INTERVIEW - UMBILICUS: "we started writing this 70s type of rock, it was so nice to finally kick out the jams, but not in a murderous, blast-beat type of way"
New rock outfit UMBILICUS is made up of CANNIBAL CORPSE drummer/lyricist Paul Mazurkiewicz, guitarist Taylor Nordberg (DEICIDE, INHUMAN CONDITION), bassist Vernon Blake (ANARCHUS, NAPALM DEATH-live), and vocalist Brian Stephenson (FORE, OLD JAMES). Though they are well known in the metal community, this new group is nothing like their primary bands but sees the band show their love of 60's and 70's rock. Their debut album title has been revealed as "Path Of 1000 Suns" but with no set release date yet. I caught up with guitarist Taylor Nordberg to get the lowdown on this new hard rock group.
First things first, how did you arrive at the band name of UMBILICUS and what does it mean for you as a band?
Well, I think I was reading the book “It” by Stephen King, and there is a library in the book where one building is the adult side, and one side is the children’s side, and it was connected by an umbilicus, or section connecting the two. Around the same time, I was watching some sci-fi movie and they were talking about the umbilicus connecting the two ships. So when we were writing and jamming at the Cannibal Corpse rehearsal spot, a tiny little plant started growing down from the ceiling in the corner of the room. It looked kind of awesome so we just let it grow and it made it all the way down to the ground, just this little tiny plant. One of the songs we wrote needed a working title so I suggested Umbilicus, named after the plant. We had a different band name at the time but it was only a placeholder so when we decided to pick a real name, I think we all thought Umbilicus was cool enough and unique enough to be a great band name.
When and how did you come to form? Did coronavirus and the lockdowns play a part in this new band forming?
Technically, Paul and Vern formed the band in the early 2000s with Jack Owen on guitar, and they wrote a bunch of songs and did a few shows I think. Fast forward to 2020 and Jack was tied up with Six Feet Under and was living up near Chicago, a mutual friend recommended that I step in as guitarist. So I learned a few of their songs and jammed with Paul and Vern in July of 2020 I believe, and we hit it off right away. I had known Paul’s drumming for years of course but only his death metal stuff, and he had such a unique style of playing rock, it was awesome. And Vern is an absolute monster on the bass. He plays with his fingers, and he really hammers those strings, it’s very powerful in the room.
How difficult has it been to find time for this new project with your other band commitments?
It’s a challenge, for sure, but it’s not too difficult. I have about a million bands with Jeramie Kling, and people always say we’re crazy for having so many and that we’re “spreading ourselves thin”. I disagree. I put 110% into every project or band I have. We try not to overlap too many album cycles together because that is when it gets nuts. But when one band is releasing an album, we’ll be writing for another, mixing for another, and prepping for another’s release. Our bands all sound very different, which is helpful. The Absence doesn’t sound like Inhuman Condition, which doesn’t sound like FORE, which doesn’t sound like Umbilicus, etc. I like the challenge of writing like a chameleon as well.
Your debut album which is due for release later this year is inspired by the love of 60s and 70s rock, following on from that what bands specifically influenced you the most and what about 60/70s rock do you love the most?
Well, for me personally, Aerosmith is at the top of that list. They are the reason I picked up a guitar. Tons of bands influenced my writing for this album though. 70s Scorpions, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Captain Beyond, Lucifer’s Friend, Led Zeppelin, maybe a little Alice In Chains or even some Def Leppard in there. The first Grand Funk Railroad is a highly praised album in our camp, as well. It’s such a powerful album.
How did you come up with the album title of "Path of 1000 Suns", what is the meaning behind it?
That was a lyric from the ending of “Gathering At The Kuiper Belt” which is the album closer. I honestly just heard the lyric and thought it would be a great title, but it could also be a metaphor for life. We walk the path of life, sun goes up, sun goes down a thousand times (hopefully more!), and you just walk with it and see where it takes you. It’s a positive, kind of uplifting title to me.
The album artwork is really cool, can you tell us about the design and how it came together?
When we were talking about art for the album, the guys suggested that I give it a try. I dabble in digital art and have been doing some sort of surreal, psychedelic, sci-fi type stuff. So I had a concept and presented it to the guys, and they loved it, so I just went for it. We wanted it to have a late 60s/70s vibe, so we had to add a mushroom of course, and all sorts of trippy stuff relating to different song titles.
Your sound is very different to what you would all play in your own main bands and past work, that must have been part of the appeal and fun of deciding to start UMBILICUS and have more musical freedom?
Yeah everyone says “This sounds nothing like Cannibal Corpse or Deicide!”, well duh!! You can’t throw a Zeppelin riff in a Cannibal song, so that’s why side-projects can be super healthy. Like I said before, I have a ton of bands already, but no rock bands! So when we started writing this 70s type of rock, it was so nice to finally kick out the jams, but not in a murderous, blast-beat type of way, haha.
You have just released your debut single ‘Hello Future’, can you tell us about this song?
This song is super fun. We wanted to release a sort of “happy” song at first to further separate us from the other metal bands we play in. I think it is a good summation of the rock, funk, psychedelic, and hard rock vibes we tried to capture in the album. The song also showcases Brian’s incredible vocal talents. That man can harmonize with himself so well! We had to show that off in the first single. 'Hello Future' is also the perfect “Hello” for the band to be introduced to the world.
You have recently just signed a with Blood Blast Distribution, how excited are you to work with them for the debut release and what made you want to sign with them in particular?
Blood Blast is great! I have worked with them on several other album releases and it has been a breeze and a ‘blast’ every time. They are super easy to communicate with, which is rare these days, they are very much a label that cares about the artist and wants them to be taken care of. They always offer a super fair deal and they handle all the digital stuff for us.
What was the writing and recording process like for your debut album?
We wrote all the music pretty quick. I think between July and December of 2020 all 10 songs were written. We recorded the drums in January of 2021, and bass and guitar were recorded soon after that. Up until that point, I was the vocalist, and we all kind of agreed that it would be best for the band to get a “real” singer, haha. So we spent the next few months trying to get a singer lined up, and when we finally nailed down Brian as the vocalist that summer sometime, it was like the stars aligned. So he had to take some time to write lyrics and vocal patterns and get his stuff recorded, but it was all wrapped up pretty quick.
How different was the process for writing and recording for UMBILICUS compared to your other projects?
This project was spread out over about a year, only because we had to find a vocalist and integrate him into the band. Most of the other projects I have are recorded, mixed, and mastered super quick because it’s mostly just Jeramie and I that handle it all. The writing was nice, because Paul, Vern and I would just work out the tunes and arrangements in the rehearsal room just like in high school, sweating our butts off. That’s part of the majesty of writing though!
What are some of the main lyrical themes explored in the upcoming release?
Brian wrote all of the lyrics for the album, but I think a lot of his topics revolve around humanity. Whether he is summing up the problems of the human race, talking about the optimistic future of the human race, or talking about the mysteries of our future, etc. I think he usually has a positive perspective on his lyrics, and there’s an uplifting quality as well. It’s “serious” enough to make you think, but not too serious to where you can’t daydream while listening.
Are their plans to tour with UMBILICUS?
We don’t have anything lined up right now, but we would absolutely love to play some shows, and tour if possible. It’s a bit of a challenge lining up our schedules between Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, and Inhuman Condition, as well as everyone’s life schedule, but we are definitely going to make an effort to play as much as possible.
What else does UMBILICUS have planned for the rest of the year?
Right now we are just planning the album’s release. We’ll have another single coming out in early July, and we will announce the album’s release date and the rest of the info as well. So we are designing merch and whatnot so we can make this a special release. We may try to squeeze in a show or two here and there, but it’s all up in the air. These days, you can really only plan a day in advance haha.
Is there anything else you would like to share or add?
Thanks to everyone for all the positive responses so far! Check us out on our social media pages or our youtube channel to stay up to date on our releases, and visit the Bandcamp and grab yourself a shirt! Stay safe. “Let the music do the talking” -Taylor
Brian Stephenson - Vocals
Paul Mazurkiewicz - Drums
Taylor Nordberg - Guitar
Vernon Blake - Bass