Interview: Brian N. Russ (BNR Metal Pages)

June 30, 2012 –
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When the Internet first became commercially available, there was no information on metal available save a handful of ASCII files and Megadeth, Arizona. A few brave souls challenged that by writing about metal and thus creating an information stream focused on the art, and not the marketing of the art as was all other information on the topic, having a corporate origin (this condition continues today, with the added complexity that most metal sites simply repeat said corporate information and slap the label “underground” on it). One of these brave souls was Brian N. Russ, who created BNR Metal Pages with a simple mission: to reflect his opinions about the better metal bands out there. Over the years, millions have read and loved this site for its simplicity and candor. Brian was kind of enough to come by the ANUS command bunker and chat a bit about his motivations, methods and metallic ambitions…

What inspired you to start the site, and what made you think, “I’ll do a database, instead of a reviews or pictures site”?

First, I’ve always had a mind for statistics and trivia, in both music and other areas (for example, sports statistics and fantasy football), so coming up with a database and learning all sorts of useless facts about bands fascinated me. As it turns out, when I was in graduate school in the mid-eighties, one of my programming projects was implementing a database, and in fact I used some of my metal knowledge back then as testing data. Long after that was done, I continued accumulating data, without really knowing what to do with it until the WWW sprouted up in the mid-nineties. Finally, I noticed at the time (as well as now) there are many more well-done reviews sites than database sites (though some other good database sites have come online in recent years), so I thought I could develop my own little niche in the metal world.

What was the hardest part of getting it going? Did you face any technical hurdles back then?

Once I learned simple HTML, the process of generating the pages from my database was pretty straightforward. And back in the early days before everyone had a .com place to host their stuff, I had an affiliation with my university, and they allowed me to host the pages there, which was very easy to do. So, there weren’t a lot of technical hurdles there. My struggles have usually been trying to find ways to keep the site looking good — not too plain, not too flashy. I don’t have an artistic background, so it’s hard to make the site look just the way I might like it.

What’s your own favorite era and genre of metal? Has this changed over the years?

The 80’s will probably always be my favorite era of metal. Of course, I’m not talking about the popular view of 80’s metal (glam/hair stuff), but the 80’s was when metal was still new to me — there were so many new bands with new sounds to listen to. So, from a nostalgia point of view, that era will always be my favorite.

As for favorite genre, right now my favorite bands are often the ones that don’t neatly fit into any one genre. When some talks about a metal band and uses phrases like “eclectic” or “avant-garde”, I am interested. This might be partially because I’ve heard everything else for so long, and/or because that’s what my tastes have evolved to, for whatever reason. In general, I’m not sure any one genre really stands above the others to me, though some (doom and thrash, perhaps) might be slightly above others.

You have been accepting of Christian metal bands while most other metal sites are not. Can you tell us a bit more about your philosophy of defining Christian metal as a separate genre? (Note: this is not an adversarial question – I think something “objectively” vital will emerge from it)

To me, it’s really the music itself that defines a musical genre more than lyrics. Therefore, bands with Christian lyrics are really no more or no less “metal” than bands with non-Christian lyrics. I’m not a Christian in the church-going sense, but I see no reason to disregard Christian bands just based on their image. Along those same lines, I find it slightly disturbing that certain Christian bands/fans isolate themselves from the secular world. I’ve found some Christian bands to have good things to say lyrically (which is great), and others that seem to be using their music solely as a marketing/recruiting tool (which isn’t great), but even those bands in the latter group still should be considered metal if they sound like metal.

To be more specific about your question, I don’t really consider Christian metal its own genre. I list it as such on my site, but only for convenience for readers, who read about a particular band and may wish to find others in the same vein. But really, it shouldn’t be a separate genre. I’d rather refer to Stryper as a pop metal band and Tourniquet as a thrash/death band rather than just calling them Christian bands.

What, in your mind, defines metal, and differentiates it from other popular music genres?

First, as I alluded to above, it’s not the lyrics. To me, it’s the “image”, but not image in the lyric or visual sense. There is a certain mood that is conveyed with most metal bands, a dark (I’d almost use the word “evil” here, but that’s a bit too simplistic) mood that resonates from metal. I’m anything but dark, evil, or angry, but yet it’s those moods that fascinate me about metal music. Certainly, though, there are bands that are on the fringes of what is commonly accepted as metal, and so it’s difficult to impossible to define metal just by listing bands that play it.

How often do you update the site, and what tools do you use (ex: Notepad)?

I now update the site roughly once a week. As it now stands, the information itself resides in several text files (representing, in a sense, crude database files, derived from the programs I wrote ages ago that I talked about above), and I edit those using vi, the UNIX programming editor that I learned so many years ago and still use in my profession (as a software developer) now. I’ve written programs/scripts that have evolved over the years, but whose function is the same — read the text files and output HTML. After that, it’s just a matter of packaging up the files (winzip) and uploading them to the site. Thankfully, this part of the process is far less time-consuming than writing the band descriptions and so forth.

Do you have any idea how many people visit on an average day? Do hits pick up over the weekend?

Unfortunately, no. This is partially due to my dissatisfaction with my current web provider, as I have had difficulties with them in regards to bandwidth/disk space issues and providing me with useful administrative tools. Though, to be fair, I just haven’t had the time to go back to them and sort the whole thing out, so as long as the site is up, I’m happy. I need to rectify this someday.

You tend to write summaries of a band’s sound, ideas and history all wrapped into one, then list albums with data only. Why did you decide to use this highly-efficient format, instead of writing about each CD individually?

It wasn’t really by design, it just sort of ended up that way. When the site first went online (1995), the reviews were a bit more personal and less information/history based, and over time I’ve adjusted it to be more objective. If I had more time, I’d probably broaden the descriptions to discuss individual CDs more in depth.

Looking at your top ten lists, it seems your tastes vary widely within the genre. What else do you listen to besides metal? What do you look for in a metal band that makes it a winner for you?

Actually, I rarely listen to anything other than metal, at least as far as buying non-metal albums goes. There are a couple of exceptions, and I’ll throw out two bands that I’ve enjoyed before — Crystal Method and Portishead. To me, though, the range of metal styles is so great that I can listen to bands from across the board and not feel like I’m “just” listening to metal all the time.

As I mentioned above, bands that are off the beaten path are often winners for me. That’s not an absolute — there are some bands that (though original and unique) don’t appeal to me, and there are a few completely unoriginal bands that somehow click. But after listening to metal for so long, it’s the bands that are pushing boundaries that I usually like best. A great example is the band you’re just about to ask about…

I’m bummed as hell to hear that Kong disbanded. Do you think there’s a value in listing such obscure bands alongside mainstream ones, and do you know of any people who’ve gotten into them from your review and listing?

I think there is such a value, and yes, I have received emails from people who read about Kong on my site, checked them out, and thanked me for the recommendation. That’s a great feeling. It is too bad they broke up, though their direction on the later releases led me to believe they probably wouldn’t last forever. The best bands never do…

You seem to like hardcore, but not metalcore. Is there a reason?

I’m not really a fan of either. It’s mostly just that I don’t like that vocal style. I used to dislike most extreme vocal styles, but over time I’ve come to accept death growls and even like black metal singing, but monotonous shouting just doesn’t do it for me. This gets back to the mood that one hears/feels when listening to metal — two words that at least begin to describe metal moods are “evil” and “angry”, and for me personally, I greatly prefer the former mood in the music I listen to.

Do you feel it is possible for bands to “sell out”? If so, “how”?

I think it is possible, but I don’t think it happens nearly as often as many seem to believe. Every time a band comes out with an album that changes their style even slightly from their previous work, accusations of sellouts are everywhere. I just don’t think that’s usually the case. To my mind, if you’re a musician who likes and plays a particular form of music (you might even attain some level of success with that music), and then you radically change your music with the sole purpose of making money, then you’re selling out. If a band explicitly and obviously jumps on the current bandwagon to follow whatever trend is in vogue that day, that can be selling out. But it’s difficult to prove one’s motivations. Let’s say I play in a traditional thrash band, and my new album comes out, and it’s a metalcore album, which just so happens to be the thing to do right now. Am I selling out? Maybe, maybe not. It’s certainly possible and reasonable that I enjoy this new metalcore music, and my own new music reflects that. If that’s the case, that’s not really a sellout. So I’m sure it happens, but it’s probably not as prevalent as the accusers would have you think.


Where do you think metal will go, once black metal finishes fading away and metalcore is no longer trendy?

For some time I had guessed that electronica and programming and industrial influences would become more prevalent. It still might happen. I can’t say I predicted the past trends (nu-metal, grunge, metalcore), so it’s hard for me to say what the future will hold.

Do you think you’ll listen to metal your whole life? Even in the retirement home/old age?

For awhile I thought I would, and then there was a period where I figured it’d only be a matter of time before I’d move on to something else. But I think I will always listen to some form of metal, though probably not the most popular or basic forms of it.

You don’t seem to be very fond of black metal. Any reasons you’d like to give here? (Although, notably, you did pick out Enslaved to like, which suggests a sharp eye for musicality)

Actually I don’t think that’s really true. Certainly, when it first became a legitimate genre, I wasn’t on board. I’d heard a few of the early bands and thought they were sloppy. The vocals turned me off. The corpsepaint really turned me off. I pretty much ignored the bands and listened to other forms of metal. Over the last several years, I’ve changed my stance. I’m still not a fan of the real old-school raw stuff, but if you look at my recent top ten lists, you’d see several bands that at least have some basis in black metal, though perhaps not in the traditional sense. I can tell you this — I’d much rather listen to an average black metal band than an average metalcore band, or an average power metal band, or an average death metal band. Hey, just the other night I was quite enjoying newer albums by Gehenna and Carpathian Forest, so I don’t think it’s accurate to say I don’t like black metal now.

In what ways do you wish metal fans/the metal community would change? Have you been able to do anything to effect that change?

There is some close-mindedness in the metal community, and some immaturity. That’s one reason I don’t have a discussion forum on my site — every time I go read someone else’s, there are immature flame postings and the like polluting everything. I’m not sure there’s anything I can do about that…

When’s the Assuck page coming? ;)

Here’s the thing. As much as I try to be organized about how I manage the site, bands fall through the cracks. I’ll listen to a band for awhile, get the basic info researched, and for whatever reason, forget to follow through, due to the sheer number of bands I’m researching at any given time. That’s what’s happened here, as well as too many other bands for me to admit to. I’ll see if I can get it done finally!

I don’t know if this is rampantly unprofessional of me or not, but can you talk about some of the metal websites that were around during “the early days,” and what you thought of each in terms of its method of organizing information about metal?

I don’t think it’s unprofessional, but I’m honestly having a hard time remembering what sites were around in 1995. Most of the sites I look at now aren’t that old. I do remember thinking that there really wasn’t a site that really did a great job with discographies and lineups and the like. Nowadays there are other sites, bigger than mine, that do that, though I hope that my site is still relevant in that area. I probably had some complaints about cheesy graphics that some sites used (and still use), such as rotating skulls or the famous dripping-blood horizontal bar (hope I’m not stepping on toes there!).

Is your site designed to help research, or fans? Who do you envision as the average user of your site?

The best emails I’ve gotten are from nostalgic fans, who remember listening to metal long ago, somehow stumbled across my site, and went back to listen to their old albums. That’s great, though that’s probably not the typical reader. Many use my site as a reference, or as a first option toward getting an opinion on a new band. By no means do I think my opinion is best, always right, or the only opinion out there, but I’d like to believe that, given my experience and love of metal, that my opinion is worth hearing. Of course people disagree with me on certain things (most often, what bands/sub-genres do or do not belong on my site), but it wouldn’t be right if there was no disagreement.

The one most relevant [cultural factor] here is language. In general, scientific discourse adopts as its ideal univocality — one word, one meaning. Closely related to this goal is the belief that a language exists, or can be forged, that is purely instrumental. Clearly and unambiguously, it will communicate to the world what the speaker or writer intends to say. Roland Barthes (Rustle) has ironically called this the belief that science can own a slave language, docile and obedient to its demands. Anyone who has seriously studied how language works is aware, however, that it shapes even as it articulates thought. There is now an impressive body of work exploring how metaphors, narrative patterns, rhetorical structures, syntax, and semantic fields affect scientific discourse and thought…language is not a passive instrument but an active engagement with a vital medium that has its own currents, resistances, subversions, enablings, pathways, blockages. As soon as discovery is communicated through language, it is also constituted by language.

– N. Katherine Hayles, Complex Dynamics in Literature and Science, p. 5 (1991)

BNR Metal Pages
The Former Home of BNR Metal Pages

Botswana metal

While Botswana is perhaps best known for its wildlife reserves, a burgeoning counter-culture is painting a very different image of the small south African country.

Clad in leather, adorned in spikes and topped off with cowboy hats, these are Botswana’s heavy metal heads.

CNN got up close to the hardcore rockers and discovered a passionate retro scene proudly celebrating its African heritage. – CNN

Glad to see mainstream metal coverage as metal expands to another continent! There’s an older article on Vice.

Why I hate youth culture

June 29, 2012 –
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Youth culture is a misnomer, since it’s not culture. It’s products. These products take two forms:

  1. Explicitly corporate products that embrace conformity.
  2. Anti-corporate products that embrace non-conformity, sold for profit.

The only difference is where the money goes. If you buy aboveground, all of your money goes to large corporations. If you buy belowground, your money goes to small labels, who then spend most of it back to large corporations in CD pressing, licensing, etc.

The message of non-conformity is a hilarious one. First, the idea that conformity to a norm has no purpose; like waiting in line in the grocery store is a personality statement, instead of a means to an end. Second, the idea that if we all “non-conform” there will be any way to non-conform, since non-conformity is defined by conformity.

Finally, the idea that non-conformity is anything but a behavior on the surface of a person. Is one’s goal in life to “be different”? To what end? And what about where it matters, which is character itself? Must that be different, or can it simply be good, realistic, honorable and kind?

Non-conformists are the biggest “conformists” that exist.

Youth culture is product-driven because it is not actual culture. It is a set of attitudes designed for you by people in their 40s-70s. They then pass this on to people your age, who see a possibility of profit (and thus no hateful day job) and so they ape it up.

In youth culture, everything is personal. There is no goal except how you look to other people. You are not trying to gain abilities, or become clearer in what you know, but to act in a way that makes other people think you are “different” and “interesting.” It is total whore.

You are a perfect consumer because you are in the process of self-definition as a youth. Youth culture short-circuits that by instead telling you what to think and how to act. It is inherently defensive, in that it requires you to have a tantrum against your parents and “conformity” in order to buy into it.

A better plan is to grow up without growing old, which is to make your own decisions based on the reality you experience, and to stop pretending to be something you are not. Non-conformity, posing, adopting a style, etc. is all pretending.

But if you do that, you won’t make a bunch of old people money as they profit off your confusion.

In search of the ‘perfect album’

June 27, 2012 –

The mainstream media finally asks a good question:

People love to talk about music. A story about Ken Caillat’s new book covering the inside story behind the Fleetwood Mac album, “Rumours,” had several readers gushing about their own favorite albums. Seems there are all kinds of “perfect albums” for all kinds of tastes.

Take a look at what readers said, and then let us know what “perfect albums” pop up into your mind. Do people still think albums are still a big deal? And, for that matter, what are the qualities that make a great album? – CNN

Other than the fact that I agree with Paul Ledney that perfection does not exist (or rather, to be perfect must be imperfect) I’ll bite. A perfect album is one with a concept that holds it all together, consistent songwriting, good quality and that takes on important topics or emotional changes. It has to be something you can throw on again and again and not get bored.

  1. Morbid Angel – Altars of Madness
  2. Slayer – Hell Awaits and South of Heaven
  3. Deicide – Legion
  4. Sepultura – Morbid Visions/Bestial Devastation
  5. Incantation – Onward to Golgotha
  6. Pestilence – Consvming Impvlse
  7. Celtic Frost – To Mega Therion
  8. Enslaved – Vikinglgr Veldi
  9. Summoning – Dol Goldur
  10. Beherit – Drawing Down the Moon and Electric Doom Synthesis
  11. Demigod – Slumber of Sullen Eyes
  12. Bolt Thrower – …For Victory

These are the kind of albums that people should aim to emulate, not the trendy flavor-of-the-day black metal or indie rock hybrids!

Interview: Bruce Corbitt (Rigor Mortis)

June 24, 2012 –
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Before labels for styles such as “death metal” caught on, there was in the late 1980s a ghastly combat in metal to see who could produce the most archetypally extreme metal band and thus exceed the boundaries set by Slayer and Venom. Into the fertile time rose the spectre of Rigor Mortis, a band renowned for their intricate fast fretwork and energetic, gruesome vocals that did not yet become deathy, but were still forceful and raw. We were fortunate to catch up with the generator of those pipings, Rigor Mortis vocalist Bruce Corbitt, as he was exiting a slaughterhouse zipping up his pants…

You are writing a book on your experiences, including rigor mortis. How does writing compare to music writing?

Besides the obvious things like the length of text and the amount of time it takes to write a book. When writing lyrics for a song you sometimes have to think about the number of lines and syllables in certain verses and choruses. With writing a book you don’t have to worry about anything like that and you can just let the words flow. My book is also a true story and my lyrics are usually fictitious ideas.

The funny part of it all is that one of my biggest weaknesses was my lack of ability to write a lot of lyrics and now I have just written a 400-page book. I mean I have no problems with hearing where I wanted to place the lyrics and how I want to sing them. But, just coming up with enough words to fill all the verses and chorus was usually a struggle for me. So for me to write lyrics for 10 new songs back then would have taken me forever.

On the other hand, Harden Harrison and Casey Orr were able to write lyrics with relative ease and they also blew my lyrics away. So after writing some lyrics for a few songs after I first joined the band, they began to write most of the lyrics from that point on. I didn’t object to it because I knew their lyrics were better than mine and I thought it was just the best thing for the band. I mean Bruce Dickinson didn’t write anything for the Number Of The Beast album… but, you don’t hear anyone complaining about that album because Bruce didn’t write all of the lyrics.

When you were starting out with Rigor Mortis, you must have experienced a good deal of personal doubt and uncertainty. What factors helped you overcome those?

I think the title of their third album pretty much sums up the attitude that the band had in the beginning and until the band’s end. Rigor Mortis Vs The Earth… that is really how it felt for us sometimes. Us against the fucking World! When I first joined the band they had shitty equipment, hardly any money or transportation and not even a place to practice. They were also taking a musical direction that obviously wasn’t going to be mainstream. Along with our rebellious attitudes… the odds of us having any kind of success was stacked against us from the very beginning. But, we didn’t give a fuck about anything like that. We just wanted to do it all our own way without any thought of compromising the music or the bands image in any way.

But, I did have some personal doubts when I first joined the band about just being accepted as the new member of the band. Because many people already liked Rigor Mortis at that time the way they were as a three-piece band. Not to mention that I had only been in one band before and we mainly had just done a lot of Black Sabbath songs. I had never taken any singing lessons and didn’t have a lot of confidence in my voice yet. But, I just wanted it so fucking badly and I also wanted to prove the doubters wrong. So, I put my life into it and I had to have this… “FUCK YOU, I am a bad motherfucker!!!”… attitude in my head to silence any uncertainty that I had for myself or that anyone else had for me.

The Texas metal scene seems to produce one or two excellent bands per generation with the rest being sub-par. What’s your view on this?

I believe that there have always been a lot of talented musicians in Texas. But, sometimes the talent is spread out too thin among too many bands. Very seldom will you see a band with every member of the band being a badass motherfucker. It’s like if you could take this drummer from one band and put him with the guitarist and bass player of this other band, and then take this singer from this band… then you could have an awesome band.

I also know that a lot of bands do not always want to do the hard work it takes to keep progressing. They want the benefits and the rewards of being in a band without wanting to keep busting their asses for it. They get enough songs down to be able to play at clubs… and record a demo or a CD. Then, they seem to go on cruise control as far as the amount of practice they do and the amount of new songs they write comes at a slower rate. But, they are doing great in their minds because they are able to play at clubs, they are now getting chicks easier and they get to be the cool guys playing on stage on weekends. When in fact they should be spending more time on just writing original songs. I mean if a band wants to survive for a long time, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?

If you want to have 5 or 10 albums and be around for a while… hell, that means you need 50 to 100 originals. I see too many bands slowly stop progressing after they have 8 to 15 originals. They get too anxious and they want to start playing gigs. They gain a following and record a CD and things appear to be rolling. They hope they can get a deal with what they have and then they figure that everything will take off from there.

Of course I am talking from experience here and from some of my own mistakes. Because I also felt like the hardest part was over once we had signed with Capitol Records. But, looking back on it now… I can see that getting a deal even with a major label doesn’t mean shit. It’s what a band does if and when they do get a deal. I don’t think too many bands think past just trying to get signed and they don’t prepare for the longevity of it all by just simply writing as many originals as possible. That is the main reason why I feel this area only produces a few great bands for each generation.

Do you listen to any current metal?

I do listen to some of it through my friends that keep up with the newer bands more than I do now. I will never be a fan of any new bands like I was a fan of metal bands back when I was younger… but, I am behind the newer metal bands because they are keeping the torch burning. I also still like to get the local metal bands demos and CD’s to check out and just to support the underground.

Metal will always be in my blood and I am proud to say I never grew out of loving metal. I like other music of course… from 60s and 70s classic rock bands to punk bands. But, metal always got my adrenaline flowing more than any other type of music and it still does to this day. I know many people that loved metal and then they sort of grew out of it or something. They thought it wasn’t cool to like metal anymore, as they got older.

Even some musicians who were inspired and influenced to start playing because of metal bands and started out themselves in metal bands, became anti-metal after a while. It’s not their decision to evolve and change their musical taste over time that bothers me. I can understand that part and I respect that side of it. But, I never understood those that started slamming metal once they stopped liking it and went in a different direction. Especially when it’s the music that made them want to start jamming in the first place.

Would you do vocals for any current bands?

Absolutely! But, I don’t sit around and think about it or wish I were singing for any current bands. If the right situation and opportunity came along… I would go for it. As of right now, I am content with just starting or joining or forming a new band locally here in Dallas.

While most bands were getting “chunky” with muffled power chord riffing, it seems to me that only rigor mortis and slayer were taking the melodic approach. what inspired this direction?

Rigor Mortis was never the type of band that would go with the flow or do what all of the other bands were doing at the time. I think some of our influences like Slayer and Iron Maiden and maybe even some of Mike’s influences like Michael Schenker and Randy Rhoads might have had something to do with the melodic side of it. But, the main reason I think that Rigor Mortis didn’t sound like anyone else is simply that Mike, Harden and Casey each had their own unique style and technique in the way they played their instruments at that time. I really didn’t have anything to do with the musical direction that Rigor Mortis ventured into. They had already developed their own style of playing, they had those “fuck the world” attitudes and they were already singing about horror and gore before I was ever in the band.

Many metal fans consider the first Rigor Mortis album to be the best one that the band released Some even consider it to be a classic metal album now. Since the band didn’t have long lasting success and eventually disbanded, many metal fans that didn’t know the true history of the band, or they found out about Rigor Mortis after our breakup… many have this false misconception that I was somehow part of being the mastermind behind the first album, or that I was also part of being behind the style or image of Rigor Mortis.

When in fact all I did was join the band and I tried I fit in well with what they wanted to do at that time. Which was easy for me to do because I had already acquired a love for thrash and speed metal music by that time. Plus, I was always into horror movies and gore. I honestly always believed that the main reason many people consider the first album to be the best one is because it simply had the best material on it. Those songs had time to mature because we had played them live many times over the years. That is just my opinion and of course I am biased because I am not on the other two… lol!

If you were going to redo the Rigor Mortis experience, what changes would you make to style or content of your music?

I don’t think any of the changes would be anything too drastic. I do hear the vocal parts in certain lines in some songs that I know I would like to change. Hell, I think I could do my entire vocal parts better if I could do them now. I am sure all musicians hear their old recordings and think about how they would have done it differently if they could do it again. The sad part of it all is that because of the studio we picked to record our first album, the true definitive sound of the Rigor Mortis that I was a part of was never truly captured on a recording.

I guess other than that I think we should have added some rhythm guitar tracks over the guitar solo’s on the first album. I also think that because of the adrenaline rushes we got while we were on stage… the songs just kept getting faster and faster. It made some of the songs even better in most cases. But, in my opinion… the speed of the song Re-Animator on our demo tape was the right pace for that song. By, the time we recorded it for the first album we were playing it so much faster that I think it lost a lot of it’s intensity because of that.

Last but not least, I would now get my lazy ass in gear and contribute more to the writing process with the band. Like I was talking about back in your first question… I willingly let them start writing most of the lyrics after a while and I felt it was the best thing for the band at the time. But, now I see how I wasn’t putting enough effort into it and making myself just do it. It was the easy way out for me to let them write the lyrics and not do it myself. So, I now understand their disgust with the fact that I stopped contributing as much in the writing and ideas process after a while.

Many people, myself included, consider Rigor Mortis to be crossover music between speed metal and death metal. While I’m not here to talk about categories, I think it’s interesting how your music fits between generations. What do you see as the primary differences between what Rigor Mortis were doing and what the metal scene is putting out now?

Well, some obvious differences with some of today’s metal bands compared to back then is that they tune down their guitars and some are anti-lead solos etc. Nothing stays the same forever and so it’s natural for things to change… and that goes for metal too. I mean I often wondered back then as Rigor Mortis and bands like Slayer were taking metal to such furiously fast paced songs… how can it continue to just get heavier and faster than this before it’s just a blur and it’s not even comprehendible as a song anymore? I felt at the time that Rigor Mortis was already pushing the sound barrier to the limit.

Every Rigor Mortis song was fast at least somewhere during the song. But, if every metal band that came out played all their songs full speed… it wouldn’t give up enough variety like we have now. Metal can be fast and aggressive or slower and more powerful. It can be technical and difficult or it can be simple and lazy. The coolest thing about metal and why it will always survive even when many want to say it’s not cool to like metal these days is that we have so many different styles of metal to choose from. Black, death, speed, thrash or classic heavy metal bands ETC… take your choice.

Back when Rigor Mortis was producing records, there wasn’t as much of an underground. It’s amazing to me a band as metal as Rigor Mortis made it onto Capitol Records, but then again, it’s kind of rewarding. How do you think this appears to a generation raised on predominantly underground releases?

To some it might appear as if we were some corporately produced spoiled imitation metal band, or that we must have been sellouts to sign with a major label. For others it might be some kind of redemption that a band like us could was able to get total control of our music after signing with a big label. But, if anyone thinks we got rich and royal treatment because we signed with Capitol records… or that we sold out because we signed with a major label… think again.

The truth is that after getting some interest from many major and underground labels for a couple of years, Capitol was the first label to believe in us enough to actually tell us they wanted to officially sign us. It’s not like we turned down underground labels to sign with a major label. Once we knew that Capitol was going to give us 100% control of our music, it was a no-brainer for us to want to sign with them. It was a miracle how it all happened in the first place. So, I admit thinking at the time that by signing with a major label like Capitol Records that it was gonna increase our chances of getting more promotion and also our chances to succeed enough to survive as a band. It’s easy to try and blame Capitol for not promoting us like they could have. But, I think our biggest mistake was simply the wrong studio to record the first album.

Did you find having to be frontman for a band affected you personally, with stress or with positive changes, etc?

Being the singer for Rigor Mortis stirred up every type of emotion known to mankind. I had the stress of trying to be accepted when I first joined a band as I mentioned earlier, because many in the area already liked how they already were as a three-piece band with Casey doing the vocals. But, at the same time all kinds of positive changes started happening for me in my life as soon as I joined the band. I felt like I was somebody once I joined that band and I felt like I was part of something special. Rigor Mortis literally became my life 24 hrs a day and seven days a week. Of course I became more confident in myself as the band started having all kinds of cool things happening for us.

I mean going from such a positive highs one week after we got our deal with Capitol Records… to the very next week being stabbed in the back five times before a gig and fighting for my life. It truly was an emotional roller-coaster the entire time I was in the band.

We ask: what is there still to be dared that would be still more daring than Life, which is itself the daring venture, so that it would be more daring than the Being of beings? In every case and in every respect, what is dared must be such that it concerns every being inasmuch as it is a being. Of such a kind is Being, and in this way, that it is not one particular kind among others, but the mode of all beings as such.

If Being is what is unique to beings, by what can Being still be surpassed? Only by itself, only by its own, and indeed by expressly entering into its own.

– Martin Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought

What other Texas metal bands do you consider great?

I would have to say Dead Horse, Sedition, Gammacide, Watchtower and Absu are the bands I have the most respect for. I think that all but Absu are now extinct.
Can you give us any timeline on a rigor mortis CD re-release? i know people out there will ask me this, so i’m asking you; sorry if it is a stressful question.
The question doesn’t bother me at all and I get asked about that all of the time. I just really have no clue myself since I have nothing to do with it. I just hope it still happens for those who still want it.

It seems that Rigor Mortis has influenced bands from diverse ranges of metal, from the most commercial to the most gnarly and underground. I hear a good deal of Mike Scaccia’s technique in Mayhem and other european lightning fast bands. Do you agree?

Yeah, I do hear it in some of those bands. I just don’t honestly know if they were really influenced or if they just have similar styles to Scaccia’s. I am kind of surprised that more guitar players haven’t picked up on Mike’s style of playing over the years… even though I do know of a few local Mike Scaccia clones. But, I don’t think Mike’s style of playing for Rigor Mortis was something that just any guitarist can do. He was born with a gift and his own style for playing the guitar. It was always natural for him and easier than it is for most who pick up a guitar. I am also certain that the rest of the guys from Rigor Mortis are also honored about any other bands or musicians that were influenced by the band in some way.

If you did form a metal band again, what kind of music would you make?

That would mainly depend on the musicians around me. I won’t know really myself until I hear it to tell you the truth. It would be old school metal for sure. I would never puss out and be in some wimpy metal band. But, I can’t tell you what it will sound like because I want to be in a band that doesn’t sound like anyone else. Rigor Mortis didn’t sound like anyone else… and I would never try to copy the Rigor sound with a new band even if it was possible. So, I just hope to find some guys that can also create a unique sound that my vocals, style and image can work with.

If Rigor Mortis were hypothetically to record another album, would it continue the stylistic progression of past or move to something of a different organization?

I think it would be like trying to do a sequel to some classic horror/gore/spatter movie for us to do another album together. Now do you want to make the sequel with more blood and twice as much killing? Do you want to go for a bigger audience and cut out all of the violent parts and make it not as brutal as the first movie? Or do you want to make the entire thing totally different than the original? Obviously we would go with being as brutal and gory as possible and we would keep the same style without copying the original sound.

We know what Rigor Mortis represents and stands for to the fans. We would never do anything that would disappoint anyone that ever liked Rigor Mortis. We all have hindsight on what we did back then and we are all a lot wiser now. But, it’s hard to recapture what you had back in early stages of a band. We were in our youth and the music was being written naturally without any thought. Because that was the music we all wanted to do at that time.

Since then the other guys have played many different styles of music in other bands. So it wouldn’t be easy to just pick up where we left off. I do however believe that our experience and wisdom on what we should and shouldn’t have done back then would prevail over anything else. I honestly feel that we would be able to create a horrifying metal masterpiece if we ever did make another Rigor Mortis album together.

Interview: Paul Speckmann (Master, Deathstrike)

People who come into a genre after its foundation often spend a good deal of time trying to find its roots. Because descent is not linear, but more resembles the roots of a tree converging on something that could later branch, there’s often a cloud of contributors from which this clarity emerges. In the early days of death metal, around 1982-1985, Master and Deathstrike took one approach to metal that combined Motorhead-style road metal with the insurgent political antagonist of anarchist punk music. The themes developed there reappear in both death metal and life at large. Mastermind Paul Speckmann was kind enough to answer a few questions for us on death metal, politics, art and the future.

You formed MASTER back in 1983, at a time when death metal wasn’t defined in most people’s minds. What led you to this style of music and when did you start calling it death metal?

I was playing in a band called Warcry playing sort of a Doom, Sabbathy kind of Heavy Metal. It was certainly before all these categories ever were pegged. We were just trying to be heavy, and in the end guys like Lee Dorrian from Cathedral have acknowledged bands like Warcry and Trouble also from Chicago as a major influence. This is actually quite a cool thing.

The original guitarist in Warcry, Marty Fitzgerald, turned me onto a seven-inch from the band Venom. At the time I was just starting to follow Lemmy and the career of Motorhead, but Venom was even more brutal for me. At this time the original drummer Bill Schmidt and I were also listening to GBH, The Exploited, Discharge, MDC and Batallion of Saints. The aggression of this music was very important to us. We decided that it was time to create our own music along these lines.

The term Death Metal was coined by the critics. I really just thought it was aggressive Metal, I never really thought of it as Death Metal. The bands Master and Deathstrike played music really geared toward an anti-Government stance as well as anti-religion, of course. I have always thought that belief in oneself is the most important thing in life. To create your own path and strike your idols down are the main things to mention here. This is the ideology I have always pursued personally, but people will and always have been led to the slaughter sacrificing their own free will. I refuse to do this.

Although band names have changed (ABOMINATION, SPECKMANN PROJECT, DEATH STRIKE, MASTER) you have consistently anchored each band and shaped the style of music, even as personnel have changed. How do you maintain this consistency yet keep developing with each album?

This is a rather difficult question, but let’s just say that I just write songs from the heart and try and capture what’s happening at the time in society as a whole. I guess I preach in some songs, people might say, but really it’s just my belief and maybe my beliefs are bit extreme for some at times. I really try to capture what I am feeling at a particular moment. Let’s face it, every album is not a success, and I have really had many failures, but this is of course from the perspective of the critics.

I put all my effort in each and every song, it’s just that at times the feelings are captured differently. Sometimes the produtions are shit or the budget is rather miniscule. But, since moving to the Czech Republic I have found professional studios, mainly Shaark Studios in Bzenec, and the engineers are more professional than most, and the rates are reasonable compared to the outrageous prices in America for mediocre studios. I mean why would anyone spend more than a few days in a studio. Either you can capture the music quickly or it’s worthless.

We usually record the tracks for an album in a few days. Slaves To Society had the drums and bass tracks finished in 6 hours complete. It took a few days for the guitars, but this is normal as I really concentrate on the guitarist’s playing during the process.

Reverence begins in a deep understanding of human limitations; from this grows the capacity to be in awe of whatever we believe lies outside of our control — God, truth, justice, nature, even death. The capacity for awe, as it grows, brings with it the capacity for respecting fellow human beings, flaws and all. This in turn fosters the ability to be ashamed when we show moral flaws exceeding the normal human allotment.

– Paul Woodruff, Reverence: A Forgotten Virtue

What distinguishes great music from bad? Can it be distilled into technique, or is it something less easily defined?

Feeling is certainly more important, because some of the most talented musicians in the world release shitty music for sure. Many bands today focus on how many riffs can be played per second and it’s rather silly if you ask me. I would rather listen to Saxon or old Judas Priest than any of the “New School Of Metal.” Back to basics I say. Sabbath, Deep Purple and Saxon are what it’s about.

I mean of course Beethoven and Bach were among the greatest composers without a doubt, but this is Metal we are talking about here. I am the first to say that I am not a fantastic bassist compared to the entire genre, but I know how to write great melodies and lyrics that say something and for me this is more important than technique. Lemmy for example is also a great songwriter, but he’s really a guitarist, not a bassist. Now Geezer on the otherhand is great at all he does. I of course respect both these Gods to the fullest.

Jim Morrison (THE DOORS) sang and wrote repeatedly of a “frontier,” or a chaotic no man’s land where danger was everywhere, but it was also possible to get away from rules and fears. How does this apply to music like death metal, which seems to accept death and disease as a normal part of life?

I suppose what you said about Morrison is true for him: it was an escape and then death was the next escape. He was a great lyricist of course, but a weakling in the end, but opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.

Death and disease are a part of everyone’s life of course. This is normal to look death in the face as we all live to die. Disease ravages people and countries every day; this is great food for thought for a writer. We are living on a disease-ridden planet and people are dropping dead while scientists play gods and help over-populate this god forsaken planet. Birth control is the key I suppose.

Are there any plans to release WAR CRY material on CD?

Original singer Rich Rozek has done this already; you can find the CD at his website, even though it was remastered and the thunderous bass was basically removed from the recording. Also Rich has re-recorded several tracks for your listening pleasure. I heard a clip of the re-recordings on myspace and thought it sucked. He never spoke with the original members including myself about the project, but this is water under the bridge and I wish him the best with his endeavor.

I really wish we could all get together and do a tour of this original legendary material, but this will unfortunately never happen as everyone hates each other. But I have no hard feelings and would be more than willing to tour with these guys for a few weeks in Europe. I still speak with Marty and have heard from Steve as well, but I really have no contact with Rich except for an argument on Blabbermouth some time back. I really wish everyone the best, no hard feelings. I am as busy as ever and everyone else has pretty much given up in the professional sense.

You maintain a relentless touring schedule and put on professional shows, even when facing adversity like no money and disorganized promoters. How do you do it?

It was never about the money. I always like sharing my musical vision with the world and continually do so. We will begin a tour of Europe on Friday the 23rd of January and finish March 1st, I then will join the tour with Waco Jesus for 26 dates as their merchandiser. I like to stay busy and this also keeps me in touch with the general public. I joined a company called Kraft Evention about six years ago and this has taken me on numerous tours with bands like Vital Remains, Benediction, Jungle Rot and Dissection with Watain. So, needless to say, I am quite busy every year and this works for me and helps support my art and life in general.

MASTER’s music shows the influences of not only NWOBHM and punk, but later aggressive bands like MOTORHEAD and VENOM, but there also seems to be an underlying influence from more idealistic 1960s rock, like a little bit of protest music in the mix. How do you feel this meshes with the blood ‘n’ gore themes of death metal?

I really am not interested in the blood and gore as you described so well. I realise that the gore and blood bands are making much more money than I, but fantasy is better left for books and imagination. I prefer to bring the truth as I see it to the music. Satan is also a great money maker for brainless kids that haven’t any direction in life. Religion has always been a great seller, and more power to these bands. If they can make a decent living, which many do, then good luck.

It’s really apparent that we are all being controlled by governments and we are all Slaves To Society, and the sooner the youth of today take a stand against this control the better. Forget the devil and concentrate on the liberation of the people. I think this is more important than Satan or other religious shit. You have to wonder what kind of God would just overlook this.

The idiots in the Middle East continually use their false Gods to terrorize and torture innocent people in the region. They need to learn to get along and accept the different ideologies and learn to forgive each other, and get on with the peace process. All the hatred must be squashed or the world will end over the next few years. These terrorists like Putin hoarding the natural gas, as the Eastern Europeans freeze to death, just to show how powerful Russia has become from all their corruption and greed.

You have to smile as all the people are complaining about the Israeli conquest in Gaza, when anyone with half an ounce of intelligence knows that the USA supplies the weapons and cash to these fanatics. Hell, the USA supplied the weapons for Afghanistan to fight off the Russians in the past and wonder why the region is so fucked up. It’s called creating your own enemies.

Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it.

– William S. Burroughs, Cities of the Red Night

One thing that has always bowled me over about your outlook is that you never seem resentful — at all. You have spoken in the past about your contentment with day jobs, being glad to tour, and how to brush aside any things that went wrong in the past. Where do you get this inner strength and peace?

I believe in myself, and everyone knows that life is complicated for most and you just have to roll with the punches. Metal is not for everyone and I cherish the moments I have had over the years. It’s interesting to say the least that the band and I have been touring successfully since I moved to Europe in 2000. This was the best opportunity that ever arose for me. Now I am busy every year and Master has played more concerts in the last five years than we ever did before. I average roughly around 90 shows per year. Of course if we could play more I would, but you can only play the same regions so often unless you’re a supergroup, which is only a dream for most.

As for the day job, I work about an hour and a half per day about 8 hours per week when I’m not busy with the music, as an English conversationalist with some of the Directors of the biggest companies and their children in this region. This beats the hell out of moving furniture like in the past in the USA. It’s a bit funny as I am in demand and with all the touring the students are left wanting and anxious for my return to the lessons.

If sound is like paint, and we use different techniques and portray different things in our paintings, what does it say when a genre sounds similar and has similar topic matter and imagery? Can the genre be said to have a philosophy or culture of its own?

Yes, I suppose, there is no doubt that Metal is a culture within itself, and the governments of today could learn a few things from Metal-Heads. These people come from all backrounds, races, colors, creeds and get along fine at the concerts and festivals that are played every year across the globe. Only Metal matters at these festivals for example. One big family that eats, sleeps enjoys the music and shits together with only small problems like with any situation. Music is the main focus at these places and everyone leaves their problems behind them and looks to enjoy themselves. Isn’t this what life is about? Everyone needs an escape from the rigamorole of the every day grind, and what better way to escape then to go enjoy a great festival.

What do you think makes death metal separate from punk hardcore (THE EXPLOITED, DISCHARGE), heavy metal (IRON MAIDEN, MOTORHEAD) and speed metal (SLAYER, METALLICA)? Is it an entirely new genre, or an extension of previous genres?

Maybe this is true for some, but I personally try to incorporate many different aspects of these genres in my music. I like the different styles and try to be versatile in my writing. I would say this genre is just an extension of the original bands in my opinion. I rarely see anything new these days especially among the younger groups. I see nothing but rehashed riffs among the new generation, but I suppose it’s cool sometimes to recognise an old Slayer or Motorhead riff at a show played by someone else.

How did you approach learning to play the bass, and did you study music theory?

While in the band White Cross which was a cover band during my high school days I began to become fascinated with the bass and bought a cheap Epiphone, and taught myself to play it with long hours of practice. I began smoking more pot and ditching school in favor of practicing my bass in my bedroom. Finally my Dad said, “No School? Then it’s time to work; I want you pounding the pavement tomorrow morning!”

So after a few days of reading the paper, I began going back to bed after everyone left for school and work. Finally I found a shit job working for Chilton Research Services as a telephone interviwer, but this kept me around the house to practice more often. I had theory in school but after taking the class a second time because I was stoned the first time, I dropped out of school as I said earlier and really learned nothing about theory. Later I took a few lessons from a great bassist from the area called Jee Kapchek. After he couldn’t find the time to figure out the solo break in the song Killers, I figured it out myself that same day and said, I don’t need lessons, and the rest is history.

When the band HELLHAMMER said, “Only Death is Real,” it launched legions of death metal and grindcore bands who showed us through sickness, misery and sudden doom (in their lyrics) that life is short, manipulations are false, and we need to get back to reality. How do these themes influence your songwriting and imagery?

They are real, so these things influence the realities of song imagery, for myself and others to a great extent. There is nothing like the realities of life and death to stimulate the writing process.

A consistent theme in your lyrics has been how ideas like religion or politics can shape how we perceive the world and as a result can control us. What started you thinking along these lines?

When my grandmother died of cancer at the age of 72 and then my father died next of a brain tumor at 51, my eyes were opened. I wrote “Pay To Die” and “The Truth” shortly afterward. As for the governmental themes all anyone had to do was watch the news as I still do today to see how corrupt and hypocritical the world is. I remember standing next to my mother’s coffin a few years later as she died of cancer and the rest of my family was on the other side of the coffin as we didn’t agree on many issues about her death. I wrote “What Kind Of God” shortly after.

We have just returned the song to the set for the tour beginning this week, and it felt great to play this again at practice over this past weekend. It brought back many memories for me. I also remember watching Pastor Bartz arrive at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois, when my father used to make my brothers and I go, and he was in a beautiful white Cadillac dressed in his cowboy hat and I thought, “wow, he must be raking in the bucks.” This was from the followers of the church of course and then a few years later he also died of cancer rather quickly around his early fifties and I thought wow, this God acts in peculiar ways. This Pastor was struck down in the prime of his life due to his greed and corrupt values.

Your album Slaves to Society has just been re-released through John McEntee’s (INCANTATION) label Ibex Moon Records. What are you going to write about for your next album? How have people responded to Slaves to Society?

The album was reviewed and critically acclaimed in many magazines across the globe and sells still, so I am quite pleased about this. Ibex Moon has done a superb job with promoting the album and getting it to the right people, but as always sales could be better. But, with all the illegal downloading, it is hard to sell as many units as I did in the past.

The next CD will deal with the issues facing society at the particular moment I begin writing lyrics. At this moment I am busy throughout 2009 and will focus on this in the fall I suppose. I and guitarist Nejezchleba have fifteen tracks written already, so we will have to find the time to pick and choose later. For the moment the tours are the most important thing.

You recorded the first MASTER/DEATH STRIKE albums in 1985. The world has changed a lot since then. Has your vision changed? Has it needed to, or is the same process going on that was happening then, in the world?

Everything is still the same only worse in the world. I still write and create songs as in the past. I let the world dictate my writing. The tapestry of this planet is my muse.

A man who has blown all his options can’t afford the luxury of changing his ways. He has to capitalize on whatever he has left, and he can’t afford to admit — no matter how often he’s reminded of it — that every day of his life takes him farther and farther down a blind alley… Very few toads in this world are Prince Charmings in disguise. Most are simply toads… and they are going to stay that way… Toads don’t make laws or change any basic structures, but one or two rooty insights can work powerful changes in the way they get through life. A toad who believes he got a raw deal before he even knew who was dealing will usually be sympathetic to the mean, vindictive ignorance that colors the Hell’s Angels’ view of humanity. There is not much mental distance between a feeling of having been screwed and the ethic of total retaliation, or at least the random revenge that comes with outraging the public decency.

– Hunter S. Thompson, Hell’s Angels

You must have a ton of stories stockpiled. Any plans to write a book?

I already have: it’s called “Speck Mann: Surviving the Underground”, but I have yet to find a serious publisher.

You’re touring the world through 2009. What’s happening after that? Any plans to re-release more older MASTER and DEATH STRIKE albums?

The first two releases from Master were re-issued on Displeased Records Holland in 2008 with bonus DVDs and Collection of Souls will be re-issued in March. Deathstrike may be re-issued along with Funeral Bitch on Ibex Moon early summer. It’s a chance to bring the releases to next generation of Metal-Heads.

Although your music is of the death metal generation, you are of the same age as the METALLICA/MEGADETH generation. Do you think this gives you an outlook others in death metal did not have?

Probably, I am older and more experienced and have seen many more things happen than the newer kids.

The author Kurt Vonnegut famously referred to art as a canary in a coal mine, or a warning signal for society. Other artists have claimed that art serves a necessary role in celebration of life. Still others believe it should celebrate the artist. Which among these describe your music?

The celebration of life and death are more important I believe.

Who cares about the artist?

“Insanity twisted the mind of the pigeon, reality clouded the eyes of decision.” – Paul Speckmann (2000)

Most bands we’ve talked to recognize MASTER and DEATH STRIKE as early influences. What do you think are your most significant contributions to death metal?

I think the riffs on the albums and the lyrics speak for themselves and I am happy that I was a part of the inception of the genre even if the money never arrived. At least I can go to bed with a clear conscience at night knowing I was an originator not a follower or copycat as many of the success stories in this genre are.

Interview: Francois Mongrain (Martyr)

June 22, 2012 –
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Many people gush over later Death but really, it’s pretty predictable heavy metal done up “Death Metal and Yet, Prog-Rock” style; for a band that takes the best of jazz-and-prog-rock influences and puts them into rhythmically adept yet vicious death metal, try Québec’s Martyr. They don’t aim for anything new, but do everything in a new way, in the process contributing some of the fastest, most intricate and harmonically aware metal lead playing ever heard on this earth.

Interview originally from Heidenlarm e-zine #3.

How much do you think death/black metal were influenced by prog rock in the 1970s?

I’m not sure… I think some bands were influenced by classical music,some other from rock, blues, jazz, and some other by contemporary and progressive music. It depends of the influences of each musicians, what they like, what they listened.

Was prog rock a movement that came about by chance, or was there a reason for rock bands going technical so close to the birth of rock music?

I think it’s the need to explore and create more satisfying stuff.

There are two basic ways of looking at music. In the first, there is a mechanism to the arrangement of certain tones (such as “a diminished melodic pattern modulating to a flattened second”); in the second, a narration occurs where a story is told or a poetic function completed. In your view of compositions, which is more important?

I think the first one is a tool to help the second one. Personnally, great arrangements alone are pointless if they deliver no message. The message through music is the most important thing. If there’s any,better stop doing music.

Do you think most prog rock uses narrative structures, which reveal a poetry or story, or cyclic structures?

Definitely. They brings us in other worlds, it is like a fantasy movie,a dream, etc.

What bands inspired the direction that martyr took?

Some band gave some inspiration, but did not inspired the direction. We try to do it our own way.

What for you is the significance of the name, “Martyr”?

Martyr is a way of thinking, is a state of mind, a way of life. It’s the acceptance of suffering for the beliefs of some ideals, the cause of a better world that can hardly be reached because the world as we know it is too sick.

Like a certain other Canadian band of great brilliance, you focus on technology in your concept and lyrical writing. Is this something brought on by its imminence in all of our lives, or for symbolic reason?

Maybe it’s because of the technology’s omnipresence in our society, but when I write lyrics, I try to use symbols to say other things. The technologic symbols in the song Retry? Abort? Ignore? are to represent the human brain when reaching its endurance limit, when it’s about to disconnect, like a burn out or other illness.

If you could tour with other bands in metal, who would you pick if you were looking for bands similar to Martyr?

Maybe Spyral Architect, Meshuggah, Voivod, The Dillinger Escape Plan…maybe there would be some more.

What is the most difficult part about composing songs as you do?

The most difficult part is to make the music flow as it was written in one shot. We try to avoid the riff-riff collage that too many bands are doing. We try to compose as naturally as possible.

While Martyr has a high tech sound and conceptual approach, often your music seems closer to progressive heavy metal in the 1970s style, with more of the merger between avantgarde and progressive that has occurred in the more novelty-based recent decades. Is this true, and how do you see yourselves as differentiating on an artistic level from the other bands in this time?

Our progressive inpiration is not really a concious thing… we write what we have in mind, that’s it.

How do you compose songs as a band?

Main riffs, melodies, etc are written individually. When we rehearse, we make a lot of arrangement, we find more ideas. The composer of a song has ideas for the other instruments, but everybody bring their ideas.

Do you think people collaborate more effectively with a leader or as a ground-up leaderless project?

A “leader” is good to give directions for a project, but if this leader imposes too much his ideas, it’s not good at all and ruins the members relationship.

What other bands from Québec do you enjoy?

Cryptopsy, Obliveon (rip), Neuraxis, Gorguts, Voivod, there are so many!

Which do you think is most important to metal, harmony, melody or arrangement?

Hehehe…. it depends of the situation. Most important is: Did I succeded in the delivery of my message?

What do you feel is the role of lead guitar in a well-written song?

Soloing is a peak in a song, as a drum fill is another kind of peak. I don’t see any instrument that would be more important that another.

As individual members, what are your philosphies regarding the degree of importance death should be accorded in our lives?

Death is unavoidable. So we must live with it. I read samurai philosophy. Death was a concept so present for them that they lived with this reality day and night. They could die or kill an ennemy at every moment. In the modern life, in most civilized countries, we don’t have this reality except for cancer, accidents, etc. But the more you are conscient of your inevitable death, the more you’ll be aware of everymoment of your life, and it may make it happier.

What thing scares human civilization most at this time?

Our fear of war, oppression, etc, are caused by our lack of control over these situations. We are really powerless as individuals.

Do you think it is possible, as many thinkers allege, that humans exist in a world of language “containers” and philosophical justification, and thus do not often come into contact with the “real” existence, which is undefinable and hard to communicate socially as regards any significance within it?

People are afraid to talk about their existence, their death, their origin, etc. So, society hide itself in the more trivial things as videogames, buying clothes, watching movies and joking all the time. These are all good, but not when they serves as masks and crutches. (I’m not sure if I answered right your question!)

Who were the most important thinkers in history for you?

I’m not an history guy, but I like a lot Miyamoto Musashi, the most famous samurai in japan feudal history. His obsession with death is amazing and scaring at the same time. At these times, death was a daily preoccupation as eating, sleeping and buying food.

One who is a samurai must before all things keep constantly in mind — the fact that he has to die. If he is always mindful of this, he will be able to live in accordance with the paths of loyalty and filial duty, will avoid myriads of evils and adversities, keep himself free of disease and calamity and moreover enjoy a long life. He will also be a fine personality with many admirable qualities. For existence is impermanent as the dew of evening, and the hoarfrost of morning, and particularly uncertain is the life of the warrior…

– Code of the Samurai

What do you think defines metal as music, as a genre, and as a subculture?

When you put some notes together, rhythm and vocals, it is called music. The way each person do it makes the style, and if some people likes it, you have the subculture. Sound silly but I don’t know how to explain it better. ;-)

Which is the role of religion during our current age, and how much do you think it influences politics and government?

Religion is powerless in front of politics. it’s a good thing and a bad thing in the same time. Religion have bad concepts but good ideals in the same time. Politics have no moral ethics. I don’t care for politics. I know nothing about this and I’m proud to say this. It stinks. >:-)

Death metal has intense variety, between Morpheus Descends and Demilich and Asphyx and Martyr; what holds these bands together in the same genres?

I don’t konw these bands ! LOL Can you send me a copy? Should be interesting!

When death metal gets technical, does it necessarily get closer or further from other mainstream genres, or does it stand on its own in a different depth?

I’m not sure about this. Technique is only a tool to transmit a message. I hate technical music that tries only to impress.

What allows music to be separated into “genres,” when all of it uses roughly the same theoretical basis (excepting the different theory required for use of different scales, etc)?

The sound? the song structures? The vocal style? The look and attitude???? Maybe a little of each one.

As the market for metal slows down, and the mainstream comes closer with heavy stuff that’s still very commercial like Slipknot or Korn, do you think metal will mutate into a new style?

No. Mainstream bands are good because their fans will sooner or later be interested in more heavy stuff. We all began to listen to less heavier stuff. They are like a bridge that leads to the real metal.

If you could hope for metal to change as a whole in any way, including its basic form, what would you desire of it?

I’d like that there would be less bands, especially less bad bands. Anyone can take a guitar, make up some shitty riffs and create a band. Go practice before! ;-) I’d like that the lyrics would be more intelligent. That it would not beany shit and crap in the artwork of cds. These things are really not good for the reputation of metal.

If a holy war (crusade vs jihad) breaks out in the Middle East, how do you think it will affect the way most people view metal, and the way most metalheads view religious people?

I don’t know. There’s no crusade, it’s just propaganda from the middle-east. I’m sure of one thing: Most religions are not bad things. The bad thing is what people do with religion: quest for power, glory, tyranny, fanaticism.

One big problem in thought today is “individualism”; it seems everybody wants to make novelty of their own lives, and not many people want to band together and agree on things to allow change to occur; what do you think is the next major ideology “for most people” beyond “individualism”?

Union make force. Everyone wants their piece of cake. It leads to nothing. It’s the problem of most modern societies. In Japan, individualism doesn’t exist. It’s unthinkable. No doubt about why they are one of the most organized countries.

Are you a materialist, or do you believe there is a life beyond this one, or any supernatural space/beings/life at all?

I believe in life after death. I don’t judge others about this, as it’s a personnal belief. I can’t tell how I see this afterlive, as I never seen it yet! :-) So I don’t want to imagine anything, for not being disapointed! :)

When you compose as a band, do you think in terms of scale patterns, or are your melodies more granular?

Harmonies are very important. That’s the most important thing to transmit emotions. So I think in chords first (then breaks the chord tomake melodies). Scales and patterns are just tools.

What do you do as individual band members to relax, when not working on music?

I read a lot, I do computers, and I practice martial arts a lot (6 days a week!)

Do you use standard tuning?

Yep. On a 6 strings bass : b-e-a-d-g-c Guitars : they use stardard tuning on Hopeless Hopes. On Warp Zone, they use standard tuning and drop D tuning. On the New songs, they try D tuning with drop C.

If I forgot anything, please insert it in here.

I apreciate the interview, very elaborated and interesting questions! Hope to play in your area soon!

Interview: Dan Lilker (Nuclear Assault, Brutal Truth)

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Dan Lilker has been involved with heavy metal for many years. Whether you spotted him in his first “real” band nuclear assault, or followed his career from NYC speed metal band Anthrax to his work in Brutal Truth, you probably recognize something he’s touched in the past decade and a half. We caught up with Dan after spotting him goofing off on the internet, and he was kind enough to answer some quick and obscure questions.

Some people would accuse you of trend-jumping in that you’ve covered the spectrum of genres from speed metal to grindcore to black metal and now to whatever the ravenous is.

Let’s do a quick overview of my history in metal. Formed Anthrax, got tossed ‘cos Neil Turbin was a prick. Formed N.A. (’84). Played faster, more hardcore-tinged thrash than Anthrax. So far, no trend-jumping, lol. Was invited to do S.O.D., accepted.

Side note: All this time I still treasured my Hellhammer and Fate collection!

OK, after 8 years of N.A., I grew tired of thrash and wanted to play much more extreme shit, hence B.T. Was that trend jumping, or merely doing what I really wanted to do, rather than stagnating and not enjoying myself? Hmmmm…

In ’96 I also joined Hemlock, ‘cos I enjoyed a lot of 90’s b.m. and I still held the old bands close to my heart. Perhaps some cynically-minded people might see that as bandwagon-jumping, but I was just enjoying myself…

Almost done! B.T. broke up for personal reasons in ’98, not ‘cos I was tired of not playing “popular” music, hehe.

In early 2000 I received a call inviting me to jam with Chris fuckin’ Reifert, whaddaya THINK I’m gonna say to that???

Are you saying people talk a lot of shit about metal musicians in public? Thanks for the history of your involvement with metal.

Consider this: When I talk shit and get aggressive, well, everyone knows who I am , right, and they could find me at a Metalfest and get in my face, but I have no idea what all those other people look like…

Nuclear Assault… let’s talk more about this, if possible. What were your influences then? Who wrote most of the material? Why the switch to longer song formats almost exclusively (excepting great stuff like F# wake up) after the first two eps?

We were into a lot of HC and thrash metal, I guess, Celtic Frost, Adrenalin O.D., etc.John and I were the main songwriters. Longer songs? Well, the first release we ever put out, Braindeath, had a 9-minute title track! I guess we “matured”, I don’t know…

And for kicks: who came up with Mr Softee theme? I’ve driven away neighbors with that one. ICE CREAM!

Ha! John always played that dumb riff at rehearsal, and it blossomed from there!

SOD came after the DRI/MDC expansion perhaps, but seemed like an extension of what Anthrax and Agnostic Front were doing rolled into one.

Well, you’ll notice that I never said we created crossover, I just said we made it trendy, lol! But it’s true. Metal kids started getting more into HC after “Speak…” came out, no doubt about it.

I thought Brutal Truth was one of the hopeful lights for the grindcore genre since the rest of it just seemed to slide into fucking turd… I don’t blame you for jumping out of the grindcore style when you did whether people call it trend hopping or not.

Well, it’s the semantics of trend jumping that bothers me, as it would seem to connote someone making a conscious and deliberate effort to play whatever’s popular at the time, regardless of whether that person really likes the genre in question. And that has NEVER EVER been the case with me, but I can’t help it if people come to their own conclusions. I just do what I wanna do, play what I wanna play, and that’s it, end of story.

Interesting. Black Metal seems like hardcore an ideologically-based genre (of some sort) so people take its boundaries more seriously. So far we’re at four genres in which you’ve participated, and I can see why others might see that as bandwagon jumping, but my opinion is neutral as of now. Who started hemlock and what 90s BM do you enjoy? Or rather, since you put that in the past tense, what 90s BM did you enjoy?

I have always noticed that HC and b.m. have the same type of narrow-minded, snobby, (un)holier than thou attitude. And it always seems that the people who have got into it the most recently talk the most shit, lol! Hemlock was started by Lino (D777). I still enjoy 90’s b.m. like Nazxul, Darkthrone, Immortal, blah,blah,blah.

Although it always sucks when a useful band breaks up, sometimes it’s unavoidable. Besides, Brutal Truth was one of the top acts on relapse, right?

Yeah, we were definitely a big priority for Relapse and they were crushed when we split up, but there was no other way, so, oh well!

Pretty cool that for a dude over 30 you’re able to keep up the lifestyle. Speaking of which, mind a few more questions? Bongs or pipes? Hashish or vegetable matter? Constant or intensity ingestion? Most profound statement of relevance of THC to your lifestyle and ideas?

Pipes. I’m too lazy to keep re-loading! Just stuff that fucker and smoke! I enjoy hash and herb equally, but hash is a nice treat since it’s rarer here. In March, me and my wife are going to London and AMSTERDAM for our first anniversary, so……….yeah.

Grindcore is by nature an ideological genre, but once you’re in the general area of protest music style lyrics, most of which are what we could call “leftist” or “anarchist,” you’re part of the club. It seems to me that to many musicians, lyrics are mostly irrelevant. How does this fit into your worldview?

Well, Brutal Truth had socially conscious lyrics, but it would certainly be a stretch to say we were anarchists or anything. Our lyrics were not really outright political as opposed to your DRI’s and COC’s. Once Kevin took over singing in ’91 all the lyrics got really interpretive and indirect anyway. As for me, I am a bassist and musician first; lyrics will always be secondary to music to me. That doesn’t mean I would play songs like “Kill The Niggers” or “Vegan For Life”, hehe. My worldview? I’m basically a laid-back, tolerant person, and I don’t really attempt to inject these views into the music I play.

When you were making music with Brutal Truth, there is a shift in style on Need to Control that marks a departure toward depth in harmony and texture in music that on the first album was direct, straight ahead blasting chaotic grind. What inspired this shift? If you could do it again, would you still?

Drugs. Or, specifically, marijuana. Well, that’s generalizing. Our first drummer, Scott, who didn’t get high, left the band ‘cos he was sick of playing drums and touring, he really just wanted to sprawl on the couch with remote in hand. So, we got Rich, a big pothead, like us, and it made the music a lot more in-depth. It also had to do with the fact that a lot of the songs from the first one were written solely by me, where as NTC was more of a group effort.

Need to Control is one of my favorite grindcore albums. Was it intended as a whole, or was it collected songs? Where and when was most of it written, and how much embellishment occurred in the studio?

With hindsight I dislike the production, but the songs are good. I wouldn’t say it was written as a whole, although we wrote them all in a house by the lake in New Hampshire in the dead of winter, which (to me) gives all the songs a unifying theme. The noise songs were tracked there on my old analog Tascam 8-track cassette board (RIP). I wasn’t there for the mix, Earache wouldn’t pay for all 4 band members to chill in Liverpool where itwas mixed, so I couldn’t tell you much about any embellishment, but let’s say it didn’t sound incredibly different than the raw tracks.

Did Nuclear Assault ever get in any flack from censoring or album stickering problems in the 1980s and 1990s?

Nah. I don’t think we attained the level of popularity where those assholes noticed us.

Are there any current bands to which you listen?

Terror Of The Trees.

What are your responses to the following: Burzum, Beherit, Sarcofago, Krieg, Kult ov Azazel, Averse Sefira, Slayer, Repulsion, Napalm Death, Carcass, Graveland, Antaeus, Demoncy?

Burzum: Great music from an idiot. Beherit: All Beherit is cool by me, from that pile of crap (Oath) to the electronica shit. Sarcofago: Beautiful raw primitive. Krieg: My homeboy Imperial. Krieg is good shit and this guy always supported Hemlock. Kult ov Azazel: I haven’t heard them, but Black Witchery says they’re good. Averse Sefira: Haven’t heard them either. Saw one of them fighting with D77 from Hemlock on the FMP board, much to my amusement. Slayer: They ain’t what they used to be, but still great live. Repulsion: Ah yes, classic and revolutionary death-grind. Napalm Death: Love all the old shit. Carcass: Ditto. Graveland: I certainly don’t agree with Darken’s views… and their drummer is so crap that their music isn’t very good either. Antaeus: Never heard ‘em, but I’ve heard good things. Demoncy: Played with ‘em in NYC. Cool guys, good band.

You’re married. Is your lady a metal woman?

Oh yeah! We met at the 2000 March Metal Meltdown, as a matter of fact. You should see our apartment!

What do you like most about living in New York?

Convenience.

What do you dislike most about living in the USA?

Knowing that most Europeans think we’re all fat, loud, know-it-alls.

Have you had any ideological conflicts with black metal?

Only with what’s commonly known as NSBM. Call me a purist, but I think bm should not be diluted with social commentary. Not to mention that talking shit about blacks and Jews, etc., puts these people in the same category of thinking as diehard God-fearing Christians like the KKK, for instance. Anybody who has anything in common with those dirtbags should not be playing a genre of music that rejects commonplace religious views.

I understand you are recovering from a childhood in a middle eastern religion (all major Western religions originate in the Middle East). Can you explain what factors have helped and hindered your recovery, and what started you on the path away from Judeo-Christianity?

Heh heh. I was never a religious person, religion has never meant anything to me, I’ve been as atheist as long as I remember, ever since I was old enough to understand the concept of deities. My parents never attempted to coerce me to embrace religion ‘cos they are not that religious themselves. I suppose the fact that I simply never bought into the concept of the existence of a God in the first place started me down the path… But it wasn’t until Sabbath and Venom that it had a focus.

Do you prefer indica or sativa? What is your favorite strain of sinsemilla?

Oh please, I’m not some High Times-style aficianado. I prefer strong, skunky weed to regs but I’ll smoke whatever does the trick! I enjoy smoking in quantity, or should I say always having a fat bag nearby, so I’m not gonna regularly drop $50 for something that’ll last 2 days.

What instruments besides bass do you play?

Guitar, keyboard, and half-assed drums.

You were one of the first bassists to embrace playing with distortion. What engendered this decision?

Discharge, I think. Specifically the “Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing” LP. I had a Peaver Mark4 bass head that distorted if you tweaked it and that was it. I never went back.

What other musicians have influenced your technique, and what is your opinion on technique playing?

To be honest I don’t really seek inspiration from anyone nowadays, I was never one of those bassists who practiced constantly or anything. My original inspirations way back when were people like the guys from Cream, Zeppelin, Sabbath, and then later Steve Harris from Maiden. Fancy technical playing isn’t my thing, however, I certainly wouldn’t bash people who do that shit.

When you played that show at the anti-club in Los Angeles that I saw years ago, with Brutal Truth, your response after the cover of “Lord of This World” was to give a middle finger to the heavens. How do you feel about God? You clearly make the distinction between tolerating religious beliefs of others, and insisting on those freedoms (in lyrics of some bands), but also having a personal stance on religion. How do you feel about everyday religions and how they differ from, say, the beliefs of the church of the creator or the KKK?

I was probably just drunk’n’stoned and being silly. As far as everyday religions go, I pretty much ignore them. If people need that kind of spiritual structure in their lives, that’s on them. I think the extremists are actually more honest in their outright hatred. I don’t need any of that shit.

It seems to me black metal was founded on these beliefs, and on a renaissance retro-fascination with classical and european culture. Do you think there’s room for people with more leftist and tolerant beliefs, like yours, in black metal or do you think it would be like a nazi grindcore band, an anomaly?

I disagree with you. Black metal originally had no political leanings. All this fascination with cultural origins, etc., came about in the 90’s.

This is an interesting line of questioning for me, as the USA is about to go under police state precautions while engaging in a Christian activity to save a Jewish state and ally in the Middle East. How do you feel about this entire chaotic terrorist situation, and do you see it as odd that leftists are encouraging what many would call “fascist” reforms? I’m speaking of the justification of women’s freedom and music and freedom of speech in Afghanistan, and other rhetoric from President Bush in this war against an “axis of evil.” Do you see this situation as positive, negative or of mixed qualities?

Oh, it’s all a big fucking mess. I would agree that the Israelis are no better than all the other scumbags out there, with the notable exception that when they retaliate, they don’t kill innocents in marketplaces. It’s very hard to say what’s right or wrong in that part of the world, some people see the USA as imperialistic meddlers, others see the Middle East as a huge shitpit full of psychotic fundamentalists. Me? I say that not all Muslims are terrorists, but the reverse DOES seem to apply…

If you could play in a band with one other metal musician of note, who would it be and why?

It would be interesting to jam with Trey Azagthoth, he seems to be a very focused, intense musician. I already jam with Reifert!

What the Gospels make instinctive is precisely the reverse of all heroic struggle, of all taste for conflict: the very incapacity for resistance is here converted into something moral: (“resist not evil !”–the most profound sentence in the Gospels, perhaps the true key to them), to wit, the blessedness of peace, of gentleness, the inability to be an enemy. What is the meaning of “glad tidings”?–The true life, the life eternal has been found–it is not merely promised, it is here, it is in you; it is the life that lies in love free from all retreats and exclusions, from all keeping of distances. Every one is the child of God–Jesus claims nothing for himself alone–as the child of God each man is the equal of every other man. . . .Imagine making Jesus a hero!

– F.W. Nietzsche, The Antichrist

Interview: Nuclear Cath (Leather N’ Spikes)

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I laughed when I saw the editor of Leather N’ Spikes magazine described somewhere as “metal hottie Nuklear Cath.” She’s a lot more than that: she runs one of the magazines which meets metal ideal in spirit and aesthetic, which idolizes the stuff with potential and doesn’t notice the bands that normal people seem to like. Those people who can’t step outside of their own heads and into the world of metal which supercedes the norm will hate it, but to the rest of us it’s a form of journalism unique to metal itself. After a busy day of piling up the corpses of her victims near a temporarily memorial area, Nuklear Cath was good enough to grant us an interview on the eve of the launch of the new Leather’n’Spikes website.

When you reference the container “metal music” in your head, do you think first of a concept or of sounds?

It’s a hard question, I would say it is in a way a concept, it’s about something, the subjects are always related to the same things, which makes what metal music is. Or each band has its own concept within the metal concept?!

Your zine has been long known for its amazing picture layouts.How do you research the visual components to articles?

My goal is always to translate the band’s music into something visual. So I try to respect styles. If a band uses certain fonts in their booklets and promotion, I will use them to layout the interview. Same for the pictures, the kind of drawings, the kind of atmosphere (the band can be extremely serious or sarcastic, into pagan subjects and nature or into nuclear war). So I try to respect the whole concept on each band featured.

How long have you been listening to metal? What did you enjoy hearing before that? Is this a consequence of musical education (self and/or formal) or a process that converged on that growth as well?

There have always been music in the house, I was not a fan of anything but I was initiated to music (rock, mainly) and slowly I started to search for a genre that would suit my endless need for heavy music. It ended up being metal, and then I “studied” the 20 years of metal that had passed before me. I might have been born too late, but I’ve done my homework!

In many ways, your writing appears to obliterate the line between ideology and lifestyle by suggesting a viewpoint where life takes on artlike, and nihilistic, qualities. What enabled you to reach such a view, if it is at all correct?

I didn’t “reach” that view I think, it’s just how I am, or maybe the one idea of an old pile of rare metal vinyls, tenth generation tapes, jean jackets with patches, empty beer bottles on the dirty floor of a rehearsal room and loud music simply leads us to that point. But it isn’t completely nihilistic, or then what would it give for me to do all this, to make that fanzine, to write letters, to spread flyers, it would be pointless. I give myself goals and challenges.

What do you think of the writings of Antonin Artaud? Georges Bataille? Theodor Adorno? Friedrich Nietzsche? Jacques Lyotard?

If this is about philosophy, I don’t read a lot, I don’t take the time to do it. One of my favorite, if not my favorite philosopher remains Nietzsche. The rest you named I haven’t studied.

What do you think is the conceptual link between death and art in the symbolic vocabulary of humanity, even subconscious thoughts?

Maybe both are mysteries. Or they provoke the same kind of fascination. Or they are both abstract things, or concepts in themselves. Or both can provoke the same deep feelings, either of fear, terror, panic or pleasure in a way. Or maybe death is a form of art, expressed with the body and usually not voluntarily. It’s hard to tell what push people to link those two things.

Are you aware of any circumstances under which humans reach a state of free and autonomous thought? Does this occur to all, or to some?

Maybe in their dreams, or when they create. I think both can be related together: you try to reach a certain state where you a free from all the other people’s influences and judgment and you create without any boundaries, moral limitations. Freedom in inspiration and creativity. That’s all I can see right now.

The visual constructions used to anchor the layout of each page in the zine is eccentric and striking. When you conceive of a page, do your thoughts begin with symbols or a shape filling a space?

I never really stopped and thought about that. I think I always already have a very clear idea on how the pages will be, how big the logo will be, what graphics I will use and what kind of feeling it will have. I just then reproduce what I have in mind.

Periodically the zine features a photo involving yourself and bare flesh that causes blood pressure increases across the globe. Do you see sexuality as a tool, for war or art, or do you have a depoliticized view of sexual iconography?

Yeah, maybe sex is art. Unfortunately too many people took advantage of it, so I got bored. But I do use myself for ‘artistic purposes’ and experimentation / creation, in photography for example, or experimental movies. As for blood pressure increases, it’s their problem, hehehe…

When you interview bands, how do you mentally prepare for the interaction?

I think it’s part of the game to expect surprises, violent reactions, insults, totally different answers that I had expected, or yes, sometimes deceptions. That’s the thrill – you work hard on researching on the band and trying to make your questions in the most original way possible, and you wait to see what kind of answers and ideas they will bring up! That’s why all the interviews are different and interesting; people put their personality in them! My concept of the interview is to do like if I was meeting the band in person, in the world of their music (even if it’s snail mail interview). Some bands embarked in the game, it was really cool.

What publications do you read, metal or other?

I like underground extreme metal fanzines, I also read a few comic books because I’m working on one, and I read mags and books related to my work (graphic design, illustration or desing in general). Almost no novels or anything like that, no time anymore.

Which do you consider to be the most important bands from Canada at this time? And Québec, over the history of metal?

OK from Québec I would say Voivod, Soothsayer, Yog-Sothot, Vensor… I should have mentioned brutal death metal bands, but it has been too exploited here. From Canada – Blasphemy, Voor, Infernal Majesty, Slaughter, Razor, Disciples of Power and maybe a few more I can’t think of at this moment!

Some characterize the metal movement “as a whole” in terms that describe its cathartic nature for angry youth, while others see it as a revolution against the social for youth who later, metalhead or no, carry these ideas into society. Still others see metal as an endorsement for hedonism, relativism and a good time. Among these how does your own judgment fall?

Well I tend to only think for myself and not analyzing the impact on the society and how it is perceived by it. So it’s hard to tell. Sometimes a metal genre will start as a rebellion but then go into an independent genre not fighting anymore for a cause but just producing music. Music can be done just for a specific purpose – fighting against a religion, a race, a trend – and then end up giving birth to bands who aren’t fighting but simply being influenced by the musical side.

If you could interview any musician in history, who would it be?

Lemmy! But I wouldn’t know what to say.

Can you list five bands that you feel contributed the most to black metal as an evolving genre?

Well the first that come to mind is (old) Mayhem. Also Venom with all their satanic imagery, Bathory, Hellhammer and… well Sarcofago, Blasphemy, Beherit, aarrgh it’s going over five…

“Image” has a bad name to many in the underground, yet visual presentation of concept is an important piece to any communication. What are your views on this?

There are contradictions in this scene and I think that’s why in the first place metal became sportsuits, short hair, baggy pants and white socks and that’s why a guy like Euronymous got sick of that and tried to get back the real metal look – spikes, patches, leather, long hair, black band tshirts etc… It is important to have a metal image, but the contradiction is in the fact that ‘poseurs’ (whoever you consider them to be) will try to look the most metal possible – so then image is more important than their dedication. Same for corpsepaint, it’s starting to be too much revisited, without any meaning anymore. So what I say is, the dedication comes first but the image should have a certain importance as well, as long as there is a reason remaining behind that.

You manage to extract the ironic humor underlying many of even the most extreme human outlooks. Do you see this humor as inherent characteristic to the process of self-actualization?

I just think that there is a kind of humor that have its place in this nuclear metal scene – and it’s sarcasm, black humor. The result is sometimes violent reactions, or people don’t understand, or they take themselves so seriously that even the smallest smile is forbidden.

Many of us consider Texas to be a separate nation from the Judeo Christian States of America (JCSA). Do you consider Québec a separate country from Canada as a whole? What does America appear to be, from your national and political perspective?

Yes Québec is a completely different country, another world. I don’t feel being part of Canada too much, just like most of the people here. 2 languages = 2 cultures, 2 ways of thinking, 2 different people. America? That is from the Southern countries to the North Pole right? If you were talking about USA, well I think this country is taking too much place here and in the world unfortunately.

What is your ideal solution to human overpopulation?

Hehehe I don’t know, or else I don’t dare saying it.

Hypothetically, you are given a corporation to run with funding from an alien government to initiate world destruction plans. How would you approach this real world scenario?

Well I would approach it in a highly creative way. No problems for the funds, right? Well then let’s have fun. I’m working on a comic book with a story a little bit related to that, so all I’ll do is re-create the devastated landscapes and junkie people of my story, and then draw them as models for my comic book. And maybe make a movie. Ah, my own story come true, what an honor!

Some define art as the end product, others define it as the communicative process between artist and audience. Which do you think is closer to the truth?

And if there is no truth in this world? My own truth is, art is like alchemy. You work on it very hard, and your skills get developed, but you evolve as well besides that, in your mind, as a person. Whatever people might think, even though they don’t like what you do, you know that what you do is ok, and people being shocked by your art might be a good sign.

Are you of any mystical belief?

You mean occultism, satanism and things like that? Yes, I do have my own thoughts about it.

If so, does your mystical belief involve entities and processes beyond this world, or within it?

I don’t really know. It’s something very complicated.

What importance do you place upon the conceptual process in the artist before making work, including ideological, mystical and philosophical beliefs? (when I say philosophical here, I mean the existential and valuative processes of cognition)

The artist puts himself into his art, even though he might be trying not to. His art is his blood. So it reflects his mind, personal thoughts and beliefs. It is nothing objective. Someone looking at the artwork of an artist will therefore look into this artist’s mind and personal life.

If going into combat under idealized circumstances, from which era would your weapons come? (are you a medievalist, or a modernist? regarding weaponry)

I’m not as fascinated as some people I know, but it seems war and battle was an art in the ancient times. The weapons of those eras – dark age and medieval – are definitely nice pieces of art, and the honor and the idea of dedicating your life to war is quite different from today’s red-button pushing countries. Fighting man to man, with or even without weapons, in honor, is something that seemed quite more appealing. And the different weapons, some sacred, with runes carved, some unique and rare, forged by those people themselves…

Are there any generalized opinions you have of metal journalism, and where other zines differ from Leather N’ Spikes?

We all have our own ways of making a fanzine. I might think that my ways are the best, criticizing others for doing this and not doing that, but anyway that makes a diversity in the fanzine world; but the editor needs to be serious and dedicated, and to make ‘information’ is first priority.

If you had to pick a metaphor for the individual in modern society, would you choose “the castaway” or “the fortuneteller” – and why? Do you see the individual as important, philosophically or politically, and what is your opinion of democracy?

It’s a tough question. I don’t know if ‘the individual’ is important, it should unless it starts building McDonald’s and churches and gives away Pepsi bottles and make propaganda for the arrival of Jesus or something. In general the individual should have the right to say what he wants to say but some people often should shut up. As for the metaphor, hard to tell. I don’t really think about it.

Is cruelty essential to humanity?

I think people tend to deny that side of their being, I don’t know if it is essential but it is remaining there as a manifestation of what we are – not always cruel but every once in a while (or more for certain people!) with a tendency to that.

Leather N’ Spikes has garnered praise from across the underground. Do you consider metal to be a “sub-culture” to mainstream or “alternative” or “counter-” culture?

A counter-culture is against the mainstream I guess, so it should be called this way I think. But there are some bands playing a trendy style or an ordinary style but they don’t have any success so they remain “underground” – as they aren’t against the mainstream I would not put them in the counter-culture category at all.

Most people deny that they are beasts. Is this really true?

I would say yes, they deny their own human nature of being animals and having instincts and an animal nature, which includes other animals as daily food, sex, violence and certain primitive instincts etc. A nice example of something against the human nature is catholicism.

How do you, as every thinking individual must, conceptualize your own death?

I kind of saw it when I was younger and it was terrible, so I’m trying to avoid that kind of death. Now I just don’t think about how I will die, but how I want to live instead.

Some thinkers reduce philosophy to a conflict between the eschatological and the existential. Is this logical, in your opinion, and if so, on which side does your greatest sympathy stand?

Philosophy, just like politics, is not something I care for as much as I care for art, for example. There are people that are better than me for this.

If I left anything out, or there is something of useful clarification you wish to state, please say what is needed here.

OK well back to the zine, I just re-designed the whole website (with a huge art section, excerpts, reviews etc!!) which should be online by the end of August. It will be announced on my old website, see address below. Around the same time, issue #7 will be out with Blasphemy, Summoning, Desaster, Destruction, Crucifier, Grand Belial’s Key, Canadian Assault zine, Goatvomit, Abominator, Canadian scene report 1982-1993, etc. Write for prices, info, wholesale prices etc!!
Still available are #4 (4$US), #5 (4$US) and #6 (5$US), check out the contents and excerpts of each issue on the website.s
Ask for the wholesale prices and don’t hesitate to write or send promos!!

Catherine Lachance
35 Brousseau
Loretteville QC
G2A 2R2 CANADA
catherinel@globetrotter.net

So monstrous a mode of valuation stands inscribed in the history of mankind not as an exception and curiosity, but as one of the most widespread and enduring of all phenomena. Read from a distant star, the majuscule script of our earthly existence would perhaps lead to the conclusions that the earth was the distinctively ascetic planet, a nook of disgruntled, arrogant, and offensive creatures filled with a profound disgust at themselves, the earth, at all life, who inflict as much pain on themselves as they possbily can out of pleasure in inflicting pain — which is probably their only pleasure.

– F.W. Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals

Ithaca, NY seizes Alex Perialas’ studio

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Contacts: Alex Perialas, Pyramid Sound Andy Adelewitz, PR consultant
Phone: 607.273.3931 Phone: 607.257.0455
Email: alex@pyramidsoundstudios.com Email: andy@adelewitz.com

Pyramid Sound, Where Timbaland, David Gray, Anthrax and Others Recorded, At Risk From City

Bridge Construction Supporters Organize Protests, Petitions To Save Successful Ithaca Recording Studio

ITHACA, N.Y., June 21, 2012 — The future of a world-class recording studio that has hosted recording sessions by David Gray, Anthrax, Ginuwine, Aaliyah, Bad Religion, Missy Elliott, Joe Bonnamassa, producers including Timbaland and Tom Dowd, Pulitzer Prize winning composer Steven Stucky, classical pianist Malcolm Bilson, and many others is under threat due to the City of Ithaca’s poor planning of a bridge rebuilding project directly outside the studio walls.

Pyramid Sound, the studio operated for nearly four decades by producer/engineer Alex Perialas in downtown Ithaca, New York, has been unjustly condemned as of Tuesday, June 19, resulting in the devastating loss of a very successful business, and the potential destruction of its facility as the bridge construction gets underway.
After two years of asking for details of the construction plans and how they would affect his property, and being put off by then-mayor Carolyn Peterson and superintendent of public works Bill Gray, Perialas finally got an answer about when the project would commence when workers posted signs outside his studio warning the public that the street would close in two weeks. And as of yesterday, both the studio the separate storage garage next door, which Perialas also owns, have been posted by the city, after repeated promises from the
building department commissioner that they would not be; and no one, including Perialas, is allowed in.

Additionally, the building department employee who posted the building yesterday informed Perialas that the city had found his building condemnable two years ago, in the early planning stages of the bridge reconstruction. Perialas was unaware that an external inspection of his property had happened, and was never informed of the finding, leading to at least the appearance that he was deliberately kept in the dark until it was too late to mitigate problems with his facility, allowing the city to save money by condemning his property rather than compensating him under eminent domain or amending the unnecessarily aggressive construction
plans.

It marks the latest, and most grievous, in a series of bad-faith dealings with Perialas by the City of Ithaca. The story begins in 2004, when construction of a municipal parking garage across Clinton Street from Pyramid began. Seismic vibrations from that project resulted in cracks in the walls of the garage and studio buildings,
causing some damage. He complained to the city at the time, but was unable to see the fight through because he was simultaneously caring for his ailing father.

In May of this year, after being stonewalled by city officials for two months, Perialas received a report from a third-party structural engineer hired by the construction contractor in May. The report found the storage garage, which was closest to the bridge construction, to be in poor condition, and the external walls of the studio building itself to be in poor-but-stable condition; the method of pile driving that would be used on the bridge project would likely cause the nearest garage wall to collapse, representing a danger to occupants and the public. However, this report came two weeks after the bridge project was started, leaving Perialas with no
time to repair or reinforce his buildings. Yet the City of Ithaca has offered Perialas no meaningful compensation or assistance, and has refused to delay the project or issue a change order instructing the contractor to use an alternate, less aggressive method of pile driving that would not represent so great a threat to this thriving business.

After several meetings with new mayor Svante Myrick, Perialas was finally offered just $20,000 from the city to help cover the cost of reinforcing the garage wall. But that offer came just a day before drilling to prepare holes for the pile driving was scheduled to begin — too little, too late. And it came with the unacceptable
condition that Perialas indemnify the city against any further damages to his property caused by the bridge project.

Now that the buildings have been posted, Perialas is left with a slew of recording and mixing commitments that he’s unable to complete, as well as millions of dollars’ worth of sensitive equipment that he’s unable to check on or maintain. For example, the studio’s mixing board could overheat easily if the facility’s air
conditioning system were to fail, potentially causing a catastrophic fire; but with the building condemned, no one is able to monitor the studio’s climate conditions.

Perialas makes it clear that he’s not opposed to the bridge project in general, merely the way it’s been planned and executed without any timely consultation with him, despite his many inquiries over the last two years.

“There’s no doubt that this work is needed,” Perialas told the local weekly newspaper The Ithaca Times last week. “My concern is how it’s been handled. Normally when you do a project of this nature, you work with the property owner to deal with loss of business or interruption of business. You deal with them to talk about how
you’re going to shore the building if there’s going to be an issue, and none of that’s happened. The only thing that’s happened is that I’ve had to raise my voice, unfortunately, which I don’t really want to do. I’m not anti this project. I’m anti-the planning of this project.”

Perialas and his team have received vocal support from hundreds of local musicians and music fans who are horrified by the prospect of this historic local institution being shuttered, especially under such heartless circumstances. Two Facebook pages organized by supporters in order to protest the city’s disrespect and inaction have attracted more than 1,300 members between them, and led to the organization of a protest last week at the mayor’s parking space outside City Hall.
And an online petition urging Myrick to “do all in his power to ensure Pyramid Studio be fairly compensated for any and all lost business and possible relocation costs due to this bridge construction project” has received more than 600 signatures and counting.

In addition to signing the petition, supporters of Pyramid Studios (and of the rights of responsible business owners in general) are urged to contact City of Ithaca officials including mayor Svante Myrick (607.274.6501, svante@myrickforithaca.com), superintendent of public works Bill Gray (607.274.6527, email his executive assistant Kathy Gehring at kgehring@cityofithaca.org), building department
commissioner Phyllis Radke (607.274.6508, pradke@cityofithaca.org) and city attorney Aaron Lavine (607.274.6504, attorney@cityofithaca.org) to courteously express their support for the survival of Pyramid as both a local institution of international renown, and a successful local business deserving of respectful, good
faith negotiation, and fair compensation for damaged property and lost business.

More information in recent local media coverage:
WENY-TV (ABC affiliate in Elmira, NY)

The Ithaca Times (weekly):

http://www.ithaca.com/news/ithaca/article_00af9f6e-b4e6-11e1-bd5b-0019bb2963f4.html

YNN (local TV news):

http://centralny.ynn.com/content/top_stories/588030/future-uncertain-for-pyramid-sound-studios/

ALEX PERIALAS / PYRAMID SOUND SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY
Pop/Hip Hop/R&B//Rock/Blues
Year Album Artist Role
1984 Live at the Inferno Raven Engineer
1985 Speak English or Die S.O.D. Producer, Engineer, Mixing
1986 Slow Train Savoy Brown Engineer, Mixing
1987 Legacy Testament Producer, Engineer, Mixing
1987 Power Chords, Vol. 1 Various Artists Producer
1988 New Order Testament Producer, Engineer, Mixing
1988 State of Euphoria Anthrax Associate Producer, Engineer
1989 Practice What You Preach Testament Producer, Engineer, Mixing
1990 When The Storm Comes Down Flotsam & Jetsam Producer, Engineer, Mixing
1991 Deeper Into the Vault Various Artists Music Coordinator
1992 Foul Taste of Freedom Pro-Pain Producer, Engineer, Mixing
1992 Live at Budokan S.O.D. Producer, Engineer, Mixing
1993 I Hear Black Overkill Producer, Engineer, Mixing
1993 Substance & Soul Last Tribe Producer, Engineer, Mixing
1995 Belladonna Joey Belladonna Producer, Engineer, Mixing
1995 Concept Sam Rivers Mastering
1995 Under Pressure Such a Surge Producer, Engineer, Mixing
1996 Ginuwine…The Bachelor Ginuwine Engineer, Assembly
1996 Sell, Sell, Sell David Gray recorded at Pyramid
1996 Metal of Honor T.T. Quick Producer, Engineer
1996 Oz Factor Unwritten Law Engineer
1997 Signs of Chaos: Best of Testament Testament Producer, Engineer, Mixing
1998 No Substance Bad Religion Producer, Engineer
1998 Step Beyond Without Warning Producer, Engineer, Mixing
1998 Wrong Side of Memphis Johnny Dowd Re-mastering
1999 Ginuwine The Bachelor (Bonus CD) Ginuwine Engineer, Assembly
1999 Pictures from Life’s Other Side Johnny Dowd Mastering
2000 Bronx Casket Co. The Bronx Casket Co. Mixing
2000 Looking Up Cooter Mastering
2000 New Day Yesterday Joe Bonamassa Producer, Engineer, Mixing
2000 Phubar Phungusamungus Mastering
2000 Positive Friction Donna the Buffalo Mastering
2000 Red Is the Color Sunny Weather Mastering
2000 This Day John Brown’s Body Engineer
2001 Best of 2001 Edition (Master Series) Pro-Pain Producer, Engineer, Mixing
2001 Faust Original Soundtrack Producer
2001 Hillside Airstrip 10 Foot Ganja Plant Mastering
2001 Legends of the Nar Dead Cat Bounce Mastering
2001 Temporary Shelter Johnny Dowd Engineer, Mastering, Mixing
2002 Allophone Addison Groove Project Mastering
2002 EP Sunny Weather Engineer, Mastering, Mixing
2002 Into the Unknown Double Irie Mastering
2002 Live From the American Ballroom Donna the Buffalo Engineer, Mastering, Mixing
2002 Pawnbroker’s Wife Johnny Dowd Mastering
2002 Punk Rock Songs: The Epic Years Bad Religion Producer
2002 Sing Desire Jennie Stearns Engineer, Mastering, Mixing
2003 At First Sight Pete Pidgeon Mastering
2003 Farewell The Dent Producer, Engineer, Mixing
2003 Wait Til Spring Donna the Buffalo/Jim Lauderdale Engineer
2004 Bigga Than It Really Is GFE Engineer, Mixing
2004 Home Speaks To the Wandering Dead Cat Bounce Mastering
2004 Radioman Dwight Ritcher Mastering
2005 Life’s a Ride Donna the Buffalo Producer, Engineer, Mixing
2006 Each New Day Sim Redmond Band Mastering
2006 In Flight Radio In Flight Radio Producer, Engineer, Mixing
2007 W.O.A. Full Metal Juke Box, Vol.2 Various Artists Producer
2007 Conch moe. Engineer
2007 Again We Bleed God Size Hate Mixing, Mastering
2007 Heavy Metal [Box Set] Various Artists Producer
2007 Burning at the Speed of Light Thrasher Mixing, Engineer
2007 Heavy Metal Box [Rhino] Various Artists Producer
2007 Standing the Test of Time Attacker Producer
2008 Drunkard’s Masterpiece Johnny Dowd Mastering
2008 Ginuwine…The Bachelor/100% Ginuwine Engineer, Assembly
2008 Until the Ocean The Horse Flies Engineer
2008 Room in These Skies Sim Redmond Band Mastering
2008 Aneinu! Hasidic Orthodox Music Moshe Berlin Mastering, Re-mastering,
Editing
2009 Machines of Grace Machines of Grace Engineer
2009 Infidel At War Producer, Engineer
2010 Bitten by the Beast David “Rock” Feinstein Mixing
2011 I Put My Tongue On Window Boy with a Fish Overdub Engineer
2012 Performing The Score Malcolm Bilson/Liz Field Engineer, Mixer, Post Production supervisor
2012 No Regrets Johnny Dowd Mixing, Mastering
2012 The Blind Spots The Blind Spots Producer, Engineer, Mixing
2012 Late Last Summer Dick &Judy Hyman Engineer, Mixing, Mastering consultant
Classical
Year Album Artist Role
1976 Like A Duck to Water Mother Mallard’s Portable Digital Mastering
1983 Anatidae David Borden’s Mother Mallard Producer, Engineer
1997-2006 Selected live performances and recording sessions for Cornell Glee Club and
Female Chorus Engineer, Mixing, Mastering
1997 Echos From the Walls Cornell Glee Club Engineer, Editing, Mixing, Mastering
1999 1970-1973 Mother Mallard’s Portable Producer
2001 High Rise Xak Bjerken Engineer, Mixing, Mastering
2002 Liberación Amy Glicklich Recorded, Engineer, Mixing,
Mastering
2004 In Shadow, In Light: Music of Steve Stucky Ensemble X Engineer,
Editing, Mixing, Mastering
2005 Judith Weir: The Consolations of Scholarship Ensemble X
Engineer, Editing, Mixing, Mastering
2007 Midnight Prayer Joel Rubin Digital Editing, Mixing, Digital
Mastering
2007 Under The Bluest Sky David Parks Engineer, Mixing, Mastering
2011 The St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic Engineer, Mastering
2011 Horn Muse CD Gail Williams Engineer
Television Credits
Year Show Channel/Institution Role
1999 Swiftwater Rescue Discovery Pictures Engineer, Mixing
1999 Wildlife Legacy Turner Original Productions/National Wildlife Federation Engineer, Mixing
1999 Wild City Turner Original Productions/National Wildlife Federation Engineer, Mixing
1999 The Legends Series Turner Broadcasting Engineer, Mixing
2000 Detonators: Sheer Force BBC Engineer, Mixing
2001 True Colors Learning Channel Engineer, Mixing
2005 The Cultivated Life: Thomas Jefferson & Wine Madison Film, Inc. Engineer
Film Credits/DVD
Year Film Producer/Company Role
1998 A Stranger In the Kingdom Kingdom County Productions Engineer, Mixing
2002 The Year That Trembled Kingdom County Productions Engineer, Mixing
2012 Performing The Score Malcolm Bilson /Liz Field Engineer, Mixer, Post Production
supervisor
Live Recordings
2000 – present:
Adam Day, Amy Glicklich, Atomic Forces, Aurelio Martinez, Avett Brothers, Bad Dog, Dalfa Toujours, Ballake Sissoko, Bamboleo, Ben Suchy, Big Leg Emma, Black Castle, Blackfire, Bobbie Henrie & the Goners, Boubacar Traore, Boy With A Fish, Bubba George, Buvas, Calico Moon, Campbell Brothers, Cary Fridley, Cherish the Ladies, Christina Ortega, Cletus & the Burners, Crow Greenspun, Cypher:Dissident, Cyro Baptista & Beat the Donkey, D’Gary, December Wind, Donna the Buffalo, John Anderson, John Brown’s Body, John Specker, Johnny Donegan, Johnny Dowd, Jones Benally&American Indian Dance Troupe, Joules Graves, J-San & the Analogue Sons, Kanenhio Singers, Kathy Ziegler, Keith Franks & the Soileau Zydeco Band, Kekele, Kusun Ensemble, Life, Little Egypt, Lonesome Sisters, Los Lobos, Los Pochos, Lunasa, Mamadou Diabate, Mary Lorson & Saint Low, Mecca Bodega, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Miche Fambro, Minnies, Moochers, Moontee Sinquah, Musafir, Nedy Arevalo, Oculus, Old Crow Medicine Show, Squirrels, Paso Fino, Patty Loveless, Perfect Thyroid, Plastic Nebraska, Preston Frank & His Zydeco Family Band, Project Matsana, Ramatou Diakate, Randy Whitt & the Grits, Red Hots,
Red Stick Ramblers, Revision, Rickie Lee Jones, Ritsu Katsumata, Rockridge Brothers, Rodney’s Nigh, Rokia Traore, Ronnie Bowman and the Committee Rusted Roof, Samite, Scotty Campbell & Zydeco Experiment, Shane & Diana, Sillanpaa Family, Sim Redmon Band, Slo-Mo, Snake Oil Medicine Show, Solas, Son de Madero, Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys, Sujata Sidhu, Sunny Weather, Susana Baca, The Believers, The Blue Rags, The Burren, The Buvas, The Campbell Brothers, The Del McCoury Band, The Duhks, The Fierce Guys, The Flying Clouds, The Hix, The Horse Flies, The Lonesome Sisters, The
Mahotella Queens, The Meditations, The Overtakers, The Red Hots, The Splendors, The Super Rail Band, The Sutras, The Thins, Thomas Mapfumo, Thousands of One, Ti Ti Chickapea, Tonemah, Trevor MacDonald, Walter Mouton & the Scott Playboys, Wingnut, Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty, Zydeco Experiment.

# # #

http://www.pyramidsoundstudios.com/

Contacts:
Alex Perialas, Pyramid Sound
Phone: 607.273.3931
Email: alex@pyramidsoundstudios.com
Andy Adelewitz, PR consultant
Phone: 607.257.0455
Email: andy@adelewitz.com

Original source.