about the band or the disc or what an idiot I am?

Matthew: I don’t know. I do listen to all sorts of genres; I like hip hop and dance music and classical and opera, and I find myself always going back to industrial metal but that’s just my cup of tea. I think it’s good to have that whole range in your life.

Q: You have a very thoughtful attitude about what you do – which is something I can’t always say about musicians in any genre.

Matthew: We’re intensely self-deprecating. We joke around and poke fun at ourselves, because if you don’t take this music with a grain of salt it can seem too intense. We realize we’re a small band in Montana, in a town where a lot of people still don’t get this music; so we can’t be too high on ourselves.

- Missoulian

"Dead alive"

Dead alive
Walking Corpse Syndrome unleashes debut
By: Chris La Tray
http://missoulanews.com/index.cfm?do=art icle.details&id=9CFD2C53-14D1-13A2-9FD81 C389CC5B3BA
Posted: 06/19/2008

Clinically speaking, Walking Corpse Syndrome is a psychological condition of which those afflicted sometimes believe they have died, or have lost body parts, or have been rendered soulless. The mental disease has popped up in people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. But in Montana, Walking Corpse Syndrome (WCS) is the handle of an industrial metal—not mental—band slowly but surely making a name for itself. The band has played both Montana MetalFests II and III, was a finalist for 2008’s PBR Band of the Year competition, and was recently invited to play September’s Project Independent Showcase in Missoula. And on Saturday, June 21, the band will release its debut album, Forsaken.

Since forming in January 2007, WCS has been nothing if not productive in the face of certain obstacles. For instance, current singer Michael Phlegm joined the band just two weeks before they played their first show.

“We had shows booked and we had a singer, [but] he just had too many scheduling conflicts,” says lead guitarist Matthew Bile. “[Phlegm] came in and was just a champ, and not only learned 45 minutes of music but wrote completely new lyrics to everything.”

Bile—who has historically been a singer, not a guitar player—has jumped a hurdle or two, as well. After screaming his way through the metal band Prokaryon, he lost his voice.

“We were in the middle of recording an album when the band broke up and I ended up having to get throat surgery because I was just singing completely wrong,” he says. “I can’t really sing anymore, so I just play guitar.”

The six-member band includes Bile and Phlegm, two drummers (each of whom plays a full kit), a keyboard player, and a bassist/violinist. With that many bodies, and the gear that goes with them, simply getting on and off the stage is an exercise. Complicating matters further, the band also likes to experiment with stage props—shows have included anything from dancers portraying gothic spiderwomen to stacks of television sets showing old black and white movies.

“With all my other bands, I’ve done ‘gimmicky’ stuff,” says Bile. “I’ve been doing theater since I was 11 or 12, about two years before I ever picked up a guitar. To me, the visual and emotional aspect of live music is just as important as the music. For every show I—and more recently, the rest of the band—have tried to come up with something visually stimulating.”

A large part of the WCS visual, and the foundation of the sound the band produces, is the dual drumming of brothers Shawn and Greg Frazer. This is not one drummer providing the beat while the other augments the sound with auxiliary percussion—they pretty much both play full bore. And they don’t necessarily play in unison. Where Greg might do a rhythmic figure on the high-hat, Shawn might counter rhythm between his kick and ride. It seems excessive, but it apparently works, even if it might be challenging to sound techs and studio engineers.

“It was crazy!” says owner/engineer Cameron Kerr of Missoula’s Habbilis Records, where WCS recorded Forsaken. Gesturing toward the studio drum room, he says, “I think I had just about every mic and stand I own in there, with cables running everywhere. It was confusing to get set up, but the sound we got with the two kits is huge.”

WCS recorded Forsaken over three days in March. The result is thick, heavy and reflective of WCS’s live show. The band did not have the luxury of time or budget to record bits and pieces to a grid in ProTools; they had to make it happen as they would on stage and hope for the best. Playing together and laying down a couple takes of each song, selecting the best one, and then going back to add keyboards and vocals ended up in an expansive and immediate recording.

Casual listeners beware: That intensity may not be for everybody. Not exactly metal, nor entirely industrial, the band’s music can be overwhelming for people who have limited exposure to either genre. At times moody and ethereal, in the instant where a stick strikes skin, or a foot can press a button on a stompbox, the music can erupt and catch the listener unaware. Phlegm unleashes a guttural roar that belies his wiry frame, while William Sludge (of late, great polka-punkers The Shrimpers) delivers a manic energy whether he is playing the bass or the violin. Keyboardist DJ Estaroth provides not only the textures that tie the disparate instruments together, but also samples and sound bites to the cacophony. And a little bit of melody.

“People hear that we’re a metal band and the just think it’s all ‘Rawr! Rawr! Rawr!,’” says Bile, mimicking a metal growl. “Some of the stuff we like a lot is the more dynamic stuff like ‘The Devil Rides Alone.’ There’s a longer, slower, more atmospheric intro…It provides that contrast of a melodic atmosphere before it goes into a driving, more aggressive sound.”
- Missoula Independent


Forsaken 2008



Walking Corpse Syndrome formed in the hills outside of Missoula MT in January 2007. The long winters, wildfire summers, and virtual isolation led to the name. Walking Corpse Syndrome, a condition also known as Cotard's Syndrome, is a psychological condition wherein the person believes limbs are missing or their souls have vanished. It represents a disconnect between the body, the spirit, and the environment. As a band, Walking Corpse Syndrome acknowledges and explores that disconnect in the hopes that the pressure of scrutiny can help seal the cracks.

Six members form Walking Corpse Syndrome. Shawn (Nocktis) and Matthew Bile originally played in Prokaryon, with Nocktis on drums and Bile as singer. After numerous vocal malfunctions and finally surgery, Bile gave up singing to become a guitar player. Shawn recruited his brother Greg (Mr. Grimm) as a second drummer. The thundering percussion overwhelmed the tiny house and formed the foundation of the band's blistering sound. William Sludge worked with Shawn at a local retailer. After the original singer failed to sing for the first two out of three shows, the band began auditioning for another vocalist. In the search, the band found DJ Erastaroth to play samples and keyboards. Michael Phlegm originally knew DJ Erastaroth for several years and had wanted to form a music project together. Bile first met Phlegm at a local industrial dance party. After Phlegm break-danced to industrial music, Bile chased him down and found out he was a singer. Walking Corpse Syndrome quickly auditioned Phlegm and welcomed him into the band in October 2007.

After only two weeks, the current lineup played their first show. Since then, Walking Corpse Syndrome has gained a steady and impressive following. The band entered and made it to the final round of the 2008 PBR Performance Series. They have also appeared at Montana Metalfest II and III. This fall, the band will play at the Project Independent Showcase in Missoula. Their first album, Forsaken, was recorded late March 2008 and was released June 21st, 2008.