Washington, DC-based death metal band Genocide Pact are releasing their self-titled third album this week. Their music is a primitive, rage-fueled roar; vocalist/guitarist Tim Mullaney has a powerful, hoarse bellow, and the band’s riffs, played with bassist Michael Nolan and second guitarist Demir Soyer, and propelled by drummer Connor Donegan, often sit in a downtuned, chugging zone not unlike classic early ’90s acts like Benediction and Bolt Thrower. The album has an organic feel, like it was actually made by humans working together in a room — and as you’ll read in the interview below, that was in fact the case.
Here’s a video for “Perverse Dominion”:
I got on the phone with Mullaney in mid-November to talk about the new record, the band’s creative evolution (they added Soyer after their last album, 2018’s Order of Torment), and his lyrical philosophy.
You’ve been together since 2013 with only one membership change — adding a guy. What has going from a trio to a quartet done for the music?
It mostly just thickened it up. That was the main thing. And definitely live it helps. I do guitar and vocals at the same time, so it’s nice to have someone else doubling up the riffs in case I slip on a note or something. And definitely for solo parts, it’s good to have a rhythm guitar underneath. Demir’s a really skilled lead player, he’s a lot more formally trained than me — we wouldn’t want somebody who’s a real shredder, but honestly it’s not something we put in place to have a ton of crazy harmonies or anything like that, mostly just kinda to beef up the sound.
At the end of the last track, “Industrial Obedience,” it sounds like you’re trading off leads as the song fades out — that’s really cool.
Oh yeah, that was a lot of fun. The very last track. We had a lot of fun doing that, we were just messing around and just kind of taking stabs at a bunch of — I feel like there’s a bunch of stuff that got cut, too. We didn’t do a ton of solos on the new record, but we kind of put ’em where they count. I think that part called for it.
From my perspective as a listener, the new album seems more dynamic overall than your previous work. There are more really fast parts, and some really slow sections. On the first two records, you spent a lot of time in second gear, sort of. What’s changed in terms of writing the new material?
It’s funny you say that, ’cause we’re actually trying to stay in second gear a little more on this one, ’cause I feel like [laughs] on the first two records, there are parts — not to say that… I haven’t gone through and listened to what has more tempo changes, but I feel like when we started the band and definitely as we progressed to the second record, putting a tempo change in almost seemed like the most obvious way to add to a song, or if we were kind of hitting a point where something needed to change, the tempo was always kind of the first variable that we would manipulate. And on this album, I think we put a little more effort into putting odd turnarounds and pauses and things in the same tempo range to keep them interesting. So I think sometimes the arrangements kind of switch up on like, a weird odd-signature turnaround or something like that. I guess as far as songs go, we do have a couple of songs that are really slow, and one song that’s pretty fast all the way through. I think those were kind of to add a little variety to the record.
Yeah, the song “Deprive Degrade” is basically grindcore. It really tears along.
Yeah, definitely. That was a fun one to do. Because the original three of us met through touring in our previous bands, Disciples of Christ was me and Nolan, that was a grindcore band, and Abuse was one of Connor’s bands, that was a fast powerviolence hardcore type band, so we all know each other through grindcore and powerviolence music, so, you know, we’ve had blast beat parts on the first two records but we kind of wanted to do one that was, you know, kind of a fast song all the way through. That was a lot of fun.
The first record, to me, sits right in that “hardcore band discovers death metal” kind of zone. It’s only about 25 minutes long, it’s super heavy, but there’s still that hardcore primitivism to it.
Well, what’s interesting there is that we get that from time to time, but like Connor and I specifically were kind of kids that grew up — when we were like 12 or 13, we were super into metal, and that would have been loosely between like 2004 and 2007 that we would have been listening to metal and at that point, Roadrunner Records was re-releasing some of their early catalog like Obituary and Malevolent Creation and a lot of the classic death metal bands were getting their CDs re-released, I think as a way to fulfill their contracts [laughs]. So Connor and I both got into death metal very early on, and got into some of the more primitive stuff around that point. And we were definitely metalheads before we were into hardcore. Which came later, because I think for similar reasons it’s kind of… the first death metal bands I heard were really, really raw and primitive, and the deeper I dived into the genre, I started finding more technical stuff that was a little less aggressive and more kind of wanky, I guess, and that was the point where I got into grindcore and hardcore and stuff like that, because it was like, all right, at least this shit’s still aggressive and primitive the way I like it. Because if I keep looking for more and more death metal, I was kind of going down [where] I’m not gonna get into the more technical side of things. So yeah, I think we all just kind of are into primitive music in general, whether it be metal or hardcore.
How does the creative process work within the band? Does one person do most of the writing? Is it music first, then lyrics, or a combination?
Definitely music first. I think on this album, we had a little more of a — we tried to write with some idea of what the vocals would be, but still, it’s not very concrete until the songs are written musically. We write pretty organically; I’ll usually come to practice with an idea or two, Connor and I primarily do the writing and then our bassist Nolan is pretty good at showing up and saying what he likes, what he doesn’t like, helping rearrange things, but honestly, most of it is written pretty garage band style — showing up, I’ll have a couple riffs and then Connor and I try to bounce ideas off each other until we hash out a full song. Sometimes I’ll come with something a little more complete, but it’s a pretty collaborative process. I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of current metal where a lot of times it’s like, one guy writes everything for the band, or puts the tabs on Guitar Pro or something and sends it around, but we still kinda write like, ‘I have a couple riffs — let’s come up with something fuckin’ cool!’ That classic format kinda works for us.
Lyrically you’re pretty fatalistic. Is that just the side of yourself you’ve chosen to express through the band, or is this one manifestation of a broader philosophical outlook? And what fuels that mindset?
Well, I would say that the Genocide Pact lyrics are definitely exorcising a part of my brain that needs an outlet. But largely, the general theme — I wouldn’t call it a manifesto or anything, it’s largely just kind of paranoia and frustration with the way things are. Politically, economically, et cetera — a lot of the songs are kind of… the whole idea of a genocide pact to begin with was this handshake agreement between multinational corporations and large governments, and the fallout of business as usual, you know? How the types of trade agreements that need to be made around the world in order for T-shirts to come to the United States for cheap is pretty much corporations and governments at some point excusing labor practices that border on slavery, and that most of the commodities we consume have a long, treacherous, dangerous path to travel before they get to us, and then by the time they get to us sometimes the lives that we have here, our [citizens are] getting worked a ton and getting downsized a ton and getting turned into independent contractors — the lyrics are pretty bleak, I’d say. Definitely not a socially hopeful outlook. And the way I see it is, we’re a death metal band, maybe in other facets of my life I have hope for the world, but I’m not bringing that shit into Genocide Pact [laughs]. All the horrible things I see in the world are kind of regurgitated into a death metal band.
What do you do for a living?
I’m an electrician on large construction projects. I’m a construction worker. Yeah, I’m an apprentice and it’s still decent money. I would say to people aspiring to pursue anything creative… become a construction worker, because it separates you from the thing that you do, that you like doing, and definitely if you have all your eggs in one basket, I feel like playing music or writing about it can start to get pretty routine. And that’s when you start writing shit that you think people’ll like or whatever.
How was this album funded? Did Relapse give you money to record, or did you have to do it yourself and bring it to them?
They gave us a budget for this one. This is our second record with them, so they had a budget allocated for us, we used that, went to a traditional studio — yeah, the financing of it was pretty straightforward.
And what did you do in terms of the actual recording? It’s funny that you mentioned Roadrunner earlier, because I worked for them for several years and I remember one of their bands literally recorded an album in the producer’s house. We got all these photos of the guitarist tracking straight into the computer, and then it all got tuned up in Pro Tools. So were you guys laying tracks in a room, or was it all — how digital was the recording?
I would say not very. We’ve done every record with our friend Kevin Bernsten of Developing Nations Recording; he has a studio in Baltimore that is technically in his house, but he owns a duplex and he lives on the top floor and the bottom floor of one house is the live room and the other house is the control room. So it’s a pretty cool studio, huge glass panels between the rooms. But we kinda used Pro Tools as a tape recorder mostly, I mean, in fact the first record we did, Forged Through Domination, we did with Kevin and we did record that to two-inch tape. We thought about doing this one to two-inch tape, but I think there was a problem with his machine. I think it was as simple as that. Of course we would have dumped it to Pro Tools afterwards for slight edits, but we’re pretty adamant about getting a natural drum sound. That’s one thing that I think a lot of current death metal albums lack; it’s very easy to either get triggers, sample everything, or to just settle on a real dead sound for everything…
Yeah, typewriter drums.
Yeah, super clicky, like the …And Justice for All sound. Conner always wants to get a John Bonham-like drum sound, so we try to get something pretty natural, spend a lot of time tuning drums, trying to get something that sounds real on that front, and guitar-wise, just plug straight into amps, no amp simulators, nothing like that. That’s another thing that we try to steer clear of. We utilize a lot of parts with feedback and I don’t know, sometimes when you’re dialing in a tone, I like to hear it like, you’re trying to get something to break up in a way that doesn’t feel right on an app. So we pretty much use Pro Tools as a tape recorder. We’re not a very — we don’t use technology to our advantage very often or as a tool, for better or worse. We don’t spend a lot of time demoing things. We record voice memos on our iPhones of the whole band playing, or we’ll send things to each other very primitively and we’re not doing a lot of programming. We didn’t play to a click track on this one…
The music you write wouldn’t benefit from the bass booms that they throw into deathcore records. That kind of thing doesn’t really track with what you guys are doing.
Yeah, definitely not. I think it would sound pretty horrible if we went that route. I think we have a pretty old-school approach.