CULT OF SCARECROW – A Talk With GUNTHER ‘GUNNY’ POPPE (Bass & Backing Vocals)

Posted on December 26th. 2018

Questionnaire by Stefan on behalf of METAL TO INFINITY WEBZINE BELGIUM


This Belgian band consists of members who have been active for many years in numerous other bands with different styles of music, in the course of the upcoming conversation you will learn about which bands are involved. Cult Of Scarecrow have released their first EP a few weeks ago which I have taken care of to put down a discussion. Not being the most passionate doom metal fanatic, still the pleasure was entirely on my side. I would like to let the band speak for themselves in hope to get some more background information about the founding, the current developments and of course the ambitions with a view to the future. Let’s light the fuse…

Stefan: First I want to congratulate you on the release of your first achievement, the self-titled EP ! I would have liked to start with the question about the origin of the band and who came up with the idea to start a doom metal band?

Gunny: The original idea was to do some jam sessions with the former members of Die Sinner Die, just for fun. I’m talking about lead vocalist Armando, guitarists Jan and Ivan, drummer Jeannot and me on bass. We had a great time with that band in the early 90’s, but it remained very local and probably because of the lack of ambition the band just stopped existing.

But back to the sessions. I guess it was 2017 or something. We played the old DSD songs like there had never been a twenty year break, and we decided to make some new songs. That went very well, and the new songs were completely different from the old ones. It was a natural process, I guess you can say we became twenty years older, and in the meantime our musical influences changed. As a result, the new music sounded more mature, but slower and more threatening. It’s not like if we decided : OK, from now on we play doom metal. That was certainly not the case. It’s what the listeners make of it. We just consider it as heavy metal.

After a while we decided to drop the old DSD stuff and name the band ‘Cult of Scarecrow’. The bandname comes from the song, not reverse. In the meantime, Armando quit due to health problems. Jeannot knew Filip from Innerface and he knew he was available. Filip’s clean vocals fitted in very well. But it still lacked something, something to make it complete : keyboards. I knew Eddy from his former bands and I asked him to do a tryout with us. He turned up with his gear and after two notes we knew he was the perfect choice ! The keyboards added that extra something to our music. Unfortunately, Jeannot quit the band after the recordings for personal reasons. Nico took his place behind the drums and he does it splendidly.

Stefan: All of the members have played in different bands for many years, who played where and maybe a word related to the genre would be good to know?

Gunny: Jan, Ivan and me played in Dead Serious (Belgian thrash metal band 1987-1993). Before that, Ivan and Jan were in Explorer, and I played with Trial (mini-LP ‘Scream for Mercy’ released by Colour Records in 1985). Dead Serious played most of their gigs in Holland back in the days and we were more popular in Holland than in Belgium. I remember playing in the legendary Dynamo in Eindhoven, only one weekend after Anthrax played there. In 1991 West Virginia Records released our full CD ‘It’s a nice day’. It had a good distribution in Germany and it sold quite well. But we never saw a penny of it, by the way. It was a complete rip-off. After the split in 1993 we asked Jeannot, the former drummer of Mindruin, to start a completely new band with us, Die Sinner Die. DSD was much more experimental, more industrial. We released a demo with 4 songs, we did a few gigs and that was it. We were not that successful, but we had a lot of fun (laughs).

Filip was with Innerface, a melodic punk-rock band from the 90’s. They made some demos and a couple of their songs appeared on English punk label compilations. Eddy played guitar with powermetal band Battering Ram in the 80’s (comeback EP ‘Atlantis : Remembrance of a Lost Future’ in 2008). In between he did some keyboards for Ramses in the 90’s (EP ‘Secrets’ in 1998) and after that founded the symphonic metalband ‘In Darkness I Dwell’ (EP released in 2007). They split up in 2013. Nico played at metalcore band ‘Tears of Colossus’ before he came to us, and before that, he was with a band called ‘Shogun’.

You see, that’s a lot of different influences and years of metal experience that were re-united at Cult of Scarecrow.

Stefan: Why have you now chosen to follow the ways of the doom metal landscape?

Gunny: There was no intention whatsoever. Like I said, we took all our influences and experiences with us to the new band and this music was the result. Is it really genuine doom metal ?

I don’t think so, but the dark and doomy lyrics maybe give it a little extra push in that direction. We have a story to tell, and we need the time to do it. That’s why we make such long songs, it can’t be told in three or four minutes.

Our message is not optimistic, and we want the music to be the perfect canvas. So it’s threatening and slow, maybe even inconvenient. It’s like you’ve just seen a scary movie, it makes you slightly uncomfortable.

Stefan: Do you mind to give me a definition of what this genre encompasses for you, which bands can you mention as inspiration sources?

Gunny: Let’s say we play old-school metal in a modern jacket. It’s how it all started and we keep being influenced by the old bands : Sabbath, Purple, Zeppelin, etc. Alice in Chains, too. Even after all these decades, these bands and their songs remain immortal. We pay tribute to them. If you ask me what I listen to in my car, you’ll get a different answer. I’m very into melodic deathmetal : In Flames, Soilwork, The Haunted, … Some hardcore and metalcore, too. And all band members will give you different answers.

Stefan: Can you tell me some more details on the topics of the lyrics?

Gunny: We use metaphors to bring the message. ‘The Hour of Blood Run’ is about the Aztec ritual of sacrificing children to the god of light. Priests cutting out the hearts of living young babies for the higher purpose. That was long ago, but cruelties and bestialities still happen now, in the name of religion. We haven’t learned a bit in all these thousands of years. ‘Last Words from Black Birds’ is about the message the birds bring us just before the apocalypse. We’re very much ruining our planet, but our rulers don’t care, because there is a lot of money involved. At the end of the song, everything explodes and it looks like it’s all gone. But in the final song ‘Adrift and Astray’ we leave a message of hope, Phoenix rising from its ashes. It’s about the last species of our kind searching for another world to live in. They’re frightened, they’re desperate and they’re stuck in their space ship, and the chances are few. How it continues, you will find out on our next CD.

 

Stefan: Why did you choose a band name like, what is the underlying reason?

Gunny: We have a song called ‘The Cult of Scarecrow’. It’s about people who always want more, even if they have everything already, they still want more. The scarecrow is a metaphor for greed, for never having enough, for artificial friendships, for hypocrisy. Lots of people worship this cult of wealth. But just before they die, they realize that they lived a lie. That’s what the Cult of Scarecrow stands for. It’s filthy, it’s disgusting, but it’s one hell of a name for a band.

 

Stefan: In Belgium, doom metal is not really relevant and unless my ignorance in this gem, I regard COS as the revelation of contemporary metal movement, nationally oriented. Are you in agreement with this assumption?

Gunny: We realize that what we do is not new, but it’s fresh and recognizable. People listen to our music and say : “Hey, that’s nice. I hear some influences here and there, but it’s pretty original and it’s good”. One cannot say we are a copy of this or that band, we just do our own stuff. We play music from our heart and this is what comes out. Are we a revelation ? I don’t know. People are surprised because we come out of the blue, they didn’t expect the old guys coming back for more again.

Stefan: You have a good feeling at the current Belgian metal scene? Feel free to name a few bands you really adore.

Gunny: You actually feel there’s something going on. There are a lot of Belgian bands that are ready for an international breakthrough, or are already breaking through. You can’t tell the difference anymore between a Belgian or an international production. Belgium delivers quality and it starts to pay off. Bands like Hexa Mera, Amenra, Evil Invaders, FireForce and Signs of Algorithm are international class. Wiegedood, King Hiss and Huracan are very good, as well. And of course there are a lot of bands I forget to mention.

 

Stefan: November, 6th 2018 was the date your debut EP saw the light of day. Who has cooperated to make this product a success?

Gunny: We really wanted an international sound, and we heard some of the recordings that Ace Zec did in his Oceanside Studio. We were immediately convinced that this was the man and the place. We got ourselves a nice budget and started recording in april 2018. It took some time for the mixing to become perfect, but Ace did a very good job. The mastering was done in Germany, and the result was even better then we’ve hoped for. We’re very proud of the end product. Now we want the world to hear it. You can stream it everywhere. And we chose to release a physical CD, too. Lots of metalheads prefer to see a cover, the lyrics, bandpics, info, … while listening.

Stefan: To whom comes the honor for the excellent song structures?

Gunny: Thank you for the compliment. I guess hard rehearsal was the key. And a lot of trial and error, too. The whole band worked very hard to make the songs perfect. This sometimes meant throwing whole songs in the bin and start over again. But we’re very proud of the songs, and we’re already working on new material.

 

Stefan: Mastered by Carsten Bucher (Germany), the artwork/logo by Black Space Graphics (Greece), how did these international negotiations come about?

Gunny: Pure co-incidence. These guys are friends of our former drummer, and they were very much willing to help us. We asked Black Space for a logo and some artwork, and he did a splendid job. And Carsten was honored to do the mastering for us, and the end result was magnificent. Great guys, we owe them a lot.

Stefan: There is already talk of some notoriety on a national and international level?

Gunny: In Belgium and Holland, people start to know us. It’s not easy, as we start from scratch. We are very happy with Mike from Hard Life Promotion helping us here. International, I don’t know. We had some international reviews, and they are very positive. It’s a start, we’ll see what happens next.

 

Stefan: How has the EP been welcomed by the press?

Gunny: Very good, only good reviews till now. But it’s a quiet period now, we’re still hoping for some extra reviews. And there are a lot of bands to compete with, it’s difficult to get your CD reviewed. But we can’t complain, the reactions were unanimously positive.

 

Stefan: What do you guys think of the end result yourself?

Gunny: Very good. Very proud, too. We never thought it would have been this good. When you only hear your music in a rehearsal room, where the sound quality is not optimal, it was a bit of a surprise to suddenly hear it pure and clean. And lucky for us, we passed the test.

 

Stefan: To whom would you like to recommend the EP?

Gunny: To everyone that loves metal, certainly to those who can take the time to listen to it a few times. Because that’s what it is : it’s not fast and instant pleasure, one must take the time. Lay back, relax and just listen. Over and over again… One listener told us that he enjoyed the EP after he heard it the first time, but when he listened to it a few times, he thought it was a true masterpiece. A big compliment, but he’s right (laughs).

 

Stefan: A while ago I have made a review for the product, agree with what I have written?

Gunny: A very good review, Stefan, thank you very much. Very spot on, too. And you calling us ‘cuddly doom metal’ was very funny. I think you understand very well what we meant with this EP. And your rating of 84/100 can be considered very good for a debut.

 

Stefan: When can we welcome you on one or another stage, or have a few already been finished?

Gunny: We did a try-out gig some months ago, a support act for Huracan. It turned out very well, but we wanted to concentrate on the EP first. Now we’re done with that, we’re working on a complete set to play live. We will soon be ready to hit the stage, so hopefully the concert promotors and festival managers are as enthusiastic as the press. You can call us personally, we don’t have a manager, we are very DIY (laughs).

 

Stefan: The end of this conversation is coming, but conclude, I would have liked to know what the plans are for the near future.

Gunny: Do some gigs, some festivals maybe, promote our EP as good as possible, write new songs, find a record company to release our full CD, … You see, there’s enough to be done.

 

Stefan: Where can interested people discover your activities/order the EP?

Gunny: Check our facebook page : http://facebook.com/thecultofscarecrow for more news and activities. Bookings and orders can be made at cultofscarecrow@gmail.com

Stefan: From here I want to thank you for the collaboration and music that surprised me quite a bit. If you want to add something to this story, I would like to give you the time and space with immediate commencement, Cheers !

Gunny: Not very much to add, Stefan. Thank you for giving us the chance to tell our story. You were the first to hear it. Maybe in a few years, who knows what it’s worth ? Cheers mate !