Interview: Bill Zebub (The Grimoire of Exalted Deeds)

July 7, 2012 –
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Few people incite hilarity or rage like Bill Zebub of The Grimoire of Exalted Deeds, which is a magazine straddling the line between humor about death metal and information about death metal. We were lucky enough to catch Bill on his portable phone as he zoomed between appointments at West Hollywood coffeehouses.

What do you think separates a metal band from a mallcore band, in attitude, music and philosophy?

Mallcore? That is an absolutely hilarious word! I don’t actually know what mallcore is, but anything with “core” in it is guaranteed to be for blue collar mentalities and is generally a herd-type of music. Posermetal is for human cattle as well and it is just as fake. The worst sort of “core” music contains lyrics about society or government, yet the writer has no education.

Why should I care what an under-achiever thinks about a subject he knows nothing about? There is no philosophy in “core” music. Ridiculous opinionsshould never be confused with “philosophy”.

Do you think something needs to have value per se in order to be valuable? (Another way to ask: is context more important than construction to memes in a globally connected society)

It’s something I never really thought about. I suppose that forsome thing to be value-able it must have value, but does that imply an objective value, like “this gem has no flaw, therefore it has such-and-such market value”– or can value be subjective? If so, one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure. As for context being more important than construction, if I were to hide meaning in a simple sentence and then publish it on low-quality paper, does it have value because of my genius despite the cheap paper, and does the genius itself lose value if the reader cannot detect the meaning I have coded into the words?

The phrase sui generis is currently trendy among scenesters who like to describe why they like things which are at best trivially different from the other things around them. Do you think anything is sui generis (alone of its kind) or are all things influenced by what is around them in a continuous evolution? Do you think sui generis and the Christian concept of the soul are similar, or is sui generis something more natural only incidentally picked up by hipsters?

I have never heard that term,so I am removed from the scene a bit. William Blake said “There is nothing new under the sun” and there have been many times when I thought that I had an original idea, only to discover that my idea was formed long ago by someone else and that I just coincidentally dreamed up the same thing, or, if you believe in Jung’s collective unconscious, I just tuned into the data bank of the universe.

I don’t know what the Christian concept of the soul is. I think that Christians believe that you are on earth only once, but Christians are not aware that references to reincarnation were taken out of the gospels. Do you see a flaw in the belief of a soul only being incarnated once? How could a toddler who dies in acar crash possibly be judged worthy of entering the pearly gates when he/shehas not undergone the trials of adult life that could lead to indulging a sinful path and thereby meriting damnation, even though hell was really a codeword for an unclean area of Qumran which is very much on earth and not in the afterlife.

What do you like about video as opposed to radio?

You might also ask, if you were to lose a sense, would you rather lose hearing or sight? When I watch video it is usually to be entertained by a story, which I never use the radio for. Actually, I don’t ever listen to the radio. When I did listen to the radio a very long time ago it was because a local college station played underground music and that was my first taste of it. As I formed a particular taste, I found a lot of the metal programs to be composed mostly of fluff, and I noticed that most radio hosts tried to entertain the lowest common denominator, so they shyed away from playing long songs, doomy songs, or experimental songs. So an answer to your question can be that radio is far more superficial, and that with video I always have a choice and I am always in control. If you are asking which I would rather do, for I make videos and I am also a radio host, I don’t think I can choose one over the other because they both are outlets for me, and when I lose the chance to do one or the other I become very disappointed.

What got you into radio?

When I first heard that college radio show I actually planned to attend that college and get a show, which I accomplished. I don’t know anything about being a proper disc jockey — I never studied communication or broadcasting. The radio station was considered to be a club in the eyes of the college. But to me, it was my legacy.

What was the highest moment of realization that occurred to you while you were on the radio?

It may sound silly, but I realized that there is always a new listener every moment of the show. I just recently filled in for a talk show, and instead of playing music, I decided to play a joke on the usual host of that show and I pretended to be him, but without imitating his voice. I kept identifying myself as him, and I decided that I would be accepting calls if people had insults about Jesus, which the host would never do, and although there were callers who called me an impostor, many people were happy to call up and say that Jesus was a fag, and the following week all of the new listeners called up the real host and called HIM the impostor!

How often do you run afoul of the FCC?

I never break FCC rules. It would be foolish to irritate such a powerful organization.

What do you think of these radio personalities: Kasey Kasem, Howard Stern and Don Imus?

Of the three, I only heard Howard Stern, and there have been many times when I laughed out loud when I heard his show. But I never chose to listen to his show. I only heard it because someone else was playing it. If I am in my car I listen to cd’s. If I am at home relaxing, I listen to cd’s. I just think it’s funny that Howard Stern uses a pitch shifter to lower the pitch of his voice. I mean, everyone knows what he looks like, so the artificially deep voice isn’t fooling anyone.

If you could do an evangelical talk show, for which religion would you create it?

Ha! I once did such a show, but it was about Satan. I read things from the Satanic Bible, but in the enormously gay southern accent that I hate so much, and I irritated the hell out of everyone. Despite reading from the Satanic Bible, I talked about Satan as an actual being that exists, sort of like he is your best friend, which I am sure would piss of LaVeyans, but I was doing the show to be an asshole.

What do you think all religions have in common, if anything?

I saw a show in which some kid in Hawaii was really sick, and his mother was foolishly doing all of these silly religious things because Hawaii has some sort of silly primitive religion. But I have seen Christians do equally absurd things. I suppose the one thing that all religions that I know about have in common is that they provide a stupid way for a weak person to accept suffering. Just fuckin’ deal with it! What’s so hard about that? Or should I say, what’s so hard about realizing that you’re fucked? Why do you need to have grandiose delusions? Does it really make it easier?

Why do we call Christianity “western” religion if it originated in the Middle East?

Perhaps because Constantine stripped its origins and westernized it. By the way, he was never a believer. He remained a pagan until his death.

If you got a PSA for an Al-Qaeda recruitment drive, how would you embellish it?

You must have E.S.P. I made such a fake PSA, which did not go over very well. But if I ever had one that was real I probably wouldn’t need to embellish it because it would probably beloaded with enough juicy hot buttons. To take it one step further, I would honestly never read a real PSA like that because I would never want to be on an F.B.I. watch list. I don’t defy people who are in power.

Two wise men are sitting in a meadow. A leaf slowly falls from a tree. One says, “how appropriate.” The other says, “how natural.” Why are they both wrong?

If they are wise men, it is not for me to judge if they are wrong, for I am foolish.

What do you think is the ultimate solution to humanity’s wars and crises arising from religious, social, economic, racial, and intellectual inequalities?

Total death is the only way for us to be equal, for while we live there is no equality. There are retards and there are geniuses. Only an egalitarian would consider them equal. There are people who lack imagination, and there are people who are vastly creative. Which group has the advantage? There are intelligent people who have an emotional block — they can penetrate all other riddles yet they cannot see the idiocy of their beliefs. There will always be conflict as long as there is life.
do you think it is possible for christianity to have a secular component?

The only opinion that I really care to share about Christianity is that it is harmful to mankind.

If you were Osama Bin Laden and had to hide somewhere in NYC, where would you hide?

I am not very familiar with new york, but I would probably try out the idea that the bestplace to hide is in plain sight. I would probably pretend to be a homeless person and wash the windshields of cars and mutter incomprehensibly. No one wouldever suspect me even if I wore the usual bib-laden-actionwear.

Do you do any drugs?

No. I drink a lot of beer, and alcohol is a drug, but you probably meant illicit drugs, right?

Have you ever had sex with a non-human?

A non-lifeform, yes. I couldn’t help it. I had to try out a blow-up doll–and before you ask, yes, it was of a human girl.

Do you like any black metal bands? If so, which?

I’ve quite enjoyed Thy Primordial’s “Heresy of An Age of Reason” and I like certain songs by SadLegend, Immortal, Mayhem, Satyricon, and Darkthrone. I’m sure there are others. But that is not my usual fare. I only listen to that sort of stuff as a side dish.

Many say that goregrind – a fusion of simple death metal and violent grindcore – is overrated. What is your feeling on the subgenre?

I’m not sure if I ever heard such music. Maybe I have. I can’t see how anything with “grind” in it is over-rated because I have never seen or heard anyone raving about that stuff. My friends who are metal merchants stay clear of those albums, so it doesn’t seem to sell well, and if it doesn’t sell well then I can’t really think that it is over-rated. But then, it could very well be that I never actually heard a “goregrind” band. Did you make that up?

How many copies of The Grimoire do you distribute each month?

I don’t do it monthly. Quarterly I distribute 30,000 copies.

If you could be any metal musician for a day, who would you be? Would there be anything left of his or her career when you were done?

I would be Randy Rhoads and I would use all of my knowledge to record brutal songs and doomy songs, and then when I became Bill Zebub again I would add my vocals and become legendary.

Say nasty things about anus.com here.

The most nasty thing I can say is that I don’t know what anus.com is — you must be pretty popular, aye?

What languages do you speak besides English?

Czech, some Ukrainian, and some Slovak.

It is apparent you are educated enough to be cynical about “education.” Is this true? What experience brought on the cynicism?

Well, I have friends who are teachers who are forbidden to fail niggers because “it is traumatic for thechild to be held back” so there are sixth-graders who don’t know how to read. Wouldn’t that make you cynical? Also, for a point system for entry into a college, if you write a good essay on why you should be admitted, you get one point. If you are black, you get 20 points. I wonder if England is like that. I don’t think so, because the college students there can actually form a sentence.

Do you have a script for your radio shows, or are they improvisational?

They are always improvised. The only time there is any planning is when I have thought up an idea, like when I took over that talk show and decided to badmouth Jesus. But nothing about that was scripted. It’s fun to do things like that, but the danger in it is it could fail miserably. I suppose that a scripted show could fail too. Anyway, there have been numerous times when I ruined things. When I hear the tapes of those instances, I cringe. When I fail, I really go all the way.

What’s your favorite interview?

I don’t think that I have a favorite interview. But I do laugh every time I think about the last one I did with Malevolent Creation because Phil was trying to hint to me to stop making nigger jokes, and whenever I seemed to calm down I would always bring in a nigger joke out of nowhere and Phil was absolutely horrified. It was funny to hear his exasperatingly say “Here we go again” or “Dude, you need help!”

You recently crafted a movie. Do you see it as originating in the postmodern, idealist or modernist tradition?

I am not familiar with those terms. I never studied film. The only thing that I did study for this particular movie was the three-act structure of screenplays, and the reason that I studied that was because I have to learn the rules before I break them. I never did a full-length movie before. I had always just done 10-minute skits, or candid-camera stuff. So I read a book by Syd Field and I’m glad I did.

In this movie, do events move according to a script, or is it more of a cut-up format in the style of W.S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch?

I don’t know what “Naked Lunch” is, but this movie was entirely scripted. I made some changes as we went along, but I did write and copyright a screenplay.

Do you have aspirations to direct “real” movies?

I have been reading a lot of tips from various internet sites and I found out that a lot of directors started out the way I am doing things. But I am doing this purely for personal enjoyment. I know that I have my own style. But I don’t know if it’s something that would merit anyone risking giving me a big budget. I am just now starting to learn about the financial and promotion side of the hobby, and I am sinking my own fortunes into these ventures. As I progress maybe I will have investors. But until then I’ll just keep shelling out cash and hoping that things take off. When I release a movie, I assume that it will flop and prepare myself for ruin. So any outcome is surely better than that, and that means that I am always happy with the results.

Do you see art as primarily reflective of the world around it, or as creating a force against that which exists so that a different or larger ideal can be pursued?

I am not a person who could comment on what art is. I am not an artist, I am a hobbyist. Humor is sometimes referred to as a social mirror. In my case, humor is a social circus-mirror. Does that answer your question?

Do you believe in good and evil?

No. I believe that thoughts and actions are sometimes positive and sometimes negative, and some good actions can have negative thoughts as the fuel. Most people experience metal illness at one point or another. That is the closest thing to evil. But evil, or good, are not very sophisticated concepts.

Do you like Mexican food?

Yes, I do. I find it to be very flavorful.

What’s your opinion of the average metal fan? Average black metal fan (fan of black metal)? Average metal lady? Average Grimoire reader?

This is a hard question to answer because I am not really connected to the metal scene, or to my readers. I only associate with a very select group of people, and I don’t think that they can be generalized to the whole metal scene. I guess you can say that I am acquainted with extremes, not the middle. I do know that ever since the Grimoire was no longer free, most of the idiotic mail has stopped. Yes, the web site is free, but I think that you have to be somewhat literate to navigate the internet and to deal with reading text on a screen. Then again, the most popular pages are the Grimoire Girl pages, but for some reason, the retards who picked up the printed version have not trickled over into the internet crowd. So the demographics are different now. The only people who own Grimoires now are people who understand the humor, or people who happened to like the girls in the issue. Anyway, to answer your question, I don’t really know the “average” kind of person from any group because I only care to deal with certain types of people, and they are not average by any means.

What are your intellectual and physical interests outside of metal?

I like psychoanalytical theory, lucid dreaming, out of body experiences, quantum reality, dark humor,dark poetry, dark opera, aiki jiu jutsu, and medieval fantasy.

Visit The Grimoire of Exalted Deeds or Bill Zebub productions.

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him — you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.

“How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was the holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us — for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto.”

Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. “I have come too early,” he said then; “my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than the most distant stars — and yet they have done it themselves.”

- F.W. Nietsche, The Gay Science

Interview: Malefic (Xasthur)

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Xasthur’s reclusive and asocial Malefic gave us a few moments of time to ask some esoterica and rewarded his listeners with the following interview, in which he gives some analysis of the interconnectivity of thoughts inside and outside of the black metal “scene.”

When you first started Xasthur, what factor of the project made you most uncomfortable?

Hmmm, that’s a real good question. There were two times when I ‘first started Xasthur’, the first time was a failure…constant losers,liars,trendies for bandmates; I was very upset. I felt that nobody believed in how serious I was in bringing forth a horrifing aura of blackness. The second time was just the same, but on the other hand better. I had totally given up on people, I admit I was uncomfortable when I decided to get a drum machine and do it all on my own, I didn’t know if it was possible,and still alot of poser fuckers didn’t believe in me, they thought their party heavy metal parking lot bands were more meaningful..well,the good news is that I’m planning on, and will have the last laugh!!! Another factor was the vocals, I had never done that before, but I knew that I would have to force myself to…it was never in my plans, but as a one person band, it had to be; other than that, everythng fell into place and I learned how to overcome certian difficulties such as drum programming, vocals, humans etc…

Had you been in any bands or musical apparati before Xasthur?

Yes, a couple death metal bands, back in 94-95 here in So.Cal..didn’t really work out. There was always some differences, they wanted to be unoriginal, and at the time I thought it would have been quite possible to mix death metal with darkness and doom. I can’t really get along with anyone in a band-like environment.

At the time, what bands inspired and/or motivated you? Writers? Visual artists? Movies?

Mütiilation and the black legions, Burzum, Graveland (Thousand Swords), Manes, Shining, Forgotten Woods, Funeral Winds and too many to mention. Hmmm, I don’t watch movies much…my favorite movie is Carrie (the old one from the 70s) as far as Visual Artists are concerned, whoever made the Aphex Twin video, what a perfect vision of the remains of an apocalypse, I always have that video in my head…but like I said ,I don’t watch TV really…

Where were you when you first thought the project had longterm potential for you?

In my house, as usual…looking out my window and there was nothing there, When I was finishing a song and it actually disturbed me. That was like looking into a mirror and not liking what I saw….when it refected a nightmare, I thought it had some potential…but for what?”

Does anyone else work with you? Why or why not?

The only other person that really helped in the past was a good friend of mine, Mike/Draconis, but that was in ’99, before I just did this band on my own. Maybe it’s where I live that I can’t rely on ANYONE to help out…I don’t need anyones input, people here want to be famous like Cradle of Filth and write safe-normal riffs to impress their friends, get girls etc…that is all I have EVER seen…I don’t need that kind of input.

There is an obvious Burzum-influence (this is something of which to be proud, but hopefully you’re not going to be annoyed by it) in Xasthur’s music; what did Burzum do that no other bands have done?

No, I’m not annoyed by that…actually, thanks. Burzum is darkness, or has that word lost its meaning? All I know is that Burzum can take you anywhere but where you are…and it’s usually somewhere cold. I don’t want to be where I am, or anywhere for that matter.

A soldier once remarked, “we had to destroy the town to save it.” F.W. Nietzsche once offhandedly said that if Christianity had not existed, it would have been necessary to invent it. Do you think all things on planet earth are bound up in their opposites?

Yes, that F.W. Nietzsche quote makes sense to me…just cause something doesn’t exist doesn’t mean it needs to be invented…we would still have a broom, if the streetcleaner or vaccum wasn’t invented, the broom cost only 4-5 dollars and the others several dollars more, plus they’re noisy and don’t save that much time…according to that quote, I’m not disagreeing with it, the quote to me is just based on human nature and what people will predictably do….or…maybe I have no clue?

Most black metal bands seem to aim for linear expansion, namely, riffs that stretch out of 2-3 notes across 3-5 frets within the same chord form. This produces a very clear pattern that requires a counterpoint. Burzum and others, including Xasthur, seem to structure counterpoint within a recursive phrase, more like a fugue. Is this true in your view?

I try to not have such few notes per song/riff. My instincts tell me when or when not to have such few notes, when to be this simple or not to be,there’s a time to be repetative. For example, something with a hardcore upbeat (like you mentioned somewhere else in this interview) shouldn’t be repeated 8-12-16 times ect…Across 3-5 frets? I’d say you’d better add a bunch of other ideas to accompany that kind of simplicity or its gonna get boring…but like I said else where, there are no rules. Slightly rehearsed, last minute improv can not only fool thyself, but the listener as well…or at least I’d like to think. Don’t wanna come across as someone trying to be an expert, ’cause these are just instincts talking here…there’s not much theory behind what it is that I do, ’cause I basically had to learn anything I know on my own…on my own, that’s what life really comes down to, and death as well.

How much of the black metal community do you feel is social time for wayward youth? How much of it is artistic?

Too much social time! To play this music and make it as dark as you can, one has to give up alot…like friends,sleep,money etc…Alot of people will be too busy being a part of “life” to take it further than bass,guitar,drums,vocals,pentagram and then they’re done! When this kind of work is done, I’ll be social with others who are into what I’m into..who the hell am I?

Negativity seems to me like a mental forest fire; with everything reduced to ashes, any new ideas seem fresh and hopeful. What have your experiences on this topic been?

Well, negativity is all around, weather you want it or not…how can one rebuild when only ashes remain? Whenever I look at my scars…I remember where I’ve been and where my state of mind always takes me.

Many view Varg as duplicitous in his representation of his own beliefs, but in the first interview I have with him, he refers to himself as a theosophist, and on his first album, he has a lyric making reference to his socially unacceptable political views. Do you fear the same thing with your own music and later, views? is there any way around being called “inconsistent” as one grows?

is there any way to summarize what you’ve learned about music since starting xasthur, or to find a few central points of change, and if so, can you list them here?
I have learned alot,I have learned things that I already knew and felt. I have learned that playing music is like solving puzzles that have no direction and are certianly not flat like puzzles usually are. I learned that many riffs of songs have infinite possibilities for harmonies/dis-harmonies with all instruments, having 4 or 5 different sounds in different octaves (yet all slightly similar) coming together finding a way to let out all the thousands of ideas in my head…painting a mix of sounds with the most bleak of colours, what to do, or what to add that will reflect the exact mood….I learned that being unpredictable with the changes in the song can work for me, instead of against me i.e, one of my friends used to tell me that 2 certian parts wouldn’t/didn’t go together, I say bullshit, I’ll find a way, and the best way i possibly can…there are no rules, no rules…its the one thing that can keep it interesting to me…I don’t know if this is the kind of answer you were looking for…

What do you think – if any – is the relationship between radical, terroristic environmentalism and black metal?

Hate!! Downfall of urban culture (or lack there of)..if I’m understanding the question properly.

Do you have a preference for type of equipment? In your mind, how important is equipment to the production of music?

I’ll tell you that it makes a difference. When getting a good guitar sound, that’s when just anything WON’T do. On some old recordings,I used a dist.pedal and all it picked up was alot of noise I didn’t even know I was hearing, plus it was very weak ad thin…then I switched to an effects processer rack mod. and that really helped take away all the noise and added some fullness…a way of mixing is important too. A 4track with mixing capabilities included, the effects processer and a cd-r burner for bouncing tracks…these are all the essentials and main ingredients.These things made a difference and made recording easier for me.

When you first conceive of a song, or a riff, is your starting point a boundary or a direction?

Neither. I don’t want a limit, and boundary makes me think of that…if there was a direction then it wouldn’t come from within,plus predictability in music makes it boring to play after a while.

What are your thoughts on Hegel’s theory of dialectics, namely that each thing (“thesis”) has an antithesis, and eventually a compromise between the two leads to the next thesis?

As in hypothesis, an educated guess? A part of being psychic? A mathematical algebra-like theory of prediction? If 2+ _ = 8 then what’s blank? If someone/something does 2, but is hiding the truth, that being blank, then why does their face have 8 written all over it…I don’t know,I’m so tired right now I don’t even know…

Many people are saying “black metal is dead” right now, and, while I understand their saying so, it seems to me like they mean “most of black metal is dead” when they declare its demise. What do you think is the difference between “living” and “dead” in this context?

Yes, I agree “most of black metal is dead” because if it was all dead,I would have one of the last significant reasons not to live. There are still some bands out there that can save at least the feeling or that bring back some nostalgia of the way it once was. I don’t think war metal does…war metal is just some kind of retro protest towards the norweigians?? This negativity of black metal is the only thing that brings me any pleasure or excitement anymore…ironic,or a contradiction?? It was “living” in the early 90′s when it was more of a threat to society, I suppose.

What were your earliest metal influences?

In the 1982-84 era, is when I first discovered metal, I was a bit young at the time…I liked Motley Crue,Iron Maiden,Quiet Riot,AC/DC ect…I rarley listen to those bands anymore..sometimes. Later on in the later 80′s I got into Mercyful Fate,Dark Angel,Megadeth,Slayer.. then death metal,black metal then…??

How much of metal do you think is derived from hardcore?

Hmmm, some of the drum beats are similar to hardcore. However, I think metal bands did alot more with hardcore beats than the hardcore bands did themselves..

The gentleman from Axis of Advance probably thinks I’m a fag because so much of this interview does not address metal itself, but abstract and possibly unrelated thoughts. Do you think there is a link between the sound that is produced and the thoughts that occurred to prompt the attitudes, values and ideas expressed?

Well, talking about real life is probably more grim than death itself….and metal too. Axis of Advance?? That link you talk about, yes I think there is…that is, if you’re talking about a persons mental state of mind, if you can hear a persons mental state of mind…I could probably hear where the guys in Axis of Advance are coming from when I hear their songs and I would hope that one would be able to hear where I’m coming from with mine, also these are from two different planes….

Do you believe it is necessary, as Keats did, to desire the end for its cessation of the activity of life, before one can see what is of value remaining?

Darkling I listen, and for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful death . . .
Now more than ever seems it reach to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain

If we could see the world through philosophical photonegative states of mind, what do you think would be the seat of evil? Would those who believe still conceive of “god” as an entity outside of this world?

Do you have any mystical belief?

Energy…hateful. Energy taken from souls. Believing in yourself,cause you can’t have faith in anything or anyone else

Many in black metal advocate a “fuck everything, do nothing” type political attitude that is more bitterness than ideology. Others overcorrect by becoming very-unliberal people with the liberal attitude that one “must” change the human situation. Where do you stand?

How about change the human situation for good by mass genocide since there’s no answer to everyone’s/anyone’s problems and everyone hates being alive, whether they can admit it or not. I’m sick of humans having so many rights…they just piss and shit on all that is given to them. To me, this is bitterness AND ideology.

What drugs do you think anus.com should explore as possible nutritional supplements for its writing staff?

“Explore the world of medication”

Please drop in here any additional comments, final words on this interview, or jokes about sodomy that you feel would fit.

Knock,knock. Who’s there? Clint. Clint who? Clint Torres….get it?! I am in the process of copyrightng this joke.

Thanks for the interview, Prozak…whether people know it or not you’re a pessimistic guy that goes back a long way…thanks to anyone that wastes their time reading this… suicide can be a relief.

Did we speak about “end” and “totality” in a way phenomenally apprporiate to Da-sein? Did the expression “death” have a biological significance or one that is existential and ontological, or indeed was it sufficiently and securely defined at all? And have we actually exhausted all the possibilities of making Da-sein accessible in its totality?

We have to answre these questions before the problem of the wholeness of Da-sein can be dismissed as nothing. The question of the wholeness of Da-sein, both the existentiell questiona bout a possible potentiality-for-being-a-whole, as well as the existential question about the constitution of being of “end” and “wholeness,” contain the task of a positive analysis of the phenomena of existence set aside up to now. In the center of these considerations we have the task of characterizing ontologically the being-toward-the-end of Da-sein and of achieving an existential concept of death.

- Martin Heidegger, Being and Time

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

July 3, 2012 –
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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

Interview: Jan Kruitwagen (Sammath)

July 1, 2012 –
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Sammath rose out of the ashes of post-1997 blackmetal with a flair for classical-inspired architectural riffing within the shorter format of metal songs that were both listenable and radically opposed to the complacent normalcy invading black metal. The A.N.U.S. interview staff were able to intercept J. Kruitwagen’s cell phone from an abandoned ferryboat off the coast of England, and captured this interview by pretending to be investigators looking for clues about al-Qaeda.

What event or idea triggered your desire to release music? It seems like many play instruments, and only some go on to publish or be in bands.

When I first heard Gehenna “angelwings and ravenclaws” I was already writing music but not at all with the intention to release anything. This 7 inch inspired me the most, the atmosphere they created was something I really wanted to do myself. The only problem was that no one I knew wanted to record anything. I even used to play along with Slayer on a acoustic guitar before I had a electric one when I was ten, you have to start somewhere.

Are your songs designed around emotions, visual perceptions or purely musical “shapes”?

A combination of all. Mostly musical shapes, I try not to let emotion get in the way but thats impossible. You can’t write hateful black metal after you just had a great day with your girl. Watching a war movie on tv or old world war two documentaries really is the most inspiring. Reading about Stalingrad and the hell in the midst of war. The songs are all written the same way, I get the lyrical concept and build the music around this.

What things inspire awe in you?

Anything that deserves respect, in any way.

If you patterned your music after anything you found in your outside world, what were these things? Or do you see the patterns of the outside world as stylistic inspiration, and the poetic content of your songs deriving from somewhere else?

The outside world has its influence, even if you dont want it to. I would say that everyday violence, war, despair, hate finds its way into the music. I of course have never been or seen war. I don’t glorify war but the way destruction and chaos always win intrigues me. The content of my songs just appear and naturally find their way into a track. If my music should represent anything from the world outside it would be a falling bomb with the listener sitting on it.

What is the hardest part of songwriting?

The hardest part to songwriting is knowing when a track is finished and should be left alone, I have heard so many great tracks by other bands to that just take too long or have to many riffs jammed into twenty seconds. The thing about black metal is that it is a combination of feeling and music, no one of these should lead. Luckily noone interferes while I write the music. Sammath is just me, I have a great band for live acts but they don’t write any music.

You had a promo tape and a demo before your first album; how did the music of Sammath change across these three releases?

The first demo “zwaardbroeders bij de bergengte” 1996 (brothers of the sword at the mountain pass) was really underground, bad sound, but the ideas for later SAMMATH where there. At that time I had someone else in SAMMATH, due to total lack of interest I kicked him out. The music at that time was heavily inspired by early Emperor and Satyricon, not even close to their level of songwriting but the atmosphere on the tape was good. The second demo/promo tape “de ruines fluisteren (the ruins whisper) was a full length demo with eight tracks varying from fast black metal to old style black metal. Both these tapes are four track recordings. From the first demo to the release of the cd “strijd” their was only a improvement on the sound, the music grew as it should but did not change much in style. The only difference being that it started to sound more original, the SAMMATH sound.

How is the new album different from Strijd?

Verwoesting/devastation is more violent in every way. The keyboard is gone and the music is faster. The tracks are of better quality as is the recording. There are also more death metal influences, after seven years of pure black metal it was time to evolve. I spend two years on this cd, everyday two or three hours. I finally had the opportunity to work with Fridus Klaasen a great producer. He does not have any connection to the metal scene and usually just masters classical music. This way you get a fresh sound, not like all bands who record in well known studios. The lyrics are no longer about dark forests and so on but realistic, war, death, questions upon faith. The whole concept is more brutal, every musician always prefers the latest album, go listen to the tracks and compare yourself. The music has evolved from being a rip off of other bands to a SAMMATH sound.

What do you think of mp3 trading (Napster, WinMX, Kazaa, Audiogalaxy); has it helped or hindered the underground?

I think it helps in one way, everyone can hear your music. Problem is that less people buy albums, the value of a cd is just no longer what it was because of the easy way to copy a cd but the prices remain the same. I am not in it for the money; that’s pretty obvious or I would have been writing pop music but I don’t see why everyone should get everything for free, if you like the album buy it. If noone buys albums there will be no more scene. On the other hand, there are so many releases that are not that good at all that you want to listen to but not buy. Folter records has told me he has had no problems. I believe that the older generation still buys what they want. What I like is vinyl, the best sound for metal.

What things do you love? Hate? Do most things fall in between?

I hate everything that has to do with religion, satanists are just as pathetic as christians, anyone who needs to be part of a group is just weak. I also hate the political talk within the scene. A couple of years ago those right wingers tried to get into the house/ trance scene, those people didnt want it so they thought, lets go and try the black metal underground. Not much falls between. Love is not really much of an inspiration for this music. Hate turns to music.

Is belief, or logic, more powerful to you?

Belief is emotions and not realistic, except if you want a life as a priest so you can get through life without having to face reality and you get to meet al sorts of nice little kids. Feeling though is a big part of SAMMATH, hate, war. Belief stands for weakness and self made comfort to get through life believing heaven is their for you, the truth is you die, get buried and rot. If we are all god’s children then our father is a ruthless bastard. He probably listens to metal.

What do you see as the differences between black metal and rock music?

Probably the state of mind of those involved. I think rock musicians think money earlier. Black metal has more passion. We evolved from rock music to metal to even faster. Rock music is written for a large audience and black metal however you want it to be.

Which were your earliest influences in black and death metal?

The earliest influences are not at all black or death metal, too numerous but Coroner, Mortal Sin, Rose tattoo, Slaughter (Fuck Of Death), Autopsy, early Cannibal Corpse. Mostly local Australian rock/metal bands that I saw live. I still get very pissed off when I hear anything from the mighty Autopsy. The earliest black metal would be Gehenna, Satyricon. Celtic Frost, Hellhammer. Good thing about Celtic Frost and Hellhammer is that you can play along pretty quick and just stand their headbanging to frost tracks, gives you a good boost, “I can play this shit!”, then improvise my own riffs over the originals on the LP. I think I listened to the same bands as everyone who is now near to thirty years old.

You are referring to Sammath’s music (on the site) as being “furious black death metal.” How do you conceive of the unifying factors behind the labels we use for music and other things? is black metal an ideology, a musical style, an attitude or an artistic style only?

We have to label music, even if we don’t agree with the term. Everything needs a name so that people can place it somewhere. It is so damned pathetic but mankind needs labels for everything. I created the furious black death metal mainly for the t-shirt design. I thought it fits the music well. Some people agree some dont, who cares. Black metal is whatever i want it to be. It’s all that you mentioned above and more. Everyone has different ideas about black metal. I try not to get involved in all that discussion about what is true or not. Foremost black metal should be just a artistic style. Some people get so worked up about how it all should be, I don’t give a shit who does what as long as its fast and brutal. A lot of people look very evil but have no idea what they are on about.

It seems to me these days people are negative about nationalism for the most part, but I always think they have patriotism and nationalism confused. After all, nationalism used to mean pride one’s specific tribe or culture, and didn’t have much to do with the flag-waving and Iraq-bombing we see these days. What are your thoughts on this?

Its going to get worse, wait till the USA and Europe split in about ten to fifteen years. Due to the fact that the world is getting smaller and more crowded people are grabbing on to whatever they know and understand. This means that nationalism and patriotism are automatically combined. Here is the danger. Culture is also being overthrown by Nike, Coca Cola and whatever else. So every kid al over the world looks the same in their youth. When they get older they want to reunite with their culture from their own country, not liking what they stood for so the line between patriotism and nationalism fades. The whole Iraq bombing situation is just going to go on until the USA decides to listen to europe or bomb everything. It’s a great place for them to test weapons. In europe the fine line has also disappeared. You cant wear the dutch flag on your jacket because then you must be racist, as you already mentioned people are confused. “the timeless splendour of chaos”

What are your favourite sensations while creating music?

The whole process of writing music. When a track works out well and turns out the way you thought it to be. When you write music like this al is a great sensation, letting your ideas twist into brutal fast metal.

Do you listen to much metal? If so, anything notable of late?

Very much metal, lately I listen to mostly older stuff but some good new bands are Abominator from Australia, not that new but damn good, Trimonium from Germany also on Folter Records, I don’t really follow the scene as fanatically as a couple of years back. There are just too many releases. Older dutch metal bands as Sinister, Pestilence and German thrash is what I mostly listen to these days. I still have great respect for Sadistik Exekution, Destroyer 666 who still have that “fuck you” feeling in the music. The Dutch scene is growing very quickly and some good bands are starting to appear.

Do you think that popular music will ever turn toward being more like classical music?

Ha ha, not in the near future. Their is no way that popular music will evolve to anything worthwhile soon due to the fact that people dont care about the music. If it’s got tits its good. If it looks cool it’s good. Those forms of music are about as far apart as possible.

What bands do you think are most responsible for the black metal sound as we know it today?

Venom, Frost, Hellhammer, for the younger generation is would probably be cradle of filth and dimmu boring. I think the early black metal evolved differently everywhere, with its roots in the mentioned bands. Black metal in Poland has a quite different approach then the Norwegians. Those bands inspired thousands to pick up a guitar, bass or start beating on a drum kit. Mayhem and Darkthrone probably played a big part as well.

What activities do you have outside of music upon which you rely for inspiration?

Outside of music I teach history, not the teaching but history inspires me to write music in many ways. Read any account of a battle during both world wars and that should give many ideas. The vast universe gives enough to think about.

Where do you hope to take the band next? Any future evolution’s of the art form?

The next album will be recorded with a real drummer. Koos Bos is probably the fastest drummer i have ever met. I want to record the album with the band members. I play guitar so I play bass as a guitar player; that’s not good for the sound. Recording everything yourself also has its disadvantages. I want to go on tour sometime next year when i return from australia. I still have a contract for one more cd with Folter records. I am pleased with his work for Sammath and the new tracks that I have written are in the same line as “verwoesting/devastation” I want to master the art of furious black death metal.

Do you think there is an ambient or atmospheric quality to your music?

Definitely, hypnotising riffs. Not for all. It doesn’t have atmosphere as Mortiis does. I create chaos, chaos has its very own atmosphere, more straight forward in your face. Everyone burning candles and listening to ambient would probably disagree.

Please speak on anything I’ve forgotten, and talk about anything you’d like.

Thanks for the interesting questions, metal or die!

Really unreflective people are now inwardly without Christianity, and the more moderate and reflective people of the intellectual middle class now possess only an adapted, that is to say marvelously simplified Christianity. A god who in his love arranges everything in a manner that in the end will be best for us; a god who gives to us and takes from us our virtue and our happiness, so that as a whole all is meet and fit and there is no reason for us to take life sadly, let alone exclaim against it; in short, resignation and modest demands elevated to godhead – that is the best and most vital thing that still remains of Christianity. But one should notice that Christianity has thus crossed over into a gentle moralism: it is not so much ‘God, freedom and immortality’ that have remained, as benevolence and decency of disposition, and the belief that in the whole universe too benevolence and decency of disposition prevail: it is the euthanasia of Christianity.

- F.W. Nietzsche, Daybreak

Interview: Ze’ev (Salem)

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It was fortunate to get in touch with this band as it gives a new perspective to the mix of interviews here: a black metal band from Israel who are pro-Israel and pro-Judaism/Jewish culture, from the sounds of what they say here. Because of linguistic confusion, it was hard to figure out exactly where they stand on many issues and Ze’ev declined to answer some of the “hot issue” questions, but what is remarkable revealed here is the attitudes toward black metal of people living in a place that to most of us, is inconceivably remote and linked to one of the great enemies of black metal, Jehovah. Many thanks to Ze’ev for taking a chance on us and giving a lengthy interview which was interrupted only when Palestinians in bulky overcoats began to arrive nearby…

What is the difference between humans and animals?

The difference between humans and animals is that animals act with their instincts alone and that is why you can’t accuse them of animalistic behavior.

Do you believe that a deity exists, as a physical or otherworldly manifestation outside of the world of symbols?

I’m not a religious person, I think everyone can believe in what they want as long as they don’t hurt anyone and as long as they don’t force you to think like them. I don’t believe in god the way most people do, I think “god” is the good things in everyone

What do you see as the ideals shared by black metal bands? If you see no shared ideals, please describe how we have all arrived at roughly similarly sounding music.

In my opinion, Black metal especially share style, subjects and visuallity, this style fits dark subjects and that is why the music sounds similar and you can define a band as black metal.

What are the historical origins of black metal music?

I think “Venom” brought this style.

When you founded salem (in 1985, as your bio claims) what bands were influencing you then and what do you feel you added to metal at the time?

Salem was formed in 1985, at the time our main influences were “venom”, “slayer” “black sabbath” et cetera. I think “Salem” and bands like “Mayhem” “Masacre” “Merciless” et cetera, brought the next generation to metal with new ideas, new instruments and more…

How would you describe the music you have written for Collective Demise?

“Collective demise” is very aggressive, although it has a lot of melodies and harmonies. I think that “Collective demise” reflects a certain adolescence of Salem, the fact that it’s more aggresive and much faster distinguish it from our previous releases.

“Collective Demise” contains 12 new songs which textually are snapshots of our reality since September 2001 and musically explore new territories; The use of Afro-Cuban Percussion on “Dead Eyes” and “Slave”, Arabic darbuka on “Broken Yet United” and “Act of Terror”, female vocals on “Coming End of Reason”, “Feed on Your Grief”, “Act of War” and “Al Taster” and the most sophisticated second guitar harmonies ever submitted to reel.

“Al Taster” is also the first single and video off the album released in Israel on June 19th 2002. This song is a cover of an old Jewish hymn. Lyrics are taken from Psalms, chapter 102, verse 3.

This album is the first Salem offering for KMG/ System Shock in Germany. Earlier this year Salem signed a 3-album contract with this well-established label.

Psalm 102: A prayer of an afflicted man. When he is faint and pours out his lament before the LORD.

1 Hear my prayer, O LORD ;
let my cry for help come to you.
2 Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.

3 For my days vanish like smoke;
my bones burn like glowing embers.
4 My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
I forget to eat my food.
5 Because of my loud groaning
I am reduced to skin and bones.
6 I am like a desert owl,
like an owl among the ruins.
7 I lie awake; I have become
like a bird alone on a roof.
8 All day long my enemies taunt me;
those who rail against me use my name as a curse.
9 For I eat ashes as my food
and mingle my drink with tears
10 because of your great wrath,
for you have taken me up and thrown me aside.
11 My days are like the evening shadow;
I wither away like grass.

12 But you, O LORD , sit enthroned forever;
your renown endures through all generations.
13 You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to show favor to her;
the appointed time has come.
14 For her stones are dear to your servants;
her very dust moves them to pity.
15 The nations will fear the name of the LORD ,
all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.
16 For the LORD will rebuild Zion
and appear in his glory.
17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;
he will not despise their plea.

18 Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the LORD :
19 “The LORD looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners
and release those condemned to death.”
21 So the name of the LORD will be declared in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem
22 when the peoples and the kingdoms
assemble to worship the LORD .

23 In the course of my life he broke my strength;
he cut short my days.
24 So I said:
“Do not take me away, O my God, in the midst of my days;
your years go on through all generations.
25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.
27 But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.
28 The children of your servants will live in your presence;
their descendants will be established before you.”

In your bio it says: “Kaddish” also featured a cover song called “Ha’ayara Bo’eret” (the town is on fire), a song that is being associated with The Holocaust. This national controversy found its way to the Israeli parliament for a discussion of whether or not it is appropriate for a metal band to play such songs.

Why would it be inappropriate for a metal band to cover such songs?

This is a very sensitive subject and some people thought the music is too aggresive, but eventually we decided that it is appropriate to cover songs like that, and that is why we did it, after all we are a democratic country with freedom of speech.

What do you think are the causes of the current conflict between Iraq, Afghanistan and the USA?

T E R R O R!!!

It seems to me Israel and the USA are similar, in that both are countries of immigrants founded for religions reasons. Do you see this as true?

There is no doubt that Israel and USA are similar, except i don’t think that Israel was founded for religions reasons only, The main reson was Zionism.

What is like living in a place that is currently under somewhat warlike conditions?

In Israel it’s impossible to ignore the news since it has a direct effect on your daily life and as a result you have songs. It’s hard to cope with the fear of being somewhere crowded (like busses, restaurants, or even live shows) without knowing how it will end. The fact that innocent civilians are dying gives you an helplessness feeling. It is difficult for us to see a solution for it right now, but we don’t know what tomorrow will bring – therefore we try to keep hoping.

How do you feel toward the Palestinians who live in Israel?

I don’t have a problem with the palestinians who live in Israel, i think they are suffering because a minority of fanatical who believe in terror.

Why do you think the UN decided Israel should be created in the first place?

Well, the Jews were living all over the world, they had no country, and they suffered holocaust all over Europe, 6,000,000 was killed! that fact shocked the whole world and the result was that the UN decided to create Israel. ( It’s a pity that 6,000,000 had to die so that we’ll have a country).

When you are writing songs, how do you create them – from lyrics, from a melody, or from a general concept? Which members write most of the songs?

Every member of the band is writing material, and in most cases We are all meeting, listening to it and choosing what we like, eventually we build song, after that we are writing a lyrics to it. When the song is ready, We can change it , so a song is not realy ready until we record it

Do you think metal is an expression of rebellion, or does it have deeper significance?

Maybe in the past it was some kind of rebellion, but today,in my opinion, it has lot of significance, otherwise i wouldn’t keep doing it for so many years!

In America, we have fanatical Christians who both would like us to make war on Iraq but also would like to ban certain types of metal. Do you have a comment on that?

I don’t think it’s right to ban music. We are living in democratic countries and we have the freedom of speech and creation . About making war with Iraq – I think Iraq is a country that supports and exportes terror, so USA have to do something to stop it.

How is Christianity viewed in Israel?

Israel is a country that contain all the religions. We think everyone can believe in anything as long as you don’t force your opinion on us.

Do you have any anti-Christian lyrics?

No.

Do you feel you have gotten the right promotion for a band that has been around since 1985?

We didn’t get the right promotion because our old record companies saved money on publicity and tours. We were very disappointed, but i hope our new record company – KMG/System shock will do much better work.

Do you like any current black metal bands and if so, who?

of course! bands like “Limbonic art”, “Arallu”, and more…

If you could tour the world with any band, who would it be?

“Kreator”

Are there many metal bands in Israel?

The metal scene in Israel is great, we have some good bands with a lot of potential like: “Arallu”, “Nail-Within”, “Lehavoth”, “Untropia”, “Meleches”, “Orphaned Land” A lot of kids listen to metal and support it and come to live shows.

Have there been any church-burnings, or temple-burnings (not sure if I have the right word there) from black metal where you live?

No. Never.

What is your stance on the concept and spiritual significance of grave desecrations?

I think it horrible! not bcause of the deads, but because of the people who love them, and want to use this place to remember them.

Do you see there as being a difference between commercial metal bands and underground metal?

There is a difference, underground metal don’t compromise and that is why they aren’t earning money like the commercial metal bands.

What’s next for Salem?

A European tour, The release of album Number 5, and then we’ll see. We want to remain active as long as we feel that we have something to say and that there’s someone who’s interested to hear it. Salem try to be as much original and come up with good material cause we work a lot on the songs to make them interesting and have no rush to write songs that will end up being crap in the end. We will continue as long as we have support from our fans in Israel and worldwide.

What do you do outside of the band for intellectual, physical and spiritual stimulation?

First of all, I have a family – a wife and a beutiful girl, and i like being with them, I also like exercise Martial art “Tai-box”, create web sites, playing with Salem, and helping metal bands- I produced several bands like “Arallu”, “Azazel” ,”Aztec”, “Betrayer” , and i just returned from germany, helping producing “Nail within” with Harris Jones.

Do any members of Salem use drugs?

We don’t do drugs. We once had a member in Salem that used drugs and the result of that is that he is in psychiatric hospital to this very day. that freaked us out.

Some blackmetallers think that the music should be all about death, no hope, total destruction, watching the earth burn, etc. Others have families and lives outside of the musical scene. Do you have families? What is your feeling on this attitude?

As i mention before, i have a wonderful family. I’m against death and destruction, but the music is about those things because we’re living in it.

At what moment did you first feel like a “real band” or think, “wow, this is going to be our future”?

The day we recieved our first album and i held it!

In ancient mysticism, man was not viewed as separate from nature. Do you think this view has changed?

People ruined most of nature, and separated themeselves from it.

Is it possible that humans influence the outcome of events with their thoughts alone?

People, and their actions causes the outcomes! I dont think that a bus or a restaurant or even the twin towers exploded because of thoughts alone.

Do you believe UFOs visit Earth and if so, are they alien visitors or do they have malevolent intent?

I think it pretentious to think that we are alone in the universe. I don’t know what their intentions, maybe they just curious, wouldn’t you be? :-)

Do you believe in “good” and “evil”?

Yes. I believe that everyone has good and evil in him.

Thank you very much for your support. Keep metal alive! For more information about Salem, you can visit our web site: http://www.salemband.com

One would be bound to despair of our national character, too, if it had already become so inextricably entangled in its culture, indeed entirely at one with it, as is horrifyingly evident in the case of civilized France; the very thing which was France’s great advantage for a long time, and the cause of its vast superiority, namely the identity of people and culture, should now, as we contemplate the consequences, make us thank our good fortune that this questionable culture of ours still has nothing in common with the noble core of our national character. Instead, all our hopes reach out longingly towards the perception that beneath this restlessly agitated cultural life and senseless education there lies hidden a magnificent, inwardly healthy, ancient strength, which admittedly only stirs powerfully in momentous times and then returns to dreaming of some future awakening.

- F.W. Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy

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

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