Sodom – Decision Day (2016)

sodom-decision-day
Article by Anton Rudrick.

Now that a thorough overview of Sodom’s career has been completed, and a short analysis from that overview has provided us with new insights, we can be more confident in our evaluation of their new album, Decision Day, in a way that allows us to tentatively explain the origin of its strengths and faults. This becomes especially useful with an album displaying averageness on all levels, showing no prominent ideas that distinguish it neither in the abstract nor the actualized, and furthermore, certainly not being more than the sum of its parts. The situation is one in which all that remains are the references that these streamlined and pre-fabricated pieces meant in their original contexts, and how this commercial product attempts to play on them for maximizing revenue.

Sodom has earned a solid reputation among the metal crowd through the years. Most fans of the metal underground will probably have heard about Sodom, or that of Tom Angelripper, and will express respect at the mere mention of either name. Their newest album displays traits which one would associate with their own brand of speed metal (a.k.a. thrash metal, incorrectly dubbed), but these seem filtered through mannerisms borrowed from styles acquired over the last two decades and a half while Tom Angelripper explored the mainstream side of metal. Decision Day is catchy, and every step and turn is a hook optimized for comprehensibility and mass consumption.

(more…)

18 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Sodom In Context

sodom-1985-moe-ax
Article by Anton Rudrick.

To be fair, one must approach judgement of a legendary and veteran band such as Sodom, with care, so that their present actions are seen in light of the road they have tread. In this spirit, it is appropriate that we go over the band’s career, taking a brief look at each step of their evolution so as to get a picture of how the band came to be as we see it and hear them today on Decision Day. If we are to start from the very beginning, we have to look back to their very first demo released in 1984, Victims of Death, which stands in an area between MetallicaKill ‘Em All and Bathory’s self-titled debut album. Sodom’s first step is closer to contemporary hardcore punk than speed metal, which affords them a certain street credibility.

(more…)

20 Comments

Tags: , , , , ,

#metalgate roundup: the censorship continues

h-and-m_fake_metal_bands

The ongoing rebellion against censorship in the name of social justice #metalgate continued this week when metal fought back against commercial assimilation. Commercial assimilation and social justice censorship have the same root, which is a desire to make metal “safe” so it can be sold to more people. This requires metal denying its inherently apocalyptic realist nature.

In the most recent case, doofus retailer H&M got trolled when it offered a new line of clothing with fake metal band logos on it, trying to assimilate metal’s subcultural style of dress so conformist herdsters can look like weekend rebels. A member of a goofy metal band thwarted the effort by inventing bands and histories that satirized the clothing line and tied it to nationalist black metal:

Henri Sorvali of Finnish metal bands Moonsorrow and Finntroll admitted to Billboard and Noisey that he is part of Strong Scene Productions, the “art collective” that set metal blogs buzzing by creating fake histories to go along with the imaginary metal band logos attached to some pieces of H&M clothing.

Sorvali says he and a group of people whom he declined to name launched the joke because they were angry at H&M’s campaign — which includes items like a bomber jacket and pants with patches styled to look like metal logos — because it was “selling people fake, imaginary stuff from a subculture that is based on honesty and being true,” he says.

…”There is so much controversial stuff which is definitely not suitable for mass marketing, and we wanted to bring the ugly side of metal to their campaign, to show that we as metalheads are more aware of the content you are selling people that you are as sellers,” Sorvali explained during a phone call from Finland. “There are so many things wrong with commercializing metal without knowing what they are selling that we felt that somebody has to make a statement about it.”

This counter-troll showed great ingenuity and has retailer H&M backing away in denial. The truth is that society fears heavy metal on two levels: conservatives fear it is eroding social standards, despite those standards having been obliterated in the 1960s and 1990s. Liberals fear that it is introducing unwelcome realism that clashes with their spectrum of belief, all of which is based in the Enlightenment idea of individual human reason being superior to natural order, including logic itself.

We shouldn’t forget that censorship of metal bands for being outrageous was common back in the day:

dismember-censorship

And remains common to this day, for the same reason:

Politicians caught wind of Eat The Turnbuckle’s European tour before it made its way into Glasgow earlier this week.

Audiences get to listen to their ear-spitting death metal sounds while the members of ETT attack each other with an array of weapons including fluorescent light tubes and baseball bats wrapped in barbed wire.

But despite playing show in Edinburgh, they arrived at Glasgow’s Audio venue only to be turned away over concerns that the police would halt the gig, reports the Daily Record.

While Eat the Turdbuckle seems like a joke band designed to sell records for a gimmick, the fact is that metal’s focus on extremism, or a refusal to ignore the vicious and terrifying sides of life, has made it a target since its inception. Normal people dislike anything which makes them feel as if they are not totally in control of their own lives. Lyrics and imagery of disease, war, apocalypse and evil will disrupt the happy oblivion in which the normal person exists, which was the intent behind heavy metal’s founding: Black Sabbath wanted to interrupt the “peace, love and happiness” apologism for the daily oblivion of humanity, and to inject some “heavy” realism instead. Since that time, metal has continued doing the same when it is at its best, and when it is not so great, has managed at least parodic obscenity that ruffles the feathers of conservatives and makes liberals turn into nagging victim-baiters.

This pattern plays out in more areas than heavy metal. Canadian site Best Gore was censored for its publication of images that revealed both the dark side of life and, by showing that Canada isn’t the paradise under the control of a strong benevolent guiding hand that its leaders want you to think it is, revealing government ineptitude:

Mark was charged with “corrupting morals” under section 163 (1) (a) of the criminal code, for being the first in the world to publish a report on the gruesome murder of Chinese student Jun Lin, by alleged cannibal Luka Magnotta, also known as the 1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick video.

You can see the video below. If you have not figured out that this video might contain disturbing imagery, you have mental health problems. If you require special tags, warning signs and me to make a statement about how I don’t condone this and think it was a horrible tragedy and all the other fake altruistic boiler-plate salesmanship that political figures normally use, you’re a potato and should go somewhere else.

Update: Google has threatened to remove ads from our site because we hosted this video. If you do not believe that monopolistic corporations are as much a threat to civil liberties as government, you are not paying attention.

google-comply-with-free-speech-warning

What most people refuse to accept is that censorship is the norm.

People do not like feeling out of control, and they only feel in control when in denial of all the scary things they can’t control like… death, disease, war, apocalypse, evil, and everything else in heavy metal lyrics.

Consider the case of Girls and Corpses magazine, which has not only been banned several times from Facebook, but had censorship issues in other areas:

We’ve had some problems. We did a Religion Is Dead issue and Ingram, I believe, is in Tennessee. They made us bag the magazine, because we did a religion issue. They said it was because of nudity, but there has never been any nudity in the magazine. They didn’t like that we took on religion. We went after all religions and it was comedic. We had Jim Caviezel in the issue. I did an interview with him. We made fun of all religions. Have a sense of humor. The only one we really tiptoed around was Muslims. We love Muhammad. We didn’t tread there.

The editors of Girls and Corpses had this to say about the Facebook censorship:

Sorry I haven’t posed in a day corpses. I was ‘put on notice’ by Facebook after I posted a fully clothed photo of a female, that offended some loony chic who had her Bible Belt cinched too tight. This “community standards” thing at Facebook is censorship pure and simple. Mostly, the offended party is someone jealous of the freedoms that come with G&C Magazine or are simply a humorless twit. If you don’t like something at Girls and Corpses, feel free to just leave. Don’t go whining to Facebook that we have offended you with our images. If you are too sensitive and have no sense of humor why did you friend us in the first place? Girls and Corpses is an intelligence test. The smart ones get the gag and the dumb ones should just get out… preferably at high altitude.

They make an important point, which is that those who call for this censorship are fundamentally not ideological, but seeking a sense of power. They don’t understand it, or it conflicts with their vision of themselves, so they demand it be removed. Facebook, like any other business, does what it can to provide a safe environment for its customers, which means removing things that make people feel unsafe, like nudity, violence, gore, racial comments, sexual innuendo, etc. These things are not the offense that people actually have, which is fear of the bad things that happen which are associated with these ideas. They see the symbol and, like the superstitious simians that humans are, they figure if they can remove the symbol and by doing so remove the awareness in their own minds of what it stands for, they can be in control and feel “safe.” All of that is nonsense on a realist level, but it’s how most customers an voters react.

What this means for #metalgate is that we should not take SJWs seriously. They are no different than the church ladies and feminists who were complaining about Girls and Corpses or the outraged government servants who wanted the Luke Magnotta video removed. They see it as a threat to their personal power. They need a “reason” why it should be taken down, and so they fall back on using social conventions we cannot criticize, like “do it for the children” or “respect the victim’s family” or ideologies which claim to defend the pitied and helpless, like feminism, anti-racism, sexual equality and the like. We make a mistake when we think SJWs believe any of this stuff. In reality, they are using it the same way commercials use sex to sell beer or tough guy images to sell pickup trucks: they want to create a pleasant image, or at least one we cannot imagine criticizing, in our minds and then use it to sell us the product. In this case, it’s their power and importance, because without their outrage they would have nothing and merely be a group of weird-looking socially-dysfunctional mental defectives.

“EAT THE TURNBUCKLE VS NECRO BUTCHER at GWARBQ” Youtube video censored by Google, who own Youtube.

4 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rigor Mortis – Slaves to the Grave

rigor_mortis-slaves_to_the_grave

The job of a record reviewer embraces nihilism in a way most people will never experience. Much must be removed — nostalgia for the musicians who shaped much of your teen years, sympathy for a musician who died far too young, desire for metal to awaken from its slumber — in order to clearly analyze the music and answer the basic question all reviewers should ask themselves: if I were a casual to moderately involved fan, on a limited budget, would I buy this record?

With Slaves to the Grave, Rigor Mortis returns after a challenging history. The only speed metal band with death metal influences to get signed to a major label, the band unleashed Rigor Mortis after which band politics forced out the vocalist almost all sources agree was their best, Bruce Corbitt. The band surged forward and released its instrumentally most exciting material on the Freaks EP, but completely lost direction with Rigor Mortis vs. The Earth, which reflected the band members pursuing their individual directions and losing a cohesive sound.

Now after band members have spent time in Ministry, Warbeast, and Gwar, Rigor Mortis re-form to re-take the stage and carry on where they might have picked up after that first album. Stunned by the lugubrious death of guitarist Mike Scaccia, the band soldiered on with this crowd-funded album release, still facing its greatest struggle which is that “its strength is its weakness,” and having many strong individual performers means finding direction and balance is a challenge. Slaves to the Grave takes the fast tremolo speed metal approach of Rigor Mortis and slows it down to give it the rhythmic approach of bands like Kreator, Sodom and Destruction which makes it very catchy. Into this, the band members drop varied influences from other music of the period and contemporary metal. This is not really a followup to the first album; more likely, it is an attempt to do what Rigor Mortis vs. The Earth tried to — modernize its sound and find balance between technicality and rhythmic hook choruses — but with the original lineup.

The problem with Rigor Mortis vs. The Earth is that, while it contained some of the greatest songwriting to emerge from this band, it was completely disordered, both as an album and as individual songs. Band members seemed to wander on stage to contribute their specialties, then vanish into the background as the band zeroed to a mean in order to preserve the integration of each song. With Slaves to the Grave, Rigor Mortis assert much more control over their work, but try hard to include all of their strengths. Vocalist Bruce Corbitt writes hook-heavy choruses that are highly motivational, where Mike Scaccia specializes in melodic guitar. Those two are in tension because guitar jams like to expand, where rhythmic hooks require keeping flying speed and then hitting it with dramatic tempo changes. On this new work, the band separate the instrumental bits from the song itself, creating a kind of “oasis” within the song arrangement where the guitar can unleash itself.

Slaves to the Grave takes on a number of influences. From modern metal, it inherits the trope vocals that chant in cadence with the guitars and drums in the style that Pantera (nice guys, but the death of speed metal through norming) picked up on and metalcore really took to the wall, but luckily this does not happen at full intensity very frequently. The band uses its classic technique of overloading verses so that they have two parts, a simple placeholder and a texturally more intense second half that prepares for the chorus. This gives the music more of a theater and lets the hook of the chorus integrate more with the song as a whole. Unfortunately, someone decided that mid-1980s German speed metal drums would be essential here, so most of the percussion emulates this style which not only becomes overbearing but is too simple for this music. A little Dave Lombardo influence here would improve things quite a bit. These songs fit together tightly like ancient walls and there are no random, rambling or irrelevant discursive bits, which shows the professionalism of this band.

If we went searching for a spirit animal for this album, it would probably be mid-1980s Iron Maiden. Many of these chord progressions and the general rhythms used resemble those from the speed metal years of Iron Maiden, but also, the arrangements of these songs mirror the tendencies that the NWOBHM band developed. Songs blast through verse-chorus pairs, work themselves up to a break, reprise their main theme and then launch into instrumental cool-downs. This balance allowed Iron Maiden to stay hookish but also work in the depth they knew would keep their albums from being essentially aggro-pop, and it worked for them for many years, so it is intelligent of Rigor Mortis to pick up this vein. Other influences are Testament and earlier Rigor Mortis itself, which is cited through similar but distinctively altered chord progressions and melodies. “The Infected” for example shadows “Die in Pain,” “Poltergeist” shadows the break return in “Revelations” by Iron Maiden, and other fragments show up repurposed as new riffs. Unlike earlier works, the melody in Slaves to the Grave is built into the chord progressions, giving the songs more harmonic space. Scaccia takes advantage of this with numerous instrumental passages. These show a greater study of tone than earlier works, but lack the frenetic architectures of his lead guitar on Freaks and drifts closer to the rock, metal and jazz influences of Rigor Mortis vs. The Earth. This allows songs to slow down, expand a bit, and become more distinctive because they release less on pure rhythm and more on melody.

This album offers well-composed songs that straddle the line between the raw fury of early Rigor Mortis and the instrumentally-advanced but compositionally disintegrated material of its later works. The most death metal track, “Curse of the Draugr,” and the first half the album deliver the greatest punch. The concluding ten-minute instrumental on the topic of Roman gladiators could perhaps be left off without damaging the album at all, since it is sparse in context and driven by vocals instead of guitar composition. The instrumental track sounds like the instrumentals from the later years of Death, but with less focus on pure theory and more on an emotional side to the music; metal fans will be lucky if future metal-jazz hybrids heed this direction. On the whole, Slaves to the Grave shows Rigor Mortis at its healthiest point in two and a half decades. For those who want the first album done again, it will not satisfy, but this will be more of a hit with melodic speed metal and technical metal fans.

31 Comments

Tags: , , ,

Cuff – Transient Suffering Through the Ergosphere

cuff-transient_suffering_through_the_ergosphere

Joining the crowded field of late model death metal that tries to tie together the influences of the last decade of chaotic metal hybrids, Cuff introduces a style that aims for a hybrid of Cryptopsy-styled brutal death metal and recent West Coast brutal death/tech-death/gore-grind hybrids like Deeds of Flesh. This album delivers basic linear riffs with compelling rhythm while sneaking back in some of the technicality and lead-guitar melody of older death metal, in addition to imaginative Voivod-style sci-fi lyrics.

Transient Suffering Through the Ergosphere — the ergosphere is the liminal region just outside the event horizon of a black hole where energy can be sampled from the rotation of the field — brings out the intensity through raw technique of these genres but stops short of a new style. It uses the brutal percussive death metal late genre addition of vocals in trope with drums and guitars, creating an almost GWAR-style comical insanity, alongside more of the styles of explosive grinding popularized by Cannibal Corpse. While much of this follows the late grindcore model of technicality, touches of musical creativity hide in many details and niches.

As with many things in life, this genre of recent brutal gore-grind mashup will not be for everyone. To those outside the genre, it seems to be ludicrously simple and repetitive. Within the genre, fans enjoy the duality of material that is both catchier than a Taylor Swift album and more extreme than early Napalm Death in terms of sheer rage-venting riffs mated to pounding, transgressive drums. Cuff intensify these aspects and, while not inventing anything new, push the sub-genre closer to the musicality of later Cryptopsy.

    Tracklist:

  1. Spastic Craniotomy
  2. Malignant
  3. Transfusion of Bodily Fluids
  4. Gorging the Sacred Carrion
  5. The Transcendence of Mankind
  6. Sub-sonic Impacts
  7. Through the Ergosphere
  8. Breeding Diverse Entities (Re-recorded)
  9. Supreme Genital Goddess (CBT COVER)
    Personnel:

  • Zach Smith (Guitar, Bass, Drums)
  • Bob Shaw (Vocals)

Transient Suffering Through the Ergosphere will be released November 18, 2014 on Gore House Productions. For more information, see the band website.

6 Comments

Tags: , , ,

Interview with The Inverted Katabasis author Dean Swinford

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We were fortunate to get some time for a chat with Dean Swinford, author of Death Metal Epic I: The Inverted Katabasis. As a person with extensive experience in both death metal and literature, Swinford provides a great deal of insight into both.

You’ve walked dual paths in this life, both metal and literature. Do you see any parallels between them?

I definitely see lots of parallels between the two. Indirectly, you can find groups in any metal subgenre that work with myths or legends of some kind. More directly, so many metal songs have connections to specific books and stories by modern authors.

Beyond that, so many of the thank you lists in the liner notes specifically mention authors and books that influenced the musicians. I’ve never seen that done so consistently in any other modern music genre.

Both metal and literature are ways to, and I’m paraphrasing Dante a bit here, walk through the dark forest. I guess what I’m doing is joining the two so that I can write about the ways that the two paths become one. Just a note about the images in the interview — I’ve included some sketches from my journals to go along with the questions. I draw a lot when I’m writing and I think the images help to show how I worked through and continue to work through ideas for the books.

Figure 1. One of my characters (David? Nekrokor? Svart?) in the woods

Figure 1. One of my characters (David? Nekrokor? Svart?) in the woods

Your book, Death Metal Epic I: The Inverted Katabasis, is a fictional account of early 1990s Florida death metal — but it’s clear it was influenced by events that were far from fictional. What inspired this book, and how does it connect with your own story?

You’re right that the book has a number of features taken from my own life, but I’ve put them within the context of someone in an early 1990s Florida death metal band. I grew up in Miami and I was the music director of the college radio station at Florida International University.

A friend of mine did the metal show at University of Miami, and he also ran the metal section at Yesterday and Today Records. As you know from your experience in college radio, it’s pretty thrilling to talk to people from the labels, meet people from bands you like, and, of course, get music sent to you in the mail.

The places in the book are places I’ve lived in or traveled to, so in that sense, it’s a way for me to revisit different parts of my life. I’ve always liked coming of age stories and novels about artists and musicians. This seemed like a way to write that kind of book, but in a context that I’m familiar with. Also, I wanted to write something relatively light and funny that still dealt with some deeper themes.

I used to write stories that were more surreal or fantastic in their approach. I still use that kind of voice for the “metametal” chapters in the book. As I got older, I started to realize that it was more interesting and satisfying to write a story about every day events, about getting annoyed at your friend or suffering through the stomach flu.

One of the things I’ve always liked about metal is that it tends to be very escapist. I like songs about dragons, ancient rites, and forgotten deities precisely because I don’t encounter those things on a daily basis.

One of the things I’ve always liked about metal is that it tends to be very escapist. I like songs about dragons, ancient rites, and forgotten deities precisely because I don’t encounter those things on a daily basis. I guess if I’m doing anything new in the book, I’m taking that escapism and juxtaposing it with the kinds of struggles a lot of people seem to encounter as they move into their twenties.

Figure 2. Journaling with a portrait of Nekrokor

Figure 2. Journaling with a portrait of Nekrokor

Do you think death metal was inspired by literature? If so, what, and how did it shape the genre?

Oh, sure. I mean, if Tolkien’s orcs made folk music of their own, what would it sound like? When one of Lovecraft’s protagonists hears the batrachian choir that tips him into madness, what does he hear? And I think that it contributes to literature through what you could call the “poetics” of metal lyrics and the textual features of liner notes—the mix of images and lyrics paired with personal notes and lists from the musicians.

You mentioned in an email to me that you’ve found some metal lyrics that remind you of Neoplatonism. Could you explain what you mean?

Neoplatonism refers to the synthesis of pagan and Christian philosophy into a kind of mystical and theological framework that had a pretty broad influence until the early modern scientific revolution. I write about its influence on the astronomer Johannes Kepler in another book of mine, Through the Daemon’s Gate. I guess because I’m interested in Neoplatonism, I see traces of it everywhere. I don’t want to go into too much detail on this, but one specific example I could talk about is pretty evident in Inquisition‘s Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm. The idea of the macrocosm influencing the microcosm comes directly from Neoplatonism. The concept that space is a kind of tomb is evident in classical literature as well. In Cicero’s Dream of Scipio, the narrator ascends into space, where he speaks with the ghost of his dead grandfather. It’s no accident that the last word of each part of Dante’s Commedia is “stars.”

Another idea that Dagon mentions in the liner notes is what he calls the “eternal quest for infernal tone.” That idea of the true disciple uncovering the most diabolic tone is linked to the thematic concern of the album, which is the power that the macrocosm exerts on those of us on earth.

In Neoplatonism, the interlocking spheres of the cosmos produce tones that are perfect and inspire order in the sublunary realm. That’s the mystical element of Pythagoras’s theories on tonal proportions. The key shift from Pythagoras to Dagon is that, while the Ptolemaic universe was seen as orderly and divine, Inquisition’s musings tend more towards a contemplation of the universe as infinite chaos.

Do you still listen to metal? If so, what inhabits your player these days? How does this differ from the hazy glory days of the early 1990s?

Of course. I still get excited when I discover a band. Plus, I do most of my writing while listening to music, so I like to get something new as a writing reward when I meet some kind of deadline. I just picked up the two Atlantean Kodex albums and I am loving those. It helps that their myth-themed approach is just the kind of thing that I write about in my book. I mean, the second one is based on the same Robert Graves book that my character Juan is obsessed with, so I had to check it out!

I’m also really into some of the newer Inquisition albums, as mentioned above. Other current favorites include Obscura, Mournful Congregation, and this Dutch doom band Officium Triste. Of course, I still listen to all the classics, too. I listen to Candlemass and Solitude Aeternus a lot. As I’m writing these books, I try to listen to music that corresponds most with the plot. So, right now I’m trying to listen to things that meet the approval of Svart, the mastermind of Desekration.

Figure 3. Journaling and sketch of Svart's record shop

Figure 3. Journaling and sketch of Svart’s record shop

Do you detect any influences from Gothic or Romantic literature in death metal? If these aren’t direct influences, do you think the two genres converge on similar ideas because they’re writing about similar experiences/concepts?

I think you’re probably right. You could probably catalog a lot of specific references, everything from the Frankenstein samples on Morpheus DescendsRitual of Infinity to the painting by Caspar David Friedrich on the new Atlantean Kodex album. As far as similar experiences and concepts, I’d say that metal lyrics, like Gothic and Romantic lit, use fantasy as an indirect way to represent complex emotions like longing and despair.

You’re writing a paper on prosopopoeia, which I’m told is a rhetorical device in which a speaker or writer communicates by speaking through another object or person. How do you think this applies to metal?

Yeah, that’s right. I’m working on a paper that looks at corpsepaint as a kind of mask, especially given statements by Dead that he used corpsepaint to become or give voice to a victim of the Black Death. What’s interesting is that prosopopoeia is a device that seems to clearly apply to black metal performance — Dead popularized corpsepaint, but so many bands still use it — but the rhetorical device is also evident in the lyrics on De Mysteriis. There are more than a few examples in the lyrics of address from the point of view of a long-dead spirit. I think that’s interesting in the context of medievalism, or the ways that contemporary culture still uses or speaks through the Middle Ages as a way of talking about our own time.

Do you think this type of “mask” applies to black metal and hardcore punk more than other genres? Why would a genre need to conceal the origin of its thoughts — do you think that determination lies more with the band, or what the audience can tolerate?

I think that idea of masking occurs in every genre to some extent and probably waxes and wanes over time. Right now, it seems like it’s often used more as a genre marker than anything. You can buy an action figure of Lars Umlaut, the Guitar Hero character modeled off of the guys in Immortal.

In The Inverted Katabasis, you utilize a literary figure known as the katabasis. What is this and how does it apply to death metal and other underground genres?

Right — the katabasis is the mythical journey to Hell. It’s just a name to describe a kind of journey that lots of mythic heroes undertake. In most cases, it’s linked in some way to a quest against death or against the realization of one’s mortality. Orpheus goes to Hell to rescue his lady, but it doesn’t work out so well. He ends up wandering the world like a depressive, plucking doomy odes on his lyre until he gets ripped apart by Maenads. Dante’s journey into the underworld is a katabasis as well.

I’d say the connection to myth is really important. I remember seeing Nile a few years ago and it felt like they had, if even only temporarily, resurrected the dead gods.

So, an inverted katabasis is a journey out of hell. There’s a word for that, too. It’s called an “anabasis.” But I liked inverted katabasis better because it sounded more like something that could work as an album title. For David Fosberg, the inverted katabasis is an escape from the minimum wage hell of his life in Miami. Plus, my ironic treatment of the trope helps to put the book in its true genre, the mock epic.

image4

Several of the people I’ve talked to about this book have found in David Fosberg an uncanny portrait of the years following a successful second-tier death metal release that pushed the limits but never got big. Why do you think so many of these bands vanished into obscurity?

Thanks for that. In a lot of ways, I’m writing about metal, but I think that this trajectory is probably pretty common for people in any number of fields. The moment I’m writing about in the books goes from the time that death metal was big enough for bands like Napalm Death, Carcass, Cathedral, Godflesh, and Morbid Angel to get some major label attention to the influx of black metal that seemed to bring everything back to small, purposefully obscure labels.

In a lot of ways, this seems similar to the way the skateboarding industry crashed in the early nineties. As far as all the great bands that vanished into obscurity, my guess is that it’s because life is hard and, ultimately, releasing an album (or a book, for that matter) isn’t going to change that.

Do you think death metal has a place in education? If you were to teach death metal, say as a form of literature or art, how would you introduce it to your students?

Sure. There are a number of people working in that direction. Martin Jacobsen at West Texas A & M teaches a course on metal and literature. There’s an International Society for Metal Music Studies. Nicola Masciandaro and others have done a lot of work on theorizing black metal. I think if I were to link the two in a class, I’d do it as part of a broader exploration of medievalism.

You’ve moved on from death metal, but haven’t quite left it behind; it seems to live in your thoughts. What do you think is the enduring appeal of death metal? Did it have an artistic or generational statement to make that was profound then and remains so today?

That’s a good question. I think the way it pushes musical limits is important. Even with something like the speed of drumming featured in that recent Wall Street Journal article. For me, I’d say the connection to myth is really important. I remember seeing Nile a few years ago and it felt like they had, if even only temporarily, resurrected the dead gods. That process has long been an important part of human culture.

In another interview, you said that your own musical project had “layers of ambient keyboards and lyrics taken from myths, the sagas, and so forth.” Do you think you were ahead of the times, having seen how black metal shifted in that direction after its initial thrust (Neptune Towers, Beherit, Ildjarn, Wardruna, Burzum)?

I wish! I recorded it in a radio station studio like the one I describe in the book. By the time I started to figure out what I was doing, I had to return my studio key in a situation pretty similar to what happens to Juan. I still think there’s a way to use this approach to make something interesting. Maybe someday.

Yours appears to be one of the first entries in the “death metal literature” genre. Do you think this field is going to grow?

I think so. Since I’ve been getting my book out there, I’ve met a lot of people who seem really interested in the possibilities of metal lit, or whatever you want to call it. Kriscinda Lee Everitt has started a journal for metal themed fiction called Despumation Press, so anyone who has a story to tell should send in a submission.

Speaking of growing, I understand that The Inverted Katabasis is part of an ongoing series. How big does it get? Do you have fantasy worlds like Mordor and Hogwarts for us?

That’s right. The current plan is to do three books. What’s more metal than an epic trilogy, right? It might be even more metal if I never actually finish. I try to make the bands, characters, and albums in the books as convincing as I can so that they take on a life of their own. That’s probably one of my favorite parts of this. I really enjoy the creative process of inventing new band logos, albums, characters, and liner notes. Who knows? Maybe someday, someone will cover a Katabasis song or try to recreate the groundbreaking work of Astrampsychos.

Figure 5. The Astrampsychos logo and some notes on the ocarina

Figure 5. The Astrampsychos logo and some notes on the ocarina

What’s your next step in your career as a death metal writer — are you going to continue working on the books linearly, write short stories, or return to music and use it to accompany the next volume?

Right now, I’m trying to finish up the second book of the Death Metal Epic. The next one is going to be called The Goat Song Sacrifice. There will be new characters, new bands, new struggles for David Fosberg to endure.

9 Comments

Tags: , , , , , ,

Interview: Brian Kirkmeyer who teaches “Metal on Metal: Engineering and Globalization in Heavy Metal Music”

Brian Kirkmeyer

For some time we have delved into academia and its treatment of heavy metal. Today however we take another course, which is to look at the technology of heavy metal and its implications for both society and technology.

Aiding us in this quest is Dr. Brian Kirkmeyer, who teaches “Metal on Metal: Engineering and Globalization in Heavy Metal Music” at Miami University in Oxford, OH. He was good enough to gift us with some of this time explaining the class and his approach to the study of heavy metal.

You’re teaching an engineering class on the advances in technologies and how they have affected heavy metal music. Can you tell us what types of technologies these are? What are the “defining characteristics” of heavy metal that these have impacted?

I focus on the foundational characteristics of loudness and distortion and then expand from there. This means a lot of electronics, from signal generation via pickups and strings to amplification systems to signal modification via pedals, and mechanical design, including materials selection and manufacturing processes. I integrate these and more engineering aspects with the musical and cultural developments that have happened over the past 50 years.

How does global culture factor into this? Are you speaking of communications technologies here? For global culture, it is on a number of different levels.

“Global” for me and my university is really “non-local,” so we mean both around the world and just outside of immediate familiar surroundings. Heavy metal culture is foreign to a lot of my students, so the class is global for those students. We discuss international perceptions and usage of metal as a vehicle for socio-political commentary. We discuss the demographic aspects of metal as compared to that of larger popular musical culture. We discuss tape trading as the precursor to file sharing, and how there is a worldwide impact that affects band popularity and new band formation. It literally hits on about everything I can squeeze into the class about exploring beyond students’ comfort zones and knowledge bases.

What types of heavy metal do you study in the course?

I start with metal’s pre-history (Wagner, the blues, jazz, surf) and go forward from there. I cover about everything…if it’s in Ian Christe’s Sound of the Beast and Sam Dunn’s work, I address it. I spend the most time on the development of the various subgenres, and how certain technologies have manifested at certain points in time, and try to wrap up with more current trends and expected musical pathways. By and large, students don’t know their history of music in general (let alone metal), and so I try to build that history toward what they DO know.

I understand you’re a heavy metal listener, having recently attended a GWAR live show. What types of metal do you listen to? When did you become a metalhead?

I got into metal at age 8 due to Def Leppard’s “On Through the Night,” but didn’t really look the part until I was in eighth grade. I fit the young white male demographic, but I’ve never been blue-collar despite growing up in a union town and becoming an engineer. I mostly like NWOBHM, 70s metal, Thrash, Progressive and various Extreme subgenres, and will listen to about everything. Glam metal is even metal to me (David Lee Roth/Poison was my first show), and it’s a lot of fun. I’ve always wanted to hear more styles and bands, and expose people to more of what I like by introducing them to bands that I think fit their musical tastes. Iron Maiden is my all-time favorite band, and right now I’m into Kyng and Skeletonwitch pretty strongly.

Brian Kirkmeyer

What is, in your view, the historical importance of heavy metal, and does it signal any changes in the underlying course of human history, technological or otherwise?

Heavy metal’s technological importance is huge. If not for people wanting to make music louder, angrier, or more powerful, we would all still be playing six-string guitars and four-string basses and having relatively small amps. Because of metal, there is a ready market for 8-string guitars that engineers have had to figure out how to design and manufacture, along with all of the supported technology that goes with it (larger pickups, more robust bridges, wider necks, etc.). I also think that heavy metal has been a (not necessarily “the”) primary social voice for rebellion, and a more recent vehicle for the drive for social equality in many other countries (see Heavy Metal Islam by Mark LeVine). I’d like to think that the more that people find avenues to release stress and express their views through music, the less we will hear about people shooting up schools and movie theaters. So far, that hasn’t been the case, and so changing the course of human history is still a work in progress.

What has response been like from your students? Are they metalheads?

The students seem to love the class. I’d say that at the start of a given semester, about 20% of the students are metalheads and many of the rest of them take the class because it either sounds interesting, fulfills a math liberal education requirement, or think I’d be fun as an instructor. By the end of the semester, I’ve usually converted (at some level) about half of the non-metalheads into quasi-metalheads or better, and most of the rest have a greater appreciation for metal and its culture. The most satisfying thing, though, is that the class helps break down barriers and stereotypes that students have, and students really start thinking differently about the world around them and their interactions with it. Self-reflection is a HUGE part of the class.

Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself? How did you get involved in academia? What motivated you to be involved with engineering and computing?

Full disclosure…engineering wasn’t my first goal. I wanted to be a stand-up comic (Eddie Murphy was an idol), then an NFL quarterback, then a rock star, and THEN an engineer. I’ve always been in the gifted programs in school, but I was also always the class clown/athlete/music expert too, so I was never part of any particular cliques in school. I started college (Purdue U) with the intent of getting a job as an engineer, despite not really knowing what that meant. I liked to learn new stuff, whatever it was, and I was largely the only engineer in college who cared about liberal education. I decided to get my doctorate in engineering (U of Pennsylvania) because my BS degree job was pretty blah.

My first post-PhD job was managing a lab and working an electron microscope. Never put the class clown/lead singer/QB personality in a dark closed room by themselves… :) My mother-in-law got me to consider academia, as she pointed me to a job (my current one) where my personality was going to be core, and my technical chops were nice to have along for the ride.

I love what I do, because I recruit, advise, teach, help, and everything else that my “social me” needs to do. I’ve earned an endowment to my position because I throw myself and my passion into everything I do here. I’ve got the respect here that allows me to not only propose a heavy metal-and-engineering class, but also get it approved and part of the liberal education plan and have it accepted as an honors course. Now I get to include metal as a regular part of my job, and it’s GREAT!

Brian Kirkmeyer

2 Comments

Tags: , ,

The metal-academic connection goes mainstream

keith_kahn-harrisThe pace of recognition for metal studies in academia accelerates with an article in the Wall Street Journal. This article covers The Heavy Metal and Popular Culture International Conference which occurred at Bowling Green State University.

In academic circles the movement to grant recognition to heavy metal and to study it has gained momentum recently with the launch of a heavy metal journal, the International Society for Metal Music Studies forming, classical musicians reaching out to metal ones, political recognition of heavy metal as a subculture, and at least one highly talented professor using heavy metal to teach literature. The article points out that from 2000-2011, 224 academic papers were written on metal, with 63 scholarly articles written last year.

“You have to keep that 16-year-old mentality,” said Todd Evans, a former member of GWAR and participant in the Bowling Green State University conference. At the same time, these academics or “metallectuals” as the article dubs them, are attempting to discern more of the meaning behind this intense and powerful subgenre. We who have advocated Hessian Studies for almost two decades are glad to see this welcome development and hope there’s more to come.

Photo Credit: Keith Kahn-Harris, by Eva Roca for the Wall Street Journal.

3 Comments

Tags: ,

Kommandant Interview

HATE-IS-STRENGTH_done_nospatter_smaller1-300x200The pounding drums and blaring riffs of Kommandant ring loud throughout the world. While they appear to be becoming a prominent force in the underground and beyond, Kommandant have defied standards and brought upon themselves a most unique take on black metal.

Here in the United States, Kommandant have bewildered those who have witnessed their live shows. They’ve brought rather good compositions into the fold, as well as throwing a live experience that would make Stalin’s mustache fall off.

Totalitarian Black Metal, War Metal, or whatever you want to call Kommandant… We present an exclusive interview to pick their brains:

Why was Kommandant formed and what do you want to express?

Kommandant was formed to record the music that we wanted to hear, to be the band that we would want to see.

There are members that have been involved with other bands such as Sarcophagus, Forest of Impaled, Nachtmystium, Demonic Christ, and so forth. How have all of these resumes meshed? Is Kommandant the next generation of the ideas in these other bands?

I don’t think that Kommandant is an extension of any of those bands. Each members’ individual experiences are their own, it is the expression of those individual influences in congress that create Kommandant. Even if one person did bring something to the table that was directly influenced by one of their past projects, by the time the rest of us got done with it, it would sound like Kommandant, not whatever it came from originally.

What are your thoughts on the book “1984”? How would you place in juxtaposition the despotic similarities between your music and totalitarian mindset? If you’ve read both, how do you compare the dystopian societies in “1984” and “Brave New World”?

Orwell’s vision of constant, total war and constant, total surveillance certainly rings true today, but I feel that our society is closer in mindset to Huxley’s interpretation. Orwell’s world was one of strict rationing and information restriction. Ours is closer to Brave New World where people are placated not by direct oppression, but by distraction. Orwell cautioned that what we fear will control us, Huxley postulated that what we love will control us. Not to say that fear isn’t a strong driving factor in our lives (our “war on terror” is certainly analogous to the Huxley’s description of the war on Eurasia/Eastasia), but mindless entertainment and an overload of triviality is our soma.

Kommandant often uses atonal technique. What other techniques do you use in song compositions? Do you compose by starting with a riff, an image, an idea, or some other method?

Every song is different. We write collaboratively, so one person may have one idea and someone else takes it and builds on it, or warps it into something completely different. We’ve started with nothing more than a turn of phrase or a vague idea and it takes on a life of its own.

I’m embarrassed to ask this, but metal’s genres proliferate like bunnies. Are you war metal? Black metal? Is it all nonsense? Or are these not genre terms, but simply descriptive terms?

We’ve been called a great many things. We don’t really think of ourselves in terms of genre; we don’t write strictly about war, so we’re not really a war metal band. We’re certainly more black metal than death metal (lyrically, visually and philosophically). Some even say they hear an industrial influence in our music.

All in all, it is all nonsense, but it’s human nature to categorize things.

Much like Gwar, Kommandant is known for live theatrics almost more than the music itself. What initiated this dystopic theme? How has this brought Kommandant to a higher podium?

We set out with a clear vision to be the band that we would want to see live. We felt that too many good bands are not visually exciting live. Corpse paint and spikes do not a live show make. If you’re going to go out to see a band, you want to be enthralled, caught up in the momentum, suspending your disbelief until the band leaves the stage. The best shows are the ones where you forget that those people on stage are mortals like the people standing there watching. You want to feel like you’re witness to something extraordinary.

It does seem to cause people to stop and take notice, but it is also very polarizing. People either love it or hate it, there is no middle ground.

What ideologies or beliefs motivate Kommandant? The word ‘Kommandant’ is German for ‘commander’ and the band uses the maxim ‘Hate is Strength.’ Is there a political ideology here? What about another ideology? What meaning do you derive and hope to communicate through using authoritarian imagery?

Kommandant is art imitating life. We are a reflection of the direction that we see the world moving in. Notice that I say reflection, not condemnation or commendation. We do not have a political ideology. Our philosophy is that one should embrace the traditional virtues of direct action, uncompromising speech, and reverence for knowledge.

Do you worry that you’re going to mislead anyone with your use of 1940s era uniforms, German language and war imagery?

What people take mistakenly away from our imagery is more telling of who they are than what we are.

North Korea is in the news a lot lately. How do they compare to your ideal warlike society?

We’ve never said anything about a warlike society being ideal. If anything, direct action and clear intent prevents more wars than they start. There are more mentions of war in the questions asked to us than in our own writings.

What books, magazines and websites do you read for information? Do you seek information that reinforces your outlook, or “broadens” it?

We strive to have a well-rounded and accurately-informed view of the world around us. To only view the world through the scope of our previously-formed outlook would be intellectually dishonest.

What influences shaped the formation of Kommandant and its music, and what type of music do you see yourself making in the future?

We bring a lot of individual influences to the table in our creative process. We can find inspiration in film, literature,architecture, current events, personal experiences or individual philosophies.

Are you working on new material now, or touring? What’s ahead in the next year or so for Kommandant?

Both. Our next show is going to be our first trip overseas, to Kings of Black Metal Festival in April. After that we are playing Maryland Deathfest XI and then heading into the studio to record material for a split 7” we have coming up. We will be returning in July to New York City to play Martyrdoom Festival again. After that we plan to finish writing and start recording our next as-yet-unnamed album.

15 Comments

Tags: ,

Interview: Turner Scott Van Blarcum (Talon, Sedition, Pump’n Ethyl)

From 1986 through the early 90s Turner Scott Van Blarcum was easily the most recognizable, outspoken, memorable, and talked about local singer and figure of that that era. During those years Sedition became one of DFW’s earliest underground-breaking Metal bands as they helped this area’s Metal scene reach an all-time peak. I sat down with Turner one afternoon in March at the Bar Of Soap and we reminisced about those good ole band days he experienced with Talon, Sedition and Pump’n Ethyl. We even rapped about his enormous bone collection that would lead to him designing stage sets for the bands Ministry and Cypress Hill. He also talked in depth about that infamous night back in 1991 when he had an unforgettable confrontation with Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain (RIP) at Trees in Deep Ellum.

When did you first get into metal? What were some of the early bands that were an influence on you?

I was listening to Black Sabbath and Kiss and this and that. But, fucking… I gotta give props to Casey Orr man. Rigor Mortis dude… Haha! He turned me on and fuckin’ got me going… opened my mind up. That’s when we all started fuckin’ getting harder and faster.

Right, I agree… I mean I was always into the older stuff, too, until I started hanging around with those guys.

Yeah man, he turned me on to Motorhead, Riot, and Destruction and a lotta bands. Hey, Rigor Mortis is my influence.

So I know you were a drummer there for a while. Were you ever actually in any bands?

Oh yeah man, I played in bands. I played with my brother’s country bands. Me and Mike Scaccia did this uh… I think it was… I can’t think of the guy’s name. But anyway, we played with this Elvis impersonator cat. It never got off the ground… but that was about it.

Ok, so I remember it was probably around 1984 when you moved over there off of Hard Rock Road in Irving. You formed a new band with brothers Pete (guitar) and Phil (drums) Lee. Hard Rock Road became the temporary name for the band. That was when you first decided to become a singer. Do you remember what made you just say, “Man, it’s my turn to get up there and I wanna become a front man.”?

Well, I think I came to the rationalization that I was a shitty drummer… and I wasn’t getting any pussy… Hahaha! I figured I might get laid if I started singing…. Hahaha!

Y’all started out playing mainly covers in that band right? Like Alice Cooper, Steppenwolf and Black Sabbath right?

Yeah and Dio, Iron Maiden, and then we started doing Metallica right when Metallica started fucking poppin’.

Do you remember when y’all decided to change the name of the band from Hard Rock Road to Talon and started working on original songs?

Yeah, that was the high point. That was probably one of the best gigs we did, man. We opened up for you guys at New Year’s Evil … with Gammacide, Morbid Scream… I got the flier still on the wall. Anyway, we changed the name to Talon in 86/87. We were still doing covers but fuckin’ uh… ya know we started writing original music. But by the time Sedition rolled around it was all originals.

I know you started with Pete Lee (guitar) and Phil Lee (drums) and then you added Eddy Carter (bass), right?

Yeah, Eddie Carter was the original bass player. Then we got some kid… red-haired kid from Waco named Scott something… that was near the end of it. And Mike Dunn on drums, I forgot Mike Dunn joined up after Phil left… ya know everybody fell apart.

When you guys decided to change the name to Talon and go heavier, that was around the same time period after Slayer’s “Reign In Blood” came out and the underground thrash scene was starting to kick in. So do you think you guys were at the right age and right there at the right time to go along with that movement? Would you agree with that?

Oh fuck yeah… we fell right on in man. Also, Punk Rock started crossing over into metal… D.R.I. and all of that.

You released a demo under the name of Talon. What were some of the songs, lyrics and subjects on that demo?

I wrote one about Charles Manson. “Summer Of Hate” was the name it. There’s lines like uh… I actually took it from the actual words of Charles Manson right… that book about him talking about himself. {Doing an impression of Manson with his voice… Turner then begins to give me some lines from the song} “At the age of thirteen I raped the Preacher’s daughter and choked her little brother for snitching on me.” … Hahaha and that kind of shit. One song Pete Lee did called “Pestilence” was bad ass… he sang on that one. We were fuckin’ writing about all kinds of crazy shit. We didn’t start getting political until Sedition hit. That’s when we started seeing everything.

I am sure you remember the Deep Ellum scene back around that time. It was a lot different than it is today. There was a big Punk scene going on in some areas. There were also the more trendy types of bands like Edie Brickel and The New Bohemians in other parts of Deep Ellum. But there was no metal scene at all at the time. What are some of your memories back then as metal first started making its way into Deep Ellum?

Shit man, I will never forget the first time I saw Rigor Mortis play at the Circle A Ranch, man. That was before you joined the band and it was still a three-piece band. Man, that night was just intense, ya know? I had never seen all of that shit before. It blew my mind. I knew I was at home. That was when me and Mark Oberlander (RIP) started doing a sound company and running sound down there. But the most intense show that I saw was Rigor Mortis and Samhain. When Rigor Mortis played the cops showed up. The cops were outside busting everybody. Then when Samhain came on and they had two songs left, the cops came in fully armed, riot gear, Batman shields, all that shit and they stopped the show. But I have to say the best one we ever did was with you guys at the Arcadia Theater man… New Year’s Evil. That was the bomb! Do you remember that guy Gonzo? That was his nickname… we can say this because that was his nickname. He came up to me that night and said, “Man, I sold over 350 hits of acid tonight. We’re gonna have one hell of a party… I made a lot of money!” I was like, “Right on, now I can fuck with these motherfuckers.” It was fun man… that was the bomb back then. That was a great gig too, man. That night… fuckin’ Mike and Casey came up and played and Phil Lee sang a GG Allin song… “Now We’re All Gonna Die”.

Do you remember when and why you decided to change the name from Talon to Sedition?

Yeah, because when we released the Talon cassette there was a band in Europe called Talon. That’s when me and Pete Lee got our publishing company set up and we were trying to get the name copyrighted. Then we found out somebody else had already released a record under the name… some Glam band from Germany or something. So we had to change the name and the name Sedition just fit, because during this time period, ya know, Ronald Reagan was fucking things up and it was just a mess. It was time to secede. I used to say, “Man, if Texas would secede from the Union, I would fight every day and wouldn’t take a lunch break… Hahaha!”

After the band changed the name, you recorded two demos as Sedition, right?

Yeah, that was in ’87 and we recorded it out in our driveway in a mobile studio. To me the first Sedition tape… we call it “Sedition White”… because it was white and just said “Sedition”. That had only like 4 or 5 songs on it… that tape was the bomb to me. It had “Road Kill” on it, “Sedition”, “Product of Your Faith” and uh… I can’t remember the rest of ’em. Anyway, that was the shit! The second demo we did at Crystal Clear Studio with Keith Rust. I think that was also in ’87 around the same time period. We didn’t last very long, ya know? It sure seemed like a long time though.

When did Mike Dunn come into the band and replace Phil Lee on the drums?

That was in 87′ after Phil left. Mike Dunn did all of the Sedition stuff. Eddie Carter (Bass) was on the Talon and both Sedition demos. Then he quit ’cause him and Pete were fightin’ man, ya know? That was the whole deal. That is why Phil quit too… his brother… Hahaha! And that’s why I quit too! You can print that. I don’t give a fuck.

People fear death even more than pain. It’s strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death. At the point of death, the pain is over.

– Jim Morrison (The Doors)

How would you describe yourself back then as a singer and your stage persona?

Pissed off… Hahahaha! Pissed off, man… but having fun, though… fuck we had a blast back then. I don’t know man… it’s kind of hard to say. I know that at that time period, man, music was changing… there was change in the air. Punk Rock was crossing over into Speed Metal… Speed Metal was crossing over into Punk Rock. Yeah, I’d say I was pretty pissed off. I didn’t like what was going on with the government and to this day I don’t. I definitely had an attitude back then… Hahaha!

You used to take knives or swords or both on stage back then and cut your arms during the show. Was that something you thought about doing or did it just come out one night on stage?

No, actually, man, where I got that from is fuckin’ I remembered when Mike Scaccia and Rigor played at the Circle A Ranch, Mike carved an A on his arm. No, I’m sorry, somebody else did it to him. I thought… “Man… Fucking A!” Then, ya know, we all carved A’s on our arms. Then we started playing Tick Tack Toe… me and Big Jim Dolan, we were always playing with knives, man, ya know? Back then… do you remember that shit, man? … if it was your birthday everybody got beat to ever how old you were. Dog piled… taking a beatin’… playing Tick Tack Toe with knives…that’s where it all started. But carving an anarchy symbol on my arm, that’s where my mind was, ya know? Anarchy… and it’s still there too. It’s just the difference is… I’ve mellowed out a lot. Hey, you gotta pass the guns down and let somebody else do it. Let some young bucks come up and kick some ass!

What are some of your best memories of that time-period back then and some of your favorite places you played at?

Man, I thought the Tombstone Factory… regardless of what everyone wants to say about Jerry Warden… that was the shit! That was about as close as fuckin’ gettin’ to Hardcore… Punk Rock… Metal as you can get, man… and I fuckin’ dug it. It was alive… it was fun, and man… fucking hot chicks… it was all good… Hahaha!

It seemed like there was always some crazy shit happening at shows back then. Is there any wild shit that happened at any of y’alls shows that really stands out in your mind?

Well, not that much with Sedition, but with everybody else…Hahaha! What I would say sticks out in my mind is when that motherfucker stabbed you in the back at fuckin’ Goddamn Joe’s Garage. That was pretty much the highlight and the peak of stupidity.

Yeah, it was… and Harden getting stabbed that night too and also Dave Spivey. Y’all beat the shit out of that dude that did it and Shane ran over him in his truck… remember? Hahaha… That was some crazy shit…

Hahah… That was it… that was the highlight.

{After pondering for a second to realize how funny it is that my highlight in life was almost getting murdered… I continue with the interview} Soooo… when and why did Sedition come to an end?

I had had enough… I couldn’t fuckin’ take it no more. We couldn’t replace Eddy Carter. The truth of the matter was, when Eddy Carter and Phil Lee quit the band, that was it. That was the band. And everybody had problems with Pete Lee because of his attitude and this and that. There was no replacing Eddy Carter and the reason why he quit was that Pete was all about money. And what money? What money did we make? It was all about writing the music and whose name was gonna be on what. Ya know, when ya cut it down like that… I mean… it was just stupid… so Eddy quit. After Eddy, there was no replacing the guy… same way with Phil. Well, Mike Dunn filled Phil Lee’s shoes… big time! ‘Cause we were going in the direction of getting faster. But after Eddy quit, it just got stupid and I had enough of it, so I quit. That was in ’89 when everything busted up. The last gig that we did was with Agony Column and Dead Horse at Trees. Remember the big fight broke out? Out front with all the skinheads and all that shit and I was up there on stage getting a blowjob from a titty dancer. Please print that… thank you very much… Hahaha!

Did you ever get any label interest before the band broke up?

Oh, yeah. Oh, hell yeah, man. Metal Blade… man we were big overseas… we sold more tapes overseas, ya know… underground shit. And Hell…fuckin’ over here ya didn’t have enough to get a Popcorn fart, ya know?

Speaking of Dead Horse… what are some of the other bands that you guys did shows with back then?

Oh man, we had a blast. We had a blast playing with you guys. As far as local guys, we played with Gammacide, Rigor Mortis, Arcane, Utopia, Bliss, Shitface. Like as far as opening for major bands… Flotsam and Jetsam, Suicidal Tendencies, Circle Jerks and D.R.I. Yeah, it was a blast… you should have been there, kiddies!

After a few years away from being in bands you started singing for a Punk band called Pump’n Ethyl in the 90s. How did that band come together?

Well, man, I got sobered up, I quit drinking. I’d went out on the road with Ministry in ’91 and ’92 during the Lollapalooza and Psalm 69 tours and I about drank myself to death. I mean I had the time of my life… no regrets… it was a blast, man. Fuckin’ money was rollin’, hot chicks, the whole Rock N Roll package. But when I got off the road and got sobered up, I was itchin’ to play. Pete Lee and Casey Orr were playing with GWAR by then and they played at Dallas City Limits. It was after Pete Lee got shot and they did a benefit for him. Some crackhead shot him in a car or something. Anyway, I got up on stage and sang with The V Suckers… with Hank Tolliver… the future guitar player of Pump’n Ethyl. I got up there and sang a song with them and we did “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and “Cherry Bomb”. And man, it just felt so fucking cool just to be able to play again, because I hadn’t played in so long. I had got burned-out on it and I went out and did other things, ya know? So we started doing Punk Rock. Ya know, I just caught the tail end of Punk Rock… I got the see the Circle Jerks, Dead Kennedys, Exploited and this and that. But I wasn’t a Punk Rocker back then, man… I was a Metalhead and still am. But fuckin’ we started doing this Punk Rock stuff, and man, I just dug it. It was a total different thing. Instead of being agro or fighting, man, we were up there partying and throwing beer on everybody. And man, fuckin’ I got more pussy in that band than I did in Sedition…Hahaha!

I remember the band was originally called Ethyl Merman. How did you come up with that name and what year was the band actually formed?

Ethyl Merman started up in ’94 and that was a blast. We couldn’t come up with a fuckin’ name. We had beaten ourselves up for a name. And I had been working out, I’d gone sober and quit drinking. As you can see, under this party ball there is a 6 pack, but I was working out and wasn’t drinking then because my liver had gotten fucked up. But I am alright now… knock on wood. Anyway, we was watching “It’s A Mad Mad Mad World”… Jonathan Winters. We thought about calling the band Jonathon Winters. But we were making a joke about Ethel Merman. Ethel Merman was starring in the movie too, and I was singing like Ethel Merman, ya know… I can sing that song “I Don’t Wanna Go To The Betty Ford Clinic” like Ethel Merman… Hahaha! So we decided to go with that name, and we never thought in a million years that anybody would give a shit. We never thought in a million years that anybody would ever give a shit… PERIOD… about this band… and then we get signed… ya know? With Sedition, we fuckin’ya know, Goddamn did everything we could do to get signed. Then we form a band and nobody gives a fuck, it’s all a joke, then we get signed…Haha! And we got fucked on that deal too!

When the band got signed y’all had to change the name from Ethyl Merman to Pump’n Ethyl, right?

Yeah, we had to change the name because the estate of Ethel Merman was gonna sue the record label… or whatever the hell David Dennard was lying about.

What was the name of the label you signed with?

It was Dragon Street Records. It should be called Draggin’ Feet, is actually what it should be called. When we put our second record out he [David] goes, “Man, this is punkier than the first.” I was like, “Punkier? Like Punky Brewster? What do you mean ‘punkier’, man?” It was heavier, it was harder, and it was faster, ya know? It was more metal, ya know. So come out and say it. But he didn’t. And that album was called “Lone Star Police State”. And there are only a few of those still floating around. In which, eventually I’ll have a web site going and I’m gonna release all the Sedition, Talon and everything we’ve done… get it out.

You had 2 releases under Pump’n Ethyl and when were those released?

Actually three… The Ethyl Merman demo in ’94, Pump’n Ethyl’s “Thank God I’m Living In The U.S.A” in ’95 and “Lone Star Police State” in 97. To me, that was the fuckin’ shit! Hank Tolliver, Mark Schafer and Phil Lee… I mean it was like playing with MC5 or something. It was a lot of fun, man.

What are some of the cooler bands that Pump’n Ethyl did gigs with and did the band ever tour?

The best one we did was with Fear. We played with Fear, Rich Kids On LSD, Suicidal Tendencies and Chaos UK. We did a southern tour but we never got it off the ground. It was like a Bat bouncing its butt trying to get off the ground ya know? Bad luck was hittin’ every angle on that aspect. But you can still get Pump’n Ethyl’s “Thank God I’m Living In The U.S.A” off the internet on the Dragon Street web site. But, like I said though… we’ll be releasing our own shit soon enough.

Why did Pump’n Ethyl come to end?

Oh man, it was a fuckin’ freight train of doom… Hahaha! Everybody was all fucked up on drugs and alcohol except for me and Hank… we were sober. And the other two were all a mess and it just fell apart, ya know? Nobody gave a shit. Actually it came to an end in ’99 when me and my bro Larry Rosales were working WWF and got blown up by a concussion bomb explosion, so I had to step down. I got tinnitus in the ears from it, so I can’t do live music anymore. I can do voiceovers and I can do stuff in the studio, but you know that doesn’t come very often with Hardcore music. Because nobody has the money for that kind of shit, unless you’re fortunate enough to have friends in a rock band that’s making money. So I quit because my ears were racked and hopefully we’ll go to court and settle up. And start a management company, is what I’d like to do.

But currently, you are working on doing some vocals for a Blues project, right?

Yeah I’m doing some vocals for a guy named Jack Morgan. His project is called Whip N Shack and Hank Tolliver is playing in it. I’m sorry I don’t remember everybody’s names that are involved in this, but there are some heavy hitters from the 80s and 70s… guys that fell through the cracks. What this guy is doing is he is giving everybody a CD of his music to different musicians of different genres. I was honored, ya know. I couldn’t believe that he handed me one because I don’t have the blues. But this sounds like The Doors meets ZZ Top. Ya know, it’s faster. It’s not really Blues… it’s heavy Rock N Roll, rhythm Rock ‘N Roll, I guess. But it’s kind of hard to describe… it’s different and it’s good… I’ll tell ya that. But uh… he handed it out to different musicians and everybody is gonna do their mix on it and apparently he liked what I had the chance to do, ya know. I wrote three songs for him… one is about gambling, one is about a whiskey drinking woman and the other one is about about stepping up to bat… ya know?

So what are you doing for a living these days?

Man, I am doing the same thing I’ve been doing since you met me, man… doing stage work. But I finally joined the union back in ’87… a union stagehand. I’ve got a union card and I’ve worked with all kinds of bands. Nearly every band that’s came through Texas I’ve worked for.

How did you get started collecting bones and did that lead to you designing sets for Ministry and Cypress Hill?

That all started as a kid… I found a Beaver skull in Colorado. But in Talon and Sedition we were doing a song called Road Kill and I’d take actual road kill and throw it on the crowd. Ya know, I had bones and I would tie it on everything. And then when Mike… when Rigor Mortis disbanded… Mike hooked up with Ministry, they were saying, “Man, this crazy fuck has got all of these bones”, and this and that. So I did their set for Lollapalooza. Then that took off and I did a set for Cypress Hill. I did their set and I did their video set for the “Insane In The Membrane” video. Then I did the Psalm 69 tour with Ministry, and now I’m doing their new tour. I don’t know the name of the record, but ya know we’ve been listening to the new music today… and it’s off the hook!! Oh man, the new Ministry is off the fucking hook! They got John Monte from Mindfunk, the bass player… this guy is incredible. They might have Scott Ian from Anthrax, I am not sure if that’s the lineup or not. But [Dallas native] Mike Scaccia is on guitar, Al Jourgensen is on guitar and vocals, Mark Baker is on drums and Kol Marshall is on keyboards. I am gonna make this set so fucking creepy, ya know, you guys gotta come see it. I don’t wanna describe it… just come out and see it. And you definitely gotta buy the new Ministry record, man. I mean it’s the dawning of a new era in Punk Rock/Metal. It’s like MC5 meets Iggy Pop meets Rigor Mortis… BAM!! I mean right in your face when you hear it. Anybody that’s into Metal and into Speed Metal that knows about Rigor Mortis and knows about where Metal came from is gonna dig the shit out of this, man. It’s off the fucking hook!!

From what I have heard I agree. So do you know how many bones are in your collection, and what are some of the wilder bones that you have?

Oh man, I gotta shit-load of bones… never enough. On the way up to El Paso going to the Sonic Ranch where Ministry and Mike Scaccia from Rigor Mortis are recording their shit, I found a Bobcat, and the head on this Bobcat is the size of the head on my Pit Bull named “Pardner”… man, wait until you meet him.

Now I wanna hear your side of the story about the Kurt Cobain incident at Trees in 91.

Nooo problem! I was doubling and doing security for Trees, plus I was working for Creyton from Peak Audio. And he just got this brand new monitor board… paid 45 hundred bucks for it… state of the art shit and he was so proud of it… so happy with it, ya know? And then Nirvana shows up, and I remember I had worked one of their shows at Club Clearview. And I didn’t realize that they were that big. This was when they were just starting to take off. And I remember the record “Bleach” was bad ass, ya know? And believe it or not, I liked Nirvana. I liked their music. But the guy was a fuckin’ jack-off… but he was off, and he’s dead… God rest his soul. Ya know, I hate to talk shit about a dead man.

Yeah, I know. But of course you had no idea when this happened that he was gonna commit suicide later.

No, I had no idea what was gonna happen later. Anyway, that night he smashed the monitor board and he beat it with his guitar. He just smashed it and broke the guy’s hand… his own monitor man. First he was complaining that the kids were all over the stage. So they wanted me to double as security to help keep the kids off the stage. I made a lot of money that night… Haha! And then he got mad at his monitor man and smashed the monitor board, and then he jumped out into the crowd. Well, he had smashed the monitor board and I couldn’t believe he did it. So, ya know, I’m standing there and Creyton comes up to me… the owner… and he’s like, “Turner, what fuck!?” I was like, “Man, don’t worry about it… these guys aint getting out of here without paying for it. Ya know, even if I have to personally whoop all of them… because I am pretty sure I could take ’em all on… ya know?” But anyway the little bastard fuckin’ dove out into the crowd and was kicking his feet into the monitors. And I yanked him up by the hair of his head and tried to pick him up and throw him back on stage. And the kids were pulling his clothes off… they had a hold of his hair… everybody’s ripping on him. Right then the little fucker hit me on the head with a guitar. After he did that it knocked me out, so now I am going by the video footage. It knocked me out and I pulled back a handful of strings off his guitar. But he gets up and ya know, I see the blood on my head… so I fucking nailed his ass and kicked him. I think I kicked him in the head…to be honest I couldn’t tell if I had landed a good kick or not. But I waited in a parking lot afterwards for his ass when they were about to leave. Russell Turns is the monitor man down there… I think he’s the sound man now… I don’t know. He came up and said, “Turner, he’s going out back!” So I go running around the back and I hear… “Get in… get in cab… GET IN THE CAB!!” Ya know, they’re telling him to get in the cab and all these people just dog pile me man, and hold on to me. And I was watching the cab go and he was trying to get on Elm Street and I see the brake lights and the cab stop. So I go, “It’s cool… it’s cool, man…I’m alright… I’m alright… I’m dizzy.” Because I was bleeding profusely from the head. So uh… when they let go of me I went running across parked cars and I went over there and started kicking the cab and I kicked the taillights and headlight out of the cab. My plan… my objective… to take control of the situation… like our Nazi President George Bush does. And I was gonna kick the headlights out… and get the cab driver out… kick his ass… get the keys and then start workin’. Well, that didn’t work and I’m runnin’ around and there were a bunch of kids with us, too. I can’t remember this kid’s name, but he had real long hair… a Hispanic kid… a heavy metal kid… and he was right there, man. I wish I could remember his name. Man, I punched that cab’s window and it fell. I went right though it on top of them.

You smashed the cab’s windshield with your hand and what was Kurt Cobain doing?

Yeah, I went right through it… I mean I went in… all the way. He gave me a peace sign and that’s when I said… “Fuck it!” That mad me so fucking mad, I went through the window on him. I bit his nose, man… Haha…and I fuckin’ had his nose in my teeth and I’m telling him that I’m gonna walk through his dreams until he’s fucking dead… right. And everybody pulled me off of him and I got out of there unscathed. I thought I was gonna get sued by… I kept receiving letters from Geffen Records… this and that ya know and I’d throw them away. Then I talked to Jeff Liles… Jeff Liles, ya know the guy that worked with Rigor Mortis. He wrote this real sweet juicy letter to Geffen. And I kept thinking they were gonna sue me. Well, they sent me three grand to shut me up… and I wasn’t about suing this guy… I didn’t give a fuck… I wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire.

Didn’t the video end up on one of those tabloid talk shows like Inside Edition or Hard Copy or something?

I have no idea… I know that asshole… well, the jerky that filmed it… I gave him a reenactment. I can’t remember his name… oh yeah… Brad Featherstone. I gave him a bitch-slap… fuckin’ when I saw him. He’d released it without telling me nothing … ya know? All I know is the next thing I know it’s being shown in Deep Ellum. It got released… all that kind of crap… because of that Brad Featherstone guy… I gave him a good slap. I wish I had some royalties off of it, I’ll tell ya that. I’d like to see… well somebody’s got footage of me pumping the window out… I’d like to see that… I don’t know who has it.

It looks like you landed a couple of good punches in the video… and he went down.

Yeah, I clocked him one good one…I didn’t throw it off the hip or off the shoulder…if you see it you can see… I was out…he knocked me out… I didn’t remember doing any of that. He clocked the shit out of me with that guitar, man. I had to go get staples in my head. I looked like Herman Munster with 13 staples in my head. It cut a vein on my forehead and it wouldn’t quit bleeding. So I remember when I came home and Biker Marc is like, “Man, did somebody shoot you?” I go, “No, man… some junkie Rock Star hit me on the head with a guitar.” So the next day they are waking me up going… “Dude, you’ve got to go to the hospital, man… you’re white…you look like you’re turning blue.” So they took me to look in the mirror and I had lost a lot of blood. So I go down there and Biker Marc is going, “Yeah, that’s right…it was Kurt Cobain from Nurvaana.” Hahahaha!

The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason.

– Hunter S. Thompson, Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the ’80s

Interview conducted by Bruce Corbitt

No Comments