BEN MCCROW (The Rotted) - Basically I just shout as loudly as I can

Av Rune Grande

(...this article is in English...)

BEN MCCROW is the lead singer of the British D-beat band THE ROTTED. The band was formed in 2008 from the remnants of Gorerotted and they will release their second full length album in late October this year. Ben was initially a bass player, but he did not feel he was capable of playing either death or black metal and tried out on vocals instead. It is something he successfully managed better and he has a good, powerful and varied vocal which is great for the music of THE ROTTED. Ben has learned the painful way that sitting up all night combined with not warming up properly on tour, does not work well for extreme vocalists. Read more about this episode and more in BEN MCCROW from THE ROTTED and his contributions to The Deepthroat Series.


When did you start doing extreme vocals (What year and at what age)?

I think 1998 when I was 17.

What made you start to do extreme vocals?

I used to play Bass Guitar but wasn't good enough to play Death or Black Metal on it, so I decided to try vocals instead. I really wanted to front a band, I looked up to the frontmen of my favourite bands like Ihsahn, Glen Benton, Barney Greenway and Dave Vincent and thought if they can do it, maybe I can as well!

Can you describe the technique or the techniques you are using?

Basically I just shout as loudly as I can. Sometimes I scream as well, but I always do it from the chest and the gut rather than just my throat. Use your lungs and really push the air through. That's it.

Has your technique changed during your career?

Yeah, definitely. When I was in Gorerotted, I went for more of a low, murmering growl, and also frog style gurgles (a style which has now been completely over-done by the new generation of vocalists!) The fact is though, I felt that low gurgles and growls may have been impressive for about 5 minutes, but they're just not ‘brutal' or ‘aggressive' enough for me. I've heard bands where the singer literally sounds like a stick being dragged along a fence and thought what an absolute waste of time!!! What's more threatening sounding, a pig squeeling or frog ribbeting at you, or a Rottweiler barking or bear roaring at you? Shout shout and shout again, it's always more intimidating!


Have you ever hurt yourself by using a "wrong technique"?

I've fucked myself up from not warming up properly in the past. Also, not being hydrated enough then sitting up all night on a tour bus smoking weed and shouting conversations over each other doesn't help anyone! I think the worst case was when my voice went on the 3rd day of the month long Gorerotted/Decapitated tour we did in 2005. That was a nightmare, and a serious lesson was learnt!

Is there something you do on a regular basis to keep your voice in shape? Any routines?

Treat your vocal cords like any other muscle and always warm up before a gig or rehearsal. Don't strain too hard either. I usually start by humming, then go into a Tibetan throat-singing style, then do some light shouting. This is only before rehearsals or shows, I don't do it alone at home.

Do you think it can be dangerous to do extreme vocals?

I've heard of people developing nodules on their vocal cords which isn't life threatening but can destroy your career as a singer pretty quickly. I also heard of a vocalist developing throat cancer from straining too hard onstage for 20 years, but I'm not sure I believe the 2 are connected to be honest.

What is most important for you - to make cool sounds and interesting rhythms, or to have a clear diction/pronunciation?

These days, it's all about the pronunciation, definitely. I think if you have something to say, do it so it's at least semi-coherent, otherwise what's the point? Lyrics based on something you feel strongly about make you give a much more passionate and genuine performance, and it helps if people can make them out. Actual words -the shapes and sounds they make- are also far more interesting for the listener than a series of yelps which get boring and monotonous very quickly. But rhythm is also important, something that goes with or compliments the music is, again, far more interesting and catchy than a load of unstructured noises.


Do you think that extreme vocals can be made into a science, like "this is how it works for everyone, to make this sound you have to do this etc"? Or is it more intuitive and individual how to do it?

No, I really think it's up to the individual to find what works for them, and to experiment, otherwise we might as well programme a computer to do it instead! Keep the personality involved!

Do you have any advice to people who wants to start doing extreme vocals?

Take it easy and don't try to emulate your idols, find your own sound. It took me a few years but I got there in the end! What comes easily to one person will not necessarily come easy to everyone, and you'll always find it easier to do well at what comes naturally to you. Try and bring your own accent and voice into it and you'll end up with a much more personal and original style. Stick with it, and don't expect to be an expert overnight, it's the same as with any instrument, practice, practice, practice!

Mention three extreme vocalists whose style you admire, and explain your choice. What specifically do you like about the styles of those three? Also mention three vocalists (not necessarily extreme vocalists) which you have been influence by, and explain in which way you have been influenced by each of them.

I really like Barney Greenway, LG Petrov and David Vincent. They're loud as fuck!!! There's some real volume and power to their voices and most importantly, you can tell it's them as soon as they open their mouths! Very unique. They also have totally different subject matters to each other but always have good lyrics, and that's important to me too. That's what -in my opinion- makes a great vocalist. Outside Death Metal, I've always loved the way Jon Josef from Cro-Mags, HR from Bad Brains and Henry Rollins used to perform. So much energy and aggression, you can see it all coming from the heart and that they're whole soul is being put into what they're doing. There's nothing duller than a frontman who stands routed to the spot grunting into a mic, then just spins his hair around in between. Get off the fuckin stage!!!!

Who do you want to challenge in this series? (Who should be the next extreme vocalist to answer these questions?) Give a brief explanation for your choice.

John Tardy has a technique totally unlike anyone else, and I'd be interested to know how he came to sing like that. Even though whatever lyrics he had are pretty much unintelligible, you could still make out vowels and consonants, but it just sounded totally different to what everyone else was doing. If there was ever a guy who didn't try to emulate anyone, it's him!



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