Interview with Jon Vesano (Guitar/Vocals) by The Grim Lord
Birthed from Nile’s former bassist (Annihilation Of The Wicked and my personal favorite Nile disc, In Their Darkened Shrines) we have a new breed of technical brutal death metal here in In-Defilade. Though the band aren’t exactly new, they’re new to me and remind me just how proficient a guitarist that band mastermind, Jon Vesano is. The record even contains just a little bit of that middle-eastern flair in areas to remind us exactly where In-Defilade came from. I spoke with Vesano as he detailed several harsh criticisms towards the corporate and global elite, which much of the record seems to be based on.
TGT: You’ll have to forgive me, but I was absolutely unaware of this project in the beginning, so I’m just now catching up. Elude sounds like the equivalent of a military blitzkrieg melded with brutal death metal, and it comes with the same kinds of leads that blew my mind on In Their Darkened Shrines, my personal favorite Nile recording. Fast-forwarding to now, how did this project come to be?
Jon Vesano: You are forgiven for now. (Laughs) I appreciate you finally discovering In-Defilade and giving it a listen. Given we are self released, the infiltration into the mix has been slow. I’ve always felt for me this is better in some ways. For this material I wanted it to be chaotic and militant. Simple but complex and molded around a state of mind. So, hopefully the fury and angst is passed on to all who listen.
In-Defilade began back when I was in Nile, as something just to vent and felt okay with. My former band Darkmoon disbanded upon my commitment to Nile, so my source for barbarism was gone. Over time I continued to write and play long after my five years with Nile. Fast forwarding a little, I met Sean Hudson on Facebook and shared my personal demos with him. Upon hearing that he insisted I put it out and that’s when the wheels began rolling. During that time Rulers of Famine was written and released. The day Rulers was released I wrote two songs immediately that following week to get started on Elude. At this time I was using a drum program to facilitate the beats and atmosphere, but I soon felt that I needed to get a real drummer after several friends managed to convince me. Thomas Haywood recommended some people he knew or had contacts to and one was Erik Schultek, who played with Narcotic Wasteland. This started a collaboration and a killer friendship that molded the future of In-Defilade. Lending both his studio and drumming skills literally sent this album to another level. Much more than I ever could have imagined. As for the leads, my old friend Dallas Toler-Wade from Narcotic Wasteland (also ex-Nile) wanted to lend his interpretation of what he felt from the music. In turn, he laid down some scathing brutal leads that fit everything perfectly. I couldn’t have imagined anyone other than Dallas to make it all completely solidify for this album.
Tell me a little bit about the concept behind the album, as there seem to be several parts of a story entwined within each track. What was the inspiration there?
The album’s concept is about protecting your kind from the murderous and invasive ways of those who deem to rid this world of clarity. A machine which does nothing but slaughter its own and enslave the future for the bidding of wealth and power. A simplistic life where family unity and respect has been lost to the greed of theological and powerful wealth machines. For example, imagine a child in the arms of its mother. From a distance you see a nurturing mother embracing her child and as you walk closer you see the child has had its head cleaved by a machete. A mother whose sole purpose is to protect, has lost her battle to an intrusive force. This isn’t a made up scene, it’s commonplace in the theological world. What feelings would you have if that was your friend, wife or sister? What kind of fury would arise from seeing such an act? Or watching your family suffer from the collapse of a civilized world caused by the mistakes made by the same type of people. You would incorporate a way of life to protect your kind from that situation. To never be chained by it and to not be seduced by it. Elude – evade or escape from (a danger, enemy, or pursuer), typically in a skillful or cunning way.
Sounds extreme but extreme thoughts render results. Always expecting and never to be caught off guard. The songs describe several scenarios of these things through different eyes. “Will to survive” is basically about one who sees what’s happening but called an extremist. His disdain rises to extreme forward violence – a madman, a product of his environment. Where “Apparent Adversary” is a more precise action. Where you walk among these people and see the problem, even though the rest are blind to it. A sense of frustration arises along with a need to always have that in your sights at all times. A lot of vengeance speaks in the content of this, where all has been lost and to stop that from happening to another, the threat needs to be eliminated.
Let’s talk about the writing and recording process for the album. What was it like in the studio, and what were some of the difficulties that you ran into, if any?
The writing process is basically the same I’ve always done. I’ll write pages and pages of thoughts and subjects, then I’ll take a small portion of that and write music to it. Hence why some songs are littered with lyrics. I try to soundscape what I am trying to convey and hopefully that shows. (Chuckles) Sean helps out with some riffs and we work out some arrangements. All the guitars, vocals and bass were recorded in my home studio setup. The drums were done by Erik Schultek in his legitimate studio, Level3studios. He then mixes and co-produces the album from there. As for difficulties, I find the hardest part to be that Erik is a total recording pro and I am, well… a novice in comparison. So I had to learn a lot and he had a lot to deal with in getting everything from me correctly, which was totally my fault. I felt bad for him, but he is killer at the craft so I wasn’t that worried. He mixed each song with pure passion, making sure that the chaotic message was never lost. In fact, he amplified it far beyond what I had imagined.
Do you have any hope for the future of civilization, or is it our culling time?
Hope? Possibly. The only hope that I have is that of which I cultivate within my circle and tribe. It’s the basic way of life. Some see it differently where letting a group of horrible people have access to their future, letting bits of this and bits of that go to either a theocracy based on wealth and power by rendering all as slaves. When I say slaves I mean, complacency and sheer laziness to take responsibility for your life. Everyday the masses just entrust people who would gladly shield themselves with your innocent and walk away without as much of a blemish upon their skin. Where the masses let their wealth line the pockets of these same people. Then the slaves who feel this is the righteous way of being, are lured into the enslavement by simple messages that they constructed for them to have purpose. These slaves are the henchmen for the empire and shall never be trusted with anyone that you care for. They are the type to grab an infant and hold it up to stop someone from hurting them. It’s insanity. My logic would be to stand in between such threats and those I care for, and I wanted to express these things in the album. Visions of what seemingly is an approach for our kind. I believe in unity and loyalty to the extreme and live by a code to protect those within my circle and tribe. To elude from danger by strength and deep bonds with each other. I feel most live only for their own desires and would sacrifice things of great worth for a short moment of satisfaction. The chipping away of those ideals is a design the empire has infected our civilization with. The logic of “tread lightly” is very real for me, especially to those I respect.
Being independent musicians, you rely a lot on fan support as well as social media promotion and other methods to get the word out, so that people buy the record. Especially in the age when people stream more than they purchase. I’m sure that you’ve been reading up on New Neutrality and how it’s removal could make things very difficult for musicians like you to continue making music in the digital age. How do you feel about this? Is it a major concern, or just unnecessary paranoia?
Great question. How do I explain myself on this? It’s a conflict we all have. To progress technologically is man’s greatest adventure. To make things easier through technology and ideas. It has become a phantom of reality that we have lost ourselves in as creatures upon this earth. Do I like technology? Absolutely. Yet as with all things, man has a beautiful way of fucking that up. Musically, digital has made it possible for me to connect with Sean and Erik so we can share and create. Then releasing it and hopefully monetizing it enough to pay for itself. I find myself frustrated with the whole idea of not being able to move physical tangible objects such as the disappearing CD. The digital age and that phantom of I spoke of makes us feel that thin air is reality. Concerned ? I’m always concerned when digital platforms get free range on the efforts of the ones who actually do the work to create. As for corporations choking digital service, that is just another way to generate new revenue streams. It only proves your liberty is an illusion and the reality can be unplugged at any moment. So… Enjoy it while it lasts.
Being that we here at The Grim Tower are dedicated to melding extreme music with geek culture, we’d like to know what kinds of things you geek out on when you’re not playing music. Are you gamers? Movie buffs? Book nerds? Or do you geek out on something completely different?
Me personally, I love simply being outside in nature. Anything where you can escape and devote your ears and eyes to its natural symphony of balance. I also geek out on being physically fit. I absolutely love working out and getting my body to optimum physical levels. From the actual mechanics and the diet, the food the nutrition I find very fulfilling to constantly be working at it. It’s pretty much a constant science project. I am very much into martial arts and everything involved with that, ranging from firearms to jujitsu. Anything that would be useful in the event of a complete collapse. All of that plays into being physically fit etc. Along with that, books are great! I don’t watch TV and generally limit myself to news and political blabber. Just enough to look and say “yep, it’s still fucked” and carry on with creating my own world within my circle. I also limit myself on Facebook and social media etc. The phantom of reality lurks very hard in that world. When you get a question from someone saying “why did you like so and so’s pic?” (Enter any rabid idiot’s question here) you may have any to re-evaluate the relationship between you and that person. Cause when I hear something like that, I picture someone literally foaming from the mouth with some kind of glazed over wild look in their eye. You suddenly ask yourself “Is this person stricken with a kind of zombie virus?” (Laughs) Don’t get me wrong. It’s a great tool to meet some interesting people but I have found that people render it as a reality. I’ve seen friends and myself included, fall into that strange place. So I try to actively keep it at an arms length away. Movies come second, though sometimes I have been known to binge watch on Netflix or something.
The latest album from this North Carolinian metal act comes in like a battering ram, reminding me as much of Nile and Morbid Angel as I am current-era SepticFlesh, The Monolith Deathcult and even mid-era Behemoth. Sometimes atmosphere is gathered, which I think is a useful piece of this album as it gives us a little room to breathe between the battering drums and fierce solo efforts splattered all over this incredible release, a disc that admittedly flew right under my radar and by the looks of it, many other listener’s radars as well. That’s quite unfortunate, as this is a hell of a lot more interesting than the new Cannibal Corpse was and several other death discs that were released around the same time. The disc clocks in at close to an hour, but there’s no shortage of punishment to be had. The grooves are plentiful, Jon Vesano’s vocals are wholly convincing, even wonderfully theatrical at times, making for a disc that feels like a real experience in not only it’s amount of brackishness, but it’s penchant for the outlandish. This disc is at times, completely over the top and I think that’s why it comes off so well. Again, I feel like I’m getting a Monolith Deathcult feel here and that’s a great thing, as Versus was a bit less interesting than I would have wanted. Just in case this one also flew under your radar, give it a listen. Chances are that you’re going to be completely amazed and wind up clicking the “buy” button after just a couple of tracks. It really upsets me that there hasn’t been as much coverage on this one as there needs to be and regardless of Cannibal’s contributions to the genre, these days they are just repaving the road. All the coverage that went to sub-par discs like Red Before Black should have gone to Etude and in a better world, one that wasn’t so concerned with clicks and views for mostly popular acts, this would have been the case. I might even go as far to say that this one was more interesting to me than the new Morbid Angel, because it least there’s a bit more here than noodling without purpose. Sometimes you need an atmosphere to immerse the listener in, and riffs – Vesano actually writes some real riffs, which this disc is jam packed with. It’s great to see that the band calm things down a bit on “Drown The Child” which shows that they’ve got more staying power than several of the legends at this point in time. Maybe it’s time to pass the torch over, because Etude just sounds better. In fact, it is one of the few death discs that actually stuck out to me this year, because again – it actually has substance. The theatrics, melodies and potent riff combinations keep this record from becoming a horrid heap of bland drums and gravel, which has unfortunately been the norm in this genre for quite a while. Also, while there is definitely technicality here, In-Defilade offer much more than the Obscura regurgitation that I’ve heard over the past few years. Without a doubt, In-Defilade will keep the death metal genre fresh and free of commercial gimmicks and popular metal trends. These guys play the game their way, and I’m ever thankful for it.
(11 Tracks, 49:00)
Official Website (Purchase Options Available Here)