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Interview: Undercode

by Vjeran

Undercode is one of the Croatian metal bands that marked the end of the 90’s and the first half of the 00’s. All their energy has been directed to the foreign market. They attracted the attention of the audience very fast, specially with the soundtrack of the world famous PC game “Serious Sam – The Second Encounter”. After their debut “Enlightening the World” (2002), released for Australian and New Zealand markets, the band started working on the second album and it seemd they would become one of the famous European names of the metal scene. But that never happened!

One day, a group of fans from Russia launched a fan site that gathered several thousand people from all parts of the Russian Federation and some of ex-SSSR. After getting in touch with the guys, they wondered if the band would reunite and their music would be presented on the soundtrack for the third edition of the Serious Sam.

During 2013 and 2014, they filmed three videos in the form of a trilogy of short flips at the four-day event held in the Mojave California Desert for the album “Post-Apocalyptic”. Year later, the band was to set up their own label Undercode Music.

These days, the band has finally announced their return at the Valhalla Festival, which will take place at Club  Močvara in Zagreb, on May 12th. On that occasion, we had the honor to talk to the founder and singer of the band Damir ” Ljubo” Ljubičić. Take a look!

Hi, how would you compare the Croatian metal scene today and back from the time you started playing?
Well, I started being active on the scene back in the early 1990’s, when I joined thrash metal band Drinking Skull.
The war was raging but the scene was alive and well. Bands like Anesthesia, Legija, Kain, Hard Time, Hatross, Drinking Skull and a few others were waving the metal flag and the fan base was solid and growing. All those bands I mentioned were heavily promoted by Pišta’s TV show Metal Mania and the festival of the same name.
In those days before the Internet, bands used to release independently made LP’s and cassettes and those bands who managed to get a record deal (with Croatia Records or Dancing Bear) were perceived as the successful ones. Then the Grunge movement and Rap-metal crossover became very dominant and metal suddenly became unfashionable… The Croatian metal scene almost disappeared at one stage but thank God, new bands started popping up and they saved the sinking ship.
It’s hard to compare the scene from the early 90’s and today because the world changed so much. There was no Internet back then, it was hard to get new music and musical instruments, there was no YouTube to watch lessons…Today, everything is at the palm of your hand and it’s amazing how these younger generations are able to play far better than us when we were their age.

What were the reasons for your numerous breaks?
Hmmmm… Actually, there were not that many pauses in our career… There was one, but it was a long one. We were quite active from 1998 to 2005, but then I had to go back to Australia due to a family matter, therefore we decided to switch off our engines and put Undercode into hibernation mode until the circumstances changed… Fast forward 6 years and we soon discovered (via the wonders of social media) that we had a pretty big fan base in Russia and Ukraine.
Thanks to those fans, one of our new tracks ended up on the video game Serious Sam once again! The new song was titled “Final Fight” and it was received very well.
Once the single was out, many fans from all over the world started asking us to release another album. We had ten songs recorded but not quite completed, so we decided to finish them and release our “Post-Apocalyptic” album as a “thank you” to all our fans.
It took another four years until the CD was finally available to the public, and there are many reasons for that. One of them was the difficulty in finding a label that could offer us, at the very least, a fair deal. Illegal downloading took the whole industry to its knees and we had no other option than to start our own label Undercode Music.
So, since the album was released, it took us another three years to physically get together in one room and start rehearsing again.

Is this your final comeback?
Well, I guess that in some aspects it probably is. It’s hard to predict where we’ll go from here, but we’ll definitely release some new music and perform live, wherever that may be,as long as fans want to see us. Also, we have been invited to contribute to the new soundtrack of the latest sequel of Serious Sam, so I guess we’ll be busy for some time yet.

What do you think about the Valhalla Festival?
I’ve never been to the festival before. As I mentioned previously, I’ve been away for some 10-11 years, but all my friends are telling me that Valhalla is a crucial festival for the survival of the local scene. I can’t wait to see all those bands on the bill, especially Flamethrower and Flesh.

Have you prepared something special for the crowd at the Valhalla festival?
I think it’s quite special that we have been invited to perform at the festival itself. We are excited about the opportunity, and eager to show our fans that Undercode is back together. Musically, we’ll play a selection of songs from both albums along with some covers we used to play all those years ago. Along the way, we’d like to introduce our music to some new fans!

Do you have any new material?
We are constantly writing and have about 4 or 5 songs recorded at the moment… But Jitz is a riff factory, so there is no shortage of inspiration.

Do you have any other concerts scheduled this year?
Now that the band is back together, we hope to get out there and do some more shows. If there are any promoters or agents reading this interview… Feel free to get in touch or send us an invitation!

How do you see the current Croatian metal scene?
I think the scene is alive and well. There are a lot of great bands around. Dino Jelusić is doing a great job with his Animal Drive. Then there is Sage who are putting a lot of effort into their sound as well as the visuals. LIV is delivering high quality thrash metal… And the other day I heard the new single from Stimulans and I really like it…

Thank you for your time and kick some asses at Valhalla Festival!

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