INTERVIEW: Marcus Lawrence of Grethor

[K] It’s been quite a while, 3 years, since the EP ‘Cloaked in Decay’ - how would you say the band has evolved since then?

MARCUS: We had Mike Lewis on guitar then. He left, and was replaced by Tony Petrocelly. Tony contributed quite a bit to the song structure, and he mainly produced this album. I would say he brought his own sense of structure to things as well. Also, things in our own lives had changed, like Anthony getting married, Brian moving
out of state, stuff like that. As it goes with our lives, so it goes with Grethor.

[K] Having a handful of Demo’s and EPs under the band’s belt, was putting together a full-length any more strenuous by comparison?

MARCUS: If you mean by strenuous that it was hard to deal with scheules and life changes, I suppose. There was a lot going on at the time, and some things made it difficult, but I think each of us knew we had to finish this task. On my end, I wouldn't call it strenuous, but for some of us, it may be more fair to say that.

What was your experience filming ‘The Last Manifesto’?

MARCUS: Pretty cool. I think Tony was very efficient, and I had fun tracking vocals. These may have come to the forefront a bit more, and I liked all the layering that went into it. Tony also gave great feedback, and had good ideas about where to put the, etc, and what emphasis was needed. I have had numerous experiences with recording vocals, and while I wouldn't say any of them were bad, this time was quite efficient without being rushed in any way.

[K] I’m sure you’ve been asked a lot about this, but in this wild political climate, would you say that Grethor, as a band, stands to make a change?

MARCUS: I wish I knew. I can only tell you what I was seeing at the time I was writing the lyrics, and that was the rise of demagogues. Turkey, The Phillipines, and this idea that being a media figure somehow instantly qualifies you for leadership. This is how demagogues rise, and I saw the language of cruelty sort of being used casually, not just by someone like Maduro, but by a political figure here. Now, that is not to say that our foreign policy has not been a hawkish disaster, but it seemed to me that a sort shadow of open fascism has been looming across the world, and these archaic ideas that had resurfaced to throw us back to a less open time. We are 17th in education, 23rd out of 30 in Income Inequality, and we have 25 percent of the world's prison population, all as a result of privatization of basic civil services. Mind you, we're bombing 7 countries, currently, as we rank number one in military spending, to the tune of 600 billion, with the second being China at 146 Billion! This means we have a budget based on bloated war profiteering, as China may have the biggest military in personnel, we have a bunch of contractors draining our resources and making money off of it, whereas theirs is primarily a military that respresents The State itself. Now, how are we the land of the free again?

[K] When it comes to political views, sometimes people feel it’s more appropriate to take a more subtle approach. Damnatio Memoriae is most definitely more straight forward with its message (which I really do respect), is this a philosophy the whole band shares? And, is it a method the band plans on using with future performances and albums?

MARCUS: I wanted to be more straightforward. This is the world we live in, and it is dying. If I am not getting through with lofty solliliquies, then what else is there to do? My country is highly detrimental to the rest of the world right now. I guess I just see a sort of wider picture, and wathing it without putting it to music, that would be highly unfortunate. I am bearing witness to history, and there is a long tradition to that. I don't think I have ever not written based on observation, even if I was writing about Genghis Khan, I still wanted it to be a warning tale about oppression, and how it will return to haunt you tenfold. I have always written about the dangers of anti - intellectualism,
whether it was due to religion or other social factors, or the corrosion of institutions due to that anti - intellectualism. This time, however, the corrosion is just more rapid, and needs to become a turning point, not a point of decline. Nihilism is highly common in extreme metal. I am not a nihilist in the pure sense of the word, nor do I believe that it's fully understood as a concept anyway. I'm not interested in being another edgelord with a sort of coolly cultivated misanthropic public persona. It's just not me.

[K] Will the social political themes of Damnatio Memoriae be a mainstay for Grethor’s future endeavours or does it just depend on what the band feels the need to express at the time?

MARCUS: I'm not sure. I would say it definitely depends on what is the feeling of the time. I think lyrics can definitely change the tone of a song by giving it a more literal
purpose, and I am not sure where the overall tone will be yet.

[K] I’m not American, and I’ve personally experienced very little in terms of US Black Metal. What is the Black Metal scene there? Or even just in North Virginia?

MARCUS: There is a bit of it in Virginia. Black Metal isn't as centralized over here as it is in other countries, where you can go to a town and expect to see a venue loaded with Black Metal bands like you would in Reyjavik or something. Nightbringer is in Colorado, whereas Inquistion is on the West Coast, and Absu is in Texas. Just giving you an example of how spread out it is. Plus, with all those factors and stats I quoted, it is horrible to tour in the US. You could break even if you're lucky, but most likely, will lose money. Now, how is the music? Pretty damn good. I recommend Nightbringer, Leviathan, Wolves in the Throne Room, Obsequiae, stuff like that.

[K] I personally have grown to hate asking about a band’s influences since it’s such a common question. My question is, what does Grethor, as a band, strive not to be?

MARCUS: A cliche' or parody of itself. I won't name bands in that regard, just suffice it to say what Grethor's goal should be.

[K] Any plans for a tour or shows for Grethor?

MARCUS: Not at the moment.

[K] What does the record collection of a Grethor member look like (Doesn’t have to be metal)?

MARCUS: Holy crap. That's a tough one. Mine ranges. I come form a family of musicians, so there is quite a bit. I grew up on a lot of different things, but if I were to name my most influential bands were Meshuggah, The Dead Milkmen, Emperor, Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, Iron Maiden, etc, etc. I listened to a lot of jazz and classical music, my dad was studying music when I was a kid. I guess I can tell you what bands led me here in my formative years, and beyond, but that is going to take a long damn time.

[K] I read in another interview that Lawerence had children, as someone who helps take of 5 kids himself, I’m curious how you manage to balance home life and band life?

MARCUS: I have two daughters, yes. My older daughter is sitting next to me right now, watching TED ED talks. It isn't too bad. I guess it's just normal to me, as again, my family was a musical family. It's manageable, I think, because I am not constantly on the road, nor is it my main source of income. If that were the case, I think it would be much more difficult.

[K] I’m a Star Trek fan, I caught the Klingon reference, I have to ask - favorite captain?

MARCUS: I feel like this answer is almost frivolous, as I haven't seen Discovery yet. I loved Picard, and his measured leadership, but I am going to go with Kirk.
Kirk, to me, represented a bold approach, yes, but it also came with an insatiable curiosity. For him, there was a responsibility to the human experience, that you must never let fear make your decisions for you. Nothing is without risk, and Kirk recognized that. The other thing I liked, and if you hadn't realized this you need to go back, was when he would have a conference with Spock and Dr McCoy. They represent the things Kirk is weighing in his head, and what motivates him. The best example
was The Wrath Of Khan, when they were debating the ethics of The Genesis Torpedo. For Spock, it represents the achievements of synthesizing life, for McCoy was a spiritual/philosophical question that was almost a Romantic - Era one, about creation itself. Kirk sits silently as their debate rages on, voicing an internal monologue while still staying within the id of their own characters.

[K] Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, any closing comments or shameless plugs you’d like to leave?

MARCUS : Just check out the album on January 26th! Please!

Keep up with Grethor over on their Facebook here.